Once, a boy stole a pen from his school and gave it to his mother. But his mother didn’t say anything. After some days, he stole a wrist watch and gave it to his mother. She still didn’t rebuke him. He then began to steal money from stores and other boys. In time, as he grew up, he became a notorious dacoit. He even killed people and stole all their possessions. One day, the police caught him and awarded the death sentence to him.
They told him, “On your last day, you can meet any person and eat anything you wish.”
“I only want to meet my mother,” he told the police.
The meeting was arranged. The mother came and cried bitterly. “Alas! I lost my son.”
“Mother, I always loved you. Please stick your tongue out?”
When his mother did so, the boy caught hold of his mother’s tongue by his teeth and cut it into two pieces. The mother screamed in pain.
The police came and demanded an answer. The young man said, “My mother’s tongue turned me into a dacoit. If she had disciplined me when I was a child, then I would have seen the light of tomorrow. Now, I have to die because of her. If she had chastised and beaten me for stealing, then I would have never become a dacoit.”
Brahmā said, “The conditioned souls meet with other conditioned souls, but what can they learn from each other? Those who are deceitful, hypocritical, and degraded, will also make others like them. Therefore, how can they attain liberation? O Kṛṣṇa! Please send Your devotees to this world. They will help. They will change the nature of the conditioned souls.
“O Prabhu! Your love for the conditioned souls is unfathomable. If You send Your devotees to this world, they will bring lost souls to you. These souls will take Your shelter and become Your dear associates.”
Even a thief can be changed by proper guidance. Anurāga is very important—but asat-saṅga can ruin everything.
People say, “I am your father.” “I am your mother.” “I am your sister.” “I am your brother.” “I am your wife.”
“I am your friend.” And thus saying, they try to control you and tell you what to do. But they don’t want you to practice bhakti and perform bhajana. They will do anything they can to try and stop you from renouncing the world and surrendering to Śrī Hari. They try to steal your heart, to either destroy your spiritual life by force, or by their mundane love. Therefore, there is no need to be overly compassionate. You should have a hard heart. You should only be related to those who can help you advance in bhakti. Don’t foster relationships with those who are your enemies in the path of bhakti.
The general understanding is that there is no external enemy to the soul. The enemy is his own mind and material senses, keeping him away from God. But when we are practicing bhakti and trying to progress, we must be extremely cautious of those who want to be close to us, who are our relatives and friends. They will try to get close to you, only to lead you away from your complete dedication to devotional life. They generally think it is a calamity if one of their relatives or friends is surrendering his life to God. Like crabs pull down the legs of a crab that is about to escape from a net, materialistic relatives and friends try to pull down anyone who is about to escape from the net of suffering in worldly life. Therefore, they are dangerous enemies.
Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja has said:
tat sādhu manye ‘sura-varya dehināṁ
sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt
hitvātma-pātaṁ gṛham andha-kūpaṁ
vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta
O best of the demons, as far as I have understood, as explained by my spiritual master, anybody who has accepted the temporary situation of material life is certainly harassed by anxiety because of having fallen into the dark well of household life, which is like a dam that checks the flow of the spiritual advancement of the soul. One should thus leave everything and go to the forest of Vraja, taking full shelter of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Prahlāda addressed his father as the best of the demons. He told him, “I like the sādhus. I will go to that place which is graced by their presence. You should leave this dry well of family life. You cannot see anything in this well. I wish to leave everything and go to the forest. I will do bhajana there. I cannot do bhajana here with you!”You should not be compassionate if you have a strong desire to renounce asat-saṅga. The dark well of worldly life is a place of unimaginable punishment. It is not a place for kṛṣṇa-kathā or kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. You should not go to any place that is devoid of hari-kathā, hari-kīrtana, and hari-sevā. You should even avoid heaven. Even if you go to the darkest of places, start chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Heaven and hell—both places are the same if there is no hari-kīrtana.
You should leave the association of people who don’t like kṛṣṇa-kathā, and kṛṣṇa-kīrtana. You should cleanse yourself by the fire of separation. You should think, “Alas! I didn’t engage myself in any hari-kīrtana, or hari-sevā.”
By experiencing separation from Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa–viraha), Kṛṣṇa will enter our hearts. Conversely, by experiencing separation from mundane people, our hearts will be overcome by mundane emotions. Kṛṣṇa–darśana will then not be possible. We will drown ourselves in the sublime mellows of devotion by experiencing separation from Kṛṣṇa. A premi–bhakta always feels separation from Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura prays, “Hey Prabhu! My only desire is to continuously remember You. I don’t desire anything else. Your remembrance is my life. I will lose my life the moment I forget You. I wish to use every moment of my life in Your service.”
A person has many weapons to protect himself from humans, and animals. He also employs a body guard. But why can’t the person guard his bhakti and bhajana? A person has a knife or sword to protect himself. We need a guard to protect our bhajana. We need the protection of the mahā–mantra.
nāco-i bhāva-mūrati gorā raṅge247
gāota kali-yuga-pāvana nām
bhrama-i śacī-suta nadīyā dhām
(hare) haraye namaḥ krṣna yādavāya namaḥ
gopāla govinda rāma śrī-madhusūdana
Accompanied by His aṅgas, associates Nityānanda and Advaita; upaṅgas, servitors such as Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita and other pure devotees; and pārṣadas, confidential companions such as Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara, Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda, Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita, and the Six Gosvāmīs; and equipped with His weapon, the names of Hari, Śrī Gaurasundara, the personification of ecstatic love of God, dances in great delight.
The son of Mother Śacī wanders throughout the abode of Nadīyā singing the holy names of Kṛṣṇa, which are the deliverer of all living beings imprisoned within the age of Kali, as follows:
“O Lord Hari! Obeisances unto Hari, who is Kṛṣṇa, the best of the Yadus, the herder of the cows, the pleasure of the cows, the supreme enjoyer, and the blessed killer of the demon named Madhu.”
Mundane weapons will not do. The weapon of harināma is needed. Harināma should be chanted continuously. We will then always be protected. Many ants attacked a snake and started eating it. The snake could not roll over. Similarly, we become crushed by the mundane things we collect. People come and steal our wealth, and blood. We cannot protect ourselves. Hari-kathā and hari-prasāda is the greatest form of social help. Otherwise, people will come and steal us away.
Jagannātha said, “My hands, legs, eyelids, and all the limbs of My body were taken away. Only My torso remains. Everyone only wants to steal everything away from Me; no one wants to give Me anything.”
So, this is not the process for bhajana. We should be serious; we will then be protected in all ways. No human or animal will be able to harm us. Protection will elude us if we don’t remember Śrī Hari. Therefore, it is stated in the Garuḍa Purāṇa that if we forget Śrī Hari for even a moment, many dacoits will assail us. They will try stealing everything away from us. Therefore, hari-smaraṇa is necessary.
anya-vrata anya-dāna nāhi karoṅ vastu-jñāna
hā hā kṛṣṇa bali bali veḍāṅa ānanda kari
mane mora nahe yena dūjā
I will not give any importance to observing vows, giving in charity, serving materialistic people, or worshipping demigods. Without any other thought, I will roam about in bliss, calling out “O Kṛṣṇa, O Kṛṣṇa!”
Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura Mahāśaya is instructing us how to make our minds remember Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Our soul will become very happy by such remembrance. The soul will then no longer suffer. The soul may be born a jackal, dog, or any other animal. The soul suffers so much in these bodies. Why? Many worms, germs, and other living entities cause much pain. The body is never replenished by good food, or water. The body is never looked after during the winter, or summer. The body’s pain touches the soul. The soul is inconceivably pleased by mahā-prasāda, the water of Gaṅgā-Yamunā, and the dust of the Lord’s abode and His devotees. Lust, anger, and other anarthas will also not attack us. It is not possible for them to touch us. It is described in the Garuḍa Purāṇa that, many ‘dacoits’ will attack us if we forget Śrī Hari for even a moment. Who are these dacoits? They are lust, anger, greed, and other thieves. These dacoits will accost and greatly disturb us if we distance ourselves from Lord Śrī Hari for even a moment.
smartavyaḥ satataṁ viṣṇur vismartavyo na jātucit
sarve vidhi-niṣedhāḥ syur etayor eva kiṅkarāḥ
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.113
Always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him. All regulations are subordinate to this principle.
We will lose everything if we distance ourselves from Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. We are supremely fortunate if our minds are always remembering Śrī Hari’s name, form, qualities, and pastimes. The senses and the body will then automatically follow the interests of the soul. As a result, the mind, body, and senses will be pleased and happy.
There is āveśa, samāveśa, and tādātma. First, you should practice. Constant absorbance will soon follow such ardent practice. God will automatically arrange for favorable association. Our Guru-varga would chant harināma alone, and soon after God sent them so many associates and they then opened temples in so many places. Firstly, the mind should be engaged in constant hari-smaraṇa. Consequently, all the senses will become trustworthy helpers. This help will be permanent. Thus, we will always drink the rasa of hari-kathā and hari-kīrtana, while being among the devotees. This is called samāveśa. Tādātma is the next stage.
When iron is continuously placed in fire, it obtains the fiery qualities of fire. Your hand will be burnt if you touch the fire. But, iron on its own has no heat. Similarly, the rasa of Śrī Hari will be seen everywhere, by an empowered soul. He will be in constant transcendental touch. Good health and benefit will be obtained.
ya idaṁ paramaṁ guhyaṁ mad-bhakteṣv abhidhāsyati
bhaktiṁ mayi parāṁ kṛtvā mām evaiṣyaty asaṁśayaḥ
na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ
bhavitā na ca me tasmād anyaḥ priyataro bhuvi
For one who describes this supreme secret to the bhaktas, pure bhakti is assured, and at the end he will return to Me. There is no servant dearer to Me in this world than he, nor will there ever be one more close.
The mysterious existence of God will then be revealed, and God will Himself instruct His devotee. If the devotee doesn’t understand His language and mood directly, then the Lord will send His devotees. God’s blessings and mercy descend in this manner. Śrī Gurudeva embodies the special mercy of the Lord. God and His devotees will arrange kīrtana, smaraṇa, prasāda, and everything else that is needed for the cultivation of kṛṣṇa-bhakti. The devotees then become realized in the rules and regulations of parā-bhakti. God will provide solutions and clear all the doubts of His devotees.
Although a person’s doubt is cleared, the person still doesn’t follow what has been said. He doesn’t believe in the solution—he thinks about other things. Conversely, a person will be satisfied and pleased, if he has faith in the answer.
Kṛṣṇa says, “By following bhakti, and bhajana, I am properly worshiped. This worship is observed only for My pleasure.”
There is no one as dear to us as Śrī Kṛṣṇa is. Śrī Kṛṣṇa also says, “Anyone who does My kīrtana, and distributes My glories everywhere, is very close to Me. He is very near and dear to Me.”
How can we always be pleased and happy? How can we always be engaged in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s service? By observing holy occasions like Ekādaśī, Janmāṣṭamī, Vāmana Dvādaśī, Rāma–navamī, Nṛsiṁha Caturdaśī, Śiva–rātrī, Gaura-pūrṇimā, Nityānanda-trayodaśī, Advaita-Saptamī, and the other vratas, our devotion will flourish. But, there is one condition. Mahāprabhu told Sanātana Gosvāmī:
ei sabe viddhā-tyāga, aviddhā-karaṇa
akaraṇe doṣa, kaile bhaktira lambhana
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 24.342
You should explain rejecting a viddhā–ekādaśī and the rules for aviddhā–ekādaśī. You should also describe what fault occurs by not observing Ekādaśī. One should be very careful otherwise if one is negligent then there will be discrepancies in executing bhakti.
It is necessary to observe vratas for bhakti. A vrata means to offer oneself at the lotus feet of his guardian.
You should think, “I am offering myself at the lotus feet of my guardian. I wish to be helped.”
You go to a doctor and say, “Please cure me of my ailments.”
The doctor says, “You need to be thoroughly examined, but you need to fast during this time. You shouldn’t even drink water. I will clean your stomach by giving you certain medicines. I will then examine your full body.”
Similarly, when we have our minds checked, we will realize how our mind is polluted by so many impurities. We couldn’t see these impurities before. We should observe Vaiṣṇava-vrata; we shouldn’t observe any devī–devatā–vrata. By proper observance of holy occasions like Janmāṣṭamī, Rādhāṣṭamī, Rāma–navamī, Vāmana Dvādaśī, Nṛsiṁha Caturdaśī, Śiva–rātrī, Gaura-pūrṇimā, Nityānanda-trayodaśī, and Advaita Saptamī, we will always be near the predominating deities of these holy occasions. Yet, there are some conditions. If the seventh day (saptamī) coincides with the eighth day (aṣṭamī), then the eighth day should not be followed. Mahāprabhu gave this advice in sanatāna–śikṣā.
Many centers have drawn many conclusions. But we should try to follow what Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has stated in Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. Janmāṣṭamī is aruṇodaya-viddhā, and Ekādaśī is brāhma-muhūrta–viddhā. Ekādaśī will be nullified on the day when daśamī (the tenth day) coincides. Dvādaśī-vrata should then be followed. If Dvādaśī-vrata cannot be followed, then Trayodaśī-vrata can be followed—no harm. How can Ekādaśī be followed if aṣṭamī, and Rāma-navamī continue to coincide on daśamī? In other words, if Rāma-navamī is observed on daśamī then how will it be possible to do paran the next day on Ekādaśī? It is not possible to follow two vratas. The Rāma-navamī-vrata will be lost if there is even a touch of aṣṭamī on navamī. Therefore, take fruits on navamī and then observe nirjala Ekādaśī the next day. Then perform paran on the third day, in other words the vrata finishes on the third day after two days of fasting.
On the day of Ekādaśī, sin personified enters inside the grains. If anybody takes grains on this day, then that person will become the receptacle of all forms of sin. Consequently, his etiquette, and nature will be destroyed. He will be arrested by his bad mood, and activities. He will lose everything.
Therefore, we should not eat any grains on Ekādaśī. Or else, all the sins and offenses will enter our heart. If anybody eats grains on Ekādaśī, then he will be guilty of killing his parents and guru. He will gradually be derailed from his journey to the spiritual world.
God will be very pleased and happy with that person who is following Ekādaśī. By observing Ekādaśī, you will always be near Śrī Hari. On serving Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas on Dvādaśī, all your sins and offenses will go away. You will obtain viṣṇu-bhakti. All the rules and regulations that pertain to proper observance of vaiṣṇava-vratas are stated in the twelfth chapter of Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. You should never stop following vaiṣṇava-vratas. You may follow all the vratas—but if you don’t follow Ekadaśī-vrata, then you will deprive yourself of a priceless jewel. In its stead, you will have only collected dead bodies.
Vaiṣṇava-vratas are only followed for the attainment of bhakti. By following these vratas, you will have offered yourself at the lotus feet of Śrī Hari. You may give much charity; you may follow many vratas and reside in the holy dhāma—but if you stay with people bound by the modes of material nature, then your observance of the vrata will not bear the entire fruit.
Those bound by the mode of ignorance will say, “Is your entire life only meant for vratas? You should drink water. All right, we shouldn’t drink water. But, we can drink juice, yogurt, and milk. We can also take mṛtyu-sañjīvanī. Medicine is allowed on Ekādaśī. So, mṛtyu-sañjīvanī is good medicine. You need only drink a glass of this medicine. Also, there is a ban on eating and drinking. But there is no ban on smoking. On Ekādaśī, we shouldn’t take grains. But, it is not written in the scriptures that we shouldn’t smoke, or take mṛtyu-sanjīvanī on this day.
Also, we can take something before maṅgala-āratī. And then, we can dance very nicely during kīrtana just like Mahāprabhu.”
śrī hari vāsare hari-kīrtana vidhāna
nṛtya ārambhilā prabhu jagatera prāṇa
Śrī Caitanya-Bhāgavata, Madhya-khaṇḍa, Chapter 8253
On the day of Ekādaśī, after commencing hari-kīrtana, Mahāprabhu, who is the life of the whole world, began to dance.
On seeing the person dance, people will remark, “Just see how he is dancing! He has availed himself of bhakti on this day. Hari-bhakti has dawned in his heart.” But is hari-bhakti really found in him? Pure, clean association is needed for the cultivation of hari-bhakti. The place should be of unalloyed goodness. By staying with materialistic people, you will be supplied with many drinks, and other items. You will also be subjected to their idle gossip.
People will also say, “Lets have some entertainment on Ekādaśī. We will see Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, and Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.”
Sometimes in these performances Kṛṣṇa is found kissing and embracing many women. He is also seen engaged in violent acts. By seeing such scenes, your senses will become agitated. These actors are in the mode of ignorance. Are they attached to Kṛṣṇa and His līlā? Are they really acting for the welfare of the world? Or are they only teaching illicit relationships? Bhakti cannot be nourished if you don’t give up such habits. Residence in the forest is in the mode of goodness. By staying in the forest, you will become soft and kind. You will help all the animals and plants of the forest. God’s own center is in the mode of complete, unadulterated goodness.
By giving charity to people in the mode of ignorance, their blessings and mercy will be showered on you. And then, you will also become entangled in the mode of ignorance. By giving charity to people in the mode of passion, you will also become passionate. The nature of the person you think about will automatically enter your heart. By giving charity to people in the mode of goodness, you will also become situated in the mode of goodness. And, by giving charity to people in the mode of pure goodness, you will also become situated in that unalloyed state.
Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura says, “By giving charity to Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, the bhakti in their hearts will also enter your heart.”
Mahārāja Parikṣit left everything and came to the bank of the Gaṅgā. He gave his mind, senses, and everything else he possessed at the lotus feet of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī.
He said, “Prabhu! I have offered myself at your lotus feet.”
What did Śukadeva Gosvāmī do? He gave ‘soul food’ to the king. The body then no longer became tired or restless. Mahārāja Parikṣit became very happy by drinking the mellows of hari-rasa. He became satisfied. He didn’t feel any need to eat, drink, or sleep. Śukadeva Gosvāmī gave him this nirguṇa-tattva. If it wasn’t for Śukadeva Gosvāmī, Mahārāja Parikṣit would have acted independently and done many things wrong.
How will the qualities and specialties of the Guru-varga ever manifest in the heart of a person who has not offered himself at their lotus feet? If I offer myself, the Guru-varga will bless me with knowledge, and a relationship. I will be given a ‘residential permit.’ By worshiping the demigods, their enjoying nature will enter our hearts.
We need only chant, “Ha Kṛṣṇa! Ha Kṛṣṇa!” and move everywhere. We need not desire anything else. We need only weep in the association of devotees.
Srila Narottama das Thakur ki Jaya! (excerpted from the Bhaktabandha book publication, Sri Sri Prema Bhakti Candrika,”available from: [email protected] )