[Excerpt from Srila Gurudeva: Around the World, U.K. 1996 (Bath, 23 May), the second book in a series of volumes on Srila Gurudeva’s world preaching tours.]

Our religion is not Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, or any other religion. The aim of the practice of modern day religions is to have a good position in society and to live peacefully in this world by maintaining harmony with each other. Our ancient Rsis and sages practiced Sanatana-dharma. They established a system that combined all the masses of people and inspired them to lead good lives. The actual religion of not just human beings, but of all living beings, is to obtain this Krishna-prema. This goal has been stated everywhere in all the scriptures like the Vedas, Srimad Bhagavatham, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, and Sri Caitanya Caritamrita.

In the Bhagavad Gita, it has been stated:

Man mana bhava mad bhakto, mad yaji mam namaskuru


Sarva dharma parityajna mam ekam saranam vraja.

So, I started the discussion by describing some of the characteristics of the brahma-jnanis. I will describe a history that is as follows:

Maharaja Janaka while seated on the throne was giving proper respects to all the Rsis, Maharsis, Brahma-jnanis, Bhagavad-bhaktas, and everyone according to their qualifications. All the members of the assembly were involved in an ista-gosti, like how we are involved in one presently. In an ista-gosti, questions are asked by the members of the assembly and an authoritative figure answers those questions. An ista-gosti, is an assembly (gosti) for the worshipful Lord (ista) of the members. The aim of an ista-gosti is how the ista-deva (worshipful Lord) can be pleased and achieved. The members of an ista-gosti concern themselves on how they can realize their worshipful Lord. It is not an assembly of worldly friends who discuss trivial, worldly subject matters among themselves.

An ista-gosti was arranged in the royal palace of Janaka Maharaja and in the meantime, a saint called Astavakra Rsi arrived in the royal palace. He was a very realized yogi, have you heard his name before? He was very famous in India when India was still following Vedic culture and Vedic knowledge. His body was crooked in eight places.

[Srila Gurudeva points out to the different part of the body that were crooked]

His body was crooked in eight parts. He was black in color and had an ugly face. Most of his teeth had fallen out. When he would walk, it seemed that each of the two legs were moving in separate directions. The stick he would use the help of was also crooked. He came from a very distant place in the Himalayas. When he reached the precincts of the palace, he told the gatekeepers, “I want to meet Janaka Maharaja and I also want to attend the meeting conducted by the king. He has honourably said that there is no ban on any rishi or maharsi. So, may I be allowed inside?”

The gatekeepers allowed him inside sensing his saintliness. When Astavakra rsi entered the assembly, except for the king, all the members began to laugh loudly on seeing Astavaktra rsi’s physical appearance. Resting on his crooked stick, Astavakra rsi started laughing more loudly than the members of the royal assembly. Maharaja Janaka and all the rsis were surprised and they asked among themselves, “Why is he laughing?”

Maharaja Janaka then approached Astavakra rsi and asked, “Why are you laughing rsiji?”

Astavakra rsi retorted, “Why did everyone else laugh? I want to know.”

“All laughed on seeing your ugly body. You are ugly and crooked at eight parts because of a boon***. A lot of dust has accumulated on your body. It seems that you haven’t bathed for a long time. You have not dressed yourself in good garments, it seems you don’t have anything. But, why have you dared to come here to this assembly of well-educated scholars? You are so daring!”

Maharaja Janaka then said, “Now can you please tell us why you laughed?”

Astavakra rsi replied, “I have come from a very long distance. I heard that this assembly consisted of knowledgeable, intelligent jnanis and rsis. Maharaja Janaka is also a learned, well-educated brahma jnani. He is a very saintly king, he is a rajarsi. It seemed that I was laughing, but rather, I was weeping. I thought, ‘Why did I even come here?’ Because all the members in this assembly are cobblers. Cobblers only concern themselves with leather and skin. They are always pre-occupied with the thoughts of proper and improper leather. Their knowledge is only based on skin and leather. They have no knowledge of the atma. So, I weep because all the members are cobblers.”

All the members of the assembly were greatly affected by Astavakra rsi’s words, and they fell at his feet and begged for forgiveness. Maharaja Janaka fell flat at the lotus feet of Astavakra rsi and taking his hand, led him to the throne and seated him there. All the members of the assembly folded their hands and requested the rsi to impart some instructions.

Astavakra Rsi told all the members of the assembly, “Who is a brahma jnani? He is one who can see the atma, the soul everywhere. He doesn’t see the skin or the external body of a person.”

The platform of Gita and the first stage of devotion is to realize that you are not this body. This serves as a foundation for all kinds of knowledge. Therefore, we should try to understand these facts. To realize that you are not the body is the first stage of Vedic culture and knowledge. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Vedas and Upanisads. You should realize that this body is like a cloth. The body may be worn and torn like a cloth, but the soul never takes birth and never dies. He is not prone to the suffering of this world. The soul is always atmarama, he always takes pleasure in his own self. The soul is brahma, but he is not Parabrahma. The soul will only be completely pleased when he realizes Parabrahma. Krishna is Parabrahma. He is more than Parabrahma, He is Svayam Bhagavan. He is an ocean of all kinds of rasas, nectarean mellows. Hence, Parabrahma can only be known by a loving relationship. Otherwise, He cannot be known. Krishna can only be known, realized, and seen by prema. The devotee must develop a relationship with Krishna that is based on spontaneous love and affection. He must love Krishna like how the Vrajavasis do. Our real and ultimate goal is to love Krishna like how the Vrajavasis do. By following in the footsteps of the Vrajavasis, Krishna will be controlled. The Vrajavasis are Krishna’s life and soul. Prema is a manifestation of Srimati Radhika’s ananda sakti and Krishna’s samvit sakti. Knowledge and ananda combined together form prema.

Our goal and motive is to attain this love. This is the essence of all the teachings of our Guruvarga. “Om tad Vishnu paramam padam, sada pasyanti surayah dviva caksuh..,” tad Vishnu paramam padam, Vishnu is everywhere. He is present in the heart of every being and is also present in inanimate objects. He is all-pervading. “Vyapnoti iti Vishnu,” He is everywhere. He knows everyone but none know Him. Only the devotees can know, realize, and see Him. This mantra has been stated in the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda, and in many other scriptures. It is a very important mantra.

Parama padam, sada pasyanti—those who are self-realized see Him. How can you see a formless, quality less, non-distinctive entity? But He can be seen by the eyes of devotion. All the realized souls see Him in such a manner. In the Bible, it is stated, “God created man after His own image.” If God has no image, then how did He create man? God has created millions of forms, none can create like how He does. God alone has the potency to create innumerable life forms.

Therefore, Krishna-God has many attributes, forms, qualities, and potencies. So, we should try to realize Him. He can only be realized by Bhakti. The way to pure bhakti can be shown by a bonafide teacher, spiritual master. So, we should bow down to the lotus feet of our Guruvarga and pray that we can attain that prema, by which Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will be controlled.

Gaura Premanande! Haribol!

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