Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sadhana and Character

This morning's meditation.

It is said:

sādhu-saṅge kṛṣṇa-nāma ei mātra cāi
saṁsāra jinite āra kono vastu nāi

"Other than sadhu-sanga and the name of Krishna, nothing else is needed to cross over the ocean of birth and death."

The holy name is not dependent on anything, even sadhana. It is effective at any time and any place. It is not that it will only act if chanted a certain number of times or at a certain time of the day.

Similarly, sadhana is not an absolute requirement in getting the mercy of sadhu-guru. Mahaprabhu blessed the animals in the Jarikhanda forest, and Narada Muni blessed the hunter Mrigari. What sadhana were they doing to justify getting such mercy?

What then is the necessity of having strict daily practices in our sadhana?

What we do affects our consciousness. Similarly, our consciousness makes our character. Therefore maintaining strict daily sadhana will build our character and thereby give us qualification for getting bhakti.

As Aristotle said: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kirtana is Not for Our Prestige

The following is a poem that we recently wrote for our Guru Maharaja's Vyasa-puja.

Kīrtana Udeśya Pratiṣṭhā Nāhi
A circus of devotion
- - - - guru-bhakti on my sleeve
Proclaiming, “I’m sat-śiṣya
- - - -But mere costumes don’t succeed

The sun will not be revealed
- - - -by the glow of my torchlight
Krishna’s chosen son, self-effulgent and so bright
- - - -Obvious without my self-appointed jihad

Our legs and the ground,
sei mata sāra
- - - -Forever-blind boy, first glimpse of a star
Your pleasure is the ointment to see
- - - -deha prema-dhana. Yours, eternally

śríla gurudeva seva-prārthī,
Madhavananda Das and Krishna Kund Dasi

Some devotees have asked us about the meaning of this poem.

kīrtana udeśya pratiṣṭhā nāhi

This title is in Oriya language: "kīrtana, or glorification is not for our prestige"

A circus of devotion
- - - - guru-bhakti on my sleeve
Proclaiming, “I’m sat-śiṣya”

Displaying one’s devotion for the sake of self-prestige is distasteful. Many persons speak about how rare it is to find a bona-fide guru and simultaneously often advertise themselves as the disciple of such a guru.

However, our Guru Maharaja used to say that it is more difficult to find a bona-fide disciple than it is to find a bona-fide guru. There is a Bengali
saying: guru mile lakhe lakhe śiṣya mile eka -- "There are thousands and thousands of bona-fide gurus, but it is very difficult to find even one bona-fide disciple."

But mere costumes don't succeed

Just dressing up as a disciple won't give me success. Another meaning of succeed is "successor". With that meaning, we could say, "just posing or dressing as a disciple doesn't make one a successor or inheritor of the guru's transcendental wealth.

The sun will not be revealed
by the glow of my torchlight

Krishna's representative, Sri Guru is not revealed by the sensory activities of a conditioned soul.

Krishna's chosen son, self-effulgent and so bright

Sri Guru is revealed by Krishna, through the guru's own self-effulgence.

Obvious without my self-appointed jihad

Genuine service means acting according to the instructions of guru and Krishna without adding to or subtracting from them. Receiving such an instruction, one has adhikāra or qualification to act. Krishna says in Bg. 3.35:

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇah para-dharmāt sv-anuṣṭhitāt
sva-dharme nidhanaṁ śreyah para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ

It is far better to act according to the order we have received, even though faultily, than to do another's duties even if perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one's own duty is better than engaging in another's duties, for to follow another's path is dangerous.

If we take it upon ourself to reveal the position of Krishna's representative (or try to coerce others into accepting what we see as his position) we are subtly saying that we are also on a very high platform. Such self-appointed "preaching" is like that of the Islamic fundamentalists who take to terrorism in the name of defeating the "heretics", and spreading their faith. They call this "jihad", today's common meaning of which is "holy war".

Our legs and the ground, sei mata sāra

In his article entitled, "Associates of Sri Chaitanya", (printed in the magazine, Sadhu-sanga the Birthplace of Bhakti) Srila Saraswati Thakur writes:

"The cognitive faculty of the individual soul can have no ground to stand upon unless the divinity Himself condescends to be the legs as well as the ground on which he is to stand to function at all. This function of the divinity is performed by the guru."

We have no cognitive ability to perceive Krishna or guru. We have no ability to do anything spiritual without the help of Krishna. Understanding this, Krishna comes in the form of Sri Guru, who is thus both our legs and the ground. How does Sri Guru provide this function? "sei mata sāra (Cc. ādi 12.10) -- his instructions are the essence of our spiritual life.

Forever-blind boy, first glimpse of a star

Our Guru Maharaja described how all the conditioned souls in this world are blind. He said that we are not the seers, the seer is Sri Guru and our position is to be the seen. He described how this blindness or conditioned nature has been there so long the date of its origin cannot be calculated. Without the mercy of Sri Guru that blindness will never go -- in that sense it is "forever".

He often told a story about a blind boy, who, based on his limited sense perception, thinks that there is no such thing as the sun (or that he can understand the sun with his senses). We are such eternally blind persons, proud and foolish, thinking that we understand the nature of the sun, even though we are blind. However, by the mercy of Sri Guru, even such a proud blind boy, can begin to get a glimpse of the sun (a star).

Your pleasure is the ointment to see

"The ointment to see" is ecstatic love: premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.38). Pleasing the guru through faithfully serving his instructions is the way to get that ointment.

deha prema-dhana. Yours, eternally

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu prayed to Krishna, "deha prema-dhana -- please give me ecstatic love for you" (Cc. antya 20.37). Service to guru is everything. A sincere disciple's prayer is to get that service. The only payment we want for our efforts is kṛṣṇa-premā. If we obtain that prema (prema bhakti yāhā hoite, avidyā vināśa yāte) then our ignorance will go and we can truly say that we are eternally the servant of our guru (janme janme prabhu se).

śríla gurudeva seva-prārthī,

Desiring that service of Srila Gurudeva, this poem was composed.

-- Above drawing of Srila Gour Govinda Swami by Anuradha Dasi