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


terrence said...

You know, I've often felt that there was some kind of "Bhakti competition" going on and to get respect one had to excel in this competition.

Personally I am such a bloop that no-one respects me so there's not much point in me competing, but the mood does tend to invade one's consciousness whilst associating especially during prasadam chit chat.

Your mention of the word "jihad" invoked a recollection of a reply to a coding tutor's blog for web designers .. it was concerning the topic of religious fanaticism (obviously stirred up by all the suicide bombings lately).

This relates to this current blog of yours since this competitive nature (mentioned above) to gain superiority over others is the same envious mood as jihad, merely expressed low key.

You might like to read what I wrote to Charles, it's soft preaching as I doubt karmis are ready for gurudeva's cane.

Nevertheless, the sentiments contained within are the mood that I took away from Srila Gour Govinda Swami. Charles sent me a personal email saying how moved he felt reading my comment. I know that other godbrothers would argue differently but anyway...


mr terrible said...

Hi Charles..
This is fascinating to me as I believe that the www is a barometer of human success. We can be merely 2 legged animals or actually reach out to the true nature of our soul, thus really becoming ourselves.

I see that the web demonstrates the extremes of polarity within our planet's society. On one hand we have the envious writing viruses to destroy other peoples' happiness and at the other extreme we have teams of developers offering their hard work for free in open source programs.

Currently I see the open source winning but then again I don't frequent the parts of the web where nasties are to be found.

However, being brought up as a Catholic here in Australia and seeing so much that pointed to the non-existence of God I went on a search to find out the truth. Nowadays I travel under the guise of a Hare Krishna although I am exactly the same soul that I always was.

Being as humble as a blade of grass, as tolerant as a tree and willing to offer respect to all living beings is the highest consciousness for ordinary humans, yet even among my brothers I see so many who have failed to recognize this simple truth. Jesus taught a similar doctrine. I have never come across any method of personal development that leads towards any other goal.

Being humble, tolerant, and respectful is pleasing to God (whether we call Him Allah, Krishna, Jehovah, Whatever) yet in our world people hijack religious doctrines purely to vent the spleen of their own prejudicial hatred upon their allocated victims.

God is beautiful and does not condemn followers of paths other than our own to eternal damnation. He gives credit where credit is due; even more, He is merciful, forgiving the transgressions of those who are truly repentant of their selfishness, even when we are still unable to control ourselves.

I can imagine that those who think that He does condemn followers of other paths to eternal suffering for the mere crime of being bewildered as to which path is correct as being hypocrites since no one could justifiably LOVE such a beastly god.

Yet that is our goal, to love God. Recognition of His amazing personal beauty inspires both love and surrender to His will (according to our ability), which bears no malice whatsoever.

Fanaticism is an indulgence like any other selfish persuit and is judged accordingly. Fanaticism keeps more people away from God than any other single cause. It is for this reason the Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita to abandon all religion and just surrender to Him. To surrender to our real (beautiful) nature.

As souls belonging to God our inherent (when realized) nature is similar to the nature of God and is all beautiful. Saints are renowned for their personal beauty not for how many heathens they have murdered.

One would necessarily need to be MAD to see following a religious path as anything other than a path to unimaginable beauty, and yet there we have it. Madness and other forms of self-indulgence are ruining our world. We cannot do anything to rid the world of the mad, that is God's arrangement.

We can, however, keep sharing and encouraging kindness, beauty, honesty, etc and especially generosity in any of its forms, which brings me back to the internet.

The internet is our connection to other souls who have chosen to be as wonderful as their karma permits. Let us keep on caring, sharing, humbly tolerating, and offering respect to one and all. But as we may respect a shark or a snake for it's beauty we must also avoid it wherever possible and sometimes even take steps to protect ourselves and our culture of love from such cruel danger.

I think that God is using the internet to network, to bring us all together, to do His work in showing the world how beautiful our lives really can be.

Humble apologies for verbosity.

tarunkrsna das

Madhavananda Das said...

Thanks for the nice comment Tarun Prabhu. I hope that all is well for your bhajan and seva.

Das, Madhavananda Das