Hari-Bhajan in Married Life

by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja

To spread the message of pure love as taught and practiced by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and to give mercy to enslaved jivas (living beings) like us, the present acarya of our math, His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Goswami Maharaja, reached Bhatinda along with several other saints despite the precarious condition in Punjab. (Punjab was suffering from terrorism during those days). On the last day of the festival, while addressing the gathering at night, Srila Guru Maharaja began by saying that one gentleman had visited him recently. He had asked, "What is the duty of grhasthas like us? How should we perform hari-bhajan?" Srila Guru Maharaja went on to say that many married persons ask him questions about this subject. They say that they like to do bhajan and go to spiritual festivals but don't get time from their worldly responsibilities. They also say that sadhus don't have anything to do other than hari-bhajan but grhasthas have so many responsibilities to fulfill. What should they do in such a state?

Addressing such grhasthas, Srila Guru Maharaja said, "Let's assume you have many things to do and are always engaged in some or the other work. Don't you take some time off to eat while engaged in work? You eat in the morning, you take lunch, and then you take dinner. Some people even eat in the evening. We have so many things to do and yet we find time to eat 3 or 4 times a day. Why? Because we have understood the importance of eating. We know that if we don't eat, our bodies will become weak. However, we have not understood the importance of hari-bhajan. That is why we are not able to find time for it."

Srila Guru Maharaja went on to say that necessity is the mother of invention. When we understand the importance of hari-bhajan, we will also find some time for it. At our maths in Calcutta and other cities, sat-sanga (scriptural discourse) is a daily activity. Some people come daily for sat-sanga but if they are unable to come for some reason like rain, etc. they always hanker for sat-sanga and look forward to when they will be able to go to the math and hear the hari-katha. Why does this happen? Because their soul has been awakened. When their soul does not get its food, they feel pain and emptiness. Therefore they somehow try to manage and get more and more time for sat-sanga.

One can easily find some time for bhajan, even in the midst of innumerable responsibilities. To further explain this point, Srila Guru Maharaja gave the example of Ambarisa Maharaja from Srimad-Bhagavatam. How many responsibilities might we have? At the most 2 or 3 big shops, a big piece of land, or a farm? However, Srila Sukadeva Goswami related to Pariksit Maharaja the story of Maharaja Ambarisa who was the emperor of the whole world. Now you can imagine how many responsibilities he might have had. Yet, he performed bhajan in such a manner that the curse of Durvasa Rsi, which never goes in vain, was not even able to touch him.

nabhagad ambariso 'bhun
maha-bhagavatah krti
nasprsad brahma-sapo 'pi
yam na pratihatah kvacit
"From Nabhaga, Maharaja Ambarisa took birth. Maharaja Ambarisa was an exalted devotee, celebrated for his great merits. Although he was cursed by an infallible brahmana, the curse could not touch him." (S.B. 9.4.13)

Maharaja Pariksit was surprised to hear this and he become interested in hearing more about the character of such an amazing devotee of the lord. Sukadeva Goswami continued:

sri-suka uvaca
ambariso maha-bhagah
sapta-dvipavatim mahim
avyayam ca sriyam labdhva
vibhavam catulam bhuvi

mene 'tidurlabham pumsam
sarvam tat svapna-samstutam
vidvan vibhava-nirvanam
tamo visati yat puman
(S.B. 9.14.15-16)

One who possesses wealth is considered to be fortunate. In this respect, Ambarisa Maharaja was very, very fortunate. He had inexhaustible, unlimited opulence and prosperity. Ordinary people cannot even conceive of his wealth. In spite of being such a great emperor, he considered all of his wealth to be very insignificant and temporary like a dream.

On the footpaths of Calcutta, we can see many beggars that are born and die there while begging. Think of a beggar who is hungry and sleeping on an old and dirty sheet. He is dreaming that he has become a big minister or a king. Everybody is honoring him. There are beautiful arrangements of various kinds of foodstuff and drinks for his satisfaction. There are arrangements of air-conditioned rooms for his residence. Whenever he wants to travel, he goes by airplane and various other luxurious vehicles. While seeing such a beautiful dream, he wakes up and sees that he is still sleeping on the footpath over a torn sheet. So his dream of being a king seems completely false. In the same way, although Maharaja Ambarisa possessed immense wealth, he considered it all to be false and temporary. He did not have even a tinge of attachment for his possessions. He knew very well that his wealth could be destroyed while he was alive or he would have to leave it behind. Separation was inevitable. He also knew that attachment to temporary material wealth causes one to fall down into ignorance, hellish conditions or miseries. This is the secret. To live in the world while not belonging to it. Sadhus also live in this world but they never want to enjoy it. Sadhus consider themselves, this world, and all the belongings of this world to be the objects of enjoyment for the Supreme Lord. That is the reason why they never get entangled in this material world. It is known as sudarsan. In the Bhagavad-Gita (9.24), the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna says:

aham hi sarva yajnanambhokta ca prabhur eva ca

"I am the enjoyer of all kind of sacrifices. I am the doer. Nobody else is the enjoyer or doer." When we come under the maya potency of the Supreme Lord, we consider ourselves to be the doer or enjoyer. Maharaja Ambarisa, in spite of being the sole emperor of the world, never got the false pride of being the owner of the earth. For example, when we go on pilgrimage, we pay 4000 rupees to the railway company to book a passenger bogie. For one month, we travel in that bogie to all the holy places. During our pilgrimage we pay full attention to the cleanliness, electricity, and water supply in the bogie. If anything goes wrong, we go to the station office and get it fixed. After one month, we reach Bhatinda (Punjab) and get down from the train so fast it's like there is a race going on.

After leaving the bogie we never look back at it. We spent so many days in it. We took care of its cleanliness, electricity, water, etc. and spent 4000 rupees on it. However, we have not even a slight attachment for that bogie. What is the reason for this?

The reason is knowledge.

The knowledge that this bogie is not ours. It belongs to the railway company. It was only meant for our pilgrimage. If we get a similar kind of realization about this material world, we will think that all our possessions, wife, son, family, house and our very body belong to the Supreme Lord. Always think that we have got it for a fixed period of time as per the will of the Supreme Lord, and after finishing that period, it will go away by the will of the Supreme Lord. Then we will not keep attachment for this temporary world which is full of miseries. Sometimes, travelers come to a dharmasala (lodge), stay for some time, and then go on to their destinations. Similarly, we should not have attachment for this world while living in this world. However, these are all not just talking matters–we should realize them.

Just think!

Maharaja Ambarisa did not have even the least bit of attachment for such a great kingdom and immense wealth. And here we are not able to leave our attachment for a house or a cottage. If we lose a ten dollar bill we will think about it continuously. What is the reason? How had Maharaja Ambarisa got such a consciousness? In reply, Srimad-Bhagavatam says:

vasudeve bhagavati
tad-bhaktesu ca sadhusu
prapto bhavam param visvam
yenedam lostravat smrtam
(S.B. 9.4.17)
Maharaja Ambarisa had bhava (strong attachment with feelings: the first stage of development of love of God) in the eternal blissful form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva, and in the saintly persons who are the Lord's devotees. That is why the whole universe and all its wealth were valueless for him. Therefore, unless we get a higher taste, we will not be able to forgo our attachments to this world. For example, if you put a little sugar or a rasagulla in the mouth of a child who has eaten dirt, he will spit out all the dirt from his mouth–something he would not do even after getting scolded for it. He will then become greedy to eat the rasagulla. Similarly, by being attached to the Supreme Lord and His devotees, all our attachments to this world will come to an end. With attachment to the Supreme Lord, all our greed, ignorance, miseries, and fear of hell will end and we will get the highest taste for the Supreme Lord.

Gaur Premanande! Hari Hari Bol!

(Translated from the Viswa Shanti Sutra Pravachan Mala booklet, published by Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, Chandigarh)

For more articles on a variety of devotional topics by and about Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj and other Vaishnava authors, kindly visit the GOKUL website at http://www.gokul.org or http://www.sreecgmath.org. For more information, or to subscribe to our newsletter, write to bhakti@gokul.org.

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