Sri Prabandhavali

Chapter Nine
Simply a Quality of Bhakti

by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja

Bhagavan has ordered that we should never give any importance to whatever faults may be seen in the bodies or natures of devotees who are engaged in His exclusive bhajana. We should not criticize them, be envious of them, or consider them to be of poor conduct. Suppose there is a man who never lies, steals or engages in any misconduct but doesn't perform exclusive bhajana of Bhagavan. Then there is another man who performs exclusive bhajana of Bhagavan and has ruci for taking Harinama and hearing Hari-katha, but some bad qualities or physical deformities can be detected in him. How should we view these two men? Between them who is superior? The Bhagavad-gita states that the one who performs bhajana is the best. But ordinarily people are not taught this. What to speak of others, even Sita, who is Laksmidevi herself, was not accepted by the residents of Ayodhya after Ravana had taken her to his abode in Sri Lanka. Rama said, "No, she is pure; she will stay with me in the palace." But even though she was actually the most exalted personality in Ayodhya, they sent her away without any remorse.

These conventions still exist today. If we see some external fault in a person, we disregard them. These days almost everyone sees with mundane vision. They don't see the tendency of bhakti inside others; they only see external things and then judge others on these considerations. Only those who have had abundant association with sadhus, who are higher-level madhyama-adhikari, whose anarthas have disappeared, and who are approaching the uttama-adhikari stage, will honor what Krsna has said regarding this point. And everyone else, who possess only mundane intelligence, will say, "Oh, this devotee is not of good conduct and is therefore a hypocrite." They also do not properly respect Narada because he said, "There is no need for us to understand what is religiosity and irreligiosity." There is also no necessity to honor worldly conventions. What is our only necessity? Bhakti exclusive prema-bhakti for Krsna is our only objective, and our firm resolution is that besides this there is no other meaning to life.

sva-pada-mulam bhajatah priyasya
tyaktanya-bhavasya harih paresah
vikarma yac cotpatitam kathancid
dhunoti sarvam hrdi sannivistah

Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.42)
If someone has left their family, wife, children, money, all worldly attachments and enjoyments, and is engaged in the exclusive bhajana of Bhagavan, but somehow or other he performs some sinful activity, then Bhagavan, being situated within that person's heart, at once forgives him. But if there is a person of good conduct who has spoken the truth throughout his entire life, who has engaged in welfare activities for society and for people in general, who has worshipped the demigods and endeavored for liberation, but has never engaged in bhagavad-bhajana, then what real benefit has there been for him? And if a devotee falls from the path of bhajana in an immature stage, what is the loss for him?
sucinam srimatam gehe
yoga-bhrasto 'bhijayate

In his next life he will take birth in a pure or wealthy family where there are devotees, and he will naturally be attracted to bhakti again. And for the other man who didn't perform any bhajana? There is no real benefit for him. Only to the degree that one can give his heart to bhajana will he be benefited. So only a madhyama-adhikari Vaisnava will be able to place emphasis on the bhakti in others rather than on external considerations.
yadi kuryat pramadena
yogi karma vigarhitam
yogenaiva dahed amho
nanyat tatra kadacana

Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.25)
If an ordinary yogi somehow falls from his practice, he will be finished. But if a bhakti-yogi accidentally commits some detestable activity, then by his very practice of bhakti-yoga he will again be set right. For him there is no need of any other procedure. Continuing to take Harinama will be his only atonement. Devotees are not intentionally sinful, so therefore for them there is no need of atonement. What has happened has happened, but deliberately they wouldn't commit sins. Krsna always forgives those who have bhakti for Him and He makes their hearts pure in all ways.
ajnane haya yadi 'papa' upasthita
krsna tanre suddha kare, na karaya prayascitta

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 22.143)
If a devotee accidentally commits some sinful activity, there is no need for him to undergo any atonement. By continuing his practice of bhakti, his heart will be purified. Those who know the tattva of bhagavad-bhakti say that by the devotee's continuing to take Harinama all impurities will leave him.
mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te 'pi yanti param gatim

Bhagavad-gita (9.32)
Sri Krsna said: O son of Partha, those who take shelter of Me, though they be of lower birth women, merchants and manual labourers can attain the supreme destination.Papa-yonayah means those who are sinful by birth. Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.4.18) has listed some of these classes: Kirata, Huna, Andhra. Kirata live in the jungle and kill and eat the flesh of animals and birds, even pigeons. They keep goats, sheep and pigs, and after fattening them up, they slaughter them and eat their flesh. Yavana, Khasa and all similar tribes do this. They are sinful from birth to death. Actually, for them eating meat is nothing; they don't even have any conventions such as marriage for relationships between men and women! From birth they eat meat, drink liquor and freely unite with women. Striyo means women. Though some are chaste, these days most women are unchaste. And the sudras kill the cow, eat its flesh and use its skin to make shoes.' Te 'pi yanti param gatim': even these people can attain the supreme destination through executing bhagavad-bhakti, so what to speak of those who engage in exclusive devotion but may have accidentally fallen?

If one engages in bhakti-sadhana and takes shelter of Harinama and hearing Hari-katha, then birth after birth the result from that will never be destroyed, as long as there has been no vaisnava-aparadha. The seed of bhakti is within that sadhaka. Birth after birth his sukrti will become stronger and stronger, and eventually he will attain para-bhakti. For those who have some special eagerness, it may even be possible in only two or three births. Bhagavan will lead us to Him either today, or after ten, twenty or one thousand births He will eventually lead us to Him, as long as the seed within us has not been destroyed. And there is only one thing that does that aparadha towards the guru or Vaisnava.

The jiva has independence, and by misuse of this independence he becomes implicated in the reactions to his own misdeeds. If by this independence one has blasphemed or offended any Vaisnava, then that is due to the uncontrolled mind. We should never offend a Vaisnava because from the sakti of guru and Vaisnavas we will get the mercy of Bhagavan. What determines if we will do bhajana or not do bhajana? Whose desire determines this? Bhagavan's? No, it is ours only. If we simply take up bhajana, then guru and the Vaisnavas will be merciful and give us the necessary strength to achieve the direct mercy of Bhagavan. But first of all the desire must come from within us. And if while engaging in bhajana, the desires for prestige and wealth exist within us, should we think that Bhagavan put them there? "I am doing just as Bhagavan inspires me" we shouldn't think like this in regard to anarthas. Those things are due solely to our own weakness. If we are unable to absorb our minds in bhagavad-bhajana, whose fault is that? Ours only, and not Bhagavan's. Don't think that "Bhagavan is doing this to me." Bhagavan is merely bestowing the reactions to our own activities. Reactions to our previous pious and sinful activities will come, and we will feel some difficulty because of them. So it is correct to think that He is bestowing the fruits of our karma, but otherwise He has no direct relationship with our difficulties.

If a devotee who practices exclusive bhajana is struck by a serious disease, why has it happened? It is a reaction to the sins of his previous lives. But sometimes Bhagavan will even put such an apparent obstacle in a sadhaka's path in order to curb his pride. He may try to increase that devotee's humility by this means. Therefore, beware! Don't think ill of another devotee because some fault may appear in his body or in his nature. If we maintain such an attitude towards devotees who are engaged in exclusive bhajana, we will be expelled from the kingdom of bhakti. We should consider all of these points and understand their importance in our pursuit of bhakti. If someone is lame, blind, a Kirata, Andhra, Pulinda or whatever, but has become a devotee, then Bhagavan will bestow upon him all good qualities and eventually take him up to Vaikuntha. Therefore we should never harbour any ill feelings towards anyone who practices exclusive bhajana. And one who behaves nicely, who has a very attractive appearance and who has taken birth in a brahmana family but doesn't engage in bhajana it is all useless and his life has no meaning. Don't think that this is an astonishing thing; it is simply a quality of bhakti.

According to their natures some people may have many faults, but we should always place emphasis on their bhakti instead. It is not that an ill-behaved person cannot take the name of Bhagavan, cannot do bhajana or cannot hear Harikatha. And it is not that only those who have taken birth within the brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra classes can take Harinama. Whatever condition one is in, even if he is as sinful as Ajamila was, he can chant Bhagavan's name and hear Hari-katha, and in this way become qualified to always remember Him.

Kirata, Andhra, Pulinda, Sumbha, Yavana these are all sinful classes of people from the time of the Bhagavatam. They still exist today but in different forms. They all originate from the Hindu lineage. All of the people that we see in India today, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or Jains, all had the same source: Brahma. So originally there was only one class of humans, but some degraded and became sinful by nature. In Assam there is a class of people who smoke different varieties of hemp with a water-pipe. Anytime there is some important task to be accomplished, they first all get together and smoke. They even engage their children in smoking, so they are sinful from birth. Others may take a good birth but become sinful later in life. If either of these classes of sinful people associate with sadhus and take shelter of a guru, they can be purified and their faults will be destroyed.

But will they be able to leave all those faults at once? If we see that someone is worshipping several demigods and goddesses, and we say to him, "My friend, don't worship Durga at this time of Navaratri. Instead worship Krsna," then they will not come in our direction. Therefore we should just let them come with whatever conceptions they may have, and after they have sat and heard something three or four times, it will start to become natural for them. Even if they are sometimes drinking wine, we should think nothing of it. Such a thing is written in the Bhagavatam:

loke vyavayamisa-madya-seva
nitya hi jantor na hi tatra codana
vyavasthitis tesu vivaha-yajna
sura-grahair asu nivrttir ista

Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.11)
It is not proper to drink liquor, but if a newcomer takes a little wine at the time of a marriage or a festival, we should think nothing of it. After hearing more and more Harikatha, they will automatically give up these bad habits. But in the very beginning the practice of strict bhakti-sadhana doesn't always come naturally.
aho bata sva-paco 'to gariyan
yaj-jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvuh sasnur arya
brahmanucur nama grnanti ye te

Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.33.7)
Sri Devahuti said to Kapiladeva,: How glorious are they whose tongues are chanting your holy name! Even if they were born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipful. Those who chant your holy name must have performed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices, bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas and become fully qualified in all ways." For one who has ruci for chanting the name of Bhagavan and for hearing Hari-katha, there is no necessity to perform any separate austerities or sacrifices or to study the Vedas. Even if his behavior is opposed to Vedic principles, people ordinarily think that his bhakti will be destroyed, but it is not necessarily so.

In the first part of Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta, there is a section where Narada and Hanuman are conversing. Upon hearing how dear Draupadi, Arjuna and all the Pandavas are to Krsna, Narada became very pleased and began dancing. Hanuman also danced with great happiness. In such devotees there are no reservations or feelings of shyness; their ananda increased as they discussed this topic and naturally they began dancing. Hanuman proposed that Narada should go to Hastinapura to have darsana of the Pandavas and then spoke this verse:

brhad-vrata-dharan asmams
tams ca garhasthya-dharminah
samraya-vyaprtan matva
maparadha-vrto bhava

Brhad-bhagavatamrta (1.4.114)
Please don't commit the offence of thinking that we are naistika-brahmacaris, whereas the Pandavas are mere grhasthas busy in managing a kingdom. Those who have the firm resolution to never become householders are called naistika-brahmacaris. From following this vow comes the qualification to follow sannyasa-dharma. The other type of brahmacari is called upakurvana. They remain in white cloth and serve as brahmacaris, but those who desire to do so can return to their homes and marry. Krsna and Balarama were upakurvana-brahmacaris because after studying under their guru, they returned to their home. Sukadeva Gosvami, Narada, the Kumaras and Hanuman never married and were naistika-brahmacaris. Vyasadeva, Janaka Maharaja and Ambarisa Maharaja were all upakurvana-brahmacaris who returned to their homes and performed bhajana there. Narada was a naistika-brahmacari who had renounced everything and didn't accumulate anything at all, whereas the Pandavas were followers of grhastha-dharma engaged in managing the affairs of a kingdom; so between them, who is superior? If Narada goes to the palace of the Pandavas, who will offer pranama to whom? The Pandavas will offer pranama to Narada, even though their bhakti is higher than his, because they will honor the regulations of their asrama as defined within the varnasrama system. Similarly, when Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a young sannyasi and went to the place of Vallabhacarya, who was approximately ninety years old and conversant in all the sastras, Mahaprabhu fell at his feet. Mahaprabhu behaved in the same fashion with Advaita Acarya, but internally Advaita Prabhu respected Mahaprabhu as his master.

So Hanuman was saying that it is not proper to analyze whether one is a brahmacari or a grhastha because we may become offenders. One who possesses the most prema for Bhagavan is superior, and being a grhastha is no obstacle to this. And even in some situations, without becoming a grhastha, loving feelings towards Bhagavan will not come. For example, a gopi will not be able to have parakiya-bhava in Krsna-lila without becoming married. But marrying is not necessary for vaidhi-bhakti, and it is not beneficial for raganuga-bhakti either. Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis were naistika-brahmacaris, but will a naistika-brahmacari ever take employment in a kingdom as they did? So even though in the strictest sense we can't say they were really naistika-brahmacaris, they were endowed with millions of transcendental qualities and were real paramahamsas.

Therefore Hanuman is saying that one should not minimize the position of the Pandavas just because they are grhasthas and are always busy in managing the affairs of a kingdom. Yudhisthira Maharaja is an emperor, why? For the preaching of bhakti. Why does he have a relationship with Draupadi? Because she is very dear to Sri Krsna. Why is he so fond of Arjuna? Because Arjuna is the dear friend of Krsna. Therefore we should never minimize the position of Yudhisthira. He has three relationships with Krsna: as His guru, meaning that he has affection for Krsna just as a father would, as His friend and as His servant. We shouldn't think less of any of the Pandavas, because they all have their own glorious relationship with Bhagavan. Kunti gave birth to them, and through them the glories of Krsna-bhakti were spread throughout the world. Also, every part of Draupadi's life is full of prema-bhakti for Krsna. Therefore we mustn't consider that just because one is a naistika-brahmacari he must be necessarily given more respect than a grhastha. The caliber of bhakti in a person is the important thing, whether they be a sannyasi, brahmacari, grhastha, woman, prostitute, dog-eater or whatever.

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