Essence of Pure Devotion (Part V)

Preaching and Self-Practice

by His Divine Grace

Srila Bhakti Promod Puri Goswami Maharaja

During His tour of South India Sriman Mahaprabhu had converted many local people of that part of that country into Vaishnavism by distributing love of Godhead, purifying such places with the resounding chant of the Holy Names of God. He, finally in His wanderings came to the place called Kurma. And as a matter of due course He took the audience of the presiding Deity, Lord Kurma Deva. Sri Srila Prabhupada [His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura] writes in his commentary with regard to this place: "The place Sri Kurmam is 8 miles east V.N.R. line, Ganjam Jela, Cika Kola Road Station. This is the most famous pilgrimage spot in the area where this Deity of Kurma is present."

During the 11th century, Sri Ramuna Acarya [Ramanujacarya] being flung or transported out from Puri by Lord Jagannatha landed in this very place. Initially believing the presiding Deity to be Lord Siva he began to practice several vows like fasting in indignation. But later in his meditations he came to realize this Deity was none other than that of Lord Visnu and began to serve this Deity with enthusiasm. A pious Brahman named 'Kurma' living at that place had invited Sriman Mahaprabhu, and with other members of his family, attended to Him with the most loving service and care. At the time of Sriman Mahaprabhu's departure this good soul was overcome by the pangs of loving separation which made him implore Sriman Mahaprabhu to take him along on His journey. Sriman Mahaprabhu in being satisfied with the nature of his kind service and adoration remarked gravely:

Prabhu kahe-
eche bata kabu na kahiba
grhe rahi krsna nama niranta loiba
yare dekha tare kara krsna upadesa
amara anjaya guru hoiya tara ei desa
kabu na baddhibe tomaya visaya taranga
punar api ei thani pabe mora sanga
Sriman Mahaprabhu who had performed the pastime of taking alms from the Brahmin's house gravely told this Brahmin to take the Holy Names constantly and side by side to preach this Name to others. In this way if he will engage in the welfare activities for others, the material energy will not be able to influence him in any way and he would be able to associate with the Lord in the near future.

Likewise Sriman Mahaprabhu Himself traveling from the holy place of Nilacala right up to Setu Bandhu, preached the Holy Names in every village along the way making all dance to the sound of the Holy Names in spiritual ecstasy. Sriman Mahaprabhu, after staying one night in the house of the Brahmin, in the following morning after His daily purificatory activities took his leave, with His good host following Him for some distance. After biding farewell to the Lord and returning to his house, the Brahmin noticed nearby another Brahmin named Vasudeva who had been afflicted with an abominable disease, leprosy in its latent stage. He as beating his breast and rolling on the ground with grief in not having had the audience with the Lord which he had eagerly anticipated. Lord Gaura Sundara had already gone some distance ahead, yet being the innermost dweller in the hearts of all beings, returned to that very place to bestow His mercy upon this Brahmin. Not only was the Brahmin Vasudeva awarded the sight of His transcendental form, he was also embraced with great affection by Lord Gauranga. Miraculously, all the symptoms of this despicable disease disappeared from the body of the Brahmin and he regained his beautiful appearance on contact with the spiritual body of Sriman Mahaprabhu. The wonder-struck Brahmin Vasudeva, with tears in his eyes, then began to quote verses from the Srimad Bhagavatam 10 / 81 / 16 as was spoken by the devotee Sudama:

kvaham daridram papiyan kva krsnah sri-niketanah
brahma bandhuriti smaham bahubhyam parirambhitah
Meaning: Sudama said: - "I am nothing but the most sinful and lowly Brahmin and how could I possibly compare in any way to the Lord of all opulence, Sri Hari. Nevertheless, He with His two arms has embraced this most lowly person."

Then he, Vasudeva, crying in sobbing tones again spoke: "Only the original Lord, the Savior of the fallen and lowly can perform this most magnanimous deed. I have been afflicted with this disgusting disease and the odor of my affected limbs would even make the lowliest person flee from me. Still, the Independent Controller whose nature is to be distressed at witnessing the misery of others, has mercifully embraced my in my wretched condition. Oh Lore Hari! I deem my former untouchable state more superior position for now the knowledge of my high birth could give vent to false pride which will make me forget the shade of Your lotus feet:".
Hearing these gentle words, Sriman Mahaprabhu consoled him, saying:
(M 7 / 147 -148)

kabu tomara na habe abhimana
nirantara kaha tumi krsna krsna nama
"Chant the Holy Names constantly and deliver the Holy Names to others and in this way no pride will affect you. Lord Sri Krishna will definitely accept you if you follow these instructions. After comforting him in this way, Sriman Mahaprabhu disappeared, leaving the two Brahmins to embrace and weep in the mood of separation. In Caitanya Caritamrta this incident is referred to as the deliverance of Vasudeva. Here we have seen specifically, how Sriman Mahaprabhu had given instructions to the Brahmins to chant the Holy Names constantly, and preach it with showing proper example to others."
The most worshipable Sri Srila Prabhupada comments:
"One who surrenders to Sriman Mahaprabhu and decides to serve Him, Lord Gaura Sundara surely accepts their devotional service. But there are certain rules to be strictly observed. While in household life, one should practice chanting, giving up the false pride of being a great devotee. Further he should, in the proper mood, remain intent on the preaching of the Holy Names of Krishna, for the welfare of others. He should never think that his devotional service would be impaired by the growth of pride in making disciples and preaching, but continue preaching humbly and faithfully."

Consequently, he would be benedicted in the sense that false prestige and material desire would never overcome him. Many stalwart devotees like Sri Narottama Das Thakura, Ramanujacarya, etc. have been criticized by ignorant people for accepting many disciples who view this as a sign of material desire and not conducive for proper devotion. This category of foolish people thus incurs offense at the lotus feet of the pure devotees of the Lord. These offenders should bear these specific instructions of Sriman Mahaprabhu in mind and try to progress by following in his footsteps namely, by preaching the Holy Names and giving up all sense of false humility. This parting instruction of the Lord was specifically meant for their ears. Lord Caitanya, by His wide preaching, did reinstate the proper consciousness of the fallen souls. They in turn too carried on this preaching work to revive other conditioned souls and in this way, Sriman Mahaprabhu gradually expanded the 'Acyuta; dynasty in the pursuance of pure devotion.

On the other hand, there are many who, not understanding the purpose of the Lord's instructions to become guru and deliver the land, instead, become inflated with arrogance and false pride in an artificial limelight. These misguided people would have to surely glide downwards into the hellish regions. One has to take the role of the servant of the servant of the devotees, guru and Supreme Lord and in complete submission to bear their instructions upon one's head. One practicing model conduct appropriate to these instructions will mean no question of demoniac tendencies being developed in any one. Sriman Mahaprabhu has placed the actual identity of every living entity as not belonging to any particular class or creed, but as the servant of the servant of the husband of the gopis (Lord Krishna). When this concrete realization eventually awakens with the solid desire to execute welfare activity for others, then there is no anxiety of falling down.

ami to'vaisnava ei buddhi hoile amani na haba ami
pratisthasa asi Hrydaya dusibe hoibe nirayagami
One should never have the false prestige that he is a great devotee but know this as the doorway to hell Even after accepting disciples, one should be careful to be free from pride. Offenses are incurred in not obeying the instructions of the great souls. Simply giving lip service to such instructions but internally maintaining pride in one's heart would ultimately mean sure defeat by the power of illusory energy. Nobody can cheat the omniscient Lord present in the heart of all others! The desire of Lord Gaura hari is that the task of preaching should go side by side with one's personal character and example.

pratyaha kara tina-laksa nama-sankirtana
sabara age kara namera mahima kathana
apane acare keha, na kare pracara
pracara karena keha, na karen acara
'acara', 'pracara',----namera karaha 'dui' karya
tumi----sarva-guru, tumi jagatera arya
(Cc. Antya 4 / 101-103)
"Here, Srila Sanatana Goswami addresses Nama Acarya Srila Haridas Thakura, saying that daily you have to chant three lakhs of the Holy Names. Some people have good character but do not preach while other preachers have no personal example of their own. One has to execute both of these activities in a proper measure to do the work of an 'Acarya.' "
Sri Srila Prabhupada writes: "Srila Haridas Thakura was the guru of the whole world. Chanting the Holy Names in a manner after having properly been initiated was his constant daily example to others and by deliberately chanting the Holy Names in a loud manner was able to deliver all the living beings by initiating them into the sound of the Holy Names. Therefore his model behavior coupled with the propagation of the Name was the best example of one who conducts both these activities. Sriman Mahaprabhu's famous declaration: (Cc. Adi 3 / 20-21)

apani karimu bhakta-bhava angikare
apani acari' bhakti sikhamu sabare
apane na kaile dharma sikhana na yaya
ei ta' siddhanta gita-bhagavate gaya
"I shall accept the role of a devotee, and I shall teach devotional service by practicing it Myself. Unless one practices devotional service himself, he cannot teach it to others. This conclusion is indeed confirmed throughout the Gita and Bhagavatam."
In Srimad Bhagavad-Gita Lord Krishna tells Arjuna:

yad yad acarate srestas tad tad evataro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute lokastad anuvartate
"Whatever is established by the learned people is accepted by the common people."
This word 'srestas' denotes the 'Acarya' or one who personally guides people by his behavior. Their conduct will usually be followed by the masses. In the Mahabharata, Yuddhisthira Maharaja, in reply to Lord Dharma's question as to what is the best possible path quotes: mahajan vena gatah sa panthah. The best recourse is to implicitly follow the path chalked out by the great souls. The four common faults are not present in these great souls. These faults are namely illusion which is mistaking something which is not true as real, carelessness or instability of mind, imperfection of the senses, as in the seeing of mirages and the usual cheating tendency which is to insist you know something when you do not. In this regard, the great souls who are well versed in the highest truths and have knowledge of the scriptures are free from these four faults. They are by nature equipped with good conduct and completely devoid of enviousness, enmity, anger and hypocrisy. The profound truthful words of such teachers are regarded as 'evidence'. On the other hand, if a person is learned in different scriptures and erudite in speech, still if his character is devious then his instructions to others are of little use. In short, preaching the holy messages without personal example and practice is of little gain.

King Pariksit, in disciplining the Personification of Kali, submitted to his earnest plea and granted him five places for his residence, irreligion to flourish. These are namely gambling, liquor and all other stimulants, illicit sexual intercourse, violence (brutal killing of defenseless creatures) and gold (money used in the service of the Lord properly does not fall into this category). The practice of gambling breeds dishonesty, drinking of intoxicants and taking of stimulants lead to loss of austerities. Mingling with women leads to a loss of cleanliness. Violence to living creatures leads to a temperament devoid of compassion all together. Thus all forms of irreligiousness spring up from these vices. In fact, the greed or illegal accumulation of money or gold is the cause of the other four vices though by itself is in the fifth position. Hence those desiring their highest welfare should not indulge in any of these sinful activities at all, especially the religious minded person. A King and spiritual leader or 'guru' should shun all such activities from a distance. Such indulgence in irreligion will only deteriorate the character of the individual and all his so called preaching will be of no avail. Sriman Mahaprabhu to Sanatana Goswami says:

asat-sanga-tyaga-ei vaisnava-acara
'stri-sanga-eka asadhu, 'krsna abhakta' ara
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura comments: in a direct way Vaishnava conduct is the association of the pure devotees and indirectly under this principle, there is the rejection of bad association. Bad association is of two types: association with women and their playmates and also with the non devotees of Sri Krishna. The sincere devotees should vigilantly endeavor to avoid such bad association.

Sri Srila Prabhupada comments: the gist of proper Vaishnava conduct is the rejection of the non devotees. They are listed as those who consort with women against scriptural injunctions and people averse to Lord Krishna. Those who normally consort with women are twofold: firstly one who liaises with his wedded wife consistent with the householder life 'varnashrama system', and secondly one who deceitfully indulges in illicit connection causing a disruption in the established law and the main reason for future hellish births. One who indulges and relishes sinful activities can hardly be termed as a 'vaisnava.' Piousness, wealth, sense satisfaction are restricted by this type of bad conduct, The ideal fourth objective of human life which is liberation is barred too, by illegal association with women and in another sense more implicating and derogatory because it stifles the natural urge for pure devotion to Sri Krishna. The fruitive worker tries to enjoy the material world for personal sense gratification while the Impersonalist renounces the material world for his own salvation. In this sense, both are guilty of independent and selfish motives within the context of hypocrisy. We cannot term such people as servant as of Lord Krishna i.e. they are non-devotees. As Lord Kapila informs His mother Devahuti (3 / 31 /34-35):

tesv asantesu mudhesu khanditatmasv asadhusu
sangam na kuryac chocyesu yosit-krida-mrgesu ca
na tathasya bhaven moho bandhas canya-prasangatah
yosit-sangad yatha pumso yatha tat-sangi-sangatah
"Truthfulness, internal and external cleanliness, generosity, intelligence, modesty, fame, perseverance, control of the mind and sense dwindle in the association of women. One should never associate with those in the bodily concept of life or with one who is a toy in the hands of women. Such unholy association should be shunned from a distance. There is no greater misery than association with those who consort with women or their playmates. Conclusively however intelligent, erudite or learned speaker one may be, if he exhibits the following bad characteristics or bad conduct he will never be able to preach the name, fames pastimes of Lord Krishna. As Srila Narottama Das Thakura warns us in the "Prema Bhakti Chandrika:

karma kanda jnaan kanda, kevalam visera bhanda
amrta baliya yera khaya
Meaning: speculative knowledge and fruitive activity is as dangerous as poison for they lead us away from the pure goal. Further, Srila Narottama continues to warn us against mystic yogis like those who practice meditation and other futile practices, dry logicians worshipers of the Demigods who are all to be avoided as non-devotees."

The books of our predecessor Gurus contain many simplified extracts which are the essence of Vaishnava conclusions. Taking the shelter of the bona fide Guru and studying all these devotional literatures while constantly following proper conduct will help one in contributing to the task of preaching. Books like 'Prathana", 'Prema chandrika' by Narottama Das Thakura, 'Saranagati', 'Kalyana Kalpataru', 'Gita vali' and 'Gita mala' by Bhaktivinoda Thakura contains the essence of all the scriptures. The song 'Sarangati' runs as follows:

sri krsna caitanya prabhu jive doya kari
sva parsada sviya dhama saha vatari
"The purport of this song is that without surrender nobody raises himself to the highest stage, nor will he be able to preach the Holy Names, form and pastimes of Sri Krishna effectively."
Lord Krishna had descended to re-enact His wonderful pastimes tinged with absolute sweetness in the association of His confidential associates in the material world. In Kali Yuga immediately after that, the Supreme Lord Gaura Hari appeared as the most magnificent incarnation to distribute the sweet mellows of devotion after relishing it Himself. It is in order to help people to attain this highest stage that Sriman Mahaprabhu has instructed all of us to take up exclusive self-surrender. In Vaishnava Tantra this is mentioned:

anukulyasya sankalpah pratikulyasya varjanam
raksisyati iti visvaso goptrtve varanam tatha
atma-niksepa karpanya sad-viddha saranagatih
"Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes in his commentary the following symptoms of surrender which are as follows:
To resolve to accept that which is favorable for devotional service (I definitely have to accept it)
To strictly reject all that is unnecessary for proper execution of devotion (I definitely have to renounce this).
Firm faith that only Lord Krishna can protect me (not any form of monistic theories can help me overcome death).
None other than Lord Krishna is my maintainer and supplier (not taking help from demigods or others)
I am not independent but solely dependent on the will of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna.
The feelings of meekness and humility by devotees in conjunction with humility and self -surrender.
In the long run, Lord Krishna is very affectionate to His surrendered servants and ready to bestow upon them all desirable ends up to the spontaneous devotion of the residents of Vraja.
Sri Srila Prabhupada has sung: prana ache tanhara sehetu pracara: "Only one who has life can preach".

Conclusively, in taking to the above injunctions of self-surrender to the Lord as the first and foremost part of self-conduct only, can one successfully preach the devotional conclusions of Sriman Mahaprabhu. Otherwise, like a dead body, one will neither benefit one's self not anyone else by his preaching. For our higher spiritual goals, the common striving for the lesser pursuits of profit, distinction and fame is not at all conducive. In Sri Srila Prabhupada's words:

sri-dayita dasa kirtanete asa
kara ucchahsvare harinama rava
"Sri Srila Prabhupada was always aspiring to hear the loud chanting of the Holy Names which was the life and soul of the surrendered devotees. Those without life cannot take either the chanting of the Holy Names, or preach effectively."
At the time of spiritual initiation, the devotee should surrender wholeheartedly to the lotus feet of the spiritual master if he wishes to receive the mercy of the Supreme Lord. In thinking the spiritual master as a mere mortal, one will not be able to preach. Only by being the proper RECIPIENT of the guru's mercy, with the maintenance of personal conduct with proper strength and intelligence can one be able to preach effectively.

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