Volume One -- Chapter Three -- The Success of Faith
by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written:
sakala chadiya bhai
sraddhadevira guna gai
yanra krpa bhakti dite pare
"Giving up everything, let us sing in praise of Sraddha-devi - faith -
whose grace can take us to Krsna."
Sraddha, faith, is the most subtle thing, and it is also the most tangible. It is not imaginary. We must realize that it is reality, it is concrete, and not merely an abstract sentiment of mere individual consciousness. Faith is universal as the most fundamental element that can connect us with the finest objective.
Power and grandeur are not proof of faith
Through electricity or radio we can establish communication over a long distance. The science is very subtle, and not known to anyone and everyone, yet, we cannot deny its existence; it has its tangible position. But faith is much more subtle, and through it one can establish both higher contact and reciprocation. Subtle faith is not approachable by anyone and everyone; it has its tangible existence and it may function in any circumstance if we have its peculiar contact. We cannot give false statements that we possess it; our power and grandeur are not necessarily any proof of its presence in us. Despite great pomp and show, all we personify may be falsehood. We should be very cautious to maintain our contact with genuine faith.
The main qualification for faith
Of course, sincerity is the main requirement for faith's connection. No price, however valuable in this world, can purchase it. The qualification is laulyam - our sincere and earnest desire for the thing. No one can purchase the Absolute, and no price can purchase Him. The absolute necessity is our sincere desire and earnestness. With insincerity, we cannot make trade with Him; He is not so foolish as to become an object of trade for anybody! Sincere desire for Him is required, and that will awaken the conception to serve Him. We want Him, sincerely - through affection. We love Him, so we desire Him. And to love means to sacrifice for the object of our love. Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhu has given a beautiful definition of the word 'Bhagavan': bhajaniya sarva-sad-guna-visista - "The Supreme Lord, Bhagavan is of such a nature that everyone who comes in contact with Him will want to serve Him and to sacrifice themselves for His satisfaction." This is the result of faith in its developed form. He is so noble, we shall think that if we die to satisfy Him, our life's objective will be fulfilled. His noble quality is such that it draws so much sacrificing spirit for Him; it draws everything towards Him. "Die to live." Faith is such.
The agents of faith
We are in the ocean of faith, and the devotees are the essential agents. Each helps the other. We are much relieved from the fatigue and trials of a long journey if we have a companion or the association of a group. Similarly, in this ocean, if we obtain the help of devotees of similar nature to ours, that will be most conducive. Even our Guru Maharaja, in a speech he delivered on Vyasa-puja, his Holy Appearance Day, addressed his disciples, "Vipada uddharana bandhugana: Oh my friends, who can give me relief from danger." "To me, you are my deliverers from danger! In the ocean of faith, it is very difficult to journey onward alone, so you have come to help me in my dangerous, ambitious journey in the infinite. You have come, and you are engaging me in talking about only Him, and so, you have given me some engagement. Otherwise, to live and move alone in the infinite is very difficult, troublesome and dangerous. You have all come to hear something, and in this exchange of talks about Him the situation has been made very safe and easy to journey so far toward Vaikuntha."
Faith is the only capital - Faith in the real devotees brings us to a tangible thing
We must be conscious of our real position when we are searching for Krsna. It is not easy, and also, it is very easy - both simultaneously. Faith is the only capital by which we can make our journey towards the Infinite. Bhakti, devotion, has no beginning and no end (ahaituky apratihata). There is no beginning - it is there already. Before we came to know about it, it was there. It was there, it is there, it will be there. No one ca resist it - that bhakti, that faith, is irresistible. It is part of the eternal substance. Its very nature is eternity - none can oppose it. We only have to make contact and associate with it, and the wave will carry us towards our goal. And if we can have the company of the devotees, the journey becomes very easy and pleasant, whereas to go alone is very difficult. In the progress of our contact with faith, when we come to take benefit from devotees and have faith in them, we are more safe and our progress is also tangible - it comes to reality. From a vague, abstract position, faith becomes deeper within us. We can then recognize many others with the same objective in life, and the journey becomes easier. It becomes conceivable. It comes into measurement. When we have faith in the real devotees, we can come into contact with such a tangible thing. Thus, the position of the devotees is very important in our journey, especially in the middle stage. In the primary stage, not much importance is given to the devotees. With only a vague conception from the scriptures and with the help of previous accumulated merits (sukrti), the journey is begun. But gradually, the beginners find that to journey onwards in the infinite is not an easy thing: "We thought that with a little progress we could attain the desired end, but now we find that it is not so." When we come to consider the real position of devotion, of what is God - He is universal, He is the ultimate goal - we may gradually become disappointed. But if along the way we take help from the devotees of similar objective, we shall feel much relief by their company, even though the destination may be far away. The difficulties of the journey are more prominent in the second stage. In the primary stage, we are not very exclusive in our objective, and so,we do not experience much difficulty. Real difficulties begin when we enter into the journey exclusively, with no other objective than to engage our whole energy towards that high and elevated path. And if we actually achieve a touch of the highest stage, the maha-bhagavata stage, the journey again becomes easier. But the middle portion is difficult, and at that stage the devotees are very important to save us. This is the period of both tangible acquisition and difficulty; our failings on the path to realization are to be rectified in this middle stage.
The association of devotees is of ultimate importance
When we enter into war, in the beginning we have much hope. We feel confident. But the real test is when the fighting begins. And when we finally conquer, we again become very satisfied. But the middle - when the war is being conducted - that is the difficult period. At that time, our co-workers, our comrades who fight along-side us, are very, very important to us. "I am not alone, but there are many others battling alongside me in that middle fighting period of war.“ Those companions are important. Some may disappear from the field but there will be others to encourage me. Similarly, on this journey, we may see that many stalwarts are falling. It may discourage us to see such respected persons -going away - falling in the middle path. Nonetheless, in the midst of those unfavorablecircumstances there are others who are bravely making progress with unflinching faith, and they will help us. To stick it out to the end is difficult - but important and valuable. The test comes and shows how much faith we have. Nothing comes in vain, and we must take everything that happens in that way. There may be so many stalwarts, like Bhisma and Drona, who fall flat in the battlefield, but still we must go on (karmany evadhikaras te, ma phalesu kadacana, Bg. 2.47). We are out to fight to the end. We must achieve our end of life, and we can imbibe such firmness from the character of the devotees. The sastra will also offer helpful advice, but the association of the devotees is nonetheless of ultimate importance.
How to persevere on this journey?
We need lasting faith, not flickering faith: "Oh, I attempted for some time but I did not find any tangible fruit from bhakti, so I left"; or, "To me, it seemed very, very vague. When I began, I thought this to be something tangible that I would quickly attain, but it is not so. It is uncertain. I am giving so much energy for the cause, but still the desired result is not achieved." Previous tendencies also draw from the negative side, and so we find that many stalwarts are falling. Still, we have to persevere in this journey, and we shall have to take courage from those who are standing and who are deeply engaged. Though it is told hundreds of times that the Absolute is infinite, in the beginning we still tend to take it in the conception of the finite. We are accustomed to think of anything and everything in terms of finite. So, although we hear that it is infinite, it is Vaikuntha, it has no limit - we nonetheless cannot grasp the proper meaning. But when we make practical progress, many new conceptions must come to our knowledge. Now, when our Guru Maharaja addressed his disciples as vipada uddharana bandhu-gana, "My dear friends who have come to deliver me from danger," we should, of course, recognize such a statement from both the relative and absolute standpoints. Students are a necessary part of a professor - when a professor has students, he feels the practical utility of his life has been successful. Thus, from the relative point of view, disciples can help the Acarya. But from the absolute stand-point, Krsna's will is everything, and the nitya-siddha or eternally perfect great souls who inwardly know the Lord's intentions cannot be disturbed by any danger in any respect, but outwardly such an appearance may be manifest in their dealings.
By mutual understanding and discussion, a nectar arises to nourish the devotees
kathayantas ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca (Bg. 10.9)
Mac-citta: "Their attention is in Me"; mad-gata-prana: "Their energy is also spent for my cause"; bodha-yantah parasparam: "They mutually assist one another." This reminds us of the 'Napoleonic chair.' Once, when stranded in a marsh, Napoleon arranged that each man sit on the lap of another, in a circular formation; each automatically protected the other from the otherwise fatal cold and they could all remain awake to pass the whole night of intolerable cold. Otherwise his army would have perished. So, by mutual help, one devotee is asking questions, another is answering, and they are both getting engagement. The questioner is giving some energy and the answerer is also energizing. Bodhayantah parasparam: those of equal standing exchange their thoughts about Krsna - kathayantas ca mamnityam - and thereby their blissfulness is generated. By mutual understanding and discussion, a kind of nectar arises that nourishes the devotees. "One is asking something about Me and another is answering, and thereby that discussion creates a flow of nectar that nourishes both parties." Tusyanti ca ramanti ca: "Satisfaction is generated from that mutual understanding, and it develops up to ramanti ca, up to the quality of the absolute reciprocation, the wholesale transaction.' It rises up to that standard, ramanti ca, and again I give them a further installment, an illumination of new light (dadami buddhi-yogam tam), and they take a new course and are promoted into the 'suicide squad,' that squadron which is eligible for every type of service."
To be competent for any type of sacrifice or service
That particular type of 'soldier' is competent to fight on the land, in the water, in the sky or in any circumstances, and he is prepared for any form of fighting, any form of service. "I direct them to that section." Yena mam upayanti te (Bg. 10.10). Unconditional service: they are ready for any service demanded of them. They are ready to sacrifice their lives for any form of service, and that peculiar group is in Vrndavana. I mentioned to Sripada A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja that in Gita, after ramanti (10.9) comes buddhi-yoga and then upayanti (10.10); according to me, the meaning is that ramanti or divine service in madhura-rasa progresses through buddhi-yoga or yoga-maya, up to upayanti, or the highest plane of service in Vrndavana. Sripada Swami Maharaja responded, "What more could it mean than this!" Hence, upayanti means kama-rupa. In his Bhakti--rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami has mentioned sambandha-rupa and kama-rupa, the two types of Ragatmika-bhakti, or devotion rendered by the Eternal Associates of the Lord, headed by the residents of Vraja. In sambandha-rupa the Lord's Associates cooperate according to their fixed relative positions of dasya, sakhya, vatsalya or madhura, whereas in kama-rupa they come forward to serve any necessity that is demanded of them. They are ready to serve any and every desire of the Absolute. They are like that group of soldiers who have been trained to do any service in the war without being limited to fighting only in a particular division such as the army, navy or air force. They are prepared for all sorts of service, anywhere. Such is the kama-rupa group. This is upayanti te; they are awarded the instruction (dadami buddhi-yogam tam) by which they earn such capacity in the service of the Supreme. Krsna is ready to cooperate with the servitors in any position. In Mathura, He gave even Sairindhri, Kubja, the chance to render higher service. Krsna is prepared for anything, and so the other side, His servitors, must also be prepared in that way. The high conception of kama-rupa is very, very abstruse. It is most difficult for ordinary mortals to comprehend.
"I am so indebted to those devotees that whenever they feel the pain of
My separation, I cannot tolerate it. I immediately run to cooperate
with them in accepting My service. Such is the intensity of the
demand I feel from them."
Try to keep company with the successful candidates
In an examination hall, many of us may sit for the examination, yet many are unsuccessful and fall back. But we are not to dwell on them. Rather, we shall try to keep company with the successful candidates. They should be the focus of our attention, and with their help we shall progress. Progress means selection and elimination, and there is no end of making progress. We must take courage to that extent. Everywhere and in whatever direction we may go, we shall find both successful and unsuccessful candidates. We shall try to avoid the unsuccessful. Some may be brilliant in the primary classes, but in progressing further, we find that they are proving dull and cannot pass the test. And there may be many who were not very successful in the primary classes but flourish in higher education. Thus, we should not be discouraged and disappointed on hearing that so many once respected stalwarts are falling away. We should try to feel the actual soil. We need a sincere acquaintance with the soil on which we are moving. It is unintelligible to the fullest extent, but we must spare some energy to cultivate a deeper feeling for where we are, what we want, and where we are going. We must have a deeper feeling for the plane of our objective and achievement. We must not allow ourselves to be captured by the outer charm of things, but we should try to feel and trace the reality as our friend.
klesa-ghni subhada moksa-
sri-krsnakarsini ca sa
(Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Purva 1.17)
"Uttama-bhakti, the purest devotion, is the vanquisher of all sin and
ignorance, and the bestower of all auspiciousness; liberation is
belittled in the presence of such devotion, which is very rarely
attained, the embodiment of the deepest ecstasy, and the attractor of
Sri Krsna Himself."
Even if we achieve liberation from all the undesirable forces around us, pure devotion undermines this position of liberation (moksalaghuta-krt). We may be a liberated soul, free from the reactions and apprehension of the future, but association with the positive engagement, bhakti, is much more difficult to attain (sudurllabha). To obtain a 'passport' is not the same as securing a 'visa.' One may have a passport, but in order to secure a visa it will have to be necessary to undergo more trouble. In other words, we may be released by the reactionary plane, yet we may not have entrance into the higher plane. To have entrance there is far beyond this liberation. The qualification to eagerly aspire to give oneself wholly for the other plane of life is hardly to be found in anyone. Such a person has no motive to acquire anything for the plane in which he had previously been living for so long. Furthermore, if he is appointed to be a preacher, an agent to do relief work here, he will execute that duty solely under the appointment of, and in the interest of, that higher plane, without any attachment that "I shall bring some good to the people." He will think, "I must put myself wholly at the disposal of the higher plane, and I shall not be eager to become an acarya, a spiritual master. Otherwise, there is the danger of committing namaparadha, offense against the Lord's name."Asraddadhane vimukhe 'py asrnvati, yas copadesa sivanamaparadhah. It is an offense to give the holy name to the faithless. It betrays the motivation to gain a 'position' in the higher sphere. This is a type of mundane attachment, a spiritual tradery, as is the habit of caste 'Goswamins' and other spurious lines. Rather, the healthy attitude should be, "If I am appointed from above, then I shall serve as appointed, and that too, only for the interest of those who have appointed me. I am entering that rank solely for the interest of that higher land." That should be the pure and perfect approach. So, with a passport alone we cannot hope to enter easily into that higher plane which is sudurllabha, very rarely attained. But if we can enter, we shall feel sandrananda visesatma, "Yes, the very plane itself is most happy and full of independent spirit. I desired to secure a 'visa' to enter this country, and now I find that it really is as promised. I directly perceive that I am breathing in a far higher, sweeter atmosphere - a homely atmosphere that far excels anything of my previous soil." And finally, sri-krsnakarsini ca sa: Krsna Himself, Reality the Beautiful, who attracts the hearts of all - even He is attracted by the dedication of his surrendered servitor. Neither power nor knowledge have any play in this domain, but the Sweet Absolute is captured by the love of His devotee.