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  • How to understand the irrational actions of devotees?

    Chiang Mai 2012 - How to understand the irrational actions of devotees?

    Author: Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Cycle: Chiang Mai 2012 Uploaded by: Radha Raman das Created at: 19 November, 2012
    Duration: 00:40:24 Date: 2012-04-08 Size: 55.49Mb Place: Gupta Govardhan Chiang Mai Downloaded: 1164 Played: 3751
    Edited by: Kamala Devi Dasi Translated by: Nalina Sundari d.d.

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    Question: We know from the scriptures that we cannot jurge actions of devotees according to the logic of this world. And very ofter devotees do something that is not logic and couldn't be understanded by the knowledge of this world. So, what is my problem if I cannot understand devotee's behaviour, devotees action, because I only know the instuments of understanding of this world? And how can I learn, how can I understand devotees actions and behaviour? What is the obstacle? What has to be adjusted? What can you say about this?
    Goswami Maharaj: That is a good and profound question. One thing that comes to the mind is what we mean when we say 'devotee', because Srila Gurudev, he liked to quote one of Srila Guru Maharaj’s godbrother  saying, “Whether someone is 1% a devotee, 5%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 99%, 100% – that has to be factored in.“ And [there is] the scriptorial support for that. As we have the headings: karma-misra-bhakti, jnana-misra-bhakti, jnana-sunya-bhakti. Misra means mixture, so we hear: there is the type of devotion [which is called] karma-misra-bhakti – there is devotion but some karma mixed in. Jnana-misra-bhakti – there is devotion, but some jnana mixed in.
    And Guru Maharaj  reminds us repeatedly, “There is gradation in everywhere and everything.” And just to underscore that point: no  two things are identical. There are even identical twins in the world that some people cannot tell the difference, but the mother usually can, hopefully. They even know, [these twins] are a little bit physically different, but they know by nature.
    I remember I’ve been on an airplane sitting next to a lady and she had these two little girls who were identical twins with her. And she said, “One is like a really girly girl, she really cares about what she looks like, how she dresses, everything. And the other one, who is identical to her, could care less. Even though they are wearing matching clothes everything looks the same.” She thinks, “This one really cares, that one doesn’t.” She knows that. So, there is gradation everywhere and in everything.
    So, this all important matter is what is a devotee, who is a devotee, what is devotion, real devotion. And we could make a case that Krishna consciousness’s beginning, middle and end, is a study of devotion. So, the healthy perspective for the aspiring devotee and practitioner is to… in Gurudeva’s words, ‘My religion is finding fault with myself’, to apply some very intense scrutiny of one’s own motives and position, whereas giving the benefit of the doubt to others.
    Sometimes Saraswati Thakur would even express, “All others are serving Krishna.” We heard this from the great devotees, some the mahabhagavats were saying, “All are serving Krishna only I am not.” There is that type of vision. And from a mahabhagavat it is understandable. They are not distinguishing, therefore we were told that the position of guru is enacted from madhyam-adhikār, means even a mahabhagavat must descend the madhyam, the middle position where one distinguishes, makes some distinction between the 1%, 5 %, 25, 50 etc. What is tacitly understood from this as well and [what about] we are warned  by Bhaktivinod Thakur implied is that when you start analyzing, you run the risk of committing offence.
    I’ve mentioned recently, when Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur  is giving some comparative analysis between Devaki and Yashoda. And in the Brahma Vimohan-lila as Krishna expends into others identical cowherd boys and calfs Chakravarti Thakur is celebrating the good fortune of those mothers who had Krishna as their sons for a year.
    As we know in the story that Krishna identically [is] taking on their forms. It’s unknown to the mothers. They just know internally, that for some inexplicable reason, the love they only normally feel for Krishna… everyone loves their child the most, but they know privately in their hearts that actually they love their Krishna more. But for this one year they are thinking, “Now that kind of love I use to only have for Krishna I am feeling towards my own child.” And they were just thinking, “This is some peculiar thing.” They are jnana-sunya bhaktas. So, they are not analyzing it, they are just thinking, “Interesting, peculiar. That love I only felt for Krishna now I feel for my own child.” For a year...
    Why? Because Krishna took the form of their child. Those calfs, when their mothers come, they are also thinking, “That love I felt for  Krishna now I’m feeling for my own calf. How peculiar that is.” They are conscious beings, these are cows in Krishna-lila, they are exalted devotees.
    So, it takes someone of the stature of Vishvanath Chakravarti, he makes this analysis, and says, “It’s interesting that if we compare Devaki and Yasoda, we see that, because Krishna left the prison cell almost immediately.” Some will say, “Devaki never had the opportunity to breastfed Krishna.” Some may say, “Once,  she breastfed Krishna and then Krishna was carried away to Gokula.” But whereas Yasoda was always breastfeeding Krishna. There is the famous sloka in the Bhagavatam:
    aho bhāgyam aho bhāgyaṁ

    [yan-mitraṁ paramānandaṁ]
    [pūrṇaṁ brahma sanātanam]
    (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.14.32)
    Comparison [of the] fortune of Nanda and Yasodamade [has been] made, Yasoda [is] more fortunate. Then,
    nandaḥ kim akarod brahman
    śreya evaṁ mahodayam
    yaśodā cha mahā-bhāgā
    papau yasyāḥ stanaṁ harih

    (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam10.8.46)
    Why is Yasoda through analysis understood to be more fortunate? We are saying: Nanda and Yasoda, mother-father, why? – She is breastfeeding Krishna, that particular seva is coming from her.
    So, that point is made, Chakravarti Thakur is saying, “We can understand from this sort of analysis perspective the most exalted position of Yasoda. But she is so kind and thoughtful of the position of the other devotee – Devaki, that she is promoting Krishna, allowing Krishna to be known as Devaki-Nandan. So, one meaning of Yasoda, Yasa means fame. Yasoda, she gives fame to others, so she has given the fame that, “You’ll be known as Krishna’s mother also.” Then, someone like Saraswati Thakur will quote scriptures saying, “But another name of Yasoda is Devaki, so when we say Devaki-Nandan it also means Yasoda-Nandan.”
    But anyway, Chakravarti Thakur says, “So, Yasoda is always breastfeeding Krishna. These mothers got to breastfeed Krishna in the form for their children for a year as well as that the mothers of the calfs." But then when he realizes that these analysis are  developing then he  says, “We can’t say any more about this. I’ve said a little bit about the comparative position of Yasoda and Devaki and I’m stopping now. And it’s impossible for me to say any more about it.”
    So, Bhaktivinod Thakur warns, that this type of analysis, what Guru Maharaj sometimes refers to tatastha-vichar, impartial analysis – to determine higher, lower, superior, inferior, desirable, undesirable, favorable, unfavorable – you have to be careful. What is it that compels us to engage to this analysis: curiosity? Or envy?
    In the beginning of the Bhagavatam:
    dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo 'tra
    paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satāṁ
    (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.2)
    This paramahamsa-samhita, the qualification to enter into an understanding of the Bhagavatam. The qualification to enter into an understanding of Krishna consciousness, the qualification to understand the devotees. Nirmatsarya – to not be envious of them. What does that mean? I mean it’s a negative prescription or prohibition, but it has the positive implication. Negative is – not to be envious. What is envy defining in this context? It’s to not allow someone to be seen in their rightful position, to not recognize that. And to be more specific to not recognize devotion, to not recognize devotional tendency.
    nehābhikrama-nāśo ’sti
    pratyavāyo na vidyate
    sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
    trāyate mahato bhayāt

    (Bhagavad-gītā 2.40)
    A little bit of this is extraordinary and eternally beneficial. So, these other aspects of a person in terms of flaws, perceive defects, whether they could be character flaws or improper behavior etc. They are not eternal characteristics. They might temporarily show something and vanish. Whereas the devotional tendency is of lasting, permanent, eternal nature.
    Srila Gurudev, when he was giving some of his final words, he said that, “Everyone has some fault, something. And whether it is big or small, that is not the question.” And he said that with the same cadence of the famous Shakespearian: ‘To be or not to be - that is the question.’ So, Gurudev said, “Big or small - that is not the question.” Then he said, “But what must be recognized - is their devotional tendency, serving tendency. That must be recognized and respected.” So, that is the vision of the devotees.
    Guru Maharaj says, “Our only hope of connecting with the upper world, what to speak of the highest aspects of the upper world, Goloka Vrindavan. What is it known as? The Land of Love. Love conceals all deficiencies. And speaking of Shakespeare and the Merchant of Venice, there is this famous talk, given by Portia, that begins with:
    The quality of mercy is not strained
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    There it’s also mentioned: but for mercy we have no hope of redemption, if you want to use this word.
    So, you see in the Bhagavatam, how we will view things? We say sastra chakshu, through the eyes of scripture, through the eyes of the devotees. So, what do we hear from this scripture? If we here these statements, if we pay attention to these statements of the Vraja-gopis and others, we will hear things, just like I’ve said, where the devotee is running, “What did Nanda do? Nandaḥ kim akarod brahman… What did Nanda do? That he’s got Krishna crawling in his courtyard? What did Yasoda do, that the Supreme Lord is sitting on the left sucking on her breasts?” That’s the question from the devotee. Others will say:
    aho bakī yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ
    jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī
    lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-uchitāṁ tato ’nyaṁ
    kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema

    (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.2.23)
    Putana, she approached Krishna with murderer's intentions and He turned it into something else.
    Once, Srila Praphupad Swami Maharaj mentioned about some particular disciple of Saraswati Thakur, he was speaking a little harsh, he said, “He was serving our Guru Maharaj like Putana.” He said, “But like Putana, Krishna’s taking the seva.” So, he said that Saraswati Thakur is taking the seva and that person became liberated. Then we think, “What is Krishna consciousness?” But let’s listen to everything those devotees are saying. They are saying, “Well, if Putana, who approached Krishna with murderer's intentions, He ignored that and accepted the motherly gesture. Then what to speak of someone who…” the first thing Chakravarti Thakur says, that’s… “is neutral.” Then even neutral is a higher position than that. If that person has got an exalted position then someone even in the neutral, shanta like position, what will they get?
    Then what to speak about someone whohas a mood of servitorship, dasya. Then he is saying, “Sākaṁ vijahruḥ kṛta-puṇya-puñjāḥ(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.12.11), then what to speak someone who is like friendly with Krishna? Who has friendly love and affection. Then we will think then is familial, conjugal svakiya, parakiya etc. It’s moving in that way.
    In one place Srila Saraswati Thakur said, “It’s only that I am honeycombed with thousands of defects. That I take the task of finding fault with Vaishnavas.” And then they gave an example of his divine vision, he said… Sometimes if someone hears someone is no longer taking the name of Krishna they might be critical, Saraswati Thakur said, “I’m thinking so much seva came to them, by the Krishna-nam, that they have been taking, now so much seva has come to them. They are not taking Krishna-nam.”
    Mahabhagavat’s adjustment come down to the middle position and distinguish something. But then again very carefully, very consciously… like Srila Guru Maharaj would say, “It’s possible, that if someone really thinks something is wrong, objectionable, scandalous… whatever you want to say. That they could approach a higher authority and say ‘in this situation, I don’t know what to think, I’m bringing this to your attention, please advise me.’ That’s possible.
    But we should be very conscious of these things. And he gave his own life as an example, where there was one devotee in Gaudiya Math, who, some devotees felt, was really abusing his position and finances and many things. But they were afraid to approach Saraswati Thakur, because he was rendering so much service, to him and to the mission. But then they thought, “But Srila Sridhar Maharaj, he’s so pure, he’s not a fault finder by nature. He has a disinterested nature. If we can convince him to present this to Saraswati Thakur, that will be good for us. If he represents the position then Saraswaty Thakur will take it seriously.”
    So Srila Guru Maharaj approached Saraswati Thakur and presented their case to him. And Guru Maharaj said Saraswati Thakur was visibly disappointed with him and said, “I could expect this from the others, but from you… I can’t tolerate it. And I couldn’t think that you would approach me with something like this. Others – maybe, but not you.” So, he was expressed some disappointment and Guru Maharaj was very chagrined, this was very painful for him.
    And he withdrew that immediately and mentioned various things, that Saraswati Thakur said. One of which was, “I’m prepared to throw money in the Ganga, if it’s necessary for this service of Mahaprabhu…” Because [there was] something in terms of monetary exchanges, some things like that. And he gave some others considerations, but left it. Guru Maharaj has left it – he left it.
    Then three month later they were in Southern India, and they were touring the Math and there was some publishing going on and different things. And there is the Bhagavatam that’s open. And Saraswati Thakur walks up to the Bhagavatam and sees which sloka it’s opened to. And he points, he tells Guru Maharaj, “Here is your answer.” Because it was  three month later Guru Maharaj was thinking like, ”What question did I ask?” then he thought, “Oh, Praphupad Saraswati Thakur, He is still thinking about that. [And after] all this time he is going ‘here is your answer’.
    And the sloka, giving here, is this, “Sva-pāda-mūlaṁ bhajataḥ priyasya...”(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.5.42) Just too rendered roughly [it is] saying, “If someone has exclusively dedicated their life to the service of the lotus feet of Guru and Gauranga, Radha-Govinda, if they make some mistake, some character flaw, behavioral problem, whatever it might be, there is no punishment for that. There is no prayaschita, no atonement. Why? First of all they have dedicated themselves wholesale to the service of Guru and Gauranga. And secondly, there is nothing more purifying than that seva. So to take them from that seva and say, “Well they’ll have to do this as a penance, or they’ll have to do this as atonement...” – you’re sending them something that is less purifying than what they are already doing.
    So, similarly in that, “Api chet su-durāchāro, bhajate mām ananya-bhāk” (Bhagavad-gītā 9.30) Where the mahajans seeing [that] Bhaktivinod Thakur [is] taking Krishna-nam [and] walking in this subtle world, invited him in there in Gita class assembly to explain what is an ananya-bhak bhakta. What qualifies for this? That’s the point. Because [if] we  say an ananya-bhak bhakta, then it would be ignored, dismissed… But what is an ananya-bhak bhakta? And so they say, “Oh, here is one –Bhaktivinod Thakur, let’s invite him and he will explain”
    And that’s when he explained the next verse, saying
    kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
    śaśvach-chāntiṁ nigahchhati
    kaunteya pratijānīhi
    na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati

    (Bhagavad-gītā 9.31)
    Which says, “Dharmatma, he is glossing us that if the qualification of an ananya-bhak-bhakta, means exclusive devotee, is that he is,
    sarva-dharmān parityajya
    mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja

    (Bhagavad-gītā 18.66)
    He is giving up everything and surrendered to Krishna, he is an exclusive devotee to the lotus feet of Guru and Gauranga. Then if he shows something untoward, unholy, whatever it might be,  as Gurudev said, “Big or small, that is not the question...” if you can look to his servitor identity, to the svarup aspect, servitor aspect…” Still, “sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ...(Bhagavad-gītā 9.30). Still, he’s saintly, because of his dedication and serving spirit and tendency.
    Bhaktivinod Thakur is saying, “Then you’ll be benefited. So, rather than tear them down or think of them offensively or from an envious point of you, think that the mundane aspect has cancelled the spiritual, if you can look beyond that and see their spiritual quality you’ll make progress, you’ll be rightly situated.”
    So Gurudev is saying, “My fault is I believe everyone.” And I would say, “No, Maharaj, it is your good quality.” He is looking at the servitor aspect, the servitor identity and the servitor tendency. And amplifying and magnifying that and seeing everything else as superficial and insubstantial. Not the inverse, not thinking, “This is what they really like, and their devotional part is superficial and shallow and not permanent.”
    Just the opposite thing. No, the other thing is like Bhaktivinod Thakur is saying in Jaiva Dharma, talking about acquired nature and permanent nature: ice and water. So, no doubt when ice is in the ice stage it’s hard, but that’s a temporary quality that it’s acquired, it’s not its real nature, its real nature is to be liquid and flow.
    We don’t hear a lot about Raghunath Bhatta Goswami, but one of the things we hear about him it that: he would never listen to any criticism of a Vaishnava. And we could say here, that the implication being that: maybe there was some cause for criticism. He didn’t say he dismissed all criticism as being illegitimate. It’s said, he didn’t want to hear that.
    Why? Because it will pollute his consciousness, when considering that person. And if that person has become dear to Guru and Gauranga, then we run the risk of committing offence. And if we are thinking offensively of those who are dear to the lotus feet of Guru and Gauranga, it’s going to be harmful for us.
    So, at all costs we want to avoid committing Vaishnava-aparadh. And if we can look beyond those superficial aspects we’ll be able to live in a higher plane happily instead of the hard being like a cancer. Envy of devotees, Vaishnav-aparadh, fault finding – it’s like a cancer. We're told also [that] it leads to uprooting the devotional creeper. So, at all costs we have to avoid that. And when we say 5%, 25%... we’ll have to say, “I don’t know.” Am I the person who can make that valuation, that this person has 50%, 75? Or he is around the high 80-ties…
    No, so then we’ll look to the higher Vaishnavas and we have seen in the case of Srila Gurudev… sometimes one servitor is not appreciating the spiritual qualities of another, to put it mildly. But then you [could] see [that]  Gurudev has a good relationship with both. Both of them love him. He loves both of them.
    So, then the disciple will think, “I want to match the sentiments of my Guru. If he thinks this person is all right and he’s giving him love and affection and recognition, how can I not?” Better I'll adjust myself. But that’s said once it happened, maybe more than once, but in my case once it happened. I thought [about] some particular persons that they were needed to be quarantined. Let use that word. [laughing] But Gurudev and Avadhut Maharaj they thought differently than me, and I thought, “Well, if they are both thinking in this [way] what’s wrong with me? I need to readjust myself.”
    So, this one particular day I met with this person and readjusted myself. And I was very proud that I did this. And so when Gurudev came up to stairs back and we were sitting and talking I said “Oh, Maharaj, I have changed my opinion. Now I’m of the same opinion as your Divine Grace and Sripad Avadhut Maharaj. I have changed my opinion to match you.” And Gurudev said, “I can never say that.” And I said “What?” And he said about this problem, “All this fault finding, envy…” and started saying all this things… Poisoning others. And that’s when he said, “My religion is finding fault with myself.” So, I then was just bewildered.
    But I thought, “He is the higher Vaishnava. If he is making some determination then we are all right, in either direction. That is our position. But we know interestingly in the case of Saraswati Thakur some servitor did something objectionable and sometime went by and they again met with Saraswati Thakur and the devotees approached him and said, “So-and-so Prabhu, he wants to come back and the association of the devotees again, he’s begging forgiveness for his offences…” And Guru Maharaj said, Saraswati Thakur said, “I cannot accept him, but you shall all accept him.”
    And then Guru Maharaj said, they were perplexed, because they thought, “Whatever your position is, we want to have the same position as you.” And he said, “No, I cannot accept him, but you shall.” And [then he] mentioned Kala Krishnadas, Mahadrabhu ousted him from his direct association, but he got shelter under the auspices of Nityananda Prabhu and the other devotees. So that was Saraswati Thakur’s example. And I know some cases too, where Guru Maharaj told us, “I cannot accept these persons right now, but you engaged them.”
    So, there are many possibilities, but at all costs we want to avoid thinking offensively about Vaishnavas of the least adhikar what to speak of  the highest position. Because in the case of the highest position that’s suicidal, but Srila Guru Maharaj, he would remind us, “Even a new person we should show respect to, because, first of all now they are connected to what we say is the highest thing, the most wonderful thing and the most divine thing. Now they are connected to it. They are appreciating it, they have their connection.
    And he added, “God willing, I’m maybe going slowly and they’re going very rapidly, so it’s not inconceivable, that they could surpass me and I would be in the position in the future to receive grace from them.” Of course, hearing such an explanation, we will understand this is the vision of a mahabhagavat, so who is the most exalted, he is saying, “Even a new person we should show respect to.”
    That’s Guru Maharaj’s position. And, just to add to that, he was repeatedly saying, “I’m a student, not a finished professor knowing anything and everything, such a student.” And that’s the best position to be  as a student for every student. Why? Because a student can make mistakes, a student can learn more. It’s a progressive position. Whereas when you're cornered, finished professor knowing anything and everything, never makes a mistake, everything they say or do is perfect. So he said, “That is a static position, you can only go down from there, whereas the student can make progress.”
    And if we recognize that despite someone’s apparent flaws that they do have some  serving tendency, spirit of devotion, dedication, then it will be better for us to think: if I could get a little bit of that from them, what they have got, the good thing they’ve got, my position will improve. So let me think of them in such a way and deal with them in such a way to appreciate their dedicating tendency and maybe some grace will come to me from that.
    And once I asked Guru Maharaj, having heard this explanation of api chet su-durāchāro, “Maharaj I’ve heard that some god brothers objected to this explanation.” And Guru Maharaj said, “Who are these godbrothers?”“I don’t know… you said…” And then he laughed and he said, “Jajavar Maharaj, his point was [that] he was afraid that this will be abused and that everyone will go, ‘oh, they’ll use this explanation to justify misbehavior’.”
    But then we come back to the central point also, but who is ananya-bhak? An exclusive devotee? And actual exclusive devotee will never apply this to themselves, they’ll apply it to others, but they won’t apply this to themselves. Because an aspect of being exclusive devotee, pure devotee is, in Guru Maharaj’s words, “They will never think that they’ve achieved anartha-nivritti, which we can take in two ways: one is – freedom from unwanted behavior or even sinful activities or the other side of that anartha – misconception. So they will never think that they’ve reached that stage. So, they are not going to apply this to themselves. They'll only apply it to others.
    Back to Gurudev is saying, “My religion is finding fault with myself...” and ‘my religion is finding loopholes within Krihna Consciences to justify misbehavior’ – He didn’t think that was his religion, that’s not “dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo 'tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satām.” But he said, “My religion is finding fault with myself applying that type of intense scrutiny self-analysis to myself and being generous in viewing others, giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
    Hare Kṛṣṇa