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Self-Assessment On the Disappearance Day of Srila Gurudpadapadma
By Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja
Excerpt from a lecture delivered on October 5th, 1998
Today’s special festival marks the beginning of the last month of our Caturmasya-vrata. This last month of Caturmasya is called Kartika-vrata, Urja-vrata or Damodara-vrata. Since today is also saradiya-rasayatra, Sri Krsna’s autumn rasa-lila, it evokes special remembrance of the disappearance day of our most worshipable Srila Gurupadapadma, nitya-lila pravista om visnupada astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. Therefore, as I begin my talk, I first pray to the lotus feet of Srila Gurupadapadma for increasing enthusiasm in my sadhana-bhajana.
Today is the disappearance day of our gurudeva, the day on which we observe our separation from him. Although the appearance and disappearance days of those in our Gaudiya guru-varga are of equal significance, the common man often thinks that he need only faithfully devote himself to his gurudeva as long as his gurudeva is physically present. He tends to forget his gurudeva when his gurudeva disappears from this world, or in other words, conceals his manifest pastimes. This inconsistency is vanquished by constant engagement in the service of Sri Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas. If they are the constant objects of our remembrance, it will not be possible to forget them. But if we have a motive to receive some temporary gain from them, we will easily forget them.
Forgetfulness of Bhagavan is the sole cause of all our miseries.
bhayam dvitiyabhinivesata syad
The jiva who is averse to Bhagavan forgets his own constitutional nature because of his association with maya. Due to this forgetfulness, he becomes absorbed in the conception that he is the material body and thus thinks “I am a demigod,” “I am a human being”, etc. In this state of bodily identification, he fears old age, disease and so forth. Therefore those who know the truth should consider their own guru as isvara, the Supreme. In other words they should see him as their master who is non-different from Bhagavan and who is very dear to Him.
Through exclusive devotion they should perform one-pointed worship of that isvara, their guru.
Our faults and misfortune are the results of our forgetting Bhagavan and we will never be fortunate enough to remember Him as long as we are forgetful of sri guru and the Vaisnavas. Therefore, when we perform bhajana, it is imperative that we first remember sri guru and the Vaisnavas. First we must pray for their mercy; only then can we pray for service of Bhagavan Sri Hari. The scriptures describe this to be the one and only process for remembering Him.
As long as Srila Gurudeva is physically present we should desire to learn the process of sadhana-bhajana from him. But instead, we are more eager to know answers to questions such as: “How shall I maintain my life?”, “How shall I eat?” and “How shall I clothe myself?” For those who are true sadhakas, however, eating, sleeping and dressing are of no real importance. Such sadhakas only value that which pertains to sadhana-bhajana.
Srila Gurudeva gives instructions such as, “You should chant the holy name”, “you should chant mantras, such as the gayatri-mantra; you should discuss devotional books and topics; and you should engage in the arcana and puja of the deity. Begin by performing sadhana-bhakti and try to advance gradually.”
At present we are ignorant and do not have correct conceptions of sadhana-bhakti, bhava-bhakti and prema-bhakti. If we did, we would be absorbed in contemplating them exclusively. Since that is not the case, what should we do?
Sri Kalyanakalpa-taru (Second Branch, Part 2, Song 4)
Anxiety for my body, house, wife and so forth constantly arises in my heart, thus destroying my intelligence. Alas, Alas! I do not understand them to be temporary. Do worldly comforts and opulences remain after death?
In this way the authors of the scriptures are telling us, and also the great Vaisnavas (mahajanas) are making it known, that this body is temporary. Still, we fail to proceed with caution.
Despite our lackings, we are to patient1y keep trying. We have to continue following the instructions of Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas; this is of utmost importance. We repeatedly hear about the same subjects, but our hearts and minds cannot retain what we have heard. And even if we do retain it, mere mental retention of information is of no real value. It is necessary to practice what we hear and live by it. Only then does what we hear take on any real significance. But despite hearing, hearing and more hearing, we all too soon tend to forget what we have heard.
We often see that new comers to the path of sadhana-bhajana are enthusiastic, but as time goes by, they see it as ordinary and their eagerness wanes.
What method, then, is appropriate for us? How should we practise sadhana? Sri Siksastaka, the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprnbhu, was previously known as sadhana-patha, the path of sadhana. We may be on the path of sadhana, but we are forgetting that path. Why does such forgetfulness occur when daily we are reciting that same Siksastaka? Why do our enthusiasm and patience diminish? That it does, reveals that we are not performing sadhana with inner steadfastness.
Forgetfulness of the path of sadhana can also result from over-endeavour. We need to contemplate whether our forgetfulness is due to over-endeavour or lack of endeavour. Sriman Mahaprabhu’s Siksastaka begins with “vijayate sri krsna-sankirtanam – may the congregational chanting of Krsna's holy name be victorious!” And Siksastaka concludes with verses about weeping for Krsna. Both the beginning and end of the process are given. But if I am a beginner to the path of sadhana, how can I cry? A person only cries when he is in need of something, something specific. Do we have any conception of our highest need?
“I want the mercy of Sri Guru, the Vaisnavas and Bhagavan.” Indeed, such contemplation nurtures the desire to attain my highest goal. How? Our guru-varga says that if we want to realize our highest aspiration, we should not limit our desire for it, as this will not help us attain it. Artha-sastra (the Vedic scripture on material prosperity) instructs a person to place a limit on his aspirations for happiness. Why? “nalpe sukham asti bhumaiva sukham – there is no happiness in this creation. This creation is full of limitations. The only abode of complete happiness is Bhagavan. In the realm of parama-artha, or supreme spiritual welfare, limitations have no value. We don’t have to be satisfied with the limited happiness of this world. If we are, we will be cheated.
If one accepts the statement, “bhumaiva sukham – complete happiness is only found in Bhagavan” to be true, one must endeavour to attain it. The scriptures say, “yatne krte yadi na siddhati ko’tr dosah – If, in spite of my efforts, I am still unable to attain Him, what shall I do? Where is my fault?” Who will judge whether or not I have made my best possible effort? Who will decide the extent of my eagerness for sadhana-bhajana? And who will make this known to me? This needs to be contemplated. A person must know how much endeavour is required to really attain success.
Jagad-guru Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, “Every fifteen days, on each Ekadasi, a person should record how much progress he has made in his performance of sadhana-bhajana.” But we do not do that. And should that record be kept on a piece of paper or within our hearts? Only by recording it in our hearts will we be able to analyse our progress. Every Ekadasi a person should make a point to ‘record’ how much harinama he did in the last fifteen days, how much time he spent discussing sastra and how much service he engaged in. Only then can he understand whether he is making progress or whether he is going backwards.
Sometimes, when we hear a certain siddhanta, we may become disheartened.
nitya-siddha krsna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-li1a 22.107)
Krsna-prema (being eternally present in the heart of the jiva) is never acquired elsewhere. Hearing, chanting and remembering the pastimes of Krsna purifies the heart and thus krsna-prema naturally awakens.
Upon hearing what is required to attain my goal, I wonder if I will ever be successful, my enthusiasm begins to wane and I begin to doubt the strength of my determination. The Absolute Reality cannot be attained if this doubt persists. Srila Pariksit Maharaja listened to ample hari-katha, and his conception of what was required of him in the line of devotion remained strong. Now, if our own conception becomes weak, we must simply move forward from whatever point we have reached in our hearing, learning and practising.
Our constant concern is whether or not we are capable of following all the instructions the Gaudiya Vaisnavas have given us. More importantly we wonder if we have really taken these instructions to heart, or are endeavouring to understand them.
We all know that where there is a will there is a way. We then note that although we desire to practise properly, we are not successful. But is this really the case? If we have an ardent desire and if we are honest and non-duplicitous then most definitely we will achieve success. We should question, “How much effort am I putting into my practices? And to what extent do I try before I consider my endeavour in sadhana to be complete? What I may perceive as the end of my efforts in the realm of sadhana-bhajana may actually be the very beginning.” This process is not necessarily easy.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself said:
ki kaja sannyase mora, prema prayojana
What value is Sannyasa to Me? My only goal is prema. Therefore, O Bhagavan, please accept Me as Your servant and award Me the salary of prema.
Does this ever enter our minds? The scriptures state, “pancasordhvam vanam vrajet – after the age of fifty, one should proceed to the forest for the purpose of performing hari-bhajana.” At that time of life, one’s exclusive dedication should be the development of devotion to Sri Hari. From the perspective of Sri Prahlada Maharaja, however, one should not wait until one has turned fifty. If we anticipate that our duration of life will be one hundred years, fifty years are spent simply sleeping. And if one's life lasts for fifty years, twenty-five go by in this way. Therefore, in the remaining half of our lives, we must become one-pointed in our sadhana-bhajana.
Those who have had some realization will never reveal it to anyone. Why not? Such realization is parama-artha, the topmost treasure, and therefore should not be disclosed. And those who tell others about the treasure they have gained are like poverty stricken people who boast the amount of rupees in their possession, when actuality, their wealth is insignificant. Those who are intelligent never wander here and there telling others about their topmost wealth. You can be led into trouble simply by speaking.
Srimad-Bhagavatam says, “It is difficult to earn money, it is difficult to save money and it is painful to spend money.” But the outcry of so many of us is solely for the possession and control of money. And when asked, “For what?” we answer, “For the service of Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas. After all, we are their servants; this is stated in the scriptures.” But what understanding do we actually have of this?
One should first learn and understand Sri Caitanya Mahapmbhu’s teachings – the tattva and siddhanta of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Without such understanding, we will not be able to perform sadhana-bhajana, in which the first, essential step is to understand what is beneficial to our bhajana and what is not. However, simply attaining this knowledge is insufficient. One must, in this very life, practise what one has learned.
Special On-line Edition: On the disappearance day of Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, 10 November 2010
Special On-line Edition: On the disappearance day of Sri Srimad Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami Maharaja, 20 November 2010
Next Issue – Year 3, Issue 11: “Sri Guru Is Present In All Things”, 26 November 2010
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