Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 9: The Most Confidential Knowledge: Text 14
satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā
Translation: Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion
Here in this verse Krishna talks about who is a “MAHATMA”. How can we differentiate one and what are the process of attaining the stage of a “MAHATMA”?
In this verse “MAHATMA” is defined as a person who is always engaged in the service of Krishna, who is attached to Krishna and has no other business. So, anyone in spiritual life and following Krishna consciousness is considered as a “MAHATMA”. Not the one who is materially educated, qualified, have a PHD or a Nobel prize. These people in fact are very intelligent, well respected in society, are great souls, but their intelligence actually comes from Krishna. Krishna says that “I am the intelligence of intelligence”. Because of Krishna only these people are able to gain these material achievements. But rare are the people who take the path of Krishna consciousness. We would have read Bhagavad Gita multiple times, but are we implementing it in our daily life? We should always think ways to implement the teachings of Bhagavad Gita in our practical life and how to stay motivated in the practice of our Krishna consciousness perfectly. When we happen to hear something many times, like chanting, association with devotees, eating prasadam, we will start to develop familiarity and sometimes we take it for granted. But when we take a step back and think over it why these things are more emphasized, we will realize that this a rare gem or opportunity we have got in this life time.
Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7: Verse 3
manuṣhyāṇāṁ sahasreṣhu kaśhchid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaśhchin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
Translation: Amongst thousands of persons, hardly one strives for perfection; and amongst those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows me in truth.
So, if we have got the opportunity to chant or get the association with devotees, we are considered as some unique persons or rare souls. Out of millions of people only some people will become actually Krishna consciousness. Even if we don’t take up the process completely just chanting a round on our Japa beads, immediately we become Krishna consciousness by our endeavor. So, we have to take the fullest advantage of the opportunity and actually become “MAHATMAS”. One who knows Krishna is a “MAHATMA” and one who practices Krishna consciousness is also considered as a “MAHATMA”. We have the responsibility to practice and preach. Unless we practice, there is no question of preaching.
How do we Practice Krishna Consciousness?
We can practice Krishna consciousness by chanting, following 4 regulative principles, association with devotees, eating Prasadam. Our mouth is a special place, it has to be used only to glorify Krishna and eat only Krishna prasadam, nothing else. This we have to make sure, then we are properly placed, otherwise it means we have a lot of work to do. Anything and everything which means to glorify the Lord then it is perfect or else no matter how wonderful it may look it is considered as secondary or useless waste of time. If we keep that as a standard then we will reach the stage of a “MAHATMA”.
Krishna says in this verse “satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ “. “Satatam “means always chant his glories. Sometimes doubts arise in our minds, how can we chant 24/7 Krishna’s name when we have other materialistic activities to do. It is said in Sri Caitanya- caritamrta, ideally, we should chant 64 rounds of Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. If you don’t do that you are not considered as a devotee. But our spiritual master Srila Prabupad is so merciful that he gave us a concession to chant 16 rounds on our Japa mala every day. It is always best to chant early morning hours or Brahma Muhurta time where the mode of goodness is high. Try to finish your Japa during that time, or try to finish as much as you can. This will enable you to be spiritually charged. Like how you charge your cell phone for using it for entire day, same way if you are spiritually charged you will be able to do other materialistic activities successfully like taking care of your family needs, your office work etc. In case if you forget Krishna doing your other activities of the day, you need not worry because Krishna will cover that up for you. There is a wonderful past time regarding this. HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj, was assisting Srila Prabupad in building a Temple in Vrindavan, India. He used to finish his Japa early, and then rest of his day he was very busy in procuring raw materials like cement, bricks, wood etc. for building the temple, meeting materially conscious people who are bureaucratic and expecting bribes. So, one day as he was procuring cement, suddenly an idea stuck him, what if he leaves his body while procuring cement, he will be thinking only about cement not Krishna, then what kind of birth he is going to have again in his next life. So, he addressed his concern to Srila Prabupada, who told him if you are doing work for Krishna then Krishna will cover up for you. So, he need not worry.
The process of Krishna Consciousness is tough at times, with so much rules and regulations. We think it is better to practice spiritual life later in our life (old age) and just focus on our material life right now by accumulating money, various assets and properties. But we ourselves don’t know whether we are going to live the very next moment. As we age, we are getting closer to the end of our life. We all have a dead line. If we just put all our energy and attention on achieving something materially then our life is a failure. For example, a richest man of the world, he may have so much money, but once he leaves his body, whatever he accumulated just stays here. What we are going to take with us is what we have attained by practicing Krishna consciousness. Also, we don’t know if we are going to get a human birth in our next life or not. If we get a human birth, then it is well and good but again the biggest drawback is, we have to start everything from scratch. It is said that the time of death is very horrible. It is like millions of scorpions biting at the same time. No matter where we are now, we should never give up spiritual life instead we should start practicing Krishna Consciousness. This can be compared with another example. Suppose there are two Banks. Bank A and Bank B. In Bank “A” you put all your money. It will surely save your money, but you don’t know how long it will save. When you try to withdraw the money, it may or may not be there. And there is Bank “B”, here if you put even one cent also that will remain for eternity. So, which Bank a wise man will put his money in. Obviously, he will put his money in Bank “B”. “Bank “A” if it gives high returns also, people don’t feel like taking a chance because there is no guarantee. Apply this same principle in our life. Don’t put all your energy in material life, which can be taken away from you at any time instead put all your energy in spiritual life which always is permanent and will get return back. So, our Saddhana should be very strong. Krishna says that if one bow down before him, and practice Saddhana with great determination, effort, endeavor with full concentration in Japa, then these souls are sure to reach him. So, we have to stick together to this process, motivate ourselves, then automatically we will reach our destination. Srila Prabupad gives example of a train. You hang on there even though process is tough, practice sincerely, associate with devotees, follow regulative principles by surrendering to Krishna then Krishna will pull us towards him, in fact he is more eager to pull us more towards him. Srila Prabupad also says that if you stick to the process sincerely, he promises he has a secret key to the backdoor.
Sometimes in this material world there are lots of chaos, political issues, epidemic it is hard to focus one’s mind in Krishna consciousness and practice their Saddhana and oftentimes, they gets discouraged and divert their attention to some material happiness and in turn gets bound by the material nature, without knowing how to come out of the cycle of birth and death. This can be compared to a man swimming in an Ocean. If you are swimming you cannot complain of getting wet nor you cannot create a place and make it dry. This material world is like a prison, full of suffering. In fact, Krishna says in Bhagavat Gita (8.15) “duhkhalayam asasvatam”. This whole material world is the place of misery, so we cannot complain when we are in a miserable condition. This place is designed to be “duhkhalayam”. So as devotees what we have to take is, consider these miseries or calamities as a continuous reminder given by Krishna to remind us that is not our place, and we should try to get out of this place and that should be our endeavor. In this material world we can create a nice space to keep our body and soul together and dove tail all our activities to be in Krishna consciousness and then we can be happy but if our only endeavor is to make this place a happy place then we will be disappointed. So, one should take Krishna consciousness very seriously. Another good part of the miseries in this material world is it gives an opportunity to take shelter of Krishna, surrender unto him so that we can think of him and finally get out of the cycle of birth and death, out of this material world which is like a prison. Example Queen Kunti Devi praying to Krishna to give more calamities so that she remembers Krishna and get out of this place of “MAYA” and be happy.
Happiness in this material world comes in 3 modes: ignorance, passion and goodness. Happiness in the mode of ignorance is like sleeping, drinking, eating meat and doing lot of abominal activities. In the mode of passion, you are working hard to achieve some things materially like to become a CEO of a company which gives happiness. Happiness in the mood of goodness is you are more peaceful, you like nature, read good books. So, the mood of goodness is better than other two. That is why people earlier go to forest to practice austerity in the company of nature because that mood is conducive for God consciousness. But If our happiness stops at mode of goodness then that is useless. Srila Prabupad gives an example of 3 persons, first one is bound by iron shackles (in the mood of ignorance), second one is bound by silver shackles (in the mood of passion), and the third one is bound by gold shackles (in the mood of goodness). No matter which shackle you have you are bound to this material world. If we do not take spiritual consciousness or spiritual life then we are bound to this material world and the only shelter is to be in Krishna consciousness so that as we get out of cycle of birth and death.
Sometimes devotees think that they are not pure, they don’t have the 26 qualities that a devotee should have, and hence cannot be a “MAHATMA”. This can be explained with an example. Mango is considered as a king of fruits. Ripe mango is very sweet, juicy and everyone can relish its taste. A devotee is considered a Mango here. Some are in unripe stage right now; the flavor is not manifested this time. But we need not worry. If we continue the path of Krishna consciousness in our daily life we also become like a ripe mango, all the 26 qualities of the devotees manifest automatically, making us a “MAHATMA”. Srila Prabupad gives another example everyone has some qualities or talents. Some are proficient in art, music etc. ultimately, we all of us are pure devotees, there is no doubt about it. Every talent Srila Prabupad considers as “Zero”. We may have many talents. But if we add “ONE” to “ZERO” then immediately its value rises from “ZERO” and becomes hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million, billion. The “ONE” here is Krishna. So whatever talents use it in service of Krishna. We don’t have to delete anything, don’t have to become a sanyasi, don’t have to go to the forest to become a devotee. By staying where we are, making sure Krishna is the highest Priority in our life (“ADDING ONE in front of Zero”) and everything else (“ALL OUR TALENTS”) to support Krishna consciousness, then we have reached a perfect stage where we can remember Krishna always. This can be done by taking shelter of Spiritual Master, Shiksha Gurus and other senior devotees. Right now, due to our Guru’s mercy, and Krishna’s mercy we all are in right place, at right time so we should grab this opportunity and never waste it and practice Krishna consciousness sincerely. By doing this our heart will be cleaned and we will reach the stage of “MAHATMA” and that should be our goal.