Srimad Bhagavatam: Canto 2: The Change in the heart: Chapter 3. Pure Devotional Service: Text 17
āyur harati vai puṁsāmudyann astaṁ ca yann asautasyarte yat-kṣaṇo nītauttama-śloka-vārtayā
āyuḥ — duration of life; harati — decreases; vai — certainly; puṁsām — of the people; udyan — rising; astam — setting; ca — also; yan — moving; asau — the sun; tasya — of one who glorifies the Lord; ṛte — except; yat — by whom; kṣaṇaḥ — time; nītaḥ — utilized; uttama–śloka — the all-good Personality of Godhead; vārtayā — in the topics of.
Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except one who utilizes the time by discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead.
This verse indirectly confirms the greater importance of utilizing the human form of life to realize our lost relationship with the Supreme Lord by acceleration of devotional service. There are 8.4 million species of life and only in human form of life we can realize our eternal relationship with God. Those who practice devotional service are so fortunate. Devotional service begins with Sravanam and Kirtanam (hearing and chanting about Krishna).
The word accelerate in the purport means “Go faster”. In an automobile there is a foot pedal called the accelerator and when you step on to the accelerator the car goes faster. In the terms of devotional service , you want to step on it, you have to go faster because time is passing. The clock is ticking and we don’t know how much time we have so whatever time we do have we have to utilize fully in the best way to progress in Krishna consciousness. Time and tide wait for no man. So, the time indicated by the sunrise and the sunset will be uselessly wasted if such time is not properly utilized for realizing identification of spiritual values. Even a fraction of the duration of life wasted cannot be compensated by any amount of gold. So, we living entity are spiritual souls and we are inhabiting a material body. But we are not this body but a soul or a Jivatma or a Atma within this body.
Everyone is interested in his self-interest which is natural but to determine our self-interest we have to know who we ourself is. Are we the body or the soul within the body ?. Srila Prabhupad gives an example if you are performing a mathematical calculation and if you are making a mistake in the first step and even if you perform all the other functions perfectly you will get further and further away from the actual solution, from the right answer. So, if we make mistake in the first step that is identifying ourself with the body rather than the soul, even if we do everything for the sake of the body we will get further and further go away from the actual happiness that we seek.
There is a book called Stumbling on Happiness by Gilbert, Daniel. The premises of this book are, we human beings are very poor at predicting what will make us happy. If you find happiness you actually stumble on it because you won’t find it where you are looking for or where you expect to find. Fortunately, we have stumbled on Krishna consciousness and through Krishna Consciousness we are able to experience actually happiness.
In the Nectar of Devotion (Bhakti–rasamrta–sindhu) by Srila Rupa Gosvami, the chief disciple of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, explains the general characteristics of devotional service. There are six in number . Two begins with Sadhana- bhakti and two begins with Bhava- bhakti and two begins with Prema- bhakti. And the two in Sadhana Bhakti, devotional service begins with auspiciousness, and devotional service relieves one from material distress. And under all auspiciousness there are few items and one is happiness. So even from the stage of Sadhana Bhakti one can experience happiness otherwise we won’t be doing what we are doing now. This is practical at the time of death. If you want to extend the duration of your life even one minute and ready to spend any amount of money cannot do it. That means you cannot put the price tag on the time that compromises your life. Our life is actually made of time, how do we spend our time really means how we spend our life’s. So, time already spend cannot be got back with any amount of money. Once it is gone it is gone. So, with whatever time we have we must engage in devotional service. We must be very attentive of how we spend our time.
Human life is simply awarded to a living entity (jīva) so that he can realize his spiritual identity and his permanent source of happiness. These two things go together that is realizing our spiritual identity and permanent source of happiness. When we realize our spiritual identity, we know that the permanent source of happiness is spiritual not material. A living being, especially the human being, is seeking happiness because happiness is the natural situation of the living entity. The Lord is Sat-chit-ananda and we being part and parcel of the Lord are by nature Sat-chit-ananda. Sat means eternal, chit means conscious and Ananda means blissful. So, by nature we are blissful. Because of being covered by the material body or material consciousness we do not experience our happiness. We want to be happy so we are seeking happiness. But in most cases, we don’t know where to find real happiness. But he is vainly seeking happiness in the material atmosphere. Srila Prabupada gives an example of fish out of water. If we take a fish and put in a golden bowl and fill that with precious gems and jewels and incense and with all these facilities meant to create a happy a pleasurable environment even then the fish won’t be happy because the fish is the creature of the water and the fish can be happy only on water similarly, we are all creatures of the spirit and we can be happy only in the spiritual atmosphere not otherwise.
Srila Prabupada is so kind he is telling us how to be happy ,he wanted us to be happy. A living being is constitutionally a spiritual spark of the complete whole, and his happiness can be perfectly perceived in spiritual activities. The Lord is the complete spirit whole, and His name, form, quality, pastimes, entourage and personality are all identical with Him. The supreme spirit is Krishna and our constitutional position is we are eternal servants of Krishna. We can be happy only if are established as eternal servants of Krishna. Mukti means to be established in one’s Swaroop or constitutional position. This is what we want and we can achieve it easily by following the standard process of Bhakti yoga given to us by Srila Prabupada and our Shastras and our previous Acharya’s. So how do we connect with Krishna ?. We have to come into contact with any one of the above-mentioned energies of the Lord through the proper channel of devotional service, the door to perfection is immediately opened.
What happens when one does devotional service?
In the Bhagavad-Gita (2.40) the Lord has explained such contact in the following words: “Endeavors in devotional service are never baffled. Nor is there failure. A slight beginning of such activities is sufficient even to deliver a person from the great ocean of material fears. This is another beautiful quality of devotional service. It is never lost. Whatever we achieve materially will be lost at the time of death. Example, if we had mastered many languages in this life when we leave this body and take birth again, we won’t be remembering any of those languages which we had learned. Spiritually whatever we achieve is not lost. For example, if we progress one percent in Krishna consciousness then in next life, we begin from 2 percent. It continues therefore that is why Srila Prabupada says in the part of devotional service there is no loss or delusion and in one purport in Nectar of instruction Srila Prabupada says that Krishna consciousness is so pure and perfect that one will be forcefully dragged to ultimate success. So, we are on our way to reach back-to- home back to God head which is guaranteed. But if we had done any Vaishnava Aparadha it takes some time to recover from it. So, we need to be very careful of not committing any Vaishnava Aparadha. Among the 10 offenses of holy name the first offence is sadhu ninda or to blaspheme the devotees who have dedicated their lives for propagating the holy name of the Lord. We should avoid that then our path is clear.
As a highly potent drug injected intravenously acts at once on the whole body, the transcendental topics of the Lord injected through the ears by the pure devotee of the Lord can act very efficiently. This is a very good example. When you get an injection in your arm that medicine will circulate your whole body and similarly if we receive the message of the Lord through our ears it acts efficiently. Aural realization of the transcendental messages implies total realization, just as fructification of one part of a tree implies fructification of all other parts. So, the Lord’s message come to the ear in the form of sound but the realization becomes complete when we remember the Lords names, form, pastime etc. that will make us happy.
This realization for a moment in the association of pure devotees like Śukadeva Gosvāmī prepares one’s complete life for eternity. And thus, the sun fails to rob the pure devotee of his duration of life, in as much as he is constantly busy in the devotional service of the Lord, purifying his existence. So, by engaging oneself in bhakti yoga the rise and set of the sun are not robbing us of the duration of our life but rather we are preparing us for our eternal life with Krishna. A devotee realizes his eternal life. Death is a symptom of the material infection of the eternal living being; only due to material infection is the eternal living entity subjected to the law of birth, death, old age and disease.
The materialistic way of pious activities like charity is recommended in the smṛti-śāstras as quoted by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura. Money given in charity to a suitable person is guaranteed bank balance in the next life. Such charity is recommended to be given to a brāhmaṇa. If the money is given in charity to a non-brāhmaṇa (without Brahminical qualification) the money is returned in the next life in the same proportion. If it is given in charity to a half-educated brāhmaṇa, even then the money is returned double. If the money is given in charity to a learned and fully qualified brāhmaṇa, the money is returned a hundred and a thousand times, and if the money is given to a veda-pāraga (one who has factually realized the path of the Vedas), it is returned by unlimited multiplication. So, this shows that everything in this material world is limited so to get unlimited return once has to go to the spiritual world. One is guaranteed to go back to God head through Bhakti yoga process. The ultimate end of Vedic knowledge is realization of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa, as stated in the Bhagavad- Gita (vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ). There is a guarantee of money’s being returned if given in charity, regardless of the proportion. Similarly, a moment passed in the association of a pure devotee by hearing and chanting the transcendental messages of the Lord is a perfect guarantee for eternal life, for returning home, back to Godhead.
In Sri Caitanya-Caritamrta, 22. 054 Madhya-lila
‘’sadhu-sanga, sadhu-sanga — sarva-sastre kay
lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya”
Here “lava matra” is described to be one eleventh of a second that is how little time it takes. All the scriptures states that by association of devotees even for a moment, one can attain all perfection because in that moment the devotee can tell you about devotional service, engage in your devotional service and by devotional service you attain all perfection. Mad-dhāma gatvā punar janma na vidyate. In other words, a devotee of the Lord is guaranteed eternal life. A devotee’s old age or disease in the present life is but an impetus to such guaranteed eternal life. Usually, we don’t want to have disease or old age naturally. But diseases and old age can be an impetus for us to accelerate our devotional service which will bring us closer to eternal life with Krishna sooner. This also make us realize that this material world is not a happy place and to realize the happiness we want we have to go back to God head and to go there we need to engage in devotional service or Bhakti yoga since we don’t know how much time we have we want to accelerate and step on it so we can realize our goal of our life in this life time and realize the happiness we owe.
Do Spiritual Masters feel body pain like ordinary people in this material world?
Sometimes devotees have a concern whether the Spiritual Masters will feel body pains as how ordinary people feel when they are living in this material world. Srila Prabupada also underwent pain during his last days. Actually, a pure devotee of the Lord or our Spiritual Master will feel pain in the body but the experience of the pain will be different for him because he does not identify himself with the body. The pain is there but he will be detached from it. Also, it a matter of focus or concentration. Even we ordinary devotees experience some pain like head ace or any other body ache but when we get involved in Krishna Katha, we forget the pain so in the way the pain is there and in other way we are not feeling it because our mind is somewhere else. Srila Prabupada had such controlled over mind . It is incorrect to say that pure devotee doesn’t experience pain but they experience in a different way compared to an ordinary person because he is Krishna consciousness. Pure devotes feel the pain but they accept the pain and tolerate the pain for our sake to give us Krishna consciousness
How can we avoid the material ego, the sense of competition in our spiritual practice?
Sri Caitanya Caritamrta says nothing is good or bad . Good and bad are mental concoction, otherwise the material world is all bad but if something can be used in Krishna conscious it can be all good. So, competition is part of our life. For example, even Srila Prabupada encouraged transcendental competition in book distribution. But there is a difference between material and transcendental competition. In transcendental competition one admits the transcendental service qualities of others but still one wants to excel it to please Krishna more. Where as in mundane competition there is always envy where the person does not admit the good qualities of service of the other persons. Everything can be dovetailed in a favorable way for the pleasure of Krishna.
How can we associate with a devotee even if they are far away?
There are two methods of association one is “VANI” (transcendental sound or word) other is “VAPU”( physical presence). Physical presence sometimes may or may not be possible with us because of the situations each one face in life example the devotee will be in a far- off place like that but the words, instructions are always there and by following the instructions we can experience the person’s presence. As Srila Prabupada dedicated the Srimad Bhagavatam to his Spiritual Master. He lives for ever by his divine instructions and follows with him. So, by serving them we can feel their presence.
Why we should not take Krishna consciousness for granted?
We should not take Krishna consciousness for granted. Sometimes a person will be born in a Krishna consciousness family and sometimes may take up Krishna consciousness or sometimes not. Devotional service is a privilege and association of devotees is a privilege too. If we don’t appreciate it and take it for granted then Krishna will take it away from us at least temporarily and bring us to a point where we appreciate it which we took for granted and when we realize how valuable it is then we take best advantage of it because now we know the value of it. So, we have to do attentive chanting. It cleanses our heart and make us aware our weaknesses like how we are distracted my many things, that will make us humble and will cry out for mercy for Krishna’s attention. As Srila Prabupada said chanting is easy but the determination to chant is not that easy. So, we should focus on our chanting attentively by getting up early during Brahma Muhurta that gives us a big advantage. The best advice to give to any devotees to advance in Krishna consciousness is to rest early and get up early then the value of spiritual practice is enhanced in earlier hours. Nothing is lost by practicing devotional service. In our next birth even though in Kaliyuga situations gets worse still there will be no impediments in practicing our Krishna consciousness. So, keep distribution of Srila Prabupad’s books, distribute prasadam, chant sincerely and attentively.
How one can be steady on this path of Krishna Consciousness?
It is surely due to Srila Prabupada’s mercy. Material facility does not make anyone happy. In Nectar of Instruction, it is said that Krishna consciousness is a continuation from one life to the next. And if someone has a natural taste of Krishna Consciousness it is very likely that he had made some progress in past life and now he is continuing in this life. The reason Nectar of Instruction gives is for not completing his devotional service is an offence committed at the lotus feet of the devotees, so we have to be very careful of not committing any offence to devotees.
How many categories of Disciples are there?
There are three categories of disciples.
The first category of disciples anticipates what Spiritual Master wants and does it without been asked. This shows the level of surrender.
The second category of disciples receives instruction from the Spiritual Master and executes it perfectly.
The third category of disciples receives the instruction from the Spiritual Master, and forgets it or does it sometimes or do it grudgingly.
The secret of success in spiritual life is to follow the instructions of the Spiritual Master.
How to balance the Spiritual life and material life and attain happiness?
We have to arrange our schedule in such a way that the early morning hours are reserved for Bhakti yoga or time for Krishna consciousness. In every tradition there is an appreciation of the value of early hours before sunrise. Only by devotional service Krishna can be known. In the early stage of sadhana bhakti itself one can achieve happiness.
What if one gets overwhelmed by doing services to Krishna and to other devotees?
It is better to think that you are not the doer ultimately Krishna is and just surrender to Krishna and tell him empower you, enlighten you, guide you. We are not alone. Krishna is the partner then you should not feel overwhelmed because this is not on all on you.
Krishna’s mercy is always there we are not taking it which is easily available and we also hear that to make progress we need to get devotees mercy . How do we understand this?
Krishna mercy follows devotee’s mercy. In CC Madhya Lila, 1. 19.151 it says that
brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija
Translation: By mercy of Krishna, one gets a Guru and by the mercy of Guru one gets Krishna . So generally, the mercy of Krishna follows the mercy of devotees.
Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in Madhurya kadambini, has given a brilliant analysis how someone gets bhakti. He says someone could argue that one gets bhakti due to the mercy of the Lord. But that is not the answer because some gets it and some don’t and the Lord being the Supreme Father of every living entity should be equal to all of his children. So, if he is equal to all his children then how is it some gets Bhakti and some not. So, the answer cannot be the mercy of the Lord. He then proposes it is due to the mercy of the devotees. And the two objections could be raised and the devotees cannot be partial. He refuses that argument by siding the qualification of the Madhyama Bhakta who is a preacher. In principle the Uttama Bhakta, the Maha Bhagavat does not preach because he sees everyone is already engaged in Krishna’s service so the Madyama Bhakta is the preacher and he makes distinction by definition
yah karoti sa madhyamah
Translation: The madhyama-adhikari is a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord’s devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious by nature.
So, for a preacher or a Madhyama bhakta to show mercy to the innocent it is not a lack of impartiality but it is the nature of the Madhyama Bhakta. So, the cause of bhakti is the mercy of the Madhyama bhaktha and of course we know that sometimes a Uttama Baktha for the sake of preaching adopt a mood of a Madhayma bhaktha, and then when the living entity receives the mercy of the devotee then Krishna gives his mercy because Krishna is partial to his devotees.
Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says well someone might again complain that Krishna is suppose to be equal to everyone then why he is partial to devotees. The reason is that is the quality of Krishna to be a Bhakta Vatsala showing special affection to his devotees and this is not a fault or Dooshanam but a Bhoosham or an ornament in Krishna’s character. So, the conclusion is that one gets the bhakti by the mercy of the devotees and the devotees mercy is followed by Krishna mercy.
How can we remain helpless meaning depend on Krishna yet enthusiastic and determined to do services to please Srila Prabupada?
The two enthusiasm and determination go together. We have to be determined and enthusiastic to please Srila Prabupada but we know that we cannot be successfully independent . We need help to be successful and, in that sense, we are helpless, but we should have the mood of helplessness that without the help of previous Acharyas we cannot be successful. Srila Prabupada gave a beautiful lecture in England once where he discusses the mood of a devotee or the preacher.
Arjuna had decorates his chariot with the flag of Hanuman and his thought was Hanuman is an Acharya for the fighting for His master Sri Ramachandra. So Arjuna prays to Hanuman to help him in fighting for his master Lord Krishna. Srila Prabupada says for every activity of a Vaishnava he always feels helpless and always praying for help from the previous Acharyas. Then he gave the example of Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami who is the author of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta and he says that in every line , in every word he is praying for the help of previous Acharya’s. Every chapter he ends by praying to Sri Rupa and Sri Raghunatha
sri rupa raghunatha-pade yara asa,
caitanya caritamrta kahe krsnadasa.
Translation: Praying at the lotus feet of Sri Rupa and Sri Raghunatha, always desiring their mercy, I, Krishna Dasa, narrate Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, following in their footsteps.”
This is the mood of a Vaishnava. He helps and he is always praying for the help of previous Acharyas.