Sum and Substance, Part 1 of 4
Discovering Srila Prabhupada's Instructions on Spontaneous Devotional Service
One who has not yet developed interest in Krsna consciousness should give up all material motives and train his mind by following the progressive regulative principles, namely chanting and remembering Krsna and His name, form, quality, pastimes and so forth. In this way, after developing a taste for such things, one should try to live in Vrindavana and pass his time constantly remembering Krsnas name, fame, pastimes and qualities under the direction and protection of an expert devotee. This is the sum and substance of all instruction regarding the cultivation of devotional service. The Nectar of Instruction, Text Eight, purport (emphasis added)
Srila Rupa Gosvami has given many other books, such as Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Vidagdha-madhava and Lalita-madhava, but Upadesamrta [i.e. The Nectar of Instruction, quoted above] constitutes the first instructions for neophyte devotees. One must follow these instructions very strictly. The Nectar of Instruction, Preface
A challenging presentation Every so often, something happens that challenges my assumptions about devotional service. For example, after I had been in the movement for eight years, my Godbrother Prana dasa made a presentation to me. He convinced me, from Srila Prabhupadas instructions, that the whole purpose of Krsna consciousness was to think of Krsna twenty-four hours daily. "How can I have been in the movement for so long without understanding this?" I wondered, " and why has no one pointed it out to me before?". Anyway, I accepted the point he made, and tried to put it into effect. I failed, but I never forgot his presentation.
In 1996, I met another challenge. I was ripe for change at that time. For years I had followed Srila Prabhupadas devotional programme as faithfully and well as I could. While I lived in temples, I had felt proud of being steady and faithful, and of helping to keep the morning and evening programmes going. But that had declined sadly when I got married and "moved outside".
Now I found myself living alone, and I couldnt maintain a full and regular programme. At the same time, however, I needed a sense that something spiritual was happening. Following regulations for the sake of following was no longer enough. I needed some juice. Intense distress in my personal life had forced me -- for the first time -- to try to make a personal relationship with Krsna. I realised that loving Krsna was essential. I not only needed to love Him, but I needed to be sure that He loved me. I lacked a sense of affection and relationship, and I was sure that if I couldnt get this sense of affection directly from Krsna, then I was going to end up trying to find it in a material relationship, and I was sure that I didnt want to do that. I was experiencing a lot of emotion in my japa. Was it actual devotional sentiment, or the release of past trauma? I didnt know. And I didnt know whom I could ask, either. Devotees didnt openly discuss crying, or their emotional link with Krsna and His associates. It was a risky subject. I felt that I had no one to turn to, and no one to talk to about it.
I prided myself that I was becoming more humble, and that I was progressing in my surrender to Krsna. And I prided myself that after twenty odd years in the movement, I was "starting over again". I used to say, "Really, Im just beginning to understand what Krsna consciousness is about". So I was exploring and questioning in spiritual life, but I didnt have an idea of where I was trying to go or how I was going to get there. I didnt have a specific goal or objective in my service, and I didnt have a clear idea of what I was aiming at in my sadhana and inner service. Not only did I not know where I was going; I didnt know where I was situated. I didnt have a map, and I didnt have a guide. At this point I attended a presentation by a senior Gaudiya Vaishnava. The presentation was specifically intended for devotees who wanted to develop their inner devotional life, as well as their external service. I was asked -- or challenged -- to look at the aim and goal of my devotional service. "Sadhana is the means by which we attain the sadhya, the goal". That made sense. At that time "Begin with the end in mind" was a favourite catch phrase. So I liked the idea that we should have a specific goal for our devotional service. But I could see that I didnt have a specific goal. Then what should my goal be? "In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.2, Srila Rupa Gosvami defines sadhana-bhakti as that which awakens bhava-bhakti. So devotional service which is not specifically intended to awaken bhava is not actual sadhana-bhakti ".
I suddenly had a completely new perspective on devotional service in general, and my own situation in particular. I understood that I had never related to Radha and Krsna as They are in Their own kingdom, but rather as I needed Them to be in my life in the physical world. I had for the most part been engaging -- more or less compulsively -- in outward activity, instead of developing an inner sense of relationship and service to Them. I had been doing what I wanted to do and proudly offering it to Krsna. I had paid the price of not having advanced devotee association. To tell the truth, I had been at a standstill in devotional life for years.
Now, what was the alternative? It was suggested that I should examine the speciality of Gaudiya Vaishnavism: spontaneous devotional service, or raganuga-bhakti. Of course, I had heard of spontaneous devotional service, but I wasnt sure what it really was. And it had never occurred to me that I might practise it, any more than I had thought of learning to fly. I didnt think about it, because it wasnt part of my map of the world at all. I suppose I had thought it was something that happened to acaryas who were eternal associates of Krsna, or something that they brought with them from the spiritual world. Anyway, I hadnt thought that it as for me. The presentation sounded right. It seemed in line with Srila Prabhupadas instructions, and with my sense of what Krsna consciousness was about. A very deep intuition told me that this was really coming from Srila Prabhupada, and that he was behind it in some way that I didnt understand. At the same time, I found it very disturbing. To accept the conclusions meant accepting that I had been in a shadow land for a long time: namabhasa, bhakti-abhasa. I felt ashamed and really devastated.
Previously I had been saying that I didnt know what Krsna consciousness was about, and that I was starting over again. Now I was facing the cold truth of my boast. I really hadnt known what Krsna consciousness was about. I really was going to have to start all over again. I felt as if everything had been completely razed to the ground. At the same time, I was so convinced by the presentation that I was prepared to consider changing my whole approach to devotional service. Now I had two choices. The first was to assume that the presentation was alright and in line with Srila Prabhupadas instructions, without subjecting it to critical scrutiny.
My second choice was to go over the main points and sub-points of the presentation and see to what extent they agreed with Srila Prabhupadas instructions. If the presentation didnt agree with Srila Prabhupadas instructions, then I wouldnt be able to give my whole heart to it. I had to keep my own sense of integrity as a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. Apart from that, I knew that I was going to meet strong challenges from other devotees who thoroughly mistrusted the presentation. There was a risk involved in assessing it fully. If the conclusions were faulty, then I would have to go back to being totally and utterly lost. But this time I would know that I was totally and utterly lost, and it would feel a lot worse. Still, there was no real choice for me. I knew that I had to analyze the programme and prove it correct or incorrect. Straightaway, there was a difficulty: I had practically no idea what Srila Prabhupada said about spontaneous devotional service, because I had never considered the issue. During the presentation I was told to read The Nectar of Instruction thoroughly. I was also told to read Adi-lila Chapter 4 and Madhya- lila Chapter 8 in Caitanya-caritamrta, as well as Mahaprabhus teachings to Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami. Besides that, I should read the relevant passages in The Nectar of Devotion.
The first thing I had to find out about spontaneous devotional service was, "What did Srila Prabhupada say it is?"
What is spontaneous devotional service? Srila Prabhupada explains in The Nectar of Devotion that there are two different types of sadhana-bhakti. One is vaidhi-bhakti, or "regulated devotional service". This is devotional service performed without spontaneous attraction. The second type of sadhana-bhakti is raganuga-bhakti or "spontaneous devotional service". This devotional service is performed with spontaneous attraction.
Now this sadhana-bhakti, or practice of devotional service, may also be divided into two parts. The first part is called service according to regulative principles: one has to follow these different regulative principles by the order of the spiritual master or on the strength of authoritative scriptures, and there can be no question of refusal. That is called vaidhi or regulated. One has to do it without argument. Another part of sadhana-bhakti is called raganuga. Raganuga refers to the point at which by following the regulative principles, one becomes a little more attached to Krsna and executes devotional service out of natural love. For example, a person engaged in devotional service may be ordered to rise early in the morning and offer arati, which is a form of Deity worship. In the beginning, by the order of his spiritual master, one rises early in the morning and offers arati, but then he develops real attachment. When he gets this attachment, he automatically tries to decorate the deity and prepare different kinds of dresses and thinks of different plans to execute his devotional service nicely. Although it is within the category of practice, this offering devotional service is spontaneous. So the practice of devotional service, sadhana- bhakti, can be divided into two parts -- namely regulative and spontaneous.
Rupa Gosvami defines the first part of devotional practice, or vaidhi-bhakti, as follows: "When there is no attachment or no spontaneous loving service to the Lord, and he is engaged in the service of the Lord simply out of obedience to the order of the spiritual master or in pursuance of the scriptures, such obligatory service is called vaidhi-bhakti.
[NOD, Chapter 2, 21-22] As to spontaneous devotional service, Caitanya Mahaprabhu defined it as follows in His instructions to Sanatana Gosvami:
The original inhabitants of Vrindavana are attached to Krsna spontaneously in devotional service. Nothing can compare to such spontaneous devotional service, which is called ragatmika bhakti. When a devotee follows in the footsteps of the devotees of Vrindavana, his devotional service is called raganuga bhakti. [C.C. M.l. 22.149]
This verse describes two different modes of devotional service. The first is ragatmika bhakti. This is the spontaneous devotional service performed by the Lords eternal associates, such as Sridama and Subala; Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yasoda; and Srimati Radharani. These personalities do not have to practise sadhana-bhakti to develop their devotional service.
These beings dont have to learn anything about devotional service; they are already perfect in all regulative principles and have achieved the spontaneous loving service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (NOD, Ch 15, p.119)
The second mode of devotional service is that practised by devotees who are trying to follow in the footsteps of the Lords eternal associates.
Persons desiring to follow in the footsteps of such eternal devotees of the Lord as the Vrsnis and the Vrindavana denizens are called raganuga devotees, which means that they are trying to attain to the perfection of those devotees. These raganuga devotees dont follow the regulative principles of devotional service very strictly, but by spontaneous nature they become attracted to some of the eternal devotees such as Nanda or Yasoda, and they try to follow in their footsteps spontaneously. There is a gradual development of the ambition to become like a particular devotee, and this activity is called raganuga. (NOD, Ch. 16, p.125)
What is the process of spontaneous devotional service? It appears that there is a natural progression from regulated devotional service to spontaneous devotional service. At first, the devotee engages in regulated devotional service under the instruction of the spiritual master. Part of this regulated devotional service is hearing about the pastimes of the Lord and His devotees.
One who has not yet developed interest in Krsna consciousness should give up all material motives and train his mind by following the progressive regulative principles, namely chanting and remembering Krsna and His name, form, quality, pastimes and so forth. In this way, after developing a taste for such things, one should try to live in Vrindavana and pass his time constantly remembering Krsnas name, fame, pastimes and qualities, under the direction and protection of an expert devotee. This is the sum and substance of all instruction regarding the cultivation of devotional service.[NOI, Text Eight, purport]
It is clear from this purport that hearing is the essential practice.
In the neophyte stage one should always engage in hearing krsna-katha. This is called sravana-dasa, the stage of hearing. By constantly hearing the transcendental holy name of Krsna, and hearing of His transcendental form, qualities and pastimes, one can attain to the stage of acceptance called varana-dasa. When one attains this stage, he becomes attached to the hearing of krsna-katha. When one is able to chant in ecstasy, he attains the stage of smaranavastha, the stage of remembering. [NOI, Text Eight, purport]
There is a regular sequence here. First one engages in hearing, chanting and remembering in regulated devotional service. As a result, one then develops a natural attachment to Krsna and His associates.
In this way a neophyte can gradually develop attachment for Krsnas name, fame, form, qualities and so forth. When one has developed such attachment, he can spontaneously serve the lotus feet of Krsna even without following the regulative principles. This stage is called raga-bhakti, or devotional service in spontaneous love. At that stage the devotee can follow in the footsteps of one of the eternal associates of Krsna in Vrindavana. This is called raganuga-bhakti. [NOI, Text Eight, purport]
Gradually, or at some point, the devotee will become attracted to the service of some particular eternal associate of the Lord.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that a devotee is attracted by the service of the inhabitants of Vrindavana -- namely the cowherd men, Maharaja Nanda, mother Yasoda, Radharani, the gopis, and the cows and calves. An advanced devotee is attracted by the service rendered by an eternal servitor of the Lord. This attraction is called spontaneous attraction. [C.C. M.l. 22.153, purport]
Once this spontaneous attraction has been awakened, the devotee engages in meditation on the service of the devotee to whom he is attracted. In Text Eleven of The Nectar of Instruction, we are specifically instructed to "take shelter of the confidential serving maids of Sri Radha and under their direction engage constantly in Her service". [NOI, Text Eleven, purport] In the purport to Text Eight, Srila Prabhupada has already named two of these confidential serving maids: Rupa Manjari and Rati Manjari. I noted that Srila Prabhupada warns us against imagining ourselves to be gopis.
One has to practise living in Vrindavana by hearing about the talks of the gopis with Krsna. However, one should not consider oneself a gopi, for this is offensive. [C.C. M.l. 8.205, purport]
Srila Prabhupada says that two different types of guidance are necessary in the practice of spontaneous devotional service. In the first place, the devotee requires "the direction and protection of an expert devotee". [NOI, Text Eight] This direction and protection takes place in the physical world in which we perform sadhana-bhakti. Secondly,the internal process of spontaneous devotional service involves serving Krsna "under the guidance of a particular associate of the Lord". [NOD, Ch.16, p. 127] Here the devotee directly perceives, and can respond to, the eternal associate. This is obviously a very advanced stage of devotional service.
Although spontaneous devotional service does not depend on regulative principles, the devotees does not give up the regulative principles, or stop engaging in "normal" activities i.e. the practice of sadhana-bhakti.
A devotee who is actually advanced in Krsna consciousness, who is constantly engaged in devotional service, should not manifest himself, even though he has attained perfection. The idea is that he should always continue to act as a neophyte devotee as long as his material body is there.
Activities in devotional service under regulative principles must be followed even by the pure devotee. But when he realizes his eternal relationship with the Lord, he can, along with the discharging of regulative service, think within himself of the Lord, under the guidance of a particular associate of the Lord, and develop his transcendental sentiments in following that devotee.[NOD, Ch. 16, p. 127]
Srila Prabhupada intended us to attain spontaneous devotional service I was surprised to find how often Srila Prabhupada wrote and spoke about spontaneous devotional service. Moreover, he did not consider it to be out of the question for his Western disciples and followers -- for me, in other words. On the contrary, he regarded it as a natural stage in the development of devotional service. I had screened out this understanding in my previous reading, because it was completely outside my experience in devotional service. Now it was very clear to me, particularly in The Nectar of Instruction, the book that I was advised to read first.
It was very evident from the Preface that Srila Prabhupada wanted me to take this book very seriously.
As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu left behind Him the eight verses known as Siksastaka, Rupa Gosvami gave us Upadesamrta so that we may become pure Vaisnavas.
.... To achieve the highest success in life by becoming a gosvami and then a pure devotee of the Lord, one must follow the instructions known as Upadesamrta, which have been given by Srila Rupa Gosvami. Srila Rupa Gosvami has given many other books, such as Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Vidagdha-madhava and Lalita-madhava, but Upadesamrta constitutes the first instructions for neophyte devotees. One must follow these instructions very strictly. Then it will be easier to make ones life successful. Hare Krsna.
In the Purport to Text Seven, Srila Prabhupada outlines the progression from faith(sraddha) to becoming cleansed of unwanted things(anartha-nivrtti). In the next paragraph, he describes the further development.
When a person is relieved of unwanted things, he becomes fixed in executing his Krsna activities. [This refers to the stage of nistha]. Indeed, he becomes attached to such activities and experiences ecstasy in executing devotional service. This is called bhava, the preliminary awakening of dormant love of Godhead. [NOI, p.71]
When I was a ten- or fifteen-year devotee, this would have sounded quite removed from my actual situation. But now it was something that I really wanted for myself. In fact, I couldnt see any point to devotional service without the prospect of something like this in the foreseeable future. I couldnt bear to think that I would go on chanting and reading indefinitely, without any tangible internal experience. I wanted an actual personal relationship with Krsna, and I wanted ecstasy. I read on.
The essence of all advice is that one should utilize ones full time -- twenty-four hours daily -- in nicely chanting and remembering the Lords divine name, transcendental form, qualities and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging ones tongue and mind. In this way one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vrindavana-dhama] and serve Krsna under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lords beloved devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service. [NOI, Text Eight]
Was this only for acaryas, and the exceptional one or two devotees in a generation? In his purport,Srila Prabhupada made it clear that he didnt regard it in that way. He wanted me to take this instruction to heart.
In the transcendental realm of Vraja [Vraja-dhama] one should serve the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, with a feeling similar to that of His associates, and one should place himself under the direct guidance of a particular associate of Krsna, and should follow in his footsteps. This method is applicable both in the stage of sadhana [spiritual practices executed while in the stage of bondage] and in the stage of sadhya [God realization], when one is a siddha-purusa, or a spiritually perfect soul. [NOI, Text Eight, purport]
Well, I was (and am) definitely in the stage of bondage, but Srila Prabhupada was still encouraging me to apply this instruction to myself. He then quotes his spiritual masters commentary on this verse, in which he instructs us to take up this process. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura observes: "This is the sum and substance of all instruction regarding the cultivation of devotional service". Did this just apply to the devotees who had gathered around Srila Prabhupadas spiritual master? If so, why would Srila Prabhupada write it for me to read? I thought it must apply to me, too.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura then describes the progression through vaidhi-bhakti to raganuga-bhakti, following in the footsteps of residents of Vrindavana, in the various serving moods. He concludes,... and in the madhurya-rasa, characterized by conjugal love, one can become like Srimati Radharani or Her lady friends such as Lalita and Her serving maids (manjaris) like Rupa and Rati. This is the essence of all instruction in the matter of devotional service" [NOI, Text Eight, purport]
"This is the sum and substance of all instruction regarding the cultivation of devotional service".
"This is the essence of all instruction in the matter of devotional service" Why was Srila Prabhupada quoting such emphatic instructions, if he didnt want me to take them to heart? Text Ten concludes with the Sanskrit: tam nasrayet kah krti. The literal meaning of this is "Which fortunate person will not take shelter of Sri Radha-Kunda?"
Srila Prabhupada expands the translation of these four words very explicitly and elaborately.
"Who, then, will not reside at Radha-kunda and, in a spiritual body surcharged with ecstatic feelings [aprakrta-bhava], render loving service to the divine couple Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda, who perform Their astakaliya-lila, Their eternal eightfold daily pastimes? Indeed, those who execute devotional service on the banks of Radha-kunda are the most fortunate people in the universe".
Aprakrta-bhava is the transcendental ecstasy of being absorbed in Krsnas eternal, aprakrta pastimes in the spiritual world. Was this for me? Did Srila Prabhupada really want me to be one of "the most fortunate people in the universe?" I could believe that he did.
Therefore everyone interested in Krsna consciousness should ultimately take shelter of Radha-kunda and execute devotional service there throughout his life. This is the conclusion of Rupa Gosvami in the tenth verse of Upadesamrta. [Text Ten, purport]
That seemed clear enough: "everyone interested in Krsna consciousness". In his purport to the last sloka, Srila Prabhupada emphasised this again.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura writes in this connection that Sri Radha-kunda is the most select place for those interested in advancing their devotional service in the wake of the lady friends (sakhis) and confidential serving maids (manjaris) of Srimati Radharani. Living entities who are eager to return home to the transcendental kingdom of God, Goloka Vrindavana, by means of attaining their spiritual bodies (siddha-deha) should live at Radha-kunda, taking shelter of the confidential serving maids of Sri Radha, and under their direction engage constantly in Her service. This is the most exalted method for those engaged in devotional service under the protection of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. [Text Eleven, purport] (emphasis added)
If Srila Prabhupada considered this to be the most exalted method for those engaged in devotional service, why shouldnt I aspire to follow it? It must be his desire for me. I might object to Srila Rupa Gosvamis instruction to live at Radha-kunda. I had assumed that Srila Prabhupada wanted everyone to stay where we were and serve the mission of Lord Caitanya. Yet, we must "follow these instructions very strictly". [The Nectar of Instruction, Preface]. So there must be some way of resolving the apparent contradiction. I found the solution in The Nectar of Devotion.
If it is possible, one should go and physically be present at Vrajabhumi, Vrindavana, and be engaged always in the service of the Lord, following the devotees in Vraja-dhama, the spiritual realm of Vraja. If it is not possible, however, to be physically present at Vrindavana, one can meditate anywhere upon living in that situation. Wherever he may be, one must always think about life in Vraja-dhama and about following in the footsteps of a particular devotee in the service of the Lord. [NOD, Chapter 16, p. 126]
Srila Prabhupada mentions the same principle in Caitanya Caritamrta:
One has to practise living in Vrindavana by hearing about the talks of the gopis with Krsna. [C.C. M.l. 8.205, purport]
Actually going to Vrindavana involves taking shelter of the six Gosvamis by reading Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Vidagdha-madhava, Lalita-madhava and the other books that they have given. [CC A.l. 8.31 purport]
Sum and Substance, End of Part 1 of 4.
Sum and Substance, Part 2 of 4
Mahaprabhu's desire Srila Prabhupada published Chapter 7 of Caitanya Caritamrta as Lord Caitanya in Five Features some time before he published the whole of Caitanya-caritamrta. This chapter contains the account of how Caitanya Mahaprabhu defeated the Mayavadi sannyasis of Kasi. It also starts with a vivid account of how the Panca-tattva spread love of Krsna by tasting it themselves.
The internal devotees or potencies [devotees in conjugal love] are all eternal associates in the pastimes of the Lord. Only with them does the Lord advent to propound the sankirtan movement, only with them does the Lord taste the mellow of conjugal love, and only with them does He distribute this love of God to people in general. The characteristics of Krsna are understood to be a storehouse of transcendental love. Although that storehouse of love came with Krsna when he was present, it was sealed. But when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came with His other associates of the Panca-tattva, they broke the seal and plundered the storehouse to taste transcendental love of Krsna. The more they tasted it, the more their thirst for it grew. Sri Panca-tattva themselves danced again and again and thus made it easier to drink nectarean love of Godhead. They danced, cried, laughed and chanted like madmen, and in this way they distributed love of Godhead. [C.C. A.l. 7.18-22]
The verses that follow describe how the flood of love for Krsna spread everywhere, overwhelming everyone. In his translations and purports, Srila Prabhupada uses the phrases "love of Godhead" and "Krsna consciousness" interchangeably. Obviously, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to spread love of Krsna. And equally obviously, His process was to distribute it by tasting it Himself. And Srila Prabhupada intended the present Krsna consciousness movement to spread in the same way. "The present Krsna consciousness movement follows the same principle [of ecstatic dancing and chanting]" [C.C. A.l. 7.22, purport]. "We strictly follow the principles set down by the Panca-tattva" [C.C. A.l. 7.23, purport].
When I turned to Adi-lila, Chapter Four, I found more explicit instructions on spontaneous devotional service. I learned that it is superior to regulative devotional service, and that Srila Prabhupada intended us to aspire for it, and to engage in the spiritual practices for attaining it.
The Lords desire to appear was born from two reasons: He wanted to taste the sweet essence of the mellows of love of God, and He wanted to propagate devotional service in the world on the platform of spontaneous attraction. Thus He is known as supremely jubilant and as the most merciful of all. [C.C. A.l. 4.15-16]
In his purport to this verse Srila Prabhupada writes,
The real purpose of Lord Krsnas appearance was to stage a dramatic performance of His transcendental pastimes at Vrajabhumi, thus exhibiting the highest limit of transcendental mellow in the exchanges of reciprocal love between the living entity and the Supreme Lord. These reciprocal exchanges are called raga-bhakti, or devotional service to the Lord in transcendental rapture. Lord Sri Krsna wants to make it known to all the conditioned souls that He is more attracted by raga-bhakti than vidhi-bhakti, or devotional service under scheduled regulations. It is said in the Vedas, raso vai sah: the Absolute Truth is the reservoir for all kinds of reciprocal exchanges of loving sentiments. He is also causelessly merciful, and He wants to bestow upon us this privilege of raga-bhakti.
Sri Krsna wants all the conditioned souls to know that raga-bhakti is superior to vidhi-bhakti. He descended as Caitanya Mahaprabhu to spread this spontaneous love. And Srila Prabhupada is gaura- vani pracarine, spreading Mahaprabhus mission. If Srila Prabhupada is the topmost devotee and representative of the Lord, then how can this not be an important part of his mission? Again, in the pranams to Srila Prabhupadas spiritual master, we chant madhuryojjvala- premadya sri rupanuga-bhaktida. Thus, rupanuga-bhakti is the forerunner of madhurya-ujjvala- prema. Then, namaste gaura-vani sri murtaye dina tarine. Srila Prabhupadas spiritual master is the very embodiment of the gaura-vani which Srila Prabhupada is distributing. Srila Prabhupada writes that ISKCON was formed "to execute the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura". [Caitanya-caritamrta, Concluding words].
The texts and purports in Chapter Four continue to extol spontaneous devotional service, and its superiority to regulative devotional service.
"Then, by hearing about the pure love of the residents of Vraja, devotees will worship me on the path of spontaneous love, abandoning all rituals of religiosity and fruitive activity" [C.C. A.l. 4.33]
Srila Prabhupada comments,
Many realized souls, such as Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and King Kulasekhara, have recommended with great emphasis that one develop this spontaneous love of Godhead, even at the risk of transgressing all the traditional codes of morality and religiosity. [C.C. A.l. 4.33, purport]
Now, why would he write that unless he meant us to take it very seriously? Nowhere does he say that this is impractical. On the contrary, he says that, when neophytes are elevated by regulated devotional service under the expert guidance of the spiritual master, "they too will be competent to hear of the love affairs of Radha and Krsna" [C.C. A.l. 4.35, purport].
Remembering Krsna with love It is clear from Bhagavad-gita that Srila Prabhupada wants us to engage consciously in devotional service, with the conscious intention of coming to the platform of being absorbed in Krsna consciousness. In Chapter Twelve, Krsna gives a list of alternative degrees of absorption in His service. 12.8 tells us:
Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt. [B.G. 12.8] 12.9 instructs Arjuna that if he cannot fix his mind on Krsna without deviation, then he should follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. "In this way develop a desire to attain Me". Srila Prabhupada comments,
In this verse, two different processes of bhakti-yoga are indicated. The first applies to one who actually has an attachment for Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by transcendental love. And the other is for one who has not developed an attachment for the Supreme Person by transcendental love. For this second class there are different prescribed rules and regulations one can follow to be ultimately elevated to the stage of attachment to Krsna.
This stage of attachment, then, is the ideal. Srila Prabhupada emphasises the importance of developing love for Krsna.
But for spiritual life, one must be elevated to the pure stage of love. That stage of love can be achieved by practice of devotional service, performed with the present senses. .... Now the heart has to be purified of the material association, and that dormant, natural love for Krsna has to be revived. That is the whole process. [B.G. 12.9, purport] (emphasis added)
I remembered Prana dasas presentation on continual remembrance of Krsna. Here was a new perspective on what he had said. He had quoted from the Introduction of Bhagavad-gita.
Therefore we have to practice remembering the Lord always, twenty-four hours a day, by chanting His names and moulding our lifes activities in such a way that we can remember Him always. .... This is the art, and this is also the secret of Bhagavad-gita: total absorption in the thought of Sri Krsna. .... If one has fifty years of life ahead of him, he should engage that brief time in cultivating this practice of remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [pp. 28-30]
This was a very strong instruction. But how was it possible? Srila Prabhupada explains:
A strong sense of love is required here. If we have a strong sense of love for the Supreme Lord, then we can discharge our duty and at the same time remember Him. But we have to develop that sense of love. [B.G., p.28]
I didnt understand what Srila Prabhupada meant when I first read this, or for a long time afterwards. But now I could understand, at least theoretically: the art and secret of Bhagavad-gita is to remember Krsna twenty-four hours daily, and to practise this, we have to develop love for Krsna on the platform of spontaneous devotional service.
The importance of spontaneous devotional service For the first time I began to understand the importance of spontaneous devotional service in Srila Prabhupadas mission. In the first place, it is the actual goal of Krsna consciousness.
The regulative principles are designed to take us gradually to the platform of spontaneous love of Krsna, which is the perfection of human life. [SP letter 29.4.1974]
Regulative principles in devotional service are meant for those who have not invoked their natural love of Godhead. [C.C. A.l. 4.26, purport]
Vaidhi-bhakti, that is apprenticeship. Real bhakti, para-bhakti is raganuga-bhakti. This raganuga- bhakti, we have to come to after surpassing the vaidhi-bhakti. In the material, if we do not try to make further and further progress in devotional service, if we are simply sticking to the sastric regulation process and we do not try to go beyond that ... We have to follow the regulative principles strictly. Without viddhi-bhakti, you cannot reach to the platform of raga-bhakti, although that is our aim. .... That is called para-bhakti. That para- bhakti is required. So this Krsna consciousness movement is gradually developing up to the stage of raga-bhakti or para-bhakti. Then life is successful. [Lecture, Vrindavana, 12.11.1972]
Not only is spontaneous devotional service the goal of our practice, but unless and until we reach that platform, we are in danger of falling down.
The sastric process is kanistha-adhikara, lowest stage of devotional service. Such devotee can fall down at any moment. Because he is on the prakrta stage. And prakrta means this gunamayi, prakrti. It is very strong. So any devotee can fall down if he remains prakrta-bhakta. [Lecture, Vrindavana, 12.11.1972]
Srila Prabhupada explains this in detail in Caitanya-caritamrta. In Adi-lila, 4.35, he establishes the "imperative" need to come to the platform of spontaneous devotional service. He then writes,
One who has not been attracted by the transcendental beauty of rasa will certainly be dragged down into material attraction, thus to act in material contamination and progress to the darkest region of hellish life. But by understanding the conjugal love of Radha and Krsna, one is freed from the grip of attraction to material so-called love between man and woman. ... If one is not attracted by the transcendental nature of Krsna, one is sure to be attracted to material enjoyment, thus to become implicated in the clinging network of virtuous and sinful activities and continue material existence by transmigrating from one material body to another. Only in Krsna consciousness can one achieve the highest perfection in life. [C.C., A.l. 4.35, purport]
Spontaneous devotional service attracts Krsna Why is spontaneous devotional service the goal of Krsna consciousness? Because it is the only way to attract Krsna. Specifically, it is the only way of attaining loving service to Radha and Krsna in Vraja.
Everywhere in the world people worship Me according to scriptural injunctions. But simply by following such regulative principles one cannot attain the loving sentiments of the devotees in Vrajabhumi. Knowing my opulences, the whole world looks upon Me with awe and veneration. But devotion made feeble by such reverence does not attract Me. By performing such regulated devotional service in awe and veneration, one may go to Vaikuntha and attain the four kinds of liberation" [C.C. A.l. 3.15-17]
I found the same conclusion in the conversation between Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya.
One can attain such perfection only by spontaneous love of God. One cannot obtain Krsna in Goloka Vrindavana simply by serving the Lord according to regulative principles. [C.C. M.l. 8.226]
Unless one follows in the footsteps of the gopis, he cannot attain the service of the lotus feet of Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja. If one is overcome by knowledge of the Lords opulence, he cannot attain the Lords lotus feet, even though he is engaged in devotional service. [C.C. M.l. 8.230]
This came as a shock. Previously, I had just thought about going back to Godhead. I had thought in terms of regulated devotional service, tacitly assuming that there was nothing else for me. I had believed that I would go back to Godhead at the end of this lifetime, if I chanted sixteen rounds, followed the four regulative principles and engaged in preaching activities. I had understood that Srila Prabhupada had promised this, and had assumed that Srila Prabhupada meant that he would take me back to Vraja. Hence, when I had read these verses in Caitanya-caritamrta in the past, my mind had just glided straight past them. But now it didnt. Sri Krsna Himself was saying that if I wanted to get to Vraja, I would have to develop spontaneous devotional service. This was evidently the sastric conclusion. Now, was Srila Prabhupada going to make a special arrangement for us? Did he specifically promise to take us back to Vraja on the strength of our vaidhi-bhakti? As far as I saw, he upheld the sastric conclusion.
One can worship the Laksmi-Narayana by the process of vidhi-marga, worshipping the Lord with regulative principles according to the instructions of the sastra and the spiritual master. However, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Radha-Krsna, cannot be directly worshipped by this process. The dealings between Radha and Krsna and the gopis are devoid of the opulences of Laksmi-Narayana. The process of vidhi-marga, following the regulative principles, is utilized in the worship of Laksmi- Narayana, whereas the process of spontaneous service -- following in the footsteps of the gopis, who are the denizens of Vrindavana -- is transcendentally more advanced and is the process whereby Radha and Krsna are worshipped. One cannot attain this elevated position while worshipping the Lord in His opulence. Those attracted by the conjugal love between Radha and Krsna must follow in the footsteps of the gopis. Only then is it possible to enter into the Lords service in Goloka Vrindavana and directly associate with Radha and Krsna. [C.C. M.l. 8.230, purport]
Srila Prabhupada had made the same point in an earlier lecture.
When we worship Radha-Krsna in our conditional stage, actually we worship Laxmi-Narayana. You have seen that picture. This vidhi-marga and raga-marga. Radha-Krsna worship is on the platform of pure love, and Laxmi-Narayana worship is on the regulative principles. So long as we do not develop our pure love, we have to worship on the regulative principles. [Radhastami Lecture, Montreal, August 30th 1968]
Srila Prabhupada made the same point in The Nectar of Instruction, the "first instruction for neophyte devotees".
One should bathe there [Radha-kunda] regularly and give up all material conceptions, taking shelter of Sri Radha and Her assistant gopis. If one is thus engaged during his lifetime, after giving up the body he will return back to Godhead to serve Sri Radha in the same way as he contemplated during his life on the banks of Radha-kunda. [NOI, Text Eleven, purport, p. 91] (emphasis added)
I later found out that Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura makes the same point in his Sri Harinam Cintamani.
It is therefore the goal of devotional service to enrol in Her [Srimati Radharanis] yutha or group. Service to Lord Krsna in Vraja is impossible without first taking shelter of the vraja-gopis. [Sri Harinam Cintamani, Chapter 15]
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says the same in Sri Brahma-samhita, published by BBT.
The devotees who are imbued with all-love, and who walk in the footsteps of the spiritual maids of Vraja, alone attain to the realm of Goloka. [BS, p.15]
Here was a strong incentive for me to develop spontaneous devotional service. Srila Prabhupada had said that he resides eternally in Radha-Damodara temple in Vrindavana. He had written on the Jaladuta that he longed to go back to Vraja.
O dear friend, in Your company I will experience great joy once again. In the early morning I will wander about the cowherd pastures and fields. Running and frolicking in the many forests of Vraja, I will roll on the ground in spiritual ecstasy. Oh, when will that day be mine? [Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krsna, Vaisnava Song Book, p. 27-28]
If I wanted to be sure of being with Srila Prabhupada eternally, then I would have to develop the service mood of the residents of Vraja: spontaneous devotional service. I couldnt say that Srila Prabhupada wasnt able to make a special arrangement for me. He could intercede with Radha and Krsna on my behalf. But he clearly did not want me to rely on him to do so. He didnt want me to remain indefinitely in vaidhi-bhakti. Rather, he wanted me to come to the platform of spontaneous devotional service. I remembered reading a book which showed how the early Christians changed Christs message. Christ preached love of God. He said that the First Commandment was to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with thy soul, with thy strength and with all thy might. But within a single generation, Paul had changed the message: "Believe in Jesus, and your sins will be forgiven; you will be saved". This was a movement away from love of God, and towards liberation. I wondered if something similar was taking place in the Krsna consciousness movement. Srila Prabhupada came to teach us how to engage in pure devotional love for Krsna on the spontaneous platform: "Learn to love Radha and Krsna in this lifetime, and you will be with Them in the next lifetime". The message seemed to have changed: "Just follow the principles and preach, and believe in Srila Prabhupada. He will take you back to be with Radha and Krsna". "Is the movement moving away from love of God, and towards a desire for liberation?" I asked myself.
Krsna consciousness is spontaneous devotional service The purpose of regulated devotional service is to bring us to the point of spontaneous devotional service. And only by performing spontaneous devotional service could I come to the platform of serving Radha and Krsna in Vraja. Now I found another reason why Srila Prabhupada was recommending spontaneous devotional service. He intended us to take up Krsna consciousness or pure devotional service. And Krsna consciousness, or pure devotional service, actually is spontaneous devotional service.
And only when affection comes to the platform of spontaneous love is it counted in the category of pure devotional service. [NOD, Ch 15, p.120]
The regulative principles help ordinary devotees rise to the platform of perfect love of Godhead. Pure love for Krsna is the perfection of pure devotion, and pure devotional service is identical with spontaneous devotional service. [C.C. A.l. 4.22, purport]
I was amazed. Granted, I had already noticed that Srila Prabhupada wrote on at least two levels. On the one hand, to encourage us, he was very liberal. He told us that we were becoming Krsna conscious, and that all of his sincere disciples were pure devotees. On the other hand, he was very demanding, and spoke of a pure devotee as someone who was totally attached to Krsna and detached from the material world. I had been debating with devotees who wanted to emphasise the highest criteria, and ignore the liberal criteria. But I had made a serious mistake in the opposite direction. I had ignored the highest criteria. In the final analysis, a pure devotee is one who is serving the Lord on the platform of spontaneous devotional service. And Krsna consciousness itself is actually identical with pure love for Krsna on the spontaneous platform. I realized that Srila Prabhupada had already explained this in "the sum and substance of all instruction".
One who has not yet developed interest in Krsna consciousness should give up all material motives and train his mind by following the progressive regulative principles, namely chanting and remembering Krsna and His name, form, quality, pastimes and so forth. [NOI, Text Eight, purport]
So far I had equated Krsna consciousness with those "progressive regulative principles". But here Srila Prabhupada was saying that Krsna consciousness is what would develop as a result of following those regulative principles, namely spontaneous devotional service. The point became still clearer to me when I studied the conversation between Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya. During this conversation, Ramananda Raya presented different ideas about the perfection of life, starting with the basic instructions of Bhagavad-gita. At first, Mahaprabhu rejected these ideas one after the other as being external. Finally, He approved of the process of remaining where we are and hearing from bona fide authorities. Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.3, quoted in C.C. M.l. 8.67, instructs that we "should hear from self-realized devotees about Your holy name, form, pastimes and qualities". Srila Prabhupada comments:
One has to practise this principle in order to make further progress. When further progress is actually made, one comes to the platform of ecstatic loving service to the Lord. This first stage is called sadhana-bhakti or devotional service in practice. The result of sadhana-bhakti must be ecstatic love, attachment for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which is also called prema-bhakti" [C.C. M.l. 8.68, purport] (emphasis added).
So it is expected and required that we come to this platform of spontaneous love for Krsna. At this point, Srila Prabhupada directly equates Krsna consciousness with spontaneous love for Krsna. Ramananda Raya quotes a verse from Padyavali.
Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be obtained only by paying one price -- that is, intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay. [C.C. M.l. 8.70] (This didn't sound like a promise that love for Krsna would appear spontaneously if I just got on with my sadhana and duties).
Srila Prabhupada comments:
The regulative principles according to the injunctions of the sastras are necessary insofar as ones original dormant Krsna consciousness is not spontaneously awakened. An example of spontaneous action is the flowing of rivers into the ocean. Nothing can stop this flow of water. Similarly, when ones dormant Krsna consciousness is awakened, it spontaneously flows to the lotus feet of Krsna without impediment. [C.C. M.l. 8.70, purport]
Here he is saying quite clearly that our real Krsna consciousness appears at the point at which we develop spontaneous love for Krsna.
In the purport to M.l. 8.71, Srila Prabhupada is even more explicit. Krsna consciousness is not just love for Krsna. Krsna consciousness is love for Krsna in an established and fixed relationship, (the first of which is dasya-rasa). Progressing from ecstatic love for Krsna without a fixed relationship, Ramananda Raya talks about dasya-rasa. Srila Prabhupada says:
Spontaneous loving service to the Lord is called devotional service with an intimate attachment between the servitor and the served. This intimacy is called mamata. Between the servitor and the served there is a feeling of oneness. This mamata begins with dasya-prema, service rendered to the master by the servant. Unless there is such a relationship, the loving affairs between the Lord and the devotee are not actually fixed. [The word "fixed" refers to sthayi-bhava, establishing ones relationship to the Lord in one of the specific mellows]. When the devotee feels, "The Lord is my master" and renders service unto Him, Krsna consciousness is awakened. This fixed consciousness is on a higher platform than simple cognizance of love of Godhead. [C.C. M.l. 8.71, purport] (emphasis added)
Later on in Mahaprabhus conversation with Ramananda Raya , Srila Prabhupada makes the same point even more clearly.
When one has understood Krsna in truth but is still maintaining some material connection, he is known to be situated in his svarupa, his original consciousness. When that original consciousness is completely spiritual, it is called Krsna consciousness. One should execute his spiritual activities in the svarupa-gata stage of consciousness. [C.C. M.l. 8.139, purport]
Sum and Substance, End of Part 2 of 4
Sum and Substance, Part 3 of 4
The importance of association I had gained some new insights into Srila Prabhupadas instructions. To do that, I had depended on association. Now I began to notice more and more how consistently Srila Prabhupada emphasised the importance of association. In the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita, he refers to the process of constant rememberance of Krsna, and comments.
This is not a very difficult process. However, one must learn it from an experienced person. Tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet: one must approach a person who is already in the practice. [B.G., Introduction, p. 30]
We can attain spontaneous devotional service only if we are eager for it. And that eagerness comes from the association of devotees who already have it.
Simply your eagerness. That is the price. This price you have to pay. Then you will get Krsna. Immediately. .... So this eagerness is very important. But it can be obtained by the association of devotees. [Lecture 5/8/72]
Without the association of the topmost devotees, we cannot make advancement.
Therefore, if we do not associate with the advanced devotees, uttama-adhikari, if we simply want to remain in the lowest stage of devotional service, then we are not making progress. [Lecture, Vrindavana, 12.11.1972]
Srila Prabhupada gives the same instruction in the section of The Nectar of Devotion which deals with spontaneous devotional service.
Elevation to this stage of ecstasy can be possible in two ways. One way is by constant association with pure devotees. The other way is by the special mercy of Krsna or by the mercy of a pure devotee of Krsna. Elevation to the ecstatic stage of life is generally obtained through the association with pure devotees, while elevation to that stage by the special mercy of Krsna or His devotee is very rare. .... It is essential, therefore, that one constantly associate with pure devotees who are engaged morning and evening in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. .... [NOD, Ch. 17, p. 132]
Srila Prabhupada has already defined a pure devotee as someone who is actually on the platform of spontaneous devotional service.
And only when affection comes to the platform of spontaneous love is it counted in the category of pure devotional service. [NOD, Ch. 15, p.120]
So in Chapter Seventeen of The Nectar of Devotion, he is prescribing association with devotees who are actually engaged in spontaneous devotional service. Now he continues to emphasise the importance of associating with pure devotees.
When a pure devotee speaks, his words act upon the hearts of the audience. What is the secret of hearing and chanting? A professional speaker cannot impress transcendental ecstasy in the hearts of the listeners. However, when a realized soul who is engaged in the service of the Lord is speaking, he has the potency to inject devotional service within the audience. One should, therefore, seek the association of such pure, unalloyed devotees, and by such association and service a neophyte devotee will certainly develop attachment, love and devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [NOD, Ch. 17, p. 133]
In the same chapter of The Nectar of Devotion we hear how Narada Muni progressed in devotional service by association with advanced devotees.
These are practical examples of how one can develop to the stage of ecstatic love simply by the association of pure devotees. It is essential, therefore, that one constantly associate with pure devotees who are engaged morning and evening in the chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. In this way one will get the chance to purify his heart and develop this ecstatic love for Krsna. [NOD, Ch. 17, p. 132]
This example was poignant for me. In Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.24, we read how, in his previous life, Narada Muni was blessed by the great devotees. The actual verse simply describes them as munis. In the word-for-word, Srila Prabhupada calls them "the muni followers of the Vedanta". In the purport to this verse, he describes how the bhakti-vedantas enlighten the people in general. This is his own inspiration, for there is no mention of Vedanta or bhakti-vedanta in the verse. Narada Munis bhakti-vedantas left him when he was a small child, just as my Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada left me when I was an inexperienced and helpless devotee. But in that purport, Srila Prabhupada says bhakti-vedantas in the plural three times. This is a standard device to emphasise the importance of an instruction. Was he telling me that there are more Bhaktivedantas? In The Nectar of Instruction, too, Srila Prabhupada makes it clear in that we need the association, direction, shelter and protection of an advanced and expert devotee.
When one makes Vrindavana his residence, he should take shelter of an advanced devotee there. In this way one should always think of Krsna and His pastimes. .... [NOI, Text Eight, p.74]
In this way, after developing a taste for such things, one should try to live in Vrindavana and pass his time constantly remembering Krsnas name, fame, pastimes and qualities under the direction and protection of an expert devotee. This is the sum and substance of all instruction regarding the cultivation of devotional service. [NOI, Text Eight, p.75-76]
In Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Srila Prabhupada emphasises how conditioned souls can be purified by hearing about Krsnas pastimes from an advanced devotee.
Sukadeva Goswami concludes the episode of rasa-lila by pointing out that if a person hears from the right source about the pastimes of Krsna, who is Vishnu Himself, and the gopis, who are expansions of His energy, then he will be relieved from the most dangerous type of disease, namely lust. If one actually hears rasa-lila, he will become completely freed from the lusty desire of sex life and elevated to the highest level of spiritual understanding. .... The conditioned soul should hear the rasa-lila dance from an authorised spiritual master and be trained by him so that he can understand the whole situation; thus one can be elevated to the highest standard of spiritual life. [Krsna Book, Chapter 33, Description of the Rasa Dance]
Is spontaneous devotional service for someone like me? Having read some of Srila Prabhupadas instructions, I had reached a firm conclusion. He intended that I should take up spontaneous devotional service -- at some point. That was the whole purpose of his engaging me in devotional service in the first place. I did not doubt that. But when should I focus on this goal? Is that what I should do now? Was it for someone like me as I was, right now? Or would I come to it much later, when I had matured? I certainly needed something like this programme now. I didnt think that I could survive much longer without it. At the same time, the idea of taking it seriously at this point raised some serious doubts in my mind. These doubts were born partly of my own upbringing in Krsna consciousness, and partly through thinking about what other devotees would say to me. To avoid even one of these doubts would mean that I could not commit myself to the programme. I had to go through them and deal with them one by one. The biggest misgiving I had was whether it was appropriate for me to think about spontaneous devotional service now. Wasnt it pretentious for me even to want to develop spontaneous love at this stage? After all, there are instructions that we should not even aspire for this until we are liberated and free from material contamination.
Unless one is liberated, he should not try to hear about the loving affairs between Radha and Krsna. [C.C. M.l. 8.255, purport]
We must always remember that such eagerness to follow in the footsteps of the denizens of Vraja (Vrindavana) is not possible unless one is freed from material contamination. [NOD, p.126]
Although I had accepted these instructions, I now found other instructions which seemed quite different. For example, in The Nectar of Instruction, he quotes Rupa Gosvamis Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.295).
In the transcendental realm of Vraja [Vraja-Dhama] one should serve the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, with a feeling similar to that of His associates, and one should place himself under the direct guidance of a particular associate of Krsna and should follow in his footsteps. This method is applicable both in the stage of sadhana [spiritual practices executed while in the stage of bondage] and in the stage of sadhya [God realization], when one is a siddha-purusa, or a spiritually perfect soul. [NOI, Text Eight, purport]
I considered that I am obviously still "in bondage". According to this instruction, though, that is not a disqualification. I could still practise the process. Other instructions confirmed that it is alright to hear about Krsnas pastimes with the gopis before I am completely purified. Indeed, hearing about these pastimes was part of the process; I would become purified by hearing about them.
Another secret of success is that when one is very much sexually agitated, he should think of Lord Krsnas pastimes with the gopis and he will forget his sex urge. [SP letter 11.11.1968]
Srila Prabhupada explains this principle at length in Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In order to show them [conditioned souls] special favour, Krsna exhibited this rasa-lila dance. It is just to captivate the conditioned soul. Since they are very much attracted by sexology, they can enjoy the same life with Krsna and thus become liberated from the material condition. In the Second Canto of Srimad- Bhagavatam, Maharaja Pariksit also explains that the pastimes and activities of Lord Krsna are medicine for the conditioned souls. If they simply hear about Krsna they become relieved from the material disease. They are addicted to material enjoyment and are accustomed to reading sex literature, but by hearing these transcendental pastimes of Krsna with the gopis, they will be relieved from material contamination. [Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Chapter 33, Description of the Rasa Dance]
I saw that there were two sets of instructions which appeared to contradict each other. On the one hand, Srila Prabhupada was saying that I could take up this process while I was still in bondage. On the other hand, he said that I should not take up the process before being liberated. But I didn't accept for a moment that Srila Prabhupada would actually contradict himself. So how could I resolve the apparent inconsistency? It seemed to hinge on what he meant by "free from material contamination" and "liberated". In the above passage from The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada continues:
We must always remember that such eagerness to follow in the footsteps of the denizens of Vraja (Vrindavana) is not possible unless one is freed from material contamination. In following the regulative principles of devotional service, there is a stage called anartha-nivrtti, which means the disappearance of all material contamination. [NOD, p.126]
Here, Srila Prabhupada equates anartha-nivrtti with "the disappearance of all material contamination". However, elsewhere he has explained that this stage of anartha-nivrtti refers to the disappearance of gross sinful activities.
By bhajana-kriya one obtains freedom from the contaminations of materialistic life. He no longer goes to a restaurant or hotel to taste so-called palatable dishes made with meat and onions, nor does he care to smoke or drink tea or coffee. He not only refrains from illicit sex, but avoids sex life entirely. Nor is he interested in wasting his time in speculating or gambling. In this way it is understood that one is becoming cleansed of unwanted things (anartha-nivrtti). [NOI, Text Seven, purport]
Anartha-nivrtti does not refer to a stage in which all traces of sinful desire have disappeared from the heart. Even at the stage of nistha, which comes after anartha-nivrtti, Srila Prabhupada says that anarthas have only partially disappeared.
Bhajana, devotional service, is possible when one is freed from these anarthas, unwanted things. .... The first step is that you must associate with devotees and then take to bhajana -- whether you are free from all the anarthas, all the unwanted things. If all the unwanted things are vanquished, then youll have firm faith. Bhaktir bhavati naisthiki. Not that I am completely free from all sinful activities, but prayesu, say, fifty percent, sixty percent is gone. At that time, nasta-prayesu abhadresu. How does it come to take place? Nityam bhagavata-sevaya. [SP lecture]
Here "firm faith" and "naisthiki" refer to the stage of nistha.
Srila Prabhupada gives a lenient definition of liberation when discussing Deity worship in Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Text: Upon seeing the charming forms of the Lord, smiling and attractive, and hearing His very pleasing words, the pure devotee ... attains liberation without separate endeavour.
Purport: There are three divisions of devotees -- first-class, second-class and third-class. Even the third class devotees are liberated souls. .... Simply by fixing oneself in Krsna consciousness, engaging the senses in the service of the Lord, one is imperceptibly liberated. ....
Even the third-class devotee ... becomes imperceptibly liberated. .... In other words, it is confirmed herewith that even a third-class devotee is in the transcendental position. .... That third-class devotees can also imperceptibly achieve liberation is accepted in all Vedic literatures. [S.B. 3.25.36, verse and purport]
I now turned back to Caitanya-caritamrta.
Unless one is liberated, he should not try to hear of the loving affairs between Radha and Krsna. [C.C. M.l. 8.255, purport]
In what sense was Srila Prabhupada using the word "liberated" here? I saw that he must be using it in a liberal sense here. He knew that serious devotees were not the only ones who would read his books. In a previous purport, he gives a strong warning to material scholars.
Talks between Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya were meant for advanced devotees only. Those who are on the mundane platform and who study these talks in order to put forward some thesis for a Ph.D. will not be able to understand them. Instead, these conversations will have a poisonous effect. [C.C. M.l. 8.250, purport]
Then, in the purport to 8.255, Srila Prabhupada talks about liberation. In this purport, he first quotes S.B. 10.33.40.
He who faithfully hears about the dealings between Lord Krsna and the gopis in the rasa dance and he who describes these activities attain to the perfectional stage of devotional service and simultaneously lose material, lusty desires.
(If the hearer lost material, lusty desires through hearing, he couldnt have been free from material contamination previous to hearing). Srila Prabhupada then goes on to say, "When one is liberated and hears of Lord Krsnas and Radhas loving affairs, he is not inclined to have lusty desires". [C.C. M.l. 8.255, purport] Here Srila Prabhupada is giving the acid test. If on hearing these pastimes, I was "inclined to have lusty desires", then I shouldnt hear them. But if I could now happily hear about the Vraja pastimes without becoming agitated, then it would be beneficial for me to do so.
Spontaneous devotional service and sahajiya-ism Although I was afraid of becoming a sahajiya, Srila Prabhupada did not actually say that anyone who develops sentiments through chanting is a sahajiya. On the contrary, he said that spiritual emotions are the perfection of life. Perhaps the whole movement had been traumatized by Srila Prabhupadas demolition of the "gopi-bhava" club. That's how it seemed. But what was a sahajiya actually?
They want to utilize the love affairs of Krsna and the gopis for their debauchery. This is sahajiya. [Morning Walk, Los Angeles, 7.6.1976]
Those who do not strictly follow the principles of revealed scriptures are generally called sahajiyas -- those who have imagined everything to be cheap, who have their own concocted ideas, and who do not follow the scriptural injunctions. Such persons are simply creating disturbances in the discharge of devotional service. [NOD, pp 60-61]
The prakrta-sahajiyas do not consult the Vedic literatures, and they are debauchees, woman hunters and smokers of ganja. Sometimes they give a theatrical performance and cry for the Lord with tears in their eyes. [C.C. M.l. 1.34, purport]
The regulative principles are designed to take us gradually to the platform of spontaneous love of Krsna, which is the perfection of human life. Those who think that they have already attained such perfection and give up the regulative principles are called sahajiya, or those who take things cheaply and simply imitate. [SP letter, 29.4.1974]
So sahajiyas avoid consulting the Vedic literatures. They imagine that they have reached perfection, although they are still full of material desires. They imitate the pastimes of the Lord and the spiritual ecstasies of the real devotees, and they engage in illicit activity, sometimes on the strength of so-called religion. But would this apply to me if I took proper guidance, consulted appropriate literatures, and avoided imitating the activities of Krsna and the gopis? Would I then be a sahajiya? According to Srila Prabhupadas definition, I wouldnt. The deepest fear was that I would be "taking things cheaply" -- "Oooh, look at him! Who does he think he is? Hes always been in maya, and now he thinks hes on the perfectional platform. Hed be better off doing some proper service. Srila Prabhupada said, Work now, samadhi later". But I didnt think I was on the perfectional platform. I wouldnt be imagining that I was a gopi; I had already read that that was offensive. Suppose I simply heard some nice Krsna-katha; read some appropriate books; prayed for a taste for devotional service; and tried to take up residence in Vrindavana, at least within the mind. What would be the harm? Srila Prabhupada had recommended all of these things, and he said that it was legitimate to do such things while in the conditioned stage. I thought it was alright.
A new doubt then arose. "You may think that you are authorised to take up this process now. But Srila Prabhupada broke up the gopi-bhava club in 1976. Do you really think that you are superior to those devotees?" But when I reread the transcription of Srila Prabhupada's comments on the gopi-bhava club, I saw that there was really no connection between that situation and this one. Srila Prabhupada had been told that the members were influenced by practising sahajiyas from Radha-kunda, and that some of them were engaged in illicit activity. There was another reason why the members of the "gopi-bhava club" were not well situated. The descriptions in Srimad-Bhagavatam of Krsnas dealings with the gopis relate to gopis who desired to serve Krsna in direct union with Him. However, Srila Prabhupada says in The Nectar of Instruction that the perfection of madhurya-rasa is to follow Radharanis serving maids. He also mentions Rupa Manjari and Rati Manjari by name. But those devotees had really had no clear guidelines at all to help them understand Srila Prabhupada's instructions.
Sum and Substance, End of Part 3 of 4
Sum and Substance, Part 4 of 4
Does spontaneous devotional service appear spontaneously? Now another objection crept in. "Wait a minute! Why should I have to endeavor so hard to attain spontaneous devotional service? I don't have to worry about it, or make any separate endeavor. The arrangements will be made if I am sincere". I had heard devotees stating this belief clearly. As an older devotee, I had probably preached it, too. But I had never read it anywhere. Where did it come from? It didn't fit in with the new picture that I was getting. I remembered a lecture in which Srila Prabhupada explained the term "Krsna consciousness". He said that it is a direct translation of the phrase krsna-bhakti-rasa in Rupa Gosvamis verse. I found the tape and listened to it again.
Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price -- that is intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay. [Padyavali 14, quoted in C.C. M.l. 8.70]
Srila Prabhupada then went on to talk about eagerness.
"What is the price?" "Price?" "It is such a nice thing. You have to pay price. Yes, there is price". "What is that?"
At this point, Srila Prabhupada suddenly shouted.
tatra-laulyam eka mulam!!! Simply your eagerness. That is the price. This price you have to pay. Then you will get Krsna. Immediately. .... So this eagerness is very important.
But it can be obtained, by the association of devotees. Therefore we are giving everyone the chance to invoke that eagerness. Then you will see God eye to eye. It is not very difficult. [Lecture, 5/8/72]
Simply hearing Srila Prabhupada shout in this lecture dispelled any belief I may have had that pure devotional service was going to happen to me by itself. I could no longer accept that I should neglect the development of pure devotional service through concentrating my attention and endeavour exclusively on preaching. That didnt make sense any more.
Now someone pointed out the verse in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu in which Rupa Gosvami defines sadhana-bhakti. This verse (BRS 1.2.2) is quoted in Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 22.105.
When transcendental devotional service by which love for Krsna is attained is executed by the senses, it is called sadhana-bhakti, or the regulative discharge of devotional service. Such devotion eternally exists within the heart of every living entity. The awakening of this eternal devotion is the potentiality of devotional service in practice.
kriti sadhya -- which is to be executed by the senses; bhavet -- should be; sadhya-bhava -- by which love of God is acquired; sa -- that; sadhana-abhidara -- called sadhana bhakti or devotional service in practice; nitya-siddhasya -- which is eternally present; bhavasya -- of love of Godhead; prakatyam -- the awakening; hrdi -- in the heart; sadhata -- potentiality Srila Prabhupada translates sadhya-bhava as that "by which love of God is acquired". Sadhya means the purpose or goal, and sadhana is the means by which the goal is attained. If bhava, or ecstasy, is the goal of sadhana-bhakti, then how can we say that bhava develops automatically? We strive actively and enthusiastically to perform our external service nicely. How, then, can we be less active and enthusiastic in developing bhava, which is the actual goal of our sadhana? Srila Prabhupada has instructed us that the actual goal of regulated devotional service is to develop love of Krsna i.e. spontaneous devotional service. If I practise devotional service with some goal other than developing love of Krsna (or with no particular goal at all), that is not pure devotional service.
Adulterated devotional service does not directly aim for love of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [C.C. A.l. 4.22, purport]
In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.2), Rupa Gosvami defines sadhana-bhakti as that which has the development of bhava as its objective (sadhya). So, as long as I do not have the conscious and deliberate aim of developing bhava, or ecstatic love of Krsna, then my activities are outside the practice of sadhana- bhakti. Srila Prabhupada confirms this conclusion elsewhere.
The first stage is technically called sadhana-bhakti, or devotional service in practice. The result of sadhana-bhakti must be ecstatic love, attachment for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which is also called prema-bhakti. [C.C. M.l. 8.68, purport]
Someone objected that spontaneous devotional service develops "automatically", and that we dont need to make any separate endeavour for it. But Srila Prabhupada uses the word "automatically" to mean something which follows as a natural sequence. "When he gets this attachment, he automatically tries to decorate the deity ..." [NOD, Ch. 2, p.21] I concluded that the attainment of spontaneous devotional service is automatic, but in a particular sense. It will develop automatically if I follow the process of regulated devotional service; and if that includes hearing and chanting about the pastimes in Vraja; and if I know that the ultimate goal is to develop spontaneous devotional service; and if I have good association. The desire for spontaneous devotional service awakens naturally through the performance of regulative devotional service with knowledge and association. If I just chant and read without knowing the actual goal, then how can I develop a desire to attain the goal? I heard the expression "bringing a smile to Srila Prabhupadas lips", and here was a sure way to do that: develop spontaneous devotional service for Krsna.
"Chanting the holy name in ecstasy causes one to dance, laugh and cry". When my spiritual master heard all this, he smiled and began to speak.
When a disciple very perfectly makes progress in spiritual life, this gladdens the spiritual master, who then also smiles in ecstasy, thinking, "How successful my disciple has become!" He feels so glad that he smiles as he enjoys the progress of the disciple, just as a smiling parent enjoys the activities of a child who is trying to stand up or crawl perfectly. [C.C. A.l. 7.82, verse and purport]
Everything is in Srila Prabhupadas books Now I came up against another strong prejudice on my part: "We dont have to read anything except Srila Prabhupadas books. Srila Prabhupada himself said so". I had been convinced of this for many years, and I had read instructions to this effect.
So there is nothing to be said new. Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books. Now you try to understand it and continue your endeavour. [Arrival Conversation: Vrindavana, May 17, 1977: 770517AR.VRN]
I have already given you full directions in my books. [SPL to Satsvarupa: 70-09-13]
I have instructed everything in my books. [SPL to Dina Dayala das: 76-02-25]
Everything is given in my books for you. [SPL to Gunagrahi Das: 73-10-14]
During the whole of my life in the Krsna consciousness movement, I had never studied books on devotional service by anyone other than Srila Prabhupada. Now I was being challenged. Srila Prabhupada's books describe the paramount importance of spontaneous devotional service, and state clearly that we should take it up. However, I couldnt find the equivalent of the volumes of "how-to" instructions that he gave for regulative devotional service. I could find no answers to obvious questions: "Which devotee in Vraja should we follow? How do we do that? Who are Rupa and Rati Manjaris? When can we start on the path of spontaneous devotional service, and what does it actually entail? How do we take shelter of an associate of the Lord?" If I couldnt go outside Srila Prabhupadas books, then I was in difficulty. But Srila Prabhupada said several times in his books that we should read other literatures. He said this of a few specific books.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has given us a transcendental literature entitled Krsna-bhavanamrta, which is full with Krsnas pastimes. Devotees can remain absorbed in Krsna-thought by reading such books. [Krsna, p. 367]
Sri Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu, the teacher of the science of devotional service, wrote several books, of which the Brhad-Bhagavatamrta is very famous; anyone who wants to know about the subject matter of devotees, devotional service and Krsna must read this book. [C.C. A.L. 5.203 purport]
Srila Prabhupada also recommended Sanatana Gosvamis commentary on the Tenth Canto of Srimad- Bhagavatam known as the Dasama-tippani [C.C. A.L. 5.203 purport]; Dig-darsini-tika, which is Sanatana Gosvamis commentary on Hari-bhakti-vilasa [C.C. M.l. 1.35]; and Sri Krsna-vijaya by Gunaraja Khan [C.C. M.l. 15.99 purport].
There are also general instructions to read literatures other than those that Srila Prabhupada had presented.
Within the past five hundred years, many erudite scholars and acaryas like Jiva Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Visvanatha Cakravarti, Vallabhacarya, and many other distinguished scholars even after the time of Lord Caitanya made elaborate commentaries on the Bhagavatam. And the serious student would do well to attempt to go through them to better relish the transcendental messages. [S.B. 1.1.1, purport]
Actually going to Vrindavana involves taking shelter of the six Gosvamis by reading Bhakti-rasamrita- sindhu, Vidagdha-madhava, Lalita-madhava and the other books that they have given. [CC A.l. 8.31 purport]
Indeed, reading these other literatures is not an option; we must read them.
A sincere devotee must, therefore, be prepared to hear the Vedic literature like the Upanisads, Vedanta and other literatures left by previous authorities or Gosvamis for the benefit of his progress. Without hearing such literatures, one cannot make actual progress. And without hearing and following the instructions, the show of devotional service becomes worthless and therefore a sort of disturbance in the path of devotional service. [S.B. 1.2.12, purport]
I concluded that everything is indeed in Srila Prabhupadas books. And this includes the instruction that I would have to read and hear other Vaisnava literatures if I wanted to make solid progress in devotional service.
Direction and protection Srila Prabhupada engaged us in regulated devotional service. On the one hand, the whole aim and purpose of this regulated devotional service is to take us to the platform of spontaneous devotional service. And to practise and perfect this spontaneous devotional service, we need the "direction and protection of an expert devotee". However, we do not have Srila Prabhupadas physical presence. Of course, the vani, the spiritual masters instruction, is just as important as his vapu, his physical presence. But Srila Prabhupada did not appear to leave extensive and detailed instructions on cultivating spontaneous devotional service.
Should I think that such instructions are unnecessary? Hardly. It had been so difficult for me to practise regulated devotional service. There had been so many difficulties and misunderstandings. Then what to speak of spontaneous devotional service, which takes place on such a subtle platform? The difficulties and misunderstandings must be much more, not less. Srila Prabhupada clearly intended me to come to the platform of spontaneous devotional service, and he wanted me to have the direction and protection of an expert devotee. But he himself did not leave recorded instructions on the physical plane. What were the possibilities? Is he going to come in visions? Maybe. Great devotees have received guidance in this way. But I knew that I am not on their platform.
Besides, a one-off vision would not be enough for me. I need constant direction and protection. And being firmly on the physical platform, I need direction from someone whom I can approach, serve and question with my present senses, and from whom I can receive direction and instruction with my present senses. Is that inconsistent with the instructions that Srila Prabhupada has left? Not at all. He has said that I should proceed "under the direction and protection of an expert devotee".
I didnt need to think that I would be abandoning Srila Prabhupada, or he me. The spiritual master acts through other pure devotees, even after his physical departure.
Srila Prabhupada considered that his guru maharaja acted through his sannyasa guru, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, to insist that Srila Prabhupada should take sannyasa.
So he insisted me. Not he insisted me. Practically, my spiritual master insisted me through him, that "You accept". Because without accepting the renounced order of life, nobody can become a preacher. So he [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur] wanted me to become a preacher.
So he forced me through this Godbrother, "You accept". So I unwillingly accepted, and then I remembered he [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur] wanted me to go to the Western country. So I am feeling now very much obliged to my, this Godbrother, that he carried out the wish of my spiritual master and enforced me to accept this sannyasa order. [Lecture, Seattle, October 21st, 1968]
Srila Prabhupada said that I should accept the "direction and protection of an expert devotee". Then how should I select this devotee? Obviously it should be someone who is already advanced in the practice of spontaneous devotional service. I assumed that there are devotees who are genuinely practising under the direction of Srila Rupa Gosvami. But I knew that there are also sahajiyas and devotees who are apparently authentic Gaudiya Vaishnavas, but who have their own ideas and misconceptions. How was I to distinguish between them?
"Staying in ISKCON" I could see that I urgently needed to be with an expert devotee who could offer me direction and protection. But where would I find such a devotee? The "official ISKCON position" was that we were not supposed to associate with Gaudiya Matha devotees. We were supposed to "stay within ISKCON", or we would not be "chaste to Srila Prabhupada". Now, the senior Vaisnava who had made the presentation was a Gaudiya Matha devotee. But I didnt think that I had been unchaste to Srila Prabhupada in associating with him. After all, it was this Vaisnava who had inspired me to investigate Srila Prabhupadas instructions. And having investigated them, I found that this Gaudiya Vaisnavas instructions were quite consistent with Srila Prabhupadas. It was the official positioon which was inconsistent.
I could see that I was facing a serious choice, and I didnt want to make a mistake. I certainly didnt want to associate with anyone who would actually lead me further astray. At the same time, if I avoided the issue, I would lose whatever direction and impetus I had in devotional service, and sink into apathy and anarthas. That would also be a serious mistake.
I could see that a lot of the difficulty lay in the conditioning against "going outside ISKCON". But how could a devotee who taught the same conclusions as Srila Prabhupada be "outside ISKCON"? It seemed that the official delineation between "ISKCON" and "non-ISKCON" must be seriously at fault. Still, even accepting that insight, as soon as I even thought of associating with members of the Gaudiya Matha, all sorts of alarm bells went off. "Dont speak to Srila Prabhupadas Godbrothers. He warned us against having anything to do with them". And so on.
While I was thinking about this issue, I found a summary of Srila Prabhupadas statements about the Gaudiya Matha. I looked at the evidence again, and three points became clear to me. The first was that Srila Prabhupada specifically asked two members of the Gaudiya Matha to look after his disciples after his departure. One was his Godbrother Srila Sridhara Maharaja. The other was Srila Narayana Maharaja, who was a disciple of Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja (Srila Prabhupadas sannyasa guru), and who had been Srila Prabhupadas close friend for many years. (It was Srila Narayana Maharaja who had made the presentation that I had attended). So there was no a priori reason not to associate with any Gaudiya Matha devotees. The second point which became clear was that Srila Prabhupada dealt differently with different Godbrothers. He was definitely favourable to many of them. For instance, he appreciated and loved his sannyasa guru, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja. He had lived in Srila Kesava Maharajas Sri Kesava-ji Gaudiya Matha, and had purchased the Deity of Gauranga Mahaprabhu which is installed on the altar there. When Srila Kesava Maharaja passed away, Srila Prabhupada gave a special lecture, and sent a condolence letter to the Matha. [Lecture, Seattle, 21.10.1968] Srila Prabhupada also appreciated Srila Sridhara Maharaja very highly, saying that he considered him to be his own siksa guru. On one occasion, Srila Prabhupada took Tamal Krsna Goswami and 25 other devotees to Visakapatnam, where they lived with Srila Bhaktipramode Puri Maharaja for about a week. At another time, he had Japataka Swami and Acyutananda stay at Srila Madhava Maharajas institution for a year. He spoke affectionately of Ananda prabhu as "a sincere Vaishnava". [SPL, 6/5/73] So it was now perfectly clear to me that Srila Prabhupada did not say unequivocally and across the board that his disciples should have nothing to do with any of his Godbrothers, ever. For me to have thought that was not only an over-simplification; it was simply inaccurate. A third point was that Srila Prabhupada made his intention clearer at the very end of his stay with us. He formed the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust, which was specifically "to bring unity amongst the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, especially the followers of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura". "We want cooperation". [Room conversation, Vrindavana, 10.10.1977] Significantly, Srila Prabhupada requested two of his Godbrothers, namely Srila Madhava Maharaja and Srila Madhusudana Maharaja, to be Trustees of the Trust, along with five of his own disciples. I could see that I had been heavily prejudiced against any devotees other than those in what I considered to be Srila Prabhupadas movement. Now I had to look at this prejudice. Was it really consistent with Srila Prabhupadas instructions? I had to admit that it wasnt. It was like my idea that I shouldnt read any books that Srila Prabhupada had not written. The prejudice was based on a superficial understanding of Srila Prabhupadas instructions. I had maintained it by failing to consider or investigate in detail what Srila Prabhupadas actual intention was. As a matter of fact, in disregarding all literatures other than Srila Prabhupadas books, I had actually disobeyed (or at least ignored) his instructions. The same would be true if I refused to associate with anyone other than Srila Prabhupadas direct disciples and followers. Again, I would be ignoring or disobeying his instructions. I could also see that the official understanding of what constituted ISKCON was far narrower than Srila Prabhupada's.
We are a non-sectarian society, and our members include people from Christian, Jewish and Moslem as well as Hindu faiths. The aim of ISKCON is not to found a new religious sect, but to invoke the living entity's dormant love of God, and thus provide the human society of all faiths with a common platform of clear theistic knowledge and practice. Members of ISKCON may retain their own respective religious faiths .... [SPL, 68/8/24]
If Srila Prabhupada's concept of ISKCON included different faiths, it would certainly include Vaisnavas from different branches of the Gaudiya Matha.
In any case, I needed some guidelines to know who was likely to be good association. The acid test would be simple. Would these devotees teach the same as Srila Prabhupada taught? And would they encourage me to maintain faith in Srila Prabhupadas instructions and mission?
Conclusion I was attracted to the senior Vaisnava who had made the presentation. But I didnt want to make any particular personality the issue. The actual issue was Srila Prabhupadas instructions. It was only through this senior Vaisnava's presentation and association that I had found out what Srila Prabhupadas instructions really are. And Srila Prabhupadas instructions confirmed the complete validity of the presentation. My Vaisnava friend and guide had opened my eyes to Srila Prabhupadas instructions and intentions. According to Srila Prabhupada, real Krsna consciousness is spontaneous devotional service. The actual purpose of his Krsna consciousness movement is to engage us in regulated devotional service, so that we can progress to spontaneous devotional service. Srila Prabhupada had explained what spontaneous devotional service is, and he gave a summary of the process for cultivating it. In effect, he had also left a message for me: "Later on, you will meet an expert devotee. Use my instructions to verify what he says, and then he will illuminate my instructions. When you find that he can give a full and true explanation of my books and words, accept his direction and protection. Don't worry. I will always make arrangements for you, and give you whatever intelligence you need". I hadnt noticed the message, so I hadnt looked for direction and protection. But the direction and protection had come looking for me. I felt that this senior Vaisnava was like the personification of Srila Prabhupadas desire for me to love Krsna.
I could see that Srila Prabhupada was still looking after me, drawing me towards the goal he desired for me. I could use his instructions as an infallible test. And I could accept direction and protection gratefully, as long as they were in line with Srila Prabhupada's instructions.
Sum and Substance, End of Part 3 of 4BY JNANADAS ADHIKARY