Today we shall discuss Sri Advaita Acharya and His desire to induce the Lord to appear to deliver the fallen souls, who were so engrossed in material thoughts and activities, by introducing the yuga-dharma of hari-nama-sankirtana.
We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Three: “The External Reasons for Lord Caitanya’s Appearance.”
prakatiya dekhe acarya sakala samsara
krsna-bhakti gandha-hina visaya-vyavahara
Advaita Acarya having appeared, He found the world devoid of devotional service to Sri Krsna because people were engrossed in material affairs.
keha pape, keha punye kare visaya-bhoga
bhakti-gandha nahi, yate yaya bhava-roga
Everyone was engaged in material enjoyment, whether sinfully or virtuously. No one was interested in the transcendental service of the Lord, which can give total relief from the repetition of birth and death.
Advaita Acarya saw the entire world to be engaged in activities of material piety and impiety, without a trace of devotional service, or Krsna consciousness, anywhere. The fact is that in this material world there is no scarcity of anything except Krsna consciousness. Material necessities are supplied by the mercy of the Supreme Lord. We sometimes feel scarcity because of our mismanagement, but the real problem is that people are out of touch with Krsna consciousness. Everyone is engaged in material sense gratification, but people have no plan for making an ultimate solution to their real problems, namely birth, disease, old age and death. These four material miseries are called bhava-roga, or material diseases. They can be cured only by Krsna consciousness. Therefore Krsna consciousness is the greatest benediction for human society.
loka-gati dekhi’ acarya karuna-hrdaya
vicara karena, lokera kaiche hita haya
Seeing the activities of the world, the Acarya felt compassion and began to ponder how He could act for the people’s benefit.
This sort of serious interest in the welfare of the public makes one a bona fide acarya. An acarya does not exploit his followers. Since the acarya is a confidential servitor of the Lord, his heart is always full of compassion for humanity in its suffering. He knows that all suffering is due to the absence of devotional service to the Lord, and therefore he always tries to find ways to change people’s activities, making them favorable for the attainment of devotion. That is the qualification of an acarya. Although Sri Advaita Prabhu Himself was powerful enough to do the work, as a submissive servitor He thought that without the personal appearance of the Lord, no one could improve the fallen condition of society.
In the grim clutches of maya, the first-class prisoners of this material world wrongly think themselves happy because they are rich, powerful, resourceful and so on. These foolish creatures do not know that they are nothing but play dolls in the hands of material nature and that at any moment material nature’s pitiless intrigues can crush to dust all their plans for godless activities. Such foolish prisoners cannot see that however they improve their position by artificial means, the calamities of repeated birth, death, disease and old age are always beyond the jurisdiction of their control. Foolish as they are, they neglect these major problems of life and busy themselves with false things that cannot help them solve their real problems. They know that they do not want to suffer death or the pangs of disease and old age, but under the influence of the illusory energy, they are grossly negligent and therefore do nothing to solve the problems. This is called maya. People held in the grip of maya are thrown into oblivion after death, and as a result of their karma, in the next life they become dogs or gods, although most of them become dogs. To become gods in the next life, they must engage in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; otherwise, they are sure to become dogs or hogs in terms of the laws of nature.
The third-class prisoners, being less materially opulent than the first-class prisoners, endeavor to imitate them, for they also have no information of the real nature of their imprisonment. Thus they also are misled by the illusory material nature. The function of the acarya, however, is to change the activities of both the first-class and third-class prisoners for their real benefit. This endeavor makes him a very dear devotee of the Lord, who says clearly in the Bhagavad-gita that no one in human society is dearer to Him than a devotee who constantly engages in His service by finding ways to preach the message of Godhead for the real benefit of the world. The so-called acaryas of the Age of Kali are more concerned with exploiting the resources of their followers than mitigating their miseries; but Sri Advaita Prabhu, as an ideal acarya, was concerned with improving the condition of the world situation.
apani sri-krsna yadi karena avatara\
apane acari’ bhakti karena pracara
[Advaita Acarya thought:] “If Sri Krsna were to appear as an incarnation, He Himself could preach devotion by His personal example.
nama vinu kali-kale dharma nahi ara
kali-kale kaiche habe krsna avatara
“In this Age of Kali there is no religion other than the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, but how in this age will the Lord appear as an incarnation?
suddha-bhave kariba krsnera aradhana
nirantara sadainye kariba nivedana
“I shall worship Krsna in a purified state of mind. I shall constantly petition Him in humbleness.
aniya krsnere karon kirtana sancara
tabe se ‘advaita’ nama saphala amara
“My name, ‘Advaita,’ will be fitting if I am able to induce Krsna to inaugurate the movement of the chanting of the holy name.”
krsna vasa karibena kon aradhane
vicarite eka sloka aila tanra mane
While Advaita Acarya was thinking about how to propitiate Krsna by worship, the following verse came to His mind.
jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
“Sri Krsna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him merely a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water.”
This is a verse from the Gautamiya-tantra.
ei slokartha acarya karena vicarana
krsnake tulasi-jala deya yei jana
tara rna sodhite krsna karena cintana-
‘jala-tulasira sama kichu ghare nahi dhana’
Advaita Acarya considered the meaning of the verse in this way: “Not finding any way to repay the debt He owes to one who offers Him a tulasi leaf and water, Lord Krsna thinks, ‘There is no wealth in My possession that is equal to a tulasi leaf and water.’
tabe atma veci’ kare rnera sodhana
eta bhavi’ acarya karena aradhana
“Thus the Lord liquidates the debt by offering Himself to the devotee.” Considering in this way, the Acarya began worshiping the Lord.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
Through devotional service one can easily please Lord Krsna with a leaf of the tulasi plant and a little water. As the Lord says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26), a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water (patram puspam phalam toyam), when offered with devotion, very much pleases Him. He universally accepts the services of His devotees. Even the poorest of devotees in any part of the world can secure a small flower, fruit or leaf, and a little water, and if these offerings, and especially tulasi leaves and Ganges water, are offered to Krsna with devotion, He is very satisfied. It is said that Krsna is so much pleased by such devotional service that He offers Himself to His devotees in exchange for it. Srila Advaita Acarya knew this fact, and therefore He decided to call for the Personality of Godhead Krsna to descend by worshiping the Lord with tulasi leaves and the water of the Ganges.
ganga-jala, tulasi-manjari anuksana
krsna-pada-padma bhavi’ kare samarpana
Thinking of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, He constantly offered tulasi buds in water from the Ganges.
krsnera ahvana kare kariya hunkara
e-mate krsnere karaila avatara
He appealed to Sri Krsna with loud calls and thus made it possible for Krsna to appear.
caitanyera avatare ei mukhya hetu
bhaktera icchaya avatare dharma-setu
Therefore the principal reason for Sri Caitanya’s descent is this appeal by Advaita Acarya. The Lord, the protector of religion, appears by the desire of His devotee.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
When we read these verses about Advaita Acharya’s worship of the Lord with tulasi leaves and manjaris and Ganges water, we could think, “We also have salagrama-silas, and we also worship the Lord with tulasi leaves and Ganges water, but the Lord doesn’t appear. Why?” There are some other requirements besides just the external offering of patram puspam phalam toyam, and the first requirement is bhakti:
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
If one offers Krishna a leaf, a fruit, a flower, or some water with love and devotion, He will accept it. And our love and devotion are manifested in our care and attention in our service.
Yesterday when I came to offer guru-puja to Srila Prabhupada, I was struck by how beautiful the arati tray was. Each item—the different plates and bowls—were themselves of very high quality. They were brilliantly polished—shiny and bright. And they were placed meticulously on the plate in the order in which they were to be offered. It was a work of art, and I was stunned by seeing the devotion that went into the apparently simple act of preparation.
Then I thought of an incident with Srila Prabhupada in Bombay in 1972. He had entered into an agreement to purchase the Juhu land, but the landlord was trying to cheat him. He took a deposit from Srila Prabhupada but then refused to sell Prabhupada the land, but at the same time he was holding onto the deposit, which was quite a large amount. Srila Prabhupada was staying in the unfinished house of a life member. It was almost ready but not completely, and Srila Prabhupada was staying on the second floor. Early one morning, maybe six or six-thirty—the sun had not yet risen, but there was a little light in the sky—Srila Prabhupada was sitting in his room, absorbed in discussion with friends and disciples about the struggle for the land. Suddenly a muscular, sinewy laborer appeared at the door, paused, and, with all eyes on him, entered the room. The man’s complexion was dark, and he wore only a small, faded cloth around his waist. I was apprehensive. Then he walked toward Prabhupada, placed a bunch of flowers on his desk, bowed down, looked at him, and walked out.
Prabhupada was so moved by the man’s simple act of devotion that for several moments he could not speak. He just looked down and closed his eyes. Finally, with a choked voice, he said, “Such a simple man. Yet somehow he understood that a saintly person is here, and he gathered some flowers to offer. In the Bhagavad-gétä, Lord Krishna says, patraà puñpaà phalaà toyaà yo me bhaktyä prayacchati/ tad ahaà bhakty-upahåtam açnämi prayatätmanaù: ‘If one offers Me a leaf or flower with love and devotion, I will accept it.’ Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and even His heart is touched by such devotion, what to speak of an insignificant living entity like me—how much more I will feel overwhelmed.”
So, this is the real element—the bhakti, the sincere devotion. The humble laborer just offered the flowers, bowed down, and left. Many people worship but have different motives; many come to God to make business with Him. They feel that if they give something to God, they’ll get something more in return. So it becomes an investment.
There is a temple in India at Tirupati, and the Deity is called Venkateswar or, more commonly, Balaji. He is famous in India for giving material boons to worshippers, and every day hundreds of thousands of worshippers come to see Him and put money in the box, the hundi, many with the thought that they’ll get much more in return in the future. Sometimes politicians go there in the hopes of winning the election. Even from Mauritius the prime minister went to Balaji to get blessings to win the election. And in India they do it, too.
This is not bhakti; this is business. So, Srila Prabhupada had a good friend in Bombay, Mr. Brijratan Mohatta, a very intelligent, affluent man, and very supportive, but he had some mistaken ideas—he hadn’t yet understood the spirit of pure devotion. Just before the Juhu temple opened, he told Srila Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, if you want to get a lot of collections in the hundi box you have to spread the rumor that people who give money to the Deities here [Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari] get more back in return.” Srila Prabhupada replied, “No, this is against our principles: we don’t do business with the Deity.”
They even have jokes in India. A man went to the Deity and prayed, “Dear Lord, I’m going to the races to bet on a horse, and if I win a lakh of rupees I will give You half.” So, the man went, bet on his horse, and won fifty thousand rupees. He went back to the Lord and prayed, “Lord, You didn’t trust me—You took Your half first!” So, people not only do business with the Lord, straight business, but they can also be crooked—make a deal with the Lord and then try to cheat.
That type of worship will not make the Lord feel so indebted to His devotee that He feels the only way He can repay His devotee is by giving Himself.
There are many very important words embedded in the verses we just read. Text 108 says, ganga-jala, tulasi-manjari anuksana. Anuksana means “constantly.” Advaita Acharya was constantly worshipping the Lord. It was His complete purpose. He was so fixed in His intention that His worship of the Lord was constant. So, that is also our goal; that is part of the definition of pure devotional service:
silanam bhaktir uttama
Anusilanam. Silanam means “cultivation,” and anu can mean “to follow.” We cultivate pure devotional service following the instructions of sadhu, shastra, and guru, following the previous acharyas, and anu also means “continuous.” Pure devotional service is ahaituky apratihata: unmotivated and uninterrupted. It is not enough that we do devotional service for some time every day but then also do other things. Everything should be done in the mood of service to Krishna.
So, anusilanam means continuous cultivation. And in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Lord Chaitanya says, nirantara—devotees’ chanting is nirantara, without cessation, continuous. This doesn’t mean that we can’t take time to maintain our bodies, because we must. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that engaging in necessary activities for the maintenance of the body is not a violation of the principle of continuous devotional service, or kirtaniyah sada harih—chanting the holy name constantly. It doesn’t mean that we don’t bathe, brush our teeth, dress properly, eat as required, take rest as required. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that one should not eat too much or eat too little, sleep too much or sleep too little. But it should be done in the mood of service to Krishna, that “I have to keep the body and soul fit to serve Krishna”—not that I have to keep the body fit to enjoy sense gratification. It is a matter of consciousness.
I have been reading Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava by His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Swami, wherein he describes an incident in which a disciple complained to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura that he didn’t have time to complete his quota of rounds. He was asking for permission to do less. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta replied, “No, you have to complete your quota. You can eat less or sleep less, but you have to complete your quota.” Then the disciple said, “But I see other devotees are not finishing their quota.” Now, this quota was higher than our quota of sixteen rounds; it was sixty-four rounds. And Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati replied, “You don’t see, but I see.” Later, the disciple had the realization that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was seeing that these disciples were so fully absorbed in service to the mission that their service counted as good as hari-nama because it was broadcasting the glories of the Lord.
That’s a bit of an intricate topic, about our quota, but in our case Srila Prabhupada gave the quota of sixteen rounds, which leaves us plenty of time to engage in practical service to the mission, which he also wanted us to do. Also, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati gave different quotas to different disciples. In general it was sixty-four rounds, but for some it was sixteen, and for some even four, depending on the situation. And in some cases he said, “Just do what you can.” In ISKCON Prabhupada set one standard for everyone, and the standard is sixteen rounds. And that was his standard when he was in grihastha-ashrama—sixteen rounds.
Srila Prabhupada told his servant Hari-sauri that every day he had the principle that before breakfast he would chant at least four rounds, before lunch he would chant another four rounds, before dinner he would chant another four rounds, and before taking rest he would chant another four rounds—in that way he was sure to complete his sixteen rounds every day. He broke it up into smaller numbers, and he wouldn’t allow himself to eat—or sleep—unless he did his required number, and then he was sure to do it.
So, drdha-vratah—we have to have determination to keep up our vows, and that will make us strong and that will attract Krishna’s attention and mercy.
So, “continuous” doesn’t mean that we neglect the body or don’t engage in activities required for living in the world. For example, paying taxes—if you don’t pay your taxes, there’ll be trouble. There are different requirements imposed upon us by virtue of our having a material body and living in a society, and we have to meet those. But we should do so in a straightforward way that’s not too complicated, so that we can think of Krishna even while we’re doing it. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati also said that if you can’t chant sixty-four rounds on your beads, then whatever you’re doing—cleaning the temple or going here or there for service—whatever you are doing, just keep chanting while you’re doing it, and the rounds will add up. You’ll complete sixty-four even if you’re not counting them on your beads. Our quota is sixteen, and certainly whatever Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura came to give in terms of Krishna consciousness we can get from Srila Prabhupada by following the instructions that Srila Prabhupada gave us.
So, this continuous cultivation, continuous chanting, continuous worshipping doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of the necessities of life, but we should do so in a straightforward way that’s not too complicated, so we can think of Krishna. And our purpose should be to keep the body and soul together, to keep our affairs in order, so that we can serve Krishna. Then that counts as part of kirtaniyah sada harih. And this is also in the verse ganga-jala, tulasi-manjari anuksana—constantly.
Krsna-pada-padma bhavi’ kare samarpana. Krsna-pada-padma bhavi’ means thinking of the lotus feet of Krishna. That also is not so easy. It is easier to engage in service with our body. It depends on the service, but there are some services that we can do with the body without engaging the mind—in other words, when we do the service externally. Unfortunately, one such service can even be chanting the holy name. We can have our hand in our bead bag and our tongue engaged in chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, but our mind may be somewhere else. You could be cutting vegetables for the sacred service of the Lord, but your mind could be somewhere else. But Advaita Acharya’s mind was on the lotus feet of Krishna while He was doing His worship. Of course, He was a perfect devotee, nitya-siddha. And more than a perfect devotee, He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, acting as a devotee. We are in the stage of sadhana, and though in that stage we can’t always think of Krishna, the basic principle of sadhana-bhakti is to always remember Krishna and never forget Him—that’s our endeavor, our hope. So we persevere.
smartavyah satatam visnur
vismartavyo na jatucit
sarve vidhi-nisedhah syur
etayor eva kinkarah
“Lord Visnu [Krsna is the origin of Visnu] should always be remembered and never forgotten at any time. All the rules and prohibitions mentioned in the sastras should be the servants of these two principles.” (Padma Purana, quoted as Cc Madhya 22.113)
Once, a disciple told Srila Prabhupada that when he cleaned the temple he wasn’t thinking of Krishna—his mind was wandering—so did his cleaning the temple even count as devotional service? And Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes, we are in the kingdom of maya, so it is natural that maya will call us, ‘Come on, enjoy me. Come on, enjoy me,’ but if you don’t heed her call, if you continue with your service, eventually she’ll stop calling.” Just like if someone is pursuing you by telephone, if you don’t answer the phone enough times, the person will get the idea, “This person does not want to entertain me,” and stop calling. So, Maya is always calling us, “Come on, enjoy me,” offering us different varieties of gross and subtle sense gratification to please our senses and mind. And those thoughts will come in our mind while we are engaged in service, but Srila Prabhupada said that if we continue with our service and don’t heed Maya’s call, don’t act on the allurements that she is presenting to us, then eventually she’ll stop calling.
So, we continue and pray for the mercy that we can actually focus on the holy name when we are chanting, can actually think of Krishna while we are serving Him, whether cleaning the temple, cutting vegetables, cooking, dressing Him, making garlands, or any variety of service.
The care and attention we give to a service counts. That’s really what brings us to Krishna consciousness, and I must say that I was very pleased by what I saw in the pujari area yesterday—very clean, very orderly. It seemed that everything had its proper place and everything was in its proper place. There were a few leaves from the flowers on the floor of the hallway. First I thought it was 100 percent, then I thought 98 percent, and then I saw some more leaves and I thought maybe 95 percent. I went up to chant in Srila Prabhupada’s rooms, and then when I came down I saw a devotee sweeping the floor. So I thought, “Well, okay, that’s good.” So, that is very uplifting to the consciousness when the devotees are attentive and conscientious in their service. That’s how we show our devotion, and that’s how we develop our devotion. And then naturally the more advanced stages of Krishna consciousness will follow.
The last word on which I want to comment is in text 109—hunkara. Hunkara means “loud shouts.” Srila Prabhupada had a disciple named Hunkara. I’d never heard the name, so I asked him what it meant, and he said, “Loud shouts.” The word is also used in relation to Lord Chaitanya’s dancing at the Ratha-yatra: He also called out to the Lord, or cried out to the Lord with loud shouts. So, this means there is great intensity, and that makes all the difference. No matter what our level is, what our stage is, if we engage in devotional service with intensity, we get Krishna—we get Krishna consciousness, and we get Krishna. Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.10) states,
akamah sarva-kamo va
yajeta purusam param
“A person who has broader intelligence, whether he is full of all material desire, is free from material desire, or has a desire for liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead.”
Akamah means one who has no desires. A devotee has no desires—material desires, selfish desires. Sarva-kamo means full of all sorts of material desires. Moksa kama: desirous of liberation. Tivrena bhakti-yogena: if he engages in bhakti-yoga, tivrena, with great force, great intensity, he can approach Krishna. And Srila Prabhupada comments in his purport that tivra is like unadulterated sun rays—very powerful, intense. Tapasya is related to that word tapa, and tapa is related to the word “heat.” So, we have to do some tapasya, and our basic tapasya is to engage in devotional service with intensity.
Devotees who have been successful—every devotee is successful, but devotees who’ve been eminently successful—have been very intense, or consistent. One example is our godbrother Aindra Prabhu, who was very focused in hari-nama-sankirtana, very intense. He would hardly eat or sleep. He was constantly chanting japa or kirtan. And also reading—he was very knowledgeable in scripture. One devotee mentioned that once he was in Aindra Prabhu’s room when Aindra was chanting japa, and at the end of finishing his rounds he took his bead bag and threw it against the wall and lamented, “No taste!” That’s intensity. Maybe that’s our version of hunkara, loud shouts. But he had that desire. He wasn’t just going to let it go—he kept at it; he kept struggling.
And that’s our condition—every conditioned soul. Rupa Gosvami says that in the beginning . . . It’s like we are in a diseased condition, jaundiced condition, so when we chant the holy name, form, qualities, or pastimes of the Lord, we don’t relish the sweetness, because someone who has the disease and is jaundiced doesn’t taste sweet things as being sweet. He actually relishes bitter things. But the Ayurvedic cure for jaundice is sugar candy, rock candy, and even though the rock candy tastes bitter at first, if the patient keeps taking it, he’ll gradually recover and experience the sweetness of the candy as sweet—sweeter, sweeter, sweeter, until he can taste it as it is, as nectar.
As stated by Srila Rupa Gosvami in The Nectar of Instruction (7):
syat krsna-nama-caritadi-sitapy avidya-
pittopatapta-rasanasya na rocika nu
kintv adarad anudinam khalu saiva justa
svadvi kramad bhavati tad-gada-mula-hantri
“The holy name, character, pastimes, and activities of Krsna are all transcendentally sweet like sugar candy. Although the tongue of one afflicted by the jaundice of avidya [ignorance] cannot taste anything sweet, it is wonderful that simply by carefully chanting these sweet names every day, a natural relish awakens within his tongue, and his disease is gradually destroyed at the root.”
That is our condition, and the disease is avidya, ignorance, ignorance of our actual position, that we are eternal servants of Krishna. We may say, “Well, I know that. I know I am not the body, that I am part and parcel of Krishna. I know I am the eternal servant of Krishna.” But there is a difference between theoretical knowledge and practical realization. When we chant and our mind wanders, and if we analyze the thoughts we are entertaining in our mind, it generally comes back to the idea that we’re the body, because we are thinking of so many things in relation to the body.
I’m a perfect example. I don’t think I was on the hari-nama for more than a half hour when I thought, “I’m starting to feel a little hungry. I wonder how hungry I’ll be at the end of the hari-nama and what’s going to be waiting for me when I get back.” So, we know we’re not the body theoretically, but practically a lot of our thoughts and desires hover around the body. Or we think, “I’m the enjoyer. I’m the controller. I’m the proprietor.” And the thoughts that fill our mind are extensions of those ideas, thinking, “I want to enjoy this. I want to get this so I can enjoy.” Or, “I want to be able to control this. I don’t like this thing. Somebody is coming in my way. I’m not able to control things as I want. I want this thing. I am having trouble getting it.” Of course, all those things can be dovetailed in Krishna’s service, but a lot of the time the connection with Krishna is more remote and the connection with our bodies and minds is more immediate; we have the theoretical knowledge but we haven’t really realized it. It means we still are affected by ignorance, because we are identifying with the body and the world and things of the world and the body.
And so it gives rise to the question “What do we really want?” Again I’ll use myself as an example. Towards the end of the hari-nama I thought, “Boy, this is such an auspicious day, and we are on hari-nama. I can pray to Advaita Acharya; I can ask for whatever I want.” On their appearance days our acharyas and incarnations of God are very mercifully disposed. So I began, “Okay, pure devotional service. I want to be freed from lust and anger and greed and envy and pride.” And then I thought, “Well, what would life be like if I was actually free from those things? If I really want to be free from them, why aren’t I free from them now? What would it be like if I wasn’t proud? I would be the servant of the servant of the servant. But do I really want to be the servant of the servant of the servant? Or do I want people to serve me?” And then I thought, “Of course, I want to be the servant of the servant of the servant. That’s our philosophy.” “Yes, that’s your philosophy, that’s what the books say, but what do you really want?”
So, these are things that we may confront as we endeavor to make progress. And hari-nama-sankirtana, or the effort to preach Krishna consciousness, is so powerful that it can wash away all these things. But we have to be consistent. I saw it in Juhu, and I am sure you see it here too, but we would get a certain crowd every Sunday—we would always get so many thousand people on Sundays—but if, for example, Janmashtami fell in the middle of the week, the crowd on Sunday would be smaller, because so many Hindus or life members or whatever, their quota for going to the temple is once a week. So they felt, “We’ve already been on Janmashtami; we don’t have to go on Sunday. We’ve already gone once a week; we’ve fulfilled our quota.” So, okay, we did hari-nama last night, and it was great—I will discuss that a little later—and there’s another hari-nama tonight, in Santa Monica, at the Third Street Promenade. So, how many are going to think, “I already did hari-nama last night. Why do I have to do it again tonight?” So, there is the question of consistency, being consistent.
I don’t really know the people here, I don’t know what’s under the surface, but what I saw on the hari-nama-sankirtana was that people loved it, especially compared with when we used to go out on the streets in the sixties and seventies. Here people were smiling, they were saying, “Hare Krishna,” some were even trying to chant with us, a lot of people were dancing, and if they happened to have drums, many stopped and played drums with us. So, in that sense people were very receptive, and I thought, “If we did this every day for hours, we would meet so many people, give them invitations, and they would be bound to come. Give them books. Some of them are bound to read the books; some of them are bound to come.” It really struck me that we could be growing and flourishing like in the sixties and seventies, but we would have to be consistent. In those days we had more resident devotees maintained by the temple. Now it’s a little different, but the principle is that the more we’re out there chanting the holy names and giving out books and invitations, the more people will read the books, the more they will come to the temple, the more they’ll become devotees. They really seem so receptive and so open and so happy to see us.
But then we also have to think, “What will they experience when they come here?” That’s also a question, because we want Krishna consciousness to be accessible to the people. Some people are naturally devotees; they may have been devotees in their past life. So they come in and are just overwhelmed by the temple and love everything about it. But other people, without so much pious background, might just be curious, and they might benefit more from a little special treatment.
For a while in Durban, South Africa, His Holiness Indradyumna Swami was the temple president, and he had devotees out all day distributing books, and when they distributed the books, they always got the name and phone number of the people who took the books, if they were willing to give it. And then on Friday or even Thursday he had the devotees phone the people who had taken books during the week—specifically Europeans—to illustrate the point that some people require different treatment. I didn’t really look at the invitation card, but if it was something like, “Mangala-arati, 4:30 a.m.; Srngara-darsana, 7:00 a.m.; Guru-puja: . . .,” then people would think, “What is this? What does all this mean?” If we want to attract new people, we need an invitation card in a language that they can understand and then a program that’s accessible to them.
So, in Durban, say from Thursday, he had the devotees, the book distributors, start phoning the people and inviting them for the special program we had specifically for them on Saturday evening. The program was held in a very nice room, which we called the Prabhupada library, and there would be very mellow kirtan. Of course, Indradyumna Swami himself sings so beautifully. There would be a very mellow kirtan that people could appreciate. Not everyone, especially in the beginning, can relate to very fast, wild, exuberant kirtan. We were talking about that mood of compassion yesterday. It’s not just about our own ecstasy; it’s really about serving the Lord and the Lord’s mission and extending the Lord’s mercy to other people. It is mentioned in The Nectar of Devotion, that Krishna had a servant who was fanning Him, and while fanning Krishna the servant became so overwhelmed with ecstasy, he started to tremble and tears came in his eyes. But then he checked his ecstatic symptoms, because they were interfering with his service of fanning Krishna. Now, that’s pure devotion. Yes, ecstasy comes, and we’re happy when it comes, but the real goal is always to serve and please Krishna. So we might have to check our own exuberance in the kirtan. Of course, that can be good too, but sometimes something slow and mellow is more suitable for new people.
So, that was the Saturday evening program we had for the European people. The first kirtan would be very slow and mellow and melodious, and then Indradyumna Swami or whoever was there would give an introductory talk—very simple, in language that the audience could understand, mainly about the holy name and the importance of chanting. And then during the last kirtan, after the talk, he would get them to stand up. You have to assess what the audience can do, but in the second kirtan he’d have them stand up and get them to dance.
Then there would be a fabulous feast served in the restaurant. From whatever time it was, they’d close off a major section of the restaurant and serve this fabulous feast. Maharaja trained all the devotees how to dress, how to look nice, how to serve, and it was such a fantastic experience, people wanted to come back. It was hard to get through to Europeans then. Krishna consciousness was relatively new, and it was apartheid, and they were the rulers, but at the same time they were nervous: “Are the others going to overthrow us?” It was pretty tense. But they just had such a good experience.
So, that is something to consider: just go out, give people appropriate invitations, and invite them, maybe not just to the daily program, but maybe to a special program for new people that’s designed to make it easier for them to relate to and appreciate Krishna consciousness and devotees.
I never before saw as many happy, smiling faces—in a period of just two hours—as I did last night on hari-nama-sankirtana. It was really wonderful.
Amala-bhakta dasa: Are you aware of any specific instances when Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples to chant more than sixteen rounds?
Giriraj Swami: I am not aware of any time that Srila Prabhupada told a disciple that he or she must chant more than sixteen rounds. It was recommended on Ekadasi to chant twenty-five rounds, but, reading Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava, I realized that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s mission, although similar to ISKCON, was fairly localized in India. It wasn’t international. And even within India it was more concentrated in Bengal and Orissa. So he spent a lot of time with his disciples, and because the distances were not so great, even if he didn’t visit all the centers in India or in Bengal, it was easy enough for disciples to come to where he was. So they had a lot of personal association with him that was hard to get for many of Prabhupada’s disciples because they were all over the United States, all over the world. And so he gave a lot more individualized instruction, which Srila Prabhupada couldn’t do. But Srila Prabhupada certainly said we could increase the number.
There is a very interesting talk with His Holiness Lokanath Swami and Srila Prabhupada in Juhu Beach in which Maharaja asked Srila Prabhupada why he had prescribed sixteen rounds. “Why not less or more?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “No. We say ‘minimum’ sixteen. Minimum. If you can chant sixteen thousand, you can do. That is welcome.” Lokanath Swami continued, “Some devotees have fixed different numbers than sixteen. Some are chanting twenty minimum, or twenty-five.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, it should be increased. But don’t decrease—increase.” Then Lokanath Swami asked, “If we chant more than sixteen, how do we know if we are imitating Haridasa Thakura or following in his footsteps?” And Srila Prabhupada said, “Imitation is also good. If you imitate Haridasa Thakura, that is your great fortune. But if you have some other business and you say, ‘Now I am imitating Haridasa Thakura; I cannot do it,’ that is very bad.”
So, the idea was to increase. So much depends on time, place, and circumstance, but as we grow older we might not have the physical capacity to do as much active, physically demanding service as we did before, so then we can chant more or read and write. But I am not aware of Prabhupada specifically ordering a disciple to chant more than sixteen rounds.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura thought it was more important for householders to chant sixty-four rounds than for the devotees in the matha, because the devotees in the matha were engaged in service to the mission, so it was easier for them to think of Krishna, whereas those who were not so engaged, how would they think of Krishna? They should chant extra rounds.
Do we chant fewer rounds because we are busy serving the mission or because we have to gossip or have to read the latest news? That is for each of us to see. We may not have taste; that may be the problem. But by forcing ourselves to chant and serve in different ways, we develop taste. We do have taste for other things, but coming back to the hari-nama-sankirtana, nagara-sankirtana, not many things could compare with that.
Srila Prabhupada was such a spiritual genius, such an empowered servant of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his guru maharaja, that he knew exactly how to engage us. Ultimately everything depends on mercy. We make our efforts, but ultimately everything depends on mercy, and by going out and distributing the holy name, distributing the message of Krishna and bringing people to Krishna consciousness, we get the maximum mercy, and it really all depends on mercy. I have realized that in my own life. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura preached at a different time, to a different audience, and dealt with a different type of person; what Prabhupada did for us is just perfect—he emphasized preaching, hari-nama-sankirtana, book distribution, brhat-mrdanga, brhat-kirtana. If we just do that, we will be fine—but we have to do it, and we have to be consistent. If we just do that, we will get everything, everything that those matha-vasis got by chanting sixty-four rounds or what they did in their time, we’ll get it all. I am confident of that.
Thank you very much.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Yuga-dharma sri hari-nama-sankirtana ki jaya!
Sri Advaita Acharya ki jaya!
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Advaita Acharya’s appearance day, February 11, 2011, New Dvaraka, Los Angeles]