To launch Sacred Street Party’s mission to distribute 108 sets of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta as part of the BBT’s Be A Gardener campaign, HG Sutapa Das took us on a journey to connect with this most important scripture. Click to hear the story of how Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami was empowered to write.
Video: Click here
Full transcript (including thought-provoking QnA) below.
This evening we are discussing Gauranga, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the karuna avatar. The incarnation who epitomises mercy, compassion and the spirit of giving. And that is such a wonderful spirit and that is what we will be talking about today.
Before I begin I would like to offer some prayers as we seek the blessings of our teachers for an endeavour to understand Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. (Invocation prayers)
I hope that some of the things that I say will strike a chord with you and maybe stimulate some thoughts and questions, so that we can get a little bit closer to Krsna, and understand a little bit more about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Lord Rama is known as the maryādā-puruṣottama – the Supreme Lord who shows the ideal example. Lord Rama is sometimes compared to an unripe mango. You may have seen an unripe mango as kind of greenish. So an unripe mango has all the ingredients of a mango, it is no less a mango. However the sweetness doesn’t fully come out because Lord Rama came to show the ideal example, he was the ideal husband, the ideal king and the ideal son. Sometimes because He was ideal in every situation. Sometimes the sweetness was not so forthcoming. Sometimes Rama seems to do things which even some of us may feel that, “Oh that was banishing Sita at the end of that episode that was hard to take.” Lord Rama is the Supreme Lord but He is like a green mango
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is known as prema-puruṣottama – the Supreme Lord who is the embodiment of love. Someone who is coming with a mood in which love is overflowing within them and that love is overflowing so much that anyone who comes in the proximity of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu experiences that love. If Rama is the unripe mango, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the fully ripe mango. A mango which is brimming with juice – with rasa, a mellow. A mango which is overflowing with sweetness. Sometimes you try to eat a mango and the juice kind of goes all over your face and it is uncontrollable. So Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is like that, He is in the mood of giving, giving the nectar, giving the sweetness, giving the love. Reaching out with magnanimity, mahā -vadānyāya – the most magnanimous incarnation. So this is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, – Gauranga who is so much in the mood of giving. Krsnadasa Kaviraja explains:
ei-mata bhakta-bhāva kari’ aṅgīkāra
āpani ācari’ bhakti karila pracāra
(Cc Adi-lila 4.41)
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Lord but he has accepted a bhāva – an emotion which no incarnation has ever did before. He has accepted the bhakta-bhāva. He has come in the form of a devotee, āpani ācari’ bhakti karila pracāra. And by practising bhakti Himself He teaches the whole world what spiritual life is about. He teaches the whole world that spiritual life is not about following the rules and regulations. It is not just about being strict, austere and disciplined. It is not just about being moral and ethical, beyond and above and way beyond and all of that. So spiritual life is about experiencing the deepest emotions of love.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu comes in the mood to teach, how to experience that love, that special energy that everyone so much seeks. If I was to ask you what are the qualities of a great teacher? Loving, compassionate, humble, patient, inspiring, they practise what they preach, caring, honesty. All of these beautiful thoughts are coming through and you know what one day, maybe we could just spend the whole day and we could go through every single one of these qualities, and show you how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu embodies every single one. If you read the Caitanya-caritāmṛta which is considered the most authoritative biography of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, what some scholars call the final word. Caitanya-caritāmṛta is the final word, theologically, philosophically in any way shape or form there is nothing which goes beyond what the Caitanya-caritāmṛta has to present to the world. If you read that biography and in that biography Kaviraja Gosvami explains so many instances in which each one of these things are described.
One person once said to me what a teacher should be. I took that as an inspiration. That person said to me, “A teacher should engage. A teacher should educate. A teacher should encourage. And the best teachers empower.” He said, “At first the teacher has to engage. She or he has to make people want to learn. More than that they have to actually educate. They have to actually be able to clearly communicate information that is essential for all the people. But more than that the teacher has to also encourage. The teacher has to instil within the student the desire to live it, to follow it, to embrace it fully. But more than that the best teachers they don’t just engage, they don’t just educate, they don’t just encourage but ultimately they empower. They do something special by their interaction with their student by which they transfer their energy to the student and the student feels completely confident and empowered to do it, and that is the best teacher.” Who can be a better teacher than the Supreme Lord? When Caitanya Mahaprabhu comes as the best teacher, the Supreme Lord coming as the teacher, He engages, he educates, he encourages, and most of all Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowers. The amazing opportunity is that each one of us has the opportunity to be empowered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Each one of us have the opportunity to be touched by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s transcendental energy because He is overflowing. He is coming in the mood and form in which He just wants to empower and He just wants to give.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu had many different followers, and each one of those followers He empowered them in different ways. There was Jiva Gosvami, Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowered him with a great grasp of philosophy. Such that Jiva Gosvami became known as tattva acarya – the teacher who knew all philosophical conclusions. Caitanya Mahaprabhu had a follower, Rupa Gosvami and He empowered Rupa Gosvami by imparting unto him the deepest secrets of the transcendental relationship, and therefore Rupa Gosvami became known as rasācārya – the teacher who understood the depths of divine mellow. Caitanya Mahaprabhu had a follower Haridasa Thakura. He empowered Haridasa Thakura with an incredible and unpararell taste for chanting the holy names of Krsna. Therefore Haridasa Thakura became known as nāmācārya.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu had a follower Ramanada Raya. He came to Ramananda Raya and He starting asking him different questions in search for what is the ultimate goal of life. Ramananda Raya said, “You are the Supreme Lord, why you asking me?” But Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowered him to speak. Ramananda Raya later on he said, “Gauranga you are like the ocean and I am like the cloud. The cloud ultimately just takes water from the ocean and it showers it down again. I just took all the energy from you and now I am just giving it all back to you.”
Caitanya Mahaprabhu has come to empower. Now the question is who is going to make themselves open to receive the divine empowerment of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? That is the crucial questions undertaken. Today what I am going to do in a short time that we have I am going to share the story of how the Caitanya-caritāmṛta was written by the great saint Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. As we go through this story we will begin to get some hints on what it means to be empowered by the Lord. If we open ourselves up in the right way Sri Caitanya Mahaprahbu who is within our hearts will actually begin to empower and guide our life in a transcendental way in which perhaps we have never conceived of before. However we must be open. So let us for the next minutes that are coming try to remember how this great literature of Caitanya-caritāmṛta was written.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was a great devotee of Gauranga and Nityananda. In his home the deities were worshipped. Gauranga was glorified. He was immersed in chanting the holy names in devotional service. However Kaviraja Gosvami had a brother, and his brother was named Syama Dasa. Syama Dasa although he had great faith in Lord Caitanya, he did not have the same faith in Lord Nityananda, Gauranga’s transcendental brother. There was also a family priest who was worshipping the deities. The family priest was Guṇarṇava Misra. And Guṇarṇava Misra had the same problem, he believed in Gauranga but he did not have the same type of faith in Lord Nityananda.
One day a great devotee of Lord Nityananda came to the house to Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. That great devotee was Minaketana Ramadasa. Minaketana Ramadasa was someone who was absorbed in pure transcendental bliss. He was a follower of Lord Nityananda. Afterall Nityananda means one who is eternally blissful. Minaketana Ramadasa was just blissed out, he came to the home of Kaviraja Gosvami. However remember the priest had great faith in Gauranga but not Nityananda. So when Minaketana Ramadasa came the priest did not receive him appropriately. He did not receive him respectfully. He did not receive him with the proper etiquette which was due such an advanced spiritualist. Minaketana Ramadaāsa left angry not because he was offended because he could understand that, “This person has not respected me because they do not respect Nityananda.” Therefore Minaketana Ramadasa left feeling very unhappy.
When Krsnadasa Kaviraja found out that a great devotee had left his home unhappy he was besides himself in anxiety. He was thinking, “A great devotee has left my home unhappy for this my family and all the future generations will be ruined, because if we commit an insensitive act towards those who are dear to the Supreme Lord then it signifies spiritual doom.” So Kaviraja Gosvami was beside himself with anxiety. He could not go to sleep that day he was thinking. “What will happen? My family are ruined, my future is ruined.” Then in the middle of the night he had a dream, Nityananda the object of worship of Minaketana Ramadasa and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. Nityananda came in Kaviraja Gosvami’s dream and what did he say?
āre kṛṣṇadāsa, nā karaha bhaya
vṛndāvane yāha, — tāṅhā sarva labhya haya
(Cc Adi-lila 5.195)
Nityananda said, “Āre āre kṛṣṇadāsa, my dear Krsnadasa, nā karaha bhaya – don’t worry about anything. Don’t worry one little bit. Vṛndāvane yāha, — tāṅhā sarva labhya haya – now you leave everything behind. Now you renounce your home, now you give up your family. Now you simply make your journey and go to Vrindavan – sarva labhya haya – in Vrindavan you will get everything.” Wow I mean that is something, like you get a dream one night and leave it all behind, and just go to Vrindavan. Maybe some of us want to have a dream like that, we may be happy. But it would be tough. Would you be able to just leave it all behind just like that? If tomorrow there was a dream, “āre āre, so and so nā karaha bhaya – don’t worry at all Rajesh vṛndāvane yāha, — tāṅhā – just go to Vrindavan and there you will get everything. Are you ready?” Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was ready:
sei kṣaṇe vṛndāvane karinu gamana.
(Cc Adi-lila 5.199)
Sei kṣaṇe – when he woke up the next moment, kṣaṇe – means within a moment, sei kṣaṇe – within a moment he just stood up, walked away, and went straight to Vrindavan. That is detachment.
This is the first lesson in empowerment. If you want to become empowered by the Supreme Lord you have to be detached from your own plans. We have our own plan and Krsna has His plan. We think our plan is good but do we have the faith that Krsna’s plan is the best? Sometimes in our life Krsna seems to close up certain doors and we become very frustrated because it is difficult to accept. However when Krsna closes one door, Krsna opens up another few doors. But the only way we will be able to see the new opportunities for life is if we have the detachment to leave our plans behind and walk with Krsna’s plans.
The greatest devotees of Krsna are the most flexible devotees. The devotees who are willing to change. The devotees who are willing to adjust. The devotees who are willing to give up their ideas and embrace a higher idea. Srila Prabhupada was the example. He had to spread Krsna consciousness but it was not happening in India, so he left and he went to America. In America he came to Butler Pennsylvania first but there it was not working. So he left and went to New York. In New York he stayed at Doctor Misra’s yoga studio but it was not working, so he left. He went to the Lower East Side, the lowest of the low, skid row he went to the Bowery. But even there it did not work out so Prabhupada left. Finally he came to Twenty Six Second Avenue and there it worked. Prabhupada was willing to go with the plan of Krsna. He was not attached to any place. He was not attached to any plan. He was flexible. And one who is flexible opens themselves up to receive the empowerment whereby Krsna will open up a whole new world of Lord Caitanya.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja was detached. He went to Vrindavan. He arrived in Vrindavan. Now you have to try and picture in your mind Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami coming to Vrindavan. Krsna’s own land. He had arrived in Vrindavan. He had no idea, “What am I going to do here? Where am I going to live? What am I going to do all day? What is the purpose? Why did Nityananda even told me to come here?” He had no idea. He arrives in Vrindavan. Without going into the history of Vrindavan, Vrindavan went through many stages.
When Krsna was present in Vrindavan five thousand years ago, it was a spiritual epicentre. Naturally Krsna was there. But when Krsna left the world Vrindavan became covered. Then later on Krsna’s great grandson he revived Vrindavan. After hundreds of years Vrindavan again became covered then Caitanya Mahaprabhu came and He revived Vrindavan again through His followers.
So Kaviraja Gosvami came at this point in Vrindavan when it had just been revived by the Gosvamis, the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Vrindavan was just like a spiritual hub, it was a powerful place. In Vrindavan Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami he arrived and the first place he went to was the temple of Govinda. Many of you may went to Vrindavan and you may have seen the temple of Govindaji. He went to the temple of Govinda and there in the temple of Govinda he saw many great devotees. All the great devotees were there and these were all very saintly personalities. They had no envy, they had no pride. One of the Vaishnavas there it is mentioned – there was one great devotee there – Haridasa Pandit. He is described by Kaviraja Gosvami:
vaiṣṇavera guṇa-grāhī, nā dekhaye doṣa
kāya-mano-vākye kare vaiṣṇava-santoṣa
(Cc Adi-lila 8.62)
What was the quality of the spiritual personalities of these in the Govindaji temple? vaiṣṇavera guṇa-grāhī, nā dekhaye doṣa – they were so pure in their vision that they only ever saw the good qualities in others they never saw any faults. They could not see faults even if they tried. Kāya-mano-vākye kare vaiṣṇava-santoṣa – with their mind, work and activities, they were simply trying to make others happy and make others satisfied.
So Kaviraja Gosvami arrives in Vrindavan and he is surrounded by all these saintly personalities. It is like a hall of fame with different types of saints – living saints. And what were these saintly personalities doing in the Govindaji temple? They were all listening to the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That is what they do all day, they were just discussing, the pastimes of the Lord. What did He do when He was young? And then He grew up? What interaction did He have with this? They were just discussing. He had just a veracity for hearing.
One sage his name was Ugrasrava. Suta Gosvami you may have heard the name Suta Gosvami – he is known as Ugrasrava. Ugra means voracious and srava comes from sravan which means hearing. So the literal meaning of Suta Gosvami’s name is one who is a voracious listener. It means he could not get enough, no matter how much spiritual knowledge you gave him, hari katha – talks of Krsna you give him he would never become satiated.
vayaṁ tu na vitṛpyāma
yac chṛṇvatāṁ rasa-jñānāṁ
svādu svādu pade pade
(Cc Madhya-lila 25.152)
Because for them the knowledge of the spirit was not dry knowledge it was rasam jnanam – knowledge of spiritual reality, the knowledge of the Supreme Lord was all dripping with sweetness. Therefore svādu svādu pade pade – at every moment they were tasting it, relishing it and feeling great satisfaction.
So Kaviraja Gosvami arrives in Vrindavan and he is surrounded by all these different personalities. Now they could immediately detect that he was a very saintly person and so they approached him and they said, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” So he explained his situation. Now Kaviraja Gosvami he was a Vaishnava. A Vaishnava means always in the mood of service. His home was centred around service to Krsna. He always wanted to serve the devotees of Krsna. And when he came to Vrindavan his meditation was, “I got to do some service for Krsna.” So his whole meditation as he was arriving in Vrindavan was, “How can I serve?”
This is another lesson in empowerment. If you want to be empowered, those who have the desire to serve open themselves up to being empowered by the Lord. If you have the desire to serve you will always find opportunities to serve. If you don’t want to serve then you will always see problems on why you cannot serve. If you have the strong desire to serve devotees then when you see devotees you will see good qualities and you will want to serve them. But if your desire is not to serve the devotees then you will see loads of faults which will justify why you should not serve them.
Our desire and our inner alignment of vision will determine what we see with these eyes. And therefore Kaviraja Gosvami came to Vrindavan with a desire to serve. So when the devotees could detect this then they came to Kaviraja Gosvami and they said, “We know that you have the desire to serve, therefore we have a request.” They made a request, “We are voracious hearers of the talks of the Supreme Lord and the talks of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. However we only have access to a limited range of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s activities. We have access to the Caitanya Bhagavad.” Now the Caitanya Bhagavad was the biography of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu which was primarily dealing with the earlier pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So they said, “We want you to write another biography. And we want the biography that you write to be focused on the later pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
So Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami he was incredibly humble, he was thinking, “Who am I to write about the pastimes of the Lord? I have no qualification. I am just an insignificant person. “He says it in a beautiful humble Bengali verse:
mūrkha, nīca, kṣudra muñi viṣaya-lālasa
vaiṣṇavājñā-bale kari eteka sāhasa
(Cc Adil-lila 8.83)
mūrkha, nīca, kṣudra muñi viṣaya-lālasa – he was describing himself, “Mūrkha – I am a fool, kṣudra – I am a low born, viṣaya-lālasa – and I am constantly absorbed in sense gratification. Who am I to write such a literature?” However, he then said, “Vaiṣṇavājñā-bale kari eteka sāhasa – because the devotees of the Lord have asked me to do it, then how can I say no? How can I deny them? How can I refuse?”
And herein lies the third secret in empowerment. Empowerment and the guidance on empowerment comes through the devotees of Krsna. So if you are able to hear the devotees then you will be able to hear Krsna. If you are able to accept and fully give your heart in confidence to a good great devotee of Krsna then through that via medium of that great devotee all of Krsna’s messages will come to you. Therefore, because Kaviraja Gosvami had such reverence for these great devotees he was willing to accept what they said. So he said, “You want me to write the biography on Caitanya Mahaprabhu? If you order me then I will do it.”
So there it was Kaviraja Gosvami he was slowly realising, “Oh my god, Nityananda He came to me in a dream in the night and told me to come here. Now it is all coming together why He wanted me to come here.” So Kaviraja Gosvami went away and he began trying to put together the pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He researched, and spoke to many great devotees. He heard many talks and it was not easy. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was very old. He said, “My health is failing, my body is trembling, my limbs are practically become invalid. I‘m losing my sight. I’m losing my memory, but still I am trying to write.”
There was another lesson in empowerment. If you want to be empowered by the Lord then you have to be ready to take on difficulties. You have to be determined. For Kaviraja Gosvami it was not an easy task for him to perform this service of writing the Sri Caitanya-caritāmṛta. He embraced the difficulties, he took it on because his desire to serve was so great. Then we saw that because he took it on with such pure desire than the empowerment came to make it happen. So he began writing Caitanya-caritāmṛta. He started writing, then he continued writing then he wrote more and more. Eventually he wrote 11,500 verses in which he documented all the amazing things that Caitanya Mahaprabhu did and how Caitanya Mahaprabhu revolutionised the world, what He was teaching, how He was teaching it, the culture He was teaching, the subtleties of how to practise spirituality in such a way that it will lead to a higher elevated levels of consciousness. All of this was described by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
Another significant point is that throughout this whole process in which Kaviraja Gosvami became empowered to write the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. A very significant point is that He always remained dependent on Krsna. He never saw himself to be the doer. He never became proud. He never thought, “I did it by my ability.” At the end of every single chapter of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta what does Kaviraja Gosvami write?
śrī-rūpa-raghunātha-pade yāra āśa
caitanya-caritāmṛta kahe kṛṣṇadāsa
“Taking shelter my teachers Rupa and Ragunatha Gosvami I Krsnadasa try to narrate Caitanya-caritāmṛta.” (Cc Adi, Madhya, Antya, at the end of each chapter).
The moment we become proud, the moment we become egotistical, the moment we display signs of arrogance and vanity at that point we lose our potency. Therefore even when Lord Brahma was praying to get empowered in order to create the universe. He prays for empowerment but then he also prays for humility. Because if there is no humility then one will not be able to hold power.
In this way what I tried to do for you today is sketch in very brief how Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami wrote the entire Caitanya-caritāmṛta. In the course of learning how Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami wrote the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and became empowered to do a task that was so elevated. There are certain lessons which we can learn that help us to understand that we have to follow in his footsteps if we want to become empowered. The very first lesson that Kaviraja Gosvami teaches us that you have to be detached. If you want to become what you can be, you have to be willing to give up who you are right now. If you want to experience the unlimited possibility of where Krsna can take you, then you have to be willing to be detached on the plans that you may have made in your small mind. The first lesson in empowerment is that you must be detached.
Second lesson in empowerment is that empowerment is available for those who have a strong desire to serve. When we want to serve, when we want to make a contributions to people’s lives. Then we want to make positive change in a world and that desire to make the change is very strong, then one opens themselves up for empowerment. One will begin to see all the opportunities that the Supreme Lord is opening up for them so that they can do their tasks of service. Second lesson is have the desire to serve then you get empowered.
Third lesson is if you want to see and understand and grasp the plan of empowerment that the Supreme Lord has for you then you have to be connected to devotees, because the plans, the empowerment and the guidance for that empowerment comes through the devotees. Because Kaviraja Gosvami was conquered by the saintliness of these devotees, he was able to give his heart to them and listen to their guidance, and fully embrace it.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Has my heart been conquered by a Vaishnava?” If you managed to have your heart conquered by a pure Vaishnava then through that pure Vaishnava who you can surrender to all the messages of Krsna’s empowerment will come to you. So the third lesson is empowerment only comes to those who are connected to a devotee.
The fourth lesson is in the process of empowerment there will be difficulty. Difficulty is our way of showing our seriousness in doing something amazing for the world, in doing our sewa, in doing our service. Kaviraja Gosvami embraced the difficulty of a situation and never let it become an excuse of why he should not carry on. Are your difficulties going to become an excuse? Or are they going to deepen your determination? That is the question. If they deepen your determination then you become more qualified for empowerment, and that is the fourth lesson.
The final lesson is Kaviraja Gosvami was indeed empowered but why was he able to hold the empowerment? Many people may get empowered but they lose their empowerment because they lose a sense of dependence on the Lord. If you always remain humbly dependent on Krsna then the empowerment will continue to flow, and the empowerment will continue to expand within your entire being.
So as we reflect on Caitanya-caritāmṛta we see that the experience of the Lord in our life is very much possible, because the Lord wants to give, the Lord wants to touch your heart, and the Lord wants to empower you in so many ways to achieve so many things. However we have to be ready, we have to be open and that means we have to be detached, we have to have the desire. We have to be connected to devotees. We have to not become bewildered by difficulties and ultimately we have to always remain dependent. And this is the secret to empowerment. This is what Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants to give us and we simply have to receive it.
So with those few thoughts I will end my short little talk here. I believe there is some announcement from Rasika-Raya Prabhu then we will have some questions. So thank you very much these are some thoughts on Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami and becoming empowered.
Question: You mentioned the service, detachment, the desire, and the difficulties. But on the service what type of service should we be doing?
Sutapa Prabhu: Well Rasika Raya Prabhu is giving you an option here to distribute Caitanya-caritāmṛta sets so that is definitely something you can do. There are many types of service. There are services that inspire you, you can do those services. There are services that are the need of the day that the devotees will ask you to do, those are also amazing services. There are services which are sometimes very difficult which forces you to grow, which forces you to become more dependent on Krsna, they are also amazing services. So if you want to experience the entirety of Krsna consciousness then undertake services which are inspiring, but also undertake services which are required by devotees, which are required by the movement, which are required by Srila Prabhupada. And also undertake services which are difficult because in that difficulty you will meet Krsna, and you will feel Krsna‘s empowerment. So which service should you do? Do services which are inspiring, which are needed and which ultimately will also force you to grow in difficult circumstances.
Question: The Caitanya-caritāmṛta is set to be post graduate literature. Are we really ready to read this?
Sutapa Prabhu: Yes the Caitanya-caritāmṛta is post graduate literature, the Bhagavad-gita is the foundational, the Srimad Bhagavatam is graduate. Are we ready to read it? Well if you want to go to the depths of Caitanya-caritāmṛta then it is advised that you read Srimad Bhagavatam first and then you go to Caitanya-caritāmṛta. However Srila Prabhupada gave us Caitanya-caritāmṛta and what he expertly did was that all of the prior philosophy and other things that one requires he included that within the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. So even though it is good generally to read it in order, Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritāmṛta. You can also go in and read a chapter here or there. Srila Prabhupada said that Caitanya-caritāmṛta is the real Bengali sweet. So who can resource the Bengali sweet? You can bite a bit here and a bit there. Especially now with Gaura-Purnima coming you can read something from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta – no problem. But yes generally when you are going to study the books then you go in that order, and that is the advice.
Question: How would you suggests giving up on detachments on our conditions and not by the will of other people, and not being so much affected by potentially unspiritual opinions and ideas of others?
Sutapa Prabhu: Spiritual life does not mean that there is no relationship. Spiritual life does not mean that there is no love or affection. Spiritual life means there is relationship, love, and affection and a connection. But it is all based on a spiritual principle. So what we have to try to do is in our relationship we should introduce the spiritual element. In your relationship with your children make it spiritual. In your relationship with your friends try to make it spiritual and try to increase that. Then what you will find is that the relationships rather than detracting, damaging and diverting you from your spiritual journey, they will begin to nourish and nurture your spirituality. So in Krsna consciousness is not just about giving up all these things but really what we are also trying to do is spiritualise it as much as possible. So a lot of the times we can think about that first, because our immediate tendencies is sometimes to throw everything out. However if we pay a little bit of attention and we are a little bit ingenious in our thinking, then you will find a lot of the things which you feel to be a barrier. If you relate to those and adjust to those things in a different way and spiritualise them, they can actually become a stepping stone rather than a barrier.
Question: If someone is relishing Srimad Bhagavatam how can we inspire or entice them to read and relish the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. How does the Caitanya-caritāmṛta relate to the Bhagavatam?
Sutapa Prabhu: In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta there is a verse that the pastime of Krsna are like sweet nectar. And the pastimes of Caitanya Mahaprabhu are like camphor. When they come together the sweetness increases. So if you are relishing Srimad Bhagavatam, then wonderful, continue relishing. Suta Gosvami was relishing svādu pade, at every step more and more sweetness. However, if you go into Caitanya-caritāmṛta you will then come back to the Srimad Bhagavatam and you will find the sweetness enters into another realm. Because the Bhagavad-gita tells you the words about Krsna. The Bhagavatam tells you about the activities about Krsna and the Caitanya-caritāmṛta tells you about the mind of Krsna. And when you learn about the mind and the inner workings, the inner thinking of the Supreme Lord and then you come back to the Bhagavatam, then it adds a whole other dimension to your understanding of Krsna, to your understanding of Vrindavan, and to your understanding of what pure, selfless unalloyed love is. So all of these sashtras work together. It is not either or, by reading one your relish for the other will increase and vice versa.
Question: Another question about the practicality of reading. How do you manage to find the time to read the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritāmṛta when devotees like us work? What would you recommend in terms of how many verses which you read or which you would read weekly, how would that work?
Sutapa Prabhu: Okay you want the practical answer or the transcendental answer? I mean the practical answer is that yes okay you have to regulate it, you have to keep a time in the day when you are reading. You have to try and do it first thing in the morning. You have to try and discuss it with devotees so that you can generally understand it better. I think there are five main reasons why people do not read:
1. They find the books too hard.
2. The amount of books is too many – it is intimidating.
3. When they read the books they get bored. They won’t say it but they get bored when they read it.
4. The inner attention – people just don’t have the concentration to sit down and read a book.
5. They don’t have the time to read.
So actually if you look at these five obstacles which stop people from reading, is actually very practical things you can do to overcome them. The books are not hard if you take guidance, if you take help from Vaishnavas. The books are not too many to read because to be honest if you read a certain number of pages every single day then you will be shocked on how fast you can get through the books. Someone may say that the books are boring. They are boring because we don’t apply them. If I gave you a recipe book and I told you, “Here is the recipe book, read it. Okay read it again, okay read it again.” How many times are you going to read the recipe book? You are going to get frustrated, because ultimately you got to take the recipe book and you have got to make something. So when you take a recipe book and you make something, then you know what those recipe books last twenty, thirty, forty years. I see even in the kitchen downstairs there is a recipe book there from 30 years ago. If it works, therefore people keep looking at it again and again. So if we don’t apply it then we will find it boring since it will simply be theoretical. People say, “I don’t have the time.” You can come out with all the excuses on why you could not or should not do it. Or you can come out with all the reasons on why you have to. The choice is yours. And this will lead to my final point. Ultimately we just have to fall in love with the books. We actually have to develop taste. We actually have to begin to relish the sweetness of what’s available in these books and then these questions won’t even come up. But then obviously you are going to tell me, “Yes but in order for me to get there I need time – I need all these things.” Yes we have to work it out. Ultimately we have to realise that our taste for reading these books is ultimately our greatest wealth in life. Because this is what is really going to bring you closer to Krsna. This is what is really going to purify the heart. And this is what is going to help you transcend beyond all the other material things around us which hijack our consciousness. Somehow or other we have to become absorbed in Krsna. The only way to do it is if we become absorbed in sashtras which are the words, the activities and the mind of God.
Question: What can one do when we find ourselves becoming proud? How do we minimise pride and increase humility?
Sutapa Prabhu: How do we deal with pride when pride comes? On a practical level we have to make sure that we have things in place to protect us. Do you have devotees in place who are giving you feedback? Do you have certain things that you do which helps you to stay humble? Like menial service and other things and like that. Make practical situations which will help you to cultivate a humble state of mind. Then beyond that one must always be very prayerful. One must always be praying? As Srila Prabhupada once said, “I will never fall down.” He said in the class, and then after the class he was in front of Krsna praying. Then the devotee said, “Prabhupada what were you praying for?” Srila Prabhupada said, “I am praying that I never fall down.” The devotee said, “But Prabhupada in the class you said that you will never fall down.” Prabhupada said, “I would never fall down because I am always praying that I may never fall down.” So prayer and a prayerful approach has to become part of our spiritual life. So to overcome pride made practical arrangements, develop a prayer for attitude in which one is always cultivating in a mood of humility. And then ultimately we have to develop a closeness with Krsna. You see when you look at a mountain from far away it looks big. But when you get closer to the mountain the mountain becomes bigger and bigger. In relation to the mountain that you can see now which is becoming bigger and bigger you end up automatically feeling smaller and smaller. So when you actually get close to Krsna, when you realise how amazing Krsna is, when you begin to grasp the glories of Krsna, then you won’t have to pray to not become proud it will automatically you will feel yourself to be more and more insignificant and incapable of appropriately reciprocating with Krsna. So ultimately our work has to come close to Krsna then automatically we will become humble.
Question: How can we show Krsna that we are detached from our plans?
Sutapa Prabhu: By opening up ourselves to hear the messages of Krsna, and to be willing to embrace them for when they come. Here we have Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami who got a dream. Maybe we are not on that level that we see Krsna in our dreams or Nityananda in our dreams but through the devotees many plans of Krsna are coming to us. But are we able to hear the voice of the devotees guiding us and revealing to us Krsna’s plan? Are we able to hear it with an open heart? Are we then able to follow it with a full willingness? Then you demonstrate to Krsna that you are ready to make a change. But if we don’t show Krsna that we are ready to hear His messages then we will won’t be able to convince Krsna that we are detached from our plans. Therefore Krsna will become more retrospect by coming into our life and try to show us His plans. So the more we show Krsna through being flexible and be responsive to the messages of Krsna wanting us to change, then we will be perceiving Krsna’s messages more in a clear and a more powerful way in our life.
Question: Could you please expand more on how to give our heart to a great devotee especially if we are new on this journey? How do you identify the right devotee?
Sutapa Prabhu: Giving your heart to a Vaishnava is not something you can intellectualise. Giving our heart to a Vaishnava is something we can pray for and ultimately it will happen in its own natural way. How do we identify who is such a devotee? Therefore if you read the sashtras then in the Bhagavad-gita for example Krsna is so many times giving us what are the qualities of a self-realized soul? Arjuna asks in the second chapter, “How do I know who is a self-realized soul? How do they walk? How do they talk? How do they speak? How do they react to the events of life?” (Bhagavad-gita 2.54).And Krsna is giving many answers. So Krsna gives us a reference point. Who is a divine person?
dānaṁ damaś ca yajñaś ca
svādhyāyas tapa ārjavam
aḥiṁsā satyam akrodhas
tyāgaḥ śāntir apaiśunam
They are non-violent, renounced, they are truthful and compassionate. Very clearly observable symptoms of a saintly person. So one must desire to meet the saints. And one must desire that, “Krsna when I meet that saint please allow me to recognise that saint.” Then we must pray, “Krsna when I recognise that saint, give me the determination to fully serve them, understand them and hear from them.” And through those things naturally one’s heart will become clear. And so we must invest in relationships and through those relationships with the saintly souls Krsna’s messages come through clearly.