Reading from the Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1 chapter 19 ‘The Appearance of Sukadeva Goswami’, Text 12
sukhopavistesv atha tesu bhuyah krta-pranamah sva-cikirsitam yat vijñapayam asa vivikta-ceta upasthito ’gre ’bhigrhita-panih
Translation: “After all the rsis and others had seated themselves comfortably, the King, humbly standing before them with folded hands, told them of his decision to fast until death.”
Hare Krishna! It is an honour and privilege to have the opportunity to speak something about Krishna in the assembly of Vaisnavas and here in Sri Mayapur Dhama. Before I begin therefore I beg the blessings and good wishes of all the assembled Vaisnavas and particularly my seniors, superiors who are present here in large numbers. With all of your blessings, I hope I can speak something that is meaningful and constructive.
Because this is the last day of the ISKCON Leadership Sanga, in the last few days we have been hearing much about leadership. I was also asked to speak something in connection with leadership or the qualities of a leader. I thought I would focus on how a leader or anyone for that matter should consult authorities before taking important decisions in life. Important decisions in any sphere of activity, whether its one’s personal life, one’s family life, one’s temple activities, temple management, whatever it may be. There is a process for arriving at decisions, an authorised process. And here we see King Pariksit setting the example. He comes here in a very humble spirit with folded hands in front of the assembled Vaisnavas and asks them for their opinions on the decision that he has contemplated. Even though he has decided he wants to do that but he nevertheless wants to ask them is that right, is that the right thing I am doing. Of course King Pariksit was confronted with the mother of all decisions because when we confront death we have to take a decision on how we are going to do it, what should we think about, what should be worship, who should we remember at this time. So all of us are confronted with decisions, small decisions, big decisions, important decisions, not so important decisions, every day of our life. Right from the prasadam time, should I take one more chapati or not, we have to think - is it good for me is it not; right down to big decisions in life and all these devotees are taken by devotees in consideration of one thing and one thing alone - whether immediately or remotely or ultimately. And that is how is it going to affect my Krishna consciouness? How is it going to affect my service to Krishna? If I eat one more chapati am I going to fall asleep in my japa or whatever it is? We always think is it going to affect my health and then I wont be able to serve Krishna better. So we are always taking decisions all day long throughout our life and many of these decisions are not easy. I remember on one particular day two different devotees approached me, a couple of hours apart. One devotee said, ‘I want your advise.
I am thinking of becoming a brahmacari but I am in doubt! I am not confident whether I can make it! It seems a risky decision, should I do it or should I not!’ Well I took him through a process for some time. And then after some hours I met another young man who came and said, ‘I want your advise. I am thinking of getting married but I am not sure will it work, will it not work! Its a risk!’ So being a brahmacari is a risk, being a grhastha is a risk. Actually everything in this material existence is a risk. Breathing is a risk especially when you go to major metropolitan cities where there is so much pollution. Certainly coming to Mayapur from Calcutta is a risk.
Getting into a car, walking on the street, flying an airplane, doing anything in this material world is a risk. But what to do! We have to survive, so we have to take decisions. So we have to take decisions that are right. Right decisions means decisions according to guru, sadhu, sastra. According to what Krishna wants us to do! Of course that we say because we are devotees. Not everybody thinks like that because they may not be devotees. So if all the decisions that we have made in our life, some are good decisions, and some perhaps in retrospect we may imagine they are not such good decisions that we made. We may regret, we may lament about them. But I will ask you one question.
And that question is common to every single of us sitting here in this room. What is the best decision that you ever made in your life? And that answer will be common to everyone of us here. What is that best decision that you made, ever made, and possibly ever could make? We became devotees! That is the best decision we could ever have made in our life.
And that is the injunction of the scriptures - You must become a devotee of Krishna! There is that verse from the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu which Srila Prabhupada used to quote often, smeram bhangi-traya-paricitam saci-vistirna-drstim vamsi-nyastadhara-kisalayam ujjvalam candrakena govindakhyam hari-tanum itah kesi-tirthopakanthe ma preksisthas tava yadi sakhe bandhu-sange ’sti ran (1.2.gah239) This is one gopi telling another gopi, ‘My dear friend, if at all you value your material life, if you value all your relationships in this world, then beware. Don’t you dare go the banks of the Yamuna on the Kesi ghata, where there is that person called Govinda, who is standing there in a three-fold bending form, placing His flute to His lips and His face is shining, radiant in the light of the full moon and He is standing there with His sidelong glance, smiling very beautifully. Don't go there!’ So the acharyas have explained that this is an example of a literary ornament called a ‘vyaja stuti’ stuti means ‘to praise’.
So vyaja stuti is when you praise that which is to be condemned and you condemn that which is to be praised with the understanding that the audience is going to understand that. So it is meant for a certain caliber of audience. So Rupa Goswami here is saying or he is quoting the gopi’s as saying that actually you should be doing that, you must do that, it is an imperative. Imperative is something that doesn't give you a choice. So through the vyaja stuti you condemn something that actually you should be doing, thats the most admirable thing and desirable thing in life. So approaching Govinda is the primary decision of our life, the most important thing we could ever do in our life. Of course there will be others who will tell us, not in vyaja stuti but will tell us - Don’t go to Krishna! Don’t go to ISKCON! Don’t go to the devotees! But as Narada Muni says in the Seventh Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam when we get such advise then we should simply say, yes, yes yes but do what we have to do. In any case, so we become devotees and we may think, well you are saying that the best decision in life is to become a devotee and you’ve talked about risky decisions in life but it appears that becoming a devotee is also risky. What if one falls down from Krishna consciousness? Its a risk! There is a risk of failure. But of course Krishna has mentioned in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, nehabhikrama-naso ’sti pratyavayo na vidyate sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat (Bg 2.40) There is no loss, no diminution, in taking to Krishna consciousness.
Even if there is a calamity one doesn't lose what one has gained in Krishna consciousness. And this is exactly what Narada Muni tells Vyasadeva in the First Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambujam harer bhajann apakvo ’tha patet tato yadi yatra kva vabhadram abhud amusya kim ko vartha apto ’bhajatam sva-dharmatah (SB 1.5.17) A very important verse for us, which would give us inspiration to go on in Krishna consciousness despite our struggles and failures that may come sometimes. And Narada Muni gives a very sage advise. He says for a person who has given up worldly responsibilities, the varnasrama dharma duties, sva-dharma tyaktva, means to give up, for what purpose, caranambujam harer, to accept the shelter of the lotus feet of Hari or Krishna, even if, yadi, yadii means if, not that necessarily that has to be, but even if there is some kind of a fall down in the process, what is the fault, yatra kva vabhadram abhud amusya kim, what is the fault, what is the loss even if one takes to Krishna consciousness having given up all sorts of material duties, and one fails, one falls down from the path, what is the loss? On the other hand, if one has not taken shelter of Krishna and one has achieved much on the material platform, what has one actually gained? Nothing, because all the things that we have gained materially will perish. Whereas what we have gained spiritually by taking to Krishna consciousness will endure for ever.
Its like a spiritual bank account which keeps growing and you can never withdraw from it. You just keep adding and adding and adding till a time comes when that bank account becomes large enough for us to be transported to the spiritual kingdom of Krishna. So that said, alright its the most risk free activity that we can ever do, the best decision in life, but it is not enough to take a decision to become a devotee and become one. One has to continue to remain one till the end of life, till we attain complete success in life. And as we become devotees very soon we realise, its not just about me, its about others as well. We are in a preaching mission.
When we become devotees we understand this is the best thing we have done and we must share it with others. So therein begins our responsibility for others. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said in the Caitanya Bhagavata when He talks to Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa Thakura, suno suno nityananda, suno haridas sarvatra amar ajna koroho prakash prati ghare ghare giya koro ei bhiksa bolo `krsna', bhajo krsna, koro krsna- siksa “Nityananda, Haridasa, please listen to Me.
Go everywhere and broadcast My instruction.” What is My instruction? “Go to every home and request them to chant the names of Krishna, to worship Krishna and to accept the instructions of Krishna in their life.” So when we become devotees we understand its not just about me becoming a pure devotee, its equally about helping others to become pure devotes. And thats where the leadership question comes in. Therefore every devotee is a leader in that sense. Because ultimately what is a leader? There may be different definitions technically speaking of what a leader is, but the simplest definition of a leader is one who is in a capacity or a position to influence others. Very simple. It could be positively, it could be negatively, thats another thing. But we are in a position to influence the minds and activities of others. Whether its a parent for a child, or guru for a disciple, or a teacher, or a preacher to another person, we are all in a responsible position because now when we have become devotees we realise whatever decisions I take, there are repercussions that will be there not just for me but for others as well. So we are all leaders. So the choices we make, the decisions we make are going to have ramifications.
So how do we make all these decisions? Making decisions of course is not easy many times and especially when it comes to tricky things, troublesome things, then its extremely, its a topic of anxiety, how should one do this, how should one do that, in trying to further the preaching mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Prabhupada’s house of ISKCON, there are many anxieties that may come. The decisions that we have to take from the smallest decisions to the biggest ones may be fraught with so many risks and consequences that we may have to consider. Let me cite a little example from the Ramayana and you may be surprised to know that I am quoting as an authority none other than Ravana. Ravana was a demon of course. He was a great scholar. Being a great scholar doesn't stop one from being a demon. One may be a great scholar and not a devotee of the Lord. One may be a great devotee and not apparently a scholar. So scholarship is not really the thing.
The point is to become a pure devotee. In Ravana’s case we see that he was scholarly in terms of many many scriptures. So when he was faced with the prospect of Lord Rama attacking Lanka with His army of monkeys and bears and Hanuman had already wrecked havoc in Lanka, and set fire to Lanka and Ravana had got some taste of what was to come, then he became nervous. Otherwise he was fearless. But now after Hanuman’s depravations in Lanka, he became a little nervous. And he called his raksasa friends, his ministers, his councillors and began to speak like a wise man. Now for the moment we will forget that it is Ravana speaking. Just take the content of his speech, ok! Now Ravana says, ‘My dear friends, it is said in the scriptures that one should never take important decisions without good counsel. Therefore you are my dear friends. I have called you to consult you about what should be the course of action now. You know that Rama is on the other side of the sea.
And sooner or later He will get here. What should we do?’ And then he said, ‘there are three kinds of people in this world - superior, mediocre, and inferior - uttama, madhyama, kanistha.’ These three Sanskrit words we will hear many times in different contexts when different phenomena or examples are being analysed. ‘So the superior person is one who takes decisions especially before he is able to embark on a very important task, he consults superiors and friends who have a common interest. In accordance with the advise he receives, he proceeds with full energy depending on destiny for the result.’
This is the decision taken or the manner in which a course of action is decided by the superior person. ‘The mediocre person thinks over the matter himself or herself. Then considers things in the light of his intelligence and acts accordingly.’ ‘The inferior person, the kanistha, he has no faith in God,’ this is Ravana speaking, ‘he has no faith in God, he acts whimsically, he has no sense of duty, he doesn't have sense of judgement of what is beneficial and what is harmful and he embarks on a course of action saying, I will do it no matter what, without consulting anyone.’ So these are the three kinds of people in this world.
And then Ravana goes on to say, ‘There are three kinds of advise. The first kind of advise is superior advise. Superior advise is that which is obtained by careful objective consideration of the circumstances, in accordance with religious principles. Mediocre advise is that which is given after heated discussion and which is more often than not based on self interest rather than religious principles. And the lowest form of advise, bad advise is that which is made out of a sense of false pride, or wanting to flatter somebody, without any consideration of the consequences of one’s actions.’ Very wise actually.
So in one sense Ravana’s words have wisdom, if you just keep aside the fact that his heart was full of anarthas, that drove him to act the way he did. But if you just take this section that he is speaking on because he is quoting from the scripture, it makes sense, its very wise advise for all of us. And although Ravana doesn't say it but if we apply our mind from the principles of Bhagavad Gita we can see the three modes of nature here. So the superior person is acting in the mode of goodness, because he is very thoughtful, consults everybody, gets different opinions, understands things, see if they are in accordance with dharma or not and then proceeds after thoughtful consideration. A person in the mode of passion is generally proud. So out of his pride he thinks I can deal with it myself. I am intelligent enough, I am capable enough and even though he actually may be so, he may be intelligent and capable but that action may not be the wisest thing to do. Because although one may be intelligent, one is not perfect. So thats the person in the mode of passion. And as far as the mode of ignorance, yes, a person in the mode of ignorance doesn't believe in God, he doesn't have a sense of duty, acts whimsically, doesn't know whats beneficial, and whats not. If you just look at the Sixteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, its exactly the description of a person with a demoniac tendency. And then what about the transcendental decisions which go beyond the three modes of nature.
We put Krishna in the center and devotees in the center. So what applies to decisions in the mode of goodness now, will also apply for transcendence when we keep Krishna and the devotees. So we come together with the devotees and consult. Yes there is guru, sadhu and sastra but then there are times when we are not able to ascertain very clearly specifically what guru, sadhu, sastra would enjoin in a particular circumstance. That is when we need to sit together with the devotees, a churning process takes place which may sometimes not be very pleasant and something emerges by the collective wisdom of the devotees.
Now one time in New Mayapur, France, probably in 1975, in a conversation, Srila Prabhupada was saying, ‘You must form..’ yeah I think it was in New Mayapur, ‘You must form a committee, a committee, and then take decisions.’ Sorry that was in New Vrindavana I think. In any case, Prabhupada said, ‘You must form a committee and take decisions.’ And then devotee protested ‘But Prabhupada that is democracy. You have criticised democracy so much by calling it demon crazy and so on. You have spoken about enlightened monarchy.’ And then Prabhupada gave a surprising answer. He said, ‘No, monarchy is out of date!’ Surprising! He said, ‘Monarchy is out of date!’ So although Prabhupada has said so much about monarchy in all his teachings,
in his lectures and so on to give us the principles of leadership and how real leaders were and should be but he also recognised that in this age of Kali where would you find the right candidate to become a qualified monarch like King Yudhisthira or King Pariksit, very hard to find. So therefore collective decision making is the way to go , thats the process. So then he said, ‘Yes, you make a committee. You decide. If you have to live together, you have to work together.’ In this way Prabhupada emphasised the need for everyone coming together, making decisions together. Another point that comes up, the last point before I conclude. And this was in New Mayapur France. Somebody asked Prabhupada, he said, ‘Prabhupada you say that we should take decisions in our life with reference to authority.
But what if we have to take decisions at a time when there is no authority available. Then Prabhupada said, ‘Krishna will give. He will give intuition.’ He used the ‘intuition’. He said, ‘If a devotee is really sincere, then Krishna from within will give the intuition, give the understanding’ and then he quoted the Bhagavad Gita verse from the Tenth Chapter, tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te (Bg 10.10) For one who is constantly devoted to Me and absorbed in service to Me, I give him the intelligence by which he can come to Me.’ So this is the principle.
So the more Krishna conscious we become, the clearer our head becomes. The fog of indecision and confusion in the lower modes of nature get dissipated and the clear conclusions of Krishna consciousness emerge. So therefore we need to emphasise on our sadhana so that all of us become more and more Krishna conscious, come together, deliberate, do what is best for our individual and collective progress in Krishna consciousness and also for the furtherance of the Krishna consciousness movement by preaching. Thank you very much! Hare Krishna! I will just take one comment or question if any. Yes? Question: (audio indistinct) Maharaja: (repeats the question) The question is how does one understand whether it is our unwillingness to accept an authority or the absence of an authority especially in a multi inspirational scenario. Thats not very difficult. If there are authorities around, there are authorities around. So when there are senior devotees around or even contemporaries around, we can always consult them on the basis of guru, sadhu, sastra. Thank you very much! Srila Prabhupada ki jaya! Gaurapremande Hari Haribol!