Krishna can see everything inside our heart. Even though we may be listening Hari Katha, it is plainly obvious to Krishna whether we do so out of eagerness or an obligation. So we should ask ourselves, “Are we relishing Krishna Consciousness?” When we chant more do we feel like chanting more? Does our absorption in hearing Hari Katha give rise to such profoundness that we forget to take Prasadam? If yes, then we are advancing spiritually, without any doubt. If it is one’s genuine experience that “Yes. I am relishing Hari Katha, topics about Hari,” then that is the higher taste.
Somebody who follows devotional life as an obligation is not performing high class bhakti. Thinking, “Oh, now I have to go hear class,” or, “Oh, now I have to chant,” is certainly dutiful, but that duty may not be arising naturally. In the beginning a devotee pushes themself with this sense of duty. “I don’t want to do this, but it is good for me, so let me try to do it.” It’s a kind of rationalization. It is just like one may not like to take medicine, but because they want to get cured, they proceed with forbearing diligence. On the other hand, one may be spontaneous, as if taking some ayurvedic medicine with sugar, honey and dried fruits, like chyawanprash. “Oh! Very nice, give me a little more! Delicious!”
So there are many aspects of Krishna Consciousness to help us develop attachment to Krishna. Of course everyone is attached to Krishna Prasadam. By being attached to Krishna Prasadam we are sustaining our progress in Krishna Consciousness. Even if we do not properly understand it as being non-different from the all attractive Personality of Godhead, it still works to purify us. If we put something within our body, there is no question of not associating with it. Transcendental foodstuffs give transcendental results. However we talk of “Prasada Seva,” “Honoring Prasadam,” and not “Prasada Bhojan,” “Enjoying Prasadam.” In the beginning of Krishna Consciousness it may be fine to simply eat blindly, but as one advances one is expected to be more refined in their Krishna Consciousness.
There is one incident from the pastimes of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He used to go to the Prasadam Hall with an empty bucket and walk straight towards his sannyasi disciples. He would take away all the palatable items from their plates, like samosas, kachoris, rasagullas, gulab jamuns. These delicious items would then be distributed to new people and guests. “Give, give to the guests”, he used to say. And these people, upon receiving nice Krishna Prasadam, would say, “Oh, it’s very nice to become a sadhu and reside in the temple. Such nice food, samosa, kachori, nice gulab jamun, rabri. It’s very good. I think I may also become a sadhu.” Srila Bhakti Siddhanta would respond, “Yes, you keep coming daily. Also whenever there is a festival, please come again, and you will get nice Prasadam.”
It is just like when the bees come to honey they immediately think, “Oh! Very nice.” They get increasingly absorbed in relishing it, more and more. It is so intense and engaging that even if they develop a desire to leave, they are powerless before an even greater desire to continue relishing. This is Krishna Consciousness. Many devotees admit that simply by taking Prasadam their life got transformed.
One friend says to his devotee friend, “Hey, I will also come with you, to the Bhagavada Gita lecture,” then after he goes, he will never forget Prasadam. In his mind, the discussion around the Bhagavada Gita may not have made such an impression, but he cannot stop thinking about the Prasadam. This is Krishna Consciousness but he doesn’t realize it in the beginning. Soon a time comes when he does not want to stop coming. And then also comes a greater appreciation for Bhagavad-Gita. It’s a technique devised by Rupa Gosvami, ‘yena tena prakarena‘. On account of conditioning, everybody has got some strong inclination, or something to their liking. Everyone has some strong desire, so strong that its pursuit enables them to forgo all other lesser desires. So it may be the case that one doesn’t like some or even many aspects of Krishna consciousness. However if they are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to dovetail that singular, strong desire in a manner connected to Krishna, then gradually that singular, strong desire performed for the service of Krishna leads the vanguard for any and all other desires to follow respectively. It is just like wherever the master goes, the servant follows. Similarly all the fine details of rules and regulations follow automatically upon experiencing the higher taste. Through the genuine performance of some aspect of Krishna Bhakti, other aspects of devotional life that one may be merely dutiful, indifferent or even averse to, become gradually transformed into higher class desires. Attachment to Krishna means attachment to Krishna’s service.
A practical example of such attachment is listening to Hari Katha and also book distribution. Some devotees relish distributing books. The book distributors get many realizations on account of their experiences. A book distributor may feel exhausted because they have not distributed anything, but he may think, “I must distribute some books otherwise how will I face the devotees in the temple. Better to skip lunch and try more.” In the early days in London, it happened to me like this. I had been out all day with zero results and was thoroughly exhausted, literally sleeping on my feet. In such a state, one gentleman approached and said, “Hey, what are you doing? Are you selling books? Let me see. Good, how much for these? In fact, give me them all, I will take the lot.” Suddenly my happiness knew no bounds, and I gave the gentleman all the books while I counted the money. After I turned my head up to speak to the man, he had disappeared. What is this? Who came here? Who gave me this money? Why did he take two to three copies of the same book? Where did he go?
So you will get a new taste in Krishna consciousness. It’s not that this taste will get finished but it will be always new, ever fresh. From this you will get inspiration to do more service. From the desire to do more, one enters more deeply in to other aspects of Krishna Consciousness, taking it to a higher level. One starts to automatically think, “Let me do little more, okay, I will not go for noon Prasadam. Instead I will offer some milk and bananas and take it.” Or one book distributor may say to another, “Do you have books you didn’t distribute? Here, give two to me and let me try.” This is taste, this is called mellow. Upon receiving such a taste, one is spontaneously moved to distribute or do more.
One day, Srila Prabhupada was giving a long Bhagavatam class in the temple. The devotees got so much absorbed in listening that no one went for morning Prasadam. Then, as the class passed well after mid-morning, Prabhupada was interrupted by a devotee causing some disturbance in the packed temple hall. “Who is that creating disturbance,” Prabhupada fumed. “I am, but I am the kitchen in-charge,” said the devotee. “So go to the kitchen”, said Prabhupada. The devotee said,” But Prabhupada, I need pots to cook. All the pots are full with morning Prasadam. I need to start to cook for the next offering.” The devotees were so much absorbed in hearing from Prabhupada that they forgot morning Prasadam. So that is Prabhupada’s potency. He has purity and he can infuse it within others. He can induce us to listen. Others may say the same thing, but when Prabhupada says it, it evokes more taste. Just like cooking and eating. Everyone may cook the same item, but when the mother cooks, the son thinks, “Oh! Very nice!”. Yes, because here the masala is different. The masala is that affection she has for her son.
There is one Prabhupada quote, which I say often, “One who is vinamra, one who is namra, has the door to the spiritual world open up wide for them.” Vinamra means soft hearted and namra means very submissive to the spiritual authority, yet simultaneously thinking themself to be the most insignificant. This is real ego. But we need to be introspective to determine if we really possess these qualities. Aside from the Vaisnavas, everyone is materialistic to a greater or lesser extent. Like a little Ravana or a little Kamsa. “I am the controller, everything is meant for my enjoyment, you have to stay under my feet!” And so much ‘dambha, darpa’, pride, arrogance, harshness. “I come from high class family, I look handsome. I am Victor Mature, Miss Universe, I am Dara Singh. …” and on it goes.
Once a devotee confided in Srila Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, as I see our movement, I think most of us have the bad qualities like arrogance, anger, pride, ignorance, illusion, harsh words you mentioned in Bhagvad Gita chapter sixteen, The Divine and the Demoniac Nature. Srila Prabhupada replied to him sternly, “Simply if you are actually rendering devotional service, soon you will be free from all these things.” We can understand here that unless one becomes meek and humble as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and also Jesus Christ explained, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
So the problem is that we want easy success and take cheap shots in an attempt to score high marks. “I have distributed so many books! But, just see, you are good for nothing, you’re a small timer!” The tendency is to get greatly puffed up. One may be flying their kite high, standing on the top of the building, but they need to take care of the hand railing. One may be running, proclaiming to everyone, “Are you seeing how far I am flying?” but if they don’t keep watch of themselves…. Oh! boom! Fall from the roof. This is the history and history repeats. I am not criticizing, but telling what is important. One may be bragging, “I have done this, I have done that, and so many other things,” but the scriptures asks, “Are you developing attachment to Krishna? Are you are getting detached from previous bad habits?” So these are the questions we should be asking ourselves. Previously we may have had tremendous attachment for McDonald’s, Burger King, some outside pakora or kachori. Now, if these things are present before you, do you want to eat it? No! That shows that you have experienced a higher taste. Previously we may have been reading the newspaper the whole morning, but once you develop some taste in Hari Katha, our previous low-grade tastes become defunct.
Srila Prabhupada informed us that “Only Poori (deep fried puffed bread) and Moori (puffed rice) can be puffed up, and no one else”. Otherwise one cannot make any progress. On the outside one may be wearing nice neck beads, tilak and a nicely groomed shikha or plaits decorated with flowers, but on the inside, one may be getting puffed up and becoming like a little Kamsa.
Bhakti means being simple, you just accept things as a young child does before his parents. The little boy asks, “Daddy what is this?” The father replies, “Why my dear child, this is a tree. You don’t know? Oh, you are such a fool,” and the child accepts. And what they inform or instruct, the children follow at once. But we see that the moment one grows up and associates with others outside the family, then a different type of consciousness develops. “Oh, my dad is old style. It is better to be with my friends.” The problem is that one’s friends may not be one’s well-wishers. This is the difference. Who can be a greater well-wisher than Krishna? Nobody! We may or may not believe it to be so, but it is true.
To understand it as such, there are certain steps: ‘sravanam, kirtanam‘. When you hear nicely then you can preach nicely. Then we can remember Krishna and this will clean our heart from kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), Moha (illusion/delusion), Mada (intoxication/arrogance), Matsarya (envy). But we cannot fully clear our heart by hearing and chanting on our own strength. If we want to become Krishna Conscious, we have to get free from these six things. It is very difficult, practically impossible to move these things out on our own. Take a pile of garbage, now make it the size of the Himalayas. How is it that you could hope to clean it up? It can be possible however, but only by the mercy of Guru or the mercy of a Mahajana. Our heart is like a piece of coal. The result of scrubbing a piece of coal is simply more mess. So the devotee says, “Oh! Guru Maharaja, it’s not getting any cleaner. I am trying but I am just getting more tired”. Then the guru takes them and throws them into the strong fire. That is how a coal-like heart gets cleaned.
So, ‘ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grahyam indriyaiḥ’, “No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Sri Krishna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.”
The more you are getting absorbed in Krishna consciousness, the further you are away from Maya, and, the more you are into Maya, the further you go away from getting any taste in Krishna consciousness. So this is the manner in which we can ascertain our progress in Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness is dynamic, and all devotees have a requirement to progress. And progress requires care and caution. If we are not careful, we will regress and go backwards. Progress in anything is painstakingly slow and regression is comparatively swift and easy. This is especially true in this modern age, where there is so much infrastructure, facility and provision for individuals to regress more easily, more rapidly and more frequently. We shouldn’t take it for granted that we are living in a temple and we are therefore protected. Very easily one can think something one shouldn’t, and be terrorized by one’s mobile phone during some lonely hour.
In essence, we have spent many lives engaged in sense gratification, namely dharma (pursuing religiosity), artha (acquiring wealth), kama (pursuing sense gratification), moksha (desiring liberation). We have done this so many times in endless cycles. For millions of years we have tried these materialistic activities in order to become happy, but it didn’t work. So the essence is: Don’t do this again. Just give one life to Krishna. It doesn’t matter whether you are a grhastha, brahmachari, sannyasi, man or woman. One requires some food to keep the body fit, some place to sleep or stay and some clothing. One should perform his sadhana well and as much as possible, try to spread Krishna consciousness, by preaching, by distributing books, by bringing others to the lotus feet of Krishna. That’s all. By following this nicely we can, in one life, go back to Godhead.
Be optimist, shake off one’s doubt, shake off one’s so-called knowledge. Then Krishna can give real knowledge. Krishna can give such things, because He is perfect. Krishna is not saying, I am ‘jnani vatsala’ or ‘karmi vatsala’. He says, “I am bhakta vatsala. I am conquered by bhakti and affection.” The way forward culminates in giving one’s life to Krishna, and now we have that opportunity. So why not, for a change, try give this one life to Krishna completely and see the result? Forget the past. It’s a nightmare. And the future is shrouded in uncertainties. But, if we take the best of this moment, we will find a future that looks bright and great !
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!!!