Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 5

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.

Lecture #6


In these lectures by Srila Prabhupada, he is laying out the strongest of all foundations for the endurance and well-being of his neophyte disciples, a foundation firmly rooted in the timeless and inescapable wisdom of the Vedic sastra.

The essence of the Vedic way is to follow the parampara, to be formally and intimately linked up with this chain by the process of diksa, which allows one to transcend all external and internal obstacles, by the fire of one's own enthusiasm and faith, to be restored to one's original, natural spiritual position as the loving servant of Krsna and His devotees.

Prabhupada uses a wonderful analogy in describing the experience of someone who merges into the Brahman effulgence, showing that the Vaisnava is not someone who is interested in simply merging into the ocean, merging into the light, etc. Prabhupada says:

"So the rivers merging into the ocean. Then you must take further consideration that the superficial water mixing with the ocean is again evaporated. The water is evaporated by scorching heat of the sun. Just like now we see cloud in the sky. This is nothing but evaporated water from the sea. So the water which merged into the water and into the ocean of the, water of the ocean, now it is evaporated in the sky. And again it will fall down. And then again glide to the ocean. So this is called avagamana, coming and going, coming and going. But our Vaisnava philosophy is not to merge into the water, but keep your identity and go deep into the water. So that you may not be evaporated."

As a fully cognizant, independent, blissful, eternal drop of the Supreme, it is our greatest pleasure to enter the ocean of the spiritual world and dive deep into it, relating with Krsna and His devotees in this sublime "underwater" atmosphere in endless and increasingly pleasurable loving exchanges of service.

The key to the exchange and enjoyment of these exchanges in our eternal individuality, the personal character we bring to it. The varieties we share which make the "pleasure" of only merging into this ocean look cheap and thin.

Prabhupada continues:

"So our philosophy is that once going into the ocean, no more coming back.

janma karma ca me divyam

evaḿ yo vetti tattvataḥ

tyaktvā dehaḿ punar janma

naiti mām eti so 'rjuna

[Bg. 4.9]. That is our philosophy. If we once go in the spiritual world, we do not like to come back. We stay with Krsna and dance with Him, or play with Him, or serve with, serve Him as tree, as plant, as water, as cows, as land, as cowherd boys, as father, mother, or as gopis. This is our philosophy. Once we go to Krsna, we live forever with Him in either of these capacities. Let me live at Vrndavana in any capacity. It doesn't matter. But live there."
And Prabhupada writes in the Nectar of Devotion:

Let us offer our respectful obeisances to all the great devotees and äcäryas or holy teachers, who are compared with sharks in the great ocean of nectar and who do not care for the various rivers of liberation. Impersonalists are very fond of merging into the supreme, like rivers that come down and merge into the ocean. The ocean can be compared with liberation and the rivers with all the different paths of liberation. The impersonalists are dwelling in the river water, which eventually comes to mix with the ocean. They have no information, however, that within the ocean, as within the rivers, there are innumerable aquatic living entities. The sharks who dwell in the ocean do not care for the rivers which are gliding down into it."

"The devotees eternally live in the ocean of devotional service, and they do not care for the rivers. In other words, those who are pure devotees always remain in the ocean of transcendental loving service to the Lord and have no business with the other processes which are compared to the rivers that only gradually come to the ocean."

This simple grace cannot be found in the halls of speculation, logic, and argument. It is to be found and followed in the example of the acaryas, who stress the importance of mastering the art of the loving exchange, of becoming an adept in giving and receiving the highest sensation, the highest gratification.

Anything less, anything impersonal, is dry and desert-like in comparison to the dance of the Vaisnava sharks in the ocean of prema.

Again we return to the essential foundation to stand on: the inestimable and fully practical wisdom of sastra. Prabhupada quotes from the Caitanya-Caritamrta:

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu continued, "'Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realized person. Consequently, as the śāstras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahājanas advocate.'" CC Madhya 17:186

It is Rupa Goswami's specific example that gives the heft, the bricks, the weight, the solidity to our foundation. Prabhupada shares with us two specific aspects of the words and examples of Rupa Goswami in relation to our duty.

First he shares Rupa Goswami's simple advice that our mind and activities should be satisfied and should not feel any unnecessary need or curiosity to devote time to other paths:

As Prabhupada shares:

"But Rüpa Gosvämi recommends that we should not be deviated by the arguments, karmis, jnanis and yogis. Let them do their own business. We do not care for them. We give them respect as far as possible, but we don't, don't accept the path of karma-jnana-yoga."

And from the Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada shares with us the most essential point of Rupa Goswami's example; to think of ourselves as humble instruments in the hands of the acaryas with the only goal in mind as to how to best benefit our suffering brothers and sisters in all walks of life. Prabhupada writes:

"The author of Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu, Srila Rüpa Gosvämi, very humbly submits that he is just trying to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, although he humbly thinks himself unfit for this work. That should be the attitude of all preachers of the Krsna consciousness movement, following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvämi. We should never think of ourselves as great preachers, but should always consider that we are simply instrumental to the previous äcäryas, and simply by following in their footsteps, we may be able to do something for the benefit of suffering humanity."

We all look up to those who inspire us, who set the stage, who hit the game-winning shot, who perform the most courageous, impossible, and meaningful acts that last through the generations.

In Krsna Consciousness, this propensity can be dovetailed to the infinite degree. Let us always meditate upon and follow in the footsteps of those great teachers and personalities who acts and words are truly immortal, and who give us the nectar of immortality and the ability to give it to others.

We should simply pray for the determination, faith, and constant opportunity to engage in their service for the real benefit of ourselves and all living entities. There is no higher or better occupation in all of existence.