The observance of Gundica-marjana, the washing and cleansing of the Gundica temple, takes place on the day before Ratha-yatra, in preparation for the arrival of the Lord.
The history of Ratha-yatra goes back thousands of years, to a previous age, but the specific significance of the Ratha-yatra and the cleaning of the Gundica temple for us was shown by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu when He was residing in Jagannatha Puri five hundred years ago. In the transcendental mind of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the temple of Lord Jagannatha in Nilacala represented Dvakara, or sometimes Kuruksetra, and the Gundica temple in Sundaracala represented Vrndavana. And for Him, the Ratha-yatra was the process of the residents of Vrndavana meeting Krsna at Kuruksetra and bringing Him back to Vrndavana after a long separation.
Gundica is the name of the wife of King Indradyumna, the great devotee who wanted to have darsana of Nila-Madhava and who in separation from Nila-Madhava arranged to have a deity carvedâ€”ultimately resulting in the appearance of Lord Jagannatha, along with Baladeva and Subhadra. Marjana means â€œcleaning,â€ as we sing daily in the Gurvastakam: mandira-marjanadau. The spiritual master engages the disciples in cleaning the Lordâ€™s temple (tan-mandira-marjanadau yuktasya bhaktams ca niyunjato â€™pi).
In Jagannatha Puri, eight days after the Ratha-yatra is the return Ratha-yatra. Thus, for eight days Lord Jagannatha (Krsna), along with His brother Baladeva and sister Subhadra, stay in the Gundica temple.
Four days after the first journey (yatra), Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of Lord Jagannatha, comes to see the Lord. Srila Prabhupada explains, â€œLord Jagannatha has left His wife, the goddess of fortune, and gone to Vrndavana, which is the Gundica temple. Due to separation from the Lord, the goddess of fortune decides to come to see the Lord at Gundica. The coming of the goddess of fortune to Gundica is celebrated as Hera-pancami.â€ (Cc Madhya 14.107 purport) Hera means â€œto seeâ€ and refers to the goddess of fortune going to see Lord Jagannatha. Pancami means â€œthe fifth day,â€ referring to this pastime taking place on the fifth day of the lunar cycle.
The goddess of fortune, jealous and angry because her husband has been away for so long and thus has neglected her, comes with her maidservants to the Gundica temple to force the servants of Lord Jagannatha to bring Him back to Nilacala. â€œWhen Lord Jagannatha starts His car festival, He gives assurance to the goddess of fortune that He will return the next day. When He does not return, the goddess of fortune, after waiting two or three days, begins to feel that her husband has neglected her. She naturally becomes quite angry. Gorgeously decorating herself and her associates, she comes out of the temple and stands before the main gate. All the principal servants of Lord Jagannatha are then arrested by her maidservants, brought before her, and forced to fall down at her lotus feet.â€ (Cc Madhya 14.133 purport) Finally, they promise to bring their master, Lord Jagannatha, back to Nilacala.
Once, on the day of the Hera-pancami festival, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, and Srivasa Thakura had a deep and intricate discussion about different types of manaâ€”transcendental egoistic pride and jealous anger manifested in different consorts of the Lordâ€”because the mana exhibited by the goddess of fortune in bringing her maidservants to subjugate her husbandâ€™s servants and oblige them to bring Him back is unprecedented.
Other than the eight days between the first procession and the return procession, the Gundica temple remains empty, and as you can imagine, during the rest of the year it accumulates all sorts of dust and dirt. Especially with the open style of architecture in India, in which the temples are exposed to the outdoors, they can become very dusty and dirty. So in preparation for the Lordâ€™s arrival at the Gundica temple, Lord Caitanya asked permission from the authorities for Him and His devotees to clean the temple. The authorities were most respectful to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers, most obedient, and they replied, â€œYes, whatever You like we will arrange. Cleaning the temple is not a fit service for You, but if it is Your desire, we shall supply whatever You requireâ€”waterpots and brooms.â€
The superintendent of the temple delivered a hundred waterpots and a hundred brooms, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu engaged hundreds of devotees in cleaning, and He personally took part Himself. He swept straw, dust, and grains of sand into one place, gathered it all in His cloth, and threw it outside the temple. Following His example, all the devotees also gathered piles of dust and straw and sand and threw them outside. Thus He and His associates removed all the debris that had accumulated in the temple complex over the past year.
During the process, Lord Caitanya would observe each devoteeâ€”how well each was cleaningâ€”and if someone was cleaning well, He would praise them, and if someone wasnâ€™t cleaning so well, He would correct them. Srila Prabhupada remarks that Lord Caitanya was showing how an acarya must train devotees, correcting and encouraging them as appropriate. Mahaprabhu also instructed the devotees by example. He collected so much debris from the temple that His pile was larger than all of theirs put together.
After throwing out all the debris, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates cleaned the temple a second time, looking for finer grains of sand and dust that they might have missed. Then they thoroughly washed the temple. With hundreds of devotees throwing hundreds of pots of water, they cleansed the ceiling, the walls, the floor, and everything else. Sri Caitanya Himself personally washed the sitting place of Lord Jagannatha with His own two hands.
Even then, Lord Caitanya was concerned that dust would again come into the temple, and so He had His devotees clean the area outside the temple as wellâ€”throw water outside the temple, so no new dust would come in.
In the course of the cleaning, Lord Caitanya took off His own garment, the top piece of His sannyasa dress, to clean the temple. Srila Prabhupada remarks that this shows how serious He was to clean, that He even used His own cloth to mop the rooms and polish the Lordâ€™s throne. And Sri Caitanya-caritamrta says that in the end the temple was so clean and pure and cool and pleasing that it was just like the pure mind of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himselfâ€”and the minds of the devotees were similarly purified.
Srila Prabhupada has commented that if you clean the temple, you clean your heart; if you polish the deityâ€™s paraphernalia, you polish your heart. And the activity of cleansing the Gundica temple is taken as not only a process for cleaning a temple complex, but also as a metaphor for how we should go about cleaning our own hearts. The temple was cleansed to make it a fit place for the Lord to reside. Similarly, each of us has to clean his or her heart to make it a fit place for the Lord. Of course, the Lord always resides in the hearts of the living entities (isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese â€™rjuna tisthati), but we want our hearts to be worthy places for Him to stay and enjoy His pastimes.
Srila Prabhupada has discussed elaborately, with reference to his own spiritual masterâ€™s comments, how the cleansing of the Gundica temple is a metaphor for cleaning the heart. We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Twelve, â€œThe Cleansing of the Gundica Templeâ€:
ei-mata puradvara-age patha yata
sakala sodhila, taha ke varnibe kata
Outside the gateway of the temple, all the roads were also cleansed, and no one could tell exactly how this was done.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
In commenting on the cleansing of the Gundica temple, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as the world leader, was personally giving instructions on how one should receive Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, within oneâ€™s cleansed and pacified heart. If one wants to see Krsna seated in his heart, he must first cleanse the heart, as prescribed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His Siksastaka: ceto-darpana-marjanam [Cc Antya 20.12]. In this age, everyoneâ€™s heart is especially unclean, as confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam: hrdy antah-stho hy abhadrani. To wash away all dirty things accumulated within the heart, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised everyone to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. The first result will be that the heart is cleansed (ceto-darpana-marjanam). Similarly, Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17) confirms this statement:
srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
hrdy antah-stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt satam
â€œSri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyoneâ€™s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.â€
If a devotee at all wants to cleanse his heart, he must chant and hear the glories of the Lord, Sri Krsna (srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah). This is a simple process. Krsna Himself will help cleanse the heart because He is already seated there. Krsna wants to continue living within the heart, and the Lord wants to give directions, but one has to keep his heart as clean as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu kept the Gundica temple. The devotee therefore has to cleanse his heart just as the Lord cleansed the Gundica temple. In this way one can be pacified and enriched in devotional service. If the heart is filled with straw, grains of sand, weeds, or dust (in other words, anyabhilasa-purna), one cannot enthrone the Supreme Personality of Godhead there. The heart must be cleansed of all material motives brought about through fruitive work, speculative knowledge, the mystic yoga system, and so many other forms of so-called meditation. The heart must be cleansed without ulterior motive. As Srila Rupa Gosvami says, anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam [Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.11]. In other words, there should not be any external motive. One should not attempt material upliftment, understanding the Supreme by speculative knowledge, fruitive activity, severe austerity and penance, and so on. All these activities are against the natural growth of spontaneous love of Godhead. As soon as these are present within the heart, the heart should be understood to be unclean and therefore unfit to serve as Krsnaâ€™s sitting place. We cannot perceive the Lordâ€™s presence in our hearts unless our hearts are cleansed.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
We have just read the general part of the purport; the rest contains a detailed analysis of the specific types of dirt that may sully the heart and which we must detect and remove. But the general process, the main process, by which the heart is cleansed (ceto-darpana-marjanam) is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord (sri-krsna-sankirtanam). And the chanting should be done in a proper mood, in the mood to cleanse the heart and purify it of material desires. A material desire is a desire for anything other than to serve and please Krsna. Any other desire should be thrown out. But to throw out these other desires, we require a process, and the process is hearing and chanting about Krsna. Although material desires are there, we should have the intention to remove them. In other words, it is not an offense to have material attachments; it is an offense to maintain them. Although attachments are there, as devotees we have the intent to free ourselves from them, and we adopt the method by which we can be freed: hearing and chanting about Krsna (srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah).
If we are sincere in our intention, then the Lord within the heart will help us. He is suhrt satam, the well-wishing friend of, as Srila Prabhupada says, â€œthe truthful devotee.â€ Sat means â€œtruth,â€ and the truthful devotee is without duplicity. He chants and hears with a sincere intention to cleanse the heart and make it fit for the Lord. He has no duplicity. He does not make a show of being a devotee in order to achieve some selfish purposeâ€”to get money or followers or adoration or anything else for himself. He does not make a show of being a devotee for some material profit, but he sincerely tries to cleanse the heart, and he works hard at it. We read in the description of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees just how hard they worked. They did a lot of cleaningâ€”a lot of sweeping out dust and dirt and sand and straw and of carrying and throwing water.
When we first come to associate with devotees and hear their instructions and read Srila Prabhupadaâ€™s books and develop faith in the process of pure devotional service to Krsna (uttama-bhakti), we may have many bad habits. Nowadays almost everyone has bad habitsâ€”even in India. And the main sinful activities, the pillars of sinful life, are eating meat, fish, and eggs, taking intoxicants, engaging in illicit sex, and gambling. So we have to give those up. And we do.
But even after following the standard practices of devotional service, there may be subtle contaminations in the heart that we also have to cleanse. And so in the pastime of cleaning the Gundica temple, Lord Caitanya cleaned a second time, so that the finer pieces of dust and sand missed the first time were finally removed. In the same way, we may have bad habits, attachments to gross sinful activities, that we have to work hard to overcome; and we may actually become free from them. But even then, there may be more subtle bad habits with which we must contend.
Let us take the case of a new person who first begins to associate with the temple activities. He will come to the Sunday feast, to various festivals, and take prasada, hear, chant, and start to work on his bad habits. He will want to become like the other devotees, a serious practitioner. He will work on his gross bad habits, and he will give up smoking, drinking, eating meat, and associating with women in an irreligious way. Eventually he will be ready to move into the temple and live with the devotees, chanting sixteen rounds, following the regulative principles, and attending the temple programs. But then his authority will say, â€œIt is very nice that you are staying with us and engaging in the practices of Krsna consciousness, but you should also develop a healthy service attitude. I notice that at the Sunday feast you are very eager to sit and take prasada but that after the feast, when it is time to clean up, you are nowhere to be found. You must also develop a proper service attitude.â€ The devotee will take the instructions to heart, and then after the Sunday feasts he will always be there, ready to clean. And he will be very energetic and enthusiastic in his work.
But then his authority may notice something elseâ€”that he is cleaning but making a big show of it. He wants others to see him so he will get recognition and honor and praise. So the authority will say, â€œPrabhuji, it is very good that now you are staying after the feast to clean up, but we see that you do it in such a way as to call attention to yourself, so that people will see that you are working hard and give you recognition and praise for being such a good devotee. You have to work on that.â€
As we progress in devotional service, we find more and more subtle contamination, and we have to keep cleaning. Lord Caitanya, after that tremendous effort in cleaning the temple the first time, cleaned the temple a second time, to take out the finer dirt. So we have to constantly be cleaning, because until we are completely liberated there is always some contamination that we must purify. We progress through the different stagesâ€”sraddha, sadhu-sanga, bhajana-kriyaâ€”but there are taints that remain all the way up to the stage of bhava. Of course, the disturbance is much less after anartha-nivrttiâ€”much lessâ€” but still it is there, and we have to keep chanting and hearing.
In His instructions to Srila Rupa Gosvami, Lord Caitanya used the metaphor of the seed of devotional service, the bhakti-lata-bija. He said that after you receive the seed you must become a gardener and plant the seed and water it by hearing and chanting, and you have to make sure that no weeds grow up alongside the creeper, because if weeds come they will drink the water meant for the plant, and they may become so strong that they can actually choke the creeper of devotion. Sri Caitanya further instructed that you have to surround the creeper with a fence, so that no mad elephant can enter. If a maddened elephant enters a garden, it can trample and uproot all the plants, and then all the effort put into carefully cultivating the garden will be lost.
The weeds are the material desires in the heart. We have to remove the weeds so that the creeper of devotion can flourishâ€”and ultimately attain shelter under the lotus feet of the Lord. And the mad elephant is vaisnava-aparadha, offenses against devotees, which destroy everything, all of our spiritual progress. And the fence that we construct around the creeper to protect it is the circle of pure devotees. We have to stay within the circle of pure devotees.
We find the same process in the cleansing of the Gundica temple. Not only did Caitanya Mahaprabhu clean the temple twice, but He cleaned the roads outside the temple, so that no new dust would enter. In other words, we must act to keep mayaâ€”bad associationâ€”at a distance. Otherwise, even though we have received the bhakti-lata-bhija, the seed of pure devotion, and planted it and watered it by hearing and chanting, there is still a chance that weeds will come and grow and make the creeper weak. Then, in a weakened state, if we commit vaisnava-aparadha, through bad association, everything will be spoiled.
The weeds are material desires, and there are many varieties. Caitanya-caritamrta discusses some of the different kinds of weeds, and we have to be able to identify them. Lord Caitanya states that the weeds may look just like the creeper, and we must recognize them and keep them apart from the creeper. Thus the discussion of the different types of weedsâ€”the different types of dirtâ€”is important. We must be able to distinguish pure devotional service from mixed service and from other processes altogether. And because we are conditioned and our consciousness is not completely cleansed, we may not be able to see things clearly, and we may make mistakesâ€”we may take a weed for the creeper. But actually, the weed is unwanted; we want only pure devotion. Artha means some desirable gain, and anartha means the opposite: something that is undesirable, or unwanted.
Under all circumstances, we must continue the process of hearing and chantingâ€”the process of cleansing the heartâ€”which in Lord Caitanyaâ€™s discussion with Rupa Gosvami is compared to the watering. Lord Caitanya informs us that if we water the seed it will sprout and become a creeper that grows stronger and stronger and taller and taller, until it pierces the coverings of the universe, penetrates the impersonal Brahman effulgence, and ultimately attains the shelter of the desire tree of the lotus feet of Krsnaâ€”because every creeper needs shelter, and the shelter for the creeper of pure devotion is the lotus feet of Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructs that even after the creeper attains ultimate shelter in the spiritual world, Goloka Vrndavana, still one must continue the process of watering, the process of hearing and chanting. Thus we learn that even while living in the material world, by oneâ€™s consciousness, by oneâ€™s devotion, one can be in the spiritual world. That is a very advanced stage, but it is possible that even while living in the material world one can reach the lotus feet of Krsna in Vrndavana. And we further learn that even after attaining that exalted position, one continues the process of hearing and chanting. One never stops. Therefore Srila Prabhupada often said that in Krsna consciousness the means and the end are the same. The means is hearing and chanting about Krsna (sravanam kirtanam visnoh) and serving Him, and the end is also hearing and chanting about Krsnaâ€”and serving Him with love. It is not that we adopt the means of hearing and chanting to achieve some end and then when the goal is reached we abandon the process. The whole process is eternal.
The service of the spiritual master is also eternal. It continues even after liberation, even in the spiritual world. Once Srila Prabhupada was walking with some disciples in Mayapur, and they came to an embankment. One of the disciples climbed up on the embankment and then reached out his hand to help Srila Prabhupada climb up and walk over it. But when Srila Prabhupada got to the top he very abruptly withdrew his hand from the hand of that disciple and just walked ahead, completely ignoring the disciple. Then Srila Prabhupada said, â€œThat is what the Mayavadis do. They take help from the spiritual master to become liberated, and then when they think they are liberated, they think they donâ€™t need the guru anymore.â€ One may think that he needs to hear and chant to attain liberationâ€”which is trueâ€”and that he needs to serve the instructions of the guru to become liberatedâ€”which is also trueâ€”but that when he is liberated he will stop hearing and chanting and the entire process of devotional service. But it doesnâ€™t work like that. In fact, the process is such that the devotee wants to hear and chant more and moreâ€”and all the more after liberation.
Srila Prabhupada remarked, â€œWhen you are completely liberated (paramahamsa), you can do anything and you wonâ€™t be affected by it.â€ So a disciple said to Srila Prabhupada, â€œWell, then when we are liberated we can have sex and it wonâ€™t affect us.â€ Then Prabhupada told a story. A king liked to ride in a boat along the bank of a river. He liked to stay near the riverbank, and he engaged a servant on the bank who would pull the boat, sometimes dragging it through the reeds and other plants and things that might come in the way. The king became so pleased with this humble, attentive service that he offered, â€œNow you can ask from me whatever you want.â€ The servant replied, â€œI would like to have cushions along the riverbank, so when I pull the boat I will have a soft surface under my feet.â€ This, of course, was a foolish request, because the man didnâ€™t have to pull the boat anymore. He could have had anything, but he was so used to thinking in terms of pulling the boat that he asked for a facility to pull the boat. So the disciple who said, â€œWow, when we are liberated we can have sex,â€ had such a limited (and base) conception of happiness that he could think of nothing beyond material sense-gratificationâ€”like the boatman could think of nothing beyond pulling the boat. That disciple hadnâ€™t realized that there is another, higher standard of pleasure in Krsna consciousness. Thus Srila Prabhupada concluded, â€œWhen you are liberated, you will relish a spiritual pleasure that far exceeds any pleasure of this material world, and you will no longer care to experience sex life.â€ In other words, when we are liberated we will relish that pleasure of hearing and chanting about Krsna and remembering and serving Him even more.
Bhaktya sanjataya bhaktya: bhakti comes from bhakti. The means and the end are the same. The means is chanting and the end is chanting. The means is bhakti, sadhana-bhakti, and the end is bhakti, prema-bhakti. It is not that we adopt the means to achieve some end and then when we reach the goal we abandon the means. Bhakti means to serve Krsna, and the whole process of devotional service, the whole process of sadhana-bhakti, is meant to purify the service. We do not want to give up the service. We want to please Krsna, and we want to purify our service so we can please Krsna more. We want to purify it more and more so we can please Krsna more and more, and the desire to serve and please Krsna never ends. It just increases. And so our effort to serve Krsna better ever increases, and it continues even in the spiritual world. There are no anarthas thenâ€”only pure bhaktiâ€”and pure pleasure.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as the acarya, showed us through the example of cleaning the Gundica temple how to clean the heart and make it a fit place for the Lord to reside. The Lord is already there, but because of the material contamination, we cannot fully appreciate His presence. We canâ€™t see Him, and we have difficulty hearing Him. But He is there, and He wants to reciprocate with us. He wants to give us direction from within. But to be able to receive His direction, we have to cleanse the heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam), to remove the contamination. Then we will see that He is thereâ€”and He will speak with us.
Once, a devotee told Srila Prabhupada that some people say that God instructs them from within and that therefore they donâ€™t need a guru. Srila Prabhupada replied, â€œGod will talk with him? What is the condition? That is stated:
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te
â€˜To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.â€™ [Bg 10.10] So first of all see whether heâ€™s twenty-four hours engaged in Godâ€™s service with love and faith. Then you can understand, â€˜Yes, God is talking with him.â€™ But if he has no preliminary qualification and if he says, â€˜I can talk with God,â€™ he is a nonsense. God talks with devotees, sincere devotees who are engaged in Godâ€™s service.â€
And Srila Prabhupada continued, â€œAnd the person who is constantly engaged in Godâ€™s service, unless heâ€™s trained up by a spiritual master, how can he be engaged? Without a spiritual master, one cannot be engaged in devotional service, and without devotional service, nobody is eligible to talk with God.â€
So Krsna can talk to usâ€”and He wants to talk to usâ€”but we have to be qualified. We have to cleanse the heart so that He will talk to us, to give us direction and guidance. And so we have to be constantly engaged in His service, beginning with chanting and hearing and remembering. That process will cleanse the heart and make it a fit place for the Lord to reside, and create the condition in which the Lord can guide usâ€”back home, back to Godheadâ€”to the ultimate shelter of His lotus feet in Vrndavana.
Hare Krsna. Are there any questions or comments?
Dharma dasa: When I first started to try to perform devotional service, it seemed easier, and things came easier. It seemed to feel better, or the atmosphere seemed better. Then it seemed that as time went on, it got harder. You would think it would get easier, but instead it seemed to get more difficult. The same level of feeling that I had before doesnâ€™t seem to be there. Is that because the anarthas are coming out? Is it because weeds are growing and we are watering the weeds and that is inhibiting our receptiveness or our feeling?
Giriraj Swami: Dharma Prabhu has asked a very good question, that in the beginning, when we first come to the association of devotees, we seem to relish Krsna consciousness more, and it seems so easy and natural, and then later we donâ€™t relish as much, and the process seems more difficult. Is it because of anarthas that were there that are coming to light, or is it because we have cultivated weeds along with the creeper?
The answer could be eitherâ€”or both. But one thing is that when we first come to the association of devotees, we tend to have great respect for them. When I first joined I thought all the devotees in the temple were very advanced. I took them as pure devotees. That attitude of respect and appreciation for devotees is very congenial for spiritual advancement. But then, â€œFamiliarity breeds contempt.â€ You get to know them better, and you see things in them that you didnâ€™t see before. And you see the things as faults, and you get disturbed. Eventually, you may even think, â€œIf this is what being a devotee means, I donâ€™t know if I want to be a devotee.â€ Of course, that is common to all traditions and groups. Christians have told me that they say the same thing: â€œIf this is what being a Christian means, I donâ€™t want to be a Christian.â€
The process of finding faults in devotees and becoming absorbed in the faultsâ€”whether they are real or notâ€”is very harmful for spiritual life. It creates a serious disturbance in the heart. And when we are disturbed, we canâ€™t chant and hear and remember properlyâ€”so no relish.
But the other is also possible, that there were anarthas of which we were unaware and that through the process of purification we become conscious of them. Our godbrother His Holiness Sacinandana Swami discussed with me once that we tend to have a linear conception of progress in Krsna consciousness. We think that we start here and go straight there and end up at the lotus feet of Krsna in Vrndavana. He told me that he has a dear friend who is a Christian priest or monk, who said that within their tradition they see progress not as a straight line but as a spiral. You are going forward, but in the process there are ups and downs. And it is not as easy as we might have imagined.
Maharaja gave the example that you are walking on the path back to Godhead, chanting your rounds and enjoying the journey, and suddenly you come to a fork in the road. Now, you didnâ€™t know there would be a fork, and you donâ€™t which way to go. You have to consider, â€œShould I go to the left or to the right?â€ Anyway, you make a decision, and you go on chanting, and then suddenly there is a landslide. Boulders and rocks cascade down the mountain, and suddenly you find yourself buried. â€œOh my God! How did I get into this position?â€ With great diligence and effort and care you have to remove all those rocks and stones, and you have to get out from under them. â€œOh boy, thank God!â€ You walk a little further, and you are chanting, and then suddenly the natives who had been hiding in the bushes come out to attack with and arrows and spears. â€œOh my God. I didnâ€™t know they were going to be here.â€ And then you have to retreat. You have to find some shelter. You have to get some weapon. You have to defend yourself from the attacks. So you are making progress, but things happen along the way that you didnâ€™t expect.
In the early days devotees would chant down the street and call out, â€œWeâ€™re going back home, back to Godhead! Going back home, back to Godhead!â€ The idea was â€œJust join us, chant with us, be happyâ€”and you will go back to Godhead.â€ And that is true. But there may be obstacles along the way. And depending on our purity, depending on our diligence and vigilance in our practice, it may be more or less difficult to overcome them. But there will be ups and downs, and in the end we will be successfulâ€”as long as we remain faithful in our practice of pure devotional service. It is like climbing a mountain: Your goal is to reach the top of Mount Everest, but there are so many peaks and valleys along the way. So you go up, and you come down, and you go up . . . but the general trend is you are going up, and finally you will reach the topâ€”you will reach the goal.
So under all circumstances, we have to keep association with pure devotees. The association of pure devotees will help us in any condition. There is a verse in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta that states that the association of devotees is the root cause of devotional service (mula haya) and that even after one develops love for Krsna, the association of devotees is still essential.
krsna-bhakti-janma-mula haya â€˜sadhu-sangaâ€™
krsna-prema janme, tenho punah mukhya anga
â€œThe root cause of devotional service to Lord Krsna is association with advanced devotees. Even when oneâ€™s dormant love for Krsna awakens, association with devotees is still most essential.â€ (Cc Madhya 22.83)
The association of pure devotees is a constant factor. If we stay in the association of more advanced devotees we will continue to be associated with the process of hearing and chanting, the process of devotional service, and that will see us through whatever may happen, and we will reach the final goal. And even in the spiritual world, in Goloka Vrndavana, we will be in the association of pure devotees. And we will be hearing and chanting about Krsna.
Nityananda dasa: One thing that I personally feel encouraged by . . . I feel the way Dharma felt, that there are times when you feel discouraged in your Krsna consciousness. In my case, what I found was that when I do preaching and reach out to people and see the excitement in them . . . because when I first joined there was real excitement. There is no doubt about it. I was ecstatic. I could see my hairs were standing on end. I didnâ€™t know anything about the process, but it excited me because I saw an opportunity, a great opportunity that was well beyond me, something that I was going to get that I didnâ€™t deserve. It was going to be really great, and I was ecstatically looking forward to it.
And then engaging in it, you find the difficulties that you have to cross over. And they become distractions, but then when we preach we find that others are getting so much excitement and we realize that it is simply because we are losing sight of the opportunity that we lose our enthusiasm. But when we see the opportunity clearly in front of our eyes every day as we walk . . . Like it is said, the process is ever fresh; every time you should see something new. If I walk into this temple, it is not like I should see the same things I saw the last time I came. I notice something new whenever I see the Deities. I feel They look more beautiful than ever. I have never seen Them so beautiful. Whoever dressed Them this morning must have love, and they are so loving in showing us such wonderful forms. Like that, we feel this ever-freshness in what we are doing. And I notice that in my case it is the preaching that helps me keep that. It is like Srila Prabhupada said, â€œPreaching is life.â€ If you feel alive, then you preach. That is our process. And if we do that, we may find that it helps us the most.
Giriraj Swami: Excellent. Nityananda Prabhu says that when he joined he had the same experience as Dharma Prabhu: everything was so full of life; everything was fresh and exciting. As Srila Prabhupada says in a purport to the Bhagavad-gita, â€œOne enjoys life with a thrill at every moment.â€ And then after a while one has difficulties, and you donâ€™t feel the same. But the one thing that Nityananda Prabhu does that really keeps him enlivened and enthusiastic is preach, because when you meet people in the world and you see how they are suffering, how they are looking for something, and then when you give them Krsna consciousness and you see how they respondâ€”that they feel they are getting what they were looking forâ€”in that dynamic there is great encouragement, great enlivenment, and then everything is fresh.
Of course, the experience of preaching is always fresh because there is no stereotyped way to preach. You canâ€™t do it mechanically, because you are dealing with another person, an individual. You might think that you know what to say, but the person may respond in an unexpected way, and then you have to respond. So you have to be alive and alert and conscious. You canâ€™t be like these telephone operators who are scripted to say, â€œIs there anything else I can do for you today, sir? Well, have a good day.â€ Rtadhvaja Swami has a joke, just to get them out of their scripted mentality. When they say, â€œIs there anything else I can do for you today?â€ he may respond, â€œWell, I need someone to wash my clothes.â€ [laughter] When you preach, it canâ€™t be scripted. There can be some basic idea of how to introduce the topic, but once you start to interact with people, you have to be prepared for any reaction, and then you have to respond. So you have to be alive. You have to be alert. You have to be consciousâ€”Krsna conscious.
Once, Srila Prabhupada said in a lecture, â€œPreaching is the best way to be Krsna consciousness, because when you preach, people will ask questions, and to answer, you will have to think of Krsna.â€ So you have to be Krsna conscious. Nityananda Prabhu has given the best answer: one who has life will preach, and conversely, one who preaches will have life. Thank you, Nityananda Prabhu, for that answer, and thank you, Dharma Prabhu, for your questionâ€”perfect question, perfect answer.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
April 28, 2007