Today, in observance of Sri Rama-navami, we shall read a verse from the Second Canto, Seventh Chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam entitled â€œScheduled Incarnations.â€
yasma adad udadhir udha-bhayanga-vepo
margam sapady ari-puram haravad didhaksoh
The Personality of Godhead Ramacandra, being aggrieved for His distant intimate friend [Sita], glanced over the city of the enemy Ravana with red-hot eyes like those of Hara [who wanted to burn the kingdom of heaven]. The great ocean, trembling in fear, gave Him His way because its family members, the aquatics like the sharks, snakes, and crocodiles, were being burnt by the heat of the angry red-hot eyes of the Lord.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
The Personality of Godhead has every sentiment of a sentient being, like all other living beings, because He is the chief and original living entity, the supreme source of all other living beings. He is the nitya, or the chief eternal amongst all other eternals. He is the chief one, and all others are the dependent many. The many eternals are supported by the one eternal, and thus both the eternals are qualitatively one. Due to such oneness, both the eternals constitutionally have a complete range of sentiments, but the difference is that the sentiments of the chief eternal are different in quantity from the sentiments of the dependent eternals. When Ramacandra was angry and showed His red-hot eyes, the whole ocean became heated with that energy, so much so that the aquatics within the great ocean felt the heat, and the personified ocean trembled in fear and offered the Lord an easy path for reaching the enemyâ€™s city. The impersonalists will see havoc in this red-hot sentiment of the Lord because they want to see negation in perfection. Because the Lord is absolute, the impersonalists imagine that in the Absolute the sentiment of anger, which resembles mundane sentiments, must be conspicuous by absence. Due to a poor fund of knowledge, they do not realize that the sentiment of the Absolute Person is transcendental to all mundane concepts of quality and quantity. Had Lord Ramacandraâ€™s sentiment been of mundane origin, how could it disturb the whole ocean and its inhabitants? Can any mundane red-hot eye generate heat in the great ocean? These are factors to be distinguished in terms of the personal and impersonal conceptions of the Absolute Truth. As it is said in the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Absolute Truth is the source of everything, so the Absolute Person cannot be devoid of the sentiments that are reflected in the temporary mundane world. Rather, the different sentiments found in the Absolute, either in anger or in mercy, have the same qualitative influence, or, in other words, there is no mundane difference of value because these sentiments are all on the absolute plane. Such sentiments are definitely not absent in the Absolute, as the impersonalists think, making their mundane estimation of the transcendental world.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
The Vedanta-sutra begins with the aphorism janmady asya yatah: â€œThe Absolute Truth is that from which everything emanates.â€ Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with the same words (janmady asya yatah) and explains that the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything, is a person – the Supreme Person, Krsna (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). He is origin of everything spiritual and material, and in the Bhagavad-gita He confirms, â€œI am the origin of everything. From me everything emanates.â€
aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam
â€œI am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.â€ (Bg 10.8) Further, He says, aham adir hi devanam: â€œI am the source of the devas.â€ (Bg 10.2) Srila Prabhupada explains that the three primal devas, or gods, are Brahma, Visnu, and Mahesa and that Krsna is the origin of them all – even of Visnu.
Srimad-Bhagavatam describes the Absolute Truth in detail. It lists twenty-six incarnations of Godhead and at the end of the list states, ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: â€œAll of these incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krsna is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead.â€ (SB 1.3.28) As such, Krsna includes all of the other incarnations, including the incarnation of Lord Ramacandra. Thus we need not worship Lord Ramacandra separately. By worshiping Krsna, we automatically worship Lord Rama simultaneously.
Krsna, being the origin of everything and everyone, is also the origin of us, the living entities. So whatever qualities we have must also exist in Krsna – originally. We have individuality, so Krsna must too. We have form, and so must Krsna. We have thinking and feeling and willing, so Krsna must too. And we have activities, so Krsna must too. Krsna, the Absolute Truth, has everything that we have plus more – and in greater quantity.
In the specific incarnation of Rama, the Lord acts as the ideal human being – the ideal son, ideal brother, ideal husband, ideal king. The Ramayana, the history of Lord Rama, is filled with the exemplary behavior of the Lord and His associates, and they all show ideal examples. Sita shows the ideal of a chaste wife, Laksmana and Bharata of faithful brothers. The Ramayana is full of ideal examples that we are meant to follow – ideal father, ideal son, ideal brother, ideal husband, ideal wife, ideal servant, ideal ruler, and so on.
Lord Rama, who is ideal in every respect, still becomes angry – and aggrieved. Both are mentioned here. He became aggrieved because of separation from Sita, and He became angry at Ravana. Such sentiments as grief and anger exist in the Absolute Truth, in particular here in the person of the incarnation of Godhead who shows the ideal in all respects. So we living entities also have such sentiments even in perfection, after liberation. Of course, our experience in the material world is with conditioned souls, so what we have experienced of grief or anger is largely mundane. But we should not think that the Lordâ€™s sentiments are mundane or that the Lord, being beyond material sentiment, is devoid of all sentiments. The impersonalists think, â€œWe, conditioned souls, have anger and sorrow, so how can the Lord, who is liberated and pure, have anger or sorrow? In fact, He cannot have anything – no name, no form, no qualities, no activities, no relationships with others or sentiments and emotions – nothing.â€ They want to make everything zero. Thus statements such as â€œthe red-hot burning eyes of Ramacandraâ€ cause havoc for the impersonalists.
We, as conditioned souls, tend toward impersonalism. Every conditioned soul has two conditioned tendencies: one is toward sense gratification, and the other is toward impersonalism. So we carry impersonal conceptions with us even when we come to devotional service, and our impersonal conceptions may influence us to deal in impersonal ways even though we know in theory that we all are eternal persons and that Krsna is the supreme eternal person. Still, in practice we may tend to act in impersonal ways, because we may still have impersonal ideas that devotees should not feel sorrow or anger – or any â€œnegativeâ€ emotion. And we may try to avoid responsibility for how our behavior affects other devotees by saying, â€œPrabhu, why are you getting upset? You shouldnâ€™t get upset.â€ Although there may be truth to the notion that under certain circumstances a devotee should not become upset, we also should not act in such a way as to upset the prabhu. â€œPrabhuâ€ means â€œmaster.â€ We are meant to see each other as masters and ourselves as servants. So we shouldnâ€™t say, â€œNow, Prabhu, donâ€™t get upset.â€ One wouldnâ€™t tell oneâ€™s master not to get upset. Rather, we should say, â€œOh, I am so sorry, my dear master. I am sorry that I made a mistake. I am sorry that I upset you. Please forgive me. Please rectify me.â€ That is the meaning of prabhu.
The same pastimes that are described here in brief, in three verses in the Second Canto, are elaborated upon in the Ninth Canto in two full chapters. The entire Ramayana is summarized in tenth and eleventh chapters of the Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. And there Sukadeva Gosvami elaborates on these two points: the Lordâ€™s being aggrieved in separation from Sita, and the Lordâ€™s becoming angry.
In relation to Ramaâ€™s separation from Sita, who had been kidnapped by the great demon Ravana, externally the Lord was lamenting. The Bhagavatam says that the Lord showed by His personal example the condition of a man who is attached to women – that is the material side of attachment. But the situation of Lord Rama is spiritual, beyond material conditions. The Lord and His pleasure potency – whether Sita-Rama or Radha-Krsna – are not of the material world. They are completely spiritual, and their activities are within the internal energy. The separation of the Lord from His consort is an activity of the Lordâ€™s pleasure potency (hladini-sakti) and serves to increases their transcendental bliss. So although externally the Lord appears to lament in separation from His devotee or His devotees appear to lament in separation from Him, internally they experience transcendental bliss and actually relish the feelings of separation (vipralambha) as the highest ecstasy.
Once, when Rama was wandering through the forest searching for Sita and lamenting, Parvati, Lord Sivaâ€™s consort, saw Him but did not recognize Him. She thought that He was an ordinary man in grief. She told her husband and guru, Lord Siva, what she had seen, and he replied, â€œThat was no ordinary man. That was the Personality of Godhead Ramacandra. Believe me.â€ But Siva could detect that she had some doubt in her mind, so he warned her, â€œDo not try to test Him. He is the Personality of Godhead, Lord Rama.â€ Still, she wasnâ€™t convinced. She harbored some doubt within her heart.
She disguised herself as Sita and went out to trick this man. She appeared before Lord Rama looking in every respect exactly like Sita. In effect, she was saying, â€œHere I am, Your beloved Sita,â€ but He did not even see her. He ignored her, as if she didnâ€™t exist. Lord Rama just continued searching for Sita. But from her side, wherever Parvati looked she saw Rama, because He had expanded Himself into many, many forms such that wherever she looked she saw the Personality of Godhead Ramacandra. Then she realized that her husband was right. [laughter] She had made a mistake, but she didnâ€™t want to admit it.
So she left the area, resumed her original feature as Parvati, and returned to her husband – and didnâ€™t say anything about what had happened. But Lord Siva knew, so he asked, â€œDid you see anything unusual in the forest?â€ She replied, â€œNo, not in particular.â€ So he became angry – not just because she had disobeyed him but because she had withheld the truth from him. And he was ready to burn her to ashes.
So, Lord Ramacandra is the Personality of Godhead. He is not an ordinary person, although He appeared to lament like one. And Lord Siva, a pure devotee beyond the modes of material nature, became angry, as was appropriate.
Returning to the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam: After searching for Sita in the forest and being unable to find her, He ultimately learned that she had been kidnapped by Ravana and carried to his capital of Lanka. So He made His way to the southern tip of India, to the Indian Ocean, and He glanced over the golden city of Lanka, angry that Ravana had kidnapped Sita and thus insulted the Raghu dynasty.
The ocean, in a sense, created an impediment to Rama and His army reaching Lanka, but the anger in Lord Ramaâ€™s eyes created so much heat that the aquatics in the ocean were burning and the ocean was trembling. Thus the ocean personified came before the Lord and offered to give Him way – to not impede His travel. Commenting on this incident as described in the Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada raises the question of why suffering is necessary. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja/ aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah: one who surrenders to Me is relieved of all sinful reactions. So from where does the surrendered devoteeâ€™s suffering come? Just by chanting the holy name of the Lord once, like Ajamila, in namabhasa, without offense, one is freed from the reactions to more sins than one is able to commit. From where, then, does the suffering of a devotee come?
Srila Prabhupada explains that sometimes people become so covered by material attachments and illusion that they cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His purpose. And he gives the example that an animal is supposed to understand the indications of the master and that if he doesnâ€™t the master may have to beat him until he does. When the ocean personified came before Lord Rama and apologized for not having given Him way earlier, she referred to herself as jada-dhiyah, â€œdull-minded,â€ or â€œpossessing intelligence like that of an animal.â€ Srila Prabhupada remarks that sometimes an animal, to understand the purpose of a man, has to be beaten, and that similarly, people whose intelligence is dull like an animalâ€™s sometimes have to be punished so that they can come to their senses and understand, â€œThis is our master. He wants our service. This is what He wants us to do.â€ â€œTherefore,â€ Srila Prabhupada concludes, â€œpunishment by the Lord through material nature is necessary in human society, for without it men forget the supremacy of the Lord due to their dull, blunt intelligence.â€ (SB 9.10.14 purport)
Eventually Rama and His army crossed the ocean to Lanka, and ultimately Rama killed Ravana, as described so beautifully in the next verse and translation, which I shall read for you.
dantair vidambita-kakubjusa udha-hasam
sadyo â€™subhih saha vinesyati dara-hartur
visphurjitair dhanusa uccarato â€™dhisainye
When Ravana was engaged in the battle, the trunk of the elephant which carried the king of heaven, Indra, broke in pieces, having collided with the chest of Ravana, and the scattered broken parts illuminated all directions. Ravana therefore felt proud of his prowess and began to loiter in the midst of the fighting soldiers, thinking himself the conqueror of all directions. But his laughter, overtaken by joy, along with his very air of life, suddenly ceased with the tingling sound of the bow of Ramacandra, the Personality of Godhead.
The culmination of Ravanaâ€™s kidnapping Sita and taking her to Lanka was that Ramacandra killed him and freed Sita. And for us, there is a great lesson to be learned. Sita is the Lordâ€™s energy, the Lordâ€™s property, and if we try to take the Lordâ€™s energy, or property, for our own purposes, for our own enjoyment, we will lose everything, and we will be destroyed. In other words, the mentality of enjoying the Lordâ€™s energy or using the Lordâ€™s property for oneâ€™s own purposes is demonic. And if we persist, we may be destroyed like Ravana and his dynasty, and our property may be devastated and lost. Even as devotees we may have some vestiges of the demonic mentality – the desire to take the Lordâ€™s place and enjoy His property – and so we pray to Lord Rama and Laksmana, who have so kindly appeared in Kali-yuga as Gaura-Nitai, to destroy our sinful mentality.
After defeating Ravana and his armies, Lord Rama found Sita, who had been kept captive in a forest of asoka trees. She had become thin, being aggrieved because of separation from Him. And naturally, she was delighted to see her eternal Lord and master. But according to strict Vedic custom, a lady who spends the night outside of her home is considered to be tainted. In the orthodox Hindu system, the girls do not spend the night out of their homes. They stay first under the care of their fathers; after marriage, under the care of their husbands; and after their husbands pass away, under the care of their grown sons. So Lord Rama refused to accept Sita. Naturally, she was heartbroken, but He refused to accept her, because she had spent the night outside and thus her position was unknown. Finally, it was concluded that Sitaâ€™s chastity would be tested. She would be placed in a fire. If she survived the fire, she was pure. And if she was burned in the fire, it meant that she had not remained chaste.
So Sita was placed in the fire, and she emerged unscathed. But there are some secret facts, which we can learn by the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Once, when Lord Caitanya was traveling in South India, near Madurai, He was invited for lunch by a learned brahmana who was a rama-bhakta, a devotee of Rama. After taking His bath in the river, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the brahamanaâ€™s house to have lunch, but the food was not ready, because the brahmana had not cooked. Finally, at about three oâ€™clock in the afternoon, Lord Caitanya took His lunch, but the brahmana fasted. Mahaprabhu asked him, â€œWhat is the matter? You seem so worried. Why are you so morose?â€ The brahmana replied, â€œHearing that Mother Sita, the mother of the universe and the supreme goddess of fortune, has been touched by the demon Ravana, I am so distressed that I prefer not to live.â€ Lord Caitanya appreciated the brahmanaâ€™s mood of devotion, but He assured him that Ravana could never touch Sita. â€œSita has a spiritual form full of bliss, and material senses cannot even see her, what to speak of touch her,â€ He explained. â€œWhat Ravana kidnapped was not actually Sita but an illusory material form of Sita [maya-sita].â€
Lord Caitanya continued His travels in South India and at a temple in Ramesvara heard a reading from the Kurma Purana about the chastity of Mother Sita. That scripture says that when Ravana came to kidnap Sita, the wife of Lord Ramacandra and mother of the three worlds, she took shelter of Agni, the fire-god, who covered Sitaâ€™s original form and provided an illusory representation of Sita that Ravana took. Thus the original Sita was never abducted by Ravana – only the maya-sita. And when Rama killed Ravana and Sita was released and brought before the fire, Agni made the illusory form disappear and delivered the real form of Sita to Lord Ramacandra. Thus the original Sitadevi was reunited with her eternal Lord and master, Ramacandra.
There is a lesson for us here, which is, as Srila Prabhupada often said, that the same thing that is material when used for sense gratification becomes spiritual when engaged in the service of the Lord – and vice versa. Take, for example, rice. If someone prepares rice to eat for sense gratification, it is material – and sinful. But the same rice when prepared for Krsna and offered to Him with love and devotion, becomes spiritual and releases one from all sins. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (3.13):
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma-karanat
â€œThe devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.â€ When one eats even vegetarian food prepared for oneâ€™s own bodily nourishment, one is eating lumps of sin. And when one eats the same ingredients prepared and offered in love to Krsna – in other words, krsna-prasada – one becomes purified and liberated from all sins. The same item can act either materially or spiritually depending on how it is used, in what consciousness. So we should be careful to use whatever facility we receive by the grace of the Lord exclusively for the Lordâ€™s service and not for sense gratification.
Once, a gentleman who had recently wedded came before Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. When Babaji Maharaja heard about his marriage, he remarked, â€œIt is good that Sambu Babu has married. Now every day he should personally cook for Krsna, offer the food, and serve the prasada to his wife. If he thinks of her more or less as his worshipable guru – not someone to be enjoyed or exploited by him – he will benefit. Everything that exists is Krsnaâ€™s property, meant for Krsnaâ€™s enjoyment, and should be used for Krsnaâ€™s service. Sambu should not think of his wife as his servant. Rather, he should respect her as Krsnaâ€™s servant.â€ So whatever it may be, we should see the person or the object as Krsna property, meant to be engaged in Krsnaâ€™s service. Then we can move in the world without becoming entangled. But as soon as we think, â€œOh, here is something nice for me to enjoy,â€ we may be entangled. That demonic mentality of wanting to enjoy apart from the Lord may become prominent, and then we may require some special mercy to free ourselves from that contamination. Krsna may take from us the object of our material attachment and remove that obstacle to our spiritual progress (yasyaham anugrhnami harisye tad-dhanam sanaih).
We have many lessons to learn from the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra, but in relation to todayâ€™s verse, in particular, Srila Prabhupada is pointing out the most fundamental of all lessons, that the Personality of Godhead is a person with all of the sentiments of a person and that we too are persons, eternally. Even in the liberated stage we have such sentiments, and we should respect them. We do not necessarily reject â€œnegativeâ€ emotions that arise within us as being material, because they may in fact be spiritual. Even a â€œnegativeâ€ emotion engaged in Krsnaâ€™s service is spiritual, and a so-called noble sentiment outside of Krsna consciousness is material.
â€˜dvaiteâ€™ bhadrabhadra-jnana, saba–â€˜manodharmaâ€™
â€˜ei bhala, ei mandaâ€™,–ei saba â€˜bhramaâ€™
â€œIn the material world, conceptions of good and bad are all mental speculations. Therefore, saying â€˜This is goodâ€™ and â€˜This is badâ€™ is all a mistake.â€ (Cc Antya 4.176) In other words, nothing is really good or bad. If it is favo[u]rable to Krsnaâ€™s service, it is real – and good. Otherwise, it is illusory.
We do not reject sentiments as the Mayavadis do – â€œOh, you should not get angry.â€ Actually, Mayavadis themselves get angry, but they try to conceal it – â€œOh, we canâ€™t get angry.â€ Actually, sometimes it is our duty to get angry. Once, a young American who happened to attend the first Delhi pandal became so inspired by Srila Prabhupada and the devotees that he came to meet Prabhupada after the program. In a heartfelt display of eloquence, he expressed his appreciation to Srila Prabhupada: â€œIf the world could just become Krsna conscious, there could be peace and happiness. People would learn to love each other, and give up their hatred and anger.â€ Srila Prabhupada replied, â€œAnger? Is there something wrong with anger? So did someone tell you that anger is wrong?â€ The young man didnâ€™t know what to say. Then Srila Prabhupada explained, â€œKrsna spoke the whole Bhagavad-gita just to make Arjuna angry. He wanted to convince Arjuna to fight and kill the enemy, and how can you fight and kill unless you are angry? He spoke the whole Bhagavad-gita just to make Arjuna angry.â€ So anger, when used in the service of the Lord, is spiritual.
After Ravana kidnapped Sita, Rama sent Hanuman to Lanka to find her. Eventually he did, in the asoka grove, but he was soon apprehended by Ravanaâ€™s soldiers. To punish and humiliate him, they set fire to his tail. But Hanuman was no ordinary monkey. He was a great devotee, powerful as a demigod, and he went on a rampage through the whole of Lanka, setting it ablaze. He was so furious. And so we see that anger can also be used in the service of the Lord, as demonstrated by Hanuman and Arjuna.
Not only anger, but lust too can be dovetailed in the service of the Lord. The Bhagavad-gita (3.37) says,
kama esa krodha esa
viddhy enam iha vairinam
â€œLust is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath; it is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.â€ Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport to this verse that when a living entity comes in contact with the material creation, his eternal love for Krsna is transformed into lust, in association with the mode of passion. And lust, when frustrated, turns into wrath, which is a manifestation of the mode of ignorance. But lust and anger, which exist originally in the Lord, the Absolute Truth, dovetailed in the service of the Lord can help the living entity revive his original Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada explains, â€œIf, therefore, lust is transformed into love for the Supreme, or transformed into Krsna consciousness – or, in other words, desiring everything for Krsna–then both lust and wrath can be spiritualized. Hanuman, the great servitor of Lord Rama, exhibited his wrath by burning the golden city of Ravana, but by doing so he became the greatest devotee of the Lord. Here also, in Bhagavad-gita, the Lord induces Arjuna to engage his wrath upon his enemies for the satisfaction of the Lord. Therefore, lust and wrath, when they are employed in Krsna consciousness, become our friends instead of our enemies.â€
Anything and everything can be used in the service of the Lord, and that is the basic principle of Krsna consciousness.
yuktam vairagyam ucyate
vairagyam phalgu kathyate
â€œWhen one is not attached to anything but at the same time accepts anything in relation to Krsna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krsna is not as complete in his renunciation.â€ (Brs 1.2.255-6)
Because spiritual sentiments and activities can resemble mundane ones, we can easily misunderstand the Lord or His pure devotees. We may think that such transcendental sentiments are mundane, or we may think that the Lord and His pure devotees have no such sentiments. Thus one may develop an artificial view of the Lord and His devotees.
From our experience with Srila Prabhupada, we know that a pure devotee (like the Lord) has the full range of emotions – but all in relation to Krsna. And a pure devotee may temporarily become angry or distressed, according to the situation. Sometimes Prabhupada became discouraged – or encouraged – by what others said and did. He was fixed in his relationship with Krsna and in his service to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his guru maharaja–those were the center of his life – but with temporary changes of circumstances related to Krsnaâ€™s service, he could display temporary changes of emotion.
After we finally got the Juhu land in ISKCONâ€™s name, Srila Prabhupada wanted to immediately start to raise funds to build the temple for Krsna, Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari. He said to his friend Dr. C. P. Patel, â€œNow we want to begin the collection for the construction.â€ And Dr. Patel replied, â€œPeople wonâ€™t give.â€ Srila Prabhupada countered, â€œBombay is such a rich city that if the people of Bombay wanted, they could give the entire amount in one day.â€ And Dr. Patel replied, â€œThey donâ€™t want. You have to bring the money from America.â€ Prabhupada responded, â€œI could bring the money from America, but then what is your credit?â€ Dr. Patel began, â€œPrabhupada, I donâ€™t want to discourage you…â€ And Srila Prabhupada interjected, â€œBut you are discouraging me.â€ So, Prabhupada could become discouraged.
Similarly, he could become encouraged. Once, Srila Prabhupada called me into his room to discuss book distribution in India, and at the end he said, â€œSeeing you all so enthusiastic to distribute books, I become enthusiastic.â€ Being a relatively new devotee, I thought, â€œSrila Prabhupada is always in transcendental bliss. How can our enthusiasm increase his enthusiasm?â€ In time, I began to overcome my impersonal conceptions and to realize that liberated souls (like Krsna) are always persons, with the full range of emotions, and that they can be encouraged or discouraged. So, when we deal with devotees, we should always be careful–and considerate.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was considerate. Every year Sivananda Sena would lead the devotees from Bengal to Jagannatha Puri for Ratha-yatra, and it was a major effort. The party, which numbered two or three hundred, went by foot, and he arranged prasada and accommodations for them and sometimes boats to take them across rivers. One day when the party was being checked by a toll collector, the other devotees went ahead while Sivananda Sena remained behind to pay the taxes. Because no one else could arrange for their accommodations, the devotees waited beneath a tree. Meanwhile, Nityananda Prabhu, who was with the party that year, became very hungry and upset. And when Sivananda finally arrived, Nityananda stood up and kicked him severely. Of course, Sivananda accepted the kicking as the greatest blessing. After bringing Nityananda Prabhu to His residence, he told Him, â€œThe dust of Your lotus feet is not attainable even by Lord Brahma, yet Your lotus feet have touched my wretched body. Today my birth, my family, and my activities have all become successful.â€ But Sivanandaâ€™s nephew, who was only a boy, felt offended and left the group. On his own, he traveled to Jagannatha Puri to meet Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When he reached Mahaprabhuâ€™s residence, Lord Caitanyaâ€™s servant told him to remove his coat and shirt, because the rule is that when one comes before the Deity one must remove such garments. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, â€œDonâ€™t disturb him. He has come in a distressed state of mind. Let him do as he pleases.â€ Lord Caitanya considered the personâ€™s emotional state, the personâ€™s psychology. And when someone is in a distressed state, you donâ€™t disturb him. Rather, you try to help him, to pacify him, and then talk of other things.
Once, Srila Prabhupada told Tejiyas Prabhu, then the temple president in Delhi, that the problem with his disciples was that they didnâ€™t understand common psychology. We may want to give someone some instruction, but we may have to wait until they are ready to hear. We may have to pacify them first, and then they may be more open to what we have to say. We may have to wait for the right time. The speaker is responsible to present his message in such a way that his audience will appreciate and accept it. If our audience becomes discouraged–or inimical–we should feel responsible. We should think how we can improve and perhaps act to rectify the situation–by the grace of the Lord and the devotees.
Narottamananda dasa: Thank you for the wonderful class, Maharaja. I read the Valmiki Ramayana produced by Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja. In that account, after Rama returns to His capital, Ayodhya, with Sita, He hears the slanderous (that is word the book uses) statements of some of the residents, such as â€œHow has Rama accepted Sita back when she sat on the lap of a raksasa? How has Rama accepted Sita back after she lived in the house of that villain for over a year?â€ And Rama, the representative of the Iksvaku dynasty, became disturbed. And He asked His brother Laksmana to leave her in the forest near Valmiki Rsiâ€™s asrama. Actually, Sita herself had a desire to visit the sages along the bank of the river, so on the plea of satisfying that request, Laksmana took her there, explained the situation to her and left her there, near Valmikiâ€™s asrama. Earlier, Rama had inquired in His court, â€œWhat are the citizens saying about us? Without knowing what they are saying, we can never improve ourselves.â€ Rama had made that point. He insisted, and finally His ministers came out with these criticisms, from the residents of Ayodhya.
Then an incredible pastime took place, when Valmiki brought Sita back to Ayodhya to establish her purity before the citizens. He proclaimed, â€œI have performed austerities for sixty thousand years, and I state that if this woman is in any way unchaste, let all the results of my austerities be taken from me.â€ Then Rama asked Sita to show her purity. And she declared, â€œIf the residents of Ayodhya donâ€™t accept me, then at least, if I have been chaste to You, let my mother, Bhumidevi, the earth-goddess, take me back.â€ Then a huge earthquake took place and a crevice opened and from within the earth Goddess Bhumi came out on a golden throne surrounded by celestial snakes (nagas). She announced to all that Sita was chaste and that she would accept her. Tearfully, she embraced Sita and took Sita with her; they vanished into the earth, and the earth closed. And Rama fell off His throne, crying and lamenting in separation from Sita. Thereafter Rama made a golden deity of Sita, which He kept by His side. And so it was established that Sita was perfect in every respect.
Now, how are we to view the residents of Ayodhya in that position? Personally, I have a lot of harsh feelings when I see that even after Sita showed her purity in that test of fire, they criticized Rama for taking her back.
Giriraj Swami: That was a very moving narration. I donâ€™t know if I can speak after that.
There are different perspectives. When one accepts a position of leadership, he does so with the intention to help the people, even those who are ignorant and offensive. And so the leader may adjust his behavior. Sita was pure and Rama was pure, but when He found that some of the residents were finding fault with Him, He sent her away. He didnâ€™t want people to criticize Him, not because He minded the criticism personally, but because to rule effectively and guide the population, He had to have their complete support and faith. Still, where this incident is described in the Ninth Canto, Srila Prabhupada refers to those critics as rascals. He says that Lord Ramacandra, fearing such rascals, abandoned His wife, Sitadevi.
We find that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu also adjusted His behavior when He was criticized. When a senior sannyasi criticized Him for eating too much, He reduced His eating by half. All the devotees became upset; as it was, the Lord accepted so many austerities. But because the sannyasi was a godbrother of His spiritual master, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu respected him as a superior and said of him, â€œHe is concerned about My sannyasa principles. He doesnâ€™t want Me to overeat.â€ But the devotees were distressed and could hardly wait for the sannyasi to leave town. And when finally he did leave, they felt as if a great burden had fallen from their heads. Then Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted prasada as usual.
Sometimes someone in a high position will make an adjustment for a rascal – but not always. It depends on the issue and the context. Even in relation to that offensive sannyasi, Ramacandra Puri, it was said of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, kabhu ramacandra-purira haya bhrtya-praya/ kabhu tare nahi mane, dekhe trna-praya: â€œSometimes He accepted Ramacandra Puri as His master and considered Himself a servant, and sometimes, not caring for him, He would see him as being just like a straw.â€ (Cc Antya 8.94) Sometimes Srila Prabhupada didnâ€™t compromise, and sometimes Lord Caitanya didnâ€™t either – and sometimes they did.
In India, Srila Prabhupada would be open to visitors every afternoon for one or two hours. Anyone could come and see him. But in his later years, Prabhupadaâ€™s health wasnâ€™t that good, and he often complained that he wanted to translate more. In Juhu once, he even cited the example of Aurobindo, who would give darsana (audience) just once a year, from his balcony. And Prabhupada said that he wished he could do that. â€œOtherwise,â€ he said, â€œpeople just come and waste my time. They ask, â€˜Swamiji, how is your health?â€™ Everyone can see that my health is not good.â€ So he proposed that he should do as Aurobindo did, give audience only once a year. And the devotees, of course, were ready to facilitate whatever Prabhupada wanted. But finally Prabhupada concluded, â€œNo, because if I donâ€™t meet people they will think, â€˜Oh, Swamiji is a big man now. He has no time for us. He has become puffed up.â€™ Maybe when the new complex is ready, I can do that – not now.â€ So he continued, until the very end – until his illness prevented him – to have open darsana every afternoon.
In practical matters he could compromiseâ€”he could make adjustments for the sake of the fallen souls – but on certain matters of principle, certain matters of philosophy, no compromise. When it came to his main mission, he often quoted, â€œThe dogs may bark, but the caravan will pass.â€ â€œWe donâ€™t care,â€ he said, â€œWe will go on. Let the dogs bark.â€ But to please someone – to avoid offending someone – he could adjust. For example, after the first Delhi pandal one of the main organizers invited Srila Prabhupada to her home for a program. She had done a lot of service and really wanted to help. She invited many prominent people to the program, and after the kirtana in her garden, Prabhupada and the devotees went in the house to take prasada. Now, one of the preparations had onions in it. And Malati dasi, wanting to save Srila Prabhupada, warned him, â€œPrabhupada, this preparation has onions in it. We canâ€™t take this.â€ But Prabhupada didnâ€™t want to offend the host, so he ate it. Malati said, â€œPrabhupada, there are onions in this.â€ And Prabhupada replied, â€œNo, there are no onions in this.â€ [laughter] There were, but he didnâ€™t want to discourage his host. He didnâ€™t want to hurt her feelings. So, in some ways we may compromise, to encourage and elevate people, but in other ways we donâ€™t compromise. And we have to be intelligent enough to be able to distinguish between principles that we must maintain and less important details that we can adjust.
Devotee: Maharaja, can we see the residents of Ayodhya as being instruments in that pastime that Lord Ramacandra displayed? Can they be seen as parts of the Lordâ€™s whole pastime, in which everyone was meant to take part?
Giriraj Swami: We can always see a higher arrangement, but we cannot assume that they were impelled by yogamaya to find fault. For example, in special cases some demons in the Lordâ€™s pastimes were actually the Lordâ€™s eternal associates, but in other cases they were just demons. Rupa Gosvami explains that Sisupala and Dantavraka in one appearance were Jaya and Vijaya, eternal associates of the Lord, but in other appearances of the Lord they were just demons–not eternal associates. We canâ€™t say that all the residents of Ayodhya were necessarily eternal associates who were being guided by yogamaya, but we can certainly say that they were fortunate, because, as citizens of Ayodhya, they got to see the Lord. And in the end they all were liberated by the Lordâ€™s grace. So we can also see a higher arrangement.
Narottamananda dasa: After Sita exhibited that pastime of entering into the earth, the demigods from heaven showered flowers from above and praised her, and all the people present, and even those whose minds had been confused and who had been blasphemous, began to praise Sita and Rama again and again. It was glorious. But Rama Himself, seeing this and being separated from Sita, was devastated.
Giriraj Swami: In the end, Lord Rama delivered all the residents of Ayodhya. Srimad-Bhagavatam explains,
tata urdhvam brahmacaryam
dharyann ajuhot prabhuh
â€œAfter Mother Sita entered the earth, Lord Ramacandra observed complete celibacy and performed an uninterrupted Agnihotra-yajna for thirteen thousand years.
smaratam hrdi vinyasya
atma-jyotir agat tatah
â€œAfter completing the sacrifice, Lord Ramacandra, whose lotus feet were sometimes pierced by thorns when He lived in Dandakaranya, placed those lotus feet in the hearts of those who always think of Him. Then He entered His own abode, the Vaikuntha planet beyond the brahmajyoti.
sa yaih sprsto â€™bhidrsto va
samvisto â€™nugato â€™pi va
kosalas te yayuh sthanam
yatra gacchanti yoginah
â€œLord Ramacandra returned to His abode, to which bhakti-yogis are promoted. This is the place to which all the inhabitants of Ayodhya went after they served the Lord in His manifest pastimes by offering Him obeisances, touching His lotus feet, fully observing Him as a fatherlike king, sitting or lying down with Him like equals, or even just accompanying Him.â€ (SB 9.11. 18-19, 22)
We should all gather in the evening and hear Ramayana. Narottamananda Prabhu, we should sit at your feet and hear Ramayana from your holy mouth.
Narottamananda dasa: Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja and the devotees worked together and put the Valmiki Ramayana in the form of a novel. It is very beautifully written and very easy to read.
Giriraj Swami: All right. Thank you very much. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Sri Sri Radha-Kalacandji ki jaya!
Sri Sri Sita-Rama-Laksmana-Hanuman ki jaya!
Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
Dallas – April 6, 2006