For the most auspicious celebration of Sri Radhastami, we read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Two, Chapter Three: “Pure Devotional Service.”
jivan chavo bhagavatanghri-renum
na jatu martyo ’bhilabheta yas tu
sri-visnu-padya manujas tulasyah
svasan chavo yas tu na veda gandham
The person who has not at any time received the dust of the feet of the Lord’s pure devotee upon his head is certainly a dead body. And the person who has never experienced the aroma of the tulasi leaves from the lotus feet of the Lord is also a dead body, although breathing.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the breathing dead body is a ghost. When a man dies, he is called dead, but when he again appears in a subtle form not visible to our present vision and yet acts, such a dead body is called a ghost. Ghosts are always very bad elements, always creating a fearful situation for others. Similarly, the ghostlike nondevotees who have no respect for the pure devotees, nor for the Visnu Deity in the temples, create a fearful situation for the devotees at all times. The Lord never accepts any offerings by such impure ghosts. There is a common saying that one should first love the dog of the beloved before one shows any loving sentiments for the beloved. The stage of pure devotion is attained by sincerely serving a pure devotee of the Lord. The first condition of devotional service to the Lord is therefore to be a servant of a pure devotee, and this condition is fulfilled by the statement “reception of the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee who has also served another pure devotee.” That is the way of pure disciplic succession, or devotional parampara.
Maharaja Rahugana inquired from the great saint Jada Bharata as to how he had attained such a liberated stage of a paramahamsa, and in answer the great saint replied as follows (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.12.12):
rahuganaitat tapasa na yati
na cejyaya nirvapanad grhad va
na cchandasa naiva jalagni-suryair
“O King Rahugana, the perfectional stage of devotional service, or the paramahamsa stage of life, cannot be attained unless one is blessed by the dust of the feet of great devotees. It is never attained by tapasya (austerity), the Vedic worshiping process, acceptance of the renounced order of life, the discharge of the duties of household life, the chanting of the Vedic hymns, or the performance of penances in the hot sun, within cold water, or before the blazing fire.”
In other words, Lord Sri Krsna is the property of His pure unconditional devotees, and as such only the devotees can deliver Krsna to another devotee; Krsna is never obtainable directly. Lord Chaitanya therefore designated Himself as gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah (Cc Madhya 13.80), or “the most obedient servant of the servants of the Lord, who maintains the gopi damsels at Vrndavana.” A pure devotee therefore never approaches the Lord directly, but tries to please the servant of the Lord’s servants, and thus the Lord becomes pleased, and only then can the devotee relish the taste of the tulasi leaves stuck to His lotus feet. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that the Lord is never to be found by becoming a great scholar of the Vedic literatures, but He is very easily approachable through His pure devotee. In Vrndavana all the pure devotees pray for the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Lord Krsna. Srimati Radharani is a tenderhearted feminine counterpart of the supreme whole, resembling the perfectional stage of the worldly feminine nature. Therefore, the mercy of Radharani is available very readily to the sincere devotees, and once She recommends such a devotee to Lord Krsna, the Lord at once accepts the devotee’s admittance into His association. The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly, and by one’s doing so (by the good will of the devotee) the natural attraction for the service of the Lord will be revived.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
This verse and purport are so deep. Practically the whole philosophy of Krishna consciousness is contained in this purport, and one could discuss it for many hours and days. Still, we shall try to say something within the time available to us.
The first point—the most basic point—is that the living entity is not the body. The living entity is the soul within the body. The living entity in the material body has material desires for sense gratification and more subtle material desires that express themselves in mental speculation. After leaving the body, some unfortunate living entities end up as ghosts, in subtle, ghostly bodies, but they still have gross desires.
How does someone become a ghost? A typical way is that a living entity full of material desires becomes so frustrated and disappointed (which everyone is, to some extent), he commits suicide. The result is that he gets a ghost body, a subtle body without a gross body. Krishna, the Supersoul, fulfills all desires. The person who commits suicide wants to be free from his gross body, so Krishna fulfills his desire and gives him a ghost body, a subtle body. But the frustration and disappointment that gave rise to the impulse to commit suicide came from strong material desires, and he still has the material desires but not a gross body through which to fulfill them. So he is even more frustrated. And so the ghost will try to inhabit, or possess, someone else’s gross body in order to fulfill its desires through that person’s senses. Thus ghosts are disturbing elements. They create fearful situations.
Another way a person can get the body of a ghost is if he is very attached to a thing or place—to his house, for example—and at the time of death thinks of that object of attachment. Yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram/ tam tam evaiti kaunteya sada tad-bhava-bhavitah: “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Gita 8.6) Whatever you think at the time of death will determine your next body. Now, if you think of your house at the time of death, you can’t get the body of a house, because that is not one of the species of life, but you can take birth as a ghost in that house. Therefore many houses, especially big, opulent ones—mansions and castles—are reputed to be haunted by ghosts.
How can one be freed from ghosts? The chanting of the holy name is the best remedy for practically any ill in the world, and it is the remedy for being troubled by ghosts. Sometimes devotees take advantage of this fact. A large estate will be haunted and so people won’t want to buy it, but the devotees will see, “Oh, here is a good opportunity. We can get a major property to use in Krishna’s service for only a small sum of money, and as for the ghosts, we’ll just do hari-nama–sankirtana and the ghosts will go away and we will have a nice place for Krishna.”
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