Thoughts for the New Year
A Talk by Radhanath Swami
January 2, 2010
Bhaktivedanta Manor

When we asked His Holiness Giriraj Swami what tonight’s topic would be, he said, “I will lead kirtana and see what emerges from my heart.” I will try to speak a few words on some of the primary themes of His Holiness Giriraj Maharaja’s beautiful dissertation.

Maharaja was stressing how much suffering comes to us in this world when we individually and collectively forget the purpose of life. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura would often say, and Srila Prabhupada would often quote him, that the only real problem in this world is a lack of Krsna consciousness. It is actually very simple. Krsna consciousness is so simple, yet we take these simple things for granted because we’ve heard them for so many years, and we look for more complicated ideas to satisfy our minds. Mostly we become distracted and complicated-minded by the complications of material nature. Krsna consciousness means to understand, “I am not this body; I am an eternal soul. Na jayate mriyate va kadacin. I am not subject to birth. I am not subject to death. I am the driver within this vehicle of a body and mind.”

And what is the nature of that atma, or soul? Mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah—we are part and parcel of Krsna, the Supreme Soul. And the nature of the Absolute Truth, Krsna, as the name Krsna denotes, is all-attractive, the supreme reservoir of all pleasure. And jivera ‘svarupa’ haya-krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’—as parts of God, our nature is that we are the servants of God. And because God is the supreme reservoir of all pleasure, the all-beautiful, all-knowledgeable, all-merciful reservoir of all love, the greatest pleasure in life is simply to make that connection.

How to make that connection? It is very simple. As Giriraj Maharaja explained, just put Krsna, God, in the center. Many of you have heard the analogy given from Srimad-Bhagavatam that if you water the root of the tree, all the parts of the tree—the leaves, the flower, the twigs, and the bark—will all be nourished. If simply you understand this, you will be completely liberated from all sufferings and will experience the highest ecstasies of divine love. That’s really all it takes. Just understand that—not theoretically, but really. It is that simple.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu made it so simple, how to water the root of the tree. Just be conscious of Krsna—by purifying our heart through chanting the holy names and always being in the mood of a servant. In other words, by giving up our selfishness. It’s that easy. If that’s all you know and you actually understand it, you will attain the ultimate culmination of all philosophies, all religions, and all the scriptures in all the worlds.

Kapiladeva describes the Vedic literatures, which comprise thousands of volumes. Just one volume alone, Mahabharata, is a hundred thousand verses. And there are so many Vedic literatures. And not only Vedic literatures. He is talking about all the spiritual and religious literatures throughout the world. They are all meant to bring us to this very simple conclusion: to never forget Krsna and always remember Krsna in that spirit of a humble servant, keeping Krsna in the center. We hear it, we speak it, but how much do we really make it the priority of our life? All the problems of our society, the spiritual society in which we live, and all the difficulties of the society of the world are due to our missing this point. As Maharaja said, our tendency is to put ourselves in the center. And as soon as we become selfish, we are subjected to the endless complications of material existence. And how to deal with that? The complications are endless.

Sri Prahlada Maharaja, a five-year-old child, spoke eloquent philosophy, but he was a simple boy who had simple conclusions. He looked around at the whole world, and he looked at his father, Hiranyakasipu, who was a really complicated person [laughter]. His father was a brahmana and the son of a rsi, and yet he was really confused. Prahlada said that when we lose reference to the focus of the goal of life, then every time we try to solve a problem, our solution becomes a bigger problem than the original problem. And isn’t that what is happening in the world? We want more convenience, so we create technology, but we forget the basic premise, and when technology is developed on the basis of selfishness and greed, whether individual or collective, it is going to create bigger problems than the original problem.

And then we have religion. Religion is also supposed to solve problems. But when we interpret our religion in a selfish way, when we interpret it such that “I am in the center,” or “We are in the center,” instead of being compassionate beings, we become egoistic, and then the religion becomes a bigger problem than we had without the religion—or whatever the solution: science or technology or philosophy.

We were recently discussing philosophy, how so many of the most profoundly brilliant philosophers, toward the end of their lives, went mad. They became either suicidal or really, really crazy, because they were trying with their minds to understand what is beyond the mind. Ordinary, selfish, materialistic people just try to gratify their desire for prestige or gratify their senses, but philosophers try to make sense of it all. In the process, they see how futile the endeavor for material enjoyment is, how futile the endeavor for prestige and pride and acquirement of property is. They want something more. They want to make sense of it. But the nature of the world, Krsna says, is endlessly mutable, endlessly complicated, unless you come back to the very simple premises of why this world exists, who we are, and what we’re supposed to do. When we keep trying to solve problems on the basis of the intellect—they are so vast and our intellect is so tiny in comparison—we get short circuited. We become hopeless, because what we’re looking for is not a thing of the intellect.

The real problems of the world, and the solutions to the problems, are revealed by the grace of God to the simple heart. Caitanya Mahaprabhu stressed how we always have to be simple in heart. Even if we are profound philosophers, we have to be very simple in heart. What does it mean to be simple in heart? It means not to be complicated [laughter], because everything is so simple: “I am an eternal soul, I am part of Krsna, and I am supposed to love Krsna.” And this is the way to love Krsna: to chant and to serve. It is so easy.

Someone may say, “The gopis were not great philosophers.” But they were the ultimate greatest philosophers, because in their simplicity they realized the conclusion of all philosophy and they were happy.

So, as soon as we living entities, as Giriraj Maharaja was saying, become selfish, want to put ourselves in the center—want to get credit, want to be the proprietor, want to be the enjoyer, either mentally or physically—we cast ourselves into a vast ocean of complications. But if we get in the habit, as Maharaja said, of practicing what sadhana-bhakti really is, which is about putting into practice these simple basic principles—that our real enjoyment is in serving, not in acquiring, that our real enjoyment is in putting the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, in the center of our lives—then everything will become very simple. Every problem can be so effectively addressed if we just keep this siddhanta as our focus. Whether it is a relationship problem, an environmental problem, an economic problem, or a health problem or domestic problem or any other type of problem, when we try to resolve it on the basis of the mundane level of the problem, even if we find a solution, it will eventually exacerbate the problem.

There are so many problems of war in this world. As Prabhupada said, they made a League of Nations after World War One, and they made a United Nations after World War Two. But has there ever been a time without wars? Prabhupada said that the pinprick in the whole system is so simple: We are forgetting that Krsna is in the center.

And even among devotees, due to material nature, because we are living in material existence, there is the propensity to argue, to disagree, to fight, to form positions and defend our positions, to criticize, to find fault, to undermine people. This has been going on in every religion, including our own, throughout history as well as today. These problems arise and are perpetuated when there is selfishness. But if we can just maintain our focus on keeping Krsna at the center, this propensity will naturally diminish. And this is the way Prabhupada was. Everything he said, the way he dealt with every issue, came from being totally focused on the basic principles. If we water the root of the tree, all the parts of the tree will be satisfied. If we make Krsna happy, everything will be nice. Individually, when we try to make Krsna happy, in our own hearts we find something very deep, but to the degree we have our selfish egos, within our own minds there are so many complications and confusions, and it is exacerbated by things that happen outside of us.

Whatever the situation, we should think, “How can I best please Krsna? How can I best please guru? How can I best please the Vaisnavas? How can I best be a compassionate instrument for all living beings?” If that’s really our motivation and we keep that focus, then in our own personal lives big problems become insignificant.

And amongst each other, there are so many disagreements. But almost all disagreements arise because we are not focused on that central point. Krsna wants harmony among His devotees. Even if there are serious disagreements, they should all be harmonized. They should all create an increase of love and trust, and they will if we are focused on the simple basis. But that’s how maya traps us—the illusory energy takes our focus away from the siddhanta, the essence, the simplicity of the treasure we’ve been given, and gets us all caught up in our own passions and our own anxieties and frustrations and essentially our selfishness in all the differences we have with others. We become enemies. Have you ever met two devotees following Prabhupada who are enemies? How is that possible? It is actually not possible. If we are actually following Prabhupada, we won’t be enemies. We’ll be able to harmonize our differences on the basis of the ultimate good.

So harmonizing the temporary phenomena of this world, of what comes into our lives, with the higher principle of bhakti—watering the root of the tree—is the only solution. In this year of 2010 the world is really a mess. Economically it is a mess. There are wars and potential wars in so many places. There are persecutions and harassments and genocides. There are ecological disasters growing worse and worse. So many problems. We may boast, “Look at our progress. We have cured tuberculosis. We have cured smallpox.” That’s great, that’s wonderful, but practically one third of people are predicted to die of cancer. And what about depression and heart disease? You cure one disease, but another one causes just as much or more suffering and death. Unless we really focus on the center, we are not solving the problem of suffering. We are not solving the problem of finding real happiness.

Prabhupada, on behalf of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, envisioned our society to be a place of shelter from all this selfish egoism. Many people who have come to this path, especially in the Western world, had been frustrated with the superficialities and hypocrisies and all the fighting and judgmentalism in the way the conventional religions of their places were being practiced. It is not what the religions’ scriptures say but the way they are practiced. And then when people hear Prabhupada speak, it makes so much sense. It is so real. And people in the world today, as much as or more than at any other time in modern history, really need shelter. There are so many problems. And with all of these nuclear bombs—there are literally tens and thousands of nuclear bombs in storehouses—we are just one button away from mass destruction. People are pretty crazy, whatever nation they belong to. You get fearful when you board a plane. It is very difficult.

So, Prabhupada and our acaryas envisioned that our society would give shelter to people, but just because we are the Hare Krsna movement, we are not going to give shelter. We have to be Hare Krsna devotees to give shelter to people. And what does it mean to be a Hare Krsna devotee? It means to keep the total focus in our lives on the simple essence of watering the root of the tree. Not being selfish. Being compassionate.

I am very jealous of that lady bug that was on Giriraj Swami’s finger—or maybe she was crawling on his lotus feet and eating the dust. [laughter] He was glancing on that lady bug with such compassion, with such concern, with such love, and wanting to give it Krsna—how fortunate. That lady bug may be reborn as one of the children of the congregation of Bhaktivedanta Manor. [laughter] Such is the power of the prayer of a Vaisnava. So if we can just think about each other the way Giriraj Swami thought of that insect and just try to give each other Krsna, just try to share Krsna with each other, it is so beautiful. Why do we get caught up in all this stuff? We deal with the stuff, but we should always try to share Krsna with each other. If we never, never move an inch from that platform, we will become divinely empowered.

We are coming into this new decade, 2010. Let us try to re-habituate ourselves to have simple hearts and resolve the complications of the world with the simple solutions and never leave that. Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s first instruction to Sanatana Gosvami—out of volumes of instructions, the first was the seed that actually contained everything, and all the other hundreds of pages of instructions just explained this simple instruction—was jivera ‘svarupa’ haya-krsnera ‘nitya-dasa,’ that every living being is the eternal servant of Krsna. Krsna is the enjoyer. Our enjoyment is in serving, in pleasing. Everything is there. And Mahaprabhu elaborated, gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasa-dasanudasah. What does it mean to be the servant of Krsna? It means to be the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant and feel oneself anu, very grateful. If you feel yourself qualified for something, you are not grateful. If you feel yourself unqualified, you are really grateful. So when you are humble you can be grateful, and when you become grateful you become full of greatness, because you become full of Krsna, who is great.

It is so simple. And this was Giriraj Maharaja’s explanation of how we should remain in this simple, humble frame of mind of just being a servant and chanting the holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Thank you very much.