Monday, March 26, 2012
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
from the Caitanya-mangala, by Locana Dasa Thakur
nitai guna-mani amar nitai guna-mani
aniya premer vanya bhasailo avani
1. My Lord Nityananda, the jewel of all virtues,
my Lord Nityananda, the jewel of all virtues,
has brought the flood of ecstatic love of God that has drowned the entire world.
premer vanya loiya nitai aila gauda-dese
dubilo bhakata-gana dina hina bhase
2. Bringing this overwhelming deluge of prema
when He returned to Bengal from Jagannatha Puri on Lord Caitanya's order,
Nitai has inundated the assembly of devotees.
The fallen non-devotees did not drown, however,
but remained floating on that ecstatic ocean.
dina hina patita pamara nahi bache
brahmar durlabha prema sabakare jace
3. Lord Nityananda freely offered this exalted prema,
which is difficult for Lord Brahma to attain,
even to the fallen and wretched souls who did not desire it.
abaddha karuna-sindhu nitai katiya muhan
ghare ghare bule prema-amiyar ban
4. The ocean of mercy had formerly been sealed tight,
but Nitai cut a channel in its boundary
to allow the great flooding waves of nectarean prema to splash from house to house.
locan bole mor nitai jeba na bhajilo
janiya suniya sei atma-ghati hoilo
5. Locana dasa says,
"Whoever has not worshiped my Nitai
or taken advantage of this excellent opportunity offered by Him
knowingly commits suicide."
Friday, March 9, 2012
Here I sit on Gaura Purnima, one of the most important and auspicious days in Gaudiya-Vaishnavism, not celebrating, remembering or honoring the day, but working a mundane job, dealing with mundane affairs and thinking mundane thoughts.
What a stark contrast to this very same day back in 1997 when I was in Sri Vrindavan Dhama assisting with the decoration of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai’s altar, as well as being able to participate in and bathe the Deities during the abhiseka. I look back at that time with fondness and gratitude. Nothing else in my devotional life has ever compared with that day. It was the highlight of my devotional life; a moment in time that may never be surpassed in this lifetime.
So what happened? Why am I now doing nothing for Gaura Purnima? Why am I not chanting? Why am I not fasting? Why am I not reading Sri Caitanya-caritamrta? Why am I not engaging in discussions about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? Why does it seem just like any other day?
The most I did today was to listen to a lecture on the way to work. It was a lecture given by Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja. The topic was “Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Most Munificent Incarnation” or something like that. I was listening attentively for the about the first 30-minutes or so, but then something happened: I became disinterested and my mind started to wander and drift away to various non-devotional thoughts. What caused this inability to remain focused on Krishna-katha?
The dogmatic answer that came to mind was, “Maybe I’m just too offensive and therefore I cannot hear/experience/understand all of this tattva.” Granted, it’s not too far from the truth that I am full of offenses. Are my offenses really the cause of my lack of enthusiasm, my lack of interest, my lack of faith? The sastras, sadhus and gurus would tell me so.
It’s not that I don’t understand what’s being said. It’s more that it just feels like empty jargon, empty stories. These pastimes (lilas) and tattvas (truths) are supposed to be full of “nectar” and yet when I hear them I just think, “Yes, I’ve heard these things hundreds of times, but how are they relevant to me?” Maybe the problem is that I’m not truly understanding, for if I truly understood what was being said/transmitted, wouldn’t I be tasting this elusive “nectar”?
In kali-yuga we are full of so many deficiencies. I am lazy, misguided, unfortunate and addicted to sense gratification. In this condition how will I ever understand or appreciate the process of bhakti-yoga? Isn’t the whole purpose for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance to give mercy to us wretches? Why is this mercy passing me by? Why am I “floating on the ocean of Love of God” (as sung by Locana Dasa Thakur) and not drowning in it? Again, is it because of offenses? But then why are offenses counted against me in kali-yuga? Doesn’t Sri Nityananda Prabhu overlook one’s faults and offenses? Didn’t He even ignore an offense as great as a physical assault?
Obviously the Lord forgives all of our shortcomings and faults. The only offenses He does not forgive are the offenses made to other Vaishnavas (Vaishnava-aparadha). Which Vaishnavas have I offended? Does it include knowingly and unknowingly? Does it include being associated with people who are offensive to Vaishnavas? What are the rules and guidelines here?
If all of these offenses were to be eradicated, would a downpour of Krishna-prema come flowing down into my heart? When I first began my devotional “career” in this lifetime and was innocent and devoid of Vaishnava-aparadha, how come I didn’t easily attain Krishna-prema? If the Holy Name gives us prema, why did I never attain it over those first few, serious, devoted years as a brahmacari? Of course the answer is: my chanting was offensive. *sigh* It’s a vicious circle in which all of the unattained promises in devotional service can be attributed to my offensive nature.
The conclusion is that I’m too offensive to attain Krishna-prema, but the question is why are my offenses being held against me in kali-yuga? Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Nityananda Prabhu appeared to deliver all the miscreants and unfortunate souls, like myself. Why then are there are so many restrictions, rules, conditions and exemptions in an age where no one can follow them?
This raises an interesting theological question about grace vs. works. Is it by our effort and actions that we can attain the lofty ideals of Krishna Consciousness? Or is it strictly only through the mercy of Sri Guru and the Supreme Personality of Godhead that we can attain such goals? I’ve always heard it said that it’s a combination of both, but in kali-yuga it would seem that unconditional mercy should be the only possibility of progress.
Chanting our quota of rounds doesn’t make us realized. Dressing in Vaishnava garb doesn’t make us realized. Knowing a thousand verses doesn’t make us realized. Knowing Sanskrit doesn’t make us realized. Repeating what we’ve heard doesn’t make us realized. Traveling to or living in the holy dhamas doesn’t make us realized. Associating with pure devotees/paramahamsas doesn’t make us realized. We can do all of these things externally, but not be realized internally. We can quote sastra and know verses, but it doesn’t mean we are transcendentally realized and in direct relationship with Krishna in our siddha-deha.
So what makes us realized? What is it that happens that gives us direct access to the spiritual world, to that higher consciousness, and to a direct relationship with Krishna? What takes us beyond theoretical knowledge to realized experience? It has to be mercy, plain and simple. There is no amount of effort I can make that will allow me to kick in the doors of Goloka Vrindavan and demand an audience with Krishna and His eternal associates.
Of course this may all sound like the ramblings of a fallen devotee who doesn’t want to follow the rules and regulations or any form of sadhana and yet wants to experience bhava. I’m not trying to make a case like that. I’m not saying we should all just do whatever nonsense we want and simply depend on the Lord’s mercy to one day lift us up to the spiritual world. But I’m saying just because we externally follow all of the rules and regulations and wear devotional clothing and quote slokas it doesn’t make us advanced in realization. There has to be some higher intervention to bring us to the level of genuine experience and realization, where we’re not just hearing and reading, but actually living in the transcendental realm. We have to search out where to get that mercy from, where to beg and cry for it.
With the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His divine associates this tremendous, causeless mercy is available. We just have to focus our consciousness and energy towards it in order to receive it. The problem is that we don’t have a desire for it. Somehow, someway we have to appreciate and understand Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s identity and mission. We have to make an attempt. We can’t sit idly watching TV and eating corn chips thinking that one day everything will just work itself out, being unconcerned about what will happen after our death. We have to express interest in and give attention to the process, just as we express interest in and give attention to sense gratification.
As the old saying goes, “The ball is in our court”. The mercy and blessings are available to everyone, every living entity, on this planet due to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s divine appearance. The question is, “Can we pull our heads out of the ass of sense gratification long enough to even care?”