By Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja
I have long left worldly life. Why did I leave it? I did it simply to engage in bhajana, devotional service. Bhajana of whom? Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Why bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa? Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the sole cause of all causes and I have an eternal connection with Him only. Who is Śrī Kṛṣṇa?
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is that existence which is saturated with complete bliss. He has the ability to attract all other living entities, and by virtue of this He personally experiences bliss and also bestows bliss upon others. He is replete with unlimited knowledge. The seers of the truth know Him in His three-fold aspect of complete knowledge, existence and bliss. Tattva-vastu, the Absolute Reality, which is fully sat-cit-ananda, is indeed Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Who am I? As a part of His potency I too am composed of existence, knowledge and bliss. I am not vastu-tattva, the Absolute Reality, but as part of His potency I have the aspects of existence, knowledge and bliss. Therefore I have an eternal relationship with Him.
What type of relationship do I have with Him? I have a relationship in every respect with Śrī Kṛṣṇa only. Śrī Kṛṣṇa has two energies: material (aparā) and spiritual (parā). I, as the conscious existence (the soul), am the cause, and part of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s parā energy; and my existence in the form of the effect (the body), is part of His aparā energy.
Knowing that I belong to Him in every respect, I renounced worldly life to eternally dedicate myself to His bhajana. My gross, subtle and spiritual bodies are forever related to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, thus with all my senses I will at all times and in all circumstances attempt to engage myself in His service alone. This is my bhajana.
Now a question arises: was it not possible for me to stay in my normal worldly life to practise such devotion?
Of course I certainly could have remained there, but I would have had to cater to the tastes of others. This was the main obstruction I faced in living amongst those who were antagonistic to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s service. That was unpleasant. I never wanted to make my valuable life unsuccessful by spending even a moment of it in activities other than serving Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
To attain the opportunity to constantly engage my different senses in loving service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, I obtained by great fortune the association of a most compassionate person who is the abode of affection, the dear-most servant of Mahāprabhu. With loving compassion he overlooked my disqualification, and to enrich my greed for bhajana he accepted me as his own. Upon receiving a touch of his mercy, I enthusiastically resolved to engage all my senses exclusively and continuously in the bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Consequently, I set out with determination to follow all the primary injunctions of the scriptures regarding the cultivation of knowledge of the soul, and not of this temporary material body.
Spiritually-inclined people saw that I was becoming indifferent to material affairs and that I was engaged in the cultivation of spiritual practices. They started to honour me, considering me a sādhu (saint), and thus I became respected. I had resolved to one-pointedly cultivate spiritual life by submitting myself for rectification as a disciple. Unfortunately, however, I once again started to hanker for the luxuries of this body and for worldly prestige, impelled by my previous bad saṁskāras (impressions).
I had always greatly revered and loved my Śrī Gurudeva. Now, however, due to this burning urge to satisfy my senses, many a time I think him an obstacle to my devious ends and have started looking at him with a different attitude. I no longer consider him my well-wisher. I have some reverence for him so I cannot control him. Nor can I accept his discipline, because it would hinder my whimsical nature. Thus I find myself stuck in these two crises.
Although I had originally resolved to perform bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, gradually I have forgotten this aspiration. My endeavour now externally exists in name only. In fact, other than desiring to satisfy my senses, nothing brings any substantial delight to my heart. I used to consider myself fortunate upon gaining any opportunity to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa but now I see such opportunities as troublesome.
I used to feel myself blessed upon attaining service to Śrīla Gurudeva, but now that very same service seems burdensome. I used to be enthusiastic to serve devotees (i.e.Vaiṣṇavas and saintly people), but now I am apathetic to the very suggestion of such service.
My mind becomes perturbed if I am not always praised and honoured in every way by being offered an elevated seat, costly clothes and palatable dishes. Fearing public opinion, I often feel too shy to openly express such expectations, but I wonder how long I would continue to be counted as a bhakta if I did not receive all this. The sole pleasure of my senses has become prominent, taking the place of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s bhajana.
Now my priority is to serve my senses. If by chance I perform some service for the sake of Śrī Kṛṣṇa or Śrī Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, after or during the course of my selfish pursuits, then and then only am I able to perform bhajana.
Although I daily used to sing the glories of Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, now within my mind I consider myself non-different from them; that is, equal to them. I am gradually trying to accept their position and I cherish the desire to attain this world, with the Vaiṣṇavas and Śrī Bhagavān as my servants. My object of worship is no longer Śrī Kṛṣṇa but my whimsical nature. In public gatherings, I never fail to collect fame as a great Vaiṣṇava by openly declaring myself the servant of the servant of Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. However, the truth is that within my heart I refuse to consider myself inferior to them at any cost. The external respect I used to give to śrī guru and Vaiṣṇavas was only a device to establish myself in the society as a saintly man and thus earn prestige.
It is not that I have not reflected time and again that I have become immersed in this sorry plight. I used to consider that knowingly or unknowingly I must have committed some vaiṣṇava-aparādha. Offences to devotees usually lead to the waning of bhakti. Slowly such offenders end up being victims of sensual urges and entrapped by kapaṭatā, self-deception. I am sometimes able to detect my faults, but because I fear public opinion and the loss of my false pride, I am reluctant to win the good grace of the devotees by humbly asking their forgiveness. I am more involved with winning the false adoration of worldly-minded people, and I neglect the pleasure of Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas.
Sometimes, to impress the ignorant and eager for their adoration, I pretentiously take to the practice of solitary bhajana. And sometimes I take to the occupation of a mendicant, engaging in begging for my subsistence. All these attempts, however, do not satisfy my restless mind, and because I do not receive my full expectation of adoration, my unrestricted mind finds substitutes to satisfy it.
In this way, my bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa now culminates in attempts to secure wealth, to liaise with women in the hope of attaining their merciful glance (and make them do my bidding), or to secure fame. Seeing my wretched condition, my true well-wishers and friends on the spiritual path repeatedly counsel me to refrain from these whimsical activities and take again to the protective guidance of Guru, Vaiṣṇavas and śāstra.
Previously, when I considered their instructions to be nectarean, I bade farewell to worldly pleasures and came to perform bhajana, spiritual practices. My extreme misfortune, however, now keeps me in the guise of a saint, directly or indirectly impelling me to become mad in the pursuit of wealth, women and prestige. Instructions for my welfare no longer seem beneficial.
I had heard that śāstra mentions two paths: śreyaḥ, the superior spiritual path, and preyaḥ, the way of natural tendencies. I had left preyaḥ to pursue śreyaḥ but my misfortune has brought me back to my old ways.
I am no longer eager to hear holy recitations of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or anything about Śrī Bhagavān. How many times will I have to hear the same old stories? Drowsiness usually overcomes me as soon as I give my attention to such narrations. But sleep does not disturb me at all when I relish common, worldly gossip. I could remain wide awake the entire night just to engage in such gossip without experiencing the slightest distaste for it. I have forgotten the words of Bhāgavatam I2.8.4). Therein, it is stated:
śṛṇvataḥ śraddhayā nityaṁ
“For those who hear Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam regularly and who always take its subject seriously, the Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa will manifest in their hearts within a short time.”
The message of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Śrī Gītā regarding abhyāsayoga, constant devotional practice, has slipped from my memory. Having heard a little about bhakti, I have impulsively begun to profess well-versed knowledge of it. I am convinced that with my senses, which are full of lusty desires, I have understood what a bhakta is meant to be and now only Śrī Bhagavān remains to be known by me. I have forgotten that the transcendental aspect of bhakti and the bhakta cannot be reflected upon or understood with my mind, which is full of sensual desires. Similarly, I have forgotten the glories of surrender to the Supreme Lord and the spiritual master.
nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo
Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad (3.2.3)
“The Supreme Lord is not attained by expert explanations, vast intelligence, or repeated hearing. He is attained only by one chosen by He Himself, and He manifests His own form to that person.”
Even after repeatedly hearing these words of the Śrutis, I do not remember them. And I have forgotten that the association of the bhaktas and Bhagavān is never attained by the ascending process. I observe that sometimes my mind is inclined to perform austerities and at other times it is inclined to perform pious activities, even though I fully know that neither of these processes can bring one to the association of the bhaktas and Śrī Bhagavān. But I have forgotten this.
rahūgaṇaitat tapasā na yāti
“My dear King Rahūgaṇa, unless one has the opportunity to smear his entire body with the dust of the lotus feet of great devotees, one cannot realize the Absolute Truth. One cannot realise the Absolute Truth simply by observing celibacy (brahmācārya), strictly following the rules and regulations of householder life, leaving home as a vānapraṣṭha, accepting sannyāsa, or undergoing severe penances in winter by keeping oneself submerged in water or surrounding oneself in summer by fire and the scorching heat of the sun. There are many other processes to understand the Absolute Truth, but the Absolute Truth is only revealed to one who has attained the mercy of a great devotee.”
naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ
“Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava who is completely freed from material contamination, persons strongly inclined toward material life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is glorified for His uncommon activities. Only by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one be freed from material contamination.”
I have forgotten the earlier vows in pursuit of devotion that I took in the presence of my spiritual master. Those vows were in connection with being the servant of the servants of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and to not allowing any selfish ambition to remain within me. My only ambition was to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa along with His parikaras. I started to perform bhajana with the highest objectives to be had within the realm of this universe. Why I have then rejected it all to take to the insignificant and temporary pursuits of trivial sense enjoyments, which are generally misery-bound? I do not reflect upon the cause of this with a sober frame of mind.
I once used to think that to maintain my life ample wealth was necessary, and that a woman who can submissively cater to my whims was necessary for the satisfaction of my senses. Now I read such verses as:
jāta-śraddho mat-kathāsunirviṇṇaḥ sarva-karmasu
“Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities."
On the pretence of adopting yukta-vairāgya I have become complacent. I reflect that, after all, in my stage of sādhana, which is full of anarthas, bad habits are bound to exist. I therefore think that these statements have given eternal licence to my passions. But these statements actually mean that gradually one must control these inferior habits and selflessly endeavour for bhajana with no expectation of any return. I support my anarthas on the strength of another fault by thinking that for a sādhaka these anarthas are bound to exist. This fault is known as vipralipsā, the tendency to cheat.
There is no scriptural support for such unrestricted indulgence of the senses. This, too, I have forgotten. Until I become eligible to relish śuddha-bhakti-rasa and absorb myself in the service of bhaktas and Śrī Bhagavān, śāstra has cautioned me not to give up bhajana but to perform it while accepting those sense enjoyments that are necessary, all the while condemning them. If I do not condemn such sense enjoyment but fondly accept it, I will have no way of ridding my heart of it. I have forgotten all these statements.
In fact, meditating on the glories of lust, sense enjoyment, the association of women, sufficient wealth and worldly fame, will surely lead me to become eventually attached to them. I came to perform exclusive bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, but I have been allured by the glories of associating with women. I have rejected celibacy to yearn for marriage, having forgotten its transient nature. What fate would await me if I married?
Previously, I had definitely renounced this world, but in contemplating momentary pleasures afforded by wealth and forgetting the grief that accrues in such ventures, I have become enamoured by the endeavour to accumulate wealth. I am eager to win the fickle adoration of worldly people who are blinded by their madness for sense gratification, and I do not reflect upon the anarthas that accompany such deeds. I have therefore disregarded the instructions of Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas and displeased them.
At times, in my mad pursuit for distinction and prestige, I have not only neglected and offended them, but have become opposed to them. It is not that my dismal state of affairs has not disturbed me. Many a time I have analysed my depraved life, and how by leading it, I have spoiled my chances of attaining the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is supreme auspiciousness and full of bliss. I have spoiled my chances by acting against my own ultimate welfare.
Within my mind I sometimes become determined to lead a righteous life in every respect; but impelled by the results of my previous actions, sometimes, unknowingly, I become unrighteous. In this state I ask, “Is there any hope for my ultimate welfare?” I definitely think so.
I may fail any test in any circumstance but I will not be discouraged. I will continue to traverse the path of sādhana-bhajana; and my master, who is eternally worshipable for me, most compassionate and the deliverer of the fallen, will definitely shower his blessings upon me. “Kṛṣṇa kṛpā karibena’ dṛḍha kari’ jāne – A fully surrendered devotee always hopes that Śrī Kṛṣṇa will be kind to him. This hope is very firm in him” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 23.28).
“Dubalo yadi nā to dube dube vā – Even if my boat has sunk and I am drowning, I will not give up my efforts.” This principle will give me strength. I will not become bereft of hope at any time. No tendency other than bestowing bliss can remain in Bhagavān, who is the embodiment of complete bliss. He is the controller of everyone, and therefore in His dispensation there must be an arrangement to bestow bliss, and only bliss, upon me. I am His servant, so He will surely protect and maintain me. Of this there is no doubt.
bhūmau skhalita pādānāṁ
“Just as the ground is the only support for those whose feet have slipped, You are the only shelter even for those who have offended You.”
Remembering this statement again and again, begging everyone forgiveness for my offences, and fully dedicating myself to the service of Bhagavān and His dear associates with determination, I will continue to offer prayers to the bhaktas and Bhagavān with a service attitude. It is only by their merciful blessings that I can overcome all my tendencies other than to perform bhakti and attain bliss by rendering service unto them. Service to the bhaktas (i.e. Guru and Vaiṣṇavas) and Bhagavān, is indeed my bhajana, devotional practice.
Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava
Goswami Maharaja Page