Today, Saturday, January 2, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s divine disappearance day, I was pleased to officially connect four devotees to Srila Prabhupada and the guru-parampara through hari-nama initiation. Amar Patil became Ambarisa dasa, Chandni Doshi became Chandrika Priya dasi, Mimi Wilheim became Vraja Gopi dasi, and Sukha Kamat became Sukhada dasi. Please bless them and support them in their service to Srila Prabhupada, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and their mission.
Thank you very much.
Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada,
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, is my grand spiritual master, but I feel that I never really knew him very well until I read his biography Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava by my godbrother Bhakti Vikasa Swami. Many of the quotes and references below come from that work.
We are all here by the mercy of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There’s a line through which the mercy descends upon us, beginning with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and passing, one teacher after the other, through parampara, disciplic succession. Five thousand years ago Krishna came in His original form and instructed, in the Bhagavad-gita (9.34, 18.65), man-mana bhava mad-bhakto: “Always think of Me and become My devotee.” Five hundred years ago the same Lord Krishna came again, in the devotional form of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, to explain and personally show how to be a devotee and always think of Krishna. Lord Chaitanya quoted a verse from the Brhan-naradiya Purana (38.126):
harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
“One should chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Hari, Krishna. There is no other way, no other way, no other way for success in the present age of Kali.” He also desired and predicted:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
“In as many towns and villages as there are on the surface of the earth, My holy name will be propagated.” (Cb 3.4.126) This desire and prediction were expressed at a time when it was almost impossible to imagine or believe that it could happen.
In the 1800s Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura began the effort to spread the holy name of Krishna to countries outside India. He wrote a small book in English called Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts and dispatched copies to libraries around the world. In recent years Srila Prabhupada’s disciples have discovered copies in libraries from Canada (McGill University) to Australia. Bhaktivinoda Thakura yearned for the day when devotees from all over the world would unite in harinama-sankirtana and wrote, “Very soon the unparalleled path of harinama-sankirtana will be propagated all over the planet. . . . Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mridangas, and kartals and perform kirtan through their streets and towns. When will that day come? Oh, for the day when the fair-skinned men from their side will raise up the chanting of ‘Jaya Sacinandana, jaya Sacinandana ki jaya!’ and join with the Bengali devotees. When will that day be?” (Sajjana-tosani)
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a very powerful spiritual master, an acharya. After the disappearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates, many unscrupulous people claiming to be Mahaprabhu’s followers introduced concocted philosophies and practices—even illicit activities—to the point that if an educated Bengali heard the word Vaishnava, he would immediately think the worst. In educated circles Vaishnava had come to mean a sentimental, ignorant person with loose character who, in the guise of religion, engaged in all sorts of questionable activities. In this precarious situation, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura came forward and presented the true understanding of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, speaking strongly against the deviant groups that had distorted and perverted His pure teachings and practices.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura held a high position in the British rule of India—the highest an Indian could hold, and then only very rarely. He had important responsibilities in the government and had a large family, but his main interest was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the sankirtana movement. He would sleep little and rise early. He did so much—wrote books, traveled, preached, established centers—and had a tremendous effect, especially on the people of Bengal and Orissa, including the intellectual elite, who were just then coming in touch with modern ideas from the West. He revived the true mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, inspiring hosts of people to join him, and pushed back the deviant groups, which lost much of their influence.
Having undertaken such a tremendous task and executed it so successfully but still being surrounded by so many parties with vested interests in covering the true intention of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was at a loss as to who would carry on his mission. So he prayed to Krishna to send someone—one of His own associates from the spiritual realm—to continue the work. It is understood that the appearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was the answer to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s prayers.
We have gathered at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada in this wonderful temple of Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda, Sri Sita-Rama-Laksmana-Hanuman, and Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, in the presence of His Holiness Radhanath Swami and so many exalted devotees. We are entering the New Year, 2010, and the next decade, and on such occasions we take stock of what and how we did in the previous year and what we want to do in the next. Studies have shown, and probably many of us have experienced, that most New Year’s resolutions are broken during the first week. Still more are broken in the first month, and almost all are broken within the first three months.
Why does this happen, and what can we do? Man is a creature of habit. We have developed certain habits over the past however many years—perhaps lifetimes—and to change our habits requires sincere desire and determined effort. Another study has shown that when a person is trying to develop a new habit, he has to consistently, diligently strive to adhere to the new practice for at least thirty days. After thirty days, he is able to follow more easily but can be derailed by stress or changes in his life. After ninety days it becomes just as easy to follow the new habit as not, and after a year it is easier to follow the new habit than not.
So, what new habits do we want to develop in the next year? That depends on our goals. When I visited Pune some years ago, the Malhotra brothers arranged a program for me in the main hall, and at the end of the talk the general in charge of the Southern Command of the Indian Army asked an important question: “What is the aim for which we are born—what is the aim of our life? It certainly could not be to amass some wealth and ultimately die, or to make a building and then die, or to marry and procreate and then die. For our minor activities in life we have the aims set first, before we get going to achieve them. When we train our people in the army, whatever they have to do we first tell them what the aim is. And once they are clear what the aim is, then we decide what means to adopt to achieve it. And invariably we don’t go wrong. Now here it is—to my mind, my whole life is going to waste; I am still not very clear what is the aim of my life. Would you kindly enlighten us about the aim of life so that thereafter we can be very, very clear as to what we have got to do to achieve that aim?”
Srila Sanatana Gosvami asked the same question of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:
“‘ke ami’, ‘kene amaya jare tapa-traya’
iha nahi jani—kemane hita haya
“‘sadhya’-‘sadhana’-tattva puchite na jani
krpa kari’ saba tattva kaha ta’ apani”
“Who am I? Why do the threefold miseries always give me trouble? If I do not know this, how can I be benefited? Actually I do not know how to inquire about the goal of life and the process for obtaining it. Being merciful upon me, please explain all these truths.” (Cc Madhya 20.102–103) He said, “In ordinary dealings people consider me to be a learned scholar (pandita), but I am so learned I do not even know who I am. So please tell me who I am and what is the goal of life.” And Lord Chaitanya replied, “By constitution you are an eternal servant of Krishna —jivera ‘svarupa’ haya—krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’—and the goal of life is to be reinstated in your constitutional position as His loving servant.”
If someone understands that he is not the body, that he is the soul within the body, and that his real relationship is not with the body or things related to the body but that, as he is a spiritual soul, his real relationship is with the Supreme Soul, then he can adopt the methods that are suitable for reviving his eternal relationship with the Supreme Soul, Krishna.
Most resolutions take the form of “do’s”—things I resolve to do—and “don’ts”—things I resolve to not do. And Vedic wisdom tells us that all do’s and don’ts should support one main do—always remember Krishna (God)—and one main don’t—never forget Him.
Now, practically, what can we do to always remember Krishna and never forget Him? The processes most favorable for remembering Him are chanting and hearing: chanting and hearing His holy names—the Hare Krishna maha-mantra—and chanting and hearing His transcendental topics—krsna-katha, such as the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. And in broad terms, the processes most obstructive to remembering Him are mental speculation and sense gratification, especially vicious activities against Vedic principles, or God’s laws—which include eating meat, taking intoxicants, engaging in illicit sex, and gambling.
So, for our New Year’s resolutions, we can resolve to increase our chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, especially on beads, and our reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books. And we can resolve to decrease, or stop, activities detrimental to Krishna consciousness. And the Lord will help us in our efforts, for God helps those who help themselves.
We wish you a happy New Year—in Krishna consciousness—by the grace of Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
Yours in service,