We read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Nine, Chapter Ten: “The Pastimes of the Supreme Lord, Ramacandra.”
te ’nikapa raghupater abhipatya sarve
dvandvam varutham ibha-patti-rathasva-yodhaih
jaghnur drumair giri-gadesubhir angadadyah
Angada and the other commanders of the soldiers of Ramacandra faced the elephants, infantry, horses, and chariots of the enemy and hurled against them big trees, mountain peaks, clubs, and arrows. Thus the soldiers of Lord Ramacandra killed Ravana’s soldiers, who had lost all good fortune because Ravana had been condemned by the anger of Mother Sita.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
The soldiers Lord Ramacandra recruited in the jungle were all monkeys and did not have proper equipment with which to fight the soldiers of Ravana, for Ravana’s soldiers were equipped with weapons of modern warfare whereas the monkeys could only throw stones, mountain peaks, and trees. It was only Lord Ramacandra and Laksmana who shot some arrows. But because the soldiers of Ravana were condemned by the curse of Mother Sita, the monkeys were able to kill them simply by throwing stones and trees. There are two kinds of strength—daiva and purusakara. Daiva refers to the strength achieved from the Transcendence, and purusakara refers to the strength organized by one’s own intelligence and power. Transcendental power is always superior to the power of the materialist. Depending on the mercy of the Supreme Lord, one must fight one’s enemies even though one may not be equipped with modern weapons. Therefore Krsna instructed Arjuna, mam anusmara yudhya ca: “Think of Me and fight.” We should fight our enemy to the best of our ability, but for victory we must depend on the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
Coming to Bhaktivedanta Manor, I was reminded of the struggle we faced here to keep the temple open to the public and to preach Krishna consciousness. Although in such battles the enemies sometimes appear to have the upper hand, in the end, as long as we remain faithful to and dependent on the Lord and at the same time make our best effort with all sincerity and intelligence, we will be successful, according to His will.
We had a similar struggle in Juhu, Bombay. In fact, in Juhu we were even less equipped than were the devotees here, who had already established the mission quite solidly and had many friends—a large congregation and friends in influential positions. Still, it was a great struggle here.
In Juhu we were comparable to the band of monkeys that joined Lord Ramachandra. Srila Prabhupada himself drew parallels between himself and Lord Ramachandra, and between us and the monkeys. He compared the Western countries to Ravana, because they had so much wealth, just like Ravana in his opulent kingdom of Lanka. And wealth is Lakshmi—a manifestation of Lakshmi, or Sita. So, Srila Prabhupada said that just as Ravana had kidnapped Sita, the Western countries had kidnapped, or taken possession of, so much wealth. And just as Lord Ramachandra had crossed the ocean to redeem Sita, so Srila Prabhupada had also crossed the ocean. And just as Lord Ramachandra was assisted by so many monkeys, Srila Prabhupada was assisted by us.
The Juhu struggle is a great story, which has been told to some extent in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. One incident took place after we had been successful in getting the land from the previous owner, Mr. Nair. Srila Prabhupada used to refer to him as “the demon Nair.” When we first got possession of the land, the front of the property was vacant, and in the back were some old tenement buildings. So, we built a temporary temple in the front for the Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari. At first, we were living on the roofs on the terraces of the buildings, but eventually we were able to get at least one of the apartments from a tenant—for Srila Prabhupada.
So, Srila Prabhupada was living there, and he would go up to the roof in the late afternoon and meet people. One evening, he was sitting on the terrace and his disciple Haridas was fanning him. Srila Prabhupada said to Haridas, “Do you hear that?” And Haridas said, “Hear what?” Prabhupada said, “Do you hear the sound of the kirtan in the temple?” Haridas said, “No.” Prabhupada said, “That’s the point! There’s no kirtan going on in the temple!” Then he said, “Where are all the devotees? They should be in the temple doing kirtan; it’s the time of arati.” Haridas speculated and said, “They are probably out collecting. They haven’t gotten back from the city yet.” And Prabhupada replied, “That was not my idea that devotees should go out all day and collect and neglect the temple programs.”
Then he said, “Why do you think we were successful here? Mr. Nair was so much more powerful than we were. He was a wealthy man; we had very little money. He had been the sheriff of Bombay and knew so many influential people; we hardly knew anyone. And he owned one of the three English daily newspapers in Bombay. So he was very powerful. And we had very little money or influence, yet we were successful. Why? Because we were working for Krishna, for the pleasure of Krishna, we were successful.” Regarding the temple program, he said, “We will be successful not because we go out all day to collect money and then come back late—we’ll be successful if Krishna is pleased. So, we should go out, but we should come back in time. The devotees should leave the city by five o’clock and come back, otherwise they will become like karmis. They should come and chant in front of the Deities and please the Deities, and when the Deities are pleased, we will be successful by Their mercy.”
This is always our position, that we make our best effort but depend on the mercy of the Lord. And making our best effort means according to the desire of the Lord—in our case, according to the order of the spiritual master. In the case of the monkeys of Lord Rama, they were directly under the Lord. Arjuna was directly under the Lord. We are also under the Lord, but under sadhu, shastra, and guru. They tell us what will please the Lord, and if we act to please the Lord, if the Lord is pleased, we will be successful.
Although the monkeys were successful in killing the army of Ravana, ultimately it was Lord Ramachandra who killed the great demon Ravana, and Rama-vijaya-dasami celebrates the victory of Ramachandra and specifically His killing of Ravana.
Now, in one sense this was an easier battle, because it is easier to battle forces that are outside of one’s self. But there are also enemies inside us with which we have to contend, and that struggle can be more difficult and more painful than the battle against enemies outside. Prahlada Maharaja survived so many attacks on his life organized by his father, Hiranyakasipu, but in his prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva, he said that his biggest enemies were his own mind and senses. The Bhagavad-gita says that the mind can be one’s best friend or one’s worst enemy. So, that’s a constant battle we all face—how to keep the mind focused on Krishna, especially when we gather together to hear and chant the holy name, to hear and chant the transcendental topics. We should fix the mind on Krishna. Mayy asakta-manah partha. In the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that the mind should be attached to Him. For us, aspiring devotees or practicing devotees, the best way to fix our mind on Krishna is to hear the holy names of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and to hear, to actually hear, each word, each syllable. But it is difficult, because the mind is flickering and unsteady (cancalam hi manah krsna). Arjuna tells Krishna that it seems more difficult to control the mind than to control the wind, and who can control the wind? Nobody. That means it is practically impossible to control the mind. But Krishna says that it is possible by suitable practice and detachment. Abhyasa is the word for “practice.” We have to practice chanting and hearing. It is a struggle—it’s an effort—but we have to practice. As Srila Prabhupada said, “Practice makes perfect—even in spiritual life.”
Still, we will not be successful by our own efforts alone. I think we all have that experience—it applies not only to chanting japa, but to any of our activities. It applies to book distribution: Sometimes devotees go out thinking, “Oh, I am really fit today. I am going to have a great day.” And then they hardly have any results. And other times they go out feeling miserable—they don’t even know how they are going to get through the day—and they are very successful. They experience the lesson that they are not the doers, not the controllers. Whatever they do is by the mercy of the Lord, the mercy of the spiritual master, the mercy of the disciplic succession.
So, we make our effort, but ultimately we have to depend on the mercy of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada showed this all the time. After the success of the first Bombay pandal, he sent Tamal Krishna Goswami and me to Calcutta to organize a pandal program there. There were many Naxalites—communist youth—in Calcutta at the time. They used to kidnap people from rich families, and they would kill for their cause. When Srila Prabhupada first came to Calcutta, the Naxalites shot a wealthy person dead right on the street, just a few blocks from where Prabhupada was staying. They were envious. They may have had their reasons, but still, they were envious.
When Prabhupada came for the pandal program, the Naxalites were very disturbed and even sent Prabhupada a note: “Fly or die,” composed of letters cut out of a newspaper and pasted on the paper so that no one could trace the typewriter. The mood in the city was very tense.
Before the pandal program began, we had a small press conference with Srila Prabhupada behind the tent, and one of the reporters challenged, “What is the use of spending all this money on this pandal? You could use the money to help poor people.” And Srila Prabhupada said, “What is the use? The use is to give people a chance to hear. Actually, the whole pandal has come from hearing. I went to America and spoke and some young people heard me, and because they heard me, now they have made all the effort to organize the program. So, the use is to give people a chance to hear, and everything comes from that.” In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna tells Arjuna, tac chrnu: “Just hear from Me.” So, first comes hearing (sravanam), and then kirtanam and the other items of devotional service. Srila Prabhupada said, “They heard from me, and now they are repeating what they heard.”
Thousands of people attended the first night of the pandal program; they were just streaming in. We had dhurries, simple Indian carpets, on the ground, and most people sat on them, cross-legged. To the side, we had folding chairs, and we charged one rupee for a seat. So, some Naxalites came, and they were agitated that some people got to sit on the seats while other people had to sit on the ground. They made a huge disturbance. Prabhupada was trying to speak, and they were banging chairs together to make noise so that Prabhupada wouldn’t be able to speak. It was really tense. We didn’t know what was going to happen. Suddenly Prabhupada leaned forward, toward the microphone, and his voice boomed through the speaker system: “govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami . . .” He was singing the Govindam prayers. Suddenly the commotion stopped, and the Naxalites just walked away. I thought, “He has so much of faith in Krishna. He completely depends on Krishna.” (Years later, I read Gurudas Prabhu’s account of that incident, and it seems that along with singing the Govindam prayers, Prabhupada was sending notes to Gurudas telling him what to do with the Naxalites. And that’s good, too. We make our best effort and depend on Krishna. That is our process.)
We are about to begin the special month of Damodara, Kartik, and during this month we celebrate this binding of Krishna with ropes. Dama means “ropes” and udara means “belly.” Many of you know the story: Mother Yasoda was breastfeeding baby Krishna, and while doing so she realized that some milk that was on the fire was boiling over. So she set baby Krishna aside before He was satisfied, to tend to the milk on the fire. Baby Krishna became angry, and eventually He broke a pot of makhana (freshly churned butter) and began to eat it and share it with His friends.
When Mother Yasoda returned to where she had left Krishna, He wasn’t there. She saw His little footprints—His feet had been smeared with butter—and saw the broken pot. She was concerned and considered that she would have to discipline Krishna so that He would grow up properly. All responsible parents are concerned that they have to raise their children properly—that if they don’t discipline them, the children will not learn how to behave. As it was, Krishna was going to the neighbors’ homes and doing mischief, and they were complaining to Yasoda, “You better take care of your son. He is not behaving properly.”
Ultimately Mother Yasoda found Krishna, and when He saw her approaching—He was sitting, eating the makhana—He immediately got up and began to flee, and she started to pursue Him, but because He was smaller and more agile, He was able to get away. But eventually He allowed her to catch Him, and once she caught Him, she wanted to bind Him with ropes. Every morning she would tie His belt before He went to the pasturing grounds, so she didn’t think it would be difficult. But when she attempted to tie the rope, it was two inches too short, or, as the Bhagavatam says, the width of two fingers too short. So she added some more rope, but it was still two fingers too short. She added more. It was still two fingers too short. She gathered all the ropes in the household—being in a cowherd community, they had a lot of ropes for tying the cows and calves. And the neighbors were bringing their ropes. It was miles and miles of ropes, yet she still couldn’t bind Krishna. But she didn’t give up. Her friends were telling her, “You are not going to be able to do it. This is not working. Just give up.” But she was so sincere, feeling that, as Krishna’s mother, she had a duty, that she endeavored to tie Him up so that He wouldn’t create further mischief—and to teach Him a lesson. So, she didn’t give up, and when Krishna saw her sincere effort, His heart melted and He allowed her to bind Him.
Our acharyas have commented on the significance of the two fingers by which the rope was too short. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that there was a competition between Krishna’s desire and Yasoda’s desire. Krishna’s desire was to be free and play with His friends, and Yasoda’s desire was to bind Krishna, so their desires were opposed to each other. Krishna has two shaktis. One potency is called satya-sankalpa-sakti, which means that whatever He desires is fulfilled. So, that came into play. Another potency is called vibhuti-sakti, which allows Him to manifest His opulences, although He usually doesn’t—only when necessary. Say there is a forest fire. He can be defeated by His friends in their sports, but when there is a forest fire or some other threat to the residents of Vrindavan, the vibhuti-sakti comes into play and allows Him to manifest His opulences and swallow the forest fire.
In this case the two shaktis—satya-sankalpa and vibhuti—joined together to fulfill His desire to play, and Mother Yasoda couldn’t bind Him. But when He saw her tireless efforts, He felt compassionate toward her, and He allowed her to bind Him. The acharyas say that one finger represents parisrama, personal endeavor, and that the other represents krsna-krpa, Krishna’s mercy. When these two combine, Krishna agrees to be bound.
So, we make our effort. We never give up, no matter what. We make our effort, and when Krishna sees that we are sincere in our effort to serve Him and please Him, His heart melts and He allows Himself to be bound. In any effort it is the same combination: our hard labor (parisrama) and Krishna’s mercy (krsna-krpa). It applies to our efforts to preach and to distribute books. It applies to our efforts to hear and to chant, to chant japa. We make our effort, and at the same time we pray for Krishna’s mercy. We depend on Krishna and pray for His mercy.
Here the mood of humility is essential. As long as we think we can do it on our own, we won’t get Krishna’s mercy, at least not to the same extent. That was Ravana’s mentality. He thought he didn’t need anyone. He thought he could do everything by his own strength and powers. So, we all have that little Ravana tendency. You may not, but I do. So, we have to be conscious of that tendency and pray to Lord Rama to subdue that Ravana-like tendency within us.
There’s a beautiful prayer by Prahlada Maharaja in the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, in which he prays to Lord Nrsimhadeva, “Please vanquish the demonlike desires in my heart, just like You vanquished the demon Hiranyakasipu.” Hiranya means “gold,” and kasipu means “soft bedding.” Those are the main interests of materialistic people—money and sense indulgence. So, “Just as You killed the great demon Hiranyakasipu, please vanquish the demonlike desires within my heart.” After Nrsimhadeva subdued Hiranyakasipu, He sat on Hiranyakasipu’s throne, lifted the demon onto His lap, and tore his heart out, so we want Lord Nrsimhadeva to sit on the throne of our hearts and kill these demonlike desires for gold and sense gratification.
Srila Prabhupada has given us everything. I am sure people have said the same thing before, but he really has. He has given us the knowledge, he has given us the process, and he has given us the way to invoke Krishna’s mercy. The best way to invoke Krishna’s mercy is to practice and preach. That combination will invoke Krishna’s mercy and make us successful.
In previous ages, the Lord would kill the demons—Nrsimhadeva killed Hiranyakasipu, Ramachandra killed Ravana, and Krishna killed so many demons—but in Kali-yuga, because we all have demonic tendencies within us and pretty much everyone has bad habits, the Lord doesn’t physically kill the person; He kills their demonic mentalities by His mercy, by giving them the holy name. We find that exemplified in the story of Jagai and Madhai. They were violent toward Lord Nityananda, and when Lord Chaitanya heard, He came rushing to the spot, ready to kill them with His Sudarshan chakra. But Nityananda Prabhu appealed to the Lord, “This is Kali-yuga, My Lord. In Kali-yuga You can’t just kill the people like that. In Kali-yuga everyone will be like Jagai and Madhai, so are You going to kill everyone? In Kali-yuga Your mission is to deliver them by Your mercy.” When Lord Nityananda intervened on behalf of the two sinful brothers, Lord Chaitanya hesitated, and the two surrendered to Lord Chaitanya, and He forgave them for their sins, with the condition that they would not commit sins again. They took up the chanting of the holy name. That means they developed faith in Nityananda Prabhu and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and because they developed faith, they took up the chanting and were eligible to receive the Lord’s mercy, and they were forgiven.
That’s our position in Kali-yuga. We need the mercy of Lord Nityananda and through Him the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. Srila Prabhupada said in LA, “To approach Radha and Krishna, we need the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. And to get the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, we need the mercy of Lord Nityananda. And to get the mercy of Lord Nityananda, we have to approach people like Jagai and Madhai.” In other words, the people on the street, the people in the subways, the people at the airport, the people in the offices, the people in the neighborhood, and sometimes even closer.
So, that is Prabhupada’s special mood, coming from the Pancha-tattva. It is his special mood to get the Lord’s mercy by preaching, by approaching anyone and everyone to give them Krishna consciousness, give them the holy name of Krishna. So, our effort (parisrama) has two sides: one is our own practices, hearing and chanting attentively and following the whole system that Prabhupada gave us (sadhana-bhakti), and the other is at the same time making the effort to give Krishna consciousness to others, to induce others to accept the great gift of the holy name.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Rama-vijaya-dasami, October 19, 2007, Bhaktivedanta Manor, near London, England]