Dec 232009

The main holidays in the Western world at this time of year are Christmas and Hanukkah. As Srila Prabhupada has explained, the Lord comes to this world to enlighten people with transcendental knowledge. Sometimes He comes personally, and sometimes He sends His son or His prophet or His messenger or His representative, but they all come with the same message. They may speak in different languages according to the circumstances and the audience, but the essence of the message is the same: God is great; we are but small parts and parcels of God, meant to serve Him with love; we have come from God and are meant to return to Him.

I would like to discuss a statement from the Bhagavad-gita As It Is in relation to the holidays people are about to celebrate:

“The avatara, or incarnation of Godhead, descends from the kingdom of God for material manifestation. And the particular form of the Personality of Godhead who so descends is called an incarnation, or avatara. Such incarnations are situated in the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. When they descend to the material creation, they assume the name avatara.–[Cc Madhya 20.263–264] There are various kinds of avataras, such as purusavataras, gunavataras, lilavataras, sakty-avesa avataras, manvantara-avataras, and yugavataras–all appearing on schedule all over the universe. But Lord Krsna is the primeval Lord, the fountainhead of all avataras. Lord Sri Krsna descends for the specific purpose of mitigating the anxieties of the pure devotees, who are very anxious to see Him in His original Vrndavana pastimes.” (Bg 4.8 purport)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada, said that Jesus Christ was a saktyavesa-avatara. As we just read, avatara means “one who descends.” He accepted that Jesus Christ descended to the earth from above. That is avatara. And saktyavesa means one who carries the power of the Lord. So he accepted that Jesus Christ descended to earth with the power of the Lord to preach the message of Godhead. And Jesus Christ preached more or less the same message as Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. When people would ask Srila Prabhupada about Jesus, Prabhupada would reply, “In the Bible Jesus said that he was the son of God, and in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says that He is the father of all living entities, so there is no contradiction.”

In fact, Jesus Christ played the part of a spiritual master, or guru. The spiritual master teaches the science of Godhead, and when a disciple surrenders to a spiritual master, the spiritual master accepts the disciple’s sinful reactions. Jesus Christ performed the same functions in relation to his followers or disciples–he taught them about God and accepted their sinful reactions. Sometimes Christians quote Jesus as having said, “There is no way to the Father except through me.” This statement is a little controversial in learned circles–there is some question whether the attribution is authentic or not. But in any case, Srila Prabhupada took the truth in these words to be that one cannot approach the Lord directly; one can approach Him only through the spiritual master, through the Lord’s representative.

As far as the idea that Jesus Christ accepted the sins, or sinful reactions, of his followers, Srila Prabhupada expressed one concern: The followers should refrain from sin. They should consider, “Oh, if I sin, my spiritual master will have to suffer!” Christians in particular may consider, “If I sin, Jesus Christ will have to suffer for me, so I should not commit sin.” That should be the basic sense. They should not think, “Oh, I can go on sinning and poor Jesus will suffer for me.”

So, we accept Jesus as a saktyavesa-avatara, as an incarnation of Krsna. Christmas should be a time when we remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, the mercy of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice he made for us. And we should resolve to be better followers, better servants of God and God’s representatives, and of all humankind and all living beings.

Hanukkah is also an important festival, in the Jewish tradition, celebrated at this time of year. Different festivals take place in different seasons and have different points of significance. Winter is a dark season, when the sun sets early and rises late, and Hanukkah is the festival of light. Historically, the ancient temple in Jerusalem had been seized and desecrated, but eventually, with great courage and sacrifice, the Jewish heroes, the Maccabees, won it back. They wanted to clean and purify the temple to make it fit for worship of the Lord. The worship included a flame that was sustained by sanctified oil, to be maintained at all times. But when the Maccabees regained the temple, they found only one flask of the sacred oil, enough to burn for only one day. Still, they lit the great temple lamp, or menorah, and, according to the story, the oil burned for eight days, until they could get more. So the miracle of Hanukkah is that the purified oil, which was sufficient to last only one day, burned for eight.

Figuratively, the temple is the heart. Cleaning the temple means cleaning one’s heart of the many dirty things that accumulate there by material association. That dirt includes false identification with the body and material desires for the gratification of the body’s senses and mind independent of God’s sanction and God’s service. And, figuratively, the light is transcendental knowledge, or consciousness of God, which illuminates the heart and dispels the darkness of ignorance.

Just as the year has its seasons of greater light and darkness, we, too, have periods of increased devotion to God interspersed with periods of increased preoccupation with other matters. So the Hanukkah festival, the lighting of the candle or the burning of the lamp, means brightening our hearts with God consciousness, Krsna consciousness–cleaning the temple of the heart and rekindling the light of God consciousness, or devotion to God, within the heart.

We require help in such devotional activities, because alone, each of us is quite weak. In the face of the material world, in the face of maya, we are weak and feeble, and we need the support and help of other devotees. If one person alone had to clean the temple, he or she would have a very hard job. But when all of the devotees combine together to clean the temple, the job becomes much easier.

The most complete science of God consciousness is presented in Srimad-Bhagavatam, which explains the process of cleansing the heart:

srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani
  vidhunoti suhrt satam

“Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.” (SB 1.2.17)

The Bhagavatam says that hearing from, or about, Krsna, or God, is itself a pious activity. Simply by opening our ears and hearts to the message of Godhead we become pious (srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah punya-sravana kirtanah). Then hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani: the inauspicious things in the heart–we could say the dirty things in the heart, the evil thoughts and selfish desires–become cleansed. How? Vidhunoti suhrt satam: The Lord Himself helps the truthful devotee to clean the dirt, because the Lord Himself is already there in the heart. Because the heart is covered by material contamination, we cannot perceive the Lord’s presence, we cannot hear the Lord’s voice. But when we show our eagerness to hear the Lord’s message through our ears, the Lord within reciprocates. He helps cleanse the dirty things from the heart so that we can hear Him in the heart, guiding us. And when we surrender to the Lord and make sacrifices for Him, He supplies unlimited fuel for maintaining the flame of devotion in our hearts.

Satam means “truthful devotee.” Truthful devotees are honest in their endeavors in Krsna consciousness. One who is dishonest will make a show of piety or religiousness, but behind the show he or she will have other interests, harbor other ambitions. But truthful devotees actually want to understand the science of God and to serve the Lord and all living beings. Though they may be weak, if they are honest in their endeavors to listen to the messages of Godhead and apply the principles in life, even if they are incapable of executing the orders perfectly, still they are considered satam, truthful devotees. And the Lord within the heart, who acts as the well-wishing friend of the truthful devotee, will cleanse the heart of the dirty things that have accumulated there. Again we see how important association is, because the process for cleansing the heart is hearing the messages of Godhead, and only in the association of devotees can we receive the messages properly.

Through our hearing and then chanting and repeating what we have heard, the heart becomes cleansed by the grace of the Lord. Ceto-darpana-marjanam: By chanting the holy names of God and by hearing the transcendental glories of God, the heart becomes cleansed and the light of Krsna consciousness there burns more brightly. It spreads throughout the entire body, and it comes out through the skin, the eyes, and all the different senses. Especially, it emerges from the mouth in the form of transcendental sound, which comes from the heart. The messages that one has received through the ears and that have entered the heart come out again through the mouth and spread light or enlightenment throughout the world.

Devotees work to create situations in which we can come together and speak about God, hear about God, and remember God. And holy days are special occasions when we can get together and remember the Lord’s appearance, or some great devotee’s appearance or disappearance, or some great event that took place in the service of the Lord. When we get together and hear about the Lord and the great devotees of the Lord and the great service and miracles that took place in relation to the Lord, we become purified. We become enlightened and engladdened.

Peace on earth and goodwill toward men actually can be achieved through God consciousness. The Bhagavad-gita explains how we can achieve peace: We must “first make peace with God.” If we reestablish our relationship with God and experience God’s peace and friendship, then we can have real peace and friendship amongst ourselves, and help each other in our relationships with God.

Srila Prabhupada said, “God consciousness is there. You have begun these Christmas holidays in your country. Throughout the whole month of December you’ll observe nice festivities. Why? It began with God consciousness. Jesus Christ came to give you God consciousness, and in relation to him these festivities are going on. It may have degraded into another form, but the beginning was God consciousness. Now we may have lost it. But people cannot be happy without reviving God consciousness. It may be named differently–Krsna consciousness–but that means God consciousness. That is the necessity. We want to love somebody. Our love will be perfected when we love Krsna, or God. We are teaching that. Try to love God, and if you love God, if you love Krsna, then automatically you love everybody. That is the perfection of love.”

Hare Krsna.

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