mahatmanas tu mam partha
daivim prakrtim asritah
jnatva bhutadim avyayam
O son of Prtha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible. (Gita 9.13)
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
In this verse the description of the mahatma is clearly given. The first sign of the mahatma is that he is already situated in the divine nature. He is not under the control of material nature. And how is this effected? That is explained in the Seventh Chapter: one who surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, at once becomes freed from the control of material nature. That is the qualification. One can become free from the control of material nature as soon as he surrenders his soul to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the preliminary formula. Being marginal potency, as soon as the living entity is freed from the control of material nature, he is put under the guidance of the spiritual nature. The guidance of the spiritual nature is called daivi prakrti, divine nature. So when one is promoted in that way—by surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead—one attains to the stage of great soul, mahatma.
The mahatma does not divert his attention to anything outside Krsna, because he knows perfectly well that Krsna is the original Supreme Person, the cause of all causes. There is no doubt about it. Such a mahatma, or great soul, develops through association with other mahatmas, pure devotees. Pure devotees are not even attracted by Krsna’s other features, such as the four-armed Maha-Visnu. They are simply attracted by the two-armed form of Krsna. They are not attracted to other features of Krsna, nor are they concerned with any form of a demigod or of a human being. They meditate only upon Krsna in Krsna consciousness. They are always engaged in the unswerving service of the Lord in Krsna consciousness.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
Some years ago, when we were serving Srila Prabhupada in Bombay, I arranged a program for him at the home of the wealthiest family in India then, the Birlas. Mrs. Birla wanted a title for Srila Prabhupada’s talk, one that would appeal to the Birlas’ circle of friends. So I prepared a list of ten or twelve titles, and Mrs. Birla chose “How to be Successful in Life.” She thought that would appeal to her family and friends. I presented the title to Srila Prabhupada, and at the program Srila Prabhupada gave a transcendental definition of success. He said that there are two energies—the inferior, material energy, and the superior, spiritual energy. The material energy is personified as Durga, the spiritual energy as Srimati Radharani. We are all under the control of the material energy.
He described that Durga-devi is depicted as riding on a lion, carrying in her ten hands weapons meant to punish the materialists. She is especially known for her trident, or trisul, whose three prongs represent the threefold miseries of material nature that always pierce the conditioned souls in the prison house of the material world. The material world is a prison, and Durga-devi is the warden of the prison. She keeps us captive here. Success for the living entity is not to try to enjoy life in the prison. Rather, success is to gain release from the prison and to be blessed by the spiritual energy, Srimati Radharani.
The verse that we just read describes the process—how great souls come under spiritual energy (daivim prakrtim). In the purport Srila Prabhupada explains that the living entities are marginal energy. Krishna is the energetic, sakti-man, and the living entities are energy, sakti—specifically the marginal energy, tatastha-sakti. As marginal energy, we cannot be independent. We have to be under either the spiritual potency or the material potency. When we surrender to Krishna we gain release from the material energy and are placed under the spiritual energy.
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Gita 7.14) That is our goal in life, and that is our success in life.
The Bhagavad-gita confirms, daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya: the material nature consisting of the three modes is very difficult to overcome. But mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te: those who surrender unto Krishna can easily cross over maya.
Our process is to surrender to Krishna, to take shelter of Krishna. And in Kali-yuga the recommended method is to chant the holy names of Krishna: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Srila Prabhupada explains that the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is like the genuine cry of a child for its mother, Mother Hara. (Hare is the form of address for Hara [Radha], as Radhe is the form of address for Radha.) When we chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra we are crying out to Radharani just as a lost child calls out for its mother. We call out to Srimati Radharani, “Please save us from this material nature and engage us in Krsna’s service.”
In one sense, Srimati Radharani is very far from us. Although we talk about release from the material nature, we are actually quite entangled in the material modes. We identify with our bodies and things that relate to the body—the expansions of the body, such as family members, hearth and home, and other possessions that give support to the body. And then to maintain all the support for the body, we have to work hard, and then we become further involved with the material nature. In fact, we are quite stuck in the material world.
From that point of view, Srimati Radharani and the service of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan are quite far away. Yet even when, in our own humble, meager way, we try to serve Krishna in the material world, Srimati Radharani is there, because devotional service, even from the most beginning stage, is conducted under Her supervision. So we can appreciate the presence of Srimati Radharani through the process of devotional service. When we chant Hare Krishna and feel happy, that happiness is a manifestation of the hladini-sakti, Srimati Radharani. The pleasure that Krishna feels when we render devotional service is hladini-sakti, the pleasure potency, Srimati Radharani—and the pleasure we experience in devotional service is also a manifestation of the hladini-sakti, Srimati Radharani.
We can best serve Srimati Radharani and appreciate Her presence when we serve Her devotees. Srila Prabhupada has suggested that by serving a mahatma one in turn becomes a mahatma. So, we have Srila Prabhupada. Certainly he is a mahatma, and by serving him we also develop the qualifications of a mahatma. Not that we become Srila Prabhupada or equal to Srila Prabhupada, but because he is under the supervision of Srimati Radharani, if we conduct our devotional service under his supervision, ultimately we are also under the supervision of Srimati Radharani (daivi prakrti) and we become qualified as mahatmas. And because Srila Prabhupada is very dear to Srimati Radharani, when we serve him, She is especially pleased.
We don’t have to try to serve in a way that is beyond our present state or our present capacity. Rather, we serve in the way that Srila Prabhupada has taught us: we chant the holy name of Krishna, we hear about Krishna from the Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures, and we work cooperatively to spread the mission of Krishna consciousness. By following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions—by serving him—we are under his protection. And because he is under the protection of the divine energy, of Srimati Radharani, ultimately we are under the protection of Srimati Radharani. And by serving Srila Prabhupada here in the material world according to his instructions, we become eligible to serve him in the spiritual world, where he is engaged in the service of Radha and Krishna. Thus we would also be engaged in the service of Radha and Krishna, as we sing in the song by Narottama dasa Thakura, radha-krsna prana mora.
In one sense, our service here and our service there are the same: we are serving the servant of Sri Radha. The external features appear different, but the activities are actually the same—service to Srila Prabhupada. And Srila Prabhupada gave the example that if you are in high school but are doing college-level work, you can be promoted to college. In the same way, if we are in the material world but are engaged in the activities of the spiritual world—in devotional service—then we can be promoted to the spiritual world.
In one sense, it is sort of an illusion that we are in the material world, because here we are engaged in the spiritual activities of devotional service. So we are in the spiritual world even if we don’t realize it. As we chant more and more and serve more and more, we will realize more and more that actually we are in the spiritual world. It is only our false identification with the body and the extensions of the body, and the anxieties pertaining to the body and the expansions of the body, that cloud our consciousness and our appreciation of our real identity and the identity of the people around us who are also engaged in devotional service.
Srila Prabhupada often quoted this verse (mahatmanas tu mam partha) to give the definition of a mahatma. Mahatma has become quite a popular term, but people don’t always know what a mahatma is. Another time when Srila Prabhupada was preaching in Bombay, an Indian gentleman asked him, “India is a land of mahatmas. So many mahatmas have taken birth in India, and even today there are so many mahatmas. But still we have so many problems. How can this be, when we have so many mahatmas?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “The reason you have so many problems is because you cannot distinguish who is a mahatma from who is not.”
The definition here is important because it is true that by taking shelter of a mahatma one is relieved from all sorts of problems. Mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimuktes: by serving a mahatma, or great soul, the door to liberation is open. (SB 5.5.2) But we have to be able to recognize who a mahatma is. And the definition of a mahatma is given here: he is always under the protection of the divine nature, fully engaged in devotional service with mind absorbed in Krsna. And we have the example of Srila Prabhupada. By serving Srila Prabhupada we develop the qualities of a mahatma. It is a chain. By serving those who have taken shelter of him properly, we are also taking shelter of him, and ultimately, through the same process, we are taking shelter of Srimati Radharani.
The process is simple. Srila Prabhupada said that to chant Hare Krishna is very simple but to maintain the determination to chant is not so simple. And therefore we require the association of devotees, mahatmas, because in the association of devotees it becomes easier. It is easy to chant Hare Krishna with devotees, because they chant Hare Krishna. But if you leave the association of devotees, it becomes hard, because you are with people who are involved in so many other things and they will want to involve you in those things. Therefore Srimad-Bhagavatam recommends that even householders should spend at least three hours a day chanting and hearing about the glories of the Lord in the association of devotees. Of course, our family members can also be devotees, and we can have the association of devotees at home. The idea is to somehow or other engage in hearing and chanting about Krishna in the association of devotees. Chanting Hare Krishna and hearing krsna-katha—reading the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam—will purify our hearts (ceto-darpana-marjanam).
It is simple because we are already chanting—everyone is chanting about something. And hearing—we are always hearing about something. We just have to change the subject matter, or focus more on the subject matter of Krishna consciousness. That will purify our hearts. Then, even though we are in the material world, we are not of it. The example is the lotus flower. Although the roots of the lotus flower are in the mud and the stem of the lotus flower is in the water, the flower itself is above the water. It is not touched by the water. So it is in the mud, or in the water, but it is not of it. In the same way, we can be in the world (physically we are in the world) but not of it. Rather, by consciousness, we can be with Srila Prabhupada, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Sri Radha-Giridhari, and that consciousness comes by associating with devotees and by hearing and chanting about Krishna.
We can do it anywhere and everywhere. We can do it at home, and for special encouragement or inspiration we can come to the temple and do it with the devotees there, or we can invite devotees to our home. Somehow or other, we must always be engaged in hearing and chanting, and that will give rise to remembrance (sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam). And that is what this verse says, to always engage the mind in Krishna consciousness (bhajanty ananya-manaso).
Srila Prabhupada once told a story about a jinn, a genie. The genie comes out of the bottle and tells his master, “I will do whatever you tell me, but you must keep me busy. And as soon as I don’t have anything to do, I will kill you.” The master says, “Okay, you can begin by cleaning the kitchen.” The genie cleans the kitchen and comes back. “All right, clean the living room.” “Okay, clean the bedroom.” “Clean the hallway.” “Clean the basement.” “Clean the attic.” Pretty soon the whole house is completely clean. “Clean the yard.” Now, the master is really getting worried. He is running out of things for the genie to do. And he begins to panic, because if he doesn’t keep the genie busy, the genie is going to turn on him and kill him. He thinks, “Oh my God, what am I going to do now?” Then he gets an idea. He has palm trees in his backyard, so he says, “You climb to the top of one palm tree; then you jump over to the next tree and climb down and up it, and then you jump across and climb down and up the next tree, and you just keep doing that. When you are finished with the last tree, you jump back to the next and begin again.” Thus the master finds an engagement to keep the genie busy so that the genie will not turn against him.
Now, what is the lesson to be learned from this story? The genie is the mind. If we don’t keep the mind engaged, the mind will turn on us and murder us. So we have to keep the mind engaged. We can keep the mind engaged in so many tasks, but ultimately we need some engagement that will always keep the mind busy. This going up and down—this is our japa-mala. Going up and down the trees is going around our beads. So, Srila Prabhupada said that we should always keep the mind engaged, and if there is nothing else to keep the mind engaged in Krishna’s service, then chant Hare Krishna. That will keep the mind engaged, and that will fulfill the definition in the verse (bhajanty ananya-manaso); it will make us mahatmas, and dear to Srila Prabhupada and Srimati Radharani.
Any questions or comments?
Giriraj Swami: He says that I mentioned that Srimati Radharani is supervising the devotional service. Is it because She knows what the standard of the service is that She is able to supervise the service?
Yes, that is true; She Herself exemplifies the highest standard of pure devotional service to Krishna. But we cannot expect Her to personally supervise our service. For that we have Srila Prabhupada and his representatives. Srila Prabhupada knows the standard, and he has taught his students, and they know the standard from him. So they too can help and guide us.
But it is true—Srimati Radharani is the emblem of the best service to Krishna. But She does not think that She is the best servant of Krishna. She thinks that everyone else is a better servant of Krishna than She, and so She is always recommending devotees to Krishna: “Oh, look at that devotee. He is a better servant than I am,” or “She is a better servant than I am. You should accept her.” Srila Prabhupada said that it is very difficult to approach Krishna directly, because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so devotees pray to Srimati Radharani, who represents the compassionate nature of Krishna.
In Vrindavan devotees always chant “Radhe Radhe” to get the mercy of Radharani. And they know that Krishna likes Radharani most and that by chanting “Radhe Radhe” they please Krishna more than by chanting “Krishna.” But by chanting “Krishna Krishna” we please Radharani more than by chanting “Radhe Radhe,” so we also chant “Krishna Krishna” to please Srimati Radharani.
I met one devotee who told me of his first visit to Vrindavan, many years ago. He was walking along the streets in the bazaar, and behind him he kept hearing “Radhe Radhe, Radhe Radhe.” When he turned around, he saw that people on a rickshaw or a bicycle would not ring the bell or toot the horn, as people did elsewhere, but would call, “Radhe Radhe, Radhe Radhe.” Everything “Radhe Radhe.” There is one sadhu in Vraja who paints everywhere—on the walls, on the trees—everywhere, “Sri Radha. Radhe.” Everything “Radhe Radhe.”
Commenting on the value of serving the dust of the feet of the Lord’s pure devotees, Srila Prabhupada writes, “The Lord is never to be found by becoming a great scholar of the Vedic literatures, but He is very easily approachable through His pure devotee. In Vrndavana all the pure devotees pray for the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Lord Krishna. Srimati Radharani is a tenderhearted feminine counterpart of the supreme whole, resembling the perfectional stage of the worldly feminine nature. Therefore, the mercy of Radharani is available very readily to the sincere devotees, and once She recommends such a devotee to Lord Krishna, the Lord at once accepts the devotee’s admittance into His association. The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly, and by one’s doing so (by the good will of the devotee) the natural attraction for the service of the Lord will be revived.” (SB 2.3.23 purport)
Mahat-tattva dasa: [inaudible]
Giriraj Swami: He says that someone may challenge that this worship of Radharani is made up, because we don’t find it in the Upanisads and we hardly find any references in the Puranas.
Well, there are references, but the main way we know about Srimati Radharani is through Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is mentioned in the scriptures as Krishna Himself, so He is the highest authority. And He has told us about Srimati Radharani. Of course, before Him, Madhavendra Puri was really the first to openly worship Krishna in the mood of Srimati Radharani in separation, and from Madhavendra Puri it came to Isvara Puri and to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
So it is really the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who appreciate the special position of Srimati Radharani. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura once said, “One who worships Vishnu is called a Vaishnavite, one who worships Krishna is called a Krishnite, and one who worships Radha is called a Gaudiya.”
Giriraj Swami: Gaudiya means those coming in the line from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Gaudiya-sampradaya.
So, we have faith in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He is mentioned in the scriptures. And we have our personal experience of Radha and Krishna, gained from following His instructions—instructions that have come to us through His dearmost servant Srila Prabhupada—by His divine grace.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Radhastami, September 21, 2004, San Diego]