vande ’ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaisnavams ca
sri-rupam sagrajatam saha-gana-raghunathanvitam tam sa jivam
sadvaitam savadhutam parijana-sahitam krsna-caitanya-devam
sri-radha-krsna-padan saha-gana-lalita-sri-visakhanvitams ca

nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine

vancha-kalpatarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah

sri krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda sri advaita
gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda

hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare

We thank you for joining in today’s Ratha-yatra festival. Ratha means “chariot,” and yatra means “journey” or “procession.” Generally, people are expected to go to the temple to see the Lord. That is the rule, and that is our duty. But on the day of Ratha-yatra, the Lord is so merciful that He comes out of the temple to see the people. In general, the worshiper goes to the temple to receive the Lord’s mercy, but on Ratha-yatra the Lord comes out of the temple to give mercy to the people. So He is in an especially benevolent mood in Ratha-yatra. And we can experience His mercy in many ways.

The first way is by pulling the ropes of the chariot. To serve the Lord is not an ordinary thing. In fact, there is a story about a man who wanted to serve the greatest person. He lived in a village, and where he observed a rich man who owned a shop. All the villagers would come to him and be very respectful of him. So he approached the merchant and said, “I want to serve the greatest person. Everyone in the village respects you. They all come to you. I want to serve you.” So he began to serve the rich man. But after some time, the tax collector came, and he saw that the rich man was offering respects to the tax collector and giving him money. So he thought, “Oh, he must the greatest person. I should serve him.”

So he approached the tax collector, and accompanied him on his rounds, and wherever they went, people were very respectful and gave to the tax collector large amounts of money. So the villager was very happy: “I am serving the greatest.” Eventually, the tax collector came to the capital, and he offered respect and gave the entire collection to the state treasurer. And the villager saw that many other tax collectors from various parts of the country were coming and paying respects to the treasurer and giving him so much money. So our friend began to serve the state treasurer. In time, the treasurer reported to the king, and he offered all respect and gave all sorts of valuable presentations to the king. And so many other respectable and opulent people were paying respects and offering gifts to the king. So our friend thought, “Oh, the king must be the greatest person. I will serve him.” So he began to serve the king, and he was very happy. He thought, “Now I have found the greatest person.”

One day, the king took his entourage—secretaries and servants and guards— including our friend, and went for an excursion into the forest. After some time, they came to the ashram of a saintly person, a sadhu. The king, with all his royal paraphernalia, descended from his carriage, walked to the holy man, offered him respects, and presented him gifts of fruits, flowers, grains, and ghee. He brought a variety of offerings. Then the villager thought, “Oh, this person is greater than the king. He is the greatest. I will serve him.”

With the permission of the king and began to serve the holy man. And the next morning he saw the saintly person take all the items that the king had presented to him and place them before a Deity of Krsna. The sadhu bowed down to the Deity of Krsna, offered prayers, and requested Him to accept these items as a humble offering. Then our friend thought, “Now I have finally come to the greatest person—the Supreme Person.” And that is the truth: Krsna is the greatest.

It is not easy to become a servant of even a great person in the world, like a king or president or prime minister, so what to speak of becoming a servant of God. One must be highly qualified—and divinely blessed—to be given that privilege. But in Ratha-yatra, we fallen souls are given the most extraordinary opportunity to render personal service to the Lord by pulling the ropes of His chariot, taking Him on a procession, and singing and dancing for His pleasure. We are offering personal service to Him. In the process of Deity worship there are so many rules and regulations—one must be qualified and initiated as a brahmana, one must know so many mantras and procedures—but in the Ratha-yatra, anyone, without consideration of previous qualification, can pull the ropes of the chariot and render personal service to the Lord, and in doing so, receive immense mercy.

At the beginning of the procession I was pulling the rope, and ahead of me was a young man—maybe thirty years old—with his son, maybe six years old. The father was trying to get the son to hold the rope, but the boy just wouldn’t do it. His hands were clenched, and he just refused to go along with it. And I was thinking how like us that little boy was. It wouldn’t have cost him anything to pull the rope, and he would have gotten so much benefit, but he just had it in his mind that he didn’t want to do it. He just didn’t want to. And his father kept coaxing and urging him. But still he wouldn’t do it. So, the Lord wants to give us His mercy, but we have to accept it. That’s all we have to do. We have to accept it. In this case, in the end, the father somehow prevailed, and this little boy held the rope. And I thought, “Wow! This child doesn’t know how fortunate he is. The benefit that one gets by even touching the rope is so auspicious, and he is actually holding the rope and pulling it. This event signals the end of his sojourn in this material world. It is the beginning of the end.”

Actually, all of us have our place in the spiritual world. What a wonderful fact: we all come from the spiritual world and we all belong with Krsna in the spiritual world. As long as we are in the material world, we have to suffer. The Bhagavad-gita says, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: we should always perceive the faults of birth, death, old age, and disease. Where I stay here in Dallas, I can’t count the number of times of day I hear the sirens screaming—reminding me of the miseries of material existence. We don’t know where the ambulance or squad car or fire truck is going, or why, but we do know that something has gone wrong somewhere and that somebody is speeding there to try deal with it—and the sirens are screaming. There is always something going wrong somewhere. And there is pretty much always something going wrong in our lives, in our bodies. For example, I need support for my back because I get back pain. We have to take care, or we may get heart disease or a stroke or any other dread disease. We take precautions. We walk; we exercise. We watch our diets. We don’t consume too much cholesterol or saturated fat or sugar. In the material world, we must constantly be vigilant because we are in such vulnerable positions in these bodies. Walking in the street we have to be vigilant so that we don’t get hit by a car.

There are so many miseries in the material world, of so many varieties. There are miseries caused by our own bodies and minds (adhyatmika). Our minds cause a lot of pain. Srila Prabhupada, our founder and spiritual teacher, gave the example that if a woman’s husband dies, or a child’s parent, or a parent’s child, the parent will suffer so much, or the child, or the wife. There is no physical pain, but there is emotional pain. So there is pain caused by the body and the mind. And there is pain caused by other living entities (adhibhautika). We go to the lake to walk, to chant, to appreciate God’s creation, but than the sun sets, and out come the mosquitoes—miseries caused by other living entities! Somebody may look at us the wrong way, says something bad to us, step on our toe—somebody may mug us, rob us, or steal our property. So, there are miseries caused by other living entities. And there are miseries caused by acts of nature (adhidaivika)—hurricanes and tsunamis, or even just excessive heat and cold. Sometimes the heat oppresses us, so we need air conditioning, and other times the cold. We are always being bombarded by forces of nature that cause miseries in different ways. And as long as we remain in this material world we have to suffer these miseries. We can’t avoid them.

Therefore the Bhagavad-gita says, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam. We should be conscious of these miseries. We shouldn’t live in a fool’s paradise. And our aim should be, as in the Vedic civilization, to get out of this world of suffering, this cycle of birth and death, and go back home, back to Godhead, where we all come from.

It is described that in the spiritual world every step is a dance, all speech is song—everything is beautiful and wonderful. And when we get to the spiritual world, when we are liberated from material bondage, we will serve God directly and personally.

cintamani-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vrksa-
laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

“I worship Govinda [Krsna], the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the divine cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of wish-fulfilling trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of laksmis, or gopis.” (Sri Brahma-samhita 5.29)

Our goal is not like that of the impersonalists, who want to merge and become one with God. That is spiritual suicide. Although it is true that as long as we are in the material world we have to suffer, their approach is negative: “Okay, let me merge and become one with God, or enter the void, and I will become free from my misery by giving up my individuality.” That is negative. You may become free from misery, but where is the positive experience of happiness? It is like saying, “Oh, I am so miserable. I’ll just go to my room, close the door, and go to sleep.” Well, okay, you get some relief, you go to sleep, but there is no actual happiness, no permanent solution. It is just a temporary escape from misery. Eventually you will have to get up. You can’t sleep forever. So, impersonal so-called liberation, according to sastra, is temporary. You can’t suspend individual activity forever. Eventually you will become restless. You will start to stir, even in the impersonal brahmajyoti. You will want some activity. And if you don’t know about spiritual activities in Krnsa consciousness, you will come back to the material world and engage again in miserable activities.

ye ’nye ’ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ’nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah

“O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.” (SB 10.2.32)

So, we want some positive engagement that will create happiness, and that is what we experienced today: a little taste of the spiritual world—serving God, pulling His chariot, rendering personal service.

And chanting. We pull the chariot, and we join the kirtana, the chanting. We please God by singing His names, and at the same time we associate with Him in the form of transcendental sound—the holy name.

nama cintamanih krsnas
purnah suddho nitya-mukto
’bhinnatvan nama-naminoh

“The holy name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krsna’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya. Krsna’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna and Krsna Himself are identical.” (Padma Purana, Cc Madhya 17.133)

That is the recommended way to experience God and become purified in the present age—to chant His holy names:

harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha

“One should chant the holy names, chant the holy names, chant the holy names of Hari [Krsna]. There is no other way, no other way, no other way for success in the present age of Kali.” (Brhan-naradiya Purana 38.126, Cc Adi 17.21)

You sing. You dance. Sometimes you do somersaults, cartwheels, handstands, headstands. You are just so happy you don’t know what to do.

So, there are two processes in bhakti-yoga. One is bhagavata-marga (chanting and hearing), and the other is pancaratrika-marga (worshiping the Deity). And they go together go like the two tracks of a railroad. When the train proceeds on the two tracks, it reaches its destination. If there is only one track, it will be derailed and may topple and fall over. So our spiritual advancement is based on these two activities—chanting and hearing on the one side and serving the Lord on the other—and the combination will take us to our destination.

In Ratha-yatra, the Lord distributes His mercy without discrimination, without consideration of who is qualified and who is not. Anyone who happens to see the Lord in the Ratha-yatra, even just by chance, will get the Lord’s mercy and begin his journey back home, back to Godhead. The Lord is in such a magnanimous mood that He just gives mercy without discrimination.

It is said that if one just participates in the Ratha-yatra festival—if one just dances and claps his hands in ecstasy in front of the Deity of Krsna—he will be purified of all sinful reactions. He will be liberated and go back home, back to Godhead.

“In the Brahmanda Purana it is said, ‘A person who sees the Lord’s Ratha-yatra car festival and then stands up to receive the Lord can purge all kinds of sinful results from his body.’ A similar statement is there in the Bhavisya Purana, in which it is said, ‘Even if born of a lowly family, a person who follows the Ratha-yatra car when the Deities pass in front or from behind will surely be elevated to the position of achieving equal opulence with Visnu. . . . In such a ceremony, if even a candala [dog-eater], simply out of curiosity, sees the Lord on the cart, he becomes counted as one of the associates of Visnu.” (NOD Chapter 9)

A devotee asked Srila Prabhupada, “How is it possible that someone who just joins the Ratha-yatra and sees the face of Lord Jagannatha can go back home, back to Godhead—which jnanis and yogis and mystics and tapasvis cannot achieve after lifetimes and lifetimes of practice?” Srila Prabhupada explained that at the time of death all of a person’s memories from his life, all of his experiences, pass through his mind like a movie, in fast motion. All of his experiences run through his mind, and when he comes to the picture of Lord Jagannatha, the movie stops. That frame freezes in his mind, and he sees the smiling face of Lord Jagannatha even at the time of death. Jagannatha Swami ki jaya! Sri Jagannatha Ratha-yatra ki jaya!

The Bhagavad-gita explains, yam yam vapi smaran bhavam: whatever your state of consciousness at the time of death, that state you will attain in your next life.

yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya
sada tad-bhava-bhavitah

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.” (Bg 8.6)

And Lord Krsna further explains:

anta-kale ca mam eva
smaran muktva kalevaram
yah prayati sa mad-bhavam
yati nasty atra samsayah

“Whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Bg 8.5)

So our goal is to remember God at the time of death (ante narayana-smrtih). And if we practice remembering Him now, especially by chanting His holy names and hearing His transcendental pastimes, we are more likely to remember Him then.

And krsna-prasada. Krsna-prasada is an integral part of Deity worship and an essential ingredient in every festival, which also forms part of Deity worship. The devotees offer food to the Lord, to the Deity, and the Lord accepts the food—He eats it—and we take the remnants as prasada. Prasada means “mercy.” And when the food is eaten by the Lord, it becomes completely spiritualized.

There is a chapter in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta that describes how Lord Caitanya tasted some of Lord Jagannatha’s prasada and then experienced transcendental ecstatic symptoms of love of God. Lord Caitanya commented, “This food is made of ordinary ingredients—sugar and butter—but it is not ordinary. It is nectar, and one can experience the difference.” And then He explained why: these ordinary ingredients have been touched by the spiritual nectar of Krsna’s lips.

There are many verses in Srimad-Bhagavatam about the nectar of Lord Krsna’s lips. The gopis always hanker to taste that nectar (adhara-amrta) and wonder, “How is it that the flute”—we always see pictures of Krsna or Deities of Krsna with a flute—“how is it that the flute, which is just a bamboo rod, is always tasting the nectar which is meant for us? What pious activities did this flute perform in his past life to be able to freely taste the nectar from the Lord’s lips? If we knew what austerities he performed, we could do the same, and then in our next lives we might also get to taste the nectar from the Lord’s lips.”

gopyah kim acarad ayam kusalam sma venur
damodaradhara-sudham api gopikanam
bhunkte svayam yad avasista-rasam hradinyo
hrsyat-tvaco ’sru mumucus taravo yatharyah

“What auspicious activities must the flute have performed to enjoy the nectar of Krsna’s lips independently and leave only a taste for us gopis, for whom that nectar is actually meant! The forefathers of the flute, the bamboo trees, shed tears of pleasure. His mother, the river on whose bank the bamboo was born, feels jubilation, and therefore her blooming lotus flowers are standing like hair on her body.” (SB 10.21.9)

When Lord Caitanya tasted Jagannatha’s prasada, He experienced what exalted devotees experience from the nectar of Krsna’s lips: a fragrance and taste so extraordinary that they make one forget all other experiences.

Now, some people may be sceptical; they may doubt: “Is this Deity really Krsna? Isn’t it just wood and paint—or marble or metal?” Actually, the Deity form is the Lord’s mercy upon us. Because with our present senses we are unable to see the Lord in His original, spiritual form, He manifests Himself in a form that we can see and touch. And that, now, is all we can perceive—wood and stone and metal. The Lord is omnipotent, all-powerful. He is omnipresent, all-pervading. He can manifest Himself anywhere, in any way. And He does so in a way that we can see Him and serve Him. That is His mercy. Sceptics may challenge, “You say that you are offering the food to Him and that He is eating it, but it is still there.” “Yes, He is not like us. You offer me a plate of food, and I will finish it all. There won’t be anything left for you. But the Lord is not like me or you. You offer Him a plate of food in the proper way—with love and devotion—and He will eat it, but at the same time He will leave it for you, so that you can taste His remnants. That is the Lord’s mercy—prasada.”

om purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya
purnam evavasisyate

The Lord is perfect and complete. You offer Him food out of love and devotion, and He accepts it, but He then gives it back to you in a better state than when you offered it to Him. It had become spiritualized, sanctified—prasada. In India and elsewhere—in the Jagannatha temple and other important temple of Krsna— you can see long lines of people waiting just to get a little prasada in their hands. Even very rich people who can eat very opulently at home stand in line for a long time just to get a little morsel of prasada, because prasada is not ordinary food. It is spiritual. And they take it, and feel transcendental bliss. This is all the Lord’s mercy.

We have been hearing some talk about Lord Jagannatha, Lord Krsna. And these are our activities. Srila Prabhupada said that Krsna consciousness consists of four activities: chanting, dancing, feasting, and philosophy. Once, one of Srila Prabhupada’s students was giving a lecture in Prabhupada’s presence, and that disciple said, “Krsna consciousness is just chanting, dancing, feasting, and philosophy, and a little work.” And Prabhupada interrupted, “No. No work.” Then the disciple continued, “Krsna consciousness is chanting, dancing, feasting, and philosophy, and a little bit of work.” And Prabhupada said, “No! No work.” So, what we are doing is not work. It is seva, service. It is not done out of want, for some gain. Work means that we need money, and so we go to work. And if we weren’t get paid, we wouldn’t go. How many of you have jobs or do business and if you didn’t get any money for it would still do it? No one. That is work. And seva means you do it out of love, to please the Lord, and you don’t want any payment for it, because you don’t want any material return. Prahlada Maharaja served the Lord and chanted the Lord’s name, and he had to face so many difficulties. In the end, the Lord came and asked him to take some benediction. “You can ask of Me whatever you want, and I will fulfill your desire.” And Prahlada replied, “Please do not tempt me with material illusions. I served You because I wanted to serve You. If I had served You to get something in return, I wouldn’t be a servant. I would be like a businessman who wants profit exchange for service. But I am not a businessman. I am Your unmotivated servant, and You are my eternal master. We have no other relationship. So I just want to serve You.” That is the mood of a devotee. He just wants to serve and serve and serve.

Fruitive workers always think, “How can I work less and get more pay?” Bosses consider, “How can I get more work from them and give them less pay?” Everyone is trying to exploit everyone else. But in the reciprocation of love between the Lord and the devotee, the devotee is thinking, “How can I do more service and take less time to eat and sleep and take care of my body.” And the Lord is thinking, “How can I reciprocate and serve My devotee? I want to give him something, but he won’t take anything.” The reciprocation between the Lord and the devotee is so sweet. The devotee thinks, “How can I serve the Lord more and more and not take anything for myself?” And the Lord, out of love, wants to reciprocate, to give something to the devotee—but the devotee won’t take. The only thing the devotee wants is more service. In fact, when we chant Hare Krsna, we are actually praying to the Lord to engage us in His service. So, the Lord is thinking, “I want to give something to My devotee, but My devotee won’t take anything. The only thing he will accept is more service. And that makes Me feel even more obliged to him. So what can I give him? The only thing—and the thing most valuable to Me—is My heart.” So the Lord gives His heart to His devotee.

There is a history in Srimad-Bhagavatam, a long account, but in short: Durvasa Muni, a great sage but not a devotee, had a bad temper, and he made a mistake: he became angry with a pure devotee, Ambarisa Maharaja. As a result, the Lord sent His Sudarsana cakra—His disc weapon—to punish the sage. Durvasa was such a powerful mystic that he could go all the way to the kingdom of God. He couldn’t stay there—he wasn’t qualified—but he could go. So he fled to the Lord Visnu’s abode and prayed to the Lord to be merciful and withdraw His Sudarsana cakra, which was threatening to destroy him. The Lord replied, “Why are you coming to Me? You have to go to My devotee. I have given My heart to My devotee. It is not in My heart to withdraw the Sudarsana cakra—My heart is not even in Me. My heart is with My devotee. You have to go to My devotee.” And here we learn a very important lesson about offending devotees. We must take great care to never offend devotees, for they are most dear to the Lord, and if by chance we do, we must go directly to the devotee whom we offended and beg forgiveness.

The reciprocation of the Lord and the devotee is so sweet. The devotee just wants to serve the Lord, and the Lord just wants to serve the devotee. Such service is not work. Someone commented—perhaps an indirect criticism—that in one of our temples, if you want to do service, you have to pay.” Well, hey, that’s good! You get to do double service! [laughter] It is not a cheap thing to be able to serve the Lord. You should be happy.

So this is the Lord’s mercy: He allows us, especially on Ratha-yatra day, to serve Him directly, to chant His names, to take His prasada, to talk about Him, hear about Him, and think about Him—and that is Krsna consciousness. We just spend the rest of our life doing this, and we will go back home, back to Godhead. Now, someone might question, “Well, wait a minute. I thought that if I just see Lord Jagannatha in the Ratha-yatra, I get to go back to Godhead. Why do I have to do all these other things?” Of course, you don’t have to. But you may like to. That is the whole idea. Once, a reporter asked our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, “You have dedicated your life to Krsna—you are chanting Krsna’s name, teaching Krsna’s message, eating Krsna’s food, doing everything for Krsna—but what if in the end there is no Krsna?” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “I wouldn’t do anything different. I like what I am doing. Even if there were no Krsna, I would still want to chant Krsna’s name, discuss Krsna’s glories, take Krsna’s prasada, live with Krsna’s devotees. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” So you don’t necessarily have to, to be liberated. But we hope you will want to.

In any case, liberation is not our goal. Our goal is to serve and please Krsna, and liberation is a by-product. In fact, it is said that the happiness of serving Krsna is millions and trillions of times greater than that of even liberation itself. So our actual goal is to develop love for Krsna, to enter into a loving relationship with Him, and everything we do here, everything the devotees do, is a manifestation of their loving reciprocation with Him. That is their life, that is their happiness, that is their future, that is their everything—loving service to Krsna.

Hare Krsna.

Sri Jagannatha-Baladeva-Sudbhadra ki jaya!
Sri Jagannatha Ratha-yatra ki jaya!
Nitai-gaura-premanande hari haribol!

May 5, 2007

 Posted by at 4:51 am