Calcutta, India — Saturday, August 21st

Forgotten promises

When our previous unconsciously accumulated (ajnata) and consciously acquired (jnata) spiritual merit (sukriti) coalesced into firm faith (sraddha) in the association of the devotees (sadhu-sangha), we requested and received initiation from Srila Gurudeva, and we began our real devotional life (bhajana-kriya) under his direction and guidance.

By studying the scriptures (shastras) in the association of the senior Vaishnavas (sadhus), we learned that the spiritual world was far beyond the purview of our senses (adhoksaja) or anything that we have experienced here in this land of exploitation, and that the only way that we could gain entrance into that land of dedication was by developing a sincere mood of humility and service to an ambassador from that world.

We understood that knowledge of that transcendental world (tad viddhi) could be obtained only by exclusive surrender (pranipatena) to a pure devotee who is living on that plane of reality (jnaninas tattva-darsinah), and that if that we inquired submissively (pariprasnena) and served him faithfully (sevaya), he would bless us by removing our blindness (upadeksyanti te jnanam) so that we too could have a clear vision of that supreme reality (tattva-darsinah).

When Srila Gurudeva initiated us into the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, he told us that in order to chant the holy name of Krishna properly (kirtaniyah sada harih), we had to develop humility (trnad api sunicena), tolerance (taror api sahisnuna), and respect for everybody (manadena), without any desire for our own prestige (amanina). We in turn promised to avoid the ten offenses against the Holy Name and we vowed to maintain our purity by following the four regulative principles: to abstain from meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling.

But over the years our previous karma returned to flatter us, and so many desires and mundane activities (that we thought we had given up forever!) returned to clamor for our attention and vitiate the solemn vows that we made. And now we mumble our mantras and preoccupy ourselves with ecclesiastical rituals rather than the high ideal for which we joined the mission, and we still think that we are doing okay!

How important is it that we are true to our vows anyway? The word on the street is that the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math is pretty lax when it comes to the rules, regulations, and regulative principles, as long as we are engaged in service...

Let's go to Srila Gurudeva — the personification of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math — for our answer. A few weeks ago Srila Gurudeva was sitting here on his veranda in Calcutta, talking to Madhusudan Prabhu in Hawaii, for his popular Internet radio program:

"We are preaching in a very simple way," he said. "Chant Hare Krishna without offense, be humble, be tolerant, and give honor to others. All over the world, our preaching style is like that. And we are not only preaching this, but we are trying to practice this as well."

Then Srila Gurudeva's voice became grave, and he began to lament:

"When we joined the mission, when we took initiation, we made a promise to ourselves and to our guru, but now we are forgetting our promise. Circumstances are changing our promise, and we are becoming a slave to circumstances.

"That is not acceptable," Srila Gurudeva said emphatically. "It is not palatable, not recognizable. But this is the fact: our devotees are very sweet devotees, very good devotees, but when they are forgetting their promise, that becomes painful. Which way will we adjust with our life and practicing procedures? Very difficult."

This damning indictment should be a wake-up call to all sincere disciples. How have we — and I am the biggest culprit in this regard — allowed ourselves to conveniently "forget" the solemn promise that we made to ourselves and to our guru? How has our original ideal been so compromised? How have we become such "slaves to circumstances"?

A theoretical understanding of Krishna consciousness is not enough. If we want to be successful, we have to practically apply the Krishna consciousness philosophy — the instructions of Srila Gurudeva — to our daily lives. We have to "talk the talk" and "walk the walk."

Srila Guru Maharaj has given us several aphorisms: dive deep into reality; die to live; progress means elimination and new acceptance. What do they mean? These are not sound bites, but the distilled essence of our philosophy. If we meditate on these sutras they will revolutionize our conception of Krishna consciousness.

"Dive deep into reality" means we cannot just scratch the surface of Krishna consciousness and expect to get something substantial. And "Die to live" means that we have to completely dissolve our false ego in order to gain entrance into the transcendental world.

To develop a proper understanding (evam yo vetti tattvatah) of Krishna's transcendental pastimes (janma karma ca me divyam), we have to "dive deep into reality," by going beyond our former material bodily conception of life (tyaktva deham). In other words, we have to "die," or withdraw our consciousness from this plane of misconception (punar janma naiti) in order to live in the transcendental world of Krishna (mam eti so).

We do not have to physically die before some golden chariot arrives to take us to heaven! Even while in this world (iha yasya), if we engage ourselves exclusively in the Lord's service (harer dasye) with our body, mind, and words (karmana manasa gira), then even though we may appear to be living in this material world according to mundane vision (nikhilasv apy avasthasu), we are actually on the spiritual plane because our consciousness is liberated (jivan-muktah sa ucyate).

Progress means elimination (eho bahya) and new acceptance (age kaha ara). As we progress in spiritual life, our previous misconceptions about Krishna consciousness will be eliminated (jnane prayasam udapasya). Whatever our present state of consciousness (sthane sthitah), the more we submissively hear (sruti-gatam) from Guru and Vaishnava, the more our consciousness will be inexorably elevated (jito py asi) from body to mind to intelligence (tais tri-lokyam) to the spiritual world.

Krishna consciousness is dynamic and ever fresh (nava-yauvanam) but we are stagnating — "slaves to circumstances" — because we have broken our promise to Srila Gurudeva and are not properly following the process that he outlined for us.

If we do not correct ourselves — if the instructions from Srila Gurudeva's lotus mouth (guru-mukha-padma-vakya) do not find a place in our heart (cittete koriya aikya) and become the exclusive goal of our lives (ara na koriho mane asa) — we will remain stuck in this plane of misconception forever.

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Layout by iMonk — August 21st, 2004.