Calcutta, West Bengal, India — Friday, July 14th

Four regulative principles

Part I of III: Why we should follow the four regulative principles — From from a morning class that I gave at the annual Vaishnava Festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in August 2005, to several people who were about to receive initiation from Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj.

This is a big day for some of you who are attending this Vaishnava Festival. You appreciate the value of Vaishnava association, and being influenced by that association, have understood that in order to get a proper connection with Divinity, it is imperative to have a guru....

When we take initiation Srila Gurudeva asks us to follow four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, no gambling. It is very important to abstain from these activities, because they are not conducive to spiritual life.

We are asked to abstain from illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling not because Srila Gurudeva does not want us to have fun, but because these four things, especially, are detrimental to our spiritual lives. We have to try to maintain some level of purity if we want to become Krishna conscious.

Sex, as we all know, is extremely enjoyable: it is the most enjoyable experience in this world. So why restrict that? Sex is restricted because it forces us to identify ourselves with our bodies. When we participate in illicit sex, the hedonistic pleasure that our bodies experience through all the five senses makes us forget our inherent functions as servants of Krishna and become lusty servants of our senses.

In Bhagavad Gita we are told, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam: everything is meant exclusively for Krishna's enjoyment. The cause of our suffering is the desire to exploit other living entities, primarily through sex. This mentality — this desire to enjoy separately from Krishna — is what got us into trouble, what brought us to this material world in the first place.

Now we are frustrated with this material existence; we are seeking a way out. That's why we approach Srila Gurudeva: "I don't know what is good for me; I don't know how to behave; I don't know how to liberate myself from this environment; please instruct me." But if we don't obey Srila Gurudeva's order to avoid these four kinds of sinful activities, how are we ever going to free ourselves from this illusory environment? How can we make advancement if we ignore Srila Gurudeva's orders?

When we take intoxication — alcohol, drugs, etc. — our consciousness becomes polluted. We are trying to purify our consciousness: to become Krishna conscious. How can we do that if we are under the influence of some other consciousness?

Some so-called devotees may argue that intoxication or drugs expands their consciousness, makes them more aware of Krishna — but that is nonsense! As Srila Guru Maharaj said a long time ago: "If some drug, some mundane weed, can give you Krishna, then that drug must be more powerful than Krishna!" Why not worship that instead of Krishna?

Nothing material can give us Krishna. Only He can give Himself to us — through His agent, the guru (acaryam mam vijaniyan). Srila Gurudeva will guide us to Krishna. He knows what is best for us. We must follow his directions. And if we don't have enough faith in him to follow even his most basic instructions, then we should not take initiation!

Meat-eating means that we don't understand that within every living creature there is a spirit soul. When we take initiation we should at least have the basic understanding that we are not these bodies. Similarly, animals and other living entities are spirit souls just like us. To kill an animal just to please our tongues means we don't understand anything about ourselves or Divinity.

Gambling means cheating: to want something for nothing, to not have to make any sacrifice. It is dishonest: to want something that we do not deserve. We have to be honest in our approach to Divinity. In the Search for Sri Krishna Srila Sridhar Maharaj equates gambling with diplomacy. It is dishonest: not being open with the devotees, not saying what we mean, having some hidden motive.

As long as we are not following Krishna consciousness properly — not following Srila Gurudeva's orders to chant our prescribed number of rounds on our beads, not avoiding the ten offenses against the Holy Name, and not following the four regulative principles — we are gambling that we will live another day to do this: "I will take to Krishna consciousness tomorrow, or next week, or next year!" How do we know that we will still be alive then?

This human form of life is very precious because it is the only life form in which we can understand who we are, who God is, what our relationship with Him is, and how to get out of this material existence. Don't gamble that you have another day, another week, another year: try to become Krishna conscious now! Krishna consciousness is a serious business. It is the most valuable thing that we can acquire, so we should understand that some sacrifice will be required on our part. If it were easy, what would be its value?

The four regulative principles are not meant to restrict our enjoyment, but to help us to maintain some degree of purity in our lives. When we receive initiation from Srila Gurudeva we make a serious commitment to try to become Krishna conscious under his direction, but if we ignore his directive to follow the four regulative principles and continue to engage in these sinful activities, how serious can our commitment be?

We come to Srila Gurudeva because we are sick, materially. We have a material disease and Srila Gurudeva is the spiritual doctor who can cure us of that disease. But if we ask the guru, the doctor, to accept us as a patient but we do not follow his order, his prescription, then how will we ever be cured? We are not real patients: we are disciples in name only.

When the doctor accepts us as his patient, that is only the beginning of our treatment. If we do not take the medicine that he prescribes for us and abstain from the things that he asks us to avoid, we will take a very, very long time get well — if we ever recover at all!

For those of you who will receive initiation today, this is just the first step: the beginning of your spiritual life proper. Srila Gurudeva is accepting you as his disciples, but whether you have a real connection or not, whether you make any advancement or not, all depends on how sincere you are, and how faithfully you follow his orders...

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