California, USA — Thursday, July 14th
What's the point?
The full moon tomorrow marks the first day of Chaturmasya — the four months of the rainy season in India, when members of our Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math may observe a special vow of austerity that includes not eating spinach, yogurt, milk, urad dahl, etc.
Should we follow this vow?
When Srila Guru Maharaj was asked this question, he emphasized the purpose of this and other devotional practices:
That is of lesser importance. The real importance should be given to atma-samarpana, the giving of yourself. There are so many methods to promote that self-surrender, or atma-nivedanam... Only to effect that, have all these advices have been given [in the scriptures]... Just to do some penance, or this or that, that is not so important. The main thing is that you must bring out your self.
Krishna is not satisfied with any partial contribution; He wants your whole self. Krishna wants your heart. Penances, a little bodily pain or some mental pain — that is nothing. Only samarpana. That is what is necessary to get Krishna, the grace of Krishna: the wholesale transaction of the heart. If you give your heart, you will get His heart in exchange.
In Bhagavad Gita – The Hidden Treasure of the Sweet Absolute, in the word-for-word translation of verse 18:65,
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto / mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te / pratijane priyo 'si me
the word namaskuru is given two translations: the conventional, "offer obeisance," and the deeper meaning, "offer yourself." So, in the last sentence quoted above, Srila Guru Maharaj is referring to this verse:
If you give your heart to Krishna (mam namaskuru), you will get His heart in return (mam evaisyasi).
What a wonderful, almost inconceivable prospect that is!
The non-devotee (or the neophyte devotee) might think: Krishna is so demanding! "Always think of Me (man-mana)! Devote yourself to Me (bhava mad-bhakto)! Worship Me (mad-yaji)! Bow down to Me (mam namaskuru)!" But from Srila Guru Maharaj's angle of vision, in this verse Krishna is being magnanimous, not domineering; He is begging, not demanding:
How shamelessly Krishna is expressing Himself here! He has come to plead for Himself so much, for our benefit. And a record is kept in the Bhagavad Gita for our guidance.
—Search For Sri Krishna: Reality the Beautiful
Yes, Krishna demands absolute surrender, but Krishna's assurance (satyam te) — the promise of "immense positive gain" (pratijane), of becoming His friend (priyo 'si me) — should dispel any "apprehension of slavery" that we may harbor in the back of our minds.
The Absolute Lord Krishna is the master, and an individual jiva soul is His constitutional subordinate or servant. Such a relationship is constant and really wholesome for the jiva. The apprehension of slavery does not arise because of his free choice and immense positive gain. The freedom and individuality of the jiva are not only unharmed by surrender to the Absolute Good, but they really thrive in Him alone.
—Sri Guru and His Grace
Why the apprehension of slavery? Are we not already slaves... to our senses? If we are going to be slaves, isn't it infinitely better to be slaves to love, to be slaves to beauty? Who is not charmed by love and beauty? And when Love and Beauty is personified in Reality the Beautiful, who can resist Him?
But to get that loving relationship with Krishna, we have to give all of our selves — "Krishna is not satisfied with any partial contribution; He wants your whole self" — and to show us how to do this, Srila Guru Maharaj emphasizes that the objective of the chaturmasya vrata (and indeed, all our activities in Krishna consciousness), is to promote self-surrender, to encourage self-giving.
Unless we understand why we do what we do, all our devotional practices (sadhana) are really no more than rituals. Therefore (in Bhagavad Gita 9:27), Krishna says:
yat karosi yad asnasi / yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya / tat kurusva mad-arpanam
Don't do anything (yat karosi) whimsically; don't perform your devotional duties (yad asnasi, juhosi, dadasi) ritualistically. Try to understand that the purpose of all your vows and austerities (yat tapasyasi) is to practice (tat kurusva) giving yourself to Me (mad-arpanam).
When we understand that the point of all our vows and rituals is to cultivate self-giving (atma-samarpana), to bring us to the stage of self-surrender (atma-nivedanam) — and that, incredibly, if we surrender our hearts to Krishna we will get His heart in exchange — then we will begin to make real progress in Krishna consciousness.
Layout by iMonk — July 14th, 2011.