Loving Relationships with Devotees - ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry

Loving Relationships with Devotees

Speaker: HH Varshana Swami Location: ISKCON New Vrindaban

Verse: Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.15

agnau gurav atmani ca sarva-bhutesv adhoksajam bhutaih sva-dhamabhih pasyed apravistam pravistavat

One should realize that in the fire, in the spiritual master, in one’s self and in all living entities-in all circumstances and conditions-the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, has simultaneously entered and not entered. He is situated externally and internally as the full controller of everything.

PURPORT: Realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s omnipresence is the perfect realization of the Absolute Truth to be attained through the study of the Vedic literatures. As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.35), andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham: the Lord is situated within the universe, within the heart of every living entity and also within the atom. We should understand that whenever the Supreme Personality of Godhead is present, He is present with all His paraphernalia, including His name, form, associates and servants. The living entity is part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus one should understand that since the Supreme Lord has entered the atom, the living entities are also there. One must accept the inconceivable quality of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for no one can understand from the material point of view how the Lord is all-pervasive and yet is situated in His own abode, Goloka Vrndavana. This realization is possible if one strictly follows the regulative principles of asrama (brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa). Srila Madhvacarya says in this regard:

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His original form, has not entered everything (apravistah), but in His impersonal form He has entered (pravistah). Thus He has entered and not entered simultaneously. This is also explained in Bhagavad-gita (9.4), wherein the Lord says:

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” The Lord can defy Himself. Thus there is variety in unity (ekatvam bahutvam)

Narada Muni is continuing his instructions to Yudhisthira Maharaja and has just completed descriptions of the varnas and asramas. In the previous verse, he told how important the rules and regulations are for the twice born, the brahmanas, ksatriyas, and vaisyas, who should live in the gurukula.

The word kula, has two different meanings, it can mean a place and it can also mean family. So this Kuli Mela, the Gurukulis are having a reunion here in New Vrindaban, we can also appreciate that kula means family. Srila Prabhupada established a very loving family.

Krsna consciousness was taught at the dawn of creation by Krsna to Brahma. And whenever and wherever there is a decline in that original culture of Krsna consciousness, the Lord either descends personally or sends his representative to reestablish that culture of loving relationships which is Krsna consciousness. In the Kali-yuga when everything deteriorates to the ultimate extent, the Lord came in his original feature to bestow upon this world the pure love of the inhabitants of Vrindavan to everyone and anyone without discrimination.

The Lord, in each and every age, teaches the yuga dharma, the process of self realization, which is appropriate and practical for that age. In Kali-yuga, the Lord teaches harinam-sankirtana as the yuga dharma. And he also teaches by his precepts, pastimes and personal example how to practice chanting of the holy mane in one’s life. Lord Caitanya revealed in this world the culture of the spiritual world. And Srila Prabhupada taught by his example and precepts the culture of loving relationships which is necessary to nurture love and trust.

We find that when devotees leave this Krsna consciousness movement, it’s never because they’re seeking a higher philosophy or parampara. That doesn’t exist. Some leave because they are overwhelmed by material attraction, others as they didn’t find sufficient loving relationships to fulfill their souls need for loving relationships. The soul has that need. And in our neophyte stage, we cannot feel the love of Krsna sufficiently to satisfy our needs. But we can feel the love of Krsna flowing through the devotees, manifesting in our relationships. This is not just some sentimental or optional aspect of Krsna consciousness. It is scientific. Srila Prabhupada conveyed this love to the devotees in ways which simply by remembering can sustain us through life.

For example, during gurupuja, Srila Prabhupada would insist on handing out cookies, both the to children and adults. We know that taking, offering and receiving prasad is more than an exchange of foodstuffs, it’s a way of expressing love.

Here in New Vrindaban, when the brahmacaris at the Old Vrindaban farm were so hopeful that Srila Prabhupada would visit there again, he hadn’t been since 1969, the authorities were not in favour. So then Srila Radhanath Swami presented a black and white picture of Radha Vrindavananath to Srila Prabhupada. He was relishing their beauty and asked where they were and if he could go. The authorities were trying to discourage him saying no the road is so bad, but he insisted and it fixed that he was to visit the next day. When the truck reached the point in the road where Srila Prabhupada would walk and chant japa, Then Srila Prabhupada asked for the cookies and the devotees realised that they forgot to bring them.

This was just unacceptable that Srila Prabhupada could not show his love by not handing out cookies in gurupuja. So Radhanath Swami very quickly took the Deities’ plates with the offerings from mangala arati and tried to offer these to Srila Prabhupada as mahaprasadam. But the secretary said, “No you can’t offer this to Srila Prabhupada.” Then Maharaja snuck around the other side where there was a more lenient servant and placed the tray there. Then Srila Prabhupada, like a little child, he had very small silver spoons, began distributing prasadam to the devotees as they lined up. He gave spoonfuls of sweet rice and other preparations that Srila Prabhupada would taste and then distribute to the devotee. When Srila Prabhupada came to the gulabjamun, he bit into one and it popped and the juice sprayed all over the devotees. When he sampled the second one the same event repeated itself. The devotees were so ecstatic, and Srila Prabhupada was beaming like a little child as he was spoon feeding.

That’s how he began this movement. One who hasn’t directly perceived his mercy have a hard to understand his mercy. Like Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers in India appreciate him but have difficulty understanding the deep mercy, compassion, and love that inspired him to come to America to the hippies who were the very antithesis of culture and spoon feed them Krsna consciousness. And since we never felt such concern and love in our lives from family or society, we were inspired to open our hearts to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. And he very much wanted that we give this to others in a sense of a society, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, to create and protect, nourish and reveal the kind of love which Srila Prabhupada revealed, and Lord Caitanya revealed in his own lila.

Without experiencing this love of Krsna coming through the relationship with devotees it will hard to sustain our Krsna consciousness in lifetime or more. For most of us, self realisation will be an entire lifetime or more. We have so many examples in Srila Prabhupada’s life of his deep concern emotionally, physically, spiritually-in every way. Not that that was meant to reinforce the bodily concept, it was meant to reinforce the love of the devotees. Because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to reveal and distribute the love of the inhabitants of Vrindavan. That experiences begins here and now in loving relationships of those associated with us, in whose presence Krsna has placed us.

Once near the end of his pastimes, Srila Prabhupada was being carried on a chair to the balcony for massage in the sunlight in Vrindavan. One devotee was carrying in front, one from behind. At this point, Srila Prabhupada’s body was so frail and emaciated that the doctors said any normal person would be wracked with severe pain and unable to function. As they were going up, one devotee hurt himself as the chair hit a boil on his leg. When they reached the roof, Srila Prabhupada asked, “What happened, I heard you felt some pain?” And Srila Prabhupada was persistent, so the devotee told him that the boil was bumped on the chair. Srila Prabhupada, just at the point he was concluding his lilas, took time out to explain to that devotee how to care medically for that boil and asked him how it was healing every day.

Another time when Tamal Krsna Maharaja was in the hospital, Srila Prabhupada came to visit him. Once in guru puja when all the devotees were worshipping him with prayers and garlands and puja, he noticed one devotees leg injury and asked for pen and paper and wrote down how to care for that infection.

In a place where there are such loving relationships with devotees, there the spiritual world is revealed. Srila Prabhupada was insistent we study and read his books, but we also need a living example of what the books say. Caitanya-caritamrta is all about the loving exchanges of devotees. Sadhana siddhas and nitya siddhas are interacting with another which will attract the world and sustain the lives of the devotees in the difficult journey back to Godhead. When Sudama Vipra was asked by his wife to go to see Krsna, she was concerned as her husband was so emaciated and could barely maintain his life. “You are so poor but you are friends with Sri Krsna, go ask for something.” He was very reluctant, but as a service to his wife he left for Dvaraka with a little bag of chipped rice. When he reached Dvaraka, Krsna got down from his bed and began worshipping Sudama, and Rukmini was fanning him.

Later Krsna and Sudama had a discussion about their time in gurukula. “Remember how we had gone to collect wood for the ashram and were stuck in the forest during the storm? We had to spend the night there.” In the morning, Sandipani Muni personally went to the forest to search for his lost Gurukulis. When he found them he said, “You have suffered so much for my sake, offering your body, the greatest asset, in the service of your spiritual master.” He blessed them that all their desires would be fulfilled and their mantras would never lose meaning.

Then Sudama told Krsna that actually you were the cause of the storm because you wanted that we reveal to the world the nature and importance of guru-bhakti.

Recently we heard that Manu Prabhu phoned New Vrindaban to come and do the service of renovating Srila Prabhupada’s Palace with the bus tour members. And actually if you examine the history of Srila Prabhupada’s Palace, it has been the source of much of the success here. I’m not talking of just the external building, but the principle of placing Srila Prabhupada in the centre. Srila Prabhupada said Krsna consciousness is to place Krsna in the centre.

When Brahma looked down and heard that Krsna had defeated Aghasura who was terrorizing the universe, he saw Krsna was having a picnic on the bank of the Yamuna with his cowherd boyfriends. He looked like a whorl of the lotus as he was surrounded by his eight intimate sakhas who were each surrounded by their eight sakhas. It looked like a lotus with billions of petals and each and every cowherd boy was experiencing, not just feeling but experiencing, that Krsna is looking just at me, he’s smiling and speaking and showing pleasure just with me. Even though all the other boys are better than me, Krsna is so much loving to me.

It was actually true that Krsna was revealing his special love and features of himself just appropriate to each and every cowherd boy’s love. This is Krsna. We can reveal certain aspects of ourselves, but Krsna can actually change his form to reciprocate the needs for love in the hearts of his devotees. Srila Prabhupada said this Krsna consciousness movement is an effort to keep Krsna in the centre, not just the rhetoric, but actually living our lives in such as way that Krsna will be pleased. Krsna’s highest aspiration is to serve his servants; he has so much love for them, but he has difficulty to do that as they don’t like to accept service. So he is most pleased when his servants serve one another.

So Srila Prabhupada’s Palace began as a concept that really Srila Prabhupada should be in the centre of all our relationships and talks, and before building a temple for Radha Vrindavan Chandra, we should first build a residence for Srila Prabhupada. When Srila Prabhupada visited in 1974 and
1976, he expressed his pleasure at this endeavour, and when he asked if Radha Vrindavan Chandra would be installed there, the devotees said, “No Srila Prabhupada, you will be here.” Srila Prabhupada said this is proper, he expressed appreciation of the devotees understanding the importance and also said Krsna will protect you. Of course the living entity always has the free will to go outside, but Srila Prabhupada was exchanging the love the devotees have for him.

That true appreciation of Srila Prabhupada’s greatness is possible by the mercy of Krsna, a gift from Krsna in how we surrender to his instruction and mission. In the end of his lila Srila Prabhupada said the love we have for him will be shown how we cooperate with each other to push this movement on.

That means more than just working together on some project we agree on, as this is the Kali-yuga and this material world is a realm of maya. Maya is illusion personified, and Kali is hypocrisy, they will exploit any weakens to incite disunity. As this movement cannot be checked from outside, it can only be checked from weakness within.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there’s an example what this kind of cooperation means. Indra was was feeling so insecure when Prthu Maharaja had done 99 asvamedha yajnas as only Indra had done 100. So when Prthu Maharaja was doing the hundredth yajna, Indra, in various guises of a sadhu, kept stealing the horse and running away with it. Prthu’s son, Vijitasva, wanted to kill Indra as he kept appearing as a sadhu but acting as a thief and impeding the yajna. Srila Prabhupada said this is the beginning of those who pose as Vaisnavas but are actually demons. This happened many times, Indra stole the hors and hid, and Prthu Maharaja kept telling his son don’t kill him, he’s a great personality.

Finally Lord Visnu himself appeared in the sacrificial fire and personally instructed Prthu Maharaja that since this performance of the hundredth yajna is causing conflict and friction between the devotees, just stop it and be content with 99 as indra can’t tolerate being equal or surpassed.

If we have some noble aspiration in service, but if it’s creating disunity and disharmony among devotees, then the higher principle is cooperation among devotees and to adjust to what nurtures that. This implies encouraging the devotees. This kind of culture will attract people to Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada not only taught and personified surrender to guru and Krsna, but he actually inspired an atmosphere and culture that would inspire others to surrender, transcend egoistic barriers to unity and love. He also gave warnings of what he had seen in the institute of his spiritual master. And most of the things that incite quarrel and disunity have nothing to do with the next 10,000 years of the golden age, how to propagate Krsna consciousness. Most conflicts are just due to individual relative considerations how things should be done, which are irrelevant in the larger picture. All can be solved by following: rnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih

With a little bit of additional support from: na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye mama janmani janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

By taking the humble position, conflicts can be resolved, management simplified and a preacher fortified. There’s a story which may or may not be historical, it may be myth, but it’s archetypal and therefore helpful in understanding how our movement can experience regeneration even in the midst of difficulties. The Rabbi’s Gift has been mentioned several times in New Vrindaban as appropriate:

A monastery which used to be one of a flourishing series, but due to many reasons had fallen into hard times was now was the residence of just five elders in their seventies. All the sister branches had closed down. Due to their lives of austerity, they were intuitive and knew when a Rabbi was visiting an adjoining hermitage. They approached the Abbot that we should visit the Rabbi and see if he can give any advice on what appeared to be a dying order.

So the Abbot went and the Rabbi received him with great affection. The Abbot revealed his heart that the monastery appeared to be a dying order, no one was joining. The rabbi said yes, the spirit has gone out in my town also. They wept together, they read sastra, and commiserated with each other. The next morning as the Abbot was about to leave he asked the Rabbi if he had any advice for the monastery. The Rabbi’s reply was, “All I can say is that the Messiah is amongst you.”

As the Abbot left he was pondering this and when he returned he informed the other monks of the Rabbi’s cryptic message. So they began contemplating that does this mean that one of the monks is the Messiah? “Well, maybe it is Father Abbot who has demonstrated a lifetime of dedication, or maybe it is Brother Thomas who is a man of light. It wouldn’t be Eldred, but come to think of it, he’s always right. Sometimes very right. And certainly it wouldn’t be Peter, he’s so passive, but whenever you need something he’s always there as if by magic. And certainly it’s not me.”

So thus contemplating the message, the monks began in time treating one another with much more respect and love than previously. And since the monastery was in a beautiful location, people would come there sightseeing, and could sense this aura of love which they hadn’t experienced before so they began interacting and discussing with the monks. Some younger men began joining and soon the monastery was as vibrant a centre as it had been before, all due to the Rabbi’s gift.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam there is the pastime of the Pracetas. When the Pracetas first left home for tapasya prior to marriage, they came to a beautiful lake. Lord Siva emerged from it and told them, “By following varnarsrama, one can become Lord Brahma. You boys are already doing devotional service which is higher. Since you want to please the Lord, I’ll teach you a prayer to satisfy him.” So he taught them the prayer, and they chanted till Lord Visnu appeared to them and told them that he was happy to appear before them as he was so pleased that they were serving together and cooperating in a friendly relationship.

So Srila Prabhupada not only taught that, but he established a culture of Vaisnava relationships which is very conducive to nurturing our spiritual lives and attracting others to come and join and surrender to his movement.

When devotees come together for festivals or prasadam, or service, the goal should be to keep Krsna in the centre, which means Srila Prabhupada is in the centre, which means Srila Prabhupada is pleased. He made it clear.

During this festival when the Gurukulis have their Kuli Mela and reunion, we can contemplate how kula also means family. Srila Prabhupada established a loving family meant to serve in loving relationships. We heard how they would have appreciated the discipline they receive in Gurukula if it had been with accompanied with affection.

The affection of Srila Prabhupada and the love of Krsna, which we can’t perceive in our conditioned state, can be perceived in the loving relationships of devotees. Srila Prabhupada established this movements as a loving family with the most loving father. Our glorification of him will be complete when we serve his mission by revealing and nurturing this kind of loving relationships. This will not only carry forward the legacy of love but also substantiate what he taught and continue to attract other souls to join this movement.

Reference : dandavats.com

As an act of gratitude for our sponsors, we, the Congregational Development Ministry, offer a monthly offering on behalf of all our donors. Subscribe and get a monthly puja for Lord Nrisimhadev done on your family’s name!

To subscribe to the monthly offering to Lord Nrsimhadev in the name of your family, please visit our website https://iskconcongregation.com/cdm-subscriptions/

Leave a Comment

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top