Seminar on Vaisnava Etiquette and Culture given by HH. Bhaktividya Purna Swami given at ISKCON Radhadesa in 1998.
Dealing with varṇas and āśramas.
You have a culture – you have to have a hierarchy.
The higher you are up on the pile, the less you taste.
Following religious principles to please Krishna.
Two classes of devotees.
Following the brahminical culture.
If conditional nature needs a little more attention…
You have to have qualified teachers, qualified students and qualified parents.
Back to the Socrates.
Practical is what actually works.
Iskcon culture and the panchratrika culture.
Today, we’ll try to look at a different angle or go a step a little further in trying to understand the culture. If we’re accepting our premise that culture means following the Vedic rules and regulations with a desire to please the Lord and these rules and regulations then come to us in the form of this varṇāśrama culture –this dharma. Things become a little bit more easy to categorize if you have a framework to work in.
Now then the difficulty comes in. We have these varṇas, we have these āśramas and then were trying to establish our self within these. The āśramas side is not so difficult, generally it’s quite easy. We’re either married or not married. If we’re not married, either we wanted to get married or did not want to get married or we’ve been married and now we’re through with being married, so it kind of comes quite easily and then if you’re through with being married, then you’re still either with the wife or you have not spent so much time together or once taken sannyāsa or gone to Vrindavana, just living as a recluse, so that it becomes a little bit more obvious. But then when we’re dealing with varṇas that’s generally where all the problem comes. Cause somehow or another the nature is they, you know I mean, anywhere in the material world especially the western culture. We find in the modern situation there’s so much emphasis on position, control, and the prestige that goes along with that. So when looking at this we won’t necessarily look at our own nature and how to engage it but we will look at what is best for us, what is the most prestigious and how, what is the platform we can get to acquire for our self the best result, the best whatever we’re wanting.
But varṇāśrama system is not actually meant for that. It’s actually meant to just take care of our needs, what we want in a way that we can relate to. So the idea is everybody is doing some activity. Everyone will be maintained by that activity and that activity is in accordance with your nature.
Like a brāhmaṇa just can’t get into making business and doing a big administrative thing and taking their taxes or different things for them and they don’t want to just go out and work for someone at their whims cause they have their study, they’re teaching others things to do. So they just take either by begging or just what people give in charity to them and whatever comes, that’s what they set their life at. Means they see what their money is and establish their life. If it’s very minimal, then they live very simply. If there’s more, they may live more comfortably. If there’s more than that, then they start giving it away. So it’s a matter of how you maintain yourself. So it’s not so much prestige. As Jayadvaita Maharaj was pointing yesterday, if you have a culture you have to have a hierarchy. If there’s no hierarchy, you cannot have organization. You can’t have discipline, there must be. So we may say oh, it’s all equal and all this hierarchy, it’s artificial and this and that. But if we look at the spiritual world there is a really strong hierarchy there and that doesn’t move. There’s no change in it. Absolutely no change! Cause it’s Absolute Truth so there’s absolutely no change.
So you have Krishna on the top of the pile and then you have all the heads of the different rasas right under that and then you have under them their main people and then you have whatever your ācāryas in that line and then at the end of that you have us. So it’s fixed. The basic principle, the principle is dāsānu-dāsānu-dāsa. The reality is what Krishnadas Kaviraj says is dāsānu-dāsānu-dāsa thousand times removed servants, like that and that’s fixed. It’s there. But in the spiritual realm everyone is pleased because of that, cause the interesting thing in the spiritual realm, the higher you are up on the pile, the less you taste. The farther down you are, the more you taste. Because you are performing your activity to please the person above you. So you become pleased when they are pleased. So now if you’re pleased when the person above you is pleased then that’s one level. But now if there’s a person above that is pleased then you get to see both of them pleased, that increases your pleasure more. If there’s three above then you get to see three people pleased, you get more pleasure than just seeing one. So like that how far removed you are, that much you see and that you get more pleasure. So there the proximity isn’t the important thing.
Vaikuṇṭha they’re worried about that. I want to be on the same planet as the Lord or I want to be in the same, I want to be an intimate associate of the Lord but in Vrindavana that worry is not there because when you’re back far, you see more, you see how they’re all pleased, that makes you happy. So the happiness comes from seeing others happy rather than there’s one’s own happiness.
So the hierarchy is a natural thing and if we can adjust our mentality we can also get the benefits of that happiness that is there in working within. In other words it’s a teamwork. So when there is a teamwork, then there is happiness. So the teamwork doesn’t have to be equals. There’s also it can be those who are above us, those who are below us, cause everyone is working very nicely to please Krishna. It becomes very strong, so there is a taste there, there is the happiness there. And you know at least we should theoretically accept it and then there can be discipline. If we don’t accept it then there is problem. As Maharaj pointed out there will be chaos within a few minutes if not less.
So that is not a consideration for us. Is what our position, just what part we play and then we have a taste from it. So that is the basic principle, is that wherever we naturally fit due to our conditioned nature, means we have a conditioned nature. We’re intelligent, we understand I have a body and that body has its limitations. If I’m very strong I can do big physical work. I will not comfortable sitting around all day. If I’m not physically strong I would rather do something that’s not, I would not like to move bricks all day, I want to do something a little bit more passive. Same with the mind, we have a particular kind of mind. It likes to work in a particular field and we have a particular kind of intelligence and that works in theoretical or practical or in the arts or so many different things. So depending on what it is, we’re comfortable. So it’s only natural that an intelligent person establishes oneself according to one’s physical or psychological nature and they’re satisfied with that.
It doesn’t matter the prestige in that, you’re satisfied what you’re satisfied. Just like we say okay mango is the king of fruits but we don’t really like mangoes. Right! You like apples. So now will it be proper will we be more satisfied eating apples and letting some Christopher one else eat the mangoes? or do we eat the mangoes cause we know they’re the king of fruits, so if I’m eating them then I’m special. What is the reality? We’re going to be satisfied eating what we like to eat. Even if it’s more prestigious otherwise it’ll just be a false prestige, something we get from the prestige but it won’t address us. May be we’ll do it for a short time. But when nobody’s around and the doors are locked, I’ll eat my apples. So that was what Krishna was telling Arjuna. You will walk away from the battlefield and you’ll be very detached, very compassionate, very humble and you’ll go to the forest and then in the forest you get into a fight and then you fight cause you’re a kṣatriya. You will do these things, you will not avoid them. Maybe this moment because you don’t like the downside of the kṣatriya duties, you only like the upside. Like I have my kingdom and I have all my friends but his duty is to fight, so that means I get the kingdom or the friends. I don’t get both but because I won’t get both then, ok you know forget it, we go to the forest. But He said, you still act according to your nature, because you’re not actually, it’s not your nature at this point to be detached. Maybe later in life you’ve given up these things. Then it maybe. But now no.
So one has to accept that one’s nature is natural for him. Nature and natural, kind of have probably have a similar route. They have something to do with each other. So that is the basic principle. Then we take it another step. Now we’re not following the varṇāśrama just to follow dharma. In the Bhāgavatam in the second verse it is already said, following the religious principles for material profit is thrown out here. Following religious principles to please Krishna, that is what’s being explained. So now if we look at that point then we come up with something very very interesting. Is that the, this principle Prabhupada talks about, the brāhmaṇa. The brāhmaṇa he first becomes, the first stage of a brāhmaṇa is dvija. Then one becomes or gets the adhikāra or the right to perform and learn brahminical activities. Right! but to get, when you get that right you don’t know anything. . Just like today someone gets brahminical initiation, they don’t know how to do Puja, how to do any of these things. So now you have the right to do. Then the next stage is he studies, he learns, he knows things and he can apply it. And when he knows and he can apply those things expertly he’s called vipra. Then one is very respected as a brāhmaṇa in the society. Then when performing those activities by good association, we come in contact with the pure devotees, the Bhāgavatas. Then we come to the platform where we understand that we are servants of Krishna and all this knowledge that I have, all the activities I’m doing, that’s brahminical sphere of activities, is all for Krishna.
So whatever I’m doing, I do it for Krishna. And then that is a devotee and we know then that anyone who is a devotee, then is automatically a brāhmaṇa. Now what we’re looking at here is where automatically a brāhmaṇa, why is the brāhmaṇa now a devotee? because he realized what his work was for, is for Krishna. Not that he’s doing astrology and then now he’s doing it for Krishna. That makes him a devotee. Cause he’s an astrologer but astrologer for Krishna that is a devotee. Or is a sanskritist because he is a sanskritist for Krishna, therefore is a devotee or he’s into logic and that he’s doing it for Krishna, therefore he is a devotee. No, he understands whatever work he’s doing that is being done for the Lord. So that means anyone who understands that whatever their work is, that is to be done for the Lord, they have that topmost brahminical understanding. Therefore one can plow the field but you know that this is Krishna’s field and I’m doing it for Krishna, one is actually a brāhmaṇa by realization, by understanding. This is where the difficult part comes in understanding, are the specifically the devotee, the Vaiṣṇava, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava view or angle on the daiva varṇāśrama system. This is the point because you can have the Brahminical mentality right that I do my work for Krishna. We have the brahminical motive to please Krishna, one attempts to be free from desire and free from ego but one still has one’s physical and mental conditional nature. So that means one can have the culture of the brāhmaṇa and mentality and work ethic but have a totality different non brahminical occupational duty. This is where one becomes, it starts to go out of perspective. Now cause we know everyone is a brāhmaṇa but at the same times we have all these natures and all this, everything gets mixed up. So that means as far as the culture goes cause we see the brāhmaṇa’s have their culture, the kṣatriya’s have their’s. . The brāhmaṇas they live simply, there are so many rules they follow. . The kṣatriya’s have another set of rules. Basically the same, same principles. Principles are always the same. Slightly different culture. Kṣatriya may keep hundreds thousands of wives, he has a whole big thing, this and that. Brāhmaṇa doesn’t. Vaiśyas have another nature. They don’t necessarily worry about getting up so early and doing this. They have to do whatever is necessary more for the business. Śūdra has to adjust his life for his work. But for the brāhmaṇa his lifestyle and his work, he adjusts the work for the lifestyle or makes at least minimal adjustments. I don’t chant my rounds now, I chant them later in the day cause I dressed the deities or this or that.
So it’s just a matter of the priorities that is there. So one can, so what we see is that those who are Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas specifically who is in Vaiṣṇava sampradāya, then they follow the brahminical culture. So this is important. When you have devotees, devotees meaning anyone who accepts the Supreme Lord. Therefore the daiva varṇāśrama is very broad and you have two classes of devotees following the daiva varṇāśrama. One is the ordinary devotees. Those who accept the supremacy of the Lord but they themselves don’t necessarily follow the principles very strictly. You know they know their philosophy but they don’t follow very nicely or they don’t know the philosophy very well or they’re born in the family of of devotees, of properly situated devotees but they themselves don’t take much care in it. You ask them, are you a devotee and they’ll say yes but you know they may wear tilaka may not wear tilaka, may wear proper dress, not follow nice programs, may chant, may not, like that. You know this is ordinary devotee. So anyone who has accepted the Supreme Lord is an ordinary devotee.
Then you have from those the sampradāyic devotees means those who have made the endeavor to surrender to a bona fide spiritual master and to follow the rules and regulations that come along with that surrender that, what do you call… responsibility. So now, what we are talking about, we’re not talking about the daiva varṇāśrama as followed by the ordinary devotees, cause that will be, the plan will be very similar to the, how even the asuric (?) varṇāśrama will work. Because you have your varṇa, you have your āśrama, you are that. you identify with that, you do those things but you know it’s pious and proper and all these things. There may be an understanding to do it for God. There may not be. But you understand this is God’s plan. I follow God’s plan. I’m pious, I follow God’s rules. But those the sampradāyic devotees, they’re following the daiva varṇāśrama means that what I’m doing, I’m doing for the Lord. I have a conditioned nature. I must engage in the Lord’s service so therefore I engage in this way. I do those prescribe duties but for Krishna. It’s a very, it’s a definite determination, we have that desire. So this means, they get situated in a different culture. They don’t follow these four different cultures, they follow the one culture, the brahminical culture. The brahminical culture is actually very simple, culture in the way of how they live. The basic, the brahminical culture will be based on either the Vedic terms of sādhana, the pāñcarātrika terms of sādhana, as given by the ācāryas. So the brahminical standard as far as we go we follow pāñcarātrika Then this means basically we are waking up in the morning, we’re chanting the Lord’s name or remembering the Lord, we offer obeisances to the spiritual master. Then we take our, we brush our teeth, use the toilet, take our bath. Then we put our tilaka, we wear neck beads, we wear brāhmaṇa threads, we wear devotional clothing, we chant our Gayatri, we go to the temple, we ring the bell, we offer our obeisances, we sing the maṅgala-āratika, we may clean the temple and in our activities in the temple with the devotees, we take care of guests, we respect and interact with devotees, we hear the scriptures, we chant the holy name, we take prasadam, we worship tulsi, we do some service for the temple at the dhāma. That is the brahminical scope in which they act and if you’ll notice that’s exactly what Prabhupada has given everybody in ISKCON to do. It’s such a nicely framed that devotees don’t really think that they have just followed all the rules of pāñcarātrika. What I just described now is anything that is required of any brāhmaṇa within the pāñcarātrika, doesn’t matter what sampradāya, this that. This is what they do and maybe some finer details. You know how they take a bath, but the principals of the areas that they work in. That’s it. There aren’t more areas. And we see every devotee does that. This is our like sphere in which we act. And that is the brahminical culture.
We’re not living like Yudhiṣṭhira, you hear battlefield how he wakes up. So you know when it’s time for him to wake up then the singers start singing, the dancers start dancing, the reciters of mantras starts reciting mantras, they start playing drums and bugles and horns and veenas and everything like that and they make so much noise that it’s heard up to the heavenly planets. And that’s how he wakes up. Does that sound familiar? You know any devotees doing that? Ok so we won’t bother getting to the rest. Said one of the points of logic means logic, logic and argue. Logic means you know it means the human beings form of discussion like that, so when you defeated the big wrestler, all of the small ones are considered defeated. You don’t go into guerilla warfare. So since we know we’ve defeated this point we will not even bother with the rest of this point.
So we can see we’re following the brahminical culture . Even if someone’s living outside, is not married, necessarily so strict, they still do these things. Maybe they do it more nicely, maybe less nicely. But this is the field in which they deal. That means all devotees are following the brahminical culture. And that is the interaction, so when we’re dealing in the temple and dealing in this activities then generally everyone is accepted on this brahminical platform. That is the thing. Of course we have to endeavor to not perform activities improperly, to avoid offences and all that. But that’s the platform. And we do our morning program, we have an evening program, a study and that. And that is our lifestyle. Then in between the morning and evening we have something that we do particularly for Krishna. . We do things in the temple. We do things outside the temple. You know it’s either under the direction of the temple authorities or it’s we are working on our own. But whatever it is then that is, we are not that. That’s why Prabhupada said it’s an offense to consider that a devotee is of one of those varṇas, that hey are brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, no. They are devotee ,who is doing that occupational duty. That is the point. That is what’s necessary for them at this point. That’s their conditioning. That’s what they’re good at. And then he followed that. Then becomes very very easy.
So this is, if that understanding is there that we have followed the brahminical culture we follow the, we have the, at least endeavor for the understanding and mentality and consciousness of a brāhmaṇa, then in that we situate ourselves because of our conditional nature in one of four āśramas and one of four varṇas, then it becomes very easy to understand the system. Then there’s not a whole fight over well who’s got the power or who’s got the money. It’s generally, it’s my experience when we discuss social development then we limit ourselves basically to one āśramas and two varṇas. The main problem is nobody really cares who the brāhmaṇas are cause who listens to them anyway and the śūdras what do you worry about? Brahmacārīs are not serious to consider because they’re not honest anyway and sannyāsī’s have got their own trip and vānaprastha’s whosever heard of them. So therefore, kṣatriyas got the power and the vaiśyas got the money and that they’ll only give the money if they also have power and kṣatriyas only get the money if they also relinquish some of the power. We can enjoy all that facility in gṛhastha-āśrama. So this is the basically western approach to varṇāśrama-dharma. But unfortunately, this doesn’t fully address the nature of all the living entities. We still have another five varṇas and āśramas to consider. Varṇāśrama system means you take the whole picture. When you understand the whole picture then you can understand where you fit into that picture. So now there has to be two levels of understanding of the whole picture. One is we have enough to understand how we fit it and fit in and do our needs and our business. The second is if we can understand deeply how it operates, then we can help others situate themselves or we can organize the systems so that we see that there’s place for everyone to be situated. So you have two levels of understanding of this. But everybody must have some understanding of it, enough to situate yourself. But those who can have more, they have more than they can either advise or they can organize so that the system runs.
Then now let us, connected topic then we can go into some questions. I’m wondering if I should make this next point, then go into questions cause it may, cause it’s so related. It may answer a few things. Now we look at how does this fit in. Means within our devotional service ok some service but then our sādhana, how does the sādhana, the culture and the service also match because we’re following brahminical sādhana and devotional sādhana but we have our service. So we go back to the point Krishna makes in the Gita of the different levels of ideal of surrender. First is best, He says complete 100 percent surrender on the spot, which is possible. The Bhāgavatam gives a few examples of some devotees who’ve done that. The Gopi’s did like that, then we see the wives of the brāhmaṇa’s, yajña brāhmaṇa’s they did like that. When Krishna went to Mathurā, Dvārakā, so many people did like that but it was more rare. It was not the general rule. So if one can do that, that is the best. You know like Mahārāja Khaṭvāṅga, in a moment just surrender. That’s the best. You don’t waste any time, it’s very direct, very simple. Right, you know. There’s no difficulties, you just do it. But if you can’t do that, if that’s difficult means that there are some obstacles. Then you follow sādhana bhakti. So now when we get into sādhana then we’re dealing, now we’ve come from the first platform means we are not on the conditional platform. We’re actually on the Brahma-bhûta platform, though we are moving in the world. Then you come in contact with a pure devotees then that is immediately fully awakened and one takes it up. That’s the first platform, just fully surrender. One can’t do that, that means cause the conditional nature still has to be attended to.
Conditional nature means our gross and subtle conditioned nature. The body and the mind, intelligence and ego. That has to be addressed. Means we’re attached to it, we must deal with it. So we must engage it in Krishna’s service. So the first platform of that or the subtlest is the, just a platform of sādhana bhakti. Sādhana bhakti means you just perform those activities that I mentioned. What I mentioned is the brahminical culture, the foundation of that. You just do those things. You don’t do anything else. So all you do basically is temple activities, temple service. And that’s all and it doesn’t really matter so much what one does but one does these things. One’s fully absorbed in chanting and all these other things and that’s it. Chanting, preaching, you know, taking prasadam and we saw the interaction of devotees is there. So respecting those above us, we’re friends with those we are equal, compassionate to those who are below that. So we see that and we’re taking prasad you know that we woke up and there’s also we go to sleep then on the end of it there’s we go to sleep remembering the Lord. So we see that all our physical and all our emotional needs are taken care of but in a very sattvic platform. I mean totally just mode of goodness platform. And all those things are directly in connection with Krishna. There services that are directly connected to Krishna or connected, directly connected to those things are like chanting. You have two categories. That’s called mukhya, means those activities that they themselves can deliver you like chanting Hare Krishna, hearing Bhāgavatam. Or those things that are supporting that, they are called gauṇa like taking our bath, putting on our tilaka all these different things. So between these two they’re very directly or just under that engaged in. They’re not even neutral, they’re positive. Engaged in service. So one can be satisfied with that then that is good because it deals with our spiritual nature, our emotional and our physical nature everything. It’s complete in itself. It’s a complete system. But you still don’t give up the desire to fully surrender to Krishna. So the higher platform the first platform is kept but we work on the second with that goal. Krishna says if that also is not possible then He says, then you work for me. That means now the conditioning is a little stronger. We can’t just do any service, can’t chant all day and just do some preaching when it comes up and take prasad when it’s there and just do the needful on that platform of goodness. The conditional nature needs a little more attention. You know there’s a little more passion, little more ignorance, little more attachment. Then we have to identify what is our nature. Our conditioned nature and then do that for Krishna.
Work for Krishna. So then the varṇāśrama system comes in there otherwise varṇāśrama system is there in the platform of sādhana but only the brāhmaṇa aspect of it. So brāhmaṇas, the four āśramas are there and the one active and the occupational duties of the brāhmaṇas and that’s it but that’s your full time engagement. So five of the varṇas and āśramas are manifest. If you can then Krishna says work for Me. Then you have to add in the other three varṇas. . āśramas are established. We see that yeah, then one is able to know ok I can do this kind of service for Krishna and maybe able to do temporarily another service if there’s an emergency but it’s a long term thing I’m not satisfied with I’m doing my particular nature. So now when doing that we still perform our sādhana with the goal of fully surrendering to Krishna and then these are like the best of them. And this is basically as far as at least someone who is definitely very close with the temple. You know dependent upon the temple, or very much part of the whole temple activities. But if that’s still is difficult because here you’re working for Krishna means what you’re doing and it’s for Krishna, fully for Krishna. If not then Krishna gives a fourth, then at least give the result. You’re not working for Krishna means ultimately you are working for Krishna. It’s my work, my results, my money but I give to Krishna. That’s the fourth level. So that kind of person must situated themselves outside the sphere of the temple dependents means you can’t be in that mentality and expect the temple is going to maintain you. Unless the temple wants to like take you on for a specific job or like that. They need it so then there maybe an opportunity for that. But one cannot expect that. That one must be honest like the brahmacārīs and be out of the temple and do your own work. Maintain yourself get your own money, facilities and if it goes nice, great, if it doesn’t go nice, that’s the way it is. You cannot blame anyone else because now it’s your work not Krishna’s though you do it for Krishna ultimately. Do we understand this subtle difference? That’s the point. All these things are so subtle one can be in one or the other. So one has to be very careful.
Like I’ve seen, I’ve seen in Bombay both these kind of devotees or life member, businessman and that. There are those outside who do their business, they maybe initiated and all this and now and again they not come into the temple fairly regularly but they come at a festival, do something, give some regular donations and all that but they do their own thing and all that and it’s kind of like they come to Krishna or come to the temple on their terms- no obligations. No one expects and they don’t. Then you have another kind who, they are part of the whole temple’s scene, they have their business, they’re making plenty of money in this and that but that they consider we are temple devotees. I live outside, I have my whole thing, I maintain myself, I don’t burden the temple and they take part in temple activities, organizing the festivals, managing. Whatever needs to be done they do it, in their areas of expertise. And their money is for Krishna but because they know money, they know how to manage money, they manage it also for Krishna. Cause others may not know how to manage it, cause money is their area they know what to do with it. You know so in discussion with others and others in the community and other like-minded persons like them and temple authorities they decide okay. We’re going to do a Rathayātrā, this or that and each person is going to give so much money and this is going to manage this is and that and this works very nicely. So you don’t know see any difference between them and the full time devotees. Except the ones that are sit, I mean full time meaning those who are living in the temple cause they’re full time devotees also. The only difference is they have more facilities, more stuff and the temple’s devotees has less. So we see the temple devotees are very nicely established on that the platform of sādhana or those activities engaging, the nature of it is fully Krishna things and they’re outside doing it. So in those who are inside the temple we only have sādhana and working for Krishna and outside the temple you can have working for Krishna and those who you give the results to Krishna. So it makes it very easy to understand is that the sādhana and that it’s just a matter of development and with time it’s understood, by following properly you’ll move to the next and next levels. That’s what whole idea, gṛhastha life maybe performed on either of those working for Krishna or giving the result to Krishna. But vānaprastha means sādhana. You’ve come up to that platform or at least you’re working for Krishna. It can’t be the lower platform otherwise, it’s not vānaprastha. Then the sannyās must mean just sādhana. It becomes very easy to understand where one’s situated and the whole idea is this another thing we’ll bring in – is the aspect of pravṛtti nivṛtti. Pravṛtti means we’re engaging ourselves in following the rules and regulations of the Lord not specifically sādhana but Varṇāśrama. And within this you find that there is a aspect nivṛtti means cause there’s few rules to follow cause we have so few stuff. So brahmacārīs, vānaprastha and sannyās, that is nivṛtti Cause you’re dealing less with the senses but of course everybody is dealing with the senses. Everybody has some possessions but because the amount of rules and amount of attachments and the amount of things are less therefore three are called nivṛtti and one is called pravṛtti. But the purpose of both is to get to Krishna. Engage whatever your attachments are in Krishna’s service. One has an attachment of being detached. You engage that in Krishna’s service and one has an attachment of being attached. They engage that in Krishna’s service. It’s a very simple thing, it is not a problem, we have to be, we have to accept all these words, terminologies in the system, it is a very nice… how you say it, user friendly! You know it’s not, we have to be very very careful to take this terminologies and concept and turn them into buzz words and issues and all these kind of things. We have to take them as they are and how they relate to each other, then we get a very nice package that we can very pleasantly work within. Questions or comments or?
Male Question: Nowadays we see in many schools they take into account the attitude of the students. They may talk with the student, they see some psychologists they see what is their attitude so that to address them in a proper way but we see this point is little lacking in our society to address some person specifically to some varṇā.. So what’s your advise? What do you think about?
Well the basic point is you’ll see cause you’re quoting western systems that they’re start to do because those parents and students are submissive to that system. They respect the school. They respect the authorities of that school. So therefore there is discipline. There is and the system works. That’s why that principle is so strongly enunciated in the Vedic literature but the devotees then you have to see is they have to be willing to accept this kind of direction. Of course you must have those who understand this as to ones who are giving that direction. But we must be willing to accept it. We must be able to give up our (?) three varṇa and āśrama concept. Instead of eight we only see three. So we must be able to give that up and generally the difficulty comes is, one is that the school’s of them being able to recognize it. But even if they were to work in that direction to do that, that others would recognize that. Cause these are our difficulties. If you want to establish brahmacārī that means a brahmacārī is not, his focus, his center is the school right or whoever he is working under. Like in the temple, then the temple authorities. It’s not the home. He transfers from the parental rasa of the family to the parental rasa of the school. If he doesn’t, he just stays in the house. He’s a gṛhastha. He’s not, he’s an unmarried gṛhastha, he’s a bachelor. He’s not a brahmacārī. A boy that grows up in the house never goes to the Gurukula is not a brahmacārī. They’re just an unmarried gṛhastha. They’re just too young and when they get older they’ll get married. That’s the Vedic understanding. But you find very few parents will let the school actually take care. One may say okay, school’s haven’t taken care but then what is the solution? not send the kids to the school? Send them to karmī school? or see that qualified people are running schools? This is the point we were making yesterday. Is solutions to problems only come I mean solutions to our material difficulties, sensual and our physical, emotional or metaphysical, only come when you have dharma. They cannot come in any other way. Absolutely will not come. It’s like saying I’ll boil water without sticking it on the fire. I’ll just put it in the pot. Put it in the closet and it’ll boil cause I want it to. I demand it. I start a movement. I have a webpage. You know? And this water will boil in the closet and we don’t care about all these other you know fundamental fanatic right wing conservatives who say you have to put it on the fire, otherwise it won’t boil. We don’t care. You know we have our rights. We have our say but it’s just nature. You can look in history. That’s what Western history is good for. You want to see what doesn’t work, read it. And then if you’re smart, you’ll avoid it. And if you want to see what does work, read the Bhāgavatam. That is also history but that works.
So you must accept that if you want to solve the problem of Gurukula means you have to have qualified teachers, qualified students and qualified parents. So the teacher can’t deal with the student because the parents weren’t Krishna conscious when they conceive the child. You cannot blame the school or the temple authorities or the GBC or ISKCON that they were not sitting there next to your bed cheering you on when you conceived the child saying, remember Krishna. They were not. They were not there. The parents did that themselves. So what is their consciousness that’s what they got. So now if you don’t get someone with high consciousness, it’s not easy to deal with, then you have to have a special school for that. But if the parents know they dropped out of the heavenly planets. So Krishna says in the Gita, they were born in the family of devotees. Like that but there’s different grades of devotees. You may have attracted a blue fringie (?). I mean there are devotees that are right out on the edge and they have died. You know it’s natural to a comeback and this isn’t the only time, Lord Caitanya’s movement has been going on for a while. So there maybe those dropping, you know coming back from later and you catch someone around the edge. Someone doesn’t accept authority. Don’t accept the GBC, he doesn’t like management ISKCON, these kind of things that administration, Prahupada all these of course but whatever the other side. Now if that person leaves the body then where is he going to take up his devotional services again? Is a great pure unalloyed devotee and all that? Now he’s going to continue, Krishna says you go up to 50 percent? You start the next life at 51. So they still don’t accept authority, still don’t want to work in a management structure, still can’t relate to other devotees, still have material attachments, don’t really like to dress like devotees, act like devotees listen to devotees, anything like that. So that’s the kind of kid if you’re not careful you can get. They’re available. On a list of kids available, they’re on the list.
So if you want Prahlāda Mahārāj then you have to be like Hiraṇyakaśipu. Now one may laugh but now we should look at this which is very interesting You have Diti and Kaśyapa. Kaśyapa is the son of Brahmā. So he is a Brahmarṣi and Diti is very qualified, they have a demon for a son. Then their demon son, like the best of the demons. You can’t there’s no one more demoniac like Hiraṇyakaśipu. He was like the king. He has a pure devotee as a son. We should look at this. This is very sensual for these points, cause we’re just talking on parents. Then as we discussed Diti and Kaśyapa. Diti was very interested in position Her sister Aditi already had children. She was very anxious that her prestige was not as much. So she was totally interested in prestige, position. So laabh pūjā pratiṣṭhā – Distinction, adoration, profit, that’s all in that same category. They’re all connected. So whichever angle you come from, the other one is there. She is very much interested in that, the wealth of the children, the prestige that comes from it , the respect that will come from that, from the others in the family and all those things. So that was her motive why she wanted a child. She wasn’t interested in sense gratification. She was just wanted that. And Kaśyapa told her, you wait a few minutes since it’s sandhyā now, I’ve just finished my yajña and all that and this is Shiva’s time, so as soon as the sandhyā is over then from that time on the scriptures say this is proper. In other words he is professing that they follow what the Gita recommends that you plan having children. Then that’s dharma. But she was basically saying, no, I want right now. You know we can see, the child now that means you know 24 minutes earlier I’ll get all the prestige and everything I want. I don’t want to wait that 24 minutes. So then because he is not so controlled in his senses like Kardama therefore he fell prey to this lust. So he was attracted by the senses and by the thought of spending that time comfortably with the wife. So that the wife was into Hiraṇya and the husband was into the kaśipu. So he, I mean in other words you get exactly what you pay for. You know you don’t get something else. So the kid is exactly the combination of consciousness of the parents, not something else. It won’t be something else.
Now when they ask well okay now you have this demoniac father. How did He you get Prahlāda? This is an interesting story. This is told in the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa. That the first time Hiraṇyakaśipu went out to do his austerities with his brother Hiraṇyākṣa, so they went up to the mountains and started their austerity. And then the demigods became very worried. Because already there’s such big demons and making so much trouble that they were thinking if he does austerities, he’s going to become even more powerful and more trouble. So they’re thinking what to do and none of them can do anything. Cause already he’s been more powerful than them, just they’re afraid of them. So then they’re all sitting and discussing and Nārada Muni says, don’t worry I’ll take care of it. He tells his friend Parvata Muni. I think it is Parvata who went with him. Then they went down to where they were performing austerities and they both took the forms of sparrows, little dinkie bird and they flew over to a branch that’s within ear shot, quite close to Hiraṇyakaśipu but not too close. You know they’re not fools and they sat down on the branch and they ruffle their feathers a little bit, sit their nicely and then they start chanting at the top of their voices “oṁ namo nārāyaṇāya,, ….” And if you heard the sparrows they have a very annoying piercing voice. Their chirp is not sweet. It’s very piercing. So you can imagine them chanting as loud as they can “oṁ namo nārāyaṇāya,, ….” right next to Hiraṇyakaśipu So then he breaks his meditation, sees these two birds there, tries to shoo them away. So they just move a little bit up on the branch, situate themselves. Start chanting again. Then he gets real angry now and you know he’s a big controller. He couldn’t get rid of two birds and they are chanting the name of his enemy, his life enemy. So then he reaches over, picks up his bows and arrows and goes to shoot, by the time he shoots, they fly away. So he tries to go back to his meditation but now he’s so disturbed with this, he can’t concentrate. So he figures okay, they will go back to the palace, take a few days and then we’ll come back for our austerities. So he and his brother went back down to the palace and then at the palace when he came back and everyone is interested to see him back and he told the story, terrible story of hearing the Lord’s holy name being chanted and then he set about about busying himself in the pleasures of the palace – listening to music, taking good food, drinking and being with friends, just doing anything to forget this terrible experience. But unfortunately he couldn’t forget. It still was just riveted in his mind “oṁ namo nārāyaṇāya,,….” and these birds. So then he decided, ok, this didn’t work, so no problem. I’ll spend the night intimately with my wife. Of course I’ll forget all things with that. So then he spent the time and then at the moment of conception, he is thinking of these two birds which is Nārada Muni and Parvata Muni, great sages and devotees. And he is constantly in his mind “oṁ namo nārāyaṇāya, oṁ namo nārāyaṇāya, ….” Like this. So this is his consciousness at the moment of conception. Therefore, Prahlāda Mahārāj, pure devotee. So this is the point. That’s why Nārada Muni later then when the demigods catch Hiraṇyakaśipu ‘s a wife when he went for his second time for austerities. He said don’t worry. This is not a demon. This is devotee. He just knows. And so he instructed Prahlāda in the womb and like that. So that is there. Then you have you know you want a result out of the Bhāgavatam, it starts with the parents. Then you must have good teachers. The teachers must understand their duties, have the brahminical qualities and they must be able to identify the nature of the student and know how to engage that nature in the Lord’s service properly. And the student has to be prepared nicely by their parents.
You see in India, generally find Indian parents by the time his kid comes to the gurukula they’ve already learned the respect for authority, gentleness in dealing with others, they deal very nicely with compassion to those who are younger than them and they have an interest to learn. Because when they ask questions, some will always answer it., they’ll spend the time with them. So they put a lot of energy into the kid and that kid can give a lot of energy out. They can absorb a lot of energy meaning they can absorb proper channeled energy from authority in a very nice pleasant way. And they are able to give that out to those below them. So that’s this is what happens in the family before the child gets to gurukula. Is the members of the family especially the women they have the full time, the full freedom to give that energy to the kids. And the kids become very powerful, very qualified. very cultured. Then when they come to the school and then now you have something like you’ve taken you know gold ore and made it into gold. The parents have done that. Now the teacher can make the gold and make it into an ornament. They can refine it. So what happens is this they go from the shelter and that relationship with the parents is parental rasa. They go to the teacher now for that shelter and parental rasa. It’s the same rasa but because there’s no bodily attachment therefore the child does not take things for granted. And in the house you just walk in, you get something to eat. You throw your stuff on the floor, your mother will pick it up. You know everything is automatic. It’s an amazing place you walk in the door and everything is automatic. But it’s not automatic, people are there, they’re endeavoring, things are going on, there are so many things happening. And the reason is that is seems automatic because everyone there is trained. Father’s trained, mother’s trained. So therefore, it seems automatic. But now the child will understand that. Means the subconscious principles they take but the conscious they don’t, so they go to the school cause in the school then the teachers make them conscious of what are those principles. What is, actually they become conscious of what is authority, what is their position, what is dealing with those equals and juniors and above. What is, their questioning goes from why is the grass green? and the sky is blue? These things, into inquiring about spiritual topic matters and those activities that you can engage according to one’s varṇa and āśrama in the Lord’s service. So they become that was what was this morning the point of jijñāsuḥ śreyaḥ uttamam that was that meaning. They become inquisitive of it. So all that is done. Then the teacher can take them very far. So when you have all these in place, good student, good child, good teacher then you get the results directly seen in the Bhāgavatam. So if something’s wrong in it then rather than throw the system out, Prabhupada gives the example of removing the eye when there’s a cataract. No, you remove the cataract. Is that if there has been problems, is not that the gurukula system doesn’t work. It’s just we don’t work. We’re a problem. We don’t know how to parent the children properly. We don’t know how to raise them. The teacher’s aren’t trained, they don’t know how to teach and the kids aren’t trained. So therefore there’s a mess. The western system isn’t a great alternative. We must, we must understand that all the different institutions and persons who are involved in school mismanagement.
You know abuse cases and all these things and all that. That they weren’t just developed in the recent years just for ISCKON schools The only place where abuse is going on planet is there. It’s going on outside this. So we ourselves being part of the, part and parcel of the western environment we are also influenced by it. So as it degrades, specially we find the glorious American culture, we heard a very interesting point today. English, I think an English gentleman made a point that America’s culture is very unique in the world cause they went from the barbarism to degradation without going to the normal intermediate step of civilization. Right you know, most others the barbarians, they become civilized and then they become degraded. But America just they’re so practical, practical minimalist. That they just, well we see our position now as barbarians, we know the goal the future becoming degraded so why waste time, we go just go straight there. So we you know should not be overly influenced by this phenomena, so we take these things. Only solutions are these Vedic solutions. Of course we have to be practical. How much we can apply, we apply. How much we don’t, we do the best we can. Means it takes time to develop. But unless you have a goal and unless you have a framework or a concept to work with, one won’t get anywhere. It’s not practical. So the most practical is the Vedic. Cause it’s made for the material world. You know, the manufacturer of the material world made the Vedic culture to run it. So they’re both from the same factory. They’re both made by God while the modern things are made by us, by the people. So this is our point, we can either accept that there’s absolute truths and we come in line with these truths or we ourselves dictate what is absolute truth and then we mould the society and culture corp for this.
That is basically what we’re faced with. The point of do we keep the philosophy and religion together or do we keep the philosophy and make our own religion and therefore we have to adjust the philosophy. This is the bottom line. So for western culture this decision was made some thousands of years back, like the time of Socrates. Like generally when we think of western culture, we think back to the Greeks and we think back to that time. So Socrates was saying, there’s an absolute truth. We must come in line with it. He didn’t know much about it but he knew that it existed. And that we must find the absolute truth and mould our life according to it. And the Sophists said no, we make the rules. What we need now. What is the culture now. We adjust with that now and that becomes our thing. In other words the voice of the people is the voice of God. Vox populi vox dei. So the whole western culture is based on the Sophist philosophy. And you see that’s what’s going on today. You’re modern revolutions, your modern disturbances. It’s all based on that. We set the standards not God has a standard. We have to come up to it. We set the standards because it’s practical. I like this so it’s practical for me to adjust everything around me, so that I can get what I want. Rather than things aren’t going right that’s because there maybe something wrong with me. I have to adjust so I come in line with the proper standard. Then things go right . It’s just a matter of which side you look at it. So we can either accept the Vedic situation or we can accept the Monard the Sophist situation. And that’s basically what we’re left with. So we may say practical this and jump up and down. But it’s nothing new. I’ve heard devotees say that we’re a unique breed, we’re something special, like Maharaj was saying yesterday, – I’m a victim, now I’m special. I was just a face in the crowd. But now I’m the victim, so I’m special. And we victims get together and make clubs and then you know all these things. Like I heard the herpes club. You know when everyone sits around and cries on each shoulder. That we all got herpes. You know stuff like that. So you know we become special because of this. So that is the whole point. I want to make myself special rather than I’m just one ten thousand the tip of the hair and there’s unlimited numbers of us here and I’m just one of them. And if I want things to go right, I have to adjust my life to please Krishna.
So that is the point. We may say practical this that. But practical is what actually works. And what actually works is Vedic. If anything works in the Vedic culture. I think Maharaj mentioned that yesterday because it’s just a reflection of a little bit left of it. The European, this whole European and Anglo Saxon culture, just a burnt reminisces of the kṣatriyas that ran off to Europe and go to middle Asia. You know carouse around there for a while and then make a feel something like invasions and then come in. You know that it seems that the first group was more into just getting it together. They went in all the kelts and all that and established their culture and then the ones who are more wild and woollied even roaming around in the middle mid Asia and then you know came in a few times invaded and then took over. So we have this kind of a culture. So we can take that, So if no excuse me that wasn’t the point. Is so whatever little bits there that work in the cultures it’s because of that Ancient connections or someone’s intelligent enough to look at the material nature to see it works like this and then make the philosophy. The problem if coming from this way, ain’t way of ascending is that you may learn the points but you can’t connect them to God’s points of religion. You figured out function of the material world on the sensual platform or on the economic platform but you can’t connect to the Lord’s, the Lord’s rules of life. You know dharma religion. So in other words it has no culture. You know it becomes a culture of lack of culture. What was your point for going in and making that observation. That’s going to be the basis of that culture. While the Vedic thing is this how to get out of this material nature’s the reason that we have the rules and then that comes down and then comes to the next levels. How to economically developed, how to enjoy the senses. All in line with this so you can get out of here. So these are the two angles that we can come from. Like that coming down from the authority of Vedas and then apply it according to the time, place and circumstance, the best we can or we can remove that and come up from the bottom and be always totally lacking culture. You can’t get beyond that. That’s the point. Modern the speculation cannot come up to that level. By definition you can’t. You know.
Female question: Maharaj you are speaking about iskcon culture the panchratrika culture. And according to it … but it’s like a general observation then the brahmanical devotees to some extent they can maintain it but as soon as you … then when they get so much into service or when they get into family, somhow this sadhana seems to go. It happens very happen. I wonder is it natural just because we are… even though we are not brahmanas by birth or it is just a motivation to join ISKCON… or I don’t know hwat is the reason because it seem to be so commmon ?
That’s good point. I would kind a look at it from a different, I take a different angle. It’s that the devotees have this tendency. I see this in the children in the school of students. Whatever I can do..huh. What is question? The question basically is that when someone comes into the society then we follow this brahminical culture that I was talking about. We see that others when they get into other activities then that are not necessarily brahminical occupational duties. They have trouble with this sādhana and lifestyle. So two aspects are there. One is sādhana and the principles of it so maybe for a brāhmaṇa following the sādhana maybe the most easy, just by conditional nature. Even if they’re not devotional, they can follow it by conditional nature. But the point is, this is the culture of someone who is interested in devotional activities. So anyone who has that strong devotional drive, it won’t be a difficulty to follow. They may have to adjust a little bit and do they best they can. But the principles of it will be maintained. That’s the point cause maybe I don’t sit down and chant 16 rounds at one shot without moving. Maybe I chant something here and I’m chanting on the bus and then I chanted some breaks at the work and I chant a little bit in the evening. So it’s not the ideal. But in other words, we can’t necessarily cook everything and offer everything so our outside, we buy a little something, we offer it. You know like that. We don’t have deites but the principles remain.
F: .. love and devotion ….
Yeah so that always remains. But why I would say is the tendencies that it would drop would be, so that’s one aspect is that we have to see the difference between the ideal application of it and the details being manifest nicely and the application of it that the principles are never compromised. Okay, so that ‘s one platform. Then another way, another aspect of looking at I it will be that devotees aren’t understanding that this is our culture and we don’t take this kind of duty, non attached duty very seriously means okay I’m attached to the family, I’m attached to money, I have to get it. So I do that. But because of attachment, not as his duty, because if there is some problems there in the home, the husband and wife don’t get along – now I don’t want to get money. And then the thing gets worse and then there’s more plates flying and more things happening and then it just all breaks up. And then we decide okay, it was that one. I was alright but the other one didn’t, didn’t work properly. So you get a new one. So we don’t value the rules, we don’t value that these are duties and we must do them. And so this is there, I’ll work it in somehow. Just like I have to maintain the house. I have to have money. Somehow another I work it in because it just has to be done. But the point is I only do this as long as there’s attachment. So we have to be learn do to activities because we’re supposed to do them rather than from the platform of attachment. Then a third thing is why also it’s easy to drop the rules. Not understand this is a body of rules and we always have to follow. I’ve seen this in students, is that what you do at a younger age. when you get older you figured that you’re more advanced you will be doing, you won’t be doing things you could do the first day you walk in. So It’s like I’ve seen mixed with adult students with the younger kids children. If the children are able to do it, the adult students think I shouldn’t be doing that, I’m wasting my time, I can do something better. So when you come into the temple, your’re new bhakta, the new bhaktin, they teach you in the first few months to do all these different things, put on your tilaka and all that and now I’m advanced, so it’s not so important. You don’t understand that these are just, the Vedic concept of learning is - nothing that you learn is useless. You know just like in I don’t know if you have here but in English you have things like, you used to do the nursery rhyme is another useless thing. You never use this as an adult really in your life. But you learn them. But Vedic Culture they’ll never do that. What they do is that you take the body of the adult knowledge, figure out what it is you can memorize in simple concepts, that’s given to the youngest kids. Then the technical aspects of it are given to the middle aged kids. And then theoretical and theological aspects are given to the oldest, most qualified. So they break it up like that. But we’re used to a different system. We know what you do in first grade you don’t do when you’re in higher levels. So the tendency is this oh I did that already, Oh yeah, oh that again, you know it’s kind of like, sit down, oh we got to chant the prayer, you know and stuff like that. It’s just like we’ve done that. Let’s move on. But the thing is these are our culture. If you don’t do them, then you have to do something. There has to be some system to remember that this prasadam came by Krishna’s grace. The Lord’s grace I have this. And so you either accept our system. or you sit there and say, say your know whatever it is you say, what the Christians will say about , God give us our daily bread or you say your brouha (?) or you say something. Otherwise you know it’s not proper. But we’ll just sit down and just start eating. There’s no culture there.
Even the common Christian or Jew has more culture than that cause they follow a system, means there’s a regulation, there’s a rule that governs your life and you do that. It’s a duty. I have to recognize God. So the whole idea is to recognize God at all these points. When I wake up I recognize yes I’m servant of Krishna. I chant Krishna’s name. Then I’m servant of Krishna then but how as a servant I serve my spiritual master. I offer my obeisances to my spiritual master. Then I clean the body. The body belongs to Krishna. How Krishna likes it. He likes us to clean our teeth. You know he likes us to take our bath and do all these different things. Then we decorate the body according to Krishna’s culture. Like that so this is the way Krishna. So this is something anybody new can learn. So that is the principle. Those are given first. And then as we go we come to the point of being able to study and understand Bhāgavatam. This is for the mature experienced. Means they already know how to put on tilaka and they do put it on. They can taste Bhāgavatam. Those who know how to put it on and don’t put it on, they won’t taste Bhāgavatam. That’s all. Cause there’s no culture. So the Bhāgavatam is showing you how to take Krishna’s culture. Now you’re putting the tilaka and you know how to do it and remembering Krishna. That’s what the Bhagavatam shows you. So first you have to be cultured. Then you can get the full benefit from it. Otherwise you won’t get. So we have to value the culture. Then we get the result.