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Extra English Issues issues


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

Question of Yashoda: I want to ask, what happened to Brahma when Hiranyakashipu took his position?

Swami Tirtha: Well, the demons are highly polished and cultured beings. So, as he was worshiping Brahma to get the blessings, in one way he respected him also. Yet it was said that by his power and by his domination all the three worlds were under his influence. And you know, when there is a different rule, a different ruler, we have to survive. Just like you, the Bulgarian nation, you had the Turkish yoke. You survived! Although all your power, all your assets, everything was dominated by a foreign power. Still you have found ways to survive, and to maintain what you have internally, deeply, in hidden ways – so many chances were there.

As the goal of Hiranyakashipu was to fight Vishnu, God, therefore he designed all these tricks and all these domination wars. Because it is said that the worshipers of the Supreme – with their prayers, with their sacrifices, with their services – they so to say feed God. So Hiranyakashipu thought: ‘If I stop them doing their spiritual services and no worship is going to the Supreme, He will become weak. Then in this way it will be very easy for me to fight Him off.’ This was his intention. Therefore he didn’t care for Brahma or other up or down grades of living beings, because he wanted to dominate. He had magic powers, as he was also praying for yoga-siddhis, the mystic powers of yoga.

These siddhis are very interesting, but very secondary results of any spiritual practice. Because the motivation of Hiranyakashipu was power, to dominate over everything and use all the energy against God. While our motivation should be: dominate over yourself, control yourself, be a servant of all and use all the energy for the positive service of the Lord. This is the difference between a loving and serving approach to the Supreme and an opposition party. We should decide which side we take.

Yashoda: It was interesting that Hiranyakashipu mentioned so many possibilities who should not kill him, but he forgot Vishnu.

Swami Tirtha: Very good point. You see, all his glorification was directed to Brahma, who is the minister, he is not the king. But he considered Brahma to be the Supreme. And therefore he devised all these different means to protect himself, because Hiranyakashipu considered Vishnu not to be God, but a demigod, subordinate to Brahma. And he knew that sometimes Vishnu is very tricky. Sometimes He appears as a fish to save the Vedas. Other times He appears as a human being – like Rama or Buddha, or other incarnations. Therefore he said: “No human being, no demigod, no demon, no weapon, no animal should be able to kill me.” Actually first he asked from Brahma: “Give me immortality.” Then Brahma said: “Sorry, I cannot give you that. It’s beyond my capacities.” Then he started to think: “All right, if you cannot give me immortality, then give me that nobody should be able to kill me.” “All right, that I can give.” Or “Give me that I should be killed neither in the air nor on the ground, not inside nor outside.” So he tried to defend himself in every possible way.

But although he wanted to fight Vishnu, he forgot about Him. Somehow He was not included in his picture. So that is the difference between a demon and a bhakta. The demon is very cleverly using his brain, but forgetting about God. The bhakta sometimes with big dedication is just doing some nonsense, but never forgetting God. So this is the difference. One is very clever, yet forgetful; and this one, the lover of God can remember only very few things, but even that engages him so much that sometimes he forgets practical things.

The best example is when one devotee wanted to offer to God a banana. Usually you know we sanctify our food – first give it to the Lord and then whatever is left we take. So in her big dedication, with real devotion she was peeling the banana, throwing away the flesh and offering the peeling: “Ah my Lord, this is for You. You like bananas so much – please, accept this!” You know, sometimes devotees make little mistakes. But fortunately enough, God Supreme needs neither the skin, nor the fruit itself; He needs only one thing and that is called loving dedication. This is what we have to give. That is the best offering, the most tasty for Him. “Ah, this little insignificant thing comes with some dedication!”

(to be continued)



(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

This far Hiranyakashipu, the demon who was waiting for the blessings, told the glories: “Ah, you are so great, you are so nice!” And now he comes with his requests:

“Ah lord, if you wish to fulfill my desire for a boon, then please grant me only this little thing: give me that I should not be killed by any living entity created by you.” But this is only the first, he’s got a long list. “Give me that also that I should not be killed indoors or outdoors. Not during the day, not during the night.” What was the goal behind? ‘I want to be immortal!’ So he started to use his intelligence, trying to find all the possible ways of protection. “I shall not be killed by you, Brahma, or by Shiva or any other demigod or creature; or any weapon. I should not be killed on the ground or in the sky. Nor by any human being or any animal, such as a tiger. No living entity, inert matter, demigod, demon or great snake shall kill me. Please grant me that I shall not be killed by any of these! Ah lord, no one can oppose you in a battle. And you are the lord of all living entities and rulers. So please, give me the same position. Please give me the eight siddhis, the mystic perfections of yoga, and whatever results can be obtained by practice of yoga and tapasya.” It’s a long list, ha? ‘Give me this, give me that!’

“After listening to these prayers and requests of Hiranyakashipu, Brahma replied: “Dear son, now I’m giving you whatever boon you had requested from me, although it is actually rare and difficult to obtain for anyone.” Then Brahma returned to his own home.

So, by the blessings of Brahma, Hiranyakashipu has obtained all the boons he requested, as well as a very strong and powerful golden body. He then remembered the slaying of his brother, who was killed by Vishnu and immediately felt great hatred towards Vishnu, God Supreme. This great asura, this Hiranyakashipu, became the supreme ruler of the other asuras and also of the demigods and human beings. He also became the ruler of the gandharvas – the heavenly singers; the nagas – the cosmic snakes; the siddhas – the perfected beings, the garudas, the charanas, the vidyadharas, the rishis, Yama and his followers, the ancient sages and the pitris – the forefathers; of everybody who is there in this universe.”

So, prestigious positions are there in this world – like a demigod or a king. And there are some not so prestigious positions like yakshas – yaksha is a magician demon fighter; rakshasa is even less prestigious. Rakshasa is a giant eating the flesh of human beings. Pishacha is even more heavy – pishacha is a witch riding on a broom. But there are the pretas also; preta is a demon of the dead bodies, of the corpses.

Yamuna: Vampires? Prototypes of vampires? Zombies?

Swami Tirtha: Come on! These are new inventions, my dear ones. This is the Hollywood version of this kind of beings, so please, stick to the tradition. But what is a preta? Preta is like a ghost. How can you recognize a ghost?

Yamuna: He is semitransparent.

Swami Tirtha: Semitransparent!? Maybe that’s again some Hollywood version; there is a sign, a signal that you can understand who is a preta. Because sometimes they might look like human beings. These types of beings look like humans, but they have some special features from what you can recognize who is who. And the special sign of a preta is… Usually your toes are to the front; but for the pretas they are to the back. It’s not funny! Their feet are to the back. What does it mean? Usually if you walk on the sand, your footprints will show your direction. You go forward and the steps also look forward. But what happens if you don’t know the proper direction? What happens if you are a preta? Although you go in one direction, your footprints will show to the opposite direction. That means that although it looks like you make a progress, actually you go backwards. So this is a preta – this is a ghost of the dead bodies. It  goes to a wrong direction. Do you see the symbolism? It’s really not for amusement, it’s a real heavy message. Because the present-day society goes in a wrong direction. So we can say that practically everybody is a preta, not finding the direction. You go in one direction and your footprints go to the opposite. So something is totally wrong in this conditioning.

So, Hiranyakashipu became the lord of the prestigious, godly, divine, kingly orders; and of these lower species also, like ghosts and devils. “After conquering their lords and kings, he took from them their powers and positions and became the supreme personality in the three planetary systems of Svarga, Martya and Patala.” Patala is the hellish planets, the lower planetary systems. Martya-loka is the Earth and similar planets, where death is the ultimate power. Martya means ‘death’. So the name of the planet is Death. And Svarga is the name of the higher planetary systems, which look like heaven. So, this happened after obtaining this boon – he became extremely powerful. He conquered the leaders of these different groups of living entities and then took their power and took their energy.

(to be continued)




(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

We shall continue our readings from the ancient story of the fight between dark forces and bright forces. Because what happens in life? Bad and good are always either fighting or competing.

“Hiranyakashipu said: “At the end of the kalpa, when the destruction of the universe arrives, all the worlds except the self-effulgent planets enter into complete darkness. Then the creator, utilizing the three qualities of nature, again manifests the world. To that Supreme Personality, who creates, maintains and destroys the universe and is the shelter of the gunas, I’m offering my obeisances!”[1]

As we agreed last time, God has these three functions – generator, operator and destructor, G-O-D. What is the meaning? Everything comes from Him, everything is maintained by Him and finally all the destruction will come from Him also.

“You are the cause of the first manifestation of the universe, the form of knowledge and science, who are manifest as action and transformation of life-forces, the senses, the mind and the intellect.” So, the creative power of the universe is knowledge, higher intelligence. “You are the life and soul of those who know the soul, the self. You are without beginning, beyond all time and space. You are omnipresent, omniscient, the Supersoul residing in the heart of every living entity. You are the eternally conscious personality, who fixes the exact lifespan of all living entities by counting even the smallest fraction of time and then taking their life when their moment has come. But you never change. You are unborn, the supreme controller of all living entities, their life and protector. Everything in this universe, all the good and bad things, the earth and the oceans – all are contained in you and nothing is different from you. The Vedas, the Upanishads and all the other Vedic literature emanate from you. You are the supreme reality from whose navel the golden lotus sprouts.”

This describes very nicely the object of attention of this demon. Yet actually Hiranyakashipu makes a little mistake. Because he glorifies Brahma as if he was God Himself, the Supreme Lord. It is just like if you mistake a minister for the president. The president, or the king, is at the top in the country; the minister is only a minister.

“Ah powerful Lord! Although you always reside in the greatest transcendental abode on the top platform of material universe, you externally display the great form of virat-rupa, the universal, cosmic form, made of all elements, objects of the sense perception, the senses themselves, life-force and the mind. Although you manifest all this, you are the personality beyond the reach of the senses. You are the supreme and oldest personality, the supreme soul living in the heart of every creature, unlimited, imperishable and omnipresent throughout the universe. I offer my obeisances to this Supreme Lord, who is always accompanied by his three energies – the internal potency, the external and the marginal potency.”

Do you follow? This is a description of something beyond our understanding. It describes how God is. How He can manifest the whole universe. Everything comes from Him. How He is there in the hearts of all living beings. This is the way how He maintains everything. And finally He is the ultimate goal of everything – when the end of the world comes, all the energies will go back to the source.

And what is very important in this description? That the Supreme Lord is there in everybody’s heart. How He manages the universal affairs – this is beyond our capacity, we don’t know, it’s His business. For Him the impossible is possible. For us it’s not. But He is there with all the living entities. He is there with you – following you, taking care of you. Therefore we should pay attention. Actually the goal of religion is to pay this attention to the Lord. To find the way back home, back to Godhead.


(to be continued)

[1] The reading continues from B.B.Tirtha Maharaj’s book The holy life of Prahlada

dhruva divya-darshana

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

Question of Kripadham: Gurudev, in connection with the story of Hiranyakashipu I’m reminded of another story in Shrimad Bhagavatam, about Dhruva Maharaj. If I’m correct he wanted to become king and also made a penance and finally he got what he wanted. But he achieved it for a shorter time; and another personality appeared as a result – Vishnu. Could you please explain what the difference between these two cases is?

Swami Tirtha: There’s a big difference. Actually this book contains two stories – one is Prahlad’s story and the other is Dhruva’s story. Why? Because Mahaprabhu was listening to these stories many, many times. Therefore Shrila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj repeats and teaches us through these stories.

And what is the difference? The big difference is that although Dhruva had an ambition ‘I want to rectify a mistake, I want to achieve a position’ – so we can say material motivation – meanwhile he met Narada. He met his spiritual master, who asked: “What do you want, my dear son?” “Well, I want to achieve this and that…” Narada said: “Very nice! If you want to achieve that, I can give you the best mantra for that.” Then Dhruva started to do his also very severe penance and meditation – but under instruction. And who is Narada Muni? He is the apostle of bhakti. So, what can you expect from such a guru? Of course devotion and ecstasy manifested at the end – divya darshan came, Dhruva met God. While who was Hiranyakashipu’s spiritual master? It was his mind. He was performing heavy penance, no doubt, but what kind of ecstasy was found there? And you see, he ‘only’ met Brahma.

So, my dear ones, if you want to follow the instructions of your mind-spiritual master, you can do it. But I tell you, you will have a hard time. Because today your mind will tell you one thing, tomorrow will tell you something else. That master is very difficult to satisfy. While usually what happens with an external spiritual master? For the rest of your life he will tell you only one and the same thing: “Please, do your service!” No jumping here and there, only one. “Why don’t you chant the holy names with a pure heart and soul?” So if you follow, if you decide, if you have your sankalpa with your external spiritual master,again you will have a hard time. Because it’s difficult to listen to the same message during your lifetime – ‘Come on, it’s so boring! I’m going mad! I’ve heard, you told me so many times to be a nice devotee; do you have something else to say? Give me something new!’ It’s difficult to tolerate a spiritual master. As he is obsessed. He is obsessed with this Krishna, obsessed with this prema. And he has no other topic. We cannot discuss football with our master, because he will say: “Football? Yes, the gopas play football with Krishna.” All the time he comes with these Krishna things.

And actually what happens at the end? You meet your spiritual master. Dhruva met the goal of his master, the worshipable God Supreme of his master. Because Narada worships Krishna; so if you follow the instructions of your spiritual master, you will meet the beloved one of your spiritual master. Because what is the essence of Narada? The essence of Narada Muni is Krishna. And what is the essence of Hiranyakashipu’s guru, his mind? It’s Brahma – ‘give me this, give me that’. This is the difference.

So, if you follow your guru, you can meet his heart. If you follow your mind, there will be also some results. Decide for yourself.

Question of Harilila: It is amazing that Brahma came, although he knew that Hiranyakashipu wanted to take his position. I make a parallel: when you desire something from your spiritual master, he is ready to give it to you, to give his qualities to you. It’s quite strange that he made this. He appreciated even the bad disciple.

Swami Tirtha: Well, Hiranyakashipu was a good disciple. His intention was little impure. Bur otherwise he was very intent in his service. Still, until we ask insignificant external things from our superiors or from Krishna, they will give them easily. What is the only thing that they don’t give easily?

Hayagriva: Pure bhakti.

Swami Tirtha: Correct. Prema they don’t give so cheap. Why? Because even Krishna knows that prema is stronger than Him. ‘If I give prema to this person, he will be able to control Me.’ And it’s very difficult to tie Krishna up, to have Him in one place for a long time. He is so free! We envy His freedom so much! Therefore we have this very weak idea of the free will of the soul. Because we want to imitate a certain little amount of His freedom. If you see Krishna here, when you want to see Him the second time there, He is already in another place. He is moving very fast. But if somebody is in jail, he cannot move that fast. So what can you do? Let’s put Krishna into a jail. Where is that jail? Inside the heart – that is the place for Krishna. There you can tie Him up with the bonds of divine love. To repeat the prayers of our previous acharyas: “Ah Krishna, You are so free, it’s impossible to tie You up. You are running so fast away from me. Yet I want to put You into the jail of my heart and bind You up with the chains of my love, so that You can never leave. So that You ever stay with me.”[1] This is the prayer of a devotee.

[1] Bilvamangal Thakur: Shri Chauragraganyam Purushashtakam-



Madhavendra Puri and Krishna

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

“Riding on his swan carrier, Brahma arrived on the spot, but he could not see Hiranyakashipu. Like the sun covered by clouds, Hiranyakashipu’s body was hidden and Brahma had to look very carefully. When finally spotted him, he was amazed and addressed Hiranyakashipu with a smile: “Ah, son of Kashyapa, please arise! May you be blessed! Your tapasya has been successful and I have come to offer you a boon. Please ask for whatever you may desire. I’m truly astounded to see your great penance. Ants have eaten up your body and you’ve been able to retain your life in your bones only. In the past not even Bhrigu and the other rishis were ever able to perform such a severe penance. And in the future no one else will be able to do the same. Who could survive like you without taking even water for one hundred years of demigods?!” One year on the planet Earth equals one day of the demigods, on the higher platforms. “Ah, son of Diti! Whatever was impossible for the rishis, you have successfully performed and I had been attracted by your tapasya. Ah greatest amongst the asuras, for this reason I am ready to offer you the boon that you desire. Meeting with an immortal cannot be fruitless, so you may ask whatever you like from me.”[1]

Hiranyakashipu was not only standing on one leg, but he did not take anything – no food, no water, nothing. Still he was alive. Now you can see how in Hiranyakashipu’s case his sankalpa was successful. With great trouble, for a long time he was doing a very difficult penance, and finally he came to success, he achieved his boon. Finally his beloved god Brahma came and offered him: “Whatever you like. you can ask from me”

We should be clever enough what kind of tapasya to make. If you want to achieve something, there are different ways. The best way is to satisfy the superiors. And in a gentle way they will shower their blessings upon us. If you are not so gentle, then you can ask for something. And if you are stupid, you can cry for something. Why do I say this? Because our superiors know everything. They know exactly well what is beneficial for us at the present stage of our development. This connection is based on trust, full trust! Therefore you don’t really have to ask anything; it’s enough if by your service you satisfy your spiritual master. If you are not on that platform, you can ask. “Gurudev, please, can you give me this, can you give me that?” Like a kind father, he will supply: “All right, my dear son. You are still in this phase of wanting and desiring so many things – I can give you.” If you didn’t reach even that platform of asking nicely, then you can cry and forcefully desire for something. Like you will start a penance to achieve some attention of your spiritual master. And as Brahma was satisfied by his servant and worshiper Hiranyakashipu, if you satisfy your beloved Lord and master, they will come to you and they will ask: “What do you want, my dear son, my dear daughter?”

“After saying this, Brahma poured water from his divine water pot onto the bones of Hiranyakashipu, immediately transforming them into a new body, perfectly strong and useful, powerful like lightening, with a beautiful golden complexion. Hiranyakashipu emerged from the anthill and the cluster of reeds in the same way as fire rises from woods. Directly before him he could see Brahma on his swan airplane and tears of joy began to roll down his eyes. He prostrated himself on the ground to offer his obeisances and with hair standing on end and faltering voice he started to speak.”

Jay! Maybe you have some remarks concerning Hiranyakashipu’s penance?

Question of Hayagriva: It is interesting that Hiranyakashipu began with selfish motive, but we can see from the story that he showed some devotion to Lord Brahma. Can you, please, elaborate on this?

Swami Tirtha: Actually he was always very dedicated to Brahma, he was worshiping Brahma. This again shows the difference between general worship of different authorities in this universal structure and the direct worship of the Supreme Lord, the head of the hierarchy. Because the demigods worship Krishna. The definition of demigod is tat-priyartham – they live only for the happiness of Krishna, Supreme. So if you live only for the sake, for the happiness of Shri Krishna, then you are a demigod. And the demons worship the demigods, not God Supreme. So this is the difference – the demigods worship the Supreme; and those who are not demigods, they worship the demigods. But without dedication, even in a demoniac way, you cannot achieve anything. And Hiranyakashipu’s sankalpa, his decision, was very strong, he was very determined. He was ready to stand hundred years of the demigods – it was a very long time, and a very difficult thing that he decided. But only for a selfish motive.

Do you want to perform greater tapasya than Hiranyakashipu? Yes? Then do your spiritual service. That is even greater tapasya – to accomplish the desire of your spiritual master. Because Hiranyakashipu accomplished his own desire, he was serving his own purpose. So much so that his worshipable god had to come to fulfill his desire. Our policy should be different. We have to ask Krishna: “How can I serve You?” It’s not that you make your tapasya of not taking prasadam for a long time – to force Krishna to come to you and ask you: “How can I serve you?” Right, this is not our policy.

Paramananda: Madhavendra Puri was doing something similar actually.

Swami Tirtha: He was absorbed in his ecstasy. It’s not that he wanted to force Krishna to appear. This is the ‘little’ difference. The demoniac approach is: ‘I want to force others to come to me and serve me’; the devotional way is ‘I submit myself and ask: ‘How can I serve you?’ This is the main difference. Service is there in both cases, but the motivation is different.

[1] The reading continues  from B.B.Tirtha Maharaj’s book The holy life of Prahlada

Hiranyakashipu tapas

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

“Because of the intolerable fire of the great tapasya, all the demigods fled from Svargaloka and approached Brahmaloka to pray to Brahma for protection. After offering prayers, they said: “Ah master of the universe, ah protector of everyone! This Hiranyakashipu, the lord of the demons, is performing a terrible penance. The power of his tapasya is forcing us out of Svargaloka, our heavenly planets. Please, help and protect us, as we are your servants and worshipers. If you wish to protect your servants before they are destroyed, please, stop Hiranyakashipu from his tapas which is destroying the whole world! Hiranyakashipu is engaged in this penance, because he wants to obtain a boon. It is not impossible for you to grant him his wish. Although you know everything, we want to inform you about his desire, as we have understood it. Hiranyakashipu is thinking: ‘By my tapasya I wish to obtain position like that of Brahma, who became the creator of the universe and is worshiped by everyone. The position of Brahma is greater than that of any king, even Indra. I want the topmost position in Satyaloka. Since time is eternal and the soul is also eternal, I do not care how many lifetimes of penance I shall have to offer in order to attain this position according to my desire. When I obtain sufficient power, I shall change the rules of this world. At the end of the day of Brahma, this kalpa, the whole universe will be destroyed, including the vaishnavas. Therefore I’m not interested in any position lower than Brahma’s.” Now Hiranyakashipu has begun this great tapasya with the intention of obtaining your post. You are the lord of the three worlds, so please, do whatever is necessary to solve this problem. This is our prayer, o, creator and protector of the world. Your existence is the cause of pleasure, opulence, welfare and happiness for the cows and brahmanas. If Hiranyakashipu obtains your position, all these things will be destroyed.”[1]

From this part of the story we not only get information about the worries of the demigods, but also we take a very good lesson in vaishnava etiquette. Did you see how that was? The demigods were in great worries, so they approached their authority. And what did they do? Immediately jump into the problem: ‘Ah, we have this trouble, we have that problem’? No. First they offered prayers. “Ah Brahma, you are so great, you are so nice!” And then they started: “And we also have a little problem…” This is education, this is etiquette.

How to apply that? You meet your spiritual master: “Dandavat, Gurudev! I have this and this problem.” No, please! Say at least a few nice words. For example: “Krishna is so great, Krishna is so nice!” And then you come with your message. So, be aware what’s going on. Every little moment is very precious for our purification and our proper understanding how to behave. Then they said: “Although you know everything, still we would like to call your attention to certain events in this universe.” Sometimes you approach your spiritual master as if you bring some news, something that he doesn’t know.

But we are also informed about the intention of Hiranyakashipu – that he wanted to attain immortality. And you remember from the last time, that he knew very well the philosophy. Here again it is mentioned that although the body will perish, the soul will survive. He wants to come to the highest position in the material world.

“The demigods concluded their prayers and Lord Brahma, accompanied by all the sages, such as Bhrigu, Daksha and others, departed for the hermitage of Hiranyakashipu. Meanwhile Hiranyakashipu had been performing penance for a very long time in the same position without ever moving. So much so that an anthill, upon which grass and reeds were growing, covered his body. Ants had eaten his body to such an extent, that the skin, flesh and blood disappeared, leaving only the bones.”

Still he was considered alive. That means while performing his tapasya, he achieved mystic powers. He was able to circulate his life-force in the skeleton. This is the result of mystic practices – that you can rewrite your personal history. What was the intention of Hiranyakashipu? To rewrite the history of the universe, according to his own version. And what happens to you if you achieve your mystic and bhaktic results? That you can rewrite the story of your own life. From the predestined karmic path you can enter the path of freedom, of divine slavery.

So, he was still alive, although only in the bones – no flesh, no skin, nothing, only a skeleton. In our culture the skeleton is a symbol of death. So in one sense he could rewrite symbolism. Even an anthill started to grow over his body. It takes a long time.


(to be continued)

[1] The reading continues from B.B.Tirtha Maharaj’s book The holy life of Prahlada



mahaprabhu party

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

Now comes a very important moment of the story and this is ‘The tapasya of Hiranyakashipu’[1].

“The lord of the daityas, the terrible Hiranyakashipu, wanted to become immortal, free from old age and invincible in all the three worlds. To attain his goal he went to a cave in Mandara Mountain and performed great penance by standing still on his two big toes while keeping his hands stretched towards the sky, his whole body straight like a stick. Due to the force of his penance, a bright light emanated from Hiranyakashipu’s body. All the demigods were afraid of Hiranyakashipu and consequently they’ve been hiding here and there. When they saw that Hiranyakashipu was engaged in penance in a secluded place, they felt relieved and went back to their own palaces, convinced that there was no more cause for fear. However, as a result of the terrible austerities of Hiranyakashipu, fire and smoke started to emanate from his head, which scorched all the living entities in the lower and higher planetary systems. All the rivers and oceans became disturbed. The mountains, islands and continents started to shake. The planets and stars became unsteady and all the directions were filled with the burning radiance of Hiranyakashipu’s penance.”

Here is a method described. This is called tapasya, tapas. What is the meaning of tapas, tapaha?

Answer: Renunciation.

Swami Tirtha: Yes, tapas, tapasya, tapah is ‘penance’. And in the Shrimad Bhagavatam it is clearly described that penance, or a kind of self-control, is a source of power. Do we need power to perform our spiritual activities? If we are realistic: we need much power. How to achieve that? Shall we start a penance like Hiranyakashipu? Maybe go out in Vitosha Mountain to stand on the tips of our toes, stretched to the sky? Well, fortunately Chaitanya Mahaprabhu brought a different method of generating spiritual energy. But it is very much similar to this, yes. You have to stand, sometimes jump on the tips of your toes and you have to stretch to the sky. I cannot promise that smoke will emanate from your heads if you jump like that on the arati. But I can promise you that all the negative forces will be removed from your system and a very special power will manifest on your faces. It’s called smile. You see – this will manifest on your faces.

But the result is the same – you can generate more spiritual power by following self-control. So in case somebody needs more power – because sometimes in our life we need extra power to resolve some difficulties or to attain some goals – then you can make a little tapasya, a little penance. Because this will generate power.

Actually tapas in Sanskrit means ‘heat’. And heat is energy, right? So, by curbing, by holding back your bodily activities, you can generate spiritual energy, Therefore we have to follow the principles that are given to us, because that is self-control. And the heat energy that you generate by your austerities will help you to accomplish your spiritual goals.

Then what is the difference between Hiranyakashipu, standing on the tips of his toes, stretched to the sky and a devotee jumping high on the kirtan – what is the difference? The same as with the camel and the ant. Hiranyakashipu is working for himself, and we should jump for God. So, don’t lose your temper, patience and commitment.


(to be continued)


[1] The reading continues from B.B.Tirtha Maharaj’s book The holy life of Prahlada



(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

What shall we discuss today – Nrisimhadev or gopi-bhava? Too many gopis are here, how can we talk about Nrisimhadev?! Nevertheless, as following the principles that are given to us by our acharyas is very important, therefore if we decided to study this sequence of events, then we have to continue. If we decide something, that is called sankalpa. Will you remember? You will not remember – if you don’t write, if you don’t have your notebook on the lectures, you will not remember. Sankalpa means ‘decision, determination’. Before starting anything we should make a sankalpa – then the vows and the intention of the words that you express will help you. Sankalpa also means a program that you have to follow. And simply by saying, the power of your words will help you to accomplish what you have decided.

One feature of Krishna is satya-sankalpa. What does it mean? Satya-sankalpa means whatever He decides will be accomplished without any efforts. In the material sphere in order to fulfill our decision we have to work a lot, right? And even then it might happen that our efforts will be fruitless. Not with Krishna; Krishna’s desires automatically are fulfilled. He doesn’t have to make any efforts in order that His whish is fulfilled.

Why is this distinction between God and the humans? Just imagine if you had satya-sankalpa – if all the flashes of your mind will manifest automatically. Is it good or bad?

Answer: Bad!

Swami Tirtha: Very bad! Until the mind is not controlled is best if nothing happens when you think of something. Just imagine if people in general would have the power that all their desires, all their wishes, all their decisions – even decisions, which is a higher level of intellectual preparation – would be fulfilled automatically! Then the material world would be even greater disaster than today. So, for a good reason, for a protective reason people in general don’t have that capacity. Krishna has this capacity, satya-sankalpa – whatever He wants is automatically fulfilled. Why? Because His decisions are proper, His whishes are beneficial.

And what happens if we practice spiritual life? It is said that a pure devotee can acquire many qualities of the Supreme. Even satya-sankalpa you can get. Because that means already you are more composed and your desires, your wishes will be proper. In the beginning even devotees have to work hard in order to manifest what they decide. But this is good, because you also have to learn how to work hard for Krishna.

Maybe you remember the story of the meeting of the ant and the camel. So, the camel had a bag on the back, because he is a beast of burden. Once while walking with this burden on the back, he met the ant. And you know, the camel is big, the ant is very insignificant, small. Yet when the camel saw the ant, he was astonished. Because what did he see? That the ant was carrying a big stick – you know these small pieces of wood. The camel turned to his back and he saw that on his back, compared to his body, there’s a very insignificant bag. Then again he looked at the ant and saw that the small little ant is carrying such a big peace of wood, twice as big as his body. So our dear friend camel was astonished. He said: “Ah! How is it possible?! You are so small, I am so great; yet your burden is so big and my burden is so small. How is it possible?” Then the ant was smiling. “I know the secret. Do you know why?” The camel said: “I have no idea.” And the ant said: “You know, you work for your master; I work for myself.”

So, if we work for ourselves, we can do whatever is necessary, right? If we have to work for someone else: “Ah, today I’m so tired. And anyway, others should be also engaged in devotional life. So, let’s give a chance for them.” Therefore Gurudev said: “If your heart is there, you will find solutions. If your heart is not there, you will find excuses.”

Take it as an advice for your spiritual growth, how to improve your satya-sankalpa, the power of your decision, so that it manifests. Serve Krishna, guru and vaishnava as if you are serving yourself. Therefore, as we made a decision that we shall study, with all the difficulties and all the efforts, we shall continue.


(to be continued)

green door

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

Question of Yadunath: We all have to face death. And we all have to face the death of our beloved ones. Sometimes we have to bury our parents or ancestors, and sometimes our children; sometimes our spiritual brothers and sisters. So can you please tell us, as we are all involved in this, how to treat them in the best possible way? Thank you!

Swami Tirtha: Well, this is the law of nature that the elders should go first. Even that breaks our heart. What to speak of such a situation when there is a mistake of the general way of things and the younger go first and we stay! That’s unacceptable, because that is against the predestined order of things.

Even in spiritual life it is part of the game that our spiritual master will pass away. Is it painful? It is very painful. But acceptable – because this is the natural order. When I lost my spiritual master, I thought that I experienced the ultimate and the topmost suffering in life. But I was wrong. When I had to say good-bye to some of my disciples, then I experienced a higher level of pain and separation. Because that is against the natural order.

But anyway, as we all came, we all will pass away. It’s not a secret, it’s not a taboo. We have to face it, we have to tolerate it and we have to celebrate it. I don’t propagate a death cult here. But I want to impress you with the cult of eternal life: because we don’t believe in the bodies, but we believe in the soul. Therefore we don’t believe in death. We believe in eternal life.

Whatever you obtain in this life, you will lose it, anyway. But whatever you collect spiritually, you will never lose it! This is the basis of our faith. And therefore we should come to that platform. Collect eternal things, not insignificant pearls.

So death of our beloved ones is a chance for happiness. Why? Because then we can celebrate the victory of life, of eternal life over death. Everything is a question of approach, of level of consciousness. What do we see in death? Some imminent danger or a gate to eternity? Of course there is a little-little prerequisite and it is called purification or achieving perfection. But otherwise for those who are on the path, death is the end of one chapter and beginning of a second one.

But usually in Indian tradition they say good-bye and they organize a farewell for the body also after death. They wrap the body in a harinam-chadar, in a cloth on which the names of God are written, because that will purify the body. Otherwise death and a dead body are considered impure. But the holy names of God – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare – they will purify the body. Then they bring the body to some holy water – lake or river. They give a final bath, and then all the relatives bring one log of wood to make a funeral pyre. Then the eldest son shaves up – removes all the hair and beard as a sign of remorse – and his duty is to light the fire of the funeral pyre. All the relatives are coming together, there are some priests… And then you see the matter to be burned on this fire. Therefore they say that cremation is an education – to impress upon us that we are not the bodies. There are certain steps of the ritual, but this is the essence – to help the soul on his eternal path.

Here in our countries it is a little more difficult to organize a public cremation on the bank of a river, because here the tradition is a little different. But you can provide the same sacred objects for the body – like a few drops of Ganges water that will purify it. Even before death it’s very good to give something sacred to the person – for example maha-prasadam, sanctified food. Or we can give a garland that was offered on the altar to the body after death.

But otherwise if you stand by the dead body of your friend, relative, brother, mother – what can you offer? Then it’s too late. Only a few words, a little prayer, a song can be offered. So please, until your beloved ones are here, try to serve and love them! Now, today, not tomorrow! If we miss a chance, it will never return.

And we should try to become nice, as much as possible pure devotees and help others in their respective progressive stage of spiritual growth. Why? Because it is said: “He reasons ill who says that a vaishnava dies!”[1] Because the vaishnavas never die, they live eternally on the spiritual platform, under the protection of the holy name.

[1] A line from Bhaktivinot Thakur’s poem ‘Haridas’


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia) 

Question of Kripadham: Gurudev, my question is a little philosophical. When the soul goes out from the body, I know that there is the physical body and also a mental. My question is what happens with the mental body? When it dying? Is there some limitations or it depends on our activities?

Swami Tirtha: Material body is taken from matter, it will return to matter. Subtle body is taken from subtle elements. So it is not limited by the gross destruction of matter. While spirit has a spiritual quality, which is eternal – no beginning, no end. So actually death concerns only the gross material body. Do you follow? We have three identities: one is the mud and flesh – body; the other is our emotional, mental identity; and finally there is the spiritual spark that makes the whole system work. So, the body will disintegrate, but the soul will ever live.

And if we speak about mental death – maybe this is your question? What is mental death? What are the functions of the mind? Thinking, willing and feeling. So, if you cannot think, if you lose your willpower and if you are bereft of your emotions – that is mental death.

Otherwise our mental or astral identity is like a subtle form, subtle body. And the consciousness of the soul is projected and manifested on that platform first. So there is a process called mental progress or astral progress of the subtle body. And this is when we die for the previous lower levels of consciousness – we die for our mistakes, we die for our shortcomings – this we can also call mental death or disintegration of the subtle identity, but only for the cause of being born on a higher platform. After darkness there comes the light. Post tenebrax lux – after the darkness light will come. So if you die for your mistakes, then you can be born for your merits.

Yet ultimately does death exist? Not so much (не наистина). Because it’s only concerning the body, the material elements. But you, as the spiritual spark, you have such a power, that you can organize matter in such a way that it looks like living. This is the power of the soul. If there is the soul, it integrates; if there is no soul it disintegrates. So therefore please, use your power of integrity for the best purpose! It’s not enough to work for bodily survival. It’s necessary to work for eternity, for the eternal benefit of our soul.