Extra English Issues issues

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 02.10.2017 evening, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

You know the famous story where the father told the son: “All right, my dear son, now as you are smart enough, go to this Guruji and study the Shrimad Bhagavatam from him.” So the boy went and after one year he returned to the father. The father asked: “Have you studied the Shrimad Bhagavatam?” “Yes, I have learned everything and I know everything about the Shrimad Bhagavatam!” Then the father said: “You didn’t understand anything, go back to your master!” All right, the second term of the education started. Another year expired and the boy returned; the father asked: “My dear son, have you learned, have you studied properly?” “Yes, father. Last year it was not correct, but this year I’ve learned everything about the Shrimad Bhagavatam.” The father said: “Go back again!” After the third year the boy came back again and then the father asked: “Now, my dear son, have you studied, have you learned the Shrimad Bhagavatam?” “My dear father, the first year I thought I know everything. The second year I thought I didn’t know in the first year, but then I accomplished. Now after three years of study I realized I don’t understand anything.” Then the father was very satisfied, embraced the son and said: “This is it, my dear son! Now you are really qualified to go back to your master.”

So we need to decode the language of our masters. Many times I have told you, it is a classical story from the old times, when a master asked: “Bring me a cup of water.” And then the disciple would think: “Water? It’s a very simple liquid. And my spiritual master is not a simple person! Simple liquid to a unique person – no! I need to bring the best liquid to the best person. Milk is the best liquid, so I will bring him milk. My Gurudev is so humble that he asked for water, but he meant milk. I’m a faithful disciple, I understand his language. I can read his mind.” The boy comes with the milk and then the master is very angry at him: “My dear son, I didn’t ask for milk, I simply wanted to put my tilak. Water, bring me water!”

And you know, when you hear his story, you say: ‘Ah, yes, in the ancient times, in the Puranic times, maybe in the Mahabharata somewhere it happened.’ But when I saw this with my eyes: Gurudev asked a glass of water and the devotees brought him a glass of milk… and he was furious. Then I understood that we live in eternity. So the old stories are repeated; or we are living in the Puranic times.

And you know, I have told you what is the suggestion of the Vedas when the guru is angry. What is the advice for the disciple, do you remember? Stay away, beyond the reach of sound. You see, the Vedas are like a tenderly caring father towards the disciples.

But why is it important to understand properly the words of our master? Because when he will say: “madhura-rasa” and you will understand “sakhya-bhava” it’s not good. That is when your master asks a cup of milk and you bring a cup of water.

Faithfulness means that I’m fully committed. And nevertheless to do this in such a manner that we don’t annoy our master. So it’s not that you take your residence in his room, because you are so much surrendered. Or give others very obvious symptoms of your total dedication.

But this harmony between student and master is some very profound and basic agreement in service. We agree that in this lifetime we shall try to cultivate this spiritual service of divine love in a joint manner, that we are united in the spirit of service. Because slowly-slowly this is the way how the mood will develop.

Generally we think that the qualifications are expected from the gurus, but actually the real quality is expected from the disciple. So our business is to improve our shishya-abhiman, our shishya mentality. Shishya-abhiman means we pay attention, we let ourselves be instructed. If there is shishya-abhiman, the mentality of a disciple, there is also guru-abhiman, right? Guru-abhiman means that somebody is ready to take the role to instruct and serve others in this way – by instructions.

(to be continued)

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 02.10.2017 evening, Sofia)

Today we shall continue our readings from a collection of essays of Shrila Shridhara Maharaj[1]. For many occasions we discuss one topic – the topic of guru. My suggestion for today is to discuss another topic – disciple.

“Unadulterated purity. Question: Maharaj, what is the meaning of chastity for the proper disciple? Shrila Shridhara Maharaj: Chastity is faithfulness to the cause for which we have come. It is a relative term; chastity in the absolute sense is unchanging adherence to Krishna consciousness. There also may be relative chastity, such as when someone sincerely pursues his interest in a particular plane. However, that type of sincerity is not complete. We think sincerity is only complete when one comes to accept Krishna consciousness of Godhead. Other forms of chastity are all relative. No knowledge separate from Krishna is chaste. In Krishna consciousness also we may not think that by beginning, by getting a touch of Krishna consciousness we have acquired the whole thing. When we get the pure conception, the hazy conceptions will vanish. There are also different stages of realization in pure Krishna consciousness and by its degree of awakening we become more and more chaste.”

I think it’s a good topic – chastity. Because this is the way how a disciple can show his gratitude towards the master – to be faithful. Of course it has got many different aspects. Here it is said: “Chastity means our adherence to the truth. The truth that we had come to realize – that truth is in Krishna consciousness. This is not a limited thing that one can capture in the hand and swallow. It is of infinite character. There is gradation and there is room for progress in Krishna consciousness. We will say that one is chaste due to his own sincere progress, not due to the adherence to the figure, the formal conception. Vyaso vetti na vetti va[2] – such a strong expression is also there: “Maybe Vyasadev knows, maybe he doesn’t know”. Although Vyasa is like the archetype of gurus, maybe he knows the truth, maybe he doesn’t know. Although we expect a superior to know the truth. But all rights are reserved. Because bhakti is unlimited. Still there is a possibility of conceiving its purity in its unadulterated form and the acharyas have given that to us. In the beginning a new student who gets admisson to a college cannot expect to know everything. We need to have a systematic, properly adjusted knowledge.

There are many amongst our group who heard Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada’s advice and words, but only partly. One day a senior man and sannyasi repeated something Shrila Prabhupad had said. Although it related to a particular time and place, he wanted to utilize that in a universal way. I objected: “Maharaj, Shrila Prabhupad said this, it is true, but this is not the whole thing. He explained other things also, therefore we have to harmonize. We cannot ignore the other part of his advice. We have to come to adjustment and systematic understanding of the words of Shri Gurudev.”

Why? Because it’s a life-saving question – to understand properly. It needs a little training and to be able to decode the language of the masters. Because I don’t know how it happened with you, but when I first came to a vaishnava lecture, I didn’t understand anything. It was very charming and very attractive, but…

Once there was an elderly couple visiting the programs and lectures – this was trying to provide a systematic education for years. And as they were paying so much attention and always being there, finally I approached them and asked: “Does it mean anything for you? Do you find it useful?” And then they said: “Well, we cannot recall anything, but it’s nice. It’s a good feeling.” Well, what can I say, I cannot object, as we all search after the feeling, right, not after the knowledge, so actually they are correct. “I don’t understand, but it’s nice.”

(to be continued)

[1] Centenary Anthology

[2] Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya.24.313

 (from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 02.10.2017, morning, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

Swami Tirtha: So, if now you have to decide on three things that you can carry on to your next birth – what are these three things?

Raga: First that came to my mind was the holy name, the japa. Shastra. And my emotions – love to the Supreme and to Gurudev.

Prem Gopal: I’m imagining to have a kind of ladder to climb, not to drown into the material ocean – like a rope with some knots, like a mala, to have the spiritual connection with parampara, to be able to catch, otherwise I’ll be carried who know where. The holy name, the mala – from matter to spirit. And love towards God.

Swami Tirtha: Good collection. Gopal Shakti?

Gopal Shakti: Of course Laddu Gopal! He will give me what is necessary.

Swami Tirtha: Clever!

Mira: I hope that more souls here on Earth can elevate and come closer to God. I hope all of us can meet and be together with God.

Swami Tirtha: Very compassionate vision.

Bhagavat Prasad: One is the striving to reach God and the second – connection with Guru. And I cannot think of a third.

Swami Tirtha: Two is enough. Not bad.

Baladev: Gurudev, I think one is enough. If we take the devotees, all these beautiful things are coming with them.

Swami Tirtha: That’s also a clever solution. Yashodka? Your tailor’s atelier?

Yashoda: These are more than ten thousand things. I’ve been bothered by this question for a long time. Since I have Gour-Nitay, I’m sometimes afraid what will happen to Them when I leave.

Swami Tirtha: Don’t worry.

Yashoda: This love and this connection that we have – this is what I want to carry. And if I have to take another birth, I pray that we can somehow come together.

Swami Tirtha: So, Goura, Nitay and sanga. Tulasi?

Shyama Tulasi: I also cannot imagine going anywhere without Mahaprabhu. Because wherever He is, there are beauty and love. Also the japa-mala, so that I could give massage to her every day. And maybe I would take one Tulasi Devi to offer leaves to Mahaprabhu, in the hope that in her presence I could realize my name more deeply.

Swami Tirtha: Very nice, I think your collection is really very precious. So now Manohari thinks that she can escape. Now it’s your turn.

Manohari: But I had no time to think.

Swami Tirtha: Don’t think. If that moment comes, you have no time to think. Act! It’s not about thinking.

Manohari: The first should be the mala because I cannot stay away from her. And the second should be… I wouldn’t say ‘my computer’, but my instrument of service – it could be anything. And the third – these loving connections that I have cultivated I don’t want to lose.

Swami Tirtha: So then why should you take another birth? What you want to carry with you – you have it already here. Why go anywhere? All your desires are fulfilled already here. Whatever you feel is a treasure for you – you have it already. Do you follow? It’s here! That crave for perfection and that great chance is here and now! So try to take it in this way. Eternity is now.

Manohari: Gurudev, do you want to escape?

Swami Tirtha: I have already escaped!

Manohari: But it’s not fair! You should also share with us.

Swami Tirtha: Not fair?!? Anyway, you should know what is my preference.

So, in case you have to move to a next place, to a next time, I think you will be equipped. These attachments will help you. And this is not something like collected items that we are attached to and we want to have that again, but I think these are the touch of eternity, the touch of spirituality, divine touch.

Our holy trinity is hari-guru-vaishnava. Basically all these different items that you mentioned were focusing around this. Connection, affection, holy name… Sadhu-sanga nama-kintan. So, please always keep this in mind: there are not too many things that are necessary for a life. When I had to face the death of one devotee, then I understood this – there’s not much that we need here. But the treasures we have to cherish while we are here and we have to cherish them for eternity.

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 02.10.2017, morning, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday) 

Because usually what is life? Life means we try to collect things, right? And sometimes you are drowned in the things that you have collected. They say that in an average western household there are ten thousand objects. We are suffocated by that. And of course these are not only the objects, but the experience that we collect. Another museum of curiosities. Do you have your own collection?

So, here comes my second question, because the first one was what is your conception about life, how many times we live, or what is time. And my second question is: if now you have to decide on three things that you can carry on to your next birth – what are these three things? Tomorrow you have to shift, now pack your luggage, yet only three things you can have in your bag. But if you carry your bag, only two things left, because one is your bag – so be clever.

Sanatana: Love, wisdom and devotion.

Petar: First my love; then purity; and the positive experience that I have collected in my consciousness in this body.

Swami Tirtha: You mean like spiritual treasures; very good. Priya? Ah, you are a big collector!

Krishna Priya: I would take Ivan, devotees and Gurudev.

Swami Tirtha: And what about your cats?

Krishna Priya: Well, I’ll sacrifice them.

Swami Tirtha: So, you want me to take another birth. All right…

Baladev: Mine is close to Priya’s. I would take Gurudev, devotees and Mahaprabhu.

Pavitra: I missed the beginning, but guessing the question my vision is a bit different: I want to find a place in somebody’s bag. I know I’m quite big, but I will try to fit somehow.

Swami Tirtha: That’s sweet! Somebody else? Bo, what is your choice?

Bo: I cannot think of other answers than what we’ve already heard.

Damodar: I thought these should be some items.

Swami Tirtha: Whatever is your collection.

Damodar: MP3-player with your lectures; if there should be one book this is the Axis of Life; and the third – japa-mala.

Somebody: Everybody is carrying anyway the experience that they have collected, so it’s coming automatically – the things that we cherish are manifested in our next life. The most important things are these relations with the bhaktas and with all people whom we love and esteem – this we should take consciously in the next life.

Swami Tirtha: It’s very important, what you say. These are our real treasures! And if you have to pack your luggage, you will collect everything from your home first. From this lifetime, I mean. Then you try to fit everything, but the bag is too small, and you have to select: ‘this is not so important, that is not so important…’ And finally a few things should remain – our real treasures. Suryatirth, what is your option? Your camera? Himalaya? And yoga?

Suryatirth: I would use the suitcase of the harmonium, a blank notebook and a mala. I cannot play the harmonium, but I like to listen. I will find with what to write in the notebook and the mala – I think it’s a part of us.

Manoram: Three things I would like to take: one is the love to all acharyas, spiritual masters; the common sense that I have gathered in this life; and to find to whom should I serve the next life.

Vedavid: I agree with the MP3-player full of lectures; japa-mala; and chocolate – prasadam, of course!

Swami Tirtha: I will go with you. So, theory, practice and prasadam. Very nice! Actually Lord Brahma and Sarasvati Devi, his spouse, also have at least two of these… ah, three! In one hand they have the shastras and in the other hand there is the mala; so theory and practice. If Brahma is the highest intelligence in this universe, then this is the foundation of this supreme intelligence – theory and practice. And Sarasvati Devi has some beauty element – the vina in her extra hands. That will make your theory and your practice beautiful. You see, she also has three things in her hands and I think she will carry that forever for the benefit of the living entities.

(to be continued)


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 02.10.2017, morning, Sofia)

Today I will ask. Is it good like this? Because I thought that for today we shall have a question and answer session, but usually when I offer this you have no questions. And there are two reasons why you don’t have questions; either you know everything or you don’t know anything. But because I’d like to inquire on a very important topic from you, therefore let me ask you questions. How many times do we live?

Somebody: In this life I believe we feel it’s the only life we have.

Krishna Priya: There might be two answers in my opinion. One is that we live many-many times because of the reincarnation; and the other is that we live only here and now, and if we don’t grab this chance, it’s useless.

Damodar: We live as many times as we need to reach immortality.

Yashoda: I believe that we live when we are with the devotees. So we are living when we are gasping for our breath.

Baladev: Theoretically I understand that we all come from God and it doesn’t matter how many times we live, finally we shall return to Him. But the problem is that even in this life we don’t live all the time.

Swami Tirtha: Correct. To live – it’s a quality.

Gopal Shakti: We live as many times as we need to go back to our real home.

Swami Tirtha: Very nice, very nice… I say, we live only once. But that is for eternity. And all these different lifetimes are like chapters of the same story. This we have to understand very firmly, very deeply as a conviction. Not only as a belief, not only as something that we don’t know, but something that is a profound reality for us.

This is one way to get rid of the fears in life. Because if you feel limited, or like you will lose something, or time is not enough, you cannot accomplish, you cannot reach, you will die… it’s a big trouble. We easily frustrate ourselves with this limited way of thinking. Therefore in spiritual life we have to understand, and also beyond understanding to realize, that we are eternal souls. That we have only one conception of time, and that is eternity. If somebody asks you: ‘What is time?’ ‘Well, I don’t know, something that is running away…’ No! ‘Time? Eternity.’

Time is another power, another face, another energy of our Supreme Lord Krishna. In the Gita, for example, He says: “I am time that will finish everything.”[1] – this is for people in general, for those who have the limited conception. But other times He says: “I exist as time eternal”[2] – and this aspect of time and God Supreme is for those who are in harmony with Him.

Eternity has two poles, so to say. One side of the scale is no beginning and the other side is no end. So, anadi and ananta – no beginning, no end – this is eternity. So if we come to that platform of understanding and hope and prayer and conviction, then half of the trouble of life is resolved.

Of course sometimes we experience that life is so problematic and so horrible that if we have to believe that life is eternal we say: ‘Ah, sorry! To expand this experience? No!’ But we are not born for that. We are not born for dying. We are born for accomplishing our spiritual journey. Don’t let this chance to evaporate.

So, half of the problems of life as an experience are resolved if you understand that time has only one feature and that is eternity. And the other half of the problems will be resolved if we refine our experience in this life.

(to be continued)

[1] Bhagavad Gita 11.32

[2] Bhagavad Gita 10.33

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 01.10.2017 evening, Sofia)

Question: In the morning you said that money and women are not so important. Where is the place of family in this respect? Because these two make up family.

Swami Tirtha: Three – with you, right? Well, everything has got its place. Krishna also has His family. And not only one wife, but many. Everybody according to their capacity. As He possesses all the wealth in the world, He can take care of many ladies. Actually that happened in the end of the last yuga; now times have changed. And even if you possess all the wealth of the world, it’s very hard to maintain one lady.

Question: How did He manage?

Swami Tirtha: He is God. This proves that He is beyond human.

But to be serious about your question: we are not against family. Our process supports family life as an ashram. Because ashram is a place of spiritual progress. And ultimately it is said: grihe thako vane thako sada hari bole dako[1] – “Whether you live in the forest or you live in a home – just chant the holy names!”

But that specific quotation – to avoid women and money – concerns those who want to follow an ascetic life. Because usually these temptations come very easily if you want to avoid them. If a brahmachari wants to avoid women and money, it will very easily come to him. If you are a family man and you want to have money, it will come very difficultly. Material things always work on the opposite. Therefore don’t pay too much attention on this, pay attention on the spiritual side.

But family is definitely very important. Because even sannyasis are born from mothers. We need families to have ascetics. Definitely in my humble understanding we should support people in their respective duties. If you are a student, a brahmachari, you should be a good brahmachari. If you are a head of a family, you should be a very responsible person. If you are an ascetic, a sannyasi, you should live up to the standards. Because if everybody performs nicely his or her duties, everybody will progress nicely. Krishna is not reserved for the ascetics. He is there in your heart as well. He is with you. Irrespective of your ashram – whether you live alone or you live in a family – He is with you. This is the only thing that we have to realize: I’m a spiritual spark, I belong to Him and there is a loving connection between us.

But both wife and money are female energy. Therefore those who want to establish a family they have to be real men – to be able to yield and to serve and to use these energies. And as Krishna was a real guy, He could handle thousands of wives. He could provide the necessary wealth to maintain them. As He maintains the whole universe. So, I think in this respect we should be very much pro family. Because it is a very good place to practice and to improve our service mood.

[1] A line of the song Gay Goura Madhur Sware by Bhaktivinod Thakur

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 01.10.2017 evening, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday) 

Question of Hari Bhakti: In Shrimad Bhagavatam it is said that if you worship Krishna it’s very beneficial, but if you worship a pure devotee of Krishna it’s even more precious. This is something new for me. Is it possible for Gurudev to elaborate on this?

Swami Tirtha: If I glorify you, would you like it?

Hari Bhakti: I would be embarrassed.

Swami Tirtha: But it feels good. Yet, if I glorify your daughter? Ah, you will feel much better. In the same way, if you glorify Krishna, He will be satisfied. It’s a little uneasy, but it’s all right, He can digest it. But if you appreciate those whom He likes – that is very satisfying.

Therefore to be a vaishnava, and especially to be a pure devotee is a very special position. Shrila Prabhupad says that a pure devotee is omnipotent. It’s almost like a blasphemy. Very unusual! How come!? God is omnipotent. But we also know that by proper cultivation all the divine qualities will come to a surrendered devotee. So I think it’s very simple, it’s like an emotional truth – if you want to satisfy the master, glorify the servants.

Tejasvini: One though came to me: many years ago you said that two devotees who are going in the same direction can change the world. If they have the same target, if they are helping each other along the path – they can.

Swami Tirtha: Yeah, actually today again I was looking through the window. I have this habit. And what did I see? Now really, two devotees were coming. I saw the determination on their face. And I saw the yearning to join the bhajan that was already going on in the ashram. I was so happy in my heart that I wanted to jump out on the balcony, I wanted to wave: “Radhe, Radhe!” or “Haribol!” – according to your taste. But they were so intent and focused that they didn’t look up. Because they were so focused: ‘Now we are going to the temple, we are coming to the evening program’. So, as you say, two devotees, one goal, helping each other – now it’s your turn: change the world!

Question of Baladev: Gurudev said that the goal of spiritual life is to become a better person. When can we know that we have achieved success in this? And what is success at all?

Swami Tirtha: Success is when we don’t think that we have achieved it. Because we are connected to a never-ending process. This prospect is unlimited! How can you reach the limit of unlimited? Impossible! Therefore this is not a spiritual science or spiritual knowledge – this is spiritual life! You can come to the end of knowledge, you can collect all the information, you can count how many particles of sand are there on the shore of the ocean. But you can never fathom Krishna, He is unlimited. So if we are connected to a never-ending, unlimited, transcendental process, then we should apply what is suggested by Shrila Shridhara Maharaj: “We are disciples and we shall eternally remain like this.”

So it’s not a question of achieving. It’s a question of being united in the fold of this divine reality.

There was a very nice discussion between a young prospective devotee and Shrila Prabhupad in America. They were discussing, discussing, he came with questions and Prabhupad was answering. And finally the boy said: “But you are the best devotee, right?” Then Prabhupad said: “Me? No! You are the best devotee!” And then of course this young man said: “No, no, it’s impossible!” You see, this is the mentality that we need.

And of course now I tried to mention something about the topmost achievement – when you don’t mind what you have achieved. When you want to achieve – that’s good; but when you don’t want to achieve anything – I think that’s better.

‘Why? Why is it better? We have learned that God turns into activity in humans. We have to be active, we have to search, we need to reach something! Why do you say that non-activity is better than action? That no desire is higher than spiritual desire?’

Well, in this respect the Chaitanya Charitamrita has something to say. There are described the inner feelings of the gopis. The whirlwind of devotion acts over them. In the absence of Krishna their minds and their hearts are drying up like dry leaves in the autumn time. And what happens to the dry leaves when the whirlwind comes? It will just take them. It is said that their dried up hearts are taken by the whirlwind and eternally hurled to the lotus feet of Krishna. That’s an achievement! If the whirlwind of pure devotion will grab our dried up heart and throw it to the lotus feet of Krishna for eternity. I think it doesn’t depend on our ambition.


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 01.10.2017 evening, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

Shall we try to describe this change of mentality from material to spiritual with two stories? The first story about the material mentality is about the lamb and the wolf. The lamb goes to the river to drunk. All of a sudden the wolf also comes to the river to drink. It’s a critical moment. But the lamb is so young and so innocent that it doesn’t realize the danger. And the wolf decides to eat the lamb – of course, what else. Some way or another give it a bad name and kill him. Find a reason, an explanation – and then go for it. The wolf thought: ‘Some way or another I must devour that lamb.’ And he said: “Hey! Can’t you see that I’m drinking the water here? Why are you making the water muddy for me? I shall kill you!” The lamb said: “Ah, sir! You are drinking the water upstream and I’m drinking the water downstream. How is it that I’m making the water muddy for you?” “And why did you call me bad names one year ago?” “Ah, sir! I’m only three months old. How is it that I called you bad names one year ago?” “Then your mother must have done so. Anyway I shall kill you.”

This is the story of the wolf and the lamb and how all these concocted stories are going around. It illustrates how hatred, speaking ill and concocted stories arise from intolerance and envy. I think we can agree that this is the material mentality – if you want to find mistakes, you will find mistakes. As Shrila Prabhupad many times says, you can criticize even the bright full moon for having spots. Shall we read the story of the other type of mentality?

 “Surrender, service and dedication – this is the key to deal with the infinite. Without knowledge and without much energy one can attain fulfillment. It is not necessary to have the energy to be able to move a mountain. Also to read all the scriptures in the world and to put them within our belly will not produce any good. A typical example was shown in the Mahabharata. Krishna foretold that when the Rajasuya-yajna of Yudhishthira Maharaj would be finished, a particular bell there would ring automatically. In that way everyone would know that the yajna was completed. The sacrifice was held and everything was finished, but the bell did not ring.

Bhima asked Krishna, “You said that the bell would ring automatically. Everything has now been finished, but it is not ringing. Why not?” Krishna replied, “No. One thing is still remaining.” “What is that?” “Vaisnava-seva, the service of a vaisnava.” Bhima was surprised: “What do You say? So many munis, risis, Narada, Vyasadeva, and even You Yourself are all satisfied with having been well-fed, yet You say that vaisnava-seva has not been done?” “Yes.” “So where is that vaisnava?”

Krishna then indicated, “Go to the outskirts of town, and there you will find a particular vaisnava of the lowest caste. He does not go anywhere, but he is satisfied by taking the holy name of the Lord and leading a life full of devotion without any care for the world.”

Hearing this, the Pandavas went with a chariot to receive that man. They found him, an ordinary poor man of the lower class – he was a nirupadhi-vaishnava,  who doesn’t expect anything – and they approached him. He was perplexed: “What is this? Oh, so many important men have come to my cottage. What is the matter?” He became very much panic-stricken.

Then they petitioned him with folded palms, “We have come to bring you to take some food at the place of the yajna.” What to do? He could not avoid their order. Draupadi had to cook, so she prepared various palatable dishes. She thought, “Vaisnava-seva has not been done. So many risis, munis, and even Lord Krishna has been fed, but vaisnava-seva was not accomplished!” So with all her skill she cooked foods of various types, and the man was fed. But the bell did not ring.

Bhima asked, “What is the matter? He has finished eating, but the bell has not rung.” Krishna said, “There must have been some offence against this vaisnava-seva, and therefore the bell did not ring. What do you say? Do any of you have any doubt or bad conception about this man?”

The Pandavas then asked one another if any of them had thought any evil about him. At last Draupadi admitted, “I had some thought in my mind that this man is so simple and so insignificant, and although I prepared so many nice curries with the utmost attention and skill, he mixed all the preparations together and then ate that. He does not know how to eat properly, because he comes from a very low class—this is what I had in my mind.”

Then Krishna explained, “There is some contempt for the vaisnava, and therefore the bell has not rung. There is no other option for you than to go to him again, bring him again and feed him again.” So the Pandavas went and brought him again. This time all of them waited with great respect as he took prasadam, and then the bell was ringing with every morsel.

This example is shown to us. Those who are niskincana do not want anything—no name, no fame, or anything of the kind. They are naturally satisfied with whatever comes, and they are wholesale dedicated to the Lord. Such devotion can be found anywhere without any show of grandeur. No worldly grandeur is necessary; just richness of the heart—no knowledge, no education, no honour of a high birth, no power, and no gorgeousness. Krishna consciousness is so full, so sufficient, so absolute, that just a particle of that contains everything. All grandeur, all education, and everything is there: it is of such a nature. Service, self-dedication, saranagati, surrender: that is the necessity, not valour or learning.”[1]

I think this explains everything. This is the way to achieve our spiritual goals. Instead of the wolf consciousness, develop a servant of the vaishnavas consciousness. Try to develop this kind of identity.

(to be continued)

[1] Reading from Centenary Anthology by Shrila Shridhara Maharaj

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 01.10.2017 evening, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

If the question is how to reach our spiritual goals – first identify your goals, learn the process and put it into practice. The result doesn’t depend on you. Because our Krishna is very selective. Just imagine yourself with another devotee, the two of you are walking, approaching Goloka Vrindavana. All of a sudden Govinda appears on the scene. He says: “So nice that you came!” He opens His arms, running towards you… and embraces the other one. Bad luck! Then you will protest: “Govinda! He was always sleeping too much! He never ever learned one verse from the Gita! I know two verses! I’m more qualified! Why him?! Why not me!?”

So what to do? Be frustrated for eternity? No, we need to learn the secret. Shall we try to enter that secret?

Well, the secret is to develop gopi-bhava[1]. Sometimes we might think that ‘Gopi-bhava is something so high, so complicated and so far away from me. This is a sacred rasic topic, so how can we enter that field!?’ Which is more or less true. It’s so sacred that – as Shridhara Maharaj says – “The fools rush in where angels fear to enter”.

But what does gopi-bhava mean here, in this context? From the Chaitanya Charitamrita we understand that the gopis are thousands or millions times more happy if they can help others to come in contact with Krishna than if they meet Him themselves. So, imagine yourself and your brother or sister walking and he gets the embrace.

Gita Govinda: Gopi-bhava.

Swami Tirtha: Correct. Otherwise we are eternally frustrated. It’s better to be happy about the achievements of others. Isn’t it very generous? Isn’t it like a gentleman’s cultivation of spiritual life – not selfish, not self-centered? And you can glorify the Lord: “Although I know two verses and he knows none, still he’s in Your embrace!”

So what makes us qualified to enjoy the embrace? These are not our achievements, this is His choice. Na pravachanena labhyo na bahuna shrutena[2] – not by much preaching or teaching, not by much listening, labhyate – ‘we’ll reach’; only by His choice. That means we have to be ready to expose ourselves not to be the chosen ones. Why are our teachers always trying to prepare us to be selfless? Millions of times we have heard: ‘selfless service, don’t expect anything in return’ – why? Because this is a chance to develop this unity consciousness – that your success is my success. And I’m happy to serve your success. Because I’m also part of you, of your achievements. Also it means that my success is your success. And it means that your failure is my failure also. But it shouldn’t mean that my failure is your failure. Keep it for yourself.

You see, this is sadhu-sanga! Your achievement is my achievement. If you learn how to make the beautiful ornaments on the foam of the milk, it’s my achievement also. Therefore we are brothers and sisters, therefore this sadhu-sanga principle is so sacred for us. If one will reach, everybody will go.

Therefore we are very much ready to serve the progress of others. This is a way to develop spiritual ideals. And not only to develop – to reach our spiritual ideals. You see, this gopi-bhava is very practical: serve others. Don’t think that this is so rasic that you cannot do that. This is practical. If we have the proper mood, then we will be very happy and satisfied in the spiritual process. And all the blessings of your superiors and the satisfaction of the Divine Couple will come with you.

It’s a question of very fine, very delicate cultivation. Because spiritual life is a culture; and culture means something that you cultivate. What happens if you cultivate a garden? The fruits will come. Proper cultivation – best fruits. So we simply have to follow the process; the results will come by themselves. We are not even hunting after the results, but we wait. As Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes: “Ah, Gopinath, You have liberated so many demons! I’m sitting here and waiting for my turn.” Just wait! If you do it properly, everything will come.

(to be continued)

[1] The mood of the gopis

[2] From the Upanishads

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 01.10.2017 evening, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

The first spiritual desire, if we really want to accomplish the chance of this human life, is to find our real identity. And our identity is composed of so many different elements: karmic background, nationality, culture, gender – so many things. But this will all change. Next time we shall have a different setup. The previous time we had a different setup. This will all change. So if we want to find our real identity, then we should give up this false identification and we have to develop our real identity.

But what is my real identity? Is it enough if I say: ‘I am a self-effulgent spark’? It’s too general. It’s like a generic answer. ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am a spark’. No, we need a specific answer. And who will build our character? Who will form our identity? It is a master sculptor. A real disciple will feel: Whatever I am is a creation of my master. Whatever I have – my friends, my japa, my spiritual ideals, my brothers, my life, my prasadam, my daily bread – is given by my master. I am a creation of my master. I’m not myself. I’m him – in one sense. I’m a part of him.

This is one way to develop a spiritual identity. This is a way to grab the chance of this human form of life – to realize this spiritual identity. This is a very good spiritual goal, a very good spiritual ambition in the beginning – to find ourselves. Do you agree?

Once a devotee told me that: “Well, I’ve been searching for myself for the last twenty-five years and I didn’t really find anything. Where to find myself?” It shows that this duty, to find yourself, is much beyond the average capacities that we have. But if we identify ourselves as servants of our masters, as particles of the structure of divine service, I think that gives satisfaction. That is the shelter, the hut that you can find in the grand Himalayas. And then, when you are at home, you can develop your real spiritual identity more and more; it’s a question of cultivation. And we can also say that whatever is important for our masters, for our superiors – that will also be important for us. So this is another way to grow and to acquire spiritual goals, spiritual ambitions. If we have this initial spiritual goal – to find our spiritual identity, and we have the next step – to integrate and identify with spiritual examples, then we can start to examine this question: how to achieve my spiritual goals. Because ‘I have a spiritual goal, I have a practice, I have a process’; and then we need to inquire further how to cultivate properly the spiritual life.

Because actually the question ‘How to achieve my spiritual goals?’ means ‘How to properly practice divine love?’ Of course, can I practice divine love?! I cannot. But maybe the wave can come and wash me away. Because Bhakti is independent on anything else, depends only on itself. You cannot influence it. The second feature of Bhakti is that it’s very powerful. So whenever we let ourselves be exposed to spiritual practice, it will work on us very powerfully. The third feature is that we can never understand how it works. It’s a mystic process, somehow it works. Just like most of the people don’t understand how  washing powder works, but it works. In the same manner, if you apply the process of bhakti-yoga, it will work on you. It’s mystic! You never know how it happens, but it happens. And the fourth is: it’s irresistible – fortunately. Because we are experts in resistance. But fortunately this divine wave is irresistible.

So this is one way to achieve our spiritual goals – that we let ourselves be exposed to this invitation. We have to use our common sense; and beyond. Because common sense will bring you to common sense. It’s not enough; something more is necessary and that is beyond human capacities. That is the spiritual capacity. So actually the young man in the beginning was correct: it’s not enough! It’s not enough simply to become a nice human being. We need to develop this consciousness that human beings are the shelter of God, the residence of God. This is the beginning. Then you start to be a real human being. And then you can further refine more your identity, your role in this divine reality.


(to be continued)