Hari-kathaArticlesLip and Life

Lip and Life

[The Harmonist, January, 1928, 441 Caitanya-Era. Vol 25 pg. 169-173]

MERE profession of devotion to God with the lip without practicing the same in one’s life is not the function of the preacher of God’s word. Employing the lip in discoursing religion is only then lifted to the sphere of the service of God when such discourse proceeds from the heart that has been purified by devotion to the transcendental Reality. This makes all the difference between the mercenary preacher and the true pastor. The principle is thus expressed by Jagadananda Pandita, one of the closest associates of Sriman Mahaprabhu,- ‘It does not avail if only one repeats the words ‘I belong to Gora’ with his lips. The desired effect is produced only by the adoption of the conduct and judgment of Gora.

gorara ami gorara ami mukhe balile na cale
gorara acara gorara pracara laile phala phale


Because Mahaprabhu and the scriptures say that by taking the Name of Krsna the only true object of life is gained, we should not, therefore, suppose that it is sufficient merely to utter the Name with the tongue without caring to listen to what Mahaprabhu and the sastras have to say further on the subject. If a novice does not take the trouble of listening carefully to those who are acquainted with the whole position, being devoid of necessary judgment he would fail to take the Name in the proper manner. He will in such case, according to Jagadananda Pandita, gain nothing by merely uttering the Name with his lips. Such utterance will be nothing but ordinary sounds which, according to the scriptures, will constitute an offence against the Name and, instead of benefitting, will harm the person who will be guilty of such offence. If, however, we follow the conduct and judgment of Mahaprabhu in taking the Name it will be possible for us to obtain thereby the highest object of the human life in the shape of the service of God.

The lip, therefore, like the other organs of sense, can be used in serving God if it be employed in the manner that is laid down in the scriptures. If it be not used in the manner recommended by the sastras the word of God refuses to appear on the lip: and those who listen to the utterances of a person who does not himself understand or follow the teachings of the sastras, listen not to the word of God but to the vain utterances of a sinful creature who has absolutely no right to be a preacher of God’s word.

In preaching the word of God the lip cannot be independent of life. The whole of the current misconception on the subject is due to the notion that the holy Name is merely a string of letters of the alphabet to be uttered like any ordinary word. Those people who object to the special sanctity of the holy Name as distinguished from ordinary words would be perfectly justified in their opposition if there had been no difference between the holy Name and an ordinary word. But as a matter of fact, in accordance with the teaching of all the sastras, the holy Name is not at all like an ordinary word; neither can it be uttered at the option of the speaker as ordinary words can be. The holy Name is identical with God Himself. It is transcendental. God first manifests Himself in the pure heart and from these appears on the tongue in the Form of the holy Name. After the holy Name has manifested itself on the tongue the holy Form, qualities and Deeds of the Godhead manifest themselves to the mind of the devotee and he is there-upon enabled to preach the word of God to others. A perfectly pure heart is, therefore, an absolute pre-requisite for the manifestation of the word of God on the tongue of the preacher.

In this matter the lip can by no means be separated from life. God is served by the purified mind through the organs of sense. The tongue is only one such organ. No sooner is the service of the Lord possible to one organ as it becomes necessarily and simultaneously possible to every other organ of sense and the whole life of the devotee becomes one constant service of the Lord.

As it is not possible for the novice to understand the sastras that treat of the transcendental world, listening to the word of God from the lips of a devotee is therefore, the necessary first requisite for one who wants to attain the service of God. As soon as such listening has been perfected the mind becomes purified and, by the grace of God, is enabled to serve Him by means of all the organs of sense. There is no difference between service of God by means of the tongue and that by means of any other organ of sense. The sastric term for the spiritual teacher, acarya, means literally one who practices the religion. No one can be a teacher of religion who does not act in accordance with the principles that he teaches. There is no English word that is the exact equivalent of ‘Acarya’. Sriman Mahaprabhu Himself has said that ‘no one is fit to teach religion who himself does not practice it’. In fact, preaching is only possible after practice has been perfected.

Religion is service of God. In such service theory and practice are identical. The one cannot be divorced from the other. In the service of the Lord there is diversity without difference. The devotees of God, every one of them, simultaneously preach and practice the eternal religion viz. the service of the Lord. They are all of them the greatest and only benefactors of the world.

Therefore, those who contend that preaching of the word of God is possible for those who are in the sinful state are grossly misinformed as regards the declarations of the Scriptures. Preaching of the word of God is the function of the acarya who practices what he preaches. It is only when the conscious service of the Lord has been fully attained that one is fit to be styled an acarya. One who is himself fully established in the state of grace can alone lend a helping hand in lifting his brethren who happen to be in the fallen condition. One who is fit to instruct others regarding the nature of Godhead must himself belong to the transcendental plane. On the transcendental plane there can be nothing that is worldly. The person who moves on the spiritual plane is absolutely free from all mundane affinities.

The methods of listening and preaching are given preference over other methods of practicing devotion to God for the reason that they are specially suitable for fallen jivas due to the fact that the transcendental Reality is not directly perceptible to the physical senses. Of all the instruments for acquisition of knowledge that are available to the fallen jiva the mind and the ear alone are capable of apprehending objects without coming into direct contact with them as is necessary in the case of the other senses. It is this peculiarity that makes them fitted for the reception of the transcendental Reality which is not directly perceptible by the physical senses. The ear receives its communications through the medium of sound.

Ordinary sounds, which always refer to the objects of this world, convey information that is verifiable by the direct examination of the objects themselves by means of one, or more, or all of the other senses. These sounds originate and undergo dissolution in the material space. Such sounds are also different from the objects that are denoted by them. The sounds that refer to the objects of the transcendental world are quite different from ordinary sounds. The objects denoted by them are situated beyond the limits of this material world. It is, therefore, never possible to verify the information in the case of these, with the help of the other senses. There is also no difference between such sounds and the objects denoted by them, the two being identical. Such sounds as well as the objects denoted by them are eternal and unlimited. They are, therefore, quite different from ordinary sounds that have only a temporary and limited existence. In fact, the word of God and ordinary words are in every way different from one another. This difference cannot by really grasped by those who are in the sinful state. But the difference is none the less real and it is owing to this radical difference between the two that it is never possible for a person in the sinful state to be a preacher of the word of God Himself and manifests itself of its own accord on the tongue of one who is absolutely free from sin and who submits himself entirely at the holy feet of the Supreme Lord.

The service of God is the only true object of life. It becomes attainable to sinful jivas by a series of graded processes the first of which is the unconscious, accidental association with the devotees of God who appear in this world for the purpose of helping fallen jivas. Such association with the devotees of God enable fallen jivas to reach the next stage, to obtain the grace of God, whereby their minds become inclined to listen to the word of God from the holy lips of devotees. No sooner they begin to listen to the word of God then the consciousness of the transcendental Reality is aroused in them and thereafter by means of constant listening they gradually attain the conscious service of the Godhead which is the real summum bonum of human existence. Those who attain this goal are automatically freed from all mundane affinities as a necessary secondary result.

Therefore, the supposition that it is possible for a person who is in the sinful state to preach the word of God is opposed to all the conclusions of the sastras. In preaching the word of God the lip must necessarily be identical with life. The body of the devotee of God, by reason of his complete surrender to God, becomes itself spiritual as it then belongs to God. The whole life of the devotee is dedicated to the exclusive service of the transcendental Reality. It is absolutely free from all taint of worldliness. Those who happen to be in the sinful state naturally enough fail to realize this transcendental purity of the devotee of God. They may even suppose that he is no better than an erring mortal engaged in ordinary worldly pursuits. In their ignorance they may also proceed to judge his life by the ordinary worldly standard and suppose that they detect the same difference between the lip and life of the devotee of God as they do in their own case or in that of pseudo-preachers of the word of God. But this is a really fatal blunder in as much as it is an offence against the devotees of God which can be forgiven only by those against whom it is committed, such being the will of God Himself as manifested in the Scriptures.

[Transcribed and transliterated by the Bhaktabandhav Team from photocopies of the original Harmonist.]
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