Devotee: In one of your Bhakti-rasāyana lectures you said that smaraṇa (remembrance, meditation) is more important than śravaṇa (hearing) and kīrtana (chanting).
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: As long as the mind is not fully controlled, we must continue to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. When the mind is totally controlled, we will be able to remember aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā (the daily pastimes of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Their associates) and forget the external world.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: When the mind is controlled, which is more important: śravaṇa, kīrtana, or smaraṇa?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: By performing kīrtana, smaraṇa will automatically come; it will be natural. Moreover, it is possible that kīrtana may stop when you are serving by your mind and engaged only in aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā.
Mahābuddhi dāsa: So until then, you are doing kīrtana, and afterward the mind…
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: By kīrtana, smaraṇa will come.
Mahābuddhi dāsa: Automatically?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Automatically.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Without kīrtana, smaraṇa will not be possible.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: For example:
Kṛṣṇa is Yaśodā-maiyā’s beloved son, and the topmost lover in Vrajabhūmi. As Kāna (an affectionate name for Him) He delights Gokula and is the wealth of the life of the gopīs. He is an inveterate thief, stealing the hearts of all, and He crushed the Kāliya serpent.
When we are advanced in bhakti, all the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa that are present in these kīrtanas will manifest in our heart. When we are fully absorbed in these pastimes and there is no longer external consciousness, at that time kīrtana will stop.
Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī is the example of this. He was giving class on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to Parīkṣit Mahārāja, and when he uttered the verse anayārādhito nūnaṁ bhagavān harir īśvaraḥ, he at once became silent.
bhagavān harir īśvaraḥ
yan no vihāya govindaḥ
prīto yām anayad rahaḥ
The vraja-gopīs said: O my friend, leaving us aside, Kṛṣṇa has gone off to a secluded place with a particular gopī. She must truly be expert in worshiping (anayārādhito) Him, for He was so pleased with Her service that He has left us all behind.
Absorbed in that pastime, Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī went there internally. Most of the sages present in his assembly could not understand his silence, but Nārada Ṛṣi and Śrī Vyāsadeva knew the reason.
Generally, in the material world, when a person faints he has neither external nor internal consciousness. On the other hand, although a devotee may look as though he has fainted, actually he has entered a state of samādhi (trance) and all of his internal senses are active.
Devotee: Does this mean that kīrtana is not our sādhya (goal)?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvām Mahārāja: Kīrtana is the sādhya, because by the help of kīrtana, smaraṇa (remembrance) comes.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Kīrtana is both the sādhana (process) and the sādhya (goal). Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has therefore said, “param vijāyate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam – Let there be supreme victory for the chanting of the holy names of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
Mahābuddhi dāsa: You gave the example that when one is chanting kīrtana and remembering the pastimes, one gradually enters into those pastimes.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has written:
smṛtyoḥ krameṇa rasanā-manasī niyojya
tiṣṭhan vraje tad-anurāgi-janānugāmī
kālaṁ nayed akhilam ity upadeśa-sāram
(Śrī Upadeśāmṛta, Verse 8)
While living in Vraja as a follower of the eternal residents of Vraja, who possess inherent spontaneous love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one should utilize all his time by sequentially engaging the tongue and the mind in meticulous chanting and remembrance of Kṛṣṇa’s names, form, qualities, and pastimes. This is the essence of all instruction.
Raghunātha dāsa: Śrīla Gurudeva, when one achieves perfection and gets the opportunity to serve Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa…
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: If Śrī Kṛṣṇa or Śrīmatī Rādhikā will order you to serve, then you will serve. The pure devotee is totally dependent on Them.
Kamala-kānta dāsa: Śrīla Gurudeva, we understand that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the highest evidence. So how should we think of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta? Is it the same, less, or higher than Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam? It seems to me that it is higher.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvām Mahārāja: Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta is important for our sampradāya, not for other sampradāyas. On the other hand, our sampradāya and all others accept as evidence the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Lalita-mādhava, Vidagdha-mādhava, and other such scriptures are present in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu depends on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the sense that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is its basis. The essence of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, and the other afore-mentioned scriptures.
Mahābuddhi dāsa: When preaching in the West, is our aim to cultivate new devotees but encourage them to stay in their homes and remain in their present position? Or, is it to try to bring them to the temples and train them in Kṛṣṇa consciousness? I am trying to understand Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura; that is why I am asking.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: You can understand what to do by the preaching of your Gurudeva Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, and Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja. They never told anyone, “You should become a gṛhastha (householder).” Rather, if a person desires to marry, they would say, “Oh, yes, you can marry.” Marriage is a deep dark well. Why would the spiritual master say, “You should fall down in that dark well?”
Mahābuddhi dāsa: Most of the people we preach to are already in the well.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvām Mahārāja: I know that, but we are in Śrī Nārada Ṛṣi’s paramparā. What did he do everywhere he went? He told everyone that they should give up their married life.
Do you know Priyavrata, the son of Svāyambhuva Manu? He was very intelligent and qualified. Svāyambhuva Manu wanted him to marry and take over the rule of his kingdom, which was the entire universe, so that he himself could retire to a life of renunciation in the forest.
Having been trained by Nārada Ṛṣi in the principles of celibacy and renunciation, Priyavrata denied his request and said, “I cannot take the kingdom. I have decided to take the renounced order of life and perform bhajana.” At that time Nārada Ṛṣi came to inspire him in his resolve, saying, “You must take the renounced order at once.”
In the meantime Lord Brahmā, the father of both Nārada and Svāyambhuva Manu, came and told Priyavrata, “I am not happy with your decision. You are the only one qualified to take charge of the universal affairs. You must take charge. If a man has controlled his senses, it does not matter whether he remains at home or enters in the renounced order of life; there is no difference. On the other hand, if a man who has not controlled his senses goes to the forest, he will eventually leave it and return to household life due to remembrance of the objects of his sensual enjoyment. Therefore, I think it will be better for you to marry, rule the kingdom for some time, and then take the renounced order.”
King Priyavrata wanted to fulfill the order of both of his spiritual authorities, Nārada and Brahmā. He replied to Brahmā, “I will obey your order.” He then ruled the kingdom of the universe, at the same time remaining detached and fixed in self realization.
Although Nārada Ṛṣi was not satisfied with the idea of King Priyavrata being engaged in household life, he considered, “If I interfere, Brahmājī will be angry.” He therefore remained silent, but internally he was unhappy.
Lord Brahmā returned to his abode, but he regretted his actions: “What a mistake I have made! I know that household life is a dark well in which one’s life is ruined. I ordered King Priyavrata to enter married life for the purpose of creation, but I am not happy.” Lord Brahmā knew the truth, but because Śrī Kṛṣṇa ordered him to create the universe and universal population, he had given those instructions to the king.
On the other hand, Nārada Ṛṣi tells everyone to be renounced.
Raghunātha dāsa: Śrīla Gurudeva, you said that when one becomes advanced, one will control the mind and remembrance will automatically come. But for me, controlling the mind is the most difficult thing to do.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Yes, this is confirmed in scripture:
cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa
pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye
vāyor iva suduṣkaram
O Kṛṣṇa, because the mind is by nature restless, powerful, obstinate, and capable of completely overpowering the intelligence, body, and senses, it seems as difficult to control as the wind.
However, by abhyāsa-yoga (continual practice), the mind can be controlled.
paramaṁ puruṣaṁ divyaṁ
He who meditates on Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Pārtha, is sure to reach Me.
If you give a boy something more tasteful than what he was already eating, he will give up what he was eating.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja:
rasa-varjaṁ raso ’py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
He who identifies himself with his body may restrict his enjoyment by withdrawing the senses from their objects, yet his taste for sense-pleasure still remains. One whose intelligence is fixed, however, has realized Paramātmā; therefore, his taste for sense objects automatically ceases.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Similarly, your mind is very restless with the subject matters of this world. However, when you give the mind a better food, like a rasagullā (a tasty sweet) in the form of the sweet pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, it will gradually give up thinking of this world.
To a ‘jaundiced’ person the rasagullā may taste bitter at first, but it is the only medicine. By continuing to eat that rasagullā, the sense of bitterness gradually disappears and the sweetness becomes evident.
Raghunātha dāsa: But especially in my case, which is that I am a neophyte…
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: In the beginning you will have to force your mind, with a whip, to focus on Kṛṣṇa. If the mind refuses to be controlled and continues to run wildly, you should ‘take a whip to the horse.’ If there is no running horse, there is no need of a whip.
Mahābuddhi dāsa: Can you please use that whip on us?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: If you marry, you will have to make money to support your wife. If you have two or three sons or daughters, you will have to give all your energy to support and nourish them.
Then you will need a beautiful house and a car. In fact, you will need not only one car, for that will not fulfill all your desires. You will need a car for your sons and daughters, and you will all have to travel to so many places in order to see what is going on in the world. You will purchase many beautiful chairs, and a bed that costs two thousand dollars.
You will want to obtain wonderful expensive items to decorate your house, so that you can be proud when people come and marvel at it and exclaim, “Ohhh, very beautiful, very beautiful!” When your guest says, “Very good! It looks just like a palace!” you will be quite puffed up and think, “Aahhh!”
Mahābuddhi dāsa: You are describing our lives.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: This is gṛhastha life.
Mahābuddhi dāsa: How will we get out of this?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvām Mahārāja: Take my hand and come with me. Very interesting?
Mahābuddhi dāsa: Very truthful. You have not been there, but you describe very well what it is like.
[The walk is now over, and Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja enters his quarters with a few devotees.]
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Tomorrow is our last day here.
Mahābuddhi dāsa: We are sad that you are leaving here.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: You are very selfish. I am going to help them as I have helped you. You are not happy about that?
Mahābuddhi dāsa: I am happy that you are going to help them, but sad that you are leaving. It is true that I am selfish. It is true, but we don’t often get this opportunity.
Raghunātha dāsa: You go, Gurudeva, but at the same time you stay in our hearts.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: The devotees of Mathurā and Vṛndāvana are overwhelmed by feelings of separation from me. I have about ten thousand disciples in Mathurā, where I used to preach most of the time. Now I do not live there; I spend almost zero time there. Whenever I come to India I usually stay in Govardhana or Vṛndāvana, not so much in Mathurā. Whenever I finally go there, they weep with happiness.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written in his commentary on Śrī Upadeśāmṛta that the first three verses are not for renounced people. They are for householders.
vāco vegaṁ manasaḥ krodha-vegaṁ
etān vegān yo viṣaheta dhīraḥ
sarvām apīmāṁ pṛthivīṁ sa śiṣyāt
(Śrī Upadeśāmṛta, Verse 1)
A wise and self-composed person who can subdue the impetus to speak, the agitation of the mind, the onset of anger, the vehemence of the tongue, the urge of the belly, and the agitation of the genitals can instruct the entire world. In other words, all persons may become disciples of such a self-controlled person.
atyāhāraḥ prayāsaś ca
jana-saṅgaś ca laulyaṁ ca
ṣaḍbhir bhaktir vinaśyati
(Śrī Upadeśāmṛta, Verse 2)
Bhakti is destroyed by the following six kinds of faults: (1) eating too much or collecting more than necessary, (2) endeavors that are opposed to bhakti, (3) useless mundane talks, (4) failure to adopt essential regulations or fanatical adherence to regulations, (5) association with persons who are opposed to bhakti, and (6) greed, or the restlessness of the mind to adopt worthless opinions.
utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt
saṅga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ
ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati
(Śrī Upadeśāmṛta, Verse 3)
Progress in bhakti may be obtained by the following six practices: (1) enthusiasm to carry out the rules that enhance bhakti; (2) firm faith in the statements of śāstra and the guru, whose words are fully in line with śāstra; (3) fortitude in the practice of bhakti even in the midst of obstacles, or patience during the practice stage of bhakti even when there is delay in attaining one’s desired goal; (4) following the limbs of bhakti such as hearing (śravaṇa) and chanting (kīrtana), and giving up one’s material sense enjoyment for the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa; (5) giving up illicit connection with women, the association of those who are overly attached to women, and the association of Māyāvādīs, atheists, and pseudo-religionists; and (6) adopting the good behavior and character of pure devotees.
It is essential that householders learn all these principles and practice them. Then, when they become qualified, they can leave their homes. Leaving householder life prematurely will not produce a good result.
You were all brahmacārīs at the time of the manifest presence of your Gurudeva, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja. But you did not follow all the teachings in these three verses, and that is why you fell again in the well.
Mahābuddhi dāsa: Our Gurudeva has sent you to pull us out.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: Yes. “Guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpāya pāya bhakti-latā-bīja – By the mercy of guru and Kṛṣṇa, one gets the seed of bhakti.”
Devotee: How can I conquer pride and become humble?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: You can become humble by considering that if you do not perform bhajana with this body, then you life is useless. You can become prideless by forgetting, “I am so wealthy, beautiful, and qualified.” Always remember that you will soon become old, at which time all of your beauty will disappear. After that, when you die, if your body is buried rather than cremated, so many insects will feast on it as it rots. You can be humble by thinking in this way.
Whether or not you have good material qualities, if you are humble, bhakti will come to you. It is for this reason that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has uttered the verse:
tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror api sahiṣṇunā
kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
(Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam, Verse 3)
Thinking oneself to be even lower and more worthless than insignificant grass that has been trampled beneath everyone’s feet, being more tolerant than a tree, being prideless and offering respect to all others according to their respective positions, one should continuously chant the holy name of Śrī Hari.
[Excerpted from the Gaudiya Vedanta Pubilcation “Walking With a Saint 2008”]