Abandon Unhealthy Mentalities

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Ācāryas at Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple, VṛndāvanaĀcāryas at Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple, Vṛndāvana

by Swami B.G. Narasingha

In this article 'Abandon Unhealthy Mentalities' written in 1998, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja answers the question, “Does a Vaiṣṇava feel fear?” In answer to this, he explains how there is only one thing a Vaiṣṇava fears and goes on to warn the reader of the severity of Vaiṣṇava aparādha.

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Question: It is said that a Vaiṣṇava is fearless. Is this actually a fact or does the Vaiṣṇava also have some fear?

Answer: Yes. A Vaiṣṇava is fearless in all circumstances because he knows that Kṛṣṇa will always protect him. Yet, if we examine the mood of the great souls, the sadhus and the ācāryas, we can detect that a Vaiṣṇava is fearful of only one thing – Vaiṣṇava aparādha. Not only a Vaiṣṇava but the Supreme Lord Himself is also afraid of Vaiṣṇava aparādha, not for Himself but for the benefit of His devotees, and He therefore cautions His devotees accordingly.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu descended to this world to bestow the greatest boon of love of Kṛṣṇa upon all living entities. While instructing and empowering Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī at Prayāg to distribute the mellows of bhakti-rasa the Lord cautioned against offences committed at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava.

yadi vaiṣṇava-aparādha uṭhe hātī mātā
upāḍe vā chiṇḍe tāra śukhi yāya pātā

“If the devotee commits an offence at the feet of a Vaiṣṇava while cultivating the creeper of devotional service in the material world, his offence is compared to a mad elephant that uproots the creeper and breaks it. In this way the leaves of the creeper are dried up.” (Cc.Madhya-līlā, Ch. 19, Txt. 156)

There are many incidents of Vaiṣṇava aparādha recorded in the revealed scriptures as a reminder to all aspiring devotees about the serious consequences of offences committed at the feet of a pure Vaiṣṇava. When a non-devotee makes an offence against a pure Vaiṣṇava as in the case of Gopāla Cāpāla, who offended Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita by placing the paraphernalia for worshipping the Goddess Bhavānī outside his door, the usual reaction is that the offender is stricken with a horrible disease such as leprosy or even death.

Gopāla Cāpāla was a brāhmaṇa but he was envious of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita, a great devotee of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Gopāla Cāpāla’s offence was envy – envy of the Vaiṣṇavas. Greater than the sin of killing a cow; greater than the sin of killing a brāhmaṇa, a woman, or even killing children is the sin of envying a Vaiṣṇava. That is the ultimate sin.

In the case of Gopāla Cāpāla he was immediately stricken with leprosy due to his offence to Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita and his face and other extremities of his body began to melt away. After sometime he met Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu along the way to the Ganges and he begged the Lord to please forgive him and deliver him from his miserable condition. Hearing the man’s plea to be delivered Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu became furious with anger, “You sinful wretch!” said the Lord, “Why do you blaspheme the Vaiṣṇavas? All the living entities in material existence are My friends. However, I am completely inimical to one who is envious of a Vaiṣṇava. Even after suffering for ten thousand lifetimes still you won’t be released from your offence against a Vaiṣṇava. I can forgive an offence against Myself but a fool who commits violence to a Vaiṣṇava is lost forever. Such an envious sinner goes straight to hell. O most sinful man, you will never see the end of your suffering.”

That man did not die immediately but he continued to suffer for many years and then he was eventually delivered when at last he fell in the dust of the lotus feet of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita and begged for his mercy. The Lord easily forgives an offence against Himself but he never forgives an offence committed against His pure devotee. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura says that the pure devotee cannot recognise an offence against himself and therefore the only way to get free from an offence committed to a pure devotee is to fall in the dust of his lotus feet and beg forgiveness. Śrīla Viśvanātha says that the dust at the feet of the pure devotee remembers the offence that one has committed and therefore only the dust can give forgiveness.

The non-devotee offender certainly suffers miserable disease and even death as a result of his offence to a Vaiṣṇava but there are examples also where even a great devotee, a pure devotee, accidentally committed some offence to another Vaiṣṇava. Knowing that if one Vaiṣṇava offends another Vaiṣṇava the offender can never experience love of Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu becomes very anxious that the offence be removed so that His devotee can taste kṛṣṇa-prema.

An example of this is Mother Śacī, the mother of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Mother Śacī was thinking that due to the influence of Advaita Ācārya her eldest son Viśvarūpa had left home, taking up the renounced order of life. Mentally Mother Śacī harboured this apprehension about Śrī Advaita Ācārya thinking that He might similarly be a bad influence on her younger son Nimāi. She never said anything directly to Advaita Ācārya, she only thought like that.

Being the omniscient Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu knew the mind of Mother Śacī. Thus considering the exalted position of Advaita Ācārya, the Lord proclaimed that Mother Śacī had made Vaiṣṇava aparādha to Advaita Ācārya. Mahāprabhu then called for Advaita Ācārya who could hardly believe his ears when he was informed that Mahāprabhu had declared that Mother Śacī had made Vaiṣṇava aparādha against him. On the way to Mother Śacī’s house, Advaita Ācārya incessantly chanted the glories of Mother Śacī. To conceive that Śacī had made an offence to him was not within Advaita’s thinking capacity. He was so devoted to Śacī Devī.

When Advaita entered the house of Mother Śacī he fell to the floor in a faint of love of God. Mahāprabhu knew that the ācārya would never allow Śacī to touch his feet, therefore when Advaita lay on the floor in a faint He requested His mother to touch Advaita Ācārya’s lotus feet. Mother Śacī did this and got release from the offence. Thus she was then able to taste the pure nectar of kṛṣṇa-prema.

We should consider if Vaiṣṇava aparādha was possible even for Mother Śacī, then what about me? “I am the king of fools. What offences I must have committed against the Vaiṣṇavas knowingly or unknowingly. What is my position? How shall I redeem myself with the Lords devotees?”

Only our sincerest humility mixed with the dust of the Vaiṣṇava’s lotus feet can help us to be forgiven for our offences and to avoid Vaiṣṇava aparādha in the future. Our best safe guard against Vaiṣṇava aparādha is humility. Not a calculation of humility, “Oh, here is a Vaiṣṇava. Let me be careful. I shall be humble and show respect to him.” No! Not a show of humility by calculation. That will not help us much. What is required is a flow of real humility from the heart which is free from envy. I envy the Vaiṣṇavas and therefore I am calculated in all my dealings with them. Envy means calculation and this certainly leads to offences.

We have seen that sometimes a neophyte devotee tries to calculate the words and deeds of a venerable Vaiṣṇava. Thinking that the Vaiṣṇava poses a threat to his position or reputation the neophyte begins a slander campaign against the pure Vaiṣṇava. The venerable Vaiṣṇava is always the well-wisher of the aspiring devotees in Kṛṣṇa consciousness but when the neophyte allows his previous material conditioning of fear, duplicity, apprehension, and envy to adulterate his vision he calculates that the Vaiṣṇava has become his enemy. In that state of consciousness, the neophyte unfortunately makes many offences to the pure devotee. Unless by the grace of God the offender comes to his senses and surrenders to the dust of the Vaiṣṇava’s lotus feet then unfortunately his Kṛṣṇa consciousness is destroyed.

In the second verse of Śikṣāṣṭakam, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has written:

nāmnām akāri bahudhā nija-sarva-śaktis
tatrārpitā niyamitaḥ smaraṇe na kālaḥ
etādṛśī tava kṛpā bhagavan mamāpi
durdaivam īdṛśam ihājani nānurāgaḥ

“O My Lord, in Your holy names there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names such as Kṛṣṇa and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offence while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.” (Śikṣāṣṭakam 2)

So even though we may have embraced the chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa for millions of lifetimes, if there is offence, and especially if there is offence to a Vaiṣṇava, then we cannot develop attachment for the holy name. This Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu indicates is due to offences. In the next verse of Śikṣāṣṭakam the Lord indicates the proper way of chanting which will help one to avoid Vaiṣṇava aparādha.

tṛṇād api sunīcena taror iva sahiṣṇunā
amāninā māna-dena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

“One who thinks himself lower than a blade of grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honour yet is always prepared to give all respect to others, can very easily constantly chant the holy name of the Lord with attachment.” (Śikṣāṣṭakam 3)

The Caitanya-caritāmṛta advises that we should wear this verse of Śikṣāṣṭakam: tṛṇād api sunīcena, strung on the thread of the holy name, around our neck for continuous remembrance. It is so important to maintain proper humility. Without humility we will not be able to have offenceless dealings with the Vaiṣṇavas.

Our humility must be genuine. I must be really sincere in my vision of the Vaiṣṇavas. What is that? The Vaiṣṇavas are my masters. I am their servant and the servant of their servants. The Vaiṣṇava is not my servant. He is not my order supplier. I should not think that if he does not satisfy me I will become angry with him. Such thinking will always put us in an offensive mentality. It is always better to conceive of one’s self as the servant, of the servant, of the servant, of the Vaiṣṇava. That is our true position according to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsanudāsaḥ

“Our position is that of the servant, of the servant, of the servant, of the followers of the Vaiṣṇavas (gopīs).”

By uttering ‘gopī-bhartuḥ’ Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has indicated the topmost devotees and the prescribed mood of worship in which we should follow in order to understand His conception. Amongst all the Vaiṣṇavas the gopīs are the topmost. This Mahāprabhu has stated and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has shown this in his Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta also. The topmost servants in love of Godhead are the cowherd girls of Vṛndāvana. And among the cowherd maidens of Lord Kṛṣṇa at Vṛndāvana Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī stands supreme. This is proclaimed by the Bhāgavatam in the verse ‘ananyārādhito nūnaṁ’ in which Śrī Candrāvalī has said, “no one but Rādhārāṇī can fully satisfy Kṛṣṇa.”

From the word rādhitam the name of Rādhārāṇī is understood just as in the verse spoken by Lord Śiva to Pārvatī in Padma Purāṇa, ārādhanānāṁ sarveṣāṁ viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param – the word ārādhanānāṁ, the best worshiper, indicates Rādhārāṇī. So, it may also be conceived that aparādha, an offence, means that which is displeasing to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Love for Kṛṣṇa is not possible without the grace of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and therefore if one commits offences to the Vaiṣṇavas it is not possible to get Her grace.

Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the original devotee. In the words of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, “Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Predominating Moity and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the Supreme Predominated Moity of the Absolute Truth”. All devotional service to Kṛṣṇa must first pass through Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. In the words of Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the Mother of Devotion.” Mother means who gives birth. So the energy of devotion is born from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. It is not the energy of the living entity, jīva-tattva, which serves Kṛṣṇa directly. There must be a connection with the source of the devotional flow, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, then the jīva can perform his normal and natural function in relationship to Kṛṣṇa.

The venerable Vaiṣṇavas are the representatives of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and as such no one can get Her blessings without first satisfying the Vaiṣṇavas. Therefore, our śikṣā-guru Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Mahārāja gave much stress to the service of the Vaiṣṇavas. The Vaiṣṇavas are like the kalpa-vṛkṣa, the wish fulfilling trees of Goloka Vṛndāvana who can fulfil all our spiritual desires. By the grace of a Vaiṣṇava all our cherished desires to serve Śrī Śrī Radha and Kṛṣṇa will be fulfilled or by their displeasure all is lost.

Vaiṣṇava aparādha is such a grievous thing, yet we are so unfortunate that we deal with the Vaiṣṇavas in a most ordinary way, as though they were common street people or worse. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā: (7:3)

manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaś-cid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaś-cin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavour for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”

The devotee of Kṛṣṇa is so rare – no one is more dear to Kṛṣṇa on this earth than the pure devotee. Our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda, stressed on this point literally hundreds of times – beware of Vaiṣṇava aparādha!  “It is most grievous.” Perhaps our greatest defect as westerners is that we come to deal with the highest conceptions of divinity, with the Supreme Lord and His dearest devotees, but we bring with us our mundane pride and our arrogance.

During the life time of Śrīla Prabhupāda he earnestly requested the Vaiṣṇava community in India to kindly accept his disciples as genuine Vaiṣṇavas and sannyāsīs. And by his grace we were accepted. However, regrettably, after the departure of Śrīla Prabhupāda we foolishly began to consider that, “our guru was the only guru and we in turn are the only Vaiṣṇavas.” Thus, much unnecessary Vaiṣṇava aparādha was committed against humble and venerable Vaiṣṇavas in India. It is nothing to be proud of but it is a fact. Many Vaiṣṇava aparādhas have been committed against some of Kṛṣṇa’s dearest devotees and many have had to suffer on account of that. Should we have learned our lesson by now? You would think so but again, regrettably the offensive mentality toward the Vaiṣṇavas still exists in many of us today. We are so unfortunate.

Sometimes as neophytes we wrongly consider, “my guru is the topmost devotee of Kṛṣṇa and by his grace I have become advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and am preaching all over the world. Therefore, I can do anything and everything and nothing can check me.” This is a mistake. In the name of my guru I may also commit Vaiṣṇava aparādha and if so, then even he may not be able to save me from the reaction.

By accepting the service of a liberated soul and taking shelter at his lotus feet one very quickly becomes qualified in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But due to a Vaiṣṇava aparādha one may again fall down into illusion and material suffering. Once upon a time there lived a devotee by the name of Rūpa Kavirāja (not to be confused with Rūpa Gosvāmī) who had taken shelter at the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa-caraṇa Cakravartī (the parama-guru of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and who was Raṅga Mañjarī in kṛṣṇa-līlā). Due to the association and blessings of his guru Rūpa Kavirāja became celebrated as a great devotee, advanced in the mellows of vraja-bhakti and very learned in the bhakti-śāstras. Later on after the departure of his guru envy of the Vaiṣṇavas manifest in the heart of Rūpa Kavirāja and he again fell down.

At Rādha-kuṇḍa this Rūpa Kavirāja was accustomed to recite the Bhāgavatam and many respectable Vaiṣṇavas would come to hear him. One day a certain Vaiṣṇavī named Śrīmatī Kṛṣṇa-priyā Ṭhākurāṇī came to sit and listen to the discourses on Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa-priyā Ṭhākurāṇī was very dear to all the devotees because she constantly chanted the holy names of Kṛṣṇa in a humble state of mind. While listening to Rūpa Kavirāja deliver his discourse the lips of Kṛṣṇa-priyā Ṭhākurāṇī ever so softly vibrated the holy names.

Suddenly Rūpa Kavirāja stopped speaking and addressed Kṛṣṇa-priyā Ṭhākurāṇī, “How is it that you are able to do two things at once. I am speaking the Bhāgavatam and you continue your chanting. Have you no respect?”
Kṛṣṇa-priyā Ṭhākurāṇī replied, “It is not that I chant purposefully but my tongue and lips uncontrollably chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa even without my wanting to do so.”
When Rūpa Kavirāja heard this reply he became furious with Kṛṣṇa-priyā Ṭhākurāṇī and angrily chastised her in the assembly of Vaiṣṇavas. Everyone was very sad to hear his cruel words hurled upon the humble person of Kṛṣṇa-priyā Ṭhākurāṇī.

Rūpa Kavirāja immediately fell down from his position and he lost all potency to speak the Bhāgavatam. People stopped attending his discourses and soon he was stricken with leprosy. He left Vṛndāvana and tried to get shelter in other Vaiṣṇava communities elsewhere in India but the news of his having grievously offended a pure Vaiṣṇava spread to where ever he tried to hide. Lastly he died in exile somewhere in Orissa.

What could be done? Rūpa Kavirāja had a guru of the highest calibre but due to envy of a pure devotee he unfortunately committed Vaiṣṇava aparādha and was vanquished forever. Even having such a high type of guru could not save him from the reaction to his misdeed. This unfortunate incident is mentioned in the biography of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura.

Another example of offenders is that of Jagāi and Mādhāi. These two fallen souls from a brāhmaṇa family lived in Navadvīpa town during the time of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Mostly we have heard that they were drunkards and were delivered by Mahāprabhu but they were much more than just drunkards. The Caitanya-bhāgavata by Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura states that these two brothers were so sinful that it is not possible to account the unlimited sins they had committed. Not only were they drunkards but they were murderers of cows, brāhmaṇas, and even women. No one could count the numbers of innocent persons that they murdered. They were so mean and nasty that everyone in Navadvīpa was deathly afraid of them.

When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave His order to take the holy name of Kṛṣṇa to every home in Navadvipa the Lord’s chief assistants said that as long as Jagāi and Mādhāi were present it would not be possible as these two brothers repeatedly stopped the chanting of the holy names and threatened to kill the devotees. The Lord then organised a saṅkīrtana party and in a joyous mood he led the saṅkīrtana party to the house of Jagāi and Mādhāi who were fallen down in a drunken stupor.

After sometime the brothers were awakened by the tumultuous sound and the banging of drums and the ringing of karatālas. What is this they thought, “Who dares to disturb our peaceful sleep? Catch them! Catch them!” Picking up clubs to beat the devotees the two brothers ran to the street where they saw the Lord amidst his favourite devotees; Nityānanda Prabhu, Advaita Ācārya, Murāri, Mukunda Datta, and many others dancing and chanting the holy names of Kṛṣṇa in great ecstasy. With nasty words and in an angry tone Jagāi and Mādhāi tried to rebuke Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His devotees but when all else failed the brothers became completely mad and in a frenzy of anger they struck Lord Nityānanda in the head with a piece of earthen pot.

Seeing this Mahāprabhu summoned His sudarśana-cakra which then sped toward Jagāi and Mādhāi to cut their heads from their shoulders. Lord Nityānanda, the most merciful to the fallen souls, stopped the sudarśana-cakra and petitioned Lord Caitanya to kindly show these sinners His mercy by delivering them. The scene of Lord Nityānanda pleading with Lord Caitanya to spare the two brothers melted the stone-like hearts of Jagāi and Mādhāi.

Later Jagāi and Mādhāi came before the Lord with folded hands. Lord Caitanya then requested the brothers to give Him a tulasī leaf. He said, “I will take your sinful reactions. Give them all to Me.”

At first the brothers refused saying, “O Lord You do not know how sinful we are. We cannot do it.”

The brothers reminded the Lord that they had killed many cows, brāhmaṇas, women, and given trouble to countless innocent persons. But the Lord insisted and finally it was done. When Lord Caitanya received the sins of Jagāi and Mādhāi the Lord lost his golden complexion and He immediately became black. Seeing this the Lord said, “Whoever offends a Vaiṣṇava will have to accept the sinful reactions of Jagāi and Mādhāi.” The Lord then resumed His original golden colour. This story is narrated in the Caitanya-bhāgavata and the Caitanya-maṅgala.

So we are to deal with the Lords devotees in a most sincere and humble way. We should not allow a trace of envy or pride or duplicity to enter our dealings with the Vaiṣṇavas. Among all the living entities, the Vaiṣṇava and especially one who broadcasts His message, is the most dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa.

na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ
bhavitā na ca me tasmād anyaḥ priya-taro bhuvi

“There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he who preaches this message, nor will there ever be one more dear.” (Bhagavad-gītā 18:69)

There is no consideration about a Vaiṣṇava’s birth, caste, nationality, gender, age, or race. These are all external designations of the material body and these should not be considered as very important when trying to understand who is a Vaiṣṇava. Similarly, it is of little consequence as to what spiritual society a Vaiṣṇava does or does not belong to. When approaching a Vaiṣṇava if we allow our consciousness to focus on so many external designations then we are sure to make offences at his lotus feet. Actually it is a fact that excessive consideration about the society a pure Vaiṣṇava belongs to or doesn’t belong to has perhaps become the greatest single cause of committing Vaiṣṇava aparādha since the time of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It is also a fact that instead of preaching love of Kṛṣṇa all over the world and glorifying the Lords dearmost servants we all too often fall prey to preaching society consciousness and sometimes oppose the pure devotees, thus perpetuating an offensive mentality in the minds of the newcomers in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Once Śrīla Prabhupāda was asked how we can tell who is a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa, to which he replied, “It takes one to know one.” So, in the meantime let us try to remember the Lords instruction to always remain in a humble state of mind while constantly chanting the holy names of Kṛṣṇa. The Vaiṣṇavas are kṛpā-sindhu, an ocean of mercy, and we the fallen souls are in great need of coming in contact with that ocean of mercy. The Vaiṣṇavas are the only saviours, patitapāvana, for the downtrodden and fallen souls of this material world. Therefore, all unhealthy mentalities leading to Vaiṣṇava aparādha should be totally abandoned and given up immediately.

So with the following prayer let us bow our heads in the dust of our guru’s lotus feet and always beg to remain as a humble servant of the Vaiṣṇavas, and to always be gentle and gracious in our dealings with all those Vaiṣṇava devotees of the Lord who have embraced the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and who are the only shelter and life giving nectar for the surrendered souls.

vañca-kalpa-tarubhyaś ca kṛpā-sindhubhya eva ca
patitānāṁ pāvanebhyo vaiṣṇavebhyo namo namaḥ

Ācāryas at Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple, VṛndāvanaĀcāryas at Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple, Vṛndāvana

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