In the beginning of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kaviraja Gosvāmī says:
vande śrī kṛṣṇa caitanya nityānanda sahoditau
gauḍadaye puṣpavantau citrau san-dau tamo-nudau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the spiritual masters, the devotees of the Lord, the Lord’s incarnations, His plenary portions, His energies, and the primeval Lord Himself, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. I offer my respectful obeisances unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda, who are like the sun and the moon, and they have arisen simultaneously on the horizon of Gauḍa (Bengal), on the banks of the Ganges, Nadia, to dissipate the darkness of ignorance and thus wonderfully bestow benediction upon all.” (Cc. Ādi 1.2)
This is a poetic inference. The sun and the moon cannot appear simultaneously on the same horizon. One will come, later the other will appear. They don’t come on the same line of the sky. That is physically impossible. It is a poetic inference. What is the sun? The sun gives light. What is moon? The moon gives light. Both the sun and the moon are luminaries – one in the day and one in the night. And both of them dissipate darkness. Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Nityānanda Prabhu are compared to the sun and the moon, and they dissipate the darkness of ignorance that has found its seat in everyone’s heart in Kali-yuga.
It is my misfortune to have to say that even the most educated men and women of our modern times are scarcely better than fools. Even with a series of degrees and initials behind their names, they do not know who they are. They think that they are this body in most cases, which is only a combination of muscles, blood, and so many things that should be taken as rather disgusting.
For example, take a diamond studded gold watch, with a lapis or quartz crystal face – each part of that watch has value. You smash it into pieces, but the gold is still good, the diamonds are good, and the quartz crystal is good. The body of the watch however is only useful if all the parts are together. Similarly, if any piece of the body becomes detached from it – your tooth, your fingernail, your beautiful hair, you throw it into the wastebasket! But if it is all kept together, we think, “Oh! I am so beautiful! I am so handsome!”
We think we are this body. Everyone in this material world is under this basic misconception. Regardless of how great their education in this mundane world is, scientists, philosophers, poets, musicians, and so on – all of them are under this basic misconception of life. And if you ask, “Who are you,” then they will just give you a name which can be found in the phone book. They don’t know who they actually are. This is the prime origin of all pervading ignorance in this world. They only work for this body and this society. All ignorance begins from the concept of “I” and misidentifying with this body. This is called ahaṅkāra.
“AHAṀ BRAHMA’SMI” IS NOT SUFFICIENT
On the other side is a world of knowledge, and beyond that acquired knowledge is a world of activity that is unknown to them. What is that knowledge? Ahaṁ brahma’smi – I am spirit soul. I am not this body. That is vedāntika. And Mahāprabhu gave much more clarification – jīvera svarūpa haya, nitya-kṛṣṇa dāsa. This ahaṁ brahma’smi of the Vedānta is not actually sufficient because it is marginal. Mere marginality is a dangerous position to rest in as it can cause one to fall into the side of māyāvada. One can fall back into the material side. There must be positive knowledge. Jīvera svarūpa haya, nitya-kṛṣṇa dāsa. Mahāprabhu said, ‘nitya-kṛṣṇa dāsa!’ You are the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. ‘Eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa’ means you always have been and you always will be. You are even now the servant of Kṛṣṇa, but you are not acting on that knowledge because you don’t have it.
This is the primary defect in every civilization and in every species of life found anywhere in the universe. People get all excited about UFOs and alien beings. There are so many abduction theories, UFO cults and movements and people claiming to have been abducted by spacecraft. But the primary misconception is the same. You can be assured that the creature in the spaceship doesn’t know who he is, and does not know that he is an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. Even the devas don’t know, though they have some glimpse. Just as during early morning, there is some light but it is not sufficient to read the newspaper, it is not sufficient to do any work, but there is some light. So demigods have some light, but they are caught up in the world of enjoyment and that enjoyment is always keeping the light dim. They cannot see clearly from their position. Demigods are constantly falling into the complications of this material world and fighting to save their position. Sometimes they become envious if a human being is performing a yajña that will elevate him to a higher position. Indra himself forgets his real position and becomes inimical, fighting against that person because his fear is that someone may come and take his chair and become king.
Fear is born from forgetfulness of Kṛṣṇa. I have seen devotees forget Kṛṣṇa also. Even practicing, neck-bead wearing, tilaka-wearing, japa-chanting devotees sometimes forget about Kṛṣṇa and become fearful of a particular situation. Be it physical, financial, or whatever, we become forgetful; we worry or we try to do something outside of what Kṛṣṇa has arranged. Generally, that fails and we come back to our senses and remember that Kṛṣṇa is our maintainer and He is arranging. What He arranges we will accept, be happy with, and be successful with. Many types of arrangements may not be favourable for the performance of pure devotion.
The Lord does not come here to please our senses. He does not come here to serve us. He comes to give us an opportunity for us to serve Him. To properly serve, surrender is necessary. Service without surrender is not actually service. That is something we call preliminary practice, but it’s not the real thing. There must be surrender, and then there can be service. That is why Mahāprabhu came – to engage us in the service of the saṅkīrtana movement.
FIRST THE TEMPLE, THEN SAṄKĪRTANA!
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī knew that before the saṅkīrtana movement of Mahāprabhu could spread all over the world, the place of His appearance must be manifest again in this world, and along with its manifestation, a great temple must be built there. From there, the potency would spread all over the world.
There are some people with the opinion that first saṅkīrtana will spread all over the world, then all the foreigners will come to India and build that wonderful temple. There is some confusion about this. But Nityānanda Prabhu says a great temple called the Adbhūta Mandira, (wonderful temple) will be built at the birth site of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and then, from that temple, saṅkīrtana will go all over the world.
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, not being conditioned souls, not having Judeo-Christian backgrounds, not being foreigners, and not being egotistical, knew that first the order of the Lord must be served according to His direction and then accordingly the saṅkīrtana mission would be successful. There was prerequisite work to be done, but they didn’t even know from where to begin because it was all hidden.
There is a saying, “Seek and ye shall find.” It’s an old saying. If you try, God is there to help you. Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, yoga-kṣemam vahāmy aham – “I preserve what you have and I carry what you lack, and when the need is there I will be there to help you”. So with this fundamental understanding, they tried to locate Mahāprabhu’s birthplace. There was a place where people insisted it was – in the greater Navadvīpa-dhāma, but Bhaktivinoda did not feel confident that this was actually the true birthplace. Even his mantra-guru said, “This is the place,” but he did not feel confident with that, because his mantra-guru was not a liberated soul and was part of a group who were much less than liberated souls. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura continued to search.
He looked through the available sacred texts and the first thing he ascertained was that the ancient town of Navadvīpa is on the eastern side of the Ganges, not on the western side as it is known today. If a river was there two hundred years ago or thereabout, you would be able to see where it used to run without any difficulty. The riverbed would not disappear in one or two hundred years. It takes a long, long time before a riverbed disappears. In the district that is now known as Navadvīpa, they could find nothing to indicate that the Ganges once ran through there. He concluded that the Ganges course originally ran in a more easterly location and found no possibility that the river came near to the current site. He knew it must be on the eastern side.
Firstly, scriptural evidence mentions Navadvīpa and its location, and through that Bhaktivinoda conjectured the true location of Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, but ultimately it came down to divine revelation. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had a vision wherein he caught a glimpse of the eternal Navadvīpa in a particular direction. He saw this on more than one occasion from the rooftop of the Rāṇī Dharmaśala in Navadvīpa. He would look towards what he thought was the area of the eternal Navadvīpa, the place of Mahāprabhu’s pastimes. At that time, it had become rice fields with a couple of Mohammedan villages around it. No Hindu villages were in that area. One evening, while chanting his japa, he got a divine glimpse of the eternal Navadvīpa. The next morning, he went in that direction and while searching the area, he came to a place near a village owned by the Muslims. A natural tulasī garden grew wild there. Mohammedans don’t really care much about tulasī. When he entered that area, Bhaktivinoda could feel the presence of his own homeland.
Sometimes, if you are looking for something, you may go to some place and say, “This is not the place,” then you come out and you intuitively feel, “Ah! This is it” – some feeling comes over you internally. Ultimately feeling is the best way of knowing. In the beginning, you have to hear from an authority to receive knowledge, but ultimately you have to feel the truth in your heart and know it as such. Not because I or someone else said so – it has to come by revelation, by feeling, by realization. So when he entered that tulasī garden he felt, “Oh! This is a divine place.” And he suspected that this might be the place of Mahāprabhu’s birth.
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had come to know Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī as his śikṣā-guru, sad-guru, his real guru. Bhaktivinoda always gave formal respect to Vipina-vihārī Gosvāmī, his mantra-guru, who was more or less a social icon of the guru establishment. But his heart was one with Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī. Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī was a paramahamsa, a liberated soul.
The way of the Vaiṣṇavas is not without confirmation. You think or know something, but you don’t let your head get as big as an elephant and think, “Yes, yes, I know. No one can tell me.” I have seen some successful preachers who, after getting a thousand or two thousand disciples, have this attitude, “No one can tell me. I know what I’m doing.” But that is never the way of a Vaiṣṇava. Even the greatest Vaiṣṇava yearns for some confirmation, some association, someone to talk to about those higher, important things.
Bhaktivinoda didn’t think, “I am a liberated soul. I know what I am doing. No one can tell me. This is Mahāprabhu’s birth place – said and done!” He brought Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī there. At this time Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī was so old that he never walked anywhere. The community had arranged a strong servant to carry him wherever he needed to go in a basket. He was over hundred and ten years old or so at that time. He was also blind. When he got there, before the man could even set down the basket, Jagannātha jumped out of the basket and started dancing and performing kīrtana. He was at an age when he couldn’t even walk, what to speak of jump out of a basket. He couldn’t see where he was. As far as he knew, he could have been anywhere. But with the internal eye of devotion he could understand that he was in the Yogapīṭha. He had been brought to the epicentre of caitanya-līlā. That was an ecstatic moment for the few blessed souls that were there at that time.
Based on Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī’s experience, Bhaktivinoda concluded that this was Yogapīṭha. Then he set out to prove it through historical and archaeological records, literary evidence and notations in every possible way. But even without any of the evidence, he knew it was so due to the experience of Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī.
GURU KNOWS EVERYTHING!
That is what we do. I don’t know if I am a spirit soul or not, I don’t know if Kṛṣṇa is God or not. I don’t know, but my guru knows. My guru knows and that is good enough for me. I accept my guru’s statements, and then I can argue and put forward scriptural evidence, show archaeological records etc. to prove that his statements are conclusive. But if I don’t know from that original point, then how would I know? I wouldn’t know. That is the way of Vaiṣṇavism; you don’t know, your guru knows, and based on that you know.
Some people recently said, “Guru knows everything. He knows that someone is snatching money; he knows that someone is dying; he knows that someone ate too much sweet rice; he knows that someone is burning the sweet rice. He knows all these things.” It must drive him crazy to know all these things! One can’t even sit in a room with three people talking without getting aggravated. I remember, Prabhupāda would not be sitting in a room with so many people talking and just adjust to that. He wanted some peace and quiet. But these people say, “Guru knows everything!” Prabhupāda said, “Yes, guru knows everything means that he knows Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is everything.” So he knows – everything is Kṛṣṇa. If Kṛṣṇa reveals something he may know that. If He doesn’t reveal, how he will know that?” So later on, some people said, “Well, he told you that because you weren’t ready for the truth.” That particular gentleman doesn’t know that we were so crazy that if Prabhupāda had told us to cut off your head, we would cut off your head. Whatever he said, that was the truth. We were young, very committed, and very fanatical at that time. What to speak of explaining, if Prabhupāda knew everything and said, “Yes, I know everything,” we would have jumped and said, “Jaya!” No one would doubt it. If anyone had a doubt about it, we would have got him by the neck and carried him out.
Because of Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī’s confirmation, Bhaktivinoda felt resolved that they had found the birthplace of Mahāprabhu. For those ordinary people who don’t have guru-niṣṭhā, guru-bhakti or guru-śraddhā, we have to convince them by different arguments because these people try to challenge our faith. Pure faith won’t hold up in court. You will need evidence. It went to court and there they concluded that the birthplace of Mahāprabhu was the Yogapīṭha in Māyāpura.
PREACHING FROM YOGAPĪṬHA
The governor of Bengal came to Māyāpura – he was the second most powerful man in India and the third most powerful man in the world. First, there was the King of England, then the Viceroy in Delhi, and third was the Governor of Bengal. So the third most powerful man in the world came to Māyāpura. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura even went so far as to get the third most powerful man in the world to verify this! Why? So that poor fools would not be misguided by the cheaters who claimed that some false place was the birthplace of Mahāprabhu. Still, across the river on the western side they are making crowing sounds, “Māyāpura isn’t actually the real place!” They built a temple there long before Bhaktivinoda. But Nityānanda’s prediction never came true. After they built their temple, the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa, never spread all over the world from there.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda and Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura built and inaugurated the temple at Yogapīṭha and not long after, Kṛṣṇa Consciousness spread all over the world. You will be hard pressed to find a place in the world, even amongst the aboriginal cultures or even in the most isolated parts of the world, where no one has heard of Kṛṣṇa. I’ve gone to places in Africa – “The Dark Continent” – with the thought that I was going to tell the people about Kṛṣṇa because nobody there had ever heard about Him. And as soon as I stepped off the plane, one man just looked at us and said, “Hare Kṛṣṇa!” Already done! Of course, there were a few million there that didn’t know about Kṛṣṇa. The point is that one man knew then – but if you go there now, more than thirty years later, many more people know about Kṛṣṇa.
It started there from Yogapīṭha. From there, devotees came to join Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta and were instructed on what to do, and they went out and did that and it was principally one man – Śrīla Prabhupāda. He came to the distant western hemisphere with Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Now many descendants of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s disciples and grand disciples can be found all over the world – from Siberia to South Africa, from New York to London. They are all over the place.
CROWS AND DOGS
The sahajiyās in Navadvīpa and their supporters are doing nothing except going on the Internet and complaining. They are nowhere and doing nothing to fulfil the prophecy. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Anyone can talk big, and everyone is – but who is actually doing anything? Who did it and who is still doing it? Who is spreading the Holy Name? Those who have connection with Navadvīpa-dhāma, Māyāpura, Bhaktivinoda and Bhaktisiddhānta – they are doing it, and the others are like the crows who come and sit on the trees and criticize everything underneath. It is said that the dogs bark when the caravan passes. Many elephants are walking on the road and the local dogs come out and make noise. But the elephants continue and gradually the sound of the dogs just dies out. These critics of Bhaktivinoda and Bhaktisiddhānta are no more than crows or barking dogs actually. Unfortunately, they will probably have to take birth in those species in their next life, or possibly worse.
It’s one thing to not know about Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Kṛṣṇa, or the great souls, but its completely another thing if you do know. You come in connection with the truth, yet you criticize and fight against it. It would be better to remain in ignorance for another million lifetimes – then you would live just according to your karma, and one day you may know the truth, act upon it, and go back to Godhead.
We have even seen people that tried to give us trouble in our āśrama. They thought that this āśrama would be finished. Now they have become drunkards. They don’t even believe in Kṛṣṇa. The same people who were making so much noise don’t even consider themselves as Hindus. And in the meantime, Kṛṣṇa Consciousness goes on. The parade goes on, the dogs bark…
PREACHING WHERE THE MONEY IS
Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission now has been moving forward for over five hundred years, and it has had high points and low points. But the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa is still out there, on every continent, in every major city, town and practically every village in the world. It’s out there. But there’s always somebody that doesn’t know yet. Even in India.
I see among the young people living in India, and I wonder, “How is it that they were born in India?” They should have been born in Brooklyn, but they were born in a certain environment, in a modern house and such. I doubt that those people even know who Ganesa is – what to speak of Kṛṣṇa and Mahāprabhu. But they are born within a day’s train ride of the holy land of Navadvīpa, or within an hour or two-hour flight. It’s so close, yet they are so far away.
To preach Mahāprabhu’s mission one doesn’t have to go to the other side of the world. There are plenty of people just within a few hundred meters of this gate who still do not know the importance of their life, how to perfect it, who Kṛṣṇa is, what devotion is, about the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa, or about the grace of Mahāprabhu. And even amongst us, how clearly do we understand that? We don’t have to be everywhere in the world to preach. You can do that right where you are, right in your own state.
Once Tripurārī Mahārāja and I met an old disciple of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura at Bagh Bazaar Gauḍīya Maṭha in Kolkata. He was very nice and cordial and was happy to see us. Tripurārī Mahārāja said, “When are you going to preach in the west?”
He said, “Well, there are almost one billion people here in India. Don’t you think there is work here also?” We were young and thinking, “Real work is in America. Real work is in England.” That was our young ego.
Mahāprabhu’s work is everywhere. It is right here in our own village; it’s in our own states; in our own country, and it is in foreign countries also. But nowadays, because Prabhupāda went to the west, all of the preachers go to the west. Hardly any of the preachers of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness preach in India. I sometimes say critically that they go to the west to make disciples of people who struggle their whole life to follow the four regulative principles, but they neglect to preach to the people who live here in India, who are born followers of the four regulative principles. There are just ordinary village people who probably are not even drinking water outside of their own house, what to speak of eating non-vegetarian food and the like. Of course, there is a lot of non-veg and such here, but there are also families and traditions that have maintained a pure lifestyle and have still not heard about Mahāprabhu.
I know this about many of the big world preachers – they spend the whole year going to mleccha-deśa for preaching because that’s where the money is. India is rich, but very tight. Money in India is very community-oriented. People give to their community-gurus and all that, by caste, birth, etc. But these preachers all go outside of India – I’m talking about real devotees of Kṛṣṇa. They spend more time preaching to mlecchas, who can hardly even follow the basic principles of sub-religion, and they neglect preaching here in India, and now there is probably more need of preaching in India than there is in the west.
The people of the world are interested in higher standards of living, environmental issues, spiritual topics, and meditation. There is an inclination this way. But these same things in India have become social embarrassments. A great section of Indian society is embarrassed to associate itself with its own culture. They dress, eat, think, and live like westerners. They drive like Indians, but in every other manner they want to be western, and maintain the attitude, “I am not an Indian.” There are millions of them here.
BLESSINGS AND DIVINE GRACE
I know people who have so much money, but they can’t get any service done. They can’t even think of some service to engage in. But they have money. Money alone does not enable us to serve Kṛṣṇa. It requires blessings and divine grace. Inspiration is necessary. When that is there, we will be able to serve even if Lakṣmī hasn’t built her palace here. Money might not be forthcoming yet, but still we will be able to do something. But without the blessings of our ācāryas, without the blessings of the Supreme Lord, even if we are multi-millionaires, we won’t be able to do much good. The first thing that is necessary is their blessings and then service will follow. Not that we will get money and then we will perform service, that we will offer it to them because they need it – No! The Lord doesn’t need it. God doesn’t need anything we have or do.
Blessings are from Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī, Mahāprabhu and the ācāryas in our disciplic line. They are necessary. We should try to please them with our personal behaviour, our exercises, and our service. Then we will have success. Just like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura who knew that for the Holy Name to spread all over the world, the service of Māyāpura was essential. In those days it took two days to get there by train. Now it takes three hours by car, but it took two days to get there by train or boat. It makes today’s village look like a metropolis. It was just rice fields. There was nothing material worth going out there for. And it was dangerous. That’s why it took two days to get there, because you would reach there at night, but you wouldn’t dare cross the Ganges at night because the river pirates would rob you. It was a treacherous area, because Māyā and her agents had dominated that place. River pirates, dacoits, and guṇḍās were plenty in number. But they knew that this must first be established according to the wish of the Supreme Lord and then accordingly, great good can be done all over the world. They did it in that way. We should understand what is to be done first and how to progress practically in our spiritual life, not thinking that we should jump to the topmost position. When we have not actually finished the first course, why should we want to jump to the final one?
This appearance day of Mahāprabhu is a good day to remember that everything comes by His grace. We should sincerely pray for His grace. There are many prayers and ślokas we can recite to ask for the blessings of Mahāprabhu. Even if we don’t do that, in our mind we should remember, “Everything is by His grace. Any success in this world is only by His grace.”