Chapter 3, Srimad Bhagavad-Gita

Wednesday 14 November


BG 3.9

यज्ञार्थात्कर्म्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्म्मबन्धनः ।
तदर्थं कर्म्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्गः समाचर ॥९॥

yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samāchara [9]

(he) kaunteya–O Arjuna; ayam lokaḥ–all the living beings of this world; karma-bandhanaḥ (bhavati)–come into bondage by their action; karmaṇaḥ anyatra–other than action; yajña-arthāt–as selfless duty offered to Lord Viṣṇu. (ataḥ)–Therefore; mukta-saṅgaḥ (san)–being free from attachment; karma samāchara–be fully active; tat-artham–for the purpose of such sacrifice, for Him. [9]

“Other than action for the sake of sacrifice (the Lord), all actions are the cause of bondage for the living beings. O Arjuna, perform action free from attachment for the sake of sacrifice.”

This is a very important verse quoted much by our Gurus, and it is another fundamental verse of karma-yoga applicable to bhakti-yoga, following on from verse 2.47. This is a great one to learn. It is a very sobering message: that everything we do, if it is not for the Lord’s satisfaction, will bind us further in samsara.

One important point here is that this verse can be interpreted differently according to how ‘yajna’ or sacrifice is understood. According to the sruti sastra, ‘yajno vai Visnuh’, ‘yajna means Vishnu’ i.e. something done for the satisfaction of the Lord as Vishnu or Krishna. Not necessarily a fire sacrifice!

Srila Sridhar Maharaj on this verse:

“Unless work is done as a sacrifice for Vishnu, one’s own work will be the cause of bondage; therefore work on My behalf, and free yourself from the chain of action and reaction.” Bhagavad-gita (3.9) says that any work, no matter what it is, causes a reaction. For example, you may nurse a patient. Apparently, it is a good thing, but you are giving the patient medicine that comes from killing so many insects, trees, creepers, and animals. You may think that your nursing is a very pure duty, but you are causing a disturbance in the environment, and you will have to pay for that. In this way, whatever we do here cannot be perfectly good. …
… We must firmly establish the conception of Isavasyam (Isopanisad): everything, including ourselves, is meant for the Supreme Lord. We are all His servants, and we are meant to utilise everything in His service. Any work we perform will bind us in this environment of matter, unless we perform yajna, sacrifice (yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra, loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah).
–Search for Sri Krishna

Another point which Srila Gurudev discusses in this regard is that the supreme yajna, or sacrifice offered for the satisfaction of the Lord, is the sankirtan-yajna:

“We say yajna means fire sacrifice, but that is not the actual meaning. Something done for the satisfaction of Lord according to a regulated (vaidika) method is a yajna. The srutis, the Vedas, say that yajna is one kind of manifestation of Visnu. Yajno vai Visnuh iti sruteh. This is the evidential verse in the Vedas. Srimad Bhagavat also says yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti: we should perform worship through the yajna of sankirtan. If only there is a fire, then that is not a full expression of yajna. The real fire of yajna is not a fire that burns visibly; it is a fire that burns our karma, and through that heavenly feelings arise within us.”
Really wonderful quote from that article of Gurudev’s talk🙏

Question: Pranam Didi 🙏🙏 In this verse it’s mentioned about the reaction of work. The example of nursing a patient is given. But if we put Supreme Lord in centre of our life and dedicate our prescribed duties in His Lotus Feet then how are we going to pay for this action?

Answer: It is only karma that is reactionary. In this context karma means action performed with some individual interest, separate ego. In one place Srila Sridhar Maharaj defines karma as ‘self-assertion’. It means we are imposing our own will, our own concocted, artificial, superficial idea upon the environment. That must be reactionary because it is in opposition to the natural flow, the fundamental flow, which is Krishna’s flow. If we are trying to swim upstream against the current we are going to feel it and it’s going to be a struggle. Similarly it’s Krishna’s house, it’s Krishna’s program, so if we are not in harmony with that we are making some disturbance and naturally there will be a reaction. We haven’t understood the real purpose of the environment and we’re imposing our own idea upon it. There must be a reaction. However if we are moving in consciousness of the natural flow, if we are sensitive to that and moving in harmony with that there is no reaction within this worldly plane.
If we are trying to serving Krishna with love, the only reaction will be more love: bhaktya sanjataya bhaktya. If we are trying to serve, truly, the only reaction will be more service and more desire and capacity to serve. Dasa kari vetan more deho prema dhan. Bondage from this world will be cut as a kind of negligible side-effect.
What to speak of those serving the Lord, even those who are perfectly following karma-yoga are excused from any reactions due to their spirit of detachment. See Bhagavad-gita verses 4.23 & 18.17.
I hope this is clear now.

Monday 19 November 2018


यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्व्वकिल्बिषैः ।
भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात् ॥१३॥

yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo muchyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pachanty ātma-kāraṇāt [13]

santaḥ–Virtuous persons; yajña-śiṣṭa-aśinaḥ–who partake of the remnants of sacrifice to the demigods (universal administrators subordinate to the Lord); muchyante–are liberated; sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ–from all sin (pañcha-sūnā, five types of sin due to five kinds of violence to other living beings). ye tu–But those who; pachanti–cook; ātma-kāraṇāt–for their own pleasure; te–those; pāpāḥ–sinful persons; bhuñjate–eat; (eva)–only; agham–sin.

“By accepting sacrificial remnants of the universal gods*, virtuous persons are liberated from all sins arising from violence towards other living entities. But those who prepare food for their own pleasure partake only of sin.”

[Footnote: *The remnants referred to here are not the same as the Kṛṣṇa-prasād (food that has been offered to the Supreme Lord by His devotees). See 9.20–26.]

This is a nice verse to learn, and one I have heard Srila Gurudev quote. This is an example of a verse which on a straightforward level is not concerned with the practice of pure devotion, because it is really referring to more traditional Vedic practices (demigod worship and so on), yet nevertheless our Gurus extract a general devotional principle from it: that other than prasad, everything we take has some sin connected to it. Both through our own enjoying mood and spirit of consumption we are incurring a reaction, and also because of the consciousness and karma behind the food when it already came to us.

So as much as possible we are trying to live in the mood of taking prasad, the Lord’s grace. We may not always be able to take prasad which has been formally offered (and besides, ultimately, according to Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s conception, even our taking of that has value according to our own consciousness anyway) but mentally we will take everything with remembrance of Guru and Gauranga and as much as possible take that with the spirit that it is for our own upkeep, not for the satisfaction of our senses.

This is a wonderful excerpt from Sermons Vol III (ch 2) related to this which I would like to share here:


This is, after all, the suicidal plane, the discordant plane where one cannot live without devouring his environment. That is the law of this land. If you want to live here, then you must devour your environment; otherwise, you can’t survive. So, it is the suicidal plane. One is eating another, and only then he can live. That too is only for the time being. So, is this a proper land to live in?

Prasad—that is the highest solution! The principal necessities of any life here in this world are to preserve and to propagate. Our first priority is to preserve, and for self-preservation we create havoc in the environment by exploitation. The first principle of exploitation begins from the urge for self-preservation, and that means eating. We are to adjust our dealings with the environment in our most primitive necessity which we can’t avoid in order to keep body and soul together. So, if we can solve this one difficulty, we can almost solve the whole problem.

prasada-seva karite haya sakala prapancha jaya

Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur says that the key to the solution of the whole problem of this mundane life is in prasad. The first necessity of life is eating, and if we can solve that problem, we have solved the whole thing. Prasada-seva karite haya sakala prapancha jaya: the most important thing is to learn how we should take prasadam to maintain ourselves. Our life depends mainly on that.

To live here, we cannot but consume, and we cannot but create devastation in the environment by our eating. If we go to consume anything, even plants, grasses, or seeds, then microscopic creatures are being killed. So, the question is how to get rid of this reaction? It is said in Srimad Bhagavad-gita (3.9),

yajnarthat karmano ’nyatra loko ’yam karma-bandhanah

We shall get relief from that reaction only if we can successfully connect everything with the supreme satisfaction, with Him whose pleasure all existence is meant to fulfil. So, in the taking of food, really we are to be conscious that we are collecting the ingredients for His satisfaction, and then cooking and offering to Him for His satisfaction—that should be our real purpose. And then because our whole life and energy is for serving Him, we need energy and must take something out of that. But the main point, the real substance of the transaction, will be to collect, cook, and offer to Him according to His will expressed in the scriptures. That is the first step, and only after the foodstuffs have been offered to Him shall we take anything ourselves. This will help to make us always conscious of why we are taking. We are taking because we want only to serve Him. Furthermore, whatever has been accepted by the Lord, the ‘poison’, the bad reaction, will have been absorbed and digested by Him just as in the case of Mahadev who drank the poison generated from the Ocean of Milk.

Krishna is absolute and can digest anything. Not only that, but those things which have been consumed in His connection also receive promotion, so actually there is no himsa, violence. What appears to be himsa is not really so because those who are apparently violently treated actually receive a high promotion through connection with the Supreme. In addition, whoever has been instrumental in fulfilling that connection will also receive some reward. So, the devotee must think, “What shall I take? I won’t take anything from the world. I shall take only from my master as His grace. It is His grace. His free grace to me—prasad.”

The word prasad means ‘kindness’, ‘grace’. The devotee will feel, “Whatever service I do, I am not expecting anything to be paid to me in return. It is a free transaction. And whatever I receive is only His grace. So, I shall take prasad, then I shall be free from all entanglement of action and reaction even though I am in the midst of it. Because it is a fact that with every action I must disturb the environment, then if all my actions are meant for Him, the Supreme Lord, there will be no bad reaction coming to me, but rather the opposite reaction will occur and help not only me but those that were offered also. Through me, through myself as a centre, such waves will emanate that will help others to progress in their path of purification.”

So, through the godliness in his heart, everyone must be a purifying agent. God is on the throne of the heart, and from there He will emanate such a fine ray which will purify not only that person’s heart but also the environment. ‘Vaisnava’ means a purifying agent who emanates goodness, absolute goodness, everywhere—through his movements, his words, his actions: every deed, thought, and word—kaya, mana, vakya. A Vaisnava is an agent of auspiciousness: te Vaisnava bhuvanam asu pavitrayanti. There are so many Vaisnavas, and by their chanting the Holy Name, by all their practices and by their whole lives, they are like so many purifying agents.

By proper knowledge, proper dealings, and proper conduct, they set everything in its proper position and create adjustment in the domain of maladjustment. This world is maladjusted, and the balancing agents, the unifying factors, are the Vaisnavas. Just as there is a germ, a virus which spreads a particular contagious disease, so there must be the opposite of that, something which emanates only a pure and healthy atmosphere, and that is the Vaisnava.


Sunday 25 November 2018

BG 3.21
yad yad ācharati śreṣṭhas, tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute, lokas tad anuvartate [21]

yat yat–However; śreṣṭaḥ–the great personality; ācharati–conducts himself; itaraḥ janaḥ–other lesser men; (ācharati)–will conduct themselves; tat tat eva–accordingly. yat–Whatever; saḥ–the great personality; kurute–accepts; pramāṇam–as the standard; lokaḥ–ordinary men; tat anuvartate–follow that.

“The masses follow the ways of great men, following the standards they set.”

Please accept my dandabat pranams. I am very happy to have come to this verse today, as it is a principle we were discussing in the morning class today here at the ashram in Campos do Jordao.

In the verses following this Krishna explains that though realized persons have no need to follow ordinary duties as common people should for their own purification and to regulate their lower tendencies, they should still follow them to set an example. The most prominent example of this is Lord Ramachandra, who is known as Maryada Purusottam, or the supreme person who came to exemplify the ideals of proper moral behavior and the regulations set by the Vedic guidelines. Although as the supreme Lord he has no need to follow any particular code of conduct, he does, to the extreme, in order to set an example which others can learn from and follow. Duty, or dharma, is the uppermost principle in the tenor of his lila, and it is upheld at the expense of love, comfort, position, and everything else. He breaks the hearts of those most dear to Him, in order to uphold the dharma. And in doing so he has set a very great example for the world to follow.

This verse is also especially dear to the members of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math because when our Param Gurudev Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj left everything behind to join the Gaudiya Math, Srila Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur was overjoyed and chanted this verse at that time. Srila Sridhar Maharaj came from a very high brahman family and thus his joining gave dignity and prestige to the mission which would inspire the general persons to give more attention to the teachings of Sri Chaitanyadev. Srila Prabhupad himself came from a lower caste and thus at times his disciples who came from brahman backgrounds could be of some special use in various dealings of the mission.

This verse describes a general principle which helps us to understand why our Gurus and even the Lord Himself sometimes do certain things which they actually have no necessity to do. In the case of ourselves, it is also instructive because there may be times and situations when we feel there is no need for us to follow some particular rule or duty, but if there are others who look up to us in some way, we should still try to follow these things in order to set an example, because it is appropriate for them to follow.

4 December 2018

“I, ME, & MINE”


BG 3.27

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्म्माणि सर्व्वशः ।
अहङ्कारविमूढात्मा कर्त्ताहमिति मन्यते ॥२७॥

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate [27]

karmāṇi–Actions; kriyamāṇāni–are effected; sarvaśaḥ–in all ways; guṇaiḥ–(by the senses, impelled) by the modes; prakṛteḥ–of material nature; (tu)–but; ahaṅkāra-vimūḍha-ātmā–one deluded by bodily ego; manyate iti–thinks thus; aham kartā–“I am the doer.” [27]

“All actions in the world are in every respect effected by the modes of material nature (which impell the senses). But a man deluded by bodily identification thinks, ‘I alone am accomplishing this work.’”

In the verses previous to this one it is advised that the enlightened soul who has no need to perform worldly duties should continue to do so in order to set an example for the ignorant and bound souls (we discussed this point in the last post also.) In this verse the difference between the action of the wise and ignorant is clarified: the ignorant perform action under the influence of the false ego, ‘ahankara’, which is one of the subtle material elements.

Ahankara, or ‘Aham kara’, ‘I do’, is said to be composed of two elements, ‘ahamta’ and ‘mamata’. You will see that Srila Gurudev mentions them in the penultimate verse to his wonderful song on the ten offences to the holy name. ‘Ahamta’ refers to the false sense of independent existence, or the conception of ‘I’ as the doer, and ‘mamata’ is the subsequent sense of possessiveness towards the results of what we have supposedly done. But here in this verse of Srimad Bhagavad-gita this cosy bubble of illusion is being rudely popped.

We cannot actually do anything. As atomic units of consciousness we are endowed with three properties, that of willing, feeling and thinking. Thus all we can do is will, or desire for something to happen. Without going into too much of the esoteric explanations on this point which have been given by our acharyas, we can understand this in a very simple way by observing how our bodies run, or so many forces in the environment around us are functioning. We may will to do something as simple as drink a glass of water, but whether we are able to do that or not depends on so many things: the functioning of our brain, the functioning of our muscles and so many chemical processes of our bodies, the law of gravity, the laws of physics, and so on. We may plant some flower seeds in our garden but whether they sprout and blossom or not is dependent upon the quality of sun, rain, soil, air, the presence of weeds, insects, and so on and so forth. So all action is actually dependent upon so many forces and elements of the environment, and ultimately, in the background, the Lord’s sanction.

This verse ties in nicely with 2.47 (karmany evadhikaras te) which states the fundamental principle of karma-yoga that we are not entitled to the results of our actions. Why that is is explained in this verse: because our ability to perform those actions in the first place was only possible because of so many other factors and ultimately the Lord.

I’d also like to mention here this important verse which Param Guru Maharaj includes in Prapanna-jivanamrtam from the Padma-purana, which defines the word ‘namah’ or ‘obeisance’ as nullifying the ahankara:

ahaṅkṛtir ma-kāraḥ syān na-kāras tan niṣedhakaḥ
tasmāt tu namasā kṣetri-svātantryaṁ pratiṣidhyate
bhagavat-paratantro ’sau tadāyatātma-jīvanaḥ
tasmāt sva-sāmarthya-vidhiṁ tyajet sarvam aśeṣataḥ

“In the word namaḥ (‘obeisance’), the syllable ma indicates the self-asserting ego (ahaṅkār, lit. ‘I am the doer’), and the syllable na indicates its prevention. Thus, the act of offering obeisance (namaḥ) nullifies the offerer’s independence. The soul is by nature subordinate to the Supreme Lord; their innate function is servitude to Him. Therefore, all actions performed with the conception, ‘I am the doer’ should be utterly abandoned.”

11 December 2018


BG 3.35

श्रेयान्स्वधर्म्मो विगुणः परधर्म्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् ।
स्वधर्म्मे निधनं श्रेयः परधर्म्मो भयावहः ॥३५॥

śreyān svadharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt
svadharme nidhanaṁ śreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ [35]

svadharmaḥ–One’s own function; viguṇaḥ–tinged with faults; śreyān–is better; para-dharmāt–than another’s function; su-anuṣṭhitāt–done well. nidhanam–Even death; svadharme–on one’s own path of duty (according to one’s appropiate position in the varṇāśram or God-centred socio-religious system); śreyaḥ–is better. para-dharmaḥ–Another’s path of duty; bhaya-āvahaḥ–is dangerous. [35]

“Even if it is imperfect, it is better to do one’s duty according to one’s own nature, than to do another’s well. Even death in the discharge of one’s own duty is better, for to perform another’s is dangerous.”

This is a well-known verse of Srimad Bhagavad-gita quoted many times by our Param Gurudev. In the context of Bhagavad-gita it is understand that the point Lord Krishna is making here is that as a ksatriya Arjun’s duty is to fight, and thus it is not appropriate for him to adopt the mood of ahimsa which is appropriate for brahmans.

However our Param Gurudev speaks of this verse in terms of the universal teachings which can be extracted from it. The verse can be puzzling as it contradicts the final clarion call of Bhagavad-gita, ‘Give up all other duties and surrender to Me!’ (sarva dharman parityajya, 18.66), but it is really just a nice example of how different levels of instruction are given to persons according to their qualification.

In one place Param Guru Maharaj explains this in terms of how students are encouraged to learn a particular lesson at a particular stage and told to give their full faith and attention there. They should not gloss or skip over any level, and it may even be helpful for them to consider their level of instruction as the highest. They should not be overly-eager to jump to a higher level of instruction. They should learn their current lesson as best as they can. So we should understand what lesson is appropriate for us and learn that and follow through with that thoroughly before moving on to another lesson.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj also explains how this warning is given so as to encourage us to consolidate our position where we are, so that we don’t fall back. Really the goal is to move forward, to make progress, sarva dharman parityajya, but we should not do so in an overly-hasty way, otherwise we may fall down and even completely leave the path. On a battlefield the general may be leading his troops, marching forward, but at a particular point tell them to halt so they can survey how far they have come, ensure they are going in the right direction, review their military and food supplies, check the welfare of the soldiers, etc. They need to consolidate their position so as to not leave themselves vulnerable to the enemy and fall back or become weak, but the idea is to eventually continue marching forward.

Param Guru Maharaj has also discussed this verse in terms of the relative and the absolute, or form and substance. The form should support the substance and it is only useful as much as it is doing that. As an example in Sri Guru and His Grace Srila Sridhar Maharaj speaks of God consciousness and society consciousness: God consciousness is the ideal, the substance, the absolute consideration, and society is the relative side, the form. The society should serve and support the ideal of God consciousness—otherwise it should be discarded. In and of itself it has no value.

Lastly I am including here Param Guru Maharaj’s commentary on this verse which is published in our edition of Bhagavad-gita, where he gives yet another angle of vision: that actually, from the deepest perspective, as spirit souls our real svadharma is only to serve Krishna, and to do anything other than that is bhayavah, dangerous and fearful 😊🙌.
The eternal, superexcellent, natural function (dharma) of the soul is pure devotion to Adhokṣaja, the transcendental Lord. Therefore, even if this function is somewhat imperfectly attempted by one with external malpractices, such an attempt will be superior to the ‘good’ practices within the material modes of nature and worldly chain of actions and habits foreign to the soul’s nature. Even if death occurs during the cultivation of such pure devotion in proper saintly association, it is the bestower of the ultimate good; but in the name of good practices to ignorantly follow ‘another’s path’—anything other than devotion to the Lord (dvitīyābhiniveś)—is bhayāvaḥ, endangering to the spiritual progress of the soul.*

* भयं द्वितीयाभिनिवेशतः स्याद्
ईशादपेतस्य विपर्य्ययोऽस्मृतिः ।
तन्माययातो बुध आभजेत्तं
भक्त्यैकयेशं गुरुदेवतात्मा ॥

bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syād
īśād apetasya viparyayo ’smṛtiḥ
tan māyayāto budha ābhajet taṁ
bhaktyaikayeśaṁ guru-devatātmā
(SB: 11.2.37)

“A person of fine intelligence will serve with single-minded devotion his Lord who is his teacher and dearmost friend. But those who have turned away from the Lord adopt the illusory ego of considering the perishable body to be the self, forgetting their true identities. Their consciousness absorbed in ‘secondary pursuits’, i.e., mundane objectives, they are always fearful on account of the body and its attachments.”

Friday 4 January 2019


Dandabat pranams dear friends.

Continuing with chapter three, we’ve come to this helpful verse about the nature of kama and krodha. We discussed some of these principles in verse 2.62 also, as some of you may recall.

श्रीभगवानुवाच ।

काम एष क्रोध एष रजोगुणसमुद्भवः ।
महाशनो महापाप्मा विद्ध्येनमिह वैरिणम् ॥३७॥

*śrī-bhagavān uvācha*

*kāma eṣa krodha eṣa rajoguṇa-samudbhavaḥ*
*mahāśano mahā-pāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam* [37]

śrī-bhagavān uvācha–The Supreme Lord said: eṣaḥ kāmaḥ–It is this desire to enjoy the mundane; eṣaḥ krodhaḥ–transformed into anger. rajo-guṇa-samudbhavaḥ–It arises from the mode of passion, and from that desire, blind anger is born. viddhi enam–Know such desire to be; mahā-aśanaḥ–never satisfied; mahā-pāpmā–greatly wrathful; vairiṇam–and the worst enemy of the living being; iha–in this world.

“Know lust and anger—which are produced by the mode of passion, extremely voracious, and malicious—to be the soul’s enemies in this world (the cause of the soul’s propensity to sin).”

Arjuna asks Krishna what it is that induces a person to commit sinful activity, even unwillingly: this is Lord Krishna’s response. It is kama, lust, or desire to enjoy the mundane which induces a person to commit sinful activity, even against their will. When this kama is (inevitably) frustrated because we are unable to satisfy its desires, then it transforms into anger. Lust arises from the mode of passion, which then in certain situations transforms into anger from the mode of ignorance. In Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur’s commentary on this verse he quotes this wonderful verse from Mahabharata:

yat pṛthivyāṁ vrīhi-yavaṁ hiraṇyaṁ paśavaḥ striyaḥ
nālam ekasya tat sarvam iti matvā śamaṁ vrajet 

“Understanding that all that is available on earth in the form of food, gold, animals and women is not enough for one person, one should go about with peaceful mind.” (Mahābhārata, Anuśāśana Parvā, Ch.1353)

In Sri Vamandev’s lila He similarly speaks the following advice (SB 8.19.21—27)

when Bali Maharaj tells Him to reconsider his request for only three paces of land:

śrī-bhagavān uvācha

yāvanto viṣayāḥ preṣṭhās tri-lokyām ajitendriyam
na śaknuvanti te sarve pratipūrayituṁ nṛpa

The Personality of Godhead said: “O my dear King, even the entirety of whatever there may be within the three worlds to satisfy one’s senses cannot satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled.

tribhiḥ kramair asantuṣṭo dvīpenāpi na pūryate
nava-varṣa-sametena sapta-dvīpa-varechchhayā 

“If I were not satisfied with three paces of land, then surely I would not be satisfied even with possessing one of the seven islands, consisting of nine varṣas. Even if I possessed one island, I would hope to get others.

sapta-dvīpādhipatayo nṛpā vaiṇya-gayādayaḥ
arthaiḥ kāmair gatā nāntaṁ tṛṣṇāyā iti naḥ śrutam

“We have heard that although powerful kings like Mahārāja Pṛthu and Mahārāja Gaya achieved proprietorship over the seven dvīpas, they could not achieve satisfaction or find the end of their ambitions.

yadṛchchhayopapannena santuṣṭo vartate sukham
nāsantuṣṭas tribhir lokair ajitātmopasāditaiḥ 

“One should be satisfied with whatever he achieves by his previous destiny, for discontent can never bring happiness. A person who is not self-controlled will not be happy even with possessing the three worlds.

puṁso ’yaṁ saṁsṛter hetur asantoṣo ’rtha-kāmayoḥ
yadṛchchhayopapannena santoṣo muktaye smṛtaḥ

“Material existence causes discontent in regard to fulfilling one’s lusty desires and achieving more and more money. This is the cause for the continuation of material life, which is full of repeated birth and death. But one who is satisfied by that which is obtained by destiny is fit for liberation from this material existence.

yadṛchchhā-lābha-tuṣṭasya tejo viprasya vardhate
tat praśāmyaty asantoṣād ambhasevāśuśukṣaṇiḥ

“A brāhmaṇa who is satisfied with whatever is providentially obtained is increasingly enlightened with spiritual power, but the spiritual potency of a dissatisfied brāhmaṇa decreases, as fire diminishes in potency when water is sprinkled upon it.

tasmāt trīṇi padāny eva vṛṇe tvad varadarṣabhāt
etāvataiva siddho ’haṁ vittaṁ yāvat prayojanam

“Therefore, O King, from you, the best of those who give charity, I ask only three paces of land. By such a gift I shall be very pleased, for the way of happiness is to be fully satisfied to receive that which is absolutely needed.”

Recommended reading: ‘The Transcendental Service World’, chapter 13 of Revealed Truth. There Srila Gurudev discusses some important verses from Srimad Bhagavatam on this topic (11.20.27—29) which are also discussed by Param Guru Maharaj and included in Prapanna-jivanamrtam.

I’m including one excerpt from this chapter here:

“When our enemies show themselves to us, our position as conditioned souls may become hopeless, and we may surrender to them. Unfortunately we may be their victim for some time. For some time we may be a servant of kāma, a servant of krodha, a servant of lobha, mada, moha, mātsarya, and so on. But after that we must set ourselves back within our proper position of engagement in the Lord’s service. This is not easy. We will not get the qualification necessary to do that by attending school or college. Only through the association of pure devotees can we get that type of qualification. To be a pure devotee, as well as find a pure devotee, is not so easy. Difficulty is always around us, but we must tolerate that and try to correct ourselves. That is our situation in our practising life: first tolerating and then trying to correct.

“Sometimes devotees fall from their principles. But again they must come back to them, wake up, and continue running. That is the life of a devotee, and that life is very good and hopeful for devotees. Without this everyone will become hopeless.

“If we realise the nature of our conditioned position we will see that our weaknesses, that is, our material desires, are stronger than our spiritual desire. We sometimes surrender to our weaknesses. But only if we remain submissive to them forever will we be the loser. It is always necessary to take back our spiritual strength. These verses from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam very nicely explain the procedure for this: faith, humility, tolerance, repentance, and service.”

Revealed Truth

Sunday 7 January 2019

BG 3.38

धूमेनाव्रियते वह्निर्यथादर्शो मलेन च ।
यथोल्बेनावृतो गर्भस्तथा तेनेदमावृतम् ॥३८॥

dhūmenāvriyate vahnir yathādarśo malena cha
yatholbenāvṛto garbhas tathā tenedam āvṛtam [38]

yathā–As; vahniḥ–fire; āvriyate–is covered; dhūmena–by smoke; yathā–as; ādarśaḥ–a mirror; (āvriyate)–is covered; malena–by dust; (yathā) cha–and as; garbhaḥ–the embryo; āvṛtaḥ–is covered; ulbena–by the womb; tathā–similarly; idam–one’s consciousness; āvṛtam–is covered; tena–by that desire.

“As fire is thinly veiled by smoke, as a mirror is thickly covered with dust, and as the embryo remains completely enclosed within the womb, similarly, this desire covers the consciousness of the living being (in these three degrees of intensity, according to the modes of material nature—goodness, passion, and ignorance respectively).”

Dandabat pranams to all. So we are continuing with chapter three. What is the cause of sinful action? Kama, selfish desire. And here in this verse the varying degrees kama’s intensity is illustrated very nicely.

From Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur’s purport on this verse:
“The example illustrates various degrees of lust: shallow, deep and very deep. The fire, though covered by smoke, still performs its function of burning. Because of the disappearance of its natural clarity, the mirror covered by dust does not carry out its function of reflecting images properly, though it is known as a mirror by its form (in spite of the dust covering it). The fetus covered by the womb cannot perform its functions of stretching it hands and feet. Its true form cannot be understood within that covering. When lust is shallow, it is possible to remember the spiritual goals. When lust is deep, it is not possible. When it is very deep, one becomes unconscious.”

As is mentioned in our edition of Bhagavad-Gita, this can be understood more specifically as kama expressing itself through the material modes of nature, goodness, passion, and ignorance. Sattva-guna, the mode of goodness, in a general sense is most conducive to spiritual cultivation because it encourages purity, discipline, and so on which assist in clarity of consciousness, but ultimately if it is not directed towards Krishna’s interest and in consideration of our eternal, constitutional nature and function as servants of Krishna, it is an obstacle. So acts of charity, austerity, sacrifice and so on will all come under this heading. In raja-guna, the mode of passion, kama is expressed as unending desire for the temporary material enjoyment of this world, greed, unrest, exertion, and so on. In tama-guna, the mode of ignorance, one’s spiritual nature is completely covered over and it may even be to the extent that one behaves in a way that is completely opposite: violence, laziness, intoxication, and depression are all characteristic.

It’s a helpful exercise to try to take a step out of ourselves from time to time and observe these various moods and tendencies playing within and see how they are all due to these modes of nature, and not at all a reflection of the true self. As Krishna later describes a person who has transcended the modes: “Poised in the knowledge that the modes are engaging, he is not distracted by them; he remains unperturbed, unconcerned.” (14.23)

Another point is that we can try to engage these tendencies in service. This is the real devotional approach: not renouncing or rejecting anything, but positively engaging and utilising everything. There is a nice section in Revealed Truth where Srila Gurudev discusses this. Here is an excerpt:
“‘Kāma’ Kṛṣṇa-karmārpaṇe: if you have many desires in your mind, then you can offer the things you desire to Kṛṣṇa before you take them. ‘Krodha’ bhakta-dveṣi jane: if you feel angry, then you can use your anger to check persons who are inauspicious and envious of the devotees. ‘Lobha’ sādhu-saṅge Hari-kathā: you can engage your greed in hearing the glories and Pastimes of the Lord from the sādhus. ‘Mada’ Kṛṣṇa-guṇa-gāne: you can engage your desire for intoxication in madly glorifying the Lord and His devotees. ‘Moha’ iṣṭa-lābha vine: if you have not connected with your worshippable Master, then you can try to realise why that is and can express your hankering in a
bewildered way like Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī.

“Śrīla Narottam Ṭhākur advises us how to engage our internal enemies in Kṛṣṇa’s service. We all have desires that we are suffering from, but if we engage them in the service of Guru, Vaiṣṇava, and Bhagavān with our full energy, then they will be controlled automatically. Everything we struggle with in our life can be good if we use it properly for Kṛṣṇa’s service. This is our hope. When our enemies—lust, anger, greed, and so on—come to us, we can invite them in: “Come here and pay daṇḍavat praṇām to the Deity! You are already coming, so come, and offer yourself to the Deity.””

This is from the same chapter mentioned in the last post, ‘The Transcendental Service World’, chapter 13 of Revealed Truth.

Question: Dear Viśākhā, in the purport you posted yesterday you indicate to engage sinful tendencies in service of the Lord. But when these tendencies are strictly connected to the objects of the senses, how can we detach them in the first place in order to engage them later as indicated? For example, if one uses strength to beat people he then could use that strength to pull the Ratha Yatra ropes. But his sinful tendency apparently cannot be parted from the normal use, in other words he still wants continue to beat people. So if lust is a distorted way to feel love for God, how can one detach his hankering for women first?

Answer: Thank you for your question, and I love your example of pulling the Rathayatra ropes😊.
Actually the answer to this question is in the verses from Srimad Bhagavatam (beginning jato-sraddho mat-kathasu) which were cited in Friday’s post. This principle is not something to be forced upon anyone; rather it is a principle we may try to take advantage of if we have the earnest desire for change ourselves. It is about opening our hearts to the channel of the Lord’s grace and its transformative power. Once we make a conscious shift and begin to sincerely aspire for transformation, then the Lord will bestow his grace upon us and give us the strength to begin to redirect these tendencies in a positive way and eventually fully overcome them. It is not a transformation that will take place overnight; rather time and time again we will find ourselves losing the battle and submitting to our enemies. It will be a gradual process. But ultimate by the Lord’s grace we will become free from them and begin our life of full-fledged divine service.

I recommend you read the full section of the excerpt from Revealed Truth which I cited in the post Friday. It begins on page 246, under the subheader ‘The flow of desire’. You can download a pdf of the full book here if you don’t already have it:

I’m also going to include here a wonderful excerpt of a talk by our Param Gurudev Srila Sridhar Maharaj from Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion, Vol II, where he discusses these important verses quite extensively:
A man should be judged by his ideal. The greatness of the ideal he is trying to realise is to be marked. The man of the future, the man of tomorrow, should be judged by his ideal. If his ideal is great, he is great, because if he is sincere, tomorrow or very soon he will reach it. So our ideal is the all-important factor. We may not attain our high ideal very easily. It is not inferior ‘merchandise’ to be disposed of cheaply in the market; it is most valuable. But whatever the cost, no matter.

We should feel within: “I want no less than that highest thing, that Advaya-jñāna, that Autocrat. That Goodness Autocrat, the Supermost Commander of everything. I want Him, and nothing less, and I should live and move, and feel in myself that whatever I shall do, at every second, I am meant for that. I am meant for my ideal. I have no time to waste, or to hesitate for anything.

“If at every moment I move in every way with the ideal in my heart, I shall always make some progress towards it. If I can just stay in touch with my ideal, that will guide and inspire me. In any and every action, whatever I shall do or undo, eat, rest, etc., my ideal will be overhead. And that will gradually take me out of all these entanglements and enticements, and one day or other I shall be able to reach it.”

jāto-śraddho mat kathāsu, nirviṇṇaḥ sarva-karmasu
veda duḥkhātmakān kāmān parityāge ’py anīśvaraḥ
(Bha: 11.20.27)

“For one who has had the chance to acquire a taste and become attracted to talks of Me, My activity and My movement, no other temptation can any longer hold him under its power. He becomes indifferent to all other activity. The outcome is that he can understand within that all other things bear some unpleasant reaction. Yet, although he can conceive that they are all pain-producing, he is helpless to immediately free himself from their clutches. The debt is already incurred, and his debtors won’t allow him to escape: ‘I am in the midst of so many acquisitions. It is not very easy to leave them at once by my sweet will. Previously I consciously incurred some obligations, and I cannot abruptly cut off their connection; they won’t let me free.”

tato bhajeta māṁ prītaḥ śraddhālur dṛḍha-niśchayaḥ
juṣamāṇaś cha tān kāmān duḥkhodarkāṁś cha garhayan
(Bha: 11.20.28)

“But the sraddha or pure attraction he has acquired for Me is of eternal nature. It cannot be subdued or cut off by any mundane or ordinary attempt. Despite under¬going so many sufferings, he goes on remembering Me. His thinking, aspiration and earnestness is for Me, and the more he is compelled to suffer from the pressure of the environment, a firmness in Me becomes more and more sure, and finally, invulnerable. And by standing the test of all these trials, he will stand—stand and grow beyond the jurisdiction of these mundane forces. The more pressure comes from outside, the more firmness he feels in the necessity of My help to him.

“At that time, he turns his back to all the pains of the world, and he keeps Me in front. He begins to move onward: ‘Whatever happens to me, I can’t complain. It is in my Master’s jurisdiction whether He sees fit for me to undergo these trials or not. But I won’t leave my new ideal – I can’t. Whatever may come, it may happen, never mind.’

“Still, he abuses himself: ‘What have I done? What have I done? It is rather justice that I should be tormented and troubled in such a way! It is not wrong! Really, just dealings have come to be exercised over me. Why should I have committed this wrong? I entered this wrong alliance, entered into the tribe of the goondas for exploitation. The reaction that is coming to me is well and good.’ He blames himself. He does not blame the environment for troubling him, but he sees a concentration camp within. He blames his own self, his own free will and fate. That becomes the nature of his temperament at that time. He does not look to place the fault on the shoulders of others, but he takes the whole burden: ‘Yes, the environment is doing justice to me, the traitor, the ambitious, the oppressor of the environment.’ When he’s in such consciousness, his bhakti yoga or devotional engagement becomes more and more intense. The intensity of his progress accelerates.”

proktena bhakti-yogena bhajato māsakṛn muneḥ
kāmā hṛdayyā naśyanti sarve mayi hṛdi sthite
(Bha: 11.20.29)

“With accelerated motion, his intensity towards Me grows. Then, by My appearance, all his internal and external discrepancies are gradually destroyed and evaporated. When by such an approach he reaches My domain, or rather, I come down, extending My existence to his heart—then everything else disappears.”

bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś chhidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ
kṣīyante chāsya karmāṇi mayi dṛṣṭe ’khilātmani
(Bha: 11.20.30)

Then bhidyate hrdaya granthih: all the ties and entanglements, corners and angles, vanish. Crookedness vanishes. He finds himself in the midst of a straight, plain, graphic, spacious and all embracing temperament. His atmosphere changes. All the ties of so many attractions to various achievements are at once dissolved. They have no necessity in this land.

Lastly, I’d like to additionally mention specifically in regards to the point of ‘redirecting’ that Srila Sridhar Maharaj has also described in a more general sense the nature of the practice of a madhyam (middle) stage devotee to be that every material tendency within them, whether apparently good or bad, will be engaged in connection with the Lord’s service. They may have attraction to and expertise in the field of money, politics, philosophy, diplomacy, farming, speaking, business, photography, cooking, and so on and so forth: these tendencies are really a product of their material conditioning but in connection with the central cause, they will become a means of purification. It is also a type of purging.

I hope this clarifies things for you. Please let me know if you still have doubts on this matter.

Monday 14 January


BG 3.42

इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः ।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्बुद्धेर्यः परतस्तु सः ॥४२॥

indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir buddher yaḥ paratas tu saḥ [42]

(paṇḍitāḥ)–The wise; āhuḥ–say that; indriyāṇi parāṇi–the senses are superior; (viṣayebhyaḥ)–to matter; manaḥ–the mind; param–is superior; indriyebhyaḥ–to the senses; buddhiḥ–the intelligence or faculty of decision; parā–is superior; manasaḥ tu–to the mind, too; yaḥ–and that which; parataḥ–is superior; buddheḥ tu–to even the intelligence; saḥ–is he—the jīva—the soul.

“It is said by the wise that the senses are superior to matter, the mind is superior to the senses, and the intelligence is superior to the mind; and the soul is superior to even the intelligence.”

This is an important and well known verse of Gita which I recommend memorizing if you are memorizing any verses. It’s very helpful for ourselves and I also find it very helpful in preaching. The verse gives us a helpful, systematic method by which we can recognize and transcend the various material elements within us, and find our soul aspect. In the immediate context of Gita, this verse is showing that the enemy of kama, lust or selfish desire, can be conquered by conquering its resting places of the senses, mind and intelligence, in the same way that an enemy can be conquered by conquering its shelter such as a fortress. I like very much the concluding sentence of Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur’s commentary on this verse: “After conquering the senses, mind and intelligence, the jīvātmā (living soul), which is more powerful than all of them, can conquer lust. It is understood that it is not an impossible task.” 😊

Rather than discussing this verse further myself I’d like to share this wonderful explanation by our Param Gurudev from Subjective Evolution of Consciousness:


Soul is nearby. We can try to find out what the soul is if we can eliminate the material elements. This is the process of the Upanisads and it is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur. First we are to understand that our senses are primary. If my senses are removed, the entire world of our experience is nothing to me. Only through my senses can I be aware of the existence of the outside world. Minus senses, eyes, ears, no world is apparent to me.

Then, above the senses is the mind. What is the mind? The mind deals with acceptance and rejection: sankalpa vikalpa. In other words, the mind thinks: “I want this, I don’t want that.” It deals with attachment and hatred. The mind determines who is enemy and who is friend, ‘this is mine, that’s yours’. If we want to understand the mind we have to look within, to enquire within. What is that element in me that seeks friends and avoids enemies? Where is he? Sometimes the mind is apparent; then other times it is hiding. I must find out where the mind exists; of what substance is it composed? By analysis I can understand what aspect of my inner self is the mind.

Then, having some idea of what the mind is, I may analyse that part of me which deals with reason, the intelligence. Where is the intelligence? When the mind demands something, the intelligence says: “Don’t take that, don’t eat that.” By introspection, I may look within and find out: What is that principle in me which reasons? Where is that fine thing? What is its nature, its substance, its existence? We shall try in our introspection to find it out, substantially.

If that is possible, then the next step will take us to the soul. What is that soul which makes possible the intelligence, the reason by which we act, which prompts the mind to want, and also gives our senses the power to connect with things? What is that spark of knowledge? Where is that soul within me? What position does it hold? I want to see it face to face. Then in this way we can evaporate like lightning all the misconceptions of body and mind. By finding the soul through introspection, we may experience the lightning touch of realisation.

At that time, the whole world will be turned in a diametrically different line, and we shall see things differently: “Oh, this material life is undesirable! These senses are enemies in the garb of friends. If I confront them now, they say that I may have an honourable friendship with them, and that without them I can’t live. But it is all a hoax. From a realisation of the soul, from the point of that wonderful knowledge, one may come to see the ocean of knowledge. One may begin to see what is in the subjective area, and hanker for how to come in connection with that divine realm. At that time, the very trend of one’s life will be changed, and a total change will come in our search, and our standard of prospect in life. And our search will take a concrete shape in devotion. In this way, we must begin our search after the higher sphere.