All will be in vain
The following is a transcription of a discourse delivered by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Oahu, Hawaii, on January 19, 2002.
All glories to Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja. I know that he has collected you all and brought you here, and as far as I am concerned, he has dragged me here. All glories to him. Only glorifying will not do, however. We’ll have to follow his instructions. It is not enough to say, “All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda.” You have to follow his deep instructions in your life, and then the fruit will come. Otherwise, where you were before, you will remain, and there will be no advancement.
‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’ — sarva-śāstre kaya
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya
“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.54)
If you have a little śraddhā (faith), or even if you have niṣṭha (firm faith), or even ruci (taste), if you have no sādhu-saṅga, no high-class association, you will lose whatever you have. Even if you have attained the stage of ruci, if that ruci has not matured, there will be some doubt. Again, so many offences and unwanted mentalities and habits will attack you, as they attacked Bharata Mahārāja and others. I know that you are not at the stage of Bharata Mahārāja or anyone of his calibre. Whether or not you have even achieved niṣṭha, you can judge yourself by keeping your hands on your heart and asking your heart. Although you have not attained niṣṭha, still I am discussing with you the topics concerning our aim and how we can achieve it. If you are not in the correct process, even if you think you have so much love and affection, if your feelings and activities are not approved by śāstra, then all is in vain.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja:
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
[“Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Nārada-pañcarātra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.”]
Śruti means Veda, and smṛti means smṛti-śāstras (corollaries of the Vedas) like Manu-smṛti. Pañcarātra means Nārada-pañcarātra. The great sages have explained in their books about the goal and process to achieve it. Without the approval of these śāstras, and the proper process, if you do something by your uncontrolled mind and you think, “This is the best process. I have discovered it by myself, and by this process I can achieve kṛṣṇa-prema,” your actions will go in vain and they will also create chaos in your mind. The day will come when you will give up all spiritual practices.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: As much as your bhakti increases, humility will come and you will think, “I’m very low.” If your bhakti has not increased, then only false ego will act. If bhakti is gradually developing, then your humility, as told in ślokas like ‘tṛṇād api sunīcena,’ will gradually manifest. You will realize, “I have nothing. I have no power. I do not have bhakti.” At that time you will be able to realize how insignificant you are. Śrīmatī Rādhikā thinks in this way. She says, “I do not have even a scent of prema for Kṛṣṇa. I have not served Him. I have not even seen Him.” Only She can speak like this, as this is the symptom of mahābhāva. It is very high. You should realize that you are nothing. You are a particle, and that particle can be covered at any time by māyā. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura therefore says in his Śrī Bhajana-rahasya that even if you have received niṣṭha, you should hear from high-class devotees.
There are two kinds of bhāgavatas. One is the transcendental book bhāgavata, which Vyāsa received in his trance, and in which all kinds of very powerful and sweet pastimes of Kṛṣṇa have been given. It is under lock and key, however. It can be only opened by the highest class of bhakta-bhāgavata. These devotees have the key. Any ordinary bhakta, anyone who is in a stage lower than rati, cannot unlock it. Only one who has received śuddha-sattva from an eternal parikara (associate) of Kṛṣṇa, like Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī and all the Ṣaḍ-Gosvāmīs, Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, and others up to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Prabhupāda, can open the lock.
Don’t lose the fortune to hear from superiors. Even if your whole business goes down, there is no harm. Even if you lose your job in a government department, that is not a loss. On the other hand, if you lose your opportunity for sādhu-saṅga, that is a great loss. I know so many devotees here, especially from India, who don’t avail themselves of sādhu-saṅga. They have come to the West to make money. Their money is more important to them than bhakti. On the other hand, you have left all these things and you have come here to hear. You are most fortunate. Continue in this way.
To lose any worldly thing is not really a loss, but to lose this opportunity is very unfortunate. Sometimes, if your friend or relative is a Māyāvādī, karmī, yogī, or jñānī, you try to please him because he is your friend. Don’t associate with such people, even if they are your friends or relatives; otherwise, you will become a Māyāvādī. Don’t associate with Māyāvādīs, and especially don’t associate with lusty persons and friends of lusty persons. If you want to make advancement, then make friends with a devotee who is superior to you in bhakti, who has love and affection for you, and who is svajātīya, like-minded. ‘Like-minded’ refers to one who is like-minded for paramārtha (transcendental life), not for worldly things. He should be an ocean of the type of prema for which you aspire. By hearing from him, you develop increased steadiness in bhakti, and you also develop all the stages beyond that.
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Unless indicated differently, all verse translations and quotes are from the books by Śrīla Prabhupāda (Vedabase.com)