Essential Principles ‘‘Vaiṣṇava etiquette’’ part III

Hare Krishna dear readers,

By the mercy of Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga we are discussing some more important principles or Vaiṣṇava etiquettes that will helps us perform our spiritual activities perfectly.

10. When Gurudeva instructs us to do sevā, and if we are lazy to do the sevā or even if we are performing that sevā as a big burden or not performing the sevā with love and affection- that is an offense. When we engage others rather than performing ourselves is also an offense. In any condition, we cannot disobey the instruction of our Gurudeva. We cannot twist, we cannot add and we cannot deny the instruction, rather we have to execute the instruction as it is.

In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [4.8.71] Śrīla Prabhupāda mentions in the purport: ‘‘If we want to be successful in our attempt to go back to Godhead, we must very seriously act according to the instruction of the spiritual master. That is the way of perfection. There need be no anxiety over attaining perfection because if one follows the instruction given by the spiritual master he is sure to attain perfection. Our only concern should be how to execute the order of the spiritual master.’’

Due to our conditional nature it is very difficult to follow Guru’s order. Sometimes the Guru’s order looks contradictory to the Vedic rules; still we have to consult a higher personality who can guide us. One example is how Śrīmān Caitanya Mahāprabhu asked Śrīla Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā 10.143]: ‘‘As such, it is not befitting that the Guru's servant should engage in My personal service. Yet My spiritual master has given this order. What shall I do?’’ In answer Śrīla Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya said: ‘‘The order of the spiritual master is very strong and cannot be disobeyed. That is the injunction of the śāstras, the revealed scriptures.’’

Within the three modes of material nature we are acting or performing activities. Our ideas or plans comes from the mind, but in the case of a pure devotee, his ideas or plans comes from Kṛṣṇa directly. Our mind and intelligence are both separate from the desire of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, we are conditioned. However, in case of a pure devotee, Kṛṣṇa captures his mind. The mind is not working separately. Kṛṣṇa creates the willingness, feelings, desires and all the activities of the mind. Therefore, we have to follow the Guru’s order as it is.

In the purport of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [7.4.37], Śrīla Prabhupāda mentions: ‘‘It is sometimes said that when one is influenced by evil stars like Saturn, Rāhu or Ketu, he cannot make advancement in any prospective activity. In just the opposite way, Prahlāda Mahārāja was influenced by Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme planet, and thus he could not think of the material world and live without Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is the sign of a mahā-bhāgavata.’’
Above purport indicates that everything, like the mind, senses and intelligence of pure devotees, works under the willpower of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, we have to serve the Guru with the body, mind, and speech and accept the orders or instructions of the Guru as absolute.

11. Outwardly as a matter of etiquette, we are worshiping or glorifying a pure devotee, but inside, within our heart, we are not realising his position. We do not have a natural affection and respect for a pure devotee, as a result we gradually develop an envious mentality towards the pure devotee. At last, we will lose our bhakti-vṛtti. When we do not have an opportunity to glorify a pure devotee publicly, we should honour his transcendental qualities in our heart to prevent us from developing an envious mentality towards him. Enviousness towards a pure devotee means spiritual suicide. Therefore, we should glorify or remember the divine qualities of a pure devotee in front of him without duplicity or for our own reputation. This is favourable for our bhakti. No one is able to glorify Kṛṣṇa without glorifying His devotees. Is it possible to glorify Kṛṣṇa without Draupadī, Sudāmā, Arjuna, and the gopīs? All glories of the Lord is manifested when the Lord performs His līlā with His devotees. If we dishonour the devotees of the Lord, how is it possible to please Kṛṣṇa?

12. Earning money by performing harināma-saṅkīrtana or by speaking bhāgavata-kathā and utilising that money for the maintenance of your own family is offensive. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Mahārāja said, don’t hear kṛṣṇa-kathā or kṛṣṇa-kīrtana from so called Vaiṣṇavas. They are kīrtana-vyavasāyī (businessman), kathā-vyavasāyī. If someone develops eagerness to hear kīrtana or kathā from such a person, it is nothing more than pleasure for the senses. This is called karna-lāmpaṭya. Gurudeva used to say such type of kīrtana or kathā is known as blank fire. That means by such type of hearing we cannot wipe out our anarthas, rather we will accumulate more subtle anarthas. We are hearing and chanting, but inside the subtle anarthas are increasing gradually. Śabda-brahma descends only through a pure devotee, which helps us to wipe out our anarthas.

13. Another important and essential etiquette is that we should be satisfied with whatever we achieve for our maintenance with the blessings of Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga. For the favour of our kṛṣṇa-bhajana one should not try to accumulate more material objects. When someone is always engaged in accumulating material objects, he will never be in a position to perform pure devotional service. Śrīla Prabhupāda always puts stress on ‘simple living, high thinking’. When our lifestyle is simple, we can cultivate bhakti nicely. We can save time to perform more activities that are spiritual. Why does Kṛṣṇa like Vṛndāvana?  Because the vrajavāsī lifestyle was very simple, they were taking care of the cows, cooking in cow dung, and using water of the river Yamunā. Their heart is always absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. A devotee life should be simple, simple living, simple mind and simple thoughts. Therefore, a simple devotee have unflinching faith towards Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga. Gurudeva used to say: ‘‘be simple like a child.’’ That means childlike simplicity. Without simplicity, there is no entryway towards bhakti. Material life means complexity, and a spiritual life means simplicity.

14. We always have to continue our spirit to perform devotional service. Many obstacles will come, still we always have to be hopeful. For instance, how a karmī is facing many problems, they are continuing their spirit to enjoy more.

15. We must have unflinching faith towards the devotional path; we have to increase our tolerance power. Gurudeva used to say: ‘‘if you want to be a real devotee of the Lord, then you have to tolerate like a stone.’’ For that matter we should not be hopeless in any condition, rather always be hopeful that Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga will accept my service, and shower their mercy towards me so that my life will become successful.

16. We should always engage ourselves in śravaṇa and kīrtana for the pleasure of Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga and give up our material happiness.

17. We should not associate with non-devotees.

18. We should follow the path and the etiquette adopted by mahājanas and always aspire to receive mercy from Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga.

19. We should not associate with a person who has separate desires than to please Śrī Guru and Śrī Gaurāṅga. We should not stay alone; rather we should always seek the association of a pure devotee, because the material mind is never alone, it always has thousands of dreams.

20. We should not imitate an ācārya; rather we have to seek their causeless mercy so that we can continue our spiritual life. Imitation means falling down from the natural position.

In summary, we may say if we constantly associate with a pure devotee, by his association, by serving him and also by hearing from him we develop all good qualities. This will be our asset for our spiritual life.

There are many more Vaiṣṇava etiquettes that can helps us perform our spiritual activities perfectly, but this is the last article of the series of Vaiṣṇava etiquettes. In the next article we will discuss a different topic.

Your servant and well-wisher,
Haladhara swami

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