Found in Sanga, Sanga 2000.

Q. It is said in Nectar of Instruction, “The essence of all advice is to utilize one’s full time in nicely chanting and remembering the transcendental name, fame, form, pastimes and activities of the Supreme Lord.” Some say that we don’t necessarily have to remember Krishna while doing our service but more that we do it expertly and thus bring glory to Krishna: “Just see he is a devotee that’s why he is doing well.”

A. The advice you have cited from Upadesamrta comes at the end of this book. It refers to raganuga bhakti cultivated in the Dhama by combining smaranam with kirtanam. When one is sufficiently purified through service, one can sit and chant without distraction, remembering the lila’s of Radha-Krishna 24 hours a day while chanting the holy name.

We should try to do this ourselves, but unless our senses are controlled, as discussed in the first verse of Upadesamrta, we will not have much success. Better we sit and chant for some time daily as prescribed by Sri Guru and busy ourselves with Krishna’s work, offering puja, planting Tulasi, apprenticeship preaching, etc., throughout our waking hours. This will gradually purify our hearts.

If we are not in a position to do this, we should try to offer the fruit of our labor to Guru and Krishna. Through this we will gradually lose interest in work other than Krishna’s. Gradually the influence of karma and jnana (desire for material gain and liberation) will disappear from our hearts, and we will be situated in suddha bhakti.

It is not correct to interpret Rupa Goswami’s advice you have cited such that it is considered synonymous with doing one’s prescribed duty expertly. This is not kirtana. Even if we do it expertly, if it is not offered to God, it is useless (srama eva hi kevalam).

If it is executed imperfectly but sincerely offered to God, it is perfect to the extent that he is pleased by it (samsiddhir hari tosanam). This is only the beginning stage of spiritual life, from which a liking for Hari katha must come in order that it be considered progressive.

Although it is true that many great devotees follow Sri Rupa’s advice and spend their time in nama bhajana, there are also other great devotees who spend their time in sankirtana. This is not contradictory to Rupa Goswami’s advice. From sitting down in spiritual maturity to chant constantly and remember Krishna lila, Bhaktisidhanta Saraswati Thakura got up to preach in sankirtana.

Santana Goswami teaches: taddhi tat tad vrajakrida dhyana gana pradhanaya bhaktya sampadyate prestha-nama-sankirtanojjvalam (Br. Bhag. 2.5.218)

In his commentary on this verse, Sanatana Prabhu informs that there is no activity higher than sankirtana, either in practice or prema. Indeed, sankirtana represents the very nature of prema itself when it involves the names of Krishna that are most dear to one in terms of one’s ruci and rati. One such as Saraswati Sri carries the dhama in his heart, and his sankirtana constantly energizes his smaranam of Krishna lila.

However, as sitting in the dhama doing nama bhajana and smaranam, following rather than imitating the inhabitants of Vraja is not for neophytes, the preaching of great souls cannot be imitated either. The essence of my advice is that one should understand his or her actual position on the religious/spiritual ladder and approach the highest ideal of Sri Rupa practically from there.

Q. I am a new devotee. I like keeping a shaven head and put on Vaisnava tilak even in the office where I work. People in general are not enthused looking at me. Some, including the bosses, feel offended. Is this right?

A. Our devotional life should be based on an understanding of the essential ideal of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. This ideal can be approached from either a monastic or congregational context. Generally, the monks shave their heads, wear robes, and adopt other external trappings that identify them as monastics.

In today’s world, especially in the West, congregational practitioners who work and care for a family should not dress as monks. Our faith should be something that overflows in terms of our everyday dealings with others, through which they are compelled to inquire about it with genuine interest. All living beings are dear to Krishna. The kaustubha mani (jewel) he wears on his chest represents all souls, all of whom he holds close to his heart.

As far as possible we should not alienate people from Krishna by our attempts to cultivate devotion to Krishna. We should endear ourselves to all beings, not so much through directly teaching them the tenants of devotional life that they are not yet ready to hear about, rather by the way in which we deal with all things, even those incidental and the so called mundane.

Q. I have heard it said that Suta Goswami was present at the discourse of Srimad Bhagavatam given by Sukadeva Goswami to Maharaja Pariksit. At the same time, the Srimad Bhagavatam itself records the presence of Suta Goswami at Naimasaranya during Lord Balarama’s conspicuous absence from the battlefield of Kuruksetra, before Maharaja Pariksit was born. I read where he was given a special benediction by the Lord such that he would not have to leave the vyasasana for the duration of the recital.

A. Upon receiving the news that Maharaja Pariksit, the emperor, was going to fast until death, everyone came to see him and offer advice. Suta Goswami was among those who came. When Sukadeva appeared, everyone acknowledged his spirituality and heard what he had to say to the king. This was a special event. It does not mean that Sukadeva replaced Suta Goswami as the person in charge of the puranas and itihasas. Thus after Sukadeva spoke, Suta Goswami continued his work and also spoke on the Bhagavata.

Q. Re: SB 1.1.2, dharamah projita kaitavatro pramao nirmatsranam satam. Why is Sri Vyasadeva describing himself as “Maha Muni”? Although he is actually Maha Muni, isn’t it expected that he would take a much humbler position? Also, if Srila Vyasadeva is narrating the Bhagavatam, which was discussed in the assembly of sages at Naimisaranya, how he could have written it? Like in SB 1.1.4, Srila Vyasadeva is telling, “Once upon a time all the great sages assembled in the forest at Naimisaranya….” In this verse he is taking the position of narrator, there is no “vyasa uvacah.” Was the Bhagavatam written by Srila Vyasadeva or some of his students, like they have written other Vedas (as described in the fourth chapter), though Srila Vyasadeva spoke it to Sukadeva Goswami.

A. Although Vyasa is the compiler of the Bhagavata, it is likely the work of others as well. This opinion is acceptable to Bhaktivinoda Thakura. However, all writers/editors involved bear the stamp of Vyasa, for they worked exclusively under his inspiration, and were thus empowered by God. Technically speaking, anyone who writes in this way is a Vyasa. Maha Muni Vyasa is Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa. It is possible that the introductory verse you refer to, which is the vastu nirdesa verse of the Bhagavata, was written by someone other than Krishna Dvaipayana. Otherwise, you are correct that the author’s mention of himself in the mangalacarana, if present at all, is typically self-deprecating and humble.

Q. In the Bhagavata Purana it is clear that the gopis were the wives of others, but this did not deter Rupa and Jiva Goswamis from trying to prove that the opposite was the case. Their argument is primarily theological and revolves around the idea that as the gopis and Radha are really manifestations of Krishna’s svarupa-sakti, they are svakiya, not parakiya, to him. However, the parakiya doctrine eventually won-out. Comment?

A. The siddhanta (tattva) is that Radha and Krishna are svakiya. All belongs to Krishna. He is advaya jnana tattva and the husband of the gopis’ husbands. However, the illusion (yogamaya) of parakiya increases the taste of rasa. Krishna is Rasaraja, and thus takes greater pleasure in parakiya bhava. Because this “illusion” gives pleasure to Krishna, it is the highest form of dharma, for the standard of dharma is that by which Hari is pleased, samsiddhir hari tosanam. Dharma is truth, satyam eva jayate.

May the parakiya of Radha-Krishna triumph over all!

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