Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Here in Vrindavana it is such a special place that even the inhabitants of Goloka want to come here. They are just waiting, passing their time for the prakata lila again to manifest so they can participate. A bit of an exaggeration perhaps. Of course lila is perpetually going on but they have a liking for the special sweetness of Vrindavana.

Krishna lila is like a drama and everyone has a different part. If they play it very nicely then everyone is pleased whether they have an apparently inimical role like Jatila or not. It is all in a drama. If we look very deeply within that we will find they all have the same thing in mind—pleasing Krishna.

But when that lila comes to earth that drama is called nara lila. It is like when a film is shot on location that is considered to be special, they put it on the billing, ‘filmed on location’. Rather than in an artificial setting in a studio, they actually go to the real place and film it there.

So this human-like lila, this lila of Krishna, is the absolute’s love life. Love is a fallen condition thus it is a human condition. This human life, which is full of ups and downs by its very nature, is the plane for loving actually. We say that humans are differentiated from the animals by their capacity for reasoning but really it is more because they have the capacity to love. This is really what human life is about, and this is what Krishna’s appearance in the prakata lila is saying to human society.

Someone challenged the other day that perhaps this Krishna conception of Godhead is merely the human experience projected onto the divine, anthropomorphism to the extreme. I replied, “What other experience do we have but the human experience?” This is what Gaudiya Vaisnavism is all about. It is a confirmation of the validity and value of the human experience. No tradition gives more value to the human experience than Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Although it may appear to be world-denying, with an emphasis on renunciation and so forth, but if we look deeply within Gaudiya Vaisnavism we will see it is not about renouncing the world at all but about embracing the world: nirbanda krishna sambandhe, yukta vairagya muchate.

Krishna has come to human society to say that this turbulent life of love that makes the human world go ’round; this is what I am all about. Just adjust it a little bit. I am the center of that, I am the cause of that, I am the source of love. Krishna comes to human society and performs his eternal drama, ‘on location’ and it becomes more charming, more endearing, and more sweet.

We have come to this place, Vrindavana, where that drama takes place repeatedly, invisible to us in another type of aprakata lila and sometimes it actually manifests. We are fortunate. We should try to take advantage of that. We are told we should see with our ears. If we hear from the right person, the proper source, repeatedly, our hearts will start to change.

And spiritual life is all about changing. But we are so stubborn; we don’t want to change. We sit in some discomfort and measure that discomfort against the effort it will take to get up and move and we so often settle for the discomfort. We are not satisfied, we are suffering, but we think of the effort it will take to change and conclude, “I would rather suffer.” But if we make that little effort in good company, then we get the experience, “Oh, this is better.” That is why we have to stay in good company.

Vrindavana has so many sacred places and we should go there and take advantage of them. But the extent to which we can take advantage, what we can see, is somewhat limited. That is why it is recommended throughout the sacred literatures that we should hear from sadhus in those sacred places in order to take advantage of what is really going on there. To that extent, Narottoma has said going to the holy places, touring around, is just a waste of time. That we shouldn’t do.

We should have a healthy fear in our spiritual life. Not a fear that is inappropriate or makes us dysfunctional, but a healthy fear. A healthy fear means I am afraid that what I am doing, no one of any consequence—guru or Vaisnava—is concerned about it, that it is not connected with them in some way. This should be our healthy fear. If we have that fear and we express it, then guru will find a way to connect all of our activities, however far-reaching they may be, to the service of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and give them meaning so that they afford us some real life and standing in the real world.

So we are very fortunate to be here in Vrindavana and what we will see here will depend on how well we hear and who we hear it from. We should not go anywhere and everywhere to hear from every shopkeeper about Krishna. We should hear from our guru parampara, the Gaudiya Saraswat sampradaya, from Bhaktivinoda Thakura through Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. This is the sampradaya that has made Vrindavana famous all over the world.

The founders of the Gaudiya sampradaya, Sri Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva Goswamis made Vrindavana known to the world several hundred years ago. The dhama had become obscured by the influence of time and the lila stalis were unknown to most people. Even the very location of Vrindavana, although discussed in the scriptures, was not accepted by everyone. The Madhva sampradaya said that Mathura was in South India, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu came here to Vrindavana and commissioned the Goswamis to excavate the places of Krishna lila. The result of their work was that in their time every respectable Hindu king had to have a temple in Vrindavana.

Such was the work of the Goswamis. They took Gaudiya Vaisnavism and explained it, revealed it and discussed it in such a way that it captured the minds of the elite of society—the kings, poets, and thinkers. Gaudiya Vaisnavism is such a high ideal, so beautiful and charming. The only thing that stops it from capturing the minds of the leaders of society, those on the cutting edge who set the trends and fashions, the only thing that stops it is the presentation.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura said, “He who has life, that person can preach.” Life means you can bring it to life, give it meaning and relevance according to time and circumstance. That is what the Goswamis did, making Vrindavana such a popular, well known, and respectable place. That is what Bhaktivinoda Thakura did in his time. His main instrument for furthering that was Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada and through him, the Gaudiya Math and his disciples like our Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, Sridhara Maharaja, and others.

That matter of presentation was very relevant in Srila Prabhupada’s time. The people who first joined Prabhupada’s mission in America were mostly from the Beat Generation, artists and intellectuals from the bohemian counterculture. They were drawn to Prabhupada when he started his movement in Greenwich Village, the famous cultural center of the Beat Generation. The ideas and attitudes of that generation were to shape America and the whole world and Srila Prabhupada, by his purity and by the application of his spiritual intellect, was able to make a presentation that captured the minds of so many young, thoughtful people of that time. Sometimes, of course, Prabhupada described them otherwise, and appropriately so, according to certain standards. But the fact is that they were a generation of thoughtful, idealistic people who rejected society’s values, left their families and opposed the war for good and thoughtful reasons.

This is the dynamic lineage of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is what the Goswamis were doing. And who is doing this now, today, who has this kind of life? We should find out and be connected with it. Preaching requires some life. So while in Vrindavana we should stay close to our Gaudiya Saraswat sampradaya as it is coming from Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Also, we have to look to see where is the life within the sampradaya if we want to be a follower of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. He was not shy of critiquing his own tradition. We too should not shy away from that.

There is the famous story when Saraswati Thakura made a diorama showing a smarta brahmana using a salagram as a nutcracker. In the diorama, a brahmana had a stone salagram and was using it to break open nuts—the implication being that he was worshipping the deity externally but in his heart was simply making a living. He had made an occupation out of the seva puja for material sustenance rather than living on the spiritual plane. It was taken to court and the smartas challenged that Saraswati Thakura could not display this diorama. The judge was favorable to the Thakura but the smartas made the point that Gaudiya Vaisnavas are also “making a living” in most places. Saraswati Thakura agreed, “So put Gaudiya tilaka on the brahmana in the diorama.”

In this way Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura came to be seen as the enemy of many so-called Gaudiya Vaisnavas. But he had real life for preaching and we should note that preaching requires this kind of life. Preaching requires some adhikari (spiritual qualification) to do it right, to bring the tradition to life. So this kind of connection to Gaudiya Vaisnavism is what we want.

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