Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. How can you ask me to dance and be happy with Krishna while countless animals are being slaughtered and eaten every day by human society?

A. All those animals along with the humans who are suffering every day are manifestations of God’s energy. They are suffering and will continue to suffer in one form or another until they understand this point – who and what they are. Birds fly, fish swim, people think. The self can do all of these things and more, but not understanding this we suffer, imprisoned within the limitations placed upon us when we misidentify ourselves with matter.

Hunger is not a stomach problem. Feeding hunger will never eliminate the pangs of hunger once and for all. Hunger and all of the suffering of the world are products of misunderstanding. At least some people should be engaged in helping those who are interested in a comprehensive solution to suffering, to overcome the misunderstanding that is at the heart of all misery.

If I pass the hat around and ask for donations for the hungry, and if someone refuses saying the problem lies not in putting money in the hat but in taking money from the corporate elite, has a more comprehensive solution been found? I say to him, ‘The problem will not be solved by political action, because the problem is a spiritual one. Souls have confused themselves with matter.’

Dancing with Krishna involves loving all things, animate and inanimate, and the capacity to love all things involves understanding what they are.

Put your money, your energy here – dancing with Krishna. This dance is not as simplistic as it sounds. It can cure the disease of the heart, ‘hrd rogam,’ and all suffering stems from this – the thirst, the lust for more that obscures the fullness and true bounty of life itself.

Q. How can we realize the existence of God? How can we really know there is life after death?

A. This is all a matter of faith, and faith comes from those who have it. Faith picks up where reasoning leave off. Divine faith is the conviction of saints who are mad for God. Look to them and you will see God for yourself. God brings purity to the world through them, and they can do things that even God cannot. You ask how we can trust in life after death. For the self there is no death. How can you trust in a life that is threatened by death at every moment?

Q. The Hindu guru/disciple relationship seems fundamentally patriarchal and one sided to me. How is it supposed to work?

A. The guru must be spiritually advanced, and he must also know the philosophical and theological theory of the tradition. The guru is a servant of his own guru. The more one considers himself a servant, the more one becomes a guru. The guru’s service involves removing the doubts of the disciple, thereby clearing his path for progressive spiritual practice. He should see the disciple as a representative of his own guru coming before him to engage him in Krishna’s service. The disciple’s faith is venerable in the eyes of the guru. The guru represents the very heart of the disciple appearing before him in the form of his highest prospect in life. He is the disciple’s dear most friend.

The disciple is a servant whose relationship with the guru borders on friendship. He or she should place their faith in the guru, and this must come about naturally. It is not a matter of institutional intimidation or socio-religious pressure. Out of love the disciple should feel that he or she must take shelter of the guru. The sisya should render affectionate service such that the guru considers the disciple one of his own limbs and is thus always concerned for his disciple’s well being.

Q. But isn’t such a relationship rare? And why is there so much canvassing for more disciples?

A. There is no replacement for the association of a genuine sadhu, and genuine sadhus do exist. The importance of finding a proper guru is not diminished by the fact that misrepresentation abounds. Good things can be abused, and the essential guru/disciple principle has no doubt been subject to corruption. A true guru disciple relationship is more the exception than the rule. It is as difficult to find a good disciple as it is to find a proper guru. But this does not mean that canvassing should stop. Indeed, if there is fraud in the market, canvassing should go on more vigorously. However, one who is fit for canvassing should do so primarily by setting a proper example, rather than focusing on the faults of others.

What is most important here is not what is wrong with others, but how to right yourself. The wrongs of others are only as valuable to us as they teach us the right thing indirectly. The right thing is to seek out a sat guru. In order to do that, one must be sat, truthful, with oneself.

Q. I practice astanga yoga. How does Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras relate to Gaudiya Vaisnavism?

A. Patanjali is considered to be a disciple of Vyasa. His Yoga Sutras articulate one the the six darsanas of India. This teaching is different from Vedanta in some ways, but there is considerable overlapping and much of Patanjali’s insight is found in the Gita and the Bhagavatam. Since you are practicing ‘yoga-misra-bhakti’ as described in the eighth chapter of the Gita, you might find the book ‘Prema Pradipa’ by Bhaktivinoda Thakura interesting as it deals with this subject.

Q. In a recent Sanga you mentioned that Sankaracarya was an incarnation of Lord Siva. Why would a great personality like Siva preach mayavada impersonalism?

A. The standard response to this question is that Lord Siva was commissioned to do so by Visnu for the purpose of reestablishing the pramana of the Vedas at a time when Buddhism had taken precedence over Hinduism in India. The idea is that Sankara’s doctrine of Advaita is similar to Buddhism in that Buddhists are concerned with prakrti nirvana and Advaitins with brahma nirvana. This similarity in doctrine made it possible for Buddhists to identify with the Vedic sastra pramana.

The doctrine of Advaita establishes its premise on the basis of Vedic sastra pramana, whereas the Buddhists’ pramana is logic. From not accepting the Vedic praman to accepting it is considered progress, because in terms of a Krishna conscious ultimate reality, revelation is all in all and logic is limited at best.

Now if we have accepted the sastra as pramana, the discussion turns to what the sastra actually says. Then we will find that Sankara has not explained Vyasa clearly but has given his own interpretation as if, in the words of Mahaprabhu, to call Vyasa crazy, “Vyasa bhranta.” Thus from Advaita Vedanta we come to Vaisnava Vedanta.

Q. The tendency to think that one’s conception of God is superior to everyone else’s, could that be a mundane reflection of the way each gopi in rasa-lila thought the Lord was hers alone?

A. Theologically speaking from the vantage point of Gaudiya Vaisnavism your idea is not entirely accurate, but in a general sense we can say that the varieties and different degrees of divine inspiration share common ground. By its very nature, love seeks to share itself, but finds that it is a private affair.

Q. How do you know if your guru really loves you?

A. If you really love your guru, you should feel that he or she really loves you. Feeling is knowing.

Q. Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 22.106, says, “The spiritual activities of hearing, chanting, remembering and so forth are the natural characteristics of devotional service. The marginal characteristic is that it awakens pure love for Krishna.” Why is the awakening of prema considered a marginal characteristic of sadhana bhakti while its primary characteristic is apparently ‘lower’ than prema?

A. The svarupa laksana of bhakti is its intrinsic nature. At its heart, bhakti involves service – hearing and chanting. Whatever is derived from this service is the tatastha laksana of bhakti, its marginal characteristic. Hearing and chanting, etc. awakens prema, and when prema is awakened, hearing and chanting continues. Hearing and chanting about Krishna is not lower than prema. It is to be performed for the pleasure of Radha Krishna as an act of love. It is the expression of love.

Q. The Gita states that upon returning to the spiritual world there is no going back to this world. Why then were the gate keepers, Jaya and Vijaya, cursed to return to earth from Vaikuntha after offending the Kumaras?

A. Jaya and Vijya did not offend the Kumaras – the Kumaras offended them. The Kumaras were jnanis and thus prone to anger. They were at the gates of Vaikuntha only, not in Vaikuntha proper. They did not understand the position of the Vaikuntha people, their partiality. When Narayana vouched for the gatekeepers by indicating that whatever they did he took responsibility for, the Kumaras realized that they themselves were the offenders. They experienced the spiritual partiality that fuels Vaikuntha and transcends the basic impartiality that characterizes spiritual life in general. Narayana’s response to their anger teaches us how we should react to criticism. Jaya and Vijaya did not fall from Vaikuntha.

Their descent serves to underscore the position of a devotee, his true glory, in comparison to that of a jnani. Jnanis are preoccupied with liberation and purity, but devotees are concerned with serving Krishna, even if this means appearing impure and remaining in the material world.

Leave a Reply

* Name, Email, and Comment are Required

Subscribe without commenting