Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. Although I am regularly chanting the holy name I haven’t developed any love for Radha Krishna. Because of this I am often attracted to material things and become bewildered.

A. It is natural in the early stages that those on the path of bhakti may get distracted by material desires. One should strive by right means to control and overcome these desires, dovetailing and ultimately transcending them. This is what yoga is all about.

As we advance our conditioning becomes more apparent. Then we must deal with it appropriately, especially by taking steps to retire habits and thoughts that are not conducive to progress. This is what saranagati (surrender) means for the neophyte: retiring that which is unfavorable and accepting that which is favorable for spiritual progress. The drama of bhakti is performed on the stage of saranagati. So this foundation must be in place.

Service to Radha Krishna should be focused on service to Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas, who have come to tell us about this service and represent them. Try to always stay in good company. Nothing will be more conducive to spiritual progress.

Q. In this month’s Audarya Darshan you wrote, “We are to be in the world, but never of it. The only thing we can change in life is our orientation to it.” What do you mean?

A. We (being consciousness) are to be in the world but should not think ourselves to be of it (matter). We should not be ruled by matter, but rather by God. We should move in the world knowing that matter also belongs to God, and thus not objectify people and things thinking them to be ours to do with as we like.

Krishna says it this way in the Gita, “One who works without attachment ascribing his actions to God is not tainted by evil, just as a lotus leaf while in the water is not touched by it.”

Q. I am 62 years old and have struggled with Krishna consciousness for many years and failed mostly. What is the best way for this soul to make some progress?

A. Find a sadhu who inspires you and live in his association.

Q. I read in Gaura-lila where Caitanya Mahaprabhu, upon seeing Lord Nityananda naked, told those present to take a piece of Nityananda’s kaupina (loin cloth), put it on their heads and worship it with care. How does one worship Nityananda’s kaupina? If I know this will I not surely get the mercy of Lord Nityanada?

A. You can wear the cloth as an armlet or neck band. However, please don’t think that by doing this you can forego important devotional practices, saranagati, and so on and still make spiritual progress. If you have such faith in Nityananda Prabhu and what Mahaprabhu said about him, you should act in such a way that you will endear yourself to them. Mahaprabhu said these kinds of things about Nitai in order to bring attention to his spiritual stature. The natural result of understanding the significance of Nityananda Prabhu’s appearance is taking shelter of his precepts.

Don’t think that Mahaprabhu said ‘wear the kaupina of Nitai and you will conquer over lust’ for any other reason than to draw attention to the greatness of Nitai and thus all that he stands for. His statement is not to be taken as a magical short cut to spiritual life. However sincere your intentions may be, please don’t delude yourself, especially not in the name of Gaura and Nityananda.

Q. I have a bramachari friend in Rishikesha, India who wants to know if you have an ashrama there. He would like to meet you.

A. I do not have an ashram in Rishikesha, but I warmly invite your friend to visit me here at Audarya, which in many ways reminds me of Rishikesha.

Q. I’ve never been able to follow the spiritual path very well. Is there hope for me? How can a person in the grihasta ashram (householder) pursue the spiritual life that was so easy in the monastic ashram (brahmacari)? I fear I may lose whatever spiritual gain I’ve made in this life.

A. The key to remaining enthusiastic in any ashram is association with advanced devotees and service under their guidance. According to Bhagavad-gita, one’s progress in spiritual life is never lost, and if one is unsuccessful, he or she will pick up where they left of in the next life.

The followng are some excerpts from chapter six of my new Gita commentary which I hope sheds some light on your question.

Chapter Six, Verses 37-39

“Arjuna said: O Krishna, what destination befalls one who, although possessed of faith, is nevertheless uncontrolled? What happens to one whose mind has fallen away from yoga practice without having achieved perfection? O mighty-armed, is he not lost in his pursuit of transcendence like a riven cloud with no solid footing in either world? These are my doubts, O Krishna! Please cut through them, for other than you, no one is capable of destroying them completely.” Bg 6.37-39

Comment:

Arjuna’s question is thoughtful. Should a person leave the karma-marga, he will not attain heaven or material success in the next life. That is _ne if in doing so he embraces yoga in pursuit of liberation. However, should he be unsuccessful in yoga practice, what will his position be then? It would seem that he attains neither heaven nor liberation, neither material nor spiritual perfection.

Arjuna has implicit faith in Krishna, and his holy name and its efficacy. Here he addresses his friend as Krishna and implies that all success in yoga can be achieved by invoking the name of Krishna, the most complete nomenclature for the Absolute. Krishna responds to Arjuna’s sincere inquiry with great affection.

Verse 40

“The Lord of Sri said: O son of Partha, neither here in this world nor in the next is he vanquished. Anyone who is sincere, my dear friend, walks not the road of misfortune.” Bg. 6.40

Comment:

Here the all-compassionate Krishna replies, his heart going out to Arjuna and all of his devotees. His assurance is that “sincerity is invincible,” ‘na hi kalyana-krt kascid durgatim tata gacchati.’ Anyone who does good is never overcome by evil. With this assurance one should practice yoga, difficult though it may be. The use of the word ‘tata’ indicates great affection on the part of Krishna, who speaks here as fatherly guru to his son-like disciple. Although Krishna’s words are relevant for yoga practitioners in general, this verse is intended for his devotees in particular.

Verses 41-42

“He who has fallen from the path of yoga attains heaven and dwells there for what seems an eternity. Then he is born again in a pious or aristocratic family. Or he may be born directly into a family of wise transcendentalists. Rare is such a birth in this world.” Bg. 6.41-42

Comment:

Contrary to Arjuna’s thinking, Krishna reveals that the unsuccessful yogi attains both material happiness and eventually liberation. Here we are reminded of Krishna’s _rst instruction on the nature of yoga-dharma found in chapter two, verse forty, wherein he taught that efforts on the path of yoga never go in vain. The immature yogi or devotee attains material heaven where he is free to enjoy without karmic repercussion that sense pleasure that distracted him from his practice.

This, however, does not include distractions that lead the practitioner off the path – deviations from pious, scripturally regulated life. It refers to distractions such as the desire to visit heaven itself. When the neophyte yogi has exhausted this propensity, he again takes birth on earth in a family that provides him the economic freedom or pious situation from which to pick up where he left off in his spiritual practice.

The advanced yogi referred to in verse forty-two who falls from his practice need not go to heaven to exhaust his enjoying propensity. He takes birth directly in a family that is involved in yoga practice, receiving instruction in yoga from his very birth. Both the mature and immature yogis are assisted by efforts spent on the spiritual path, as the yogic tendency again asserts itself in their life. Krishna af_rms this in the following verses.

Verses 43-46

“Thereupon he regains the yogic intelligence cultivated in his previous life and once again strives for perfection, O son of Kuru. Due to his prior practice, he is carried along spontaneously. Even one who merely inquires about yoga transcends the ritualistic recitation of the Vedas. In this way, by persevering and restraining his mind, the yogi, completely cleansed of all evil tendencies and perfected through many births, _nally attains the supreme goal. The yogi is superior to the ascetic, superior to the jnani, and superior to the ritualist as well. Therefore, Arjuna, be a yogi!” Bg. 6.43-46

Comment:

Here Krishna summarizes his teaching thus far: “Become a yogi, Arjuna.” He addresses his disciple as Arjuna, indicating his purity. In the concluding verse of this chapter, Krishna tells Arjuna that of all types of yogis, his devotee is the best.

Verse 47

“Of all yogis, he who abides in me with full faith, worshipping me in devotion, is most intimately united with me and considered the best of all.” Bg. 6.47

Comment:

After the considerable discussion of yoga that began in the second chapter (Bg. 2.39), Krishna concludes his yoga discourse with this verse. Here he places his devotees on the highest rung of the ladder of yoga. Devotion to Krishna is the last word on yoga. Krishna indicated this throughout the _rst six chapters and at the end of chapters two through six he has indicated that it is bhakti that Arjuna is to attain if he is to be the person Krishna wants him to be. The perfectly integrated person that Krishna has been teaching Arjuna about is his devotee.

He is dutiful and responsible in all his actions. His actions are informed by higher knowledge, and he has realized the fruit of this detached action in the form of inner wisdom. His action is integrated with knowledge, and thus he is renounced even while acting. He is absorbed in meditation on God, and his heart swells with love for God and love for all beings. He has realized the cessation of material suffering, and he knows God as Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Arjuna is spellbound at what it means to be Krishna’s devotee!

Bhagavad-gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy is available for free download here.

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