Have I Made a Mistake?
by Çréla Bhakti Dayita Mädhava Gosvämé Mahäräja
[NOTE: This page uses Balarama font (available here) for better transliteration of Sanskrit into English. Click here for a version without Balarama font.]
A doubt occasionally arises in my heart. I think, Have I made a mistake in accepting the shelter
of the lotus feet of the Gauòéya Vaiñëavas? It certainly seems so. I appear to have made a mistake in taking up bhajana, in accepting the shelter of the Gauòéya Vaiñëavas and, specifically, in taking refuge of the Gauòéya Maöha and dedicating all my senses to serving in the Maöha.
“Gauòéya Vaiñëavas are not big-hearted. When we perform bhajana under their shelter, we are controlled by so many rules and regulations. If I were to take refuge of some other sampradäya where there is no concern for offences, such as vaiñëava-aparädha, näma-aparädha or dhäma-aparädha, I would feel no such hindrance or botheration. I would not be obliged to develop exclusive devotion for a particular object of worship [such as Rädhä and Kåñëa], nor would my eating habits be curtailed.
In the Maöha, issues like vaiñëavaaparädha are raised, and it often impedes my unrestricted sense
enjoyment, lawless gossiping and other whimsical activities. It would therefore be better for me to live
outside the Maöha than be governed by such restraints.”
Sometimes I even think it would be best for me to abandon the shelter of a gurudeva as controlling as
mine altogether, and to accept the mantra elsewhere, from someone who doesn’t demand that I pay
attention to all the rules and regulations. Thus, I occasionally contemplate severing my ties with the
Gauòéya Maöha completely. What stops me, however, is the thought that if people were to find out that I had broken my connection with Çré Guru, it could jeopardise my prestige and position.
Discipline and Deceit
The Vaiñëavas of the Gauòéya Maöha are onepointedlyengaged in worshiping Çré Gauräìgadeva
and Çré Rädhä-Kåñëa, under the guidance of Çré Rüpa Gosvämipäda and the best among his followers,
namely, Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura and Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Gosvämé. Kåñëa-prema is
their only goal and their only practice, or sädhana. There is no absence of affection or devotion in the
sädhana of the servants of the Gauòéya Maöha. Hence, they will never support any endeavour that is
unfavourable to the cultivation of affection for Çré Kåñëa.
What auspiciousness can a sädhana bring if itcan’t offer its practitioner any way to attain his cherished goal quickly, or if it can’t even offer him any certainty that he will realise his worshipable deity at all? This type of sädhana, when propagated, tends only to attract followers. For those content to pass
their lives without purpose or restriction, what use is there to accept the lotus feet of sad-guru, a transcendental teacher? But those who can see their own faults and anarthas, and who try to become free of them, develop an urge to become qualified to taste the bliss of prema for Bhagavän. Only they can remain in the shelter of saintly devotees endowed with this prema. They can experience the happiness of being engaged in service to Bhagavän by living under the guidance of such one-pointed devotees and following their instructions. This involves subduing their senses and abstaining from whimsical activities.
Those who make a show of accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of Çré Guru simply deceive themselves; they pretend to be self-controlled and reformed but internally maintain their previous bad
impressions, and especially the tendency to strive to gather followers. In other words, they recruit
followers on the pretext of accepting the shelter of Çré Guru, with the aim of fulfilling their selfish ends
through their so-called disciples. The attempts of such arrogant and duplicitous people to attain auspiciousness are endlessly frustrated.
To be a disciple means to be disciplined, or controlled. If a person outwardly accepts the shelter of
Çré Guru but arrogantly maintains the attitude that he knows best about his spiritual life, then he is but a cheater – deceiving both himself and others. Pure Gauòéya Vaiñëavas are most magnanimous and
bestow the highest auspiciousness. If we can become eligible to understand even a single aspect of their
exemplary lives we will become attached to sädhanabhajana and be filled with jubilation and devotion.
Bhakti Lies Beyond Renunciation
Those who possess kåñëa-prema are neither enjoyers nor renunciants. They are not karmés, fruitive
workers; neither are they jïänés, persons cultivating knowledge of the impersonal Brahman. Those who
perform activities opposed to scriptural injunctions honour karmés who abide by scriptural injunctions;
and when karmés who are eager to enjoy the results of their endeavours see the external renunciation of
jïänés and renunciants, they may be attracted to them. However, those who hanker for bhagavat-prema
disregard both of these paths. They are attracted only by behaviour that nurtures the cultivation of this prema.
Someone who is not aspiring for prema for Bhagavän will perceive only enjoyment or renunciation
in the behaviour of the devotees. If he takes shelter of them upon observing their external renunciation, he may for a while consider himself blessed to be in their company. Kåñëa-prema, however, cannot be attained by external renunciation. Unless one has faith grounded in philosophical truth (tattvika çraddhä), or has affection for the svarüpa of Çré Bhagavän, he cannot become attracted to the behaviour of Bhagavän’s devotees. The characteristic of such one-pointed devotees is that directly or
indirectly they only cultivate love for Çré Kåñëa:
“The cultivation of activities that are meant exclusively for the pleasure of Çré Kåñëa, or in other words
the uninterrupted flow of service to Çré Kåñëa, performed through all endeavours of the body, mind
and speech, and through the expression of various spiritual sentiments (bhävas), which is not covered
by jïäna (knowledge aimed at impersonal liberation) and karma (reward-seeking activity), and
which is devoid of all desires other than the aspiration to bring happiness to Çré Kåñëa, is called
uttama-bhakti, pure devotional service.”
One must deliberate upon this verse. The activities of a devotee of Kåñëa, such as establishing a maöha
(spiritual institution), constructing a temple, meeting with materialistic or aristocratic people, hosting
festivals with pomp and grandeur, and giving instructions to ignorant or faithless people, are all çuddha-bhakti. To serve Bhagavän and the devotees one may supervise the construction of a temple or the house of a devotee, collect materials, purchase supplies and accept the lowly propensity to beg. Such activities are supremely pleasurable and they nourish one’s bhakti.
What Is True Renunciation
kuñöhi-viprera ramaëé pativratä-çiromaëi
pati lägi’ kailä veçyära sevä
stambhila süryera gati jéyäila måta pati
tuñöa kaila mukhya tina-devä
Çré Caitanya-caritämåta (Antya-lélä 20.57)
“The wife of a brähmaëa suffering from leprosy showed herself to be the topmost of chaste women
by serving a prostitute to satisfy her husband. She thus halted the movement of the sun, brought her
dead husband back to life and satisfied the three principal demigods [Brahmä, Viñëu and Maheçvara].”
We should consider this account in the light of our discussion. That chaste brähmaëa wife’s service to
a lowly prostitute in the sincere endeavour to please her husband enhanced her glory. She thus became
worshipable for the entire world. What’s more, she became very dear to Çré Bhagavän. If, however, she
had performed this service for her own sense, pleasure, or for dharma, artha, käma or mokña, it
would have been reprehensible in every respect.
Similarly, activities such as constructing a maöha, meeting and talking with materialistic or aristocratic people, hosting grand festivals and bestowing the çré näma-mantra to faithful persons sincerely desiring to serve Çré Bhagavän, His devotees and His dhäma (all aspects of Vaikuëöha), enhance Bhakti and ultimately cause prema to appear. Those same activities, however, bind one to this material world if
they are performed with the aim of gratifying one’s senses; accumulating wealth, women and fame; or
attaining dharma, artha, käma or mokña.
In this world, renunciation means to relinquish the objects of one’s attachment. But can ceasing to
take foods that merely aggravate a disease, for instance, be considered renunciation? Abstaining
from foodstuffs that destroy good health and instead accepting foods that increase longevity can hardly be celebrated as a great act of renunciation. Thus, it is hard to see how the act of renouncing one’ father, mother, relatives, friends, wealth, occupation, business or worldly duties performed to gain material comforts, can in itself be glorious. Only when a person renounces the objects of his mundane
pleasure for the pleasure of the Complete Entity [Çré Bhagavän], expecting no sense enjoyment in
return, can his renunciation be considered actual renunciation. In other words, true renunciation
entails not striving for dharma, artha, käma or mokña, or for wealth, women and adoration.
Ordinarily, it is considered irreligious to forsake the duties the scriptures prescribe for one’s varëa and
äçrama; but if these duties are discarded for the pleasure and satisfaction of Çré Kåñëa, who is the cause
of all causes and the bestower of supreme bliss, then and only then is such renunciation honourable.
Indeed, such renunciation, which benefits everyone, is to be revered. To renounce endeavours for sense
gratification – that is, endeavours in one’s search for happiness in this world or in the next – is courageous and glorious. But the topmost renunciation is to abandon everything, even one’s independent will and desires, for the pleasure of Bhagavän Çré Kåñëa and His one-pointed devotees.
Renouncing the mind’s propensity for independence, in other words, the sacrifice of one’s very self, is far superior to renouncing that which is inert and temporary. The glory of one’s renunciation lies truly in the glory of the object of such sacrifice. Çré Bhagavän and His devotees who possess prema are unlimitedly glorious; and therefore to renounce for their pleasure is supremely noble. Such renunciation is incomparable because it increases the happiness of all living entities by reawakening their relationship with Çré Bhagavän. It does not admit even the slightest scent of distress. Rather, the renunciant feels increasingly happy at every step. It can therefore be concluded that such renunciation bestows bliss in every respect and is highly esteemed.
Fruitive workers, or karmés, make sacrifices and perform austerity with the hope of attaining increased mundane sense pleasure in the future. Such renunciation is therefore meagre and does not bestow complete happiness. Jïänés, who aspire for impersonal Brahman realisation, make sacrifices and
perform austerity to dispel their own suffering. Their renunciation, also, does not bestow full happiness.
The sacrifices and austerities of Kåñëa’s devotees, however, are meant exclusively for the pleasure of Çré Hari. Since Çré Kåñëa is the cause of all causes, such renunciation bestows true welfare upon the devotee
and upon others. Therefore Gauòéya Vaiñëavas greatly honour those activities that promote love of Bhagavän, and they reject activities that hinder it. In this sädhana any sense enjoyment and renunciation that is favourable to bhakti is highly regarded. Yet devotees are not attracted to sense enjoyment and renunciation in their own right. They are attracted to love for Bhagavän and His devotees. They have no independent or whimsical desire to enjoy or renounce. Yukta-vairägya, renunciation for the pleasure of Çré Kåñëa, is their only sädhana. Without understanding bhajana-rahasya, the secrets of bhajana, one will become bewildered by what sense enjoyment is and what renunciation is. Both are impediments in the sädhaka’s cultivation of prema for Bhagavän.
Don’t Waste a Moment
Those who have realised that this human life offers an invaluable opportunity to work towards attaining the supreme goal, prize every moment of it. They are unwilling to waste even an instant in any other endeavour. They know that living entities in other species of life do not have the facility or good fortune to make progress towards the supreme goal and, accordingly, they see no value in living their lives in the manner of the lower species. Hence, upon attaining this extremely rare human life and, on top of that, attaining the fortune to associate with sädhus and developing çraddhä for the supreme goal, they cannot quietly squander a single moment of their lives. Rather, they will accept only what is favourable to the cultivation of affection for Çré Kåñëa and will reject all activities that are unfavourable to it.
As such, the devotees of the Gauòéya Maöha instruct the world to engage only in those practices that are
righteous and favourable to the cultivation of kåñëaprema and to reject unrighteous activities that impede it. Moreover, they never indulge in violence or envy, as this hinders the cultivation of prema.
My Doubt Resolved
Thus, if I am genuinely searching for kåñëa-prema, I have not after all made any mistake in accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of pure Gauòéya Vaiñëavas. Such Vaiñëavas will not fuel our desire for dharma, artha, käma and mokña or our hankering for wealth, women and adoration. The purpose of the Maöha is to help free us from these anarthas and attain kåñëaprema. By taking shelter of the lotus feet of pure Gauòéya Vaiñëavas in the Gauòéya Maöha, beggars for kåñëa-prema become qualified to attain their greatest welfare. Moreover, they receive the opportunity to achieve the highest ideal of magnanimity and to ascend to the topmost level of pure vairägya, renunciation. This is my unshakable conviction. One cannot be deviated from attaining prema for Bhagavän in due course, unless one becomes a severe offender.
One day, by the mercy of Çréla Prabhupäda, the world will profusely glorify and worship the Çré Sarasvata Gauòéya Vaiñëavas [that is, Çréla Prabhupäda’s followers]. They alone are able to establish the highest ideal of benevolence in the world. Victory will certainly belong to the devotees of the Gauòéya Maöha, or those who have taken shelter of the lotus feet of Gauòéya Vaiñëavas. I have not, therefore, made a mistake in accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of pure Gauòéya Vaiñëavas. Rather, I have whole-heartedly embraced the good fortune of attaining my highest welfare, and thus I am truly blessed.
About the Author
One of the shining luminaries of the Gaudiya sky, Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami
Maharaja was an initimate disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada
who soon became renowned for his intense devotion, deep humility and brilliance in
spreading the mission of his divine master. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada used to refer to him
as “a preacher of volcanic energy.”
Srila Bhakti Dayinta Madhva Gosvami Maharaja appeared in this world in Karttika of l904,
On the disappearance day of Srila gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, in Kanchanpada,
Present-day Bangaladesh. He accepted the renounced order in 1944, and established
Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Matha in 1953, the current acarya of which is Srila Bhakti Vallabha
Tirtha Maharaja. One of his most significant contributions was to re-establish the appearance
Site of Srila Prabhupada in Sri Jagannatha Puri. This empowered personality, who was kind and
Magananimous to all, entered nitya-lila in 1979, on the disappearance day of Srila Jagannatha
Das Babaji Maharaja
By Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
“I often received the opportunity to associate closely with our revered siksa-guru Srila Bhakti
Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaja. He was serene, tolerant, grace and endowed with many other
Qualities befitting a Vaisnava. He preached Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s message of Divine Love
Widely throughout India with great vigour. The special feature of his preaching was that he taught
Taught by personal example. He emphasized that we should be humbler than a blade of grass
And more forbearing that a tree, and that we should offer respect to everyone without ourselves
Desiring respect from others. His unique spiritual quality was that he hnoured all his Godbrothers.
This is truly ideal. If we can sincerely follow his teachings, our guru-puja will be successful.
From a speech delivered in Hindi on 17th November 2003
At Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Matha, Vrndavana, at Srila Bhakti
Dayita Mahdava Maharaja’s birth centennial celebration.