By Romapada Swami
As we progress in spiritual life, something which naturally arises in the heart is compassion. Once awakened, how are we to properly repose our newly-enriched compassion tendency? Persons who are “spiritual” are expected to be compassionate. Different people in this world have very diverse ideas of what compassion means, and how it should be expressed. Commonly, the worldly notions of compassion are far from what we understand compassion to really mean, and how it is best displayed.
What kind of indication do we have from scripture, and from our acharyas, and from our spiritual teachings, about compassion? How we should repose the soul’s natural tendency for compassion, on the spiritual platform?
There are two primary scriptural references related to compassion that I would like to make this evening. One of them is rooted in Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan, just prior to the Tenth Canto description of Krishna lifting Govardhan hill. How old was Krishna when he lifted Govardhan hill? Seven. He was in his seventh year. The same day, just prior to the Govardhan lila, Krishna gave His mercy to the wives of the Brahmanas. That was His morning pastime. Lifting Govardhan Hill was an afternoon pastime. Both occurred on the same day.
On the previous day, Krishna performed His pastimes deep in the forest of Vrindavan.
Shortly before that was Krishna’s stealing the garments of the young gopis. This pastime was performed when Krishna was six years old. What does a six-year-old understand about boy-girl things? Nothing. But He is Supreme Personality of Godhead, so He in omniscient. He was fully aware of the innocent and pure desires of the young gopis. Even more amazing, this pastime was performed in the company of Krishna’spriya-narma-sakhas, small boys who were even younger than Krishna! Because they were so young, they were completely innocent; they didn’t have any understanding of what Krishna was doing, other than Krishna was having fun, and the gopis were having fun.
After this pastime concluded, early in the month of Magh, there is an elaborate description of Krishna entering deep into the forest of Vrindavan, far far away from the Vrindavan village.
Deep in the forest, it was very hot. Summer in Vrindavan is very hot! Too hot! Krishna was noticing that the trees were providing nice shade. He was appreciating not only that the trees were providing Him shade ~~ it was so hot! Even more so, He was appreciating their service, their mood of serving the cowherd boys.
“O Stoka Krsna and Amsu, O Sridama, Subala and Arjuna, O Visala, Vrsabha, Ojasvi, Devaprastha and Varuthapa, just see these greatly fortunate trees, whose lives are completely dedicated to the benefit of others. Even while tolerating the wind, rain, heat and snow, they protect us from these elements.”
This is the way of life of trees: trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna, just serving and serving and serving, tolerating conditions and protecting others from the same conditions, just by their existence.
“Just see how these trees are maintaining every living entity. Their births are successful. Their behavior is just like that of great personalities for anyone who asks anything from the tree never goes away disappointed. These trees fulfill one’s desires with their leaves, flowers, their fruits, their shade, roots, bark and wood and also there fragrance, sap, ashes, pulp, shoots. It is the duty of every living being to perform welfare activities for the benefit of others with his life, wealth, intelligence and words.”
The first time I heard this wisdom being taught by Srila Prabhupada, he didn’t give the specific reference from the Bhagavatam. Instead, Srila Prabhupada was describing how he was expecting his disciples, his representatives, to present Krishna Consciousness to others. His explanation went like this. ‘When you’re on Sankirtan, or you are interacting with the public in some form or fashion, ideally if your association brings someone to dedicate their whole lives to Krishna that is very nice. If they cannot do that, they can contribute some of their wealth to Krishna. If they cannot do that, then they can apply their intelligence and do some service for Krishna. However, if they cannot do that, at least they should give their words of appreciation.’
Then he explained it the converse way. “If our interaction leaves people in such an impression that they think ‘The Hare Krishna people are bad’, that’s not very good. We shouldn’t interact with people at all if they are left with such a bad impression. Rather, if nothing else is the outcome, their impression should be ‘Those Hare Krishna people are very good’.”
Hearing that directly from Srila Prabhupada made a very deep impression. At the time I had no idea he was paraphrasing Krishna’s words from the Srimad Bhagavatam while roaming in the forest of Vrindavan, where he says ‘It is the duty of every living being to perform their welfare activities for the benefit of others with his life, wealth, intelligence and words.’
Let me share something that is immediately related to this teaching of our Founder-acarya. One devotee at Penn State University had the responsibility of overseeing a registered student organization called “The Vedic Club”. —He is been the president of the Vedic club for several years, so he has relationships with many people on campus. Early one semester they hosted a major university-wide Festival, a Holi Festival. They had invited Bada Hari Prabhu to come and sing. Bada Hari Prabhu is like gold. He is golden-throated and golden-hearted and soft as a golden Gulab Jamun (Audience chuckling). He is a very very very wonderful kirtaneer. When the organizer of another university organization found out that Bada Hari was being invited to campus by the Vedic Society, she got very excited. She contacted the Vedic Club saying “I have heard some of his CDs. He sings so nicely! When he comes to attend your Holi Festival, can I also make a booking for him to present something in our Confederation of Yoga Society group?” The devotee replied “Sure. I’ll be happy to arrange that. I’m sure it will fit into his schedule.” Then she said “Can I ask you another question? Does The Vedic Society, and do you personally, have something to do with the Hare Krishna group?” When narrating this story to me, the devotee shared “I thought ‘Oh no! She is going tell me some horrible story of some bad experience she had and whine and complain and I am going to be terribly embarrassed. Okay, here we go.” In honesty, he replied to her “Yes, in fact I’m an initiated member of the Hare Krishna group.” And she went “Oh, no! I liked you before.” So he said “Tell me, what’s the problem? Did you have a bad experience?” And because of her bad experience, she has a bad feeling towards the entire Hare Krishna movement. One bad experience. She said “I know you. You are such a warm and friendly person. You are not like that person that I met and had that bad experience with.”
After some association together, that lady got over her feelings of having had a previous bad experience with some irresponsible devotee. Eventually she began to inquire: “Can you tell me something about your teachings, and your life style?” Eventually she concluded “You know, I really like this! I just didn’t like that bad experience.”
This all happened because she had such a nice relationship with someone that initially she didn’t even know as a Hare Krishna. She eventually got over her bad feeling because she could understand that not everybody was like that bad person. But … one bad experience created such a lasting negative impression! Once a bad impression is created, it is hard to erase.
You all may think ‘Oh, I am just a congregation member.’ But probably people at your workplace know you as you are a Hare Krishna person. And whatever you do, however you speak, whatever qualities you carry, quite likely your co-workers are going to judge all the rest of us based on whatever interaction you have with them in your workplace. They have never met us. Right? You know what I am saying? Please understand: you are emissaries of Srila Prabhupada, the local temple, and even the whole Hare Krishna Movement. How you carry yourself, how you speak, your qualities, your calmness. People notice the nice qualities that the devotees have. Eventually they will start asking you “Hey, what’s your secret? How come you are always calm all the time? Everybody in this office is fretting and blaming each other because the project did not get completed on time ‘It’s their fault, it’s their fault, not my fault!’ But you just remain calm; you don’t do any of that. You just keep producing. You always have a clear mind. What’s your secret?” They will start asking you.
At least the words that people speak about devotees should be words of appreciation. Even by doing that, they will make spiritual progress. Even if they don’t even know that you are a Hare Krishna person. In an unknowing way, they may say “This individual, they are very nice!” Or more directly, they may express “Hare Krishna people are very nice.” It’s important.
Better than merely expressing words of appreciation, encourage them to read Prabhupada’s books and understand what the teachings are with their intelligence, and worship Krishna in that way. Doesn’t Krishna not say that in Bhagavad-Gita? ‘He who studies this sacred conversation of ours worships Me by his intelligence.’ Krishna says that.
They can take some of their hard-earned fruits of their labor and offer that to Krishna, to be used in furthering Krishna’s work thru his devotees.
And they may give their life.
At least within the core of one’s hearts should be the commitment that “My life should be for serving Krishna.” This doesn’t mean renouncing the grhastha ashram and all household duties. Rather, simply fully dedicate all those things to Krishna and His service.
Give your life to Krishna, for the benefit of others ~ specifically this is what Krishna is saying about the trees in Vrindavan’s forest.
That’s the essence of compassion.
I have been asked to speak about the topic of Compassion at two universities this spring semester. I am sharing with you in a way that I can’t replicate when presenting this message to college students because they are not Sadhakas and you are. So I am expressing more comprehensively and directly now than I will be able to in a university setting.
Compassion has built into it three elements: you recognize the suffering of others, you feel something, and you are motivated to do something. These three elements are simultaneously Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational. You feel unhappy about the suffering of others and you want to do something about it. Empathy is feeling the pain of another, but compassion demands you do something about it. There is an action involved – coming from your heart, not just duty. You care, and you want to do something.
The message I want to communicate is very important for devotees – for all devotees practicing at different stages of devotional service: compassion and its corresponding happiness becomes elevated not by thinking of one’s self interest; attention is directed to the interest and well-being of others. Once transcendental compassion is awakened by contact with bhakti, where is that powerful force best applied? Where do you repose that inner urge and tendency?
This question is beautifully addressed in a section of Srimad Bhagavatam which comes in the Fifth Canto,Chapter 7 and Chapter 8, the narration of the story of Bharata Maharaja. For those of you who will be attending a Ratha Yatra anywhere in the USA or Canada, you will likely see a drama that Bhaktimarg Swami has put together on this subject. He already performed the drama in Mayapur. It is entitles “The Three Lives of Bharata.” It was so well done that somebody from Ahmedabad who was in the audience during the Mayapur performance requested “Please come and perform this drama in Ahmedabad. We will pay for your whole troop to come. We will get a prime theater and pack the hall with attendees!” Bhaktimarg Swami agreed to the man’s request. Just before Gaura Purnima, the whole drama troop went to Ahmedabad. The venue was a big fancy hall. The place was packed with ticket-paying attendees. The performers received a standing ovation at the end, and then prasadam was served. Praghosa prabhu who is a GBC member was one of the actors in the drama. He shared with me that people coming up afterwards saying ‘Very profound, very easy for our children to pay attention and understand.’ One very effective media for communicating the message of Srimad Bhagavatam is thru well-presented drama.
Bhaktimarg Swami is planning to perform the same drama at all of the Ratha Yatras this summer.
What are the three lives in the Bharata Maharaja story? The first life of Bharata was when he was a king. The father of Bharata Maharaja was Rsabhadeva, an incarnation of Krishna. Bharata Maharaja was such a great king that the whole planet was renamed after him. It had previously had another name, sometimes known as Ajanabha because of the reign of King Nabhi, alternatively Ilavrta-varsa but Bharata was such a prominent person that the whole planet was named after him. I don’t know what John F Kennedy Airport was before John F Kennedy was president but he was such a prominent leader… (Devotee names the airport). Idlewild Airport. He was such a prominent president that they just dropped Idlewild whoever that fellow was (Audience laughing) and named it John F Kennedy. Similarly, there was a street in Bombay that was renamed after Prabhupada: “Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg.” Whoever the person was, after whom the street had been previously known, he is now forgotten. It’s now “Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg.” So the whole planet was named after Bharata Maharaj.
As mentioned already, who was the father of Bharata Maharaja? Rsabhadeva. Rsabhadeva was an incarnation of the Lord. And the father of Rsabhadeva was Nabhi. His father was Agnidhra, who was a direct son of Svayambhuva Manu, in another category of incarnation or avatar. Manu’s father was Brahma. And then Garbhodakasayi Vishnu. What a dynasty! If they weren’t incarnations of God, they were pure devotees of the Lord. Twice, the entire planet was renamed after them. Great personalities!
Bharata Maharaja was such an elevated king that the duration of his life is just phenomenal according to the Bhagavatam. Even the math doesn’t work but anyway. One thousand times ten thousand was the duration of years that he ruled. That’s a lot of years! During that period of time he became so fixed in his devotion that he had no material desire. What’s that? It’s a stage of perfection. On the order of his father he had married, and he had five sons. In time he turned the kingdom over to his five sons, and then he went to the forest to engage in perfecting his spiritual life. He went to a place called Pulaha-ashrama. Pulaha-asharma is named after Pulaha Muni. It’s described that there were two very special things about this ashrama. First, it has a reputation that the Lord is especially merciful in this place; to those who worship Him here, He shows His form. For this reason, Bharata Maharaja chose that place. Another is that the Gandaki River flows through Pulaha asrama. In the Gandaki River, Salagrama-silas are found. In deity worship, after bathing the deities and bathing the Salagrama-silas, caranamrta is produced. Caranamrta is just water that’s washed the deity. But the Gandaki River is filled with Salagrama-silas. So the entire river is caranamrta!
Every day, Bharata Maharaja got his water and took his bath –in caranamrta! Pulaha-ashrama is a very sanctified place. Since it was Satya Yuga, he was engaged in the process of meditation. He would fix his mind upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead with complete absorption by chanting the Rg Veda mantra called Gayatri. In this Gayatri mantra he was worshipping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Surya-narayana. Surya-narayana is a direct expansion of Lord Narayana in Vaikuntha. The sun god, Vivasvan, also worships the Personality of Godhead as the presiding deity of the sun, Surya-narayana. As he was meditating on Gayatri mantra, he wasn’t just uttering syllables. He wasn’t worshiping the sun or the Brahmajyoti. He was worshiping the Personality of Godhead. Amazingly and mercifully, the form of the Personality of Godhead appeared regularly in his meditation. He became so absorbed in his activities of devotion that he forgot everything else. He had detached himself from being the king of the whole world, with opulence rivaling the opulence of heaven. He had fame, he had everything! A very faithful beautiful wife, loving children. But his interest was achieving spiritual perfection. Both his worldly detachment and his spiritual attachment for the Supreme Personality of Godhead reached the point where he was experiencing Bhava Bhakti.
For those of you who know Nectar of Devotion or are little familiar with it, there are three divisions of subject matters in Nectar of Devotion, Vaidhi Sadhana Bhakti, Bhava Bhakti and Prema Bhakti. Bharata Maharaja achieved the stage of Bhava Bhakti. In the stage of Bhava Bhakti, his body would spontaneously erupt in ecstatic symptoms. His body would shiver and tremble, tears would stream from his eyes, his hairs would stand on end ~ just in his absorption of seeing the Personality of Godhead, calling His holy name. He was fixed in meditation upon Him, making various offerings. Although in the palace he had opulent things to offer, here in the forest the things he had to offer were simple. But they are all Krishna’s property in any case. Whatever roots and berries he could gather that was edible, he made those offerings to the Supreme Lord, and accepted the remnants of Lord’s offerings. He found himself in a perfectly happy, contented, peaceful, ecstatic state! But…there’s always a ‘but’. Have you noticed? There is always s ‘But’?
One early morning he went to Gandaki River, took his abhishek morning bath, sat by the side of the Gandaki River, and began to chant his morning Gayatri. On the opposite side of the river, there was a pregnant deer. The pregnant deer had come to the river to take water to drink. The pregnant deer was looking in different directions, fearful, drinking some water, raising her head to again look around in all directions. All of a sudden there was a loud ‘Rrrroooarrrr’! When she hear the loud lion’s roar, she was startled and she jumped. Prabhupada explains in pregnancy women should avoid experiencing trauma or some kind of sudden fear or excitement. Were that to happen, there is chance of a miscarriage. However it happens biologically, miscarriages sometimes take place when a surge of fear enters the heart of a pregnant woman. That’s exactly what happened. The deer had a miscarriage. At the same time she leaped forward, in response to the lion’s loud roar and she landed in the river. The river was moving very swiftly and she got carried to the side of the river and dragged herself into a cave and died. This drama left this little baby deer, a fawn, born from the pregnant mother who had disappeared downstream. Watching all of this happen was the emperor of the whole world sitting on the river bank.
So what did he do? Ksatriyas protect their citizens. That’s what kings do. So although he was retired from that service of being the king, he entered the river and rescued the fawn. He brought the fawn to his side of the river and recognized “Now I have to take care of this deer. Because the deer doesn’t have a mother or a father, by divine arrangement I am now the mother and the father and the friend and the provider.” As he started doing like that, he started making some conscious choices. I am tempted to read his inner contemplations, but in short he made a big mistake. He didn’t make a mistake in rescuing the deer; he made the mistake of reposing his sense of compassion exclusively upon the body, to the exclusion of the well-being of the soul, and in turn he forgot Krishna! And as he forgot Krishna, he got more and more absorbed into an intense material attachment to the deer, to the point where he even forgot his devotional practices. Here he was way up there spiritually, I mean way up, almost at the stage of perfection of love of God. But he fell! Our acharyas, particularly Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur, ask this question “How is this possible? How someone at such an elevated position fall?” Because when you engage devotional service what happens? Krishna says in Bhagavad-Gita what happens. aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah. Even a little devotional service done can eliminate the reactions of all previous sinful reaction. Bharata Maharaja was fixed! So it wasn’t a karmic reaction that came upon him. So what was it? Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur reasons that Bharata Maharaj consciously chose to leave Krishna and his devotion to Krishna in favor of reposing his compassion upon the bodily necessities of the deer. Because of that mistaken choice, he lost his Krishna consciousness. Not only did he lose his Krishna Consciousness, but instead of thinking of Krishna at the time of death, he thought of the deer at the time of death and he became a deer in his next life. Several times over and over, in different ways in that section of Srimad Bhagavatam, this point is reiterated, because it’s very important. Prabhupada explains how we should repose compassion. The well-being of the soul should be at the center of our contemplations, even if a particular requirement of service requires attention for the welfare the body or mind of others – maybe our family members or others outside of our family. For the well-being of the soul, for the upliftment of the soul to the spiritual platform, there are so many things we may do to assist – just like in parenting. Those of you that have children or will have children, the service of mother and father according to scripture is to deliver the soul from the cycle of birth and death. And to do that there are so many things we also have to do: we have to feed the child, keep them in suitable clothing, and teach them proper etiquette. So many things! But all those are for one ultimate end, namely for liberation of soul from the cycle of birth and death. If that objective is lost, that perspective or that goal is lost, then you lose your spiritual standing. You no longer have spiritual standing. And that’s what happened with Bharata Maharaj.
Now I am going do something a little subtle so you have to pay attention, sorry. (Audience Chuckling). But it’s nice, if you pay attention. Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur explains “One can understand what happened with Bharata Maharaj in either one of two ways”. This is in terms of Prarabdha Karma. Prarabdha Karma means Karma that is happening now. Like ‘Ouch that hurts.’ Or at the opposite end of the spectrum “Here’s some good fortune.” Whether good fortune or ill fortune, Prarabdha Karma means something that is happening now.’ (Phone from the audience rings and Maharaj jokes) “That is Prarabdha Karma.” (Audience laughing). There is another term, something that is just about to happen. This is Kutastha, it’s just about to happen. A third category of karma is that which is just beginning to sprout. Then, not fully manifest yet. The forth is a seed, or Bija. There are terms for these different stages. But Prarabdha means happening now. So Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur says there is auspicious and inauspicious Prarabdha Karma, Subha and Asubha. Just like Krishna says subhasubha-phalair evam moksyase karma-bandhanaih. So the inauspicious is for those who are not in the shelter of the internal potency, namely those who are not devotees. For the non-devotees, there is both action and reaction. When reactions become mature, that is Prarabdha Karma. Such karma is inauspicious. It can even be good Karma that’s reacting, that’s also inauspicious because it constitutes bondage to the material world. When you do an act of material charity, you get back a material body. You can get a good body, with beautiful features and good intelligence and abundant wealth — but that is also bondage. It’s Prarabdha Karma. That’s inauspicious. So what’s the auspicious kind of Prarabdha Karma? This is the subtle part. Listen carefully. For a devotee, we also have actions we performed in the past, just like Bharata Maharaj who was a king. That’s what he did in the past. In the current path of our lives, often something arises which resembles something from our past life. We tend to make the same choice. Instead, however, we can choose ‘Let me surrender unto Krishna’. While you may do so many things when functioning in the position or mood of surrender unto Krishna ~ but one thing is, you don’t forget Krishna. Bharata Maharaj had that precise opportunity. He could have just surrendered and saved the deer and somehow or another arranged for the deer to be with other deer so he would be taken care of by other deer or something like that. But he didn’t to that. He took the false ego position “I am the protector of the deer” and left aside Krishna. When we have situation come up in our lives ~ maybe not a pregnant deer having a miscarriage and a baby deer falling in the river ~ but some other situation comes into our life where it’s a re-run from something in our past life and here comes the replay ~ how are we going to act? The circumstance provides an opportunity, an auspicious opportunity, to take shelter of Krishna. Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam. When you adopt that response, that’s the auspiciousness! Why? Because real auspiciousness is the doorway to the spiritual world. When that doorway opens and we enter, the entanglement of the material world closes. That’s auspicious, distinct from the worldly Prarabdha Karma. In Bharata Maharaj’s case he consciously chose “not Krishna”. Even in the spiritual world there is freewill. So what to speak of within the Bhava or Prema Bhakti stage. Or our present stage, the Sadhana Bhakti stage, we likewise have free will. We can chose Krishna or not Krishna. Every moment we can make that choice. So as we are moving along the path practicing devotion, cultivating devotion in our life, things are going to come our way along that path. Have your lights on! Consciously chose surrender to Krishna.
For example, surrender to Krishna may mean take care of the baby deer for some period of time ~ but don’t leave you spiritual practices! Whatever are the service requirements that come before you in the course of your life, never place the spiritual priority of taking shelter of Krishna in the secondary position and put something else in the primary position. That was the mistaken conscious choice that Bharata Maharaj made. Make sure you have your spiritual priorities in the proper position. Whatever you do that’s in the secondary position, let it be aimed at pursuing the primary principle of life. Mam ekam saranam. Then those duties become beautified ~ like these very nice decorations or that chandelier, maybe that’s easier to see. There are nice crystals and lamps suspended within the chandelier, like ‘hanging decorations’. Yet all are suspended from one little point of connection at the top. And from that one connecting point at the top, so many nice embellishments are there. Likewise, all other forms of dharma are suspended on one thing, if they are being done properly: mam ekam saranam. Ekam, “alone”,doesn’t mean you neglect everything else. Don’t take care of your family, don’t take care of being a good citizen, be sloppy, don’t be clean. Mam ekam saranam doesn’t mean that. Rather, you do all those duties in pursuance this one thing. And when you do those other duties in pursuance of that one thing, that’s auspicious. That’s what Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur is describing. Events which are happening in your life ~ Prarabdha, presently ~ in response to which you are consciously choosing Krishna and then the next one, Krishna, and the next one, Krishna. And one after the next is Krishna Krishna. You whole life is Krishna. This is true auspiciousness! Where are you going? You are going to Krishna. By choosing Krishna in this manner, you will make the best impact on the others with whom you life comes in contact. You will able to serve your family members better, society better. Everything becomes better, because of that singular spiritual focus. Purity and potency are a natural byproduct. Accordingly, a theist’s conduct places secondary dharma behind the primary dharma. Or, as Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur says – this is also subtle – when Bharata Maharaja was in meditation within the Bhava stage he understood the presence of the Lord within his heart. In fact he had a personal prayer that he offered. “You are the Supersoul situated in the heart of every living being. You come into the heart of all conditioned souls because they desire enjoyment apart from you. Knowing that they have that desire, you are situated within their heart and you give them the intelligence by which they can try to fulfill those desires. But that simply further entangles them and therefore my prayer to you is please protect me from that intelligence. Please give me the other kind. Dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te. Give me that kind.”
Although Bharata Maharaja sincerely prayed like that, nonetheless he made this other conscious choice: “No to Krishna and yes to everything else.” Knowing his sincerity, Krishna fulfilled that prayer by giving him the opportunity to never make that same mistake again. When he became a deer, Bharata Maharaja was awarded the facility of living an entire lifetime remembering that during his previous life he was king of the entire planet, now in the body of a deer.
He took birth in the body of a deer in some distant mountain range and came back to Pulaha ashram and ‘hung out’, where many sages resided. He would hear their discourses and take remnants of their prasad. In this way he lived out a full duration of life as a deer. In his next life, additional very unique features were given to him. Besides getting remembrance of his past life while living as a deer, in his next life he became a Brahmana, with full remembrance of both his previous life as a deer and the life before that as Bharata Maharaja. Very unique! He was determined not make the same mistake again. In the life of Jada Bharata, he didn’t make the same mistake again. He achieved spiritual perfection. And that’s one full story too. But the message I wanted to share is, it’s very important as practicing devotees to be absolutely clear where to repose our compassion. In short, place compassion upon the soul. The attainment of such a pervasive spiritual focus within all activities of life is true self-compassion. All the worldly expressions of compassion may continue, but spiritual compassion starts here. “Let me orient my life in such a way that I become fixed upon the soul’s ultimate attainment of Krishna’s shelter.” All the other things that I do with my life – my words, my mind, my actions, my senses, my energy, my life air, my service – all follow behind this committed focus. “Let my life be dedicated towards the objective of always keeping Krishna as my shelter and my all-in-all.”
In my social and service interactions with others, some persons are more ready than others are for being directed to Krishna as their only shelter. So let me discriminate carefully how to best engage with others. The purpose of interacting with others may sometimes be just leaving people with such nice impression they say “Oh, the Hare Krishna people are nice.” That may be the most some people can do. If people can do even that much service to Krishna, that’s great. Some people are just like grumpy and cranky and they can’t appreciate anybody. At least some persons can appreciate the Hare Krishna people are nice. That’s a nice service for them. When this occurs, that soul made a little spiritual progress.
Whatever it is that’s appropriate according to the time, place and circumstance for the other individual, we serve accordingly. Our service meditation should be to act as Krishna’s instrument. “Let my efforts be for their spiritual elevation, assisting their coming to the spiritual platform. However I can do that.” Any service we may do for others should be in pursuit of that principle.
One last comment is from Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, as well as from our Srila Prabhupada. Within the contemporary situation of modern society, people are expecting religious organizations to do the work of the government, namely social welfare work. That is a government job, but many people expect spiritual organizations to have this as a major focus their gift to the world at large.
I was once in Mayapur with a group of several hundred devotees, visiting the holy places of Mayapur. We were taking prasadam in the large Gada Prasadam Hall. After I sat down, right next to me another guest sat down, a person I had never met. He wasn’t part of our group; he was just a visitor to Mayapur. After he sat down he looked at me like this…(making a condescending face). I thought “Oh boy.” (Laughing). A businessman type, that was his vibe. The first word he said was “Sooo…”, like a challenge. That was the first sound vibration. “Sooo. What do you do to help people?” “Give me a break” (Everyone laughing loudly). So I just got right down to it. “I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking bodily welfare work. So I will tell you what the bodily welfare work is that we do.” He didn’t even let me finish and he said “Don’t tell me you educate people. Don’t tell me you open temples and get people to go and worship God and things like that. Tell me what you are doing to help people.” “Okay, I was just about to tell you how we help people. But you cut me off.” I described Food for Life. “Prabhupada said within ten mile radius of Mayapur, no one should go hungry. So have a large pavilion where so many days of the week anybody and everybody can come and we serve free prasadam.” He said “Oh that’s very good. You are helping people. That’s very nice.” You get the point. But it’s not just, if we help people by serving food, it’s creating prarabdha karma for them and for ourselves. No. One of the things that they do before they take Krishna prasadam is they learn about chanting. They chant together and they hear a verse from Bhagavad-Gita and they then take prasadam. Then they are invited to go see the deity in the temple. The objective is to awaken their spiritual consciousness, not just they are hungry and we want them to not have empty belly and so we give them something to eat. Whatever actions we take in life should be for Krishna. yat karosi yad asnasi yaj juhosi dadasi yat yat tapasyasi kaunteya tat kurusva mad-arpanam. Everything should be done as an offering unto Krishna, including helping others, ourselves as well, thereby come to the spiritual position.
Thank you Very much. Srila Prabhupada ki Jai.