Live Q&A from Vrindavan
Shree Giridhar Dham Ashram, 29 March 2020
In today's Satsang via livestream, Paramahamsa Vishwananda answered questions about curses, numbers of devotees, who to focus on, and how love transforms.
Jai Gurudev! Welcome, everybody!
Today I was thinking what to share with you. It was a funny situation.
You see, every day when we are eating, the monkeys are coming. The monkeys in Vrindavan are very famous for stealing everything. When you go to the marketplace, they steal your glasses. Although right now there are not many people, when they steal your glasses, automatically you have to throw a juice to them or something so that they will drop your glasses back to you. Lately all the marketplaces are closed and people are not really around and when people are walking, they always throw things around. So, the monkeys are hanging around here because they know that we are cooking food for 50 people. Just now I was painting, putting eyes on the deity, and we heard some noise in the kitchen. One of the devotees went by, he didn’t see anything. I kept hearing noises, went in the kitchen, and there were two. One little monkey was making noise outside just to divert the people, and there was one big one taking everything that he could and running outside! It was really funny! And also, we had to chase them away. I tell you, it’s so funny, these monkeys are so intelligent, they sit here and they make noise. Lately they have not been coming here, which is amazing, when there is Satsang. Because otherwise you can hear them during Satsang walking around or you see that I am looking up at them.
So, that’s has been happening and…ah yes, yesterday was wonderful, because yesterday night we had pizza and all the devotees had two pizzas. They had made more than 100 pizzas. We made it over charcoal and, amazingly, it was very nice. I was impressed myself. So you see how wonderful a quarantine we are having here in Vrindavan. I am sure you also are having such a great and wonderful quarantine at home, and really, I am sure you are enjoying yourself. One thing is that we are having a quiz every night on different subjects: Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatam and so on. It’s really very educational. You should do that also. And sometimes we are watching some nice saint movies. So, we are quite busy here in Vrindavan. I’m sure everybody would agree.
In the stories of Vishnu’s main incarnations, so many people were cursing each other right, left and centre. In all, it’s clearly seen how the curses were not only fulfilled but even had to be fulfilled. Nowadays, is this also the case if someone curses someone else?
Actually, the sages would not curse randomly like that. If you are educated in that society, if you have been really studying the Vedic culture, you will see that a curse is a blessing in disguise, especially when it comes from a sage, a saintly person. Of course, you will not perceive it when you are hearing it or when you are reading it, because the word ‘curse’ itself is a very terrible thing. But the blessing can come in many ways. And mostly the blessing comes in ways that we don’t expect. So, do curses still happen? Yes. Nowadays people do more offenses than doing something to receive the blessing! Due to that, they bring more curses upon themselves.
Mostly who-is-cursing-who nowadays is you! You are cursing yourself by how you think and by your actions. Of course, when you hurt somebody’s heart, automatically you will get cursed. When you hurt somebody, it is not the heart of that person which is feeling that hurt. Actually, it is the atma itself. How many times in one’s life has one hurt somebody, knowingly and unknowingly? Many times! And in your point of view you think, ‘Yes, I am doing something right.’ But what is it for that person who you are hurting? You don’t know what is inside the person.
So, yes, curses are still happening. And of course, when you create offences, for example, towards the Master and towards the devotees, of course, you are getting cursed. But a Master or a devotee will not go around and tell you, ‘Oh, I am cursing you because of this and that.’ But this happens naturally, because it is a curse from the atma itself, not recognising the grace which God has given you to be in the proximity of that person and what you have to learn to be among these people.
You see, in life you will not get only good people around you. You will find all kinds of people. The Master shows the way of love, but it’s up to you really to learn to accept it and walk that path.
So, coming to that question again about the sages cursing. In reality, their curse was a long-term planning of how things must be. One of the beautiful experiences of that curse is Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas, after all her children had been killed in the Mahabharata War on the Kurukshetra battlefield. All of them were dead. At the end of the war, they all came to ask the blessing of the king, and also of the queen, because they didn’t have any enmity towards them. But you see, the mother’s heart was so filled with anger, when Krishna came there, in front of the queen, as a mother she could not resist, and said, ‘You are the Lord of the Universe, You could have changed everything, a snap of your finger, but why have You not changed it?’ Out of her anger, she cursed Krishna saying that, ‘Your whole generation, all Your children will be killed the same way as my children have been killed. Your dynasty will finish.’
And Krishna happily said, ‘Mother, I accept it.’ He, the Supreme Lord Himself, accepted that curse from Gandhari, because it was a plan for how He should exit this world. It’s long-term planning. Like I always say, people have short-term planning, the Divine has long-term planning. That curse became a means for the Lord to finish His incarnation in this world.
Then there was the story of how the children of Krishna started fighting with each other due to a curse they received, when they were buffooning a sage: one boy was pretending to be pregnant and they put a pestle and mortar inside of his dress and they went to a sage and said, ‘Sage, please, bless us, we are pregnant.’ And (just to cut the story short), the sage realised that they were making fun of him, so the sage said, ‘Be it so’ and he cursed them. Through that the child (Samba was his name, no?) became pregnant and then when he had to deliver, he delivered a ball of metal which they crushed and threw into the sea. The fish ate it and some of the metal went into them, because they ground it completely into powder. The metal also went around some grass and some weeds grew with this inside. This became the object of that curse. To finish the story, they started fighting with each other and they killed each other.
This is just to show you how also a curse can be the long-term planning for the Divine to exist. Not every curse is really a terrible curse. It is always how you take it. The curse can be a blessing also. Like that, you can see in many lives when your life is going upside down, you’re cursed. You say, ‘Oh, what I’m cursed about?’ Because you don’t see any solution, you don’t see anything. You see complete darkness and you see everything is falling apart. But later on in life when you look back, you see that it has been a blessing also, because for whatever has happened in your life, that experience has brought you to where you are standing now. So, it’s not always bad. It is also a blessing.
You have said that Your devotees are Your family and that You have come here for them. Is there a limitation of the total amount of initiated devotees You will have? How many might that be during Your lifetime?
Look, I am not here to collect initiated devotees. It can be that somebody is a devotee, but not initiated. So, we can’t say only the initiated devotees are devotees. Those who follow what I am saying, they are the devotees. So, it can be a million, it can be two million, it can be ten million, it can be billions, it doesn’t matter for me. You see? So, I am not really concerned about the numbers.
What I am concerned about is how they are transforming. So, if one among them really transforms, that is enough for me. Which is quite rare, actually. Let’s say you call yourself a devotee – okay? - what is it to be a devotee? It’s not just getting an initiation. Very often you hear people just say, ‘Oh, yeah, I am an initiated devotee.’ But yet, that devotee doesn’t know anything about their path. When we are talking about the Sri Sampradaya, being vegetarian… very often you see that they follow certain principles that they say, ‘Yes, I am a devotee’, but yet, to be a devotee, the word ‘devoted’ means, ‘I am devoted to you’, ‘I am giving myself to you’; that is very important to understand: ‘I am offering myself to you.'
So, when I’m offering myself to you, I don’t belong to myself, I belong to you. Like the guru, when you take initiation, the guru offers himself to the disciple, to the devotee. But the devotee shall also receive the guru. The same way the devotee is offering themselves at the Feet of the guru, it is both ways happening during initiation, but the guru knows when the guru is offering himself to the devotee.
Why is the guru is offering himself to the devotee? For the salvation of that devotee. For that devotee to rise and attain the Feet of the Supreme Lord so that this devotee is pushed up. The guru pushes the devotee and says, ‘Go to the Feet of the Lord.’ But does the devotee have the same goal? Because the devotee has to become humble at that point, and allow the guru to push him up. For that it is very important to have a certain understanding of your path. It is very important to have knowledge about your path.
To be a devotee is not just to put a tilak on or to wear fancy clothes and go around and say, ‘Yes, I am a devotee.’ No! Inside, inwardly, what is happening to you? A devotee has this inner journey, that inner connection, with Bhagavan. This is what makes one a devotee.
That’s why one’s mind must be fully absorbed in the reverence of the Feet of the Master, and really understand what it means. It’s not just to offer a flower; what you are offering with that flower is you are offering your devotion, you are offering your love, you are offering part of yourself. And when you are offering part of yourself, you become humble, you become loving, and you reflect your guru.
A devotee at all times reflects the Master. Very often while travelling in India I have noticed certain disciples (here I’m not using the word ‘devotee’, I’m using the word ‘disciple’) of a certain guru, look like each other. Guru and shishya look alike. Automatically you know this person is a disciple of ‘so and so’, because of the colour – I’m not talking about the physical colour right now. I don’t expect Swami Revati to start looking like me. He would have to really have some good tattooing upon his skin! – the quality, the inner quality reflects through the devotee. The inner quality, the Master, reflects through the devotee. As much as they surrender to the Master, their whole attitude changes and they start to resemble the guru.
They don’t become the guru. This must be very clear, because you see often people misunderstand that. They don’t become the guru, but they start to resemble the guru in their gestures, the way they speak, the language they speak. So, then you see also that humility and that love starts shining through them. This is a quality of a devotee and a quality of a disciple, and followers also. Like I said at the beginning, I am not here to collect numbers of people. But it is the duty of everyone whose life has transformed to transform another’s life. When you hold a certain light inside of you, you can’t keep that light hidden. Like Jesus said in the Bible, when you have a light, you don’t put it under the table or under the cupboard, but you shine that light.
That is a devotee.
It is written in Your commentaries of the Sri Guru Gita that we have to focus our mind on the guru’s Feet. My ishtadeva is Krishna and I chant ‘om namo narayanaya’. My mind is confused. It doesn’t know who to focus on. Whom do I have to focus my mind on at all times?
Well, the guru has given you a certain sadhana to do, no? So, your ishtadeva is Krishna. So, is there any difference between Krishna and Narayana? No, there is no difference between Krishna and Narayana. Narayana is Krishna, Krishna is Narayana. So, where do you have to focus your mind?
First, in the morning when you wake up, you have to focus your mind on the Feet of the Master. This is the first thing you should do. If you do that first thing in the morning, then you can carry on doing your chanting of om namo narayanaya and worship of Lord Krishna. There is no difference between the three, actually. The guru is a representative of Narayana. Bhagavan has sent him as a reminder of His love and compassion, and he has come. The guru has come as a reminder of where one’s mind should be focusing. The mind of a devotee is focused at the Feet of the guru. By focusing one’s mind at the Feet of the guru, the guru sees that one is ready to worship the Lord in a form so that one can build a certain relationship.
Throughout our life, we are in a state of relationship, no? Whatever we do, we do it through relationship. So, of course, the mantra is important, because you can’t carry your deity around. You carry the deity in the form of the Name with you. So, where is your mind focusing? It’s at the Feet of the Master and on your deity. That is what the mind can understand.
Can your mind focus on the Name? The Name is not tangible. The Name is vibratory. So, your mind can’t focus on a certain vibration. The vibration transforms you inwardly and outwardly. Through you being consciously aware of things (meaning your mind is very active, and you know how quickly your mind can jump from one side to the other) you can focus it only on two things which are physical and material to you, which is firstly the Feet of the Master and the form of your ishtadeva. Otherwise, although it’s always beautiful at the beginning when you start your spiritual path, and it’s always joyful and happy, and you have a certain enthusiasm inside of you, but then, after that, what happens? That enthusiasm fades away; it becomes natural, normal.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, verse 45, we see that clearly, when Bhagavan has shown His cosmic Form to Arjuna. What does Arjuna say? He says, ‘Lord, please, I am very happy to have seen Your cosmic Form, I am very joyful about that form, but it makes me fearful, I tremble with that form! Please go back to that form which I am accustomed to, that sweet form’.
You see, when we start on our spiritual path, there is this enthusiasm in oneself, ‘I want to do something, I want to change this, I want to change that’. You have a great list. Then you do it for one month, two months, one year. Then it starts to fade, and you say, ‘Okay, yes, okay, my daily routine starts coming.’ Because this is how your mind has been conceived. If you don’t keep your mind on track, in focus, that, ‘This is my aim really and I want only that’, it will fade away.
The same when Arjuna did this prayer to Bhagavan Krishna. He said, ‘Please, give me darshan, this form is terrible, I am very excited.’ There is an excitement in it, but then what? The mind kicks in, fear starts to arise. ‘Okay, now that I have seen this cosmic Form, I have seen who You are truly, I can’t handle that.’ Because very often people say, ‘God, please, give me Yourself, give me Yourself’ Bhagavan says, ‘Okay, I’ll come’, would you be able to handle Him? If you don’t have any relationship with Him, you will never be able to handle Him. Even those who have a relationship with Him could not handle Him. That’s why previous to that, He prayed, ‘Please, forgive me.’ He asked Bhagavan, Chapter 11, verse 44, ‘Please, forgive me! O, adorable Lord, please forgive me! If, in any way I have made any offence to You, please, forgive me! Just like a father forgives his son, just like a friend forgives his friend, just like a lover forgives his beloved, forgive me! I implore You for that forgiveness.’
Again, it’s about our relationship. It’s about this relationship that we have had through many incarnations. What we think we know about comes to a point of saying, ‘Yes, I don’t know anything. I have always had a certain conception of things that I know because I have read it somewhere, I’ve heard it somewhere.' But the bhakta realises that throughout their life they don’t know anything. The only thing that it is known is just 'I have to hold on tightly to the Feet of the guru and God.'
There are two kinds of bhakti in one’s life. We have aishwarya-bhakti and madhurya-bhakti, two kinds of bhakti.
In aishwarya-bhakti, we have our relationship, but we stand far away from each other. I am here, I do everything in submission to Your will. Just like a king. A king is in his palace and everybody has submitted to the king. So, they will have devotion in their service, but they can’t have that intimacy in their service. (Note one thing: the service is the same, but that intimacy, that relationship, that closeness, is not there.)
Then you have madhurya-bhakti. Madhurya-bhakti normally is divided into four steps. So this bhakti. Dasya-bhakti, sakhya-bhakti, vatsalya-bhakti, and madhurya-bhakti. So, dasya-bhakti is when we have a certain feeling of serving, we are servants to the Lord. Like Hanumanji, no? Like the devotees have.
Sakhya-bhakti is even more intimate. It’s like a friend. Often the saints see God as a friend. It’s funny that it’s only the Vedic tradition that provides this kind of relationship to God. Other traditions don’t give that. Who can say, ‘Yes, God is my friend’? Nobody can say that. Because if you have fear inside of you, you can’t call God your friend; you can’t say, ‘I am scared of my friend.’ No, you have a certain relationship with a friend; there is an openness, a certain understanding that, ‘My friend understands me more than anybody else. So, I can tell everything to my friend. I can act in a certain way with my friend’, if it is your dear friend. Your friend will not have that judgement, because your friend will always be there for you. No matter what, no matter how you are, your friend, if they call themselves a friend, will always be there for you. That relationship you see clearly with the gopas of Vrindavan with Lord Krishna. They could carry Krishna on their shoulders. They could eat and give Krishna the leftovers and Krishna would happily accept it. They would beat Krishna and Krishna would beat them. They would run behind Him; they would do all kinds of mischief with Him. That kind of mischief, this is a dearness which a friendship has. This, a 'Das' can’t do; this, a servant can’t do.
Then vatsalya-bhava. Not everybody can have a vatsalya-bhava. This is unique in itself where you are taking the Supreme Lord Himself as a child. You see in Him a dearness that you can’t see Him differently. You can’t see Him as a friend, you can’t see Him as a servant, you can’t see Him as a beloved, you see Him only as a child.
You know, in certain sampradayas they worship baby Krishna. They have that devotion that, ‘This is how I want to serve You.’ They serve Him as baby Krishna. They have this vatsalya-bhava inside of them, that bhakti as a parent has, just like Nanda and Yashoda have, Dasharatha has, and so on. Many saints also have it, but it is quite rare.
Then you have madhurya-bhakti. (In other traditions, they would say madhurya-bhava.) That bhakti is unique: it is what our soul longs. That bhakti you see in the gopis of Vrindavan and it is what they have for Krishna. Not only the gopis of Vrindavan, many great saints, the lovers of the Lord, had this, where God becomes their lover. It brings one that intimacy even more deeply that, ‘I am not living my life for me, I am living my life for my beloved, and whatever I do is to please my beloved.’
You see, when you are freshly in love, especially, your mind is constantly only thinking about your beloved. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, ‘What is he doing?’, or, ‘What is she doing?’ Your mind is fully saturated with the remembrance of thinking of the beloved one. So, this kind of bhakti is also there.
With these two forms of bhakti, aishwarya-bhakti and madhurya-bhakti, one can really go into worship of the Feet of the Master and God, until here [the head] and here [the heart] you have been clear that there is no difference between the Feet of the guru and the Feet of the Lord Himself. Without the Feet of the guru you would never reach the Feet of the Lord. But it is only through the grace, which Bhagavan has given through the guru to you, that you have reached where you now are.
You tell us to love each other and that God is Love. Unfortunately, when people fall in love or lead a relationship they often get very rajasic because of their attraction for each other, but in the Gita Krishna tells us to transcend and overcome all the gunas. So, here is my question: Does human love always lead into these qualities or can we learn to love transcendentally even in a relationship?
There are many relationships which, of course, at the beginning because you have a certain tendency, the love starts with a rajasic quality, no? Because this is what people live their life about. You go into your daily activity of life, and you want a life to be how everybody wants to be – a normal life, let’s say, a mundane life, until you understand that life is not just to live like that – because the animals also live like that. So, when we take a bundle, when we decide to take a bundle of this rajasic qualities put it all together and surrender it to the Feet of God, and say, ‘Yes, but I’m ready for that for that transformation to happen, I am ready for – you can see that in the life of devotees very often their life gets transformed once they have reached their spiritual path. They realise that, ‘Yes, I don’t want to live that kind of life anymore. I have lived that kind of life, did that life give me really happiness? It is becoming just a routine, just a mundane routine. I’m doing the same thing daily, I am with the same people, I am talking about the same things.'
How many people live that kind of life? The whole world lives this kind of life. But when you go on the spiritual path, you are called to transform your life, to rise beyond this limitation, to attain something even more deep. This is when you do your sadhana and , you fully say, ‘Yes, I am committed.’ Especially if all – husband, wife, children –,are on the path, it’s easier. Because otherwise one will start to transform and the other one will never be able to handle it.
When you start to rise upon the ladder of spirituality, you detach from that normality of things, because when you are on the normality level, you are looking at each other and you have a certain understanding of each other. This one understands this one, this one understands that one. But, when you start growing spiritually, that detaches itself. You understand what is down, but down can’t understand what is up here. It’s like when you are going up the stairs, but when you are down, you don’t know what is happening up on the roof or on the top floor. You go to the middle, you see from a certain angle what is happening, but you don’t have any clear view of what is happening. Down they don’t have any clue what is happening, but you have started to have a certain clue what is happening. Even that transformation between down and in the middle is a big difference.
So, the more you grow and you reach the top floor, you have a clear view of the whole things. When you have a clear view of what is happening up there, you have the clue, you have the understanding. But those who are down, they don’t have that understanding. Even if you try to explain to them, they will not understand what is happening.
It’s important also to understand them and that not everybody is on the same level of spirituality. For those who really go above that, they have even a clearer understanding of life itself.
One thing is very important: share. Whether the person wants to listen or not, try to share that understanding in a language which the people understand. Because, you see, when we go on the spiritual path, we speak a different language. That is a language that somebody who is in the rajasic guna or in the world itself will not understand. So, if you want really to give some knowledge of spirituality to mundane people, try to use their language of understanding. Use things that they understand to try to explain it.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!