Vanity thought #261. Yuga dharma.

I’m getting all confused here – chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is the yuga dharma of this age, on the other hand chanting the Holy Name is a completely transcendental activity that has absolutely nothing to do with the material world, gunas and yugas. Deity worship, offering sacrifices and meditation are inferior comparing to the Holy Name. Is our current yuga dharma really special or am I missing something here?

When Lord Chaitanya was composing Siksashtaka, was He talking about yuga dharma? Didn’t sound like it. Is there a difference between sankirtana as He meant it in the first verse and our yuga dharma? And what about sankirtana as we practice it – is it really that important? Or is it just a temporary yuga dharma that should be abandoned along with all other vedic rules and regulations when we get to the liberated stage?

Look at Vamshidasa Babaji, or Shukadeva Goswami – they couldn’t care less what the Vedas prescribed them to do according to their varnashrama situation, does it mean they thought of chanting or any of our common forms of sankirtana as inferior?

What about Lord Chaitanya Himself? In the beginning of Chaitanya Charitamrita Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami discussed the reasons for Lord Chaitanya’s appearance and propagating the chanting of the Holy Name was called external, as opposed to the principal reason of His coming, which was fulfilling His own desires as Srimati Radharani. In fact, in Adi 4.223 it is said that

He made His appearance to taste that conjugal mellow and incidentally to broadcast all the rasas

and specifically the word ānusańge is used which Prabhupada translated as a “secondary motive”.

I don’t know what it refers to exactly in that verse – to broadcasting the love of God in general or to the inclusion of non-conjugal rasas.

To me it sounds like sankirtana as we know it wasn’t particularly important for Him, yet we’ve been taught differently. There are implications.

On one hand I totally agree that tasting any mellows, let alone conjugal ones, is way above our pay grade, we are so insignificant and worthless that even the secondary, incidental nature of His mission is more than we have ever deserved. Speaking of mission – it implies having some external motives and goals. Lord Chaitanya’s mission was to spread chanting of the Holy Name to every town and village – fine, but now I see that He actually didn’t care much about that, He wanted to learn Radharani’s love for Krishna first and foremost, preaching was like an afterthought.

Imagine Krishna telling Radharani that He was going down to Earth to learn everything there’s there to learn about her, all her secrets and everything. Radharani then tells Him that if He’s going outside He might just as well do something useful and take out the trash, or bring in some trash, as in this particular case. “Okay,” Krishna grumbles, “but only if I really have to.”

So here we are, the trash, the dust and dirt that sticks to you shoes and sneaks into the house. Kinda sweet to be particles of dust on Lord’s lotus feet but what if he decides to wash them off before coming back and entering Goloka? What if he treats the dust on His feet as contamination? What if we are, at best, stowaways?

I don’t mind taking this route if it works but what to do with all the pride and appreciation for those participating in the sankirtana mission? From the very beginning we’ve been led to believe that book distributors are Lord Chaitanya’s dearest and we surely made everyone to know that. Now it turns out we are actually undesirables, and Srila Prabhupada was the chief of that smuggling ring. This is just not right, there must be a better explanation.

Perhaps yuga dharma and sankirtana are two different things, one is chanting the mantras for mainly material purposes – prosperity, comfort, that sort of thing, but sankirtana is for actually developing love of God. They are not completely separate, mind you, success in chanting should lead to developing devotion, but so was expected from sacrifices and temple worship and it didn’t turn out so well. I mean only a few exceptional souls achieved perfection that way while chanting the Holy Name is supposed to be a fool proof, one hundred percent working method. I hope there really is a difference between the two.

Perhaps there is a difference but only a few of us can actually see it, as externally these two activities manifest as exactly the same. Say there’s a guy selling books to bring money back to the temple, hoping that he can get a new iPod at the end of the marathon, the one where you can install all the apps, too. He might be actually very good at shaking people down, a natural salesman. There might be another guy nearby, honestly trying to tell people about Krishna, who can never ever match the first guy’s collections but who also can’t care less about iPods.

In this situation one is doing the yuga dharma, “sankirtana” with material motives, the other is actually trying to preach. Who knows what is going on in their hearts? Krishna knows, of course, but as far as everybody else is concerned – we heap all the praise on the best book distributors and we judge them by the book count. Getting books into people’s homes – that’s what’s important, the methods aren’t.

Well, we also know that Krisnna will sort it out in the end and the first guy might give up on his service faster than expected and so the proper order will be restored. What’s there to lose? We tried to tell him to distribute books in the proper mood, we did our best.

There’s another pressure on the second guy – we are not supposed to preach Krishna’s glories to non-believers. There are two famous Bhagavad Gita verses – 18.68 and 18.69:

For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.

We often cite them to encourage our book distributors and preachers but they talk about preaching to the devotees, not ordinary people who have no interest in hearing about Krishna.

This is a really great argument for the rasika vaishnavas, devotees, usually ex-ISKCON who think that preaching to karmis and book distribution are inferior activities not worth pursuing. Maybe they are right, maybe only very few liberated souls capable of tasting the rasa take on preaching because it’s important, too, while the rest of us are really inferior, but one thing against this argument is that we can’t bite the hand that feeds us – if not for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Prabhupada we would never be here at all, and the other thing is that declaring someone as a rasika vaishnava who is above book distribution and preaching does not automatically put one on that actual level.

Also, despite the greatness of tasting the rasas, there’s something much more humble and sublime in going out and trying to bring more souls in. Yes, the rasas are great, but it’s the Lord who is the enjoyer, HE came here to taste them, and not in the exchange with us but in the exchange with Himself. He needed only very few devotees, like Swarupa Damodara, to help Him, the rest of us belong to His kirtana parties, just faces in the crowd, and we join them for His pleasure, not ours.

We can’t even actually join those parties, we missed them by five hundred years, so our humble position is to try and make our present kirtans worth Lord Chaitanya’s attention, and for that we need to bring more people in, it’s not our service to dabble in Lord Chaitanya’s inner feelings, we should mind our place. So yeah, maybe we are not as great as rasika devotees but we can’t become greater than we really are, and real rasika devotees would never ever make us feel inadequate, unlike our ex-ISKCON friends.

Perhaps in the rush to achieve greater position in devotional ranks we forget about six Goswamis who always looked for the ways to humble themselves instead.

Lowly yuga dharma or the most exalted service in the entire universe, we know it guarantees to give Krishna and Lord Chaitanya’s at least some satisfaction, whereas dabbling in rasas can be all imaginary. Unless one can see Krishna and see His reaction one would never know if his service is actually accepted. We also should only aim for dasa dasa anudasa position, we don’t aim at serving Krishna directly, only His servants. If Krishna decided to manifest Himself and accept our service in the form of Srila Prabhupada and our gurus, those are the forms we are going to serve, everything else is our own imagination.

Next time I hear talk about approaching a real guru who can give you real taste for Krishna I will eat my humble pie and admit my inferior position. My guru might not be the best in the whole world but it’s the one Krishna sent me and if I can’t serve him with full dedication and devotion, what rights do I have to demand anything better?

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