On our ideal position

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati:
All persons of this world are superior to us in every way as far as this world is concerned.
It’s quite a radical statement. We look at ourselves and we think “we are doing okay”, certainly not worse than many many others, so how to understand it?
The lecture continues:
“Such material matters are not commodities that are to be coveted by us. We are merely beggars carrying the triple staff of renunciation and devoted to the chanting of the words of Sri Chaitanya. We have no more, nor any higher desirable object than the pleasure of serving sri-hari-guru-vaisnavas.”

Ahh, it makes sense now – it’s the vision of an akincana devotee, one free from all material aspirations. Even if some material possessions come to him, he does not see it as his own achievement and does not compare it to others. He either sees the Lord’s need for some service with that thing, or blames himself for slipping into sense gratification. Other people can legitimately advance their material lives with Lord’s blessings and, therefore, he seems himself as inferior.

The Lord gives authority and power to all these other people and so they control the material world according to Lord’s plan and for their ultimate purification and benefit, but when he tries to do the same he sees it as deviation from Lord’s service. Therefore they are all better than him and he does not impugn on their legitimate domain.

There are many other important points there as well:

“We are not the operators of the instrument; we are only the instruments. We must always bear this in mind. The triple bhikshus, tridandi-isannyasis, are the living mridanga drums of Sri Chaitanya. We must constantly give forth our music at the lotus feet of Sri Guru. We should practice the function of the peripatetic preacher, parivrajakacarya, of carrying aloft the victorious banner of the commands of the divine Sri Gaurasundar by constant submission to Sri Guru and the vaishnvas, fixing our eye on the pole-star of the heard transcendental voice. We must always bear in mind that we have been initiated in the vow of peripatetic preacher for the sole purpose of promulgating the heart’s desire of Sri Guru and Gauranga. If we are constantly inspired with the duty of discoursing about the truth under the guidance of Sri Guru, then no hankering after traveling, nor any veiled form of desire other than the chanting of hari-nama will ever strike any terror in our hearts.”

Other people are “operators of the instrument” – they are given their domain of material nature, their kshetra to develop, but we are instruments ourselves. Or rather should be – this stage is very hard to attain, maybe for a few brief moments in one’s life we act as instruments rather than controllers. Most of the time we are [ostensibly] using other things for Krishna, which is not what is demonstrated here. We are not “living mridanga drums”, we fancy ourselves as players instead.

Interestingly, “no hankering after traveling” seems to be at odds with self-identification as parivrajakacaryas. We think that traveling is one obvious benefit of being a preacher, but no. Among all the things one could do in the world as a travelling preacher – and I don’t mean to cast any shadow on any of our ISKCON “travelling monks” – there’s only one duty for a parivrajakacarya – discoursing about the truth under the guidance of Sri Guru.

In the progression of sannyasis from kuticaka to bahudaka etc one is supposed to first depend on the mercy of his family, then on the mercy of his village, then on the mercy of people in general for his maintenance, and so it implies he travels far and wide to collect his madhukari, but no, true parivrajakacarya is only focused on Hari Katha and pays no attention to his physical location and sources of sustenance.

Also note the terror of a desire for anything else other than chanting of hari-nama. The terror. Not an upset, not a sigh of frustration, not a dismissal, but the terror of thinking of anything else other than chanting.

From Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s Lecture given in Madras, 18 March 1933, as seen in Krishna Kathamrita Bindu issue number 79.

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