by Srila Atulananda Acharya Prabhu
One day they asked the humble and simple sadhaka; the one of continuous sadhana who passed the tulasi beads through his fingers together with the Names: “What is the result you wait for from this abnegated life you lead?…”
The sadhaka closed his eyes and a smile came across his face: “What more than a life of surrender?” In this way he summarized his simple response. Yet, after a pause, as if called by the vine of the Vedas, he began to mutter his thoughts. “In my next life I hope to be born in a small far away village populated by saints at the edge of a sacred river where sounds of the Lord’s praise begin to vibrate before sunrise, declaring His beautiful glory with the most beautiful poetry…. I want to have my mansion there: a small straw and mud hut… and my father a saint absorbed in the Holy Name with a frugal life and a deep heart; with loving words full of religion. And my mother as well, an abnegated saint, lover of simplicity and poverty, the exalted?? deity and the service to her husband.
” The music of the crystalline river would always be there, and I would see the country of dense richness lifting its fruits to the sky; kissed by the sun and caressed by the fresh breezes that give away aromas and bring a concert of birds… I would rise when the sky were a dark canvas splashed with stars and I would think about the saints. I would review the last verses in my mind and study the Holy Scripture. My eyes wet with emotion would search to thank the giver of such fortune. Always surrendered to the Holy Name and the study of the Scriptures; always working happily in all my chores, I would learn to work the Earth and recognize the callings of the birds and the currents of the waters. I would know the goodness of each herb, and I would learn to cook and play various instruments. All this would be normal and natural. Most importantly would be the gatherings of the sages; to sit for hours listening to their realizations, accompanying them on their pilgrimages and always praying to receive their grace.
“I would always keep in mind that this world is passing, a preparation for the infinite, a school of many years and many lessons. I would always force myself to feel the will and the presence of Krsna in all things. I would try to understand that I am not this body.
” The divine kirtan of the Holy Name will fill my time, from sunrise to sunset. I will always search for goodness. I will look to love all, even the smallest beings, and I will pray for the grace of feeling myself to be the most destitute, the most deprived of all beings.
“I will ask for grace from the mountains and the trees, wanting to learn from the silent greatness and quiet tolerance of the givers of fruits. I will want to have the grace of the powerful wind as it flies freely without any limits, its resonant blow squelching the hearts of the ignorant. I will want to learn from the sun who illuminates everything in his generous march; who like a great paramahamsa takes sweet water from the salty sea. From the waters of that same ocean, I will want to learn how they reach up to please the rocks, and how the small, hard and insignificant stone causes the great ones to stumble, and builds mansions. In every breeze, in each drop, in each reflection, and in each grain of sand, I will be embellished by You. My mind will go to you. But all of these will only be secondary observations of minor importance; and I will search out the feet dust of Your devotees, and I will make a garland for them and will worship the form of Your gracious deity.
” I will feel the grace of the fasts quieting my mind and calming my senses. I will be happy with this divine austerity. A sensation of peace and happiness will come from within me like a voluntary force of conquest than dominates the passions and establishes a noble and pure character….
” I do not know if I would have a house and children, fruits and a garden. Only God knows what is good for me. But I want to be born with a profound sense of renunciation. I want to be born with complete disinterest in the pleasures of this world, without any interest in personal enjoyment, personal earnings, and the apparent vain success that so many search for with vehement blindness. I pray for this; that total unattachment be my most coveted goal; that to know myself to be the smallest and most insignificant be my greatest ambition; that all the wealth I have be purity of heart and an understanding of the saints. May “slave” be my name, dominated desires and passions my principle, unpolluted devotion my entire character, charity my action, my learning the shastras, my teaching complete surrender to His divine feet, the holy remnants my only food, His Holy Name my exclusive chant, tilaka indicating that I pertain to His house, my hands yearning for tulasi beads. I pray for this; to have such immense grace.
” May my feet always go to Your temple. May my eyes always look at Your image. May my ears always receive Your sruti. May my mind remember You, my intelligence discover You, and my heart long for You. May my already dominated tongue sing only Your glories. May all be for You. May all revolve around You: the moon, the sun, the knight cricket, the illustrious cities, all thoughts, all acts, all senses, all desires, all united in You, all assembled with You. Everywhere, only You; You and those who serve You; You and those who love You. I pray for that reality. I pray for the Truth in all things.
” At home, peace of a saintly life will reign. My parents will be a source of consolation, of strength and light. Hymns would escape through the windows, or they would be heard coming from the fresh Earth when the stars mark the darkness of the sky, and when the moon passes her pallid presence…
” I will be free of vices, of desires to exploit and triumph in this world selling perversion and subculture, animalizing man, degrading the race to dementia…. only to be a great man in the new marble temples called banks… I will not want the form or the eloquence of the speculating and charlatan intellectuals, lovers of sex and of a superficial and placid life; those fanfares who prefer inventing to learning, who speak without listening, and who turn knowledge into a cold object of analysis and study, a mere object of observation from the obscure platform of pride. Yet, their knowledge is never anything venerable and worshipable for them, never anything valuable enough to dedicate their lives to. This is because they do not have any knowledge, because they only chew and swallow the peel of their mental appreciation without ever arriving at the sweet substance of Your presence. These intellectuals speak of a world without God, and if there is one, He is of little importance. For them, the only thing that is worth anything are their many fantasies and crazy ambitions. They fill books and books without saying anything clearly. Leading one from one puddle to another, they do not know the ecstasies of Your word; they do not know that wisdom means a life dedicated to You….
” Will I be able to appreciate saintliness as the greatest wealth? Will I truly be free of fear of the many dangers of this world?… I will take shelter in Your name and in the company of Your saints. They will give me refuge, and in this way the ocean of dangers will reduce to the water contained in a calf’s footprint, because there is no worse danger than not knowing Your greatness, and there is no greater poverty then to ignore Your grace.”
” But, wait a minute! Who are you, little Sadhaka, to aspire to such an advantageous birth? What have you done and why do you dream about such worthiness?”
” My master taught us to think big. But you’re right, where did I get such flippancy in my flight. It’s true, I do not deserve anything, and all that I receive is by the grace of my master and my Lord, and only for Their glory. But it is also true that one will be taken according to their heart’s desire and mind’s disposition. Maybe in a thousand more lives, but one day I want to be blessed with the pleasure of a saintly and simple life. Then, everything will make me pray in an incessant manner: the pain of my sins, the fear of falling, the order of my guru, divine grace, the very taste of the Name, the events of life, and the implications of this Truth in the actions that I execute….
” With great pleasure I will sing the verses of the Bhagavad-Gita in sweet Sanskrit, tasting each word full of bhakti flowing directly from the heart of the Beloved. I hope, then, that I will cry… His words will come like a far off memory, like a sensation of something already known, like meeting with an old friend again, whose name is Krsna…. His name is beautiful and dynamic, full and sober, pleasing to the ear and joyful. I will rejoice in harmonizing with His eternal wisdom, my mind quieted, my intelligence strong, my heart purified and perfumed with the lotus of His transcendence. ‘Oh, colossal chant of my glorious Lord!’ I will think to myself with great pride, with an inevitable smile on my lips, with the smile of Sañjaya before the immanent triumph of the army of my Lord. Oh, yes! Your enemies will fall like flies, like helpless moths before Your effulgent splendor. The speculators of the world will not be able to oppose Your splendid exposition… They will avoid You or speak of You wrongly or, they will surrender to You – if they are genuine searchers.
” Oh yes! The sincere searchers will find peace in every one of Your words… Those who fear the night of Kali, who see the world as a arduous hell; those souls who love goodness and Truth, who are inclined towards purity, who exercise discipline, who look to advance and correct themselves; those who long for humility and a master, who want to learn songs of praise and aspire towards always being alert to the unexpected voice of the Truth, they will love You. Oh Gita! They will carry you within their hearts. They will pronounce you with each breath. They will not separate from you in any one of their acts… I will feel this within my smile, within the smile of your inevitable triumph, your victorious flag waving in the skies of Kali, the voice of my Lord sounding like a tumultuous thunder, with the brilliance of lightening, agitating the clouds which hide the sky… I want to love every verse, every beloved verse of Your words, every expression of Your love for those of us who suffer the ignorance this gross body ties us to. I will always want to listen to the dawn of Your voice… I will go to the feet of Your saints with pertinent questions… I will want to penetrate the revelation of Your mysteries, which demand a lot of light and love, a lot of surrender, for a vain spirit like mine.
” There will be the saints, submerged in their studies, reviewing their worn books with deep eyes, tired of the world. With each verse they will raise me towards the clouds, to the height of Your infinite glory. They will elevate me with the words of realization that come from their mouths like venturous ocean waves of prema in which they are always submerged. And they will give me more everyday. They will take me to the Bhagavatam, to all the literature of grace and love, through all those pages that are read under the light of purity and dedication to Your service. They will teach me the meaning of those words which the envious soul can not understand. Then I will want to feel a great longing for Your company… or at least a great zeal for purity, for possessing all the virtues that decorate bhakti; but for Your pleasure – not my honor… I will want very much to please You, that You rejoice in me in some way. I will always pray to please You one day. Within my heart, I want the conviction of Your goodness, of Your presence, of the virtue of all things, and of the rejection of sin. I want resolute strength to always advance, to go upwards, to have the sufficient realization to surrender to You… I want to savor the moment when You command: “Get up and fight!” and treat men like me as miserable and wretched… I will enjoy it when You challenge those who do not love the Truth, those who spare sacrifices to obtain You, those who become indignant with the world if it does not give them pleasures, and who are quick to get annoyed and angry.
” Yes, in this new life I will want only to be like grass that does not rebel, that cooperates and participates with humble silence. I will want to have the tolerance of the tree who, after an entire life of gifts and deprivation, turns its body in for the convenience of others. With this spirit, the tree grows tall and full, but it knows how to sway with the blowing wind… This is how I want to grow, in the spirit of Your love, knowing how to bow to the sound of the sruti…
” But how will I reach this without Your grace? Without Your generous gift? It will be impossible if You are not merciful to me… That is why I pray with all humility, or with the little that I possess, that You come to help me… Because You permit beings to see with the help of the sun and moon. You permit us to remember Your Names every time we awake in the morning. You permit us to know that we exist and that other things exist… Recently I have heard that something like the science of loving surrender to Your divine feet exists. This is the science that I good willingly wish to learn today. Please do not take any longer to teach it to me; give me Your quick shelter, the company of Your devotees, and the know-how of appreciating them with all my heart…
“Sometimes, I will want to lose myself in the silence of the mountains, to dig deeper within. And in my small retreat I will sit near a fresh stream and sing the sastra (the scripture)… There, I will ask You: ‘How long will I carry the pain of my ignorance? When will mercy for others awaken within me? When will I search for You with a pure heart? When will I know the path that leads to Your Love?’ Sometimes I will want this solitude to mortify me by analyzing my profound lowliness. And I will surely feel that I am still far from being truly solitary… But still, I will try it for some time… I will submerge myself in Your name. I will feel it enter my heart. In those few moments of deepness and pleasure, of great delight and abandonment to You, I will feel the word of the sages to be true; that other than Your name, there is nothing else in this world… Then I will come down from the mountain yelling Your Name at the top of my lungs, filling every direction with the echo of my yell, so that even the distant trees of the far off gorges can hear about You…
” When I arrive home I will bow before the beautiful and simple tulsi plant, the one that always decorates Your feet and offers herself on Your plate with love… I will bow before her, the giver of devotion, who occupies her entire being in Your service… My mother will greet me with a few words, already absorbed in her daily prayer. She will lay out the straw mats on the earth with her brilliant eyes and her smile of light. She will take out the prasadam from her clay pots, which was her loving offering to God. Again, this pure food prepared by my mother, with the natural ingredients of the land, or the result of begging, will invite me to pray… The cow manure was the simple precious combustible. Everything is aromatic and tasty… No one could make it like she, who always inhales the incense and tulsi offered to the deity…
” And when my father returns from the association of the devotees, I will wash his feet with fervor and will splash the water on my head… The father of the house has arrived. He who initiated me in devotion, he who sounded the first hymns to Hari in my ears, he who showed me the form of the deity and took me to the feet of my guru. He who, day and night, watched over me so that the fire of divine virtue would shine within me…
” I will love the day’s awakening, each time with its clothes of soft colors, always changing, like a dance of flamencos who call beings to life, who announce the arrival of he who crowns the sky, the dazzling star, the abode of Narayan… The golden king will mark the various duties with his gait… I want everyday to be saintly, everyday to be dedicated to You. I will want to see the multiple celestial bodies within the concert of Your will, what to speak of the events of my life! What to speak of the grown plant within the most lost and forgotten garden!… But this is nothing… This is the most elemental and sober of Your reality… I will want, once again and forever, the taste of Your name… And because of this, my eyes will close, sacrificing the dawn and the twilight, the galaxies of infinite stars will close, denying the same concert of this life that You Yourself direct, looking for something more from You… I will search in Your name, in the gentleness for Your will. I will penetrate the spring of Your sweetness, beyond all mundane radiance… Daring repentant!… Favored by Your unlimited grace, I will go directly to knock on the door of Your loving connection… I will only follow the footprints of those saints who walk under the care of Your glance and who are insatiable beggars of Your sweet, sweet Love… I will pray that their voice fill the basin of my heart… May they take reigns of my erratic conscience… May they soothe me with their realizations… May they always direct me on the path that they dominate, full of mercy and virtue…
And when I arrive to where my guru is, I will be before the lord of my life. His will shall be my rule, his wish my command. I will also try to get ahead of his wish and always please him in everything. His friendship will rule above all other friendships, his advice will be the conclusive Vedanta. I will only want to see with his eyes, listen to his words, serve his sentiment. This soul, full of mercy, will give me the Holy Name. He will teach me the correct attitude with which to chant. He will teach me to serve the Vaisnavas and the universe of Love… His word will always be my consolation, his presence the face of dawn, the memory of him alone the enthusiasm of my life, his acts my pride, his mission my eternal service… On his feet will be the mark of great saints, the holy dust of the places of pilgrimage, and the freshness of the river waters that cross these lands… Carefully giving out the mature fruit of the succession of descending masters, he will always speak words with lotus fragrance; always very willing to listen to the afflicted spirit that crosses the hard loneliness of this life invaded by blind passion and ignorance… He will be the consolation of the poor and give his audience to the princes of Earth… He will remain the same before the rock and the ruby, before the rich and the poor, before the wise and the irreligious… He will always dance wisdom on his lips and will give us his sweet nectar telling us: “Chant this Name as if you had a thousand mouths, make a chorus in your heart with the angelic voices… Fill your life with the sound of the mantra and always chant… Always chant like the bird that by doing so increases her beauty… Like the anxious river who makes music with the rocks and relieves the afflicted mind… Like the harsh ocean that joins the chorus with a powerful brilliance… Like the wind that draws sleeping prayers from the countryside. Like the colossal cloud that roars thunder and lightening; sound and light illuminating the sky… Always sing like this, until your heart is possessed, intoxicated with love, beyond yourself, your life given to Him; until the chanting submerges you in the absolute dedication of divine service; until you withdraw from all the veils of Maya and are taken to that place of ambrosial fields, to the land of nectar, to the sweet home where all have an affectionate concern for you… where your interest is represented entirely by the harmonious plan of the Omniscient Absolute.
” Do not let your spirit be confused by the ambiguous light that emanates from the Supreme Being. You come from that light, a small seed of consciousness… But now break this small, old structure and give birth to your fresh bud. Announce the life that is within you. Demonstrate how you can be a person in the transcendental kingdom… Retrieve your divine potential… The realization of eternity is like a deep breath of one who almost drowns, yet for a moment might think that he does not need anything else, nothing more that just breathing that healthy, fresh air, which is only the beginning and sustenance of a life that must begin to grow and develop so much more. In this way the soul which has realized brahman, or spirit, begins to breath the aroma of its own nature, free of the deadly covering… But you should not remain there! Do not think, my brother, that this is the ultimate end. Do not fool yourself calling this goal “Vedanta.” It is a slander to the Veda which gives us much more than this. Do not say that you have already concluded the pathway of divine knowledge and self-realization, and do not call yourself God… How far you will then be from the true goal! And your declaration that you are the Supreme will only plant atheism and irreligion. True religion can not be mixed with envy and pride. They repel each other like fire to cold, or like the sun to darkness… He who claims he has become one with Him is seated in the pedestal of his mistaken attainment – far, very far, from the small reality of his soul which is of a life of surrender to the service of the loving Lord.
” The Veda gives us so many indications… Like an abundant tree, full of wisdom, who keeps the fruits that matured from contact with the sun in its highest branches… These high fruits are the sole domain of the sky and the wind; a wind that takes away the transcendental aroma of the sruti, the sound of the scripture, taking the most profound conclusions, like a sacred pollen, to fertilize new spirits… There, above, is also the domain of the bird named Sukadev Goswami. Only the lightness of his spirit can perch in the little soft branches. Only his blessed beak can taste the nectarine fruit cared for by the mahajans, the greatest self-realized souls… And after tasting the intoxicating nectar satiated in the purest rasa, after embracing the deep stratum of the most profound spiritual realizations, he opens his majestic and colorful wings to begin his own flight to rescue more treasures from the infinite sky… And in this way, sages like he, from whom King Pariksit extracted the valuable nectar, will take you to the flower of purest honey. They will bring you into the same Lila as Sri Krsna, into the enchantment of His esoteric pastimes, forbidden for the envious and egocentric hearts. There the Ultimate Truth will be, that which the sages describe with select verses. He is the most enchanting and all fascinating Being… This is the Love of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna… All other love bows before Him and yields the way to His noble excellence… All other love becomes enriched and is nurtured by Him, as the sun nurtures many flowers, the roots many fruits, and as the fine diamond enhances the small stones that surround it… This is the ultimate end: the loving service of Sri Sri Radha Govinda in Vrindavan. Do not aspire for anything other than this. Qualify yourself completely. Dedicate yourself fully to reaching the most elevated heights and the deepest realizations… Your heart can only satiate its yearning in this service… It was created for this… like the small fish for the immense ocean, like the small bird for the immense sky…”
” My gurudeva will speak like this; words of deep wisdom, relieving the soul from agonizing ignorance… But really, how insolent of me! I can not say, ‘That is how my gurudeva will speak.’ How can the blind know what the clairvoyant sees? How can the deaf know the music of Your praise? I only know that he would say something of the sort based on the scriptures. Please excuse my daringness… Still, he will destroy the dark swamp of impersonalism, and will give the nectar of the pure Name. You will hear his voice at the ends of the world! Throughout the entire canopy of heaven, the word of Jagat guru will be heard!…
” He will announce the message of Mahaprabhu, His deep desire, the reasons for His great appearance… Then one day he will take out a hidden nectar from among his books… something that he had reserved for me until that moment… something that he kept for a long time while I prepared myself… Lets imagine something like Krsna gradually revealing things… And he will tell me, with his sweet voice that escapes among smiles: “You have already heard of the Golden Avatar, of the proprietor of the Holy Name, of the triumphant prophet who traveled throughout Bharata (India) with His song on His lips… his beautiful figure outdoing all beauty… and He gave all of it to the sweetness of the kirtan… His long arms reaching up toward the sky calling His devotees who, like crazy bumblebees joined around the honey of His chanting… ‘In every city, town, village, along the river banks and sea shores, in every point of the immense firmament, the Holy Name of Krsna will be chanted.’ This was His great prophesy, and He Himself gave initiation to the movement with the first waves that shook the great ocean of prema (Love) emanating from His very Self.”
” Then I will have the sensation of guessing the wish of my guru. His heart full of mercy, embodying the nature of a pure Vaisnava, he will not be able to tolerate the pain of others, the pain of ignorance, the pain that consumes those who hurt each other with the great needle of sin… ‘They eat the meat of innocent brothers and suffer the enrapture of mundane pleasures…’ He would tell me with humid eyes, with a trembling voice, when the sun is going down, just about to illuminate the landscapes of the Western cities… ‘They have forgotten the importance of the soul and sexual desire excites their senses and passions. For them, there is nothing more than this in life. Save them from that hell!’ He would say something like this, and I will feel the weight of an old promise… The last birds fluttering around in his garden as if giving their immediate approval before the sun goes completely away and its luminous following appears in the already obscure ocean sky…
” Will I be able to do it? I will think, savoring the idea, appreciating the challenge, thanking the trust of my divine father… His firm word, full of conviction, his sure look, his always merciful posture, they will completely invade my being… In his command will come the potency, the capacity to fulfill it… I know that this is true, so I will feel it completely, full of emotion and with a certain fear and uncertainty… ‘My guru pushes me towards the cliff…’ I will think. ‘He wants me to know the sweetness of the mercy of the Vaisnavas… After all, what is the mission of Mahaprabhu without a life of preaching?’ I will watch the mountains as they go to sleep, and I will hear the soft murmur of the river, and when, together with the chorus of the crickets, the last songs of night go out, I will think that it will no longer be like this; that I will no longer listen to the music of Your praise so easily in those cities of progress that I could never appreciate. From every house in my village of mud and straw, the chanting of Your praise began at dawn. I walked barefoot and everyone knew each other. The greatest event was the arrival of a great saint, and the most joyful sight was of the deity with fine bordered dress and a garland made of fresh flowers from the pathways. This image of my village will have to enter the snout of the great impersonal and indolent cities. I will go there with my little chant, with my few books, with the firmness that gives grace, and with the love that I learned from the elders…
” ‘Take this,’ my guru will say to me with a smile of pride and triumph. ‘Take the image of the great Acharya, of he who crossed the ocean at an advanced age and took Krsna-lila to the center of hedonism and subculture. Take his conviction and his word, in whose service I have also played a part… When he crossed, there was only sin on the land of the barbarians, but now there are many Vaisnavas and they will share the divine sacrifice with you…’ Hearing this, I will hold that saintly image I received from his generous hand in my mind… Then I will feel a very sweet and peaceful happiness. I will feel that I received a far away blessing from high above, and that now I will be able to please him in something: he who planted prema bhakti in the arid desert of Kali and watered it with the rain of his incessant kirtan.. ‘Help conserve the fruits of the flowering garden, that the seeds of his love open in radiant creepers. May the worm of envy or the carrion of mundane interest not enter.’ My guru might say this to me, engaged in his service to the parampara.
” I will depart with the blessing of my divine father and after giving obeisances to the tulsi of the house… There my parents will be sitting humbly, like the little plant they worship… Their feet will be more valuable to me than all the places of pilgrimage put together… And with those feet on my head, I will go… I will go to increase the fame of those who love, because this is the only true quality that should be declared. Pushed by their Love, I will appear like an apostle on the Earth, and I will set foot on those hard paved roads… in the cities where one can not distinguish between day and night, friendship and danger, trust and deceit, love and lust, help and convenience… Those cities will receive me with their electric screams and soft carpets. I will speak with the great dignitaries of the land and in some corner, with a poor mendicant… Who knows how much success and failure I will have, yet I will know that whatever good thing I do it will be thanks to the voice of my guru and other preceptors, thanks to the little tulsi plant that they worship at home, thanks to the sacred books that I carry, thanks to this chant that since a child You gave me, and thanks, finally, to those who once looked upon me with piety.”
That was how the sadhaka spoke that day, as if he were speaking to himself, as if he was leafing through the pages of a longed-for hope… There where pink clouds in the sky and his heart was at peace with its shielded purity. He was a beautiful and luminous sadhaka, and those who saw him desired his friendship immediately. Many revealed their most intimate secrets to him like a lotus opening itself before the warm Autumn sun. He showed the way for many idealistic and restless spirits. He gave out firm determination in the principles of bhakti. By his side nobody could say, “its just that I can’t.” More likely they would say: “Give me your support, your friendship, your grace…”