The following devotional life definition by Srila B.V. Vāmana Mahārāja gives us practical guidance in our daily lifes.
Devotional Life Definition by Srila B.V. Vamana Maharaja
einera adhika dayā karena bhagavān
Bhagavān Has More Compassion for the Fallen
by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Date: 9 September, 1975
My dear object of affection [This letter was written to revered Umā dīdī],
“By his own will, the soul harbours millions of hankerings. Yet, without Kṛṣṇa’s Will, none bear fruit.”
Man’s desires and ambitions have no end, so they can never be fulfilled. However, Śrī Bhagavān fulfills the devotees’ wishes, so He is called, “bhakta-vāñcha kalpa-taru – a desire tree for His devotees’ aspirations.” His devotees, too, earn this title.
Because of your mother’s illness, you could not come to Navadvīpa. I understand. Your mother is a great Vaiṣṇavī and by nature very inclined to devotion. She has immovable faith and profound devotion for Śrī Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas.
Therefore, you must accept that you have to sacrifice something in your efforts to serve her. Even though she does not expect you to serve and tend to her, you must certainly continue to fulfil your duty, especially since it is an activity that is favourable to bhakti yoga.
“Śarirām-ādyaṁ khalu dharma-sādhanam – maintaining the body is certainly the first step in accomplishing one’s religious duties.” On one hand this statement is true, for who can perform dharma if their body falls ill? On the other hand, indulging the body’s needs on the pretence of taking care of it will turn one into an enjoyer and inevitably invite trouble.
Therefore, it is the crucial duty of the intelligent person who longs to perform hari-bhajana to harmonize both sides of this quandary. You are intelligent; I feel it is unnecessary for me to write anything more on this topic.
I understand you were very pleased to receive the letter I wrote you from Śrī Nīlācala Gauḍiya Maṭha. Only the meek, destitute and wretched are worthy of mercy. “Dinera adhika dayā karena bhagavān—paṇḍita, kulīna, dhanīra, baḍa abhimāna – Bhagavān is more merciful to the meek. The scholars, dynasty priests, and the rich are very arrogant.”
Therefore, they are fortunate who are blessed with the mercy of attaining the teachings and instructions of Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. We truly do not have the words to express our gratitude to śrī guru-pāda-padma and Śrī Bhagavān. If they inundate us with the appropriate sentiments and language, then everything is possible.
When Dhruva, a five year old boy, obtained a glimpse, or darśana, of that lotus-eyed Śrī Hari, he wanted to praise Him with hymns and prayers. Besides the mercy of Śrī Guru, there is no scope for an illiterate, uninitiated person to obtain darśana of Bhagavān.
The ability to offer prayers and hymns to Bhagavān comes by His own special mercy. This, indeed, is the proper conception, or siddhānta. It is Śrī Bhagavān alone who infuses the heart of each and every soul with inspiration; He gives them speech.
Does a toddler who speaks in broken, half-formed words not attract the love of his mother and father? Do the toddler’s superiors judge the purity or impurity of his language or speech? Rather, it truly delights and enthuses them.
Go to Śrī Maṭha on a regular basis and take advantage of hearing and contemplating the hari-kathā, classes and kīrtanas. Whatever you come across in your own reading that you do not understand will easily become intelligible if you hear from the worshipful mouths of the Vaiṣṇavas, because their words and utterances possess a special potency.
Scripture recommends one seek the company of the sādhus through their literatures only when one is bereft of direct association of sādhus (sat-saṅga). Sādhu, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas carry Śrī Bhagavān in their hearts. The Sādhus are Bhagavān’s heart, and Bhagavān is the Sādhus’ heart. Therefore, Vaiṣṇavas are the principal knowers of the essence of all Bhagavān’s instructions and are His encyclopaedias!
Becoming too trapped by or too attracted to this mundane existence creates impediments to the practice of bhajana. This is very true. It is for this reason that we are specially instructed to remain in the proximity of Vaiṣṇavas, or devotees. Attachment to the material objects of these senses is called saṁsāra, or nescient existence.
The transcendental object is Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In order to heighten our attraction to Him, we have to be in satsaṅga. Thus there is a difference of heaven and hell between the saṁsāra, or realm of mundane sense objects, and that of the transcendental object, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. If one serves the mundane realm of saṁsāra, a dismal nadir of a destination awaits, whereas in Kṛṣṇa’s saṁsāra, there is always benefit and elevation.
Therefore, scripture teaches: “kṛṣṇera saṁsāra kara chāḍi’ anācāra; jīve dayā, nāme rūci—sarva-dharma-sāra – Engage in Kṛṣṇa’s saṁsāra and give up improper behaviour. Compassion to all living entities and taste in the holy names – this is the essence of all religion.”
Guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān eradicate the devotee’s heartache as antaryāmi, the inner guardians of all. If the devotee becomes fitful and anxious to attain a glimpse (darśana) of Bhagavān then Bhagavān will surely fulfil the devotee’s longing. That is why His name is Bhakta-vatsala, “He is who is partial, like an affectionate parent, to His devotees”.
In the mornings, once you have completed your morning functions, bathed, and completed your ahnika, it fosters auspiciousness to read and recite devotional life definition songs and hymns or prayers. When that is finished, it is imperative to chant śrī-nāma on your beads.
Prayers, expressions of humility and entreaties to śrī guru, Vaiṣṇava and Bhagavān can be found amid the collections of songs by our great predecessors, the mahājanas, songs such as Gurvvaṣṭaka, Ṣad-Gosvāmyaṣṭaka, Nityānanda and Gaurāṅga Aṣṭaka, Daśāvatāra Stotra and a multitude of praṇāma-mantras. They, also, can be repeatedly recited. Such engagement is considered one of the limbs of bhajana, by which one’s śraddhā in Śrī Bhagavān flourishes.
“Je jata patita haya, tava dayā tata tāya – The more one is fallen, the more compassion You [Śrī Bhagavān) have for him.” This statement is found in the utterances of the mahājanas.
“I am bereft of devotion and faith.” If we can speak like this from our hearts, then certainly Śrī Bhagavān will banish all of our shortcomings and grant us service to His beautiful feet, which are the abodes of fearlessness. At that time the opportunity to make the human form of life successful comes. In that state, there is no question of the worthiness of one’s sentiments, devotion or language, because Śrī Bhagavān’s mercy is causeless; it has no pre-condition.
“Yogyatā vicāre kichu nāhi pāī, tomāra karuṇā sāra; karuṇā nā ha’le kā̃ndiyā kā̃ndiyā, prāṇa nā rākhibo āra – When I try to discern my qualifications, I find none. Your mercy is everything to me. If you are not compassionate, I will weep and weep, and no longer maintain my life.”
Also: “vicārite āvahi guṇa nāhi pāobi, kṛpā kari choḍata vicāra – Upon ceaseless deliberation, I find no good qualities in myself. Therefore, please have mercy on me without consideration.” These are examples of the sādhaka’s or sādhikā’s anguished prayers, yardsticks of his or her qualification or eligibility. Thus I conclude.
Always aspiring for your welfare,
Śrī Bhaktivedānta Vāmana
Conclusion on devotional life definition by Srila B.V. Vamana Maharaja
To serve the Vaishnavas and to listen hari-katha from them with the right attitude, is crucial for our devotional life. This wonderful letter gives us a clear devotional life definition, we hope that our readers will find it helpful.