Following the Footsteps of the Six Goswamis
Srila Narottam Das Thakur has prayed “Rupa Raghunath pate, kabhi mora asha prarthana koro ye sada Narottam Das” which means that, to follow in the foot steps, to accept the example which has been given by the six Goswamis of Virndavana headed by Srila Rupa Goswami, Raghunathdas Goswami is the real path of the Gaudia Vaisnavas. When the six Goswamis were living in Vrindavana, they established in the purest & highest sense, the way in which every human being should strive to live. We can not imitate them but we can at least accept the principles & aspire to follow them. We read in Chaitanya Charitamrita, Caitanya Bhagavat, Bhakta Ratnakar & all the great literatures which describes their lives, how the center, the focus of everything was the deity of lord Sri Krishna. He was the heart & focal point of all the devotees at every stage of their lives. For the sake of pleasing Sri Krishna who appeared especially in those days as Sri Radha Govinda, Radha Madanmohan & Radha Gopinath, they would chant the holy names, come together in kirtan and write so many wonderful books. They would engage in wonderful seva and their minds were always fixed to bring pleasure to the worshippable Lord.
Consciousness of Pure Devotees
We find this mood of seva when Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was asked by the Vaisnavas to compile a historical narration of the life & teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. After receiving the blessings of all the devotees, he then went to thetempleofGovinda, Gopinath & Madanmohan to beg for their blessings. All the devotees were following him & when the garland fell from Sri Madan Mohanji, every one accepted this as a confirmation. Though all the Vaisnavas were of the opinion that there was no need of any confirmation, still Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami wanted to get the blessings of the Lord. This is the consciousness of pure devotees as they feel that the devotees, their blessings and their instructions are on behalf of Lord Sri Krishna & he appears in the form of archa vigraha – the deity. We find that all the great acharyas emphasized keeping the deity ofKrishnain the center, simply to give a focus by which we can all come together to remember him, serve him & love him.
The teachings of the great Vaishnava Acharyas
Srila Madhavacharya established the highest principles of worship along with his teachings of deep Philosophy & Sadhana. His main aim was centered around keeping his disciples together in the service of Sri Udupi Krishna. Similarly, Srila Ramanujacharya established the highest principles of worship in Kanchipuram and Tirupati and he made his head quarters at the Ranganath temple in Srirangam with a focus to keep the attention of all the devotees together in the worship & service of Sri Ranganathji. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared, he took his residence in Jagannathpuri where he taught that the most important principle of yuga dharma was the congregational chanting of the holy name. And how did he focus on this chanting? It was most transparent during Rathyatra when devotees from all over Bengal& Orissa and all his disciples & followers would gather in Jagannathpuri & they would perform beautiful kirtan. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught them that it was all for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath. Every morning, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would come to the Jagannath temple for darshan & the whole focus of all the Vaishnavas in Puri was taking Jagannath Prasad, having darshan of Jagannath, doing seva of Jagannathji, spreading compassion to humanity and service to humanity on behalf of Jagannath by spreading the chanting of the holy name & following those principles. Sri Rupa and Sanatan were sent to Vrindavan by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who told them to establish deity worship in temples centered around the essence of the Vedas which is chanting of the holy name & devotional service toKrishna. The focus was always on the service & glorification of Sri Madanmohan, Sri Gopinath & Sri Govinda dev.
We find in many religions of the world that there is great aversion to the idea of deity worship. They call it Idol worship & the Vedas also condemn Idol worship. One way of Idol worship simply concocts some superstitious & imaginary reasons to worship some deity and is generally without any scientific or scriptural guidelines. The other way is to worship simply for material ambitions to be fulfilled. In the western countries, practically one hundred percent of the population were malicious following no vedic principles, addicted to eating meat & other activities. They had no idea of shastra and no conception of the very beautiful and scientific method of Prana Pratishta i.e. of calling the lord to accept our love & service in his holy form as the vigraha or murti. Therefore the imaginatory process, the speculative, superstitious process of Idol worship was rampant. Even in idol worship, the principle of focusing the mind on a form of God is still there & even the religions who condemn so called Idol worship, are doing it themselves. The final call is that they all have to have a focus on someone or something.
Worshipping God in different forms
For the Sikhs, their whole focus is on their holy book “The Guru Granth Sahib”. It is their worshippable deity through which they can experience God. The Muslims, they pay their obeisances towardsMeccawhere ever they are in the world. For them, that is their deity where they are bowing down to their God. That is where they are reaching out for the essence of God, though it is a physical place. The Christians, in every church stand before the crucifix (the cross) kiss it, kneel down before it, pray to it and beg mercy from it. The Jews have their Tora which they keep on the altar & on certain days decorate it with crowns & jewellery & kiss it & bow down before it & worship it. In this way every religion sees the great need to gather around together around a form which they perceive as the essence of God. People who are against idol worship say we should not worship God in any thing material, but we find that every religion is doing it, every religion is performing deity worship, but in the vedic religion it is a very very highly scientific process which has been given by God himself & which has been followed & amplified by all of great previous Acharayas. We read so many beautiful stories of how Lord Krishna through his worshippable deity form sometimes spoke to his devotees and how the devotees could feel the presence and love of God upsurging in their hearts when they came before the beautiful form of Lord Krishna. The Vedic literatures explain the process of proper deity worship i.e. in the temples and in our own homes(if we have the murti). The murti in the temple of guru maharaj should always be the center of our lives because that is where we can all come together, not as isolated families, but all families can come together to unite& share their love & devotion to Krishna.
Lord Chaitanya’s movement is the Sankirtan movement. We find in Vrindavan that though each of the Goswamis had their own murtis that they would worship personally, individually in Jagannathpuri yet, the emphasis was always on Sri Madan Mohan, Gopinath, and Govinda where they would all come together to have beautiful kirtan, take Prasad and discuss philosophy. In this way, all small families would become one big family recognizing God as their father. Srila Prabhupada used to tell us that sometimes people would challenge him as to why were they worshiping God in wood or stone? Then Prabhupada’s reply or rather counter question would be whether God was everywhere or not. He used to say that anyone who believes in God must accept that God is every where and in everything. In that case is God not in this wood or stone? The difference is that we are recognizing and worshiping him in the temple, focusing our attention on him. It is explained that when an advanced Vaishnava, according to the instructions of guru sadhu and sastra invokes the presence of the lord in a form that is particularly designed according to the appearance of God, then out of causeless mercy & kindness, the supreme God appears in that form to accept our love. Lord Krishna explains that the way we approach the Lord, he rewards us accordingly. If we approach the deity as stone, the deity appears to us as stone, if we approachKrishna, the deity as God, the deity will reveal himself as God. But of course in the beginning our vision is material so we can not see the spiritual form of God. It is for this reason that Krishnaallows us to keep our attention on him as a material form that we can perceive. People say that God is spirit how can you see him with material vision? The fact is we cannot. Therefore, out of God’s mercy, he makes it easy for us by appearing in matter, so that we can see him, keep our attention on him, dance before him, repose our affection on him, cook for him and serve him. We can do so many wonderful services twenty four hours a day & most of us can come together to glorify him. This is the beauty & sweetness of the worship of the vigraha of Lord Sri Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada used to say it is like a post box when the spiritual master personally authorizes & callsKrishnato come into a particular form. It is an authorized post box where whatever you offer to the deity is accepted by God. For example if you just build your own post box (any one can make a box) & put it some letters in it, that does not mean that the mail-man is going to deliver those letters. There may be so many other boxes resembling a post box, but unless that post box is authorized by the government & by the postal department, letters will not get delivered. Similarly idol worship means to manufacture your own post box without the authorization of the Shastras, Guru, & Sadhus. Proper deity worship according to the teachings of Guru, Sadhu and Shastra is like the authorized post box where whatever you offer is accepted byKrishnadirectly.
The beautiful festivals we observe is one of the most important parts of Vaishnava life style. We find in Chaitanya Charitamrita how Lord Caitanya would celebrate every festival with his devotees in an unique & jubilant way. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave a lot of priority to festivals. The devotees took great advantage of Mahaprabhu’s adoration of festivals. When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to go to Vrindavan, the devotees would try to delay him by saying that he should not leave as the Rath Yatra festival was coming up. Lord Chaitanya would then agree to stay back to celebrate the Rath Yatra. After that when Lord Chaitanya intended to leave for Vrindavana, the devotees would say that Janmashtami is coming up. Then after Janmastami, Radhaastami is coming up & then after Radhaastami Ras Purnima is coming up, then Govardhan Puja, then Dholi yatra, Holi is coming up Ramnavmi and so on. The list was endless! But Chaitanya Mahaprabhu could not refuse & he would celebrate all these festivals in such a wonderful and unique way by always centering it around Kirtan- singing the glories of the holy name, Pravacan – the transcendental narration of the Lord’s leela (pastimes) & so many other wonderful offerings & seva to the deity. Such festivals not only give great pleasure to Krishna but they bring greater pleasure to the devotees because what gives Krishna most pleasure is when the devotees are finding great pleasure in serving him, loving him & glorifying him. These wonderful festival days are so important in our lives as it is one of the most important principles of the Sankirtan movement which forms the basis of our unity.
Loving devotional service to the Lord
We are not simply tapasvis living in caves and doing tapasya. We are not dry philosophers trying to study the Shastras. In this age of Kali Yuga, none of these things are recommended. We are Vaishnavas, we are devotees who have taken shelter of the Sankirtan movement of Lord Chaitanya where we learn to love one another, dance with one another, sing for one another, make beautiful flower clothings for Krishna together, work together to make wonderful jewellery for the deities, work together to cook feast for the deities, work together to decorate the temple beautifully for the deities especially on festival days that are holy to the lord, – this is where love enters into our life. There is knowledge and renunciation but it has to be combined with love. Therefore, Srila Rupa Goswami, Sanatan Goswami and Gopalbhatt Goswami have written so many books to teach us how to serve the Lord with love. Rupa Goswami wrote Bhaktirasamrit Sindhu and a major portion of it describes how to properly worship the deities & celebrate the wonderful festivals in the temple One of the major works of Gopalbhatt Goswami & Sanatan Goswami – the Hari Bhakti Vilas teaches simply how to wonderfully celebrate the different festivals for the pleasure of the deities in the temple.
Temples-the backbone of spirituality
Before Srila Prabhupada went to the west, his own guru maharaj-Bhakti Sidhantha Sarswati had already established 64 temples here in India, where he installed the beautiful deities of Radha Krishna & Gauranga Mahaprabhu & taught everyone how to chant the holy name, how to perform kirtans and bhajans, how to have beautiful pravacan, how to beautifully decorate the deity, cook for the deity, serve the deity, love the deity and celebrate the festivals with the deity. When Srila Prabhupada came to the west he established 108 temples all over the world where every body was taught simply to worship the forms of Radha & Krishna, to dance, to chant and to take Prasad.
Rath Yatra – The most attractive Festival
Srila Prabhupad also established the Rath Yatra festival so that the whole world could see the beautiful form of Jagannath, offer obeisances to him, appreciate the beautiful chanting and the beautiful services rendered to him. He established the Rath Yatra in almost every major city of the world & it was a very big endeavor to make three big carts. He took so much trouble to make the Rath Yatra a wonderful festival by preparing prasad for tens & thousands of people. It was all Jagannath’s mercy that hundred sometimes thousands of devotees came to chant together. In this way, Srila Prabhupada established deity worship to bring vaisnavas together on such an high & jubilant platform with love & devotion for the pleasure of Krishna & it is this that attracts the world, When the people of the world are captivated by the wonderful worship and celebrations – they need not even understand intellectually, they are attracted to Krishna who is all attractive. Whenever we are enthusiastically serving him in unity, it attracts the hearts of all sincere and innocent people on this planet.
Radha and Krishna – the reservoir of beauty
So today is the winter bathing festival for Radha & Krishna. Srila Prabhupada explains that you should worship Radha & Krishna by decorating them simply with flowers & let every one see the beauty ofKrishnaas he is decorated with wonderful flowers. Srila Rupa Goswami said if you are attached to the material sense objects of this world then you should not look up on the beautiful form ofKrishnabecause he will steal your heart away. We are all interested to see something beautiful, man want to see beautiful women, women want to see beautiful men, we want to decorate ourselves in so many wonderful ways so that people will look at us, in this way there is endless competition of trying to be beautiful, trying to see beautiful things & trying especially to posses that which is beautiful. But all of this material consciousness is transcended when we learn to appreciate the beauty ofKrishna& it is not a beauty that we can posses, it is a beauty that we should serve. Suppose I posses a beautiful car, beautiful clothing, beautiful men or women, beautiful jewelry. When we come to the temple we think that Krishna is ours butKrishnais also everyone else’s. I think thatKrishnais mine personally- he is mine everyone is thinking like that. Does everyone think that way about your nice car? Does everyone think that way about your nice jewelry ? Does everyone think that way about your nice house furniture? In this way how we are all thinking this is mine & this is not yours, this is yours but not mine, etc. ButKrishnais everyone’s. In the temple today, who does not feel that Radha & Gopinath is their own? Everyone feels this way. They feel that Radha & Gopinath – these beautiful forms they are mine, I can come any time, I can see them &serve them, I can chant for them, I can dance for them, I can cook for them they are mine. Since everyone is thinking that way, their is no competition. In this way the presence of Sri Radha Gopinath is uniting us all. Today being a nice festival, we requested the devotees, for the pleasure of Krishna, to make beautiful clothes made out of only flowers & so many ladies came together to do the seva. Usually what do ladies do when they come together? They gossip, they talk, talk about relatives & so many other things. Usually they don’t come together, but today so many are coming together & they are all fixed in Krishna Consciousness, just helping one another, cooking, assisting one another to make beautiful decorations for Krishna. So many people are doing their part, like working together to make the whole festival a wonderful one for the pleasure ofKrishna.
Religion and Philosophy – a harmonious mixture
This is what will bring human society at peace with one another. But of course in order to have this principle, we must philosophically understand what we are doing & why, otherwise if it is simply based on sentiments, it can become an impediment and we could be easily disunited. When should understand the philosophical principles of deity worship & the need for it & the necessity of observing these beautiful festivals. We should hear the philosophy submissively. Religion without philosophy is sometimes sentimentalism or sometimes fanaticism & philosophy without religion is simply dry speculation. Their has to be a marriage, harmony between the two. These wonderful devotional festivals are an essential necessity, but they must be combined with a deep understanding philosophically of why we are doing & what we are doing.
So today is the beautiful festival of the winter bathing ceremony. We have bathed the deities of Radha gopinath in flower petals. It is such a wonderful sight. Last year in Pune, if you remember, when we were having hari kirtan on the roads, when people were showering flowers upon us, do you remember how much bliss & ecstasy you were feeling when that was happening? Do you remember? That was such a joyful experience when people were dropping buckets upon buckets & buckets of flowers on our heads & devotees were just, intoxicated with joy. It was such an ecstatic experience. So we want to do the same thing for Krishna – shower him, bathe him with beautiful flowers, soft fragrant flowers simply for his pleasure & when the devotees see Krishna getting such a pleasure with so many beautiful flowers being showered upon him, the devotees feel great ecstasy. When you water the root of the tree every part of the tree is nourished, is satisfied so when our consciousness is connected to Krishna, when we see Krishna being bathed with flowers, to the degree our consciousness is like a branch connected to the tree, to the root of Krishna, to that degree we will derive the greatest ecstasy & pleasure seeing how Krishna is enjoying. It is the supreme pleasure to give pleasure to Krishna, the reservoir of all pleasure & this is real society, real love when we all come together united for one purpose – to give pleasure to Krishna. How nicely Krishna has arranged so many magnificent, exciting & dynamic festivals – all unique in their own way, so that we can continuously come together to love Krishna, to serve Krishna and to chant his holy names “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” & when we take part in these wonderful festivals, we naturally lose all our attraction to the dry selfish pursuits of happiness of this world. So now we will have the beautiful Arati for Sri Sri Radha Gopinath. When this Arati is taking pace we should fix all our attention on the beautiful form of Radha Gopinath. We should fix all our attention on the beautiful offerings & all the nice seva that has gone into these offerings that is decorating Krishna. Krishna is only decorated by the love of his devotees & similarly the devotees, their only decoration is their hearts full of love forKrishna. In this way there is endless competition betweenKrishna & his devotees decorating one another and serving one another with love.
Thank you very much.