satataḿ kīrtayanto māḿ
yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ
namasyantaś ca māḿ bhaktyā
Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.
The mahātmā cannot be manufactured by rubber-stamping an ordinary man. His symptoms are described here: a mahātmā is always engaged in chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead. He has no other business. He is always engaged in the glorification of the Lord. In other words, he is not an impersonalist. When the question of glorification is there, one has to glorify the Supreme Lord, praising His holy name, His eternal form, His transcendental qualities and His uncommon pastimes. One has to glorify all these things; therefore a mahātmā is attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
One who is attached to the impersonal feature of the Supreme Lord, the brahmajyoti, is not described as mahātmā in the Bhagavad-gītā. He is described in a different way in the next verse. The mahātmā is always engaged in different activities of devotional service, as described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, hearing and chanting about Viṣṇu, not a demigod or human being. That is devotion: śravaṇaḿ kīrtanaḿ viṣṇoḥ and smaraṇam, remembering Him. Such a mahātmā has firm determination to achieve at the ultimate end the association of the Supreme Lord in any one of the five transcendental rasas. To achieve that success, he engages all activities — mental, bodily and vocal, everything — in the service of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. That is called full Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In devotional service there are certain activities which are called determined, such as fasting on certain days, like the eleventh day of the moon, Ekādaśī, and on the appearance day of the Lord. All these rules and regulations are offered by the great ācāryas for those who are actually interested in getting admission into the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the transcendental world. The mahātmās, great souls, strictly observe all these rules and regulations, and therefore they are sure to achieve the desired result.
As described in the second verse of this chapter, not only is this devotional service easy, but it can be performed in a happy mood. One does not need to undergo any severe penance and austerity. He can live this life in devotional service, guided by an expert spiritual master, and in any position, either as a householder or a sannyāsī or a brahmacārī; in any position and anywhere in the world, he can perform this devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus become actually mahātmā, a great soul.
A Real Mahatma is a Great Soul who is completely attached to Krishna
Who is a real mahatma? – a great soul. So in this verse in the 9th chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the true definition of a mahatma is given. Sometimes, our devotees would ask our Guru Maharaj, “how can we tell, who is truly a great devotee, a true sadhu”? He said, “it is very easy to understand, he who is completely attached to Krishna, he is a true sadhu”. Bhisma has said, in the Bhisma parva of Mahabharata that the definition of love, is to repose all one’s love to one object, to be completely attached to God-Bhagavan; and the more we are attached to Krishna, naturally the less we are attached to the temporary things of this world. So, sometimes, so called gurus are attached to smoking beedis or cigarettes, drinking alcohol, the sense gratification that family life provides. These attachments are a sign of detachment from Krishna. But the more we are attached to Krishna, the more the sweetness of the nectar of Krishna completely pervades our consciousness that there is no room for anything else. In one sense, everything is included within Krishna. when we become truly attached to Krishna, we factually become attached to everything and everyone, but, in its relationship to Krishna in how it can be served, utilized in Krishna’s service, for the pleasure of Krishna. Just like at the temple today, we see so many beautiful decorations, waterfalls, proper sound system, we see so many apparent material objects that we are trying to use for Krishna’s service. In essence they are all spiritual because they are used for one purpose alone – to glorify Krishna. Therefore Rupa Goswami has said that renunciation is incomplete if we take something that could be used in Krishna’s service and reject them. So the temple of the Lord is a very important place, because it is an opportunity for everyone, to do whatever they possibly can, to make a beautiful environment.
The technology of kaliyuga is only to make up our deficiencies. It is not advancement, it is degradation. We are so proud; we have first class tape recorders. But previous to kaliyuga, you remember everything you have heard throughout your life. Tape recorders are only to compensate for the degradation of our memory. Actually all technology is only that, compensation for the degradation of our skills in this age. In previous ages yogis, simply by transformation of the elements, by meditation, they could transport themselves anywhere, within seconds, with the speed of mind; they could go to the moon, to the sun, to any planet, to any continent. Now we are so proud of our automobiles, our trains and our boats, of our airplanes and our rocket ships. In fact, we are putting so much energy in these things, it is just common sense, and it’s for degradation of humanity, not advancement of civilization. Real advancement of civilization means, to learn how to love, not to learn how to exploit and manipulate. But in the kali yuga, we have to make the best use of bad bargain. Therefore we try to glorify, use it to broadcast the glories of the Lord. So, the temple is a place where people come together for the purpose of making a beautiful pleasurable atmosphere. It is a place where everyone comes together for one exclusive purpose – to hear and chant the glories of Krishna and festivals are one of the most beautiful and important parts of the teachings of the great acharyas. And worship of the diety, of the Lord is a very very essential part of spiritual development, especially for those who are on the bodily concept of life.
Srila Narottama Das Thakur returned to Kheturi to preach and inspired the entire Kingdom in Krishna Consciousness
There is a story of the great acharya, Srila Narottama Das Thakur. Srila Narottama Das Thakur was the son of a king, he was a prince; and it’s a beautiful story, someday when we have a lot of time, we would like to share it with all of you. But in a very very wonderful way, he was attracted, his heart, to the names and glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He was just a young man, he left his home, left his kingdom and went to Vrindavana and there he was initiated by one of the great associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Lokanath Goswami and he was put under the care of Srila Jiva Goswami, who taught him the scriptures, taught him how to worship the deity and how to chant the holy names and how to engage in pure devotional service 24 hours a day. In a certain time, the devotees of Bengal, they were feeling a great deficiency, because some decades before, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and many of his most intimate associates, Nityananda Prabhu, Swarup Damodar, Advaita Acharya, Srivas Thakur, Gadhadhar Pandit, they had all left this world. So, the devotees of Bengal, requested to Jiva Goswami, “kindly send some of your devotees with your books to Bengal to inspire us”. So Narottama Das Thakur, Srinivas Acharya and Shyamananda were sent and Srila Narottama Das Thakur, went to the very kingdom where he was born and raised, it’s a place called Kheturi. When he was there, his own cousin brother, whose name was Santosh Dutt, became the king, because Narottama Das Thakur’s father had died. Santosh, when he met Narottam, he was so happy to see him, and upon hearing the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu, he became a devotee. And his only goal in life was simply for the purpose of assisting Narottama Das Thakur in whatever way he could.
Here we find something very interesting, Narottama Das Thakur renounced everything for sake of preaching the glories of the Lord, he was a sannyasi. His brother Santosh was practically equally important, because in the same spirit, although he was the king, he utilized his whole kingdom to assist this great sadhu, in all humility and devotion. so in this way, between the two of them, in a very very kind, compassionate and loving way they spread the glories of the chanting of the holy names. And soon, thousands and thousands of people within the kingdom could understand the higher taste of Krishna consciousness and they all became devotees, and Narottama Das Thakur became the spiritual master, guru of the entire kingdom. It was like Vaikuntha.
Meanwhile, Narottama Das Thakur was corresponding with his spiritual master Lokanath Goswami in Vrindavana and told him, almost all the kingdom was initiated by the chanting of the holy names – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Everyone was chanting a prescribed number rounds on the japa mala, and several times a day, they would come together with beautiful instruments, to dance, to chant, in gracious love and they would take prasad together, in great honor and reverence. In this way, Lokanath Goswami was most pleased. Through courier he sent a message to back to Narottama Das Thakur, “my desire is that you install the arca vigraha, the worship of the diety of Radha and Krishna, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, because it would be most helpful for all the people in the village to learn how to bow down and worship the beautiful form of the Lord”. So Narottam was wondering where he would find such beautiful deities.
Narottama Das Thakur finds beautiful Deities of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha Krishna
It is described in Bhakti Ratnakar, by Narahari Cakravarti, that where will we find someone to carve the beautiful form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So one day, he went to visit a very very great sadhu, who was very renounced, and always absorbed in loving devotion and the service of Krishna. After speaking with this sadhu, the babaji for sometime he told how he was having some difficulty. There was small house, it was a warehouse, where the rice and the grains were kept but there is a terribly venomous snake living in that warehouse, and no one could go in to get any grains, so many people were going hungry. So Narottam thought, let me go in. Mare Krishna rakhe ke, rakhe Krishna mare ke. If Krishna wants to protect me, nobody snake can harm me, if Krishna wants to kill me, he can do through this snake, it will be my pleasure. So he went into the warehouse, and began to look. Instead of terrible serpent, he found beautiful beautiful murtis of Lord Caitanya and his consort Srimati Vishnupriya. Sri Caitanya is non different than Krishna and just as Krishna stands besides Sri Radharani, so Sri Caitanya was standing besides Sri Vishnupriya. He brought them out and he arranged the beautiful deities to be installed.
Narottama Das Thakur invited all of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s intimate devotees for the Deity installation ceremony
Five sets of Radha and Krishna and two of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and then he decided that why only us in this small village of Kheturi, why should we only celebrate the beautiful advent of the Lord in the form of his prana pratistham, why not invite all the Vaishnavas, from everywhere; so he sent invitations, to all the places where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s intimate devotees were residing. His invitations were all written personally by Narottama Das Thakur in beautiful beautiful sanskrit poetry and he decided to make the date of this particular festival, on the day of the appearance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu because Gaur Purnima, the full moon light of Sri Mahaprabhu’s appearance had been observed by individuals. Although it was between 40 and 50 years, since the Lord had disappeared from this earth, there had never been a festival, celebration in the honor of his birth.
So it is described that hundreds of devotees from all around, they began to walk to Kheturi and as they were walking, they were preaching the glories of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha Krishna wherever they went and soon hundreds became thousands and that became tens and thousands. When they came to the river Ganges, Santosh Dutt, the king of Kheturi, had arranged beautiful beautiful decorated boats to transport everyone across and when they finally arrived, each party was coming joyfully chanting the holy names – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Everyone merged together, like the Ganges, the Yamuna and Saraswati how they all merge in Prayag, similarly, from Khanda, from Srikhanda, from Ekachakra, Kulia gram, from Puri dham, from Navadvip dham , all the Vaishnavas were coming together in Kheturi to the Sankirtan of the Holy Name and beautiful beautiful arrangements were made for everyone to take nice prasad and to have nice living conditions.
If Vaishnavas are pleased, Krishna is pleased
In this way, the king, Santosh Dutt, he made his life and soul and was willing to spend use the expenditure of the entire kingdom, simply for the purpose of pleasing the Vaishnavas, knowing that if the Vaishnavas are pleased, Krishna will be pleased and if Krishna is pleased what do we have to worry about. Krishna does not see how much you give Him, he sees how much you hold it back for yourself. Here is an example of a king who is willing to get everything in the service of the Vaishnavas because he had complete faith that what will be sure of that Krishna will be pleased, there is no better way of pleasing Krishna. Mad bhakta pujav adhika, Krishna told Uddhava, there is no better way of pleasing me than pleasing my devotees. So this is a very wonderful example, of how a sannyasi and grihastha can work hand in hand according to their capacities, according to their natural positions in life to spread the glories of Krishna’s names in intimate love and unity. Everyone was so happy. It is described that Raghunandan Thakur, one of the direct associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he sang a beautiful invocation to begin the festival. And then came the day of Gaura Purnima, the birth of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The particular person who was the presiding acharya of this festival was the wife of Lord Nityananda, Jahnava devi and all the Vaishnavas, even the gurus and sadhus, they all approached and touched her feet and worshipped them, because of her advanced realization in the divine love and jahnava devi gave her blessings to everyone. Narottama Das Thakur began the festival by washing her lotus feet, offering her a garland and putting chandan on her forehead and it is described that because there were so many different camps of Vaishnavas coming from different places, many naturally had different styles of preaching, different styles of worship, many even had slight philosophical differences of how to pursue Krishna consciousness. So what to do? But there was one thing everyone had in common, that they all accepted Jahnava devi as the empowered acharya, representative of Lord Nityananda. Therefore, she completely settled all disputes and showed everyone a higher understanding, a higher realization than the detailed differences in rituals and in form at a certain point in this festival, Narottama Das Thakur began to sing.
Lord Caitanya and His associates appeared and danced to the beautiful kirtan lead by Narottama Das Thakur
Many of you have sung the beautiful poems and bhajans by Narottama Das Thakur. Srila Prabhupada has said, although he has written in very simple and easy to understand Bengali language, all of the saints declare that the songs of Narottama Das Thakur are equal to the highest, most elevated slokas of the vedas, because of the sincerity and the devotion in which they are written. When Narottam would sing, the singing was so sweet and so heavily laid with bhakti that anyone who heard their hearts would melt and he had the mridanga players playing in beautiful beautiful rhythms and the karatals and he organized certain styles of dancing where everyone could utterly express their natural devotion for the Lord. Anyone who would see the dancing of these Vaishnavas, their hearts would melt and as they were chanting and dancing, Narottama Das Thakur became more and more and more immersed in the beautiful rasa of kirtan, and the kirtan was becoming higher and higher and higher in spiritual pleasure and joy and to everyone’s great amazement and surprise, as the crescendo of the kirtan, before everyone’s eyes, Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Gaurachandra, the golden avatar, who had just appeared 50 years before, these devotees who were either his immediate disciples at this festival, or second or third generation disciples, and each and everyone of them were immersed in utter separation from the Lord and right before their eyes, He began to dance! And simultaneously Lord Nityananda appeared dancing with Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Then they saw Advaita acharya, Srivas Thakur, Vakresvar Pandit, Haridas Thakur they were all dancing together. You can imagine, Jahnava devi, the wife of Nityananda prabhu, who was merged in separation from him for so many decades, what ecstasy and bliss she experienced. Her heart overflowed with love, her tears were like Ganga and Yamuna flowing from her eyes, when she once again saw her beloved consort dancing before her eyes and the sons of Sri Advaita acharya lead by Acyutananda of Shantipur they were there. When they saw their beloved father after years and years, decades of separation, like a young man dancing in ecstasy crying out Haribol! Haribol! Their joy knew no bounds. And the brothers of Srivas Pandit, when they saw their beloved brother again, besides Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, chanting the holy name in great ecstasy, their joy was unlimited. In this way, the kirtan became the supreme manifestation of love. As all thousands and thousands of people danced together, with Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and all of his confidential associates, who all advented again being attracted by beautiful sound of the Holy Name, chanted with such sincere love of Narottama Das Thakur and as they were dancing and dancing, the kirtan went on for hour after hour after hour and people were thinking, “will this kirtan ever end, it will never end” and Narottama Das Thakur was thinking in his own heart, “if this kirtan ends, we will never see Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu again, let’s just keep it going for ever”. As they danced and chanted together with great love, it was like the ocean of bhakti drowning everyone’s consciousness, submerging it utterly in prema and of course, it had to come to an end, at least externally.
Devotees celebrated the wonderful festival of Holi
Externally everything must end, but internally, for those who are sincere, the kirtan of the Lord never ends. Just like Lord Krishna, Lord Sri Ramachandra, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, They appeared in this world, and then They externally appear to leave. But those who love Them, who embrace the remembrance of Them in their heart for such persons, the lila of the Lord will never end. So each and every devotee simply embraced the vision that they had of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and this kirtan from the core of their hearts and the rest of their lives, they simply meditated on this precious lila. But after the external manifestation of this kirtan ended by Narottama Das Thakur, all the devotees crying in love, they all approached Jahnava devi, and she took them all to the deities that are about to be installed and the installation took place. It is described that Srinivas acharya performed the abhishek ceremony and as everyone was beholding the beautiful beautiful form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead nicely decorated with silk, with jewels and with flowers, Jahnava devi, took some red dye and threw it very gracefully, with love, upon the form of Krishna’s lotus feet. And then she signaled to everyone that for the pleasure of Krishna, in gentle devotion we should celebrate the festival of colors or holi. And there was a wonderful wonderful and joyous festival that took place. As you know, the day on which Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in the world is also the day of holi, one of the sweetest and beautiful pastimes of Vrindavan. So they joined the two together, for the pleasure of all the devotees, and in this way, the festival went on for three days, and then everyone was requested by the great acharya Narottam and Jahnava mata that everyone now must go back to your particular places, particular duties, but always remember Krishna and always chant His Holy Names – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Celebrating festivals is a sacred duty towards the Lord
So when we partake of these beautiful festivals here at Sri Sri Radha Gopinath mandir, what we are doing is we are following in the footsteps of the great acharyas. We should not simply think that this is a form of entertainment. It is the sacred duty that we have to the Lord, to come together, to purify our own hearts and to give Him the pleasure of seeing us joyfully with one another chanting his holy names.
Krishna told Uddhava, actually he told Narada Muni, I am sorry that you will not find me in the caves of the mountains where the yogis are in meditation, you will not find me in the educational institutions where the jnanis are scrutinizing studying the sastras, you will not find me where the karmis are performing great great great sacrifices for progressive advancement of civilization. Wherever my devotees come together to chant my Holy Names – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare and there is nothing in all of creation that gives Krishna more pleasure that when he sees his devotees, putting aside their false egos, putting aside their aspirations for prestige, putting aside their worldly differences of opinion, to come together, to dance together, to sit and hear Bhagavat philosophy together, to remember him by hearing and chanting his glories and his names – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Thank you very much!