Culture, Sadhana and Inner Transformation
23rd of November, 2006 - 3:25
A friend recently inquired about religion and cultural taints, the universality of Gauranga's path and related topics. The following are some thoughts I jotted together to gloss the themes involved:
â€¢ Religion and sadhana
â€¢ Culture and identity transformation
â€¢ Preaching and conversion
11th of November, 2006 - 17:50
Why Learn Bengali
7th of November, 2006 - 10:55
Tests of Tolerance
1st of November, 2006 - 13:27
Posted: 11th of November, 2006 - 17:50
Mahat-kripa, the mercy of the great, is the magic ingredient often amiss in our sadhana-endeavors. The special trick that opens doors, breaks barriers and makes things work â€“ the power descending from the divine world into our midst â€“ the current of electricity animating us, the yielder of clarity and force that bestow depth and meaning to bhajana.
So we hear in Caitanya-caritamrita: mahat-kṛpā vinā kona karme bhakti naya / kṛṣṇa-bhakti dūre rahu, saṁsāra nahe kṣaya // â€” "Without the great's mercy, no deed is for bhakti's sake; Say nothing of Krishna-bhakti! â€“ even samsara will not break!"
What, then, does this astonishing mahat-kripa practically mean? Vaisnava Pada Dasji touched this point very aptly in a Bhagavata-class during the month of Niyama-seva, narrating the story of Narada's service to the saints during Caturmasya in his previous incarnation as a maidservant's child. The kripa is not a mystery touch, a puzzling statement or the emittance of a radiant halo â€“ though it can be all of that as well â€“ as much as it is the saint's āpana-karā: His accepting one as his own, his adopting a responsibility over one's journey from here to the further shore of the devotion's ocean. And not a responsibility as a matter of formality: A very tangible duty in overseeing another's progress, guiding and teaching with patience, giving of one's own when another lacks the power to grow on his own.
The accomplished company of saints, in Rupa Gosvami's words, is sajātīyāśaye snigdhe sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare â€“ Company of those saints, who share the same devotional disposition, who are more advanced than oneself, and who are affectionate towards oneself. Without that affection, a strong relationship, a bonding of souls in bhagavat-seva, will not come about. From that affection our good fortune is molded, and that affection invites great attachment to the saint's feet from the blessed recipient's heart as well. Sri Narada speaks (BhP 1.5.23ff):
tasyaivaṁ me â€™nuraktasya praśritasya hatainasaḥ /
śraddadhānasya bālasya dāntasyānucarasya ca //
"So I grew attached to them, humble in my demeanour and free of evils; With faith, as a boy I subdued myself and followed their instructions."
So indeed the dynamic of kripa comes to flourish with anucarana, the faithful and earnest following of instructions. The word kṛpā, it is sometimes said, means kare pāoā, "to attain by doing", indicating the reciprocal progressive nature of the mercy-flow. If there is no anucarana in the wake of an initial bestowal of kripa, if one does not become anugata, a committed follower, the precious opportunity is squandered. Many are the stories of the lives of mahatmas where laymen came to seek for their asirvada, a saint's blessing, and instead of witnessing the showing of a traditional asirvada-mudra, an upraised right palm, they received a series of instructions on forsaking the mundane and conducting oneself in the way of a devoted sadhaka!
Then, in seeking sadhu-sanga, seek the company of those blessed souls who are inclined to deliver you, to practically guide you from the mundane mire to the marvels of saksat-seva, one step at a time onwards on the path of bhakti-sadhana. Embrace their anugatya and let your budding devotional pursuit be transformed into all it deserves to be.