The Cause of Offense, the Formula for Friendship

BY: SUN STAFF - 31.12 2021

Reprising a 2009 article by Jananivasa dasa.

In considering the present status of Srila Prabhupada's mission one should remember the importance he has placed on the need for his disciples to work together in a cooperative spirit. Cooperation should be based on Srila Prabhupada's instructions concerning cultivation and distribution of transcendental knowledge, which he has declared to be the only real compassion we can offer to the conditioned souls.

By hearing of transcendental knowledge one becomes attracted to its cultivation and by engaging in its distribution one can realize the reality of the Lord's localized existence. Simply by distribution of knowledge of the self, which all authentic authorities have concluded to be the highest form of devotional service, one can come to see Lord Visnu and thus take advantage of the final and most potent phase of purification. Sri Krsna: "When a living entity directly sees Me, who is the indwelling Supersoul within all living entities, then all his false ego, doubts and reactions of karma are at once destroyed." (Ug, 17-31)
(Srimad Bhagavatam 6.17)

Sincere chanting of the Lord's holy name is meant to produce vision of the Lord, at least in the form of perception, which is the effective condition for fully surrendering to Him. The transcendental vision required for such surrender, in which pure bhakti and eternal love of Godhead are conceived, is possible only when one's attention and service are directed toward the Supersoul. Even though such spiritual vision or perception of the presence of the Lord is the only escape from the material entrapment, one whose faith is not fixed in the instructions of Sri Krsna and His pure devotees, and so disregard the real principles of religion, do not really believe it is possible. But the reality is that seeing the Lord has been made very easy in this age by the mercy of the devotees of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Krsna: "My devotees can award one transcendental vision, whereas the sun only enables the gross eyes to function, and only after rising in the morning." (Ug 20-34)

Transcendental vision is possible for persons who understand their relationship with the Supersoul to be the meaning and object of knowledge, the goal of all spiritual endeavors and the only escape from the illusory conception of life. Srila Prabhupada: "A devotee `s vision, therefore, must be perfect. He should ignore bodily distinctions and should see only the presence of the part and partial of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord Himself in His plenary expansion as Supersoul."(3-29-23)

By faithful practice of such vision one can revive his relationship with the Lord and achieve the highest goal of loving service to Him. Those who avoid their relationships with the Supersoul, however, are rejecting the Lord's service and the Lord Himself. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: "When one renounces the body conception of life and all attempts at mental speculation, and wholeheartedly engages in devotional service to the Supersoul, he revives his original love of Godhead." (U-g 20-1)

Attached to personal agendas, neophyte persons are unable to renounce the mental speculation which keeps them tied to the material platform. Having avoided the prescribed process of assimilation of the essence of Vedic instruction, as ordered by Srila Prabhupada, they cannot accept that surrender and wholehearted service to the Supersoul is the only escape from the miserable body conception. When one is liberated from illusion by the grace of Lord Visnu, he can then advance in devotional service, in which reality, or the presence of the transcendental form of Sri Paramatma, is revealed.

Persons who do not accept that the activities of hearing, chanting and all process of religion are aimed at self-realization, the liberated platform of loving devotional service, will remain conditioned and eventually become offenders of the Lord. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: "Those who remain in the bodily concept of life become offenders at the lotus feet of the holy name, and thus invite aversion to the service of the Supreme Lord.' (Ug 17-49) Liberation from the body conception is necessary in all aspects of advancing in Krsna consciousness, but if liberation is seen as separate from the service of Sri Krsna, it is then a deviation to spiritual progress.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta; "Because material enjoyment and liberation are not conceived of in relation to Krsna, they are considered to be anarthas." (Ug 17-23) "In relation to Krsna" means in relation to Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. That is Krsna, not just one or two of His features, but all three of His features, along with His incarnations, expansions, and His energies. All of these in one is Krsna. It is not possible to see the Lord and receive the purification of His association if one lacks respect or lacks an attitude of surrender to any aspect of the Lord's identity. It is by Krsna's arraignment, it is His plan that the individual souls relationship with Him begins by connecting with His Paramatma presence.

When one gives up selfish mental speculation and accepts the decision of authorized scripture, he comes to accept this spiritual procedure for advancing in Sri Krsna's service and so surrenders wholeheartedly to the service and association of the Supersoul. On the strength of this association one can successfully renounce the body conception and thus begin his eternal spiritual life. It is not possible to over emphasize the importance of accepting Lord Paramatma as the object and director of one's service, so one should try to understand why so many persons cannot or will not turn their attention to the reality of Krsna's presence and accept the purification of His association. It is none other than the ill conceived notion that there is a difference between the various forms and features of the Lord. It can be understandably difficult for persons who have developed an attraction for the original and ultimate forms of Their Lordships, while disregarding His localized presence, to accept the sameness of all God's forms and features.

It should be noted that any so-called attraction to Sri Bhagavan that does not include obeying His instructions, is simply superficial, it is material in nature and produces no transcendental results. The Lord repeatedly instructs that there is no difference between His transcendental forms, so it must be accepted that all offence and disagreement between devotees is based on this misconception. Srila Prabhupada: "One should not differentiate between the forms of the Lord, for such a conception is offensive." (Madhya 9,154)

In the beginning of ones understanding of the Krsna philosophy there are varied descriptions of the different forms of the Lord so it is not unusual for the neophyte devotee to think of these forms as different transcendental persons. Upon realizing the conclusion of sastra, however, all such misgivings give way to transcendental knowledge, in which there is no longer any possibility of imperfect understanding. Srila Prabhupada: "There is no difference between the transcendental forms of the Lord. Different forms are manifested due to different attachments of different devotees. There is no difference between the forms of Krsna, Rama, Narayana and Visnu. All of them are one."(Madhya 9, 155) Offence-less chanting becomes possible when one accepts the sameness of all God's forms and features. Srila Prabhupada: "It does not matter whether one refers to Lord Ramacandra or Lord Balarama when chanting Hare Rama, for there is no difference between Them. However, it is offensive to think that Balarama is superior to Lord Ramacandra or vice versa. Neophyte devotees do not understand this sastric conclusion, and consequently they unnecessarily create an offensive situation." (Madhya 9, 155)

Anyone who can not accept that pure devotional service is directed by and rendered for the satisfaction of the Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, must be accepted as bad association, at least until his heart is changed. Such a person does know the Lord or the philosophy of devotional service, yet he is eager to offer advice to others. Srila Visvanatha Carkravati Thakura: "One who is intelligent should carefully avoid bad association, because it can be a great impediment to the execution of devotional service." (Ug 20-1)

Having accepted Srila Prabhupada's explanation of the cause of offense, which inhibits the ability of devotees to work together, one should seek the remedy to the harmful effects of bad association. When devotees can become friends on the transcendental platform, all previous conflict is seen as insignificant and is soon forgotten. Devotees who can accept the following formula for transcendental friendship can succeed in projecting this conclusion to the general population. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: "The servant spirit soul and the master Supersoul are always meant to live in perfect harmony. If the spirit exhibits opposition to his master and well wisher, or creates conflict among his fellow souls, then he is acting against his own self-interest. The living entities relationships with each other should be based on friendship in relationship with the Supersoul." (Ug 17-50)

Our beloved grand farther spiritual master has just given the secret to both individual success in spiritual life, as well as success in cooperative advancement in the propagation of the sankirtana mission. To the extent that Srila Prabhupada's faithful disciples accept this formula for friendship and move forward based on this spiritual principle for cooperative service, there will be either great success or continued floundering on the material platform. Working together refers to presenting the same philosophical understanding of self-realization, which precludes any possibility of engaging in the Lord's pure devotional service. It should be remembered that there is no disagreement among self-realized souls because transcendental friendship is always based on friendship with the Supersoul, who reveals everything to His surrendered devotees. Those who think or preach otherwise are acting against their own self interest and their imperfect preaching simply creates conflict among their fellow souls.

So, in order for devotees to become compatible for working together in a cooperative spirit, there must be a consensus, or solidarity of opinion concerning the meanings of transcendental knowledge and self-realization. There should also be a consensus concerning the practical application of such knowledge, which is, as instructed by the acaryas, to engage in the compassionate service of distributing it directly to the general population. Such distribution would surly be successful by Krsna's grace if devotees worked from the same page in presenting the true path of devotional service. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta: "The devotees of the Lord are like the sun because their enlightening instructions can awaken the transcendental senses of the people in general so that the darkness of ignorance is dispelled. Saintly devotees are those who have firmly accepted the path of devotional service." (Ug 20-34) All pure devotees of the past have successfully assimilated the essence of sastra, reached its conclusion, and so have firmly accepted the path of devotional service.

In the following verse spoken by the Avanti Brahmana, who was determined to achieve life's ultimate purpose, it is clearly seen that he had risen to the platform of non-duplicity concerning the various forms of Sri Krsna and that self-realization, elevation to the spiritual platform and pure devotion, are totally dependent on following the example of the previous acaryas: "I shall cross over the insurmountable ocean of nescience by being firmly fixed in the service of the lotus feet of Krsna. This was approved by the previous acaryas, who were fixed in firm devotion to the Lord Paramatma, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I will advance in self-realization knowing that the soul is distinct from the material body, being a part and parcel of the Supersoul." (Ug 17-57)

Since we are all part and parcel of the Supersoul, it is simply common sense to accept Srila Prabhupada's instruction that self-realization requires identifying ourselves with Him. Such oneness with the Supersoul does not affect the individuality of the separated spirit soul, but rather raises him to the eternal transcendental standard of pure devotional service. The authorities conclude that all conflict among any persons including materialistic devotees is always due to the absence of their relationships with the Supersoul. All such disagreement and affecting of pain is described as useless because there can be no actual solution to any problem except the one permanent solution of self-realization. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta: "The person who gives pain and the person who suffers pain are actually part and parcel of the same Supreme Person. Therefore any conflict that arises between people on the mundane platform should be understood as superficial and due to an absence of self-realization." (Ug 17-5)

Understanding the gravity of this instruction one can clearly see why the distribution of knowledge of self-realization is the most moral and compassionate of all activities rendered in service to the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord. Such distribution is the perfect stage of welfare work because self-realization is the purpose of human life, the beginning of spiritual life and only cure for the material disease.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta offers further conformation of the purpose of life and the sameness of all transcendental forms of the Lord as well as the need to accept all of Them as the one Supreme Personality of Godhead: "A devotee is one who accepts Visnu as his only worshipable Lord and concludes that pleasing Lord Visnu is the ultimate goal of life. The devotees of the Supreme Lord dedicate themselves to the favorable cultivation of Krsna consciousness, knowing that love for Krsna is the ultimate goal of life." (Ug 19-24) Devotees who understand that in this cosmic creation reality relates to the presence of Lord Visnu, the four armed Krsna, and that cultivation of Krsna consciousness, which is based on devotional service in love with the complete conception of the Lord, requires vision, or at least perception of His localized presence, can achieve the purpose of human life and thus easily advance to the perfection of self-realization. Srila Prabhupada has made this perfection possible for all human beings, while previously it was possible only for a few fortunate souls. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura: "Human life affords one the opportunity for attaining the ultimate goal of life. Knowledge of Brahman, Paramatma and the right for serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead are the domain of the best of the twice born. However, such a high birth has no value if one is bereft of Lord Hari's service." (Ug 17-21)

This instruction is again emphasizing that any spiritual endeavor or advantage of good birth is seen as superficial if it is not employed for the purpose of gaining the Lord's unalloyed service. One must simply understand that the philosophy of bhakti dictates wholehearted subordination to the Supersoul because this is the feature of the Lord that is actually present within everyone and by which the individual soul is enlightened and engaged. Enlightenment, or perfect understanding of Krsna and our selves, entails realizing the totality of Sri Krsna's identity, the presence of Sri Visnu and our constitutional bhakti relationship with Him. Sri Narada confirms: "One must always realize the all-pervading presence of the Supreme Lord, for in this way it is possible to understand the Absolute Truth."(7-12-16) Srila Prabhupada: "We can understand the Absolute Truth by evolving transcendental knowledge. By development of transcendental knowledge one comes to understand his constitutional position in relationship with the Superself." (2-27-22)

Devotees who cling to these conclusions revealed by the self-realized devotees present in sastra, understanding them to be more valuable than anything this material world has to offer, can easily achieve their constitutional positions in pure service to the Lord. Others, who do not treasure transcendental knowledge, are described by Srila Prabhupada: "False devotees who have very little knowledge of such conclusions fail to achieve pure devotion for want of zeal in accepting the favorable directions for devotional service given by self-realized devotees." (Adi, 2, 117)

Srila Prabhupada is explaining the position of insincere persons who remain entrapped in the material energy because of their attraction to it. Anyone, in this age, including the general population, can appreciate the value of conclusive Vedic guidance if he takes shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, knowing Him to be the all powerful, indwelling Supersoul of all living entities. Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja: "By the potency of the shelter of His (Lord Caitanya's) lotus feet, even a fool can collect the valuable jewels of conclusive truths from the mines of revealed scripture." (Adi, 3, 1)

The next instruction is being repeated because it contains the conclusion of the Vedas, which reveals the only authentic beginning of pure devotional service and eternal love of Godhead: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta: "When one renounces the body conception of life and all attempts at mental speculation, and wholeheartedly engages in devotional service to the Supersoul, he revives his original love of Godhead." (U-g 20-1) Faithful disciples of Srila Prabhupada should unite in transcendental friendship based on service and friendship with the Supersoul because in this way we can successfully work toward the same goal of elevating the general population to the liberated platform of spiritual reality.

Y/s Jananivasa dasa