H.H. Gopal Krishna Goswami

Disciple of HDG A. C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada

HDG A. C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada

Founder-Acarya of the International Society
for Krishna Consciousness

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The Bhagavad-Gita is the eternal message of spiritual wisdom from ancient India. The word Gita means song and the word Bhagavad means God, often the Bhagavad-Gita is called the Song of God.

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Historically many very extraordinary people such as Albert Einsten, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Herman Hesse, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aldous Huxley, Rudolph Steiner and Nikola Tesla to name but a few have read Srimad Bhagavad-Gita and were inspired by its timeless wisdom.

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Caitanya Mahaprabhu advises us that we should have regular spiritual association — this is known as sadhu-sanga. If we don’t have spiritual association then it is hard for devotional creeper to grow. By Prabhupada’s mercy we virtually have ISKCON temples in every corner of the globe. You go to the West, go to the America or South America or East Africa or any part of the world, I think in almost every corner of the globe there is some ISKCON temple or the other. Spiritual association is very necessary and that is why when Prabhupada established ISKCON, he also established Sunday love-feast program. Prabhupada devised the Sunday program so that people who have jobs, businesses, etc can come once a week and have spiritual association and be reminded about the importance of spiritual life.

Lord Caitanya says that we should build a strong fencing around us which means that we should keep ourselves in the midst of devotee association. One big advantage of that is that one will be reminded about our prime duty. Sometimes we have a tendency to get distracted because illusionary forces are always trying to bewilder us. But if one is constantly in the devotee association then that can be corrected; that can be checked.

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In the scriptures it is explained that we can have devotee association at three levels — one is associating with those who are more advanced, second is associating with those who are equally advanced and the third is to associate with those who are less advanced. Narada Muni advises in Srimad- Bhagavatam regarding how we should behave in each of these situations. Narada Muni advises that if we have the association; if we have the opportunity to associate with somebody who is more advanced then we should become joyful, when we have the opportunity to associate with somebody who is equally advanced we should make friendship, and if we have the opportunity to associate with somebody who is less advanced we should display compassion.

Narada Muni said that if one meets somebody who is more advanced, one should become joyful because when we meet somebody more advanced we are going to get some knowledge that is going to inspire us to take the process of devotional service more seriously. Sometimes there are individuals who want to avoid the association of those who are more advanced and there are others who are anxious to get the association of those who are more advanced. Why? The ones who are anxious to have association of those who are more advanced are those who are serious about spiritual advancement. And the ones who avoid or make plans to avoid the association of those who are more advanced are those who don’t want to make spiritual advancement. So they are worried that if I associate with advanced devotees, they will tell me to chant, chant and chant and I don’t want to chant. So the best way is that I should avoid their association. In Srimad-Bhagavatam an example of a peacock is given—a peacock gets ecstatic when he sees clouds for the first time. Similarly a real devotee is happy when he meets somebody who is more advanced.

When we meet somebody who is equally advanced, we make friendship with them. In the material world friendship means — I scratch your back and you scratch mine — we have each other to enjoy and forget the Lord. What does spiritual friendship mean? Spiritual friendship means that we engage in spiritual discussion; we are engaged in discussion of topics like how can we make spiritual advancement; talking about spiritual subject matters etc. Spiritual subject matter is so vast that even if one talks for all day one can’t get tired or run out of matter.

When we meet somebody who is less advanced, we display compassion. If one meets somebody who is addicted to drinking and meat eating then one should feel compassionate that he is wasting his life. If one is sincere, one will try to preach to such a person. Prabhupada says in his commentary that in the material world when somebody meets somebody inferior, he tries to exploit him. It is the world of cheaters and the cheated. In the material world when we meet somebody equally advanced, we show off. If one guy buys a Nissan, the other buys a Toyota; if he buys a BMW, the other will buy a Mercedes. There is always a competition to stay a step ahead of the other person.

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In principle we are non-violent. But suppose someone comes here with machine-guns and attacks the temple. Then we have to protect the Deities and the temple. You are walking on the road and somebody comes to attack you, you have to use your intelligence.

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Of course it is going to vary from a devotee to a devotee. Simple living generally means to live within your means. Let’s say you earn two thousand rubles a month, so you are living within that. If you are earning a lot then your simple living standard will be a little higher. Simple living for a family in America is very different from simple living for a family in India. In America if you have two cars they say you are living simply. In India if you have
two cars they say you live in a lot of luxury. But for devotees simple living means just not living beyond your means and you are satisfied when you are living within your means. Now I cannot say simple living means you have to live in a one-room apartment with ten other people. That’s going vary from family to family. We don’t have any such standard that simple living strictly means this, you have to live in a room of this feet by this feet, sleep on the ground, use cold
water in Winter.

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We should not criticize each other. We should not think what I am doing is right and what everybody else is doing is wrong. One
of the problems is that we often think, I am sincere, I am right and everybody else is wrong. That mentality should be avoided. We
want to use the benefit of doubts. Trust other people also have some sincerity. And if you in doubt of something reveal your mind, have a frank talk with them. We should avoid criticizing each other. We should always avoid Vaisnava-aparadhas. There is no need to be known as the best man. Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami, the compiler of Caitanya-Caritamrita said, “Even if somebody utters my name, all his good
qualities will go away, so don’t even take my name”.

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Because you cannot get marble in bluish colour. Krishna’s original color is Syama but devotees also worship Krishna in black marble stone, white marble stone and in brass. You can have your choice. Variety is the spice of life. You have in Bombay temple, Radha-Rasabihari where Krishna is all white and this was Prabhupada’s favorite Deity. You have in Vrindavan, Black Krishna, Radha-
Syamasundara. So you can have your choice.

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We should surrender 100%. That will be the best. But if you cannot do 100% do as much as you can. At least chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra sixteen rounds attentively and try to follow the regulative principles and then you will make advancement automatically. If you chant sincerely then automatically you will make advancement.

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Krishna gives everyone the choice and it is also depends on our karma. Just like Prabhupada said when he started this movement that all the devotees who were joining the movement at that time, they
have all done devotional service in the past. You see children being born in Krishna consciousness. From the beginning they are exposed to prasadam, seeing Krishna, no nonsense. It depends upon our free
will, our karma and the mercy of sadhus.

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Humility does not come just by chanting the mantra humility. Humility comes by understanding the philosophy because as you understand the philosophy and chant your false ego gets crushed. And as your false ego gets crushed you become humble. And then if you keep chanting then you surrender more and more.

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It is better to think that it depends on our effort. Otherwise you will just wait for mercy. In English there is a saying, God helps
those who help themselves. Krishna also says, All of them, as they surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. So the key is attentive chanting. That is the key for everyone whether you a grihastha
or a brahmacari.

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We should preach directly. In certain situations we may use Ayurveda etc. But we should preach openly. Things are not so bad here. In some countries like China you may have to do that. In China religion is banned but not in your country.

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What Sridhara Swami said means that devotional service is so potent that even if you do unconsciously a little bit you will still get the benefit. And on the path of devotional service no one can get misled. The name of Krishna is so powerful that even if somebody says, look at these crazy 'Hare Krishnas', he will still get benefit.

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Spiritual charity is giving transcendental
knowledge. Just like an advanced devotee gives knowledge to those who are less advanced. He tells people, ‘You are not this body. Please take to devotional service’. Material charity takes on different forms.
You meet a drunk man on the street, he says, ‘I want vodka, come on’. You give him some money to buy a bottle of vodka. This is an
example of mundane charity. Then there are other types, you open a hospital, open a school.

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Do all of you fast on Janmastami and take prasadam at midnight? Do you take it very attentively? When you are very hungry and you are eating if somebody comes to talk to you every second what will you say? ‘Let me eat at peace! Come back later!’ So when you chant you should chant concentrating only on chanting. Hear everything you chant. At least your sixteen rounds you should chant very attentively.

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Prabhupada used to say, ‘Don’t try to see God but act in such a way that God comes to see you’ just like Lord Caitanya went to see a brahman in Sri Rangam. Chant your holy names so nicely that Krishna will come and see you. Krishna will say, “Oh, this devotee is chanting My holy name so nicely!’

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It is very unfortunate. The slower you develop surrender, the more you lose. That means the time you have to serve Krishna will be less so instead of surrendering for 30 years you will surrender for 20 years. So we should not waste time. Chanakya Pandit says that the time wasted can not be brought back even by the wealth of the entire world. Sometimes we know what we have to do but we take the devotional service too casually.

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Don’t become tensed! Why do you want to increase your blood pressure? Be cool. Depend on Krishna, you become tense when you don’t depend on Krishna! We become tense when we think – Oh! I do not want these calamities to happen; I do not want that disturbance. We become tense when we think – Oh! I do not want these calamities to happen; I do not want that disturbance. We should know that Krishna is the controller and He will sanction what is best for me. In material life, difficulties will come. Best thing is to avoid tension. How to avoid anger? Control anger with knowledge. With knowledge you can understand how anger can be controlled and how this tension is undesirable. You can do the same thing with a cool mind.

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Tolerance is at two levels - one is called internal tolerance and the other is called external tolerance. Internal tolerance refers to the mind and the senses. The mind is capable of contemplating and it always pushes – do this, do that. And then you have the senses. So internal tolerance is that you tolerate the agitation of the mind and the senses. Then there is external tolerance. When you go house to house and preach, the mind says ‘oh! That’s like a beggar, a beggar goes house to house and begs. Oh! What would people think when they see me doing this? Or you have to preach when it is too hot and it’s too cold. Even when Lord Nityananda was preaching, some people would welcome him and say ‘oh! We are so fortunate that you have come to our house.' Some people would not even open the door. So when you are preaching to conditioned souls you have to be prepared to get all types of reception. Some may support you, some may attack you, some may ridicule you and we see this in the case of Nityananda and Haridas Thakur. But we should tolerate that. We have to practice internal and external tolerance both. And a question comes, how do we get the strength to practice tolerance? How do we get the strength to tolerate the urges of our mind and senses? How do I get the strength to be forgiving? All that comes from the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. If we chant the holy names of the Lord attentively, then that will help you build a spiritual character. And if you do not attentively chant the holy names then that will make slower for you to develop these qualities. So the key is attentive chanting of the holy name and study the books. If you do not study the books then our knowledge will be limited.

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Determination also comes from attentive chanting. All good qualities that you read about, all good virtues that you want to develop - key is attentive chanting of the holy name, there is no magic formula. Sometimes we want shortcuts but there is no shortcut. The shortcut is to chant ‘Hare Krishna’. In ‘Satya-yuga’ you had to meditate for 60,000 years and get the same benefit as chanting.