Published on July 3rd, 2019 | by Harmonist staff7
By Swami Tripurari
As the Ratha Yatra approached, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu set out to thoroughly clean the Gundica temple in preparation for Jagannatha’s arrival. In so doing, he instructed the sadhakas as to the necessity of our own internal cleansing—the cleansing of the heart—that must take place before the Lord will take his seat there. Just as Mahaprabhu is himself Jagannatha but nonetheless took the position of cleaning the temple, similarly it is said that when one begins to chant Krishna nama, Krishna goes into their heart and takes the role of the sweeper, removing the dirt that prevents him from residing there at all times. Thus we find in Mahaprabhu a peculiar form of the Absolute: God in the mood of his own devotee.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s associates were somewhat bewildered by his desire to clean his own temple but they concluded, mandira-marjana, ei eka lila kara, ye tomara mana: “Nonetheless, if you wish to do so, it is to be accepted as one of your pastimes.” We should come to the same conclusion in regard to our internal transformation. Krishna, in the form of our guru, is asking us to clean up our act and actively stepping into our lives to help us do so. We may have trouble understanding why or how this is so, but we should endeavor to serve the wishes of guru and Krishna nonetheless, and take comfort in their involvement in the process.
Having arranged for hundreds of pots and brooms, Mahaprabhu went to the Gundica temple with his associates early in the morning and, giving each devotee a broom, engaged them all in an extensive cleansing of the entire temple. Mahaprabhu himself worked tirelessly, collecting dirt and straw in his cloth and then tossing it outside. As the cleaning continued, Mahaprabhu told all of the devotees to combine the dirt they were collecting into one pile, and although they all combined the dirt they had removed, Mahaprabhu’s personal pile was larger. It is with such enthusiasm that Mahaprabhu and Krishna nama endeavor to make our heart a suitable residence for our istha-devata. Alone, we cannot accomplish the task, but taking shelter of Sri Caitanya we can advance toward our goal. With such focus and determination Mahaprabhu and his associates cleaned everything—the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and even the altar itself—inside and out, he cleaned the entire temple, not once, but twice.
In our lives, we may undergo an initial cleansing but some unwanted things may also come back. Some residue may remain. Therefore we have to be vigilant and comprehensive in our spiritual practice. This means we must be attentive to bhajana-kriya and anartha nivrtti. Bhajana-kriya means to follow the practices given by our guru-parampara, and by doing so, anarthas, or false values, begin to come out of our heart. But our endeavor must be sincere in order for true cleansing to take place; we cannot just sweep it under the rug and say that we will tend to it later. We need to take the rug out and shake it in order to get it fully clean. This is where spiritual life truly begins. We can talk about many other things that are charming and beautiful, but to realize them we will have to pass through the difficult stage of cleaning the heart.
When we begin to remove our anarthas we may start to think, “Maybe I ought to put this off till later; it’s really dirty; I’ll wait.” This is a strong tendency, but we have to persevere. And eventually, when the heart is thoroughly cleaned and kept clean, the Lord will take his seat there permanently. Then our practice will develop into something with taste, attachment, and feeling for Krishna, in a particular way. Our Krishna consciousness will become perfect. This is the progression outlined in the Siksastakam in the very first paragraph, and it begins with ceto darpana marjanam, the cleansing of the heart.
Currently we have cluttered the heart with so many material desires by association with matter, and our possibilities have become so limited. We have become like matter. What are our possibilities in the realm of matter, and what are they in the realm of consciousness? The possibilities of consciousness are unlimited in comparison to matter, and a clean heart gives rise to these unlimited possibilities, just as water has many possibilities in comparison to ice. But presently our hearts are like ice; cold and frozen due to association with matter, our potential limited. If we enter the land of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the land of Radha-Govinda, all possibilities arise. As Srila Prabhupada used to say, quoting Napoleon, “Impossible is a word in the fool’s dictionary.” This is what we are after.
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, we, tiny jiva souls, are trying to become more than God. That is the reality of Vrindavana, where the devotees are worshipable by their object of worship, and he is controlled by the force of their love. This is impossible, yet this is the idea of Krishna lila. The Godhead, who is the inconceivably powerful Absolute, is simultaneously relative. Absolute and relative at the same time, Krishna is fully human and fully god; fully accessible and weakened by affection, yet fully powerful. Love is a weakness. If you fall in love you’re in trouble. To make Godhead weak in the knees is a big idea, but it starts with clearing a little room in our hearts, and Mahaprabhu himself has shown us this by his example of cleansing Gundica with his own hands.
A beautiful article – so inspiring!
More than that, I felt like every word was written for me.
“But our endeavor must be sincere in order for true cleansing to take place; we cannot just sweep it under the rug and say that we will tend to it later. We need to take the rug out and shake it in order to get it fully clean. This is where spiritual life truly begins. We can talk about many other things that are charming and beautiful, but to realize them we will have to pass through the difficult stage of cleaning the heart.”
How true. I recognize this tendency in myself…
The final paragraph of the article summarizes the whole thing so beautifully; what we need to do (sadhana) right now and why do it and where it all leads (sadhya)…But one thing is for sure, it all starts with cleaning 🙂
This article reminded me of Mahaprabhu’s special kind of disposition, and of the charming and encouraging nature of Gaura-lila (especially for us sadhakas). In Mahaprabhu we really do see such a charming face of Godhead.
Sometimes Christians criticize us that in the Krishna conception of God, we don’t have a God that is sacrificing or involved in people’s lives…But see how Mahaprabhu is willing even to get his hands dirty for our sake? 😉
I second Tadiyas opinion. How beautiful and encouraging!
It is a very strong tendency to give up for now and put off the sadhana for later (retired life). Gosh I have been experiencing this tendency so much for too long. Thank you Swami for the kind words of direction and encouragement.
I am just reading this article now, a few weeks after it was posted, but I wanted to echo the sentiments the other devotees expressed. I felt like Swami was looking right at me as I was reading — but if he was, he wasn’t looking at me with anger but with understanding, like “I know this is tough, but it’s totally worth it. Keep trying.” What a nice feeling.
Beautiful and true. Thank you.
Now, let’s get to work!
Thank you for this wonderful article, written in such a gentle, yet prodding way.
This sentence really spoke to me:
“We can talk about many other things that are charming and beautiful, but to realize them we will have to pass through the difficult stage of cleaning the heart.”
It seems is we have the previous understanding of the nature of anartha-nivritti, we can welcome the difficulties knowing that they are bringing us closer to our goal. Easier said than done, I know. 🙂
Thank you for this beautiful article, Guru Maharaj! I love the image of Krsna becoming the sweeper within our hearts when we chant. It’s very humbling. It reminds me to some degree of Krsna driving Arjuna’s chariot — the Lord serving his devotee. If Krsna does this for us, then I second Rudrani and Gaurangi-priya: let’s get to work on this difficult work of purifying our hearts!
The article did raise a question for me based on this image of cleaning the dust as it appears in the Sisastakam.
“Exclusive Sri Krsna sankirtana triumphs over all! It cleanses the mirror of the mind…”
Is the dust that pollutes the mind the same as that that collects in the heart?
Again, thank you for this article, Guru Maharaj!