Published on November 9th, 2023 | by Harmonist staff0
Be Like Water
The following is adapted from a lecture given by Swami B. V. Tripurari; full audio available here.
You have to become like liquid. Liquid can go into any shape. For example, when you are talking to people about spiritual life, you need to adjust your words to suit your audience. You have to understand where they are coming from, what loka (planet) they are conceptually residing on, and make your words understandable from that perspective. You have to become so fluid. And if you are living a vital spiritual life, you will be fluid enough to be able to bend down: trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniya sada hari, “Being humble like a blade of grass, being more tolerant than a tree, expecting no admiration yet showing others veneration, you should glorify Hari constantly” (Siksastakam 3). There is no spiritual life without humility.
True humility is nistha, the beginning of enduring spiritual experience. True humility appears not occasionally but continuously—during both the day and night, while resting and waking. Humility of this type is the beginning, nistha. At this time, the principal anarthas are gone, and you can actually remember Krishna. This kind of remembering does not mean just thinking about Krishna in your mind. It is the experience of remembering: smaranam. The experience is as if you have been here before, as if you are coming home.
The doorway to this experience is sadhu-sanga. We find in Caitanya-caritamrta, “sadhu sanga sadhu sanga sarva sastre kaya lava matra sadhu sanga sarva siddhi haya.” Lava means a fraction of a second. In that amount of time, all perfection can come. Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja once said that a little bit of sadhu-sanga may seem very small like an atom. But inside is great power. Just a little association has the power to change our lives. Of course, we must take advantage of such opportunities. If we do not take advantage of sadhu-sanga, we will not be able to activate our potential. When that potential does come out, the shape that it will take will be so different from what we now think of as Krishna consciousness.
Actually, we cannot “think” of Krishna consciousness. It is beyond conception. For the sake of practicing, we try to get a handle on what Krishna consciousness is, but ultimately we have to go beyond the maya of conceiving. We have to understand that the whole mind has to stop for the heart to come out. Our heart is suppressed underneath the mind. All the time we are thinking, thinking, thinking, “How can I make my life better?” There is no way that whatever goes on between your ears will produce the kind of life that will satisfy you. It’s not possible. So stop thinking. Chant Krishna nama. You have to chant with this kind of faith: “There’s nothing I can do, nothing that I can think of, that will improve my situation or enable me to come closer to what I really want than by just hearing this chanting.” We should try to chant japa like this at first. In time, the heart will come out and then there will be longing for Krishna.
Many years ago in the old San Francisco temple, devotees were coming from everywhere for the Ratha Yatra. At that time I was chanting japa and I had my first experience in a small way of what I’m talking to you about: chanting Hare Krishna and not thinking. Being lost in the chanting. I found myself in a pasture with cows. Krishna wasn’t there, but I knew he was nearby. Nothing I could have thought about, for example, a picture of Krishna or the Deity, could match this experience. Similarly, in the Chicago temple, I was once speaking to the devotees casually after prasadam. I was so absorbed that I began to remember, to enter familiar territory in a manner that exceeded any blissful experience that I had encountered to date. I was no longer in Chicago. The lakefront was transformed and the sky itself melted into the ground and a new yet seemingly familiar landscape arose. So thinking about Krishna is good, but when the mind turns off—when bhakti takes over the mind—the self comes out and experiences itself directly in relation to Nama Prabhu.
Of course, we want a spiritual life, not just a spiritual experience. But we should have some spiritual experience that will ground us. All of your reading and all of your hearing is as valuable as it fuels your practice in such a way that you are grounded in experience. Then you will never waver, rasa-varjam raso ‘py asya param drstva nivartate (BG 2.59). This quote from the Bhagavad-gita shows that experience is the real pramana (evidence). Tasting is the pramana, and all philosophy and logic wane in comparison. We should try to practice spiritual life in good company, such that we get some experience. Every day we should be living for movement on the inner landscape, to progress from anartha-nivrtti to nistha to ruci and so on. Our spiritual life is not just what we do externally. Every day, practice in such a way that you are more eager for spiritual progress. Then you will be able to gravitate towards the essence, the heart of the whole thing: to be a devotee of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.