Krishna is described in three ways and here we will see Prabhuji’s explanation on the second point of nivrtta-guna-vrttaye.
2. Nivrtta-guna-vrttaye – Krishna has nothing to do with the material modes: In Srimad Bhagavatam 6.4.29, Shri Daksha prays very hard to Krishna. He says very nicely
yad yan niruktam vacasaa nirupitam
dhiyaakshabhir vaa manasota yasya
maa bhut svarupam guna-rupam hi tat tat
sa vai gunaapaaya-visarga-lakshanah
“Anything expressed by material vibrations, anything ascertained by material intelligence and anything experienced by the material senses or concocted within the material mind is but an effect of the modes of material nature and therefore has nothing to do with the real nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Lord is beyond the creation of this material world, for He is the source of the material qualities and creation. As the cause of all causes, He exists before the creation and after the creation. I wish to offer my respectful obeisances unto Him.”
So this verse is very practical for us because Daksha prays to Krishna that anything that is expressed by the material vibration, it has nothing to do with Krishna. Supposing myself and some others wear dhoti, kurta and tilak and we come for the program, but we discuss anything and everything except Krishna, then that is material vibration. It will make us disturbed. We may appear to be in devotional service, but we do not remember Krishna. Then we are disturbed. Daksha says anything that we try to ascertain with our intelligence, supposing Krishna is described as akinchana vittaya and we try to logically understand that with our senses, then we will be frustrated because with material intelligence, we cannot understand Krishna. Here we notice how before we came to Krishna consciousness, we may have read Bhagavad Gita 100 times, but we did not understand it. But when we approach Bhagavad Gita with bhakti, with submission, the whole Bhagavad Gita becomes revealed to us. So material intelligence does not help us because it has nothing to do with Krishna.
The next point, anything that is experienced by our senses, that also has no value. Supposing we think that we have experienced that a devotee is talking very badly about us. This experience is on the material plane. We have no understanding of spiritual matters. So what happens? We become disturbed and it has nothing to do with Krishna.
The last point, anything that is concocted by the material mind, that is even worse. Many times as devotees, we concoct bhakti. We come up with all kinds of ideas, we come with our own Bhagavad Gita, we come with our own chapters of Srimad Bhagavatam. Maharaj said that we concoct so much that we have chapters 19 and 20 of Bhagavad Gita and we have 13th and 14th cantos of Bhagavatam. This 13th and 14th canto of Bhagavatam, we think is really Srimad Bhagavatam and 19th and 20th chapter is really Bhagavad Gita. But when we actually check Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, half our ideas of interaction of devotees have no basis in Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. Whenever devotees find that there is trouble between each other, there is trouble in the world, we find they have not put Srimad Bhagavatam into practice and that is the only reason why they are in trouble. So solutions are very simple. But we do not accept them because we do not accept Krishna. We think that we have something to do with this world. But we forget that because Krishna has nothing to do with the world, we cannot value Him based on the world, based on our senses. Satyabhama put all the wealth she had because she thought intelligently that wealth should become heavier than Krishna. She thought that this way she will be able to increase the value of Krishna. This was concoction and because all that had nothing to do with Krishna, Krishna never moved a single inch. Rukmini mata defied logic. How can a Tulasi leaf be heavier than a person? She defied all concoction. Logically it cannot be possible, but she had faith because she knew the value of Krishna. She knew Krishna had nothing to do with material possessions, and in the same way, Krishna has nothing to do with our fighting. He has nothing to do with our quarrels. He has nothing to do with our concoctions. So where we concoct, where we fight, where we are in trouble, we find that we are not peaceful, because Krishna is not there. If He is there, we will be peaceful. So we should find the place where Krishna is.
Now in Bhagavatam class, is anyone not feeling peaceful? You may feel so peaceful that you go to sleep. That is okay because Srimad Bhagavatam is a perfect cure for insomnia. When you feel really really tired, and you cannot sleep, Maharaj said, “Very simple,just read Srimad Bhagavatam. It is so soothing within one line, you just go to sleep.” One devotee came to Maharaj and said, “Srimad Bhagavatam is so attractive that every time I can’t sleep, I read it.” Maharaj said, “You are Mahabhagavata because you have realized the true value of Bhagavatam. Devotees sleep very well, but they sleep after reading Bhagavatam because only Bhagavatam makes them sleep. If you hear your wife’s katha, she has her own Bhagavatam and husband has his own Bhagavatam. If husband and wife talk, talk, talk, throughout the night, they will never sleep. But if they put Srimad Bhagavatam in the centre, within two lines both fall asleep.” Have you realized, how children in the midst of ecstatic kirtan, they have gone to sleep? We used to think that if we bring the child to the kirtana, the kirtan will just make him upset, it is so loud they won’t sleep but in the height of kirtan, they are sleeping so well. Why? Because truly, truly, devotional service is where Krishna is and where Krishna is, everything is soothing. So Krishna has nothing to do with the material modes. When we are disturbed and agitated we should know we are in the modes. When we are peaceful and gentle then we should know, we are out of the modes which now brings us to the third quality. The third quality is combined atmaraamaaya shaantaaya and Maharaj loved this particular line.
3. Atmaaraamaaya shaantaaya – Krishna is self satisfied and hence most gentle: Aatmaaraamaaya means He is self satisfied and shaantaaya means He is gentle and Maharaj said the whole point of Bhagavatam is to become gentle. When one is gentle, everything comes together. One cannot become submissive, until he is gentle. Isn’t that true? Until your heart becomes soft, you cannot submit. Maharaj said when your heart is hard, when you stand before Krishna, you cannot offer prayers. When you see a devotee, when your heart is hard, you cannot offer dandavats. Always you pick up the phone and say, “dandavats prabhu” and it is all a ritual. When we meet each other we say, “dandavats prabhu” and we do not do dandavats. This is not manas pooja, Maharaj said. Maharaj said, “How much good exercise is this bowing down, but we are not taking. We should just bow before devotees.” Of course if there are 100 devotees, you do a combined dandavats and that is good, unless you are very strong you do 100 dandavats. But what Maharaj meant is, if you become submissive, you become gentle. One who is submissive to Krishna and His devotees, automatically gentleness comes in the heart. In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.8, the sages of Naimishaaranya address Suta Goswami as follows:
vettha tvam saumya tat sarvam / tattvatas tad-anugrahaat
bruyuh snigdhasya shishyasya / guravo guhyam apy uta
“And because you are submissive, your spiritual masters have endowed you with all the favors bestowed upon a gentle disciple. Therefore you can tell us all that you have scientifically learned from them.”
In the above verse, the sages say that because you are submissive, your spiritual masters have endowed you. Maharaj says this word “endowment” is an insurance word. When you are an insurance salesman, you use the word endowment fund very often. But endowment actually means what? You get something for nothing. I am giving you a bonus. You do not deserve it, but it is endowed. This is the mercy of Krishna. We do not deserve anything, but because we try to be submissive, the spiritual master, the pure devotee of Krishna, he endows you with all the favors bestowed upon a gentle disciple. The more gentle you are in nature, in cultivation, the more submissive you become to Krishna, and guru, the more favors are bestowed. Again the word ‘favor’ is used. Favor means what? You do not deserve it. I am just doing a favor. Again it is mercy. So the favor of the spiritual master is descended on the disciple on the strength of his gentleness and his submission. Therefore if you are gentle disciple, the sages they tell that all that you have scientifically learned from your guru – that means a gentle person has all knowledge and it is gained scientifically and not whimsically, but it is gained by the mercy of Krishna, by the serious study of Bhagavatam. You see the connection now between gentleness, submission and the result of the gentleness and the mercy of the Lord.
Maharaj said you can only be gentle if you are self satisfied. That is why the word aatmaaraamaaya comes before shaantaaya. It is not shaantaaya aatmaaraamaaya. There is a reason. When one becomes satisfied with whatever he has got, and does not want to increase his quota, he becomes gentle. When whatever comes, he says, “This is Krishna’s will, I am happy.” Automatically, Maharaj says, that person becomes gentle.
Otherwise the opposite of gentle is harshness. We become harsh, when somebody does not satisfy us. Isn’t it true? The devotee is very nice to all of us. We say he is very nice devotee, as long as he is satisfying me. Till that time I am happy with him. The moment, the devotee does something that does not satisfy me, the gentleness is gone out of the window. Now he says, “Hare Krishna” to me, I look here. He says, “Haribol prabhu”, I look there. We are no more gentle with that devotee. So one’s gentle behavior to each other is motivated by what we want to get to satisfy ourselves. But if we are satisfied, whether that person is nice or not, we continue to be gentle. Then we are peaceful. Maharaj said, do not abuse, “ye yathaa maam prapadyante.” It does not mean he is harsh with me; I am harsh with him. Remember what Buddha did. Buddha threw back the insult not by insulting, but by saying, please keep it. By doing that Buddha is the gentlest of men because He was completely aataaraamaya. This is the mood of a gentle person. In BG 16.14, the word harshness is described as paarushyam. Maharaj said paarushyam is a demoniac quality. If we are harsh with devotees, we are never never going to advance in devotional service and Maharaj said that the problem is, we are always very loving to ourselves, but we are very harsh to others. This happens because we are highly sensitive to our needs, but we are not sensitive to others. Have you noticed, how those who are extra sensitive to themselves, they are totally desensitized to others. If you tell them something, they get hurt, but if they speak very harsh, they have no idea. They say, “Prabhu, I am very nice to everyone.” Everyone is being shot arrows every day. But if someone were to tell them that, then they react, “Oh! They have hurt me today.” Maharaj said this behaviour is demoniac. Maharaj said, “Become desensitized to yourself. You should have no sensitivity to yourself. Not sensibility but sensitivity. You should not feel sensitive that somebody said something.Think nothing of it.”
When Srila Prabhupada went all the way to Agarwal’s house in US and he stayed there, the wife Sally Agarwal had meat in her refrigerator. When Prabhupada went to take out Bhoga for offering, he realized that there was big piece of meat next to it. When Sally saw it, she said, “Oh! Swamiji! I am really sorry”, Prabhupada could have become sensitive and said, “What is this? This is too much. This is unacceptable.” What did he say? He said, “Think nothing of it.” This is gentle. He could have been harsh and instructive. He could have told, “I am acharya, Sally do not do this. Sally do not do that.” Sally sometimes would smoke in the house and suddenly Prabhupada would walk in and she would just put it off. She said, “Sorry swamiji.” He would just laugh and say, “think nothing of it.” This is gentle behavior. It is not that we encourage smoking, but we are tolerant of the material nature around us. Because Prabhupada tolerated everything, he changed the whole world. “If you want to change someone,” Maharaj said, “do not be harsh with them. Be gentle. Be loving with them. The more you serve them, the more they become gentle.” When you are gentle, because you are self satisfied, then you have mastered material nature.
Gentleness can be there, but it cannot be artificial. When you are satisfied with your condition, when you are not putting material ambition in spiritual life, then you become gentle. Maharaj ended very nicely by saying that gentle means there must be the following characteristics in the person.
G – Grave
E – Equipoised
N - Nothing
T – Tolerant
L – Learned
E – Enough
G – Grave: Dhira. One who is sober, he is gentle because he can understand the true condition he is in. One who is not dhira, one who does not contemplate on Krishna, he cannot be gentle.
E – Equipoised: One must be equipoised. Equipoised means whatever happens, we know and see the hand of Krishna. We accept it as Krishna’s will. It is not “so and so” doing this to me. Krishna wants to teach me something. I must try to understand what lesson He wants to teach me. And the best lessons are the harshest lessons. The best teachers are the teachers who have scolded you so much. You remember them very nicely. That does not mean you scold someone else now. So you be grave and you be equipoised. The result of that is that you come to the realization that you have nothing.
N – Nothing: Whatever you have, that stock is only bhakti. Everything else is on borrowed time. It is on loan. You must give it back. So if you are grave, if you are equipoised, then understand that you are nothing. If you understand that you are nothing and you have nothing, then Maharaj said you become tolerant.
T – Tolerant: Those who are tolerant, automatically they are gentle. There is no doubt about it. If you see an intolerant person, you know he will never be gentle. He will always be harsh. Once there is tolerance and because he is very tolerant of material nature, he becomes very learned about spiritual life.
L- Learned: All knowledge is revealed to one who is tolerant of the world. Automatically it is revealed and when he becomes learned, then the last E in GENTLE is ‘Enough’.
E – Enough: He comes to the point of realization when he says, “Everything that I have is enough. I do not need anything more.” We come to a point when we are materially impoverished because we have realized that this world is not going to give us anything except pain, misery, illness, fear and more pain. Illusory energy is very powerful. Those who have become fed up with the world, they become materially impoverished and when they become materially impoverished we go back to the first point we discussed and that is akinchana vittaaya (Krishna is the property of the materially impoverished).
This is the connection between gentle (shaantaaya), self satisfied (aatmaaraamaaya) and one who is the property of the materially impoverished (akinchana vittaaya). Such an amazing verse! Such a powerful prayer by Kunti Mata!
We thank HG Devakinandan prabhuji for such an amazing and powerful explanation on this verse and we pray at the lotus feet of our beloved Gurudev that we should be endeavoring our best to possess all the characteristics of a gentle person because as Maharaj says the whole point of Bhagavatam is to become gentle.
Thank you very much,
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Vaijayanti mala devi dasi,