Srila Prabhupada Showed Us How to Become A Place of Pilgrimage




Date: March 7, 2005
Verse: Srimad Bhagavatam 1.13.10
Speaker: HG Badrinarayan Prabhu


bhavad-vidha bhagavatas
tirtha-bhutah svayam vibho
tirthi-kurvanti tirthani
svantah-sthena gadabhrta

TRANSLATION: My Lord, devotees like your good self are verily holy places personified. Because you carry the Personality of Godhead within your heart, you turn all places into places of pilgrimage.

PURPORT: The Personality of Godhead is omnipresent by His diverse potencies everywhere, just as the power of electricity is distributed everywhere within space. Similarly, the Lord’s omnipresence is perceived and manifested by His unalloyed devotees like Vidura, just as electricity is manifested in an electric bulb. A pure devotee like Vidura always feels the presence of the Lord everywhere. He sees everything in the potency of the Lord and the Lord in everything. The holy places all over the earth are meant for purifying the polluted consciousness of the human being by an atmosphere surcharged with the presence of the Lord’s unalloyed devotees. If anyone visits a holy place, he must search out the pure devotees residing in such holy places, take lessons from them, try to apply such instructions in practical life and thus gradually prepare oneself for the ultimate salvation, going back to Godhead. To go to some holy place of pilgrimage does not mean only to take a bath in the Ganges or Yamuna or to visit the temples situated in those places. One should also find representatives of Vidura who have no desire in life save and except to serve the Personality of Godhead. The Personality of Godhead is always with such pure devotees because of their unalloyed service, which is without any tinge of fruitive action or utopian speculation. They are in the actual service of the Lord, specifically by the process of hearing and chanting. The pure devotees hear from the authorities and chant, sing and write of the glories of the Lord.

Mahamuni Vyasadeva heard from Narada, and then he chanted in writing; Sukadeva Gosvami studied from his father, and he described it to Pariksit; that is the way of Srimad-Bhagavatam. So by their actions the pure devotees of the Lord can render any place into a place of pilgrimage, and the holy places are worth the name only on their account. Such pure devotees are able to rectify the polluted atmosphere of any place, and what to speak of a holy place rendered unholy by the questionable actions of interested persons who try to adopt a professional life at the cost of the reputation of a holy place.

(invocatory prayers)

So a little house-keeping first. I’m always a little intimidated to sit in front of such an austere and astute body. I have over here so many senior and saintly persons. So a bird flies in the sky according to its ability; hopefully I’ll be able to tell a few stories and give you some pleasure do my duty here. So with your blessings, Hare Krsna. Also I’ve taken some notes which water has dripped on and they’ve all sort of merged here, so if you notice me fumbling. . . it’s only because you’ve taken your time to sit here I’ve made a little effort to so I don’t waste your time and ramble on too long.

If we look at the historical setting here, just to begin, you have Vidura who’s left in frustration and we have Dhrtarastra who’s also living in frustration. There’s a nice example given in the Light of the Bhagavat. The crane is standing in the river looking for some fish, and all the rocks and water flowing, and it’s a very uncomfortable position yet he’s trying to find a little something. So it is not uncommon that Krsna arranges some difficulty as impetus for us.

I had a nice experience. I was on a packed plane flying, dressed like this and a Christian minister sat next to me and I thought, Oh man, you know, ‘Turn or Burn’ I thought if I just put my nose in the Bhagavatam he’ll leave me alone. But he turned out to be quite a nice gentleman actually, and we were talking that you can’t always predict, “That if Krsna would just do this, this, and this I would be so happy and advanced in spiritual life.”

But Krsna doesn’t just follow our menu, He has His own plan how He’s going to do things. So he gave a nice example. He said that there’s an axiomatic law in mathemetics that the shortest distance between two places is what? A straight line. . . . Not always. If you’re on a two dimensional plane then yes, a straight line is the shortest distance between two places. As soon as you add another dimension, the third dimension–height–you can put a big hill there. In that case going up, all the way up and down would not be shorter than just going around. So sometimes, when you add another dimension, the straightest, shortest distance is not the straight line.

In other words, we have our dimension, our view and it is very limited, at least mine is. But Krsna sees things in a different way, He’s actually moving us in the most expeditious and powerful way. We may not see it.
Therefore Prabhupada says that devotees are malleable in the hands of the Lord. We accept that Krsna has his own plan. And he told me another thing that was interesting. It was an analogy. So some man was stranded on a desert island by himself. Somehow or other he scrapes together. . . he gets himself a little hut, he has a little water system, somehow he’s getting on.

One day he’s out foraging for food, a fire comes and burns his whole hut, everything to the ground, everything’s finished. He’s thinking, “Where are you God? I’m stranded on this island and I scrape together. . . and now you’ve. . .” , you can imagine. Just then he looks at the lagoon and he sees a boat sailing in. And they say “Hey, come on in.” He’s saved! And he asks them “Well, how did you know I was here?” And they say “Oh, we saw your smoke signal.” (laughter)

So Krsna moves in His own fashion and we have to accept that. We are conditioned souls and we have to accept that. So here we see with Vidura, apparently it’s a loss but then it becomes a gain. Dhrtarastra, apparently a loss but then it becomes a gain. It depends on how we measure.

I want to get to one thing but these are some peripheral things. It’s talking about tirthas here, how God is everywhere. And we hear that. I was listening to a tape on the way over. So this man is saying to Prabhupada “Oh, God is everywhere so what is the need of the temple, God is everywhere.” And it’s a fact. So Prabhupada said “Water is everywhere”.

Isn’t it, now with the humidity water is everywhere. So Prabhupada said “If you’re thirsty why don’t you just drink air?” (makes sucking noise drawing laughter). Prabhupada makes the point, you go where it’s concentrated. Then you get nourishment and relief. Therefore these tirthas and holy places are portals whereby the spiritual is manifest and one can perceive it.

Prabhupada says “Embassies to the spiritual world.” Of course the real thing is the pure devotees there. But they have special sakti.

The human form of life, actual human form of life, just like when Gandhi went to the Round Table discussions in England. And he’s there in his little loincloth, it’s an in-house audience. Prabhupada said amongst politicians he was a saint, and amongst saints he was a politician. (laughter) That’ll be on VNN tomorrow, that’ll be the only thing that anyone hears. (more laughter) But he made the point, when he went to the UK and they gave him a tour of London. London was the capital of the world at the time, the capital of the British Empire, and they showed him the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, everything. So they said to him “So, Gandhiji, what do you think of Western civilization?” And his reply was “I think it would be a good idea.” In other words may you some day become civilized.


And the fulcrum of civilization. . . the Vedic literature begins with sat and asat. You put in two piles, what is sat, what is asat? What is eternal, what is temporary. We are convinced that this material world is all and all, that it is permanent. . . . But this principle of God being present everywhere, Prabhupada also said that Krsna has two eyes, the sun and the moon. Of course it’s inauspicious, I shouldn’t look at you with one eye, but even one eye is closed, the other eye is open, one eye is seeing. So I was giving this example one time, that Krsna is seeing everything. They say that ultimate morality is when you do the right thing when no one is watching, not just when the IRS or John Ashcroft or whoever is watching. You do the right thing when no one is watching. So the devotee knows that Krsna is watching, my spiritual master is watching. So we do the right thing.

So I was giving this example that for the materialist, the sun and moon are always watching, one eye is always watching. So this little kid about 8 or 9 raised his hand and said “What about a moonless right?” So I said “Here is a bona fide attorney, I should introduce him to Amarendra. He’s immediately found a loophole.” But it’s a material example so it has some fault. But the point is that Krsna is saying this is the ultimate basis of morality. We know that whatever we do we have to answer for, and Krsna knows. Therefore the devotee is the most moral person, one of the reasons.

Back to this sat and asat. So Prabhupada said “Why is maya so strong?
Because you are weak in your purpose”. We are not sufficiently convinced of the situation that we are in. So I thought I may not be able to speak much about the flutes of Vrndavan, but I can say a little something about the material nature.

Prabhupada gives a nice example, he says. . . just like me–all of you in the back, I can’t see you. So if I bore you at some point you can all just get up and walk out, I can’t see you, I have no idea who’s here. You have free sanction at this point. But with the glasses I can see. But the glass itself has no absolutely no seeing power. Without the glass I cannot see, but the medium itself has no seeing power. So similarly this material nature appears to have life, this body appears to have life, the mind appears to generate consciousness, but it is dull as the glass. It is simply the medium. And they do not make this simple connection. Or Prabhupada says you can study the origin of a child, you can trace the child, a young man and adult you can trace their whole life–they lived here and there–you can trace them all the way up into the womb, but the father you will not discover, he is the remote, independent cause, plants the seed and goes away. Similarly Krsna plants the seed in this material nature, by His glance everthing is going on, but in and of itself it’s all dead matter. And yet we are thinking it’s a wonderful place.

So a few examples. You know how everyone wants to live longer, especially in the West. So I was thinking about this. So my parents. . . whom I’m deeply indebted to, I’m very grateful for them, still they’re not here so I can say it. My mother has a box with all the different pills, for a week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. . . so the seven days, and so she has to load up all the pills. The other day I stopped by she was looking at the obituary page, where they list who’s died. I said “Mom! What are you doing that for?” She said, “I want to make sure we can still get the bridge game together on Saturday.” (laughter)

Such a life. . . because they live longer, the body gives out, they all get Alzheimer’s, and they don’t know they are living longer, so what’s the use?

If you die earlier it doesn’t make any difference if you don’t know you’re alive. Prabhupada gives a nice example, to get a phone. He was in America.

… . to get a phone in India–of course it’s much advanced, improved–but it used to be to get a phone in India you would have to bribe somebody, and you would have to wait four years, somebody dies, you buy the house just to get the phone, all these things were going on. Prabhupada was remembering and appreciating. He even remembered the amount, he said “I gave a 40 dollar deposit and the phone was there the next day!”

So imagine the scene, Prabhupada was sitting there, the phone was sitting there, he’s sort of cautiously eyeing it and it rings, cring, cring.
Prabhupada make this sound. And he said very nice. But then the phone was ringing all the time. He said “1 o’clock at night they’re calling ‘O Swamiji, how are you feeling?’” Prabhupada says “This is the time to call and ask me?” (laughter) So after he week he said take it out, he wanted to get rid of it. So many ways, it’s harsa-soka, it’s a pan balance — whatever they gain they have an equivalent loss.

Prabhupada gives the example that they work so hard, tax dollars, and build a park. But they’re too tired to enjoy it. Who do you find in the park?

Devotees chanting japa, having Ratha Yatra, devotees; we don’t work, and yet we are enjoying.

So there’s a nice gentleman who comes to the temple. He’s coming from India, a very poor man from the village. He said all of his life, he never owned a new set of clothing. Always he wore, extended family, hand-me-downs, buttons don’t quite fit, a little worn, this is how it was going. And he made a vow, he said “Someday I’m going to make money, and my children are never going to have worn, faded, torn-out clothing, never. I’ll make this vow.”

He comes to America, earns a bunch of money, sends his kids out to the mall for shopping and–anyone who lives in America, what is the fashion?–faded, torn jeans. (laughter) And they costs $200, custom designed. So he’s thinking what’s with this? So the point is Prabhupada talks of the stringent laws. . . here’s another one: They move to suburbs, get away from crime, peaceful life. Because they move to the suburbs they don’t walk any more, on an average the American beast weighs anywhere from 15-25 pounds overweight.

They drop dead from heart attacks. So they move to the city to live longer and have a peaceful life, they don’t get mugged, but because they don’t walk anywhere they drop dead from heart attacks because they don’t walk anywhere.
What’s the net gain?

So the simple point I am trying to make is that Prabhupada talks about the material nature which is cheating us and yet we don’t have the eyes to see.

Prabhupada said they have eyes but they do not see. If you study you get these people who dig around, you know archaeology, and they find the different pot shards and this and that. And I forget the name–Drutakarma will definitely know–but it’s a methodology, by finding the piece, you put together something, you figure out it’s a pot, and they must have used it this way. From the design, you figure out the function, and from the function you can figure out how the society worked. So from design flows function, flows understanding of the society and the purpose. If you study this material nature dispassionately it is not designed to enjoy. It is simply meant for self-realization, it has no other purpose if you study it’s actual design. I wanted to read something, if you will indulge me. This is after that tsunami it is an article from the Los Angeles Times. Prabhupada says that the material nature can be a dictionary for the spirit. And we can take a good lesson even from a fool. And I think this is quite well written, it is short.

Just like we saw upstairs–this is way off the track but it’s sweet–in the GBC meeting room the BBT showed this clip. Typical materialist, they asked Srila Prabhupada “We hear that you have so much money, you’re building temples, this and that”. Now usually we would back off or be apologetic or try and dance around it, but Prabhupada said “Yes, we can spend all the money in the world.” Then he looks him dead in the eye and says “The problem is you will not give it.” (laughter). And there’s a complete pause and the person’s brain is rewired completely. This is preaching, this is Srila Prabhupada he did not back off an inch because he knew the actual situation.

They asked Prabhupada one time “Why is the death rate so high in India?”
Prabhupada said “The death rate is the same everywhere: 100%”. Perfect answer. Another time Prabhupada’s one a morning walk–it’s very sweet, actually–Prabhupada would sometimes say “Good morning”. We always say Hare Krsna, and we should say Hare Krsna, but Prabhupada would sometimes say “Good morning”. And that would induce them to say “Good morning” back, and in that way they were offering a benediction to a Vaisnava. It’s actually “May you have a good morning,” So Prabhupada said “You know what this ‘Good morning’ means in the material world? It means nothing horrible has happened yet.” (laughter) That’s their happiness, “Good morning”.

Back to this tsunami thing, there was one group out off the coast of Thailand doing their deep diving. When the waves come forward in the deep ocean it’s travelling 1000 miles an hour, and all they experienced [underwater] they felt themselves going up a little bit and down. Then when they came back to the shore, you see in the pictures, unlimited devastation.

And the quote was “Our paradise became hell”. Now the point is paradise is always paradise. If paradise becomes hell, then you’re not in paradise, you’re in hell. That’s the actual situation. I just want to read a few statistics lest we rest easy and waste this human form of life.

[Reads a list of global disasters causing massive loss of life, such as earthquake in Iran, etc.]

What a great place, why don’t we hang around a bit longer. I could go on. .
… [lists a few more, Irish famine] every shudder the earth makes and the whole world is torn asunder. The whole point I’m trying to make is we have a great duty, this is not our real home. The alternative is–[tells a story of his drunk neighbour who accidentally came into Prabhu’s apartment one night and was hopelessly confused till a surprised Badri turned the light on] We think this world, we’re trying to find a little corner to find some happiness but soon as the door opens to the eternal spiritual world, that is our real home, that is the business of the devotees. Everbody else, as described here as going to a place of pilgrimage to get purified, wandering here and there. But the devotees themselves are places of pilgrimage.

Wherever they wander, they are apapa-viddham, they purify and they never become contaminated.

We have that duty upon us. Prabhupada said the whole world is crying for lack of Krsna consciousness. How do we become tirthas, what is that medium.

Just like electricity is everywhere but the instrument for manifesting light has to be there. Different mediums give different levels of conductivity. We want to transmit the mercy to the conditioned souls? How to become qualified? I’m going to talk principle and direct example.

The rubber doesn’t conduct electricity at all. Wood is a little better, then water, then steel, then copper, better is platinum, etc. But the point is each medium has a progressive less degree of resistance. Similarly, we, speaking of myself, the question of becoming a tirtha as described here, we have to become free from resistance. We have to cleanse the heart of all anarthas.

And Srila Prabhupada has given that example. Maybe I will tell two stories.

[Tells two stories which I have summarised by copying them from a letter by Bhakti-tirtha Swami]

“The two interviews that affected me the most were an interview with the pujari who takes care of the deities at the house of Advaitacarya, and an interview with a devotee named Hrdayananda Maharaj who was a pujari in a temple next to the Radha-Damodar temple. Let me briefly share a summary of these two interviews. In the first interview the pujari explains how Srila Prabhupada as a vanaprasta would come to his temple once or twice a month, would sit in the back for hours chanting, sobbing and crying each time he came. Then after some time he came as a sannyasi, did the same thing but was sobbing and crying even more. This time he came and spoke to the pujari and explained to him that the next day he was off to America and that he had been coming there on a regular basis since this was the place where Lord Nityananda, Lord Caitanyana and Advaitacarya would meet to organize the sankirtan movement. He explained how his Gurudeva had given him an impossible mission so he was coming there, praying that he would be able to carry out this mission. Years later he started noticing western devotees coming to his temple. One day one gave him a BTG and he was shocked to see the picture of Prabhupada then he realized from this that Srila Prabhupada’s mission had been successful as he had been blessed and empowered by Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda and Advaitacarya.

“The next interview that was so impacting on me was the interview with the pujari, Hrdayananda. He explained that every night he would hear someone whaling and crying around 1:00 A.M.. One day he got on top of his roof to see what was going on, and what did he see? He saw Srila Prabhupada sweeping the Radha Damodara courtyard, sobbing and crying, calling out to Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis to please help him and prepare him for this mission. The pujari mentions that he was born in Vraj, and had lived there all of his life. He had met many wonderful sadhus but never had met anyone who had such intense bhajan as Srila Prabhupada.”

[Back to Badrinarayana]

So this humble surrender to the order of the spiritual master, to the mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, that is one of the ways to become a bona fide tirtha. We have everything.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sasasvati Thakur said that our siddha-pranali mantra is “trnadapi sunicena.” We have everything. We understand the mood to approach, we understand the mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Prabhupada said “I’ve given you the structure, just go and decorate it. Actually I’ve given you the decoration, just go and hang it.” We have everything. If we simply distribute Srila Prabhupada books. . . we cannot estimate the power of these books.

There is a devotee, a very nice prabhu, he came to the temple in Ann Arbor where I was the president and moved in, Bhakta Eric. As the TP I’m sorting the mail and sometimes it was addressed to “Erica” and I thought it was just an error. One day he said “Prabhu, you got a few minutes?” Just like when the wife says can we talk, you know there goes an hour. So I said, “What’s up?” It turns out that he somehow or other was convinced that he wanted to become a woman. And in America they actually do these things, you have to live for a year as a woman, you take hormones and get long hair, an operation etc. So he was on the course to do that. He went to a woman’s meeting and they all beat him up because they thought he was a . . .etc. The men didn’t like him, the women didn’t like him. Somehow he got a Bhagavad Gita and then he realized that this just a weird thing from the past and Krsna’s put me in this body. I have my dharma, and ultimately man or woman real happiness is serving Krsna, the only purusa, we’re all prakrti.

When the Christian professor why is Krsna immoral, He’s dancing with so many women, Prabhupada answered directly “You are immoral. Everybody is prakrti everyone is Krsna’s wife, why are you dancing with Krsna’s gopi?” (laughter) The man had no idea what to say. Anyway Eric became a nice devotee, he understood the whole thing, he’s married with three kids and grandchildren and is a very nice devotee.

There are so many examples like this. Krsna save me, I was selling paintings, when my kids were at school, so I was going house to house on Sunday. The maid answers the door, in Spanish, and says the in-charge can’t be disturbed. The family is all at church and he can’t be disturbed. It was the Spanish ambassador to Panama. But I convinced her, and the man was sitting in his beautiful panelled library reading 1st Canto. . . . his nephew in Spain had mailed it to him. He loved it, and although, he didn’t buy any paintings he bought a full set of Srimad Bhagavatam. (laughter and applause). So the people are crying for it.

Prabhupada was driving in Detroit. He had a way of saying Detroit which sounded a bit like ‘destroy it’. Anyway, they had these big plans to build this Renaissance tower which was going to revive Detroit which had just been through the wringer. And Ambarisa’s grandfather and uncle were paying for it. And Prabhupada said there will be no renaissance, and now the whole thing has closed down. So we were driving through a nasty neighbourhood to the temple, and Prabhupada says “Ah, this is Mahaprabhu’s movement.” We looked out the window, there was just a hardware store, and doughnut shop. .

… . And the next time he says the same thing. So Jagadisa asked “Prabhupada, what are you seeing?” So there was a hardware advertisement, and they had a picture of the globe and a paint can pouring over it and the motto was “We cover the world”. And when Prabhupada saw it he said “This is is Mahaprabhu’s movement.” (laughter) It’s meant to cover the world like that.

We are not meant for small things. Electricity is everywhere, the mercy is everywhere, but we have to become qualified receptacles. We have to. This world is on fire, it is a horrible place, and they are suffering like anything. And the death rate is 100%.

I was listening to a tape, and Prabhupada was saying that “Everyone says my baba, my guru is an incarnation of Krsna. Whatever your baba may or may not be, the standard is Krsna. They’re all aspiring to be Krsna, so just worship Krsna, don’t worry about this baba or that baba, just worship Krsna.

So I offer you this: that the standard is Srila Prabhupada. (cheers) That is the standard. If you look at what Prabhupada accomplished all over the world, it’s like an owl who finally admits the sun is shining, it is unprecendented in religious history all over the world. Harivilas told this story. He told Srila Prabhupada “One of your Godbrothers went to England, one went to Germany, why did you come to America?” And Prabhupada said, “They failed in England, they failed in Germany, so if I have to fail, let me fail in a new place.” (laughter)

We know that Prabhupada is the senapati bhakta, sent by Lord Nityananda. . .

Prabhupada’s wonderful humility. . . the point is the standard is there, there’s no doubt who was sent directly from Lord Caitanya’s camp, empowered by Lord Nityananda to an unprecendented degree. All over the world he’s opened temples, dozens of deities worshipped there, tens of thousands of devotees, it’s just unprecendented. Simply help him. All we have to do is simply help him. Simply in our own life chant sixteen rounds, follow the regulative principles. . . Prabhupada says Vaisnava means a little prasadam, a place to lie down, other than that, let me serve.

You’ll never solve the problems of this world, Prabhupada said it’s like washing coal. Whether you’re Dhrtarastra or Vidura, you’ll never solve the problems of this world. Therefore be finished with it. We have our work in this life, we have our duty. Our work is to simply take up the mission of our spiritual master in his mood, distribute his books, distribute his philosophy and we’ll flood the world. And we will become virtual tirthas and save the world.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada! (cheers, Jai, applause).


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