Getting the Mercy

Preaching, Book Distribution, and the Ultimate Goal

Caitanya Chandra dasa

First edition: 2019

This is a free e-book, a humble offering to all the exalted Vaishnavas in Srila Prabhupada's movement.

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We gratefully acknowledge the BBT for the use of verses and purports from Srila Prabhupada’s books. All such verses and purports are copyright of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.


Chapter 2: Cooperation is the key

The word “sankirtana” means, literally, “kirtana together”. Our whole process is based on cooperation and association, much different from the process followed by impersonalists and mystic yogis, that is based on solitary meditation and self-advancement. We, devotees, are the best example of the saying “united we stand, separated we fall”.

“I am the only gardener. How many places can I go? How many fruits can I pick and distribute? (Cc. Adi 9.34)

Purport: Here Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu indicates that the distribution of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra should be performed by combined forces. Although He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He laments, “How can I act alone? How can I alone pick the fruit and distribute it all over the world?” This indicates that all classes of devotees should combine to distribute the Hare Krsna maha-mantra without consideration of the time, place or situation.

In 1973, Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter:

"We must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity, and remember the story in Aesop's Fables of the father of many children with the bundle of sticks. When the father asked his children to break the bundle of sticks wrapped in a bag, none of them could do it. But, when they removed the sticks from the bag, and tried one by one, the sticks were easily broken. So this is the strength in unity." (Letter to Kirtanananda, October 18, 1973)

Srila Prabhupada was able to start ISKCON alone, with just a few books and almost no money, because he is the combination of all vaishnava qualities. He had all the knowledge and all the necessary qualities and talents to spread the sankirtana movement in the west, but none of us can make such a claim. At best, each of us may manifest some small percentage of one or a few qualities of Srila Prabhupada, therefore the only chance that we have of maintaining and spreading this movement is to work together. As HG Pita Prabhu recollects in his remembrances of the final days of Srila Prabhupada:

“At one point, all the devotees were with Srila Prabhupada in his room. Bhavananda, Giriraj, Jayapataka Maharaj, Satsvarupa Maharaj, Jayadvaita, Panca Dravida, they were all there. Prabhupada said, "Of my disciples, I see no one who has my qualities. But if I look at this or that disciple, I see some qualities. And if I look at a group of them, some percentage of my qualities is certainly there. So I have some hope that this movement can continue. The test of your love for me will be shown in how well you work together."

The ultimate instruction of the Bhagavad-gita

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krsna discusses many different subjects. He starts with sankhya-yoga, the empirical knowledge that “I'm not this body”, the difference between spirit and matter. He also explains about Himself, God, and how we can get closer to Him while executing our prescribed duties. That's karma-yoga: mainly the third, fourth and fifth chapters. Karma-yoga means to remain in our material occupations and fulfill our duties, but to offer the fruits of our activities to Krsna. In one sense that's a preliminary process, but it is very important. It gives us a simple process from where to start.

For example, we have to eat. We hear that we should eat only prasadam, and strictly speaking, prasadam is when you cook for the deity, for the pleasure of the Lord, with elevated standards. At the same time, we can't eat only in the temple, we also need to eat at home. So, what should we do? If one still doesn’t have this mentality of cooking solely for the pleasure of the Lord, then he can cook what he wants to cook, following the proper standards, but before eating, offer to the Lord. In other words, even if one is not yet on a pure platform, at least he can offer the fruits to the Lord, following the guidance of superior authorities. That's one example of karma yoga: It may not be pure devotion yet, but it's a good start.

Karma-yoga is already done without expectation: one just offers the fruits to the Lord, without expecting any material recompense in return. In contrast with demigod worship, that is normally conducted as a kind of business, in karma-yoga we are already on the level of just wanting to please Krsna. That's why Srila Prabhupada doesn't make much distinction between karma-yoga and bhakti-yoga in his purports, translating both as "devotional service". In one sense there is no difference: they are just different steps in the same stairway.

But there is a subtle difference between karma-yoga and, in the strict sense, pure bhakti-yoga, pure devotional service. In karma-yoga we are still attached to engage in particular activities, so we keep executing our duties, but the fruits are dedicated to Krsna. Pure bhakti-yoga is a little bit different: we don't do what we want to do, we do what Krsna wants us to do. This demands a higher level of surrender: from the beginning to the end it’s for the satisfaction of the Lord, without any other consideration.

We can understand this from the example of Arjuna in the battle of Kurukshetra. If Arjuna would fight to get the kingdom, riches, and power, because he wanted to win the fight, and then, in the end, he would dedicate the fruits to Krsna, constructing temples, doing sacrifices, etc. that would be karma-yoga. But we see that right from the beginning Arjuna didn't want to fight: he would prefer to go to the forest or to live as a beggar. Yet, after hearing the Bhagavad-Gita, he fought with all his ability, not because he wanted, but because that was Krsna’s desire. Krsna told him: I want you to fight, not because you want to win the kingdom, but for Me, that's what is going to please Me.

That's the subtle difference between karma yoga and bhakti yoga. Bhakti-yoga is higher, but it's hard. We should be detached, but at the same time we also need maturity, because without maturity it becomes imitation: "I want to be a pure devotee, I want to be important, let me just abandon everything and surrender!". If someone tries to renounce with this mentality, out of frustration, or desire for fame and recognition, while still attached, he may do it for a few months, or maybe even for a year or two, but eventually he will just give up. This kind of imitation is not very valuable. In fact, that is precisely what Krsna tells Arjuna not to do.

Maturity means that we are doing something for the right reasons and, at the same time, we are sure about what we are doing. That's why Krsna says “mam ekam saranam vraja” (just surrender unto Me) in the end of Bhagavad-gita, not in the beginning. First, we need to understand the whole Bhagavad-gita and practice it, starting from "I'm not the body", then karma-yoga, then everything else, up to the point that we become detached and mature enough to be able to fully surrender to Krsna.  

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear. (Bg. 18.66)

However, sarva-dharman parityajya is not exactly the conclusion of the Bhagavad-Gita. There is something that comes after that. The ultimate conclusion of the Bhagavad-Gita comes two verses later:

For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear. (Bg. 18.68-69)

That's the last instruction that Krsna gives in the Bhagavad-Gita. If you have someone very important to you, like your spiritual master, his last words are going to have special importance. Probably you are going to align everything else that you received from him in the light of these last words. The last instruction that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura gave to Srila Prabhupada (in a letter, few days before he passed away) was to preach in English, and we can see how deeply Srila Prabhupada took it. Sankaracarya was preaching impersonal philosophy, but his last words to his disciples were “bhaja govindam, bhaja govindam, bhaja govindam, mudha mate”: "You fools, you should worship Govinda!".

Similarly, these last words of Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita are even more confidential than sarva-dharman parityajya. Actually, they are a kind of purport. The Lord says: "Surrender unto Me", and one could ask: "What should be my occupation after I abandon my dharma and surrender to You?”. The Lord explains: "You should explain this supreme secret to others". And then He reassures: "By doing that, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and in the end you will come back to Me". As Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport to SB 8.7.44:

“The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (18.68–69), ya idam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesv abhidhasyati … na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: “One who preaches the message of Bhagavad-gita to My devotees is most dear to Me. No one can excel him in satisfying Me by worship.” There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness.”

Someone may argue: "But He says to explain it to devotees. Why we are going to distribute books outside?". In a sense everybody is a devotee. Who is not a spirit soul? And where does the spirit soul come from? To whom is the spirit soul eternally connected? So, in the ultimate sense everybody is a devotee, everyone is connected to Krsna. That's the normal condition of the soul. The problem is that some of the souls have forgotten this, and thus they are accepting so many false designations, forms, desires and activities under the spell of illusion. That's the problem that we have to solve.

“Prahlada Maharaja ultimately instructed his class friends, the sons of the demons, to accept the process of devotional service by preaching the science of Krsna consciousness to everyone. Preaching is the best service to the Lord. The Lord will immediately be extremely satisfied with one who engages in this service of preaching Krsna consciousness. This is confirmed by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad-gita (18.69). Na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: “There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.” If one sincerely tries his best to spread Krsna consciousness by preaching the glories of the Lord and His supremacy, even if he is imperfectly educated, he becomes the dearmost servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is bhakti. As one performs this service for humanity, without discrimination between friends and enemies, the Lord becomes satisfied, and the mission of one’s life is fulfilled. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore advised everyone to become a guru-devotee and preach Krsna consciousness (yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa). That is the easiest way to realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By such preaching, the preacher becomes satisfied, and those to whom he preaches are also satisfied. This is the process of bringing peace and tranquillity to the entire world.” (SB 7.6.24 purport)

To preach and distribute books is the ultimate instruction of the Bhagavad-Gita, it's no wonder that Srila Prabhupada stresses this point so much. As Krsna’s pure devotee, he is concerned about our ultimate welfare, he wants us to preach and become dear to Krsna, so we can join him in the spiritual world. Nowadays we may sometimes forget that Srila Prabhupada has organized the whole ISKCON society as a preaching machine that works with the sole goal of bringing souls back to Godhead, and that’s not just for the benefit of others, but for our own benefit.

HH Tamal Krsna Maharaja: Previously, only a few fortunate persons who visited the temple had the opportunity to meet the devotees, but now, through sankirtana, tens of thousands of persons felt the soothing rain of Lord Caitanya's mercy. This was all due to the mercy of our spiritual master. By his strong desire and personal example he was inspiring us to assume the role of preachers. Though we might not ourselves feel compassion to relieve the suffering of the conditioned souls, Prabhupada did. It was only by his order that we were now empowered to go forth and offer Krsna's mercy to others. By encouraging us to deliver Krsna consciousness to the conditioned souls, Prabhupada was allowing us to share in the most confidential service of the Lord. We had no understanding of Krsna's desire, but by following Prabhupada's instructions we became the recipients of Lord Caitanya's blessings, and as a result, our hearts became softened, purified by the sankirtana-yajna. (Servant of the Servant, Ch. 2)

Cooperation is the key

When we distribute books, the idea is especially to distribute knowledge, to teach people about spiritual life, to help them become devotees. We try to create an opening, a situation where he can receive transcendental knowledge, so this knowledge can create some change in his life. Still, not so many people become devotees just because they read one of our books. Usually, after reading a book one becomes a little interested or somewhat convinced and then looks for more. After that, he meets another devotee who explains the philosophy to him, then he attends a program, takes prasadam and so on, until he comes to the point where he wants to join.

A lot of times, before coming to this point of taking a book and reading it, a person has many preliminary encounters: he hears the maha-mantra here and there, sees devotees chanting in the street, takes prasadam at the Govinda’s restaurant, etc. Such experiences purify him to some extent and elevate him to the point where he takes a book and wants to read it. He gets then a little stunned: “nobody told me this before!” He comes to the temple or to a bhakti-vriksa, hears more preaching, and finally, he becomes convinced to start practicing. By studying more deeply, he matures, straightening his resolve, up to the point of becoming a pure devotee and going back to Godhead.

We can see that Srila Prabhupada's books are involved in the most important steps of this natural evolution. Without his books, it's difficult to convince new people to really become devotees and adopt spiritual life seriously, and without his books, it's very difficult for one to advance to the higher stages of spiritual life. Without Srila Prabhupada’s books, we may make members, but it will be very difficult to make real devotees who will want to dedicate their lives to serve Krsna.

Yet, there are more things to be done so everything can work. There is space for everybody because there is much to do. We have to put a combined effort to really bring people in mass to Krsna consciousness. Just like in a war: it's not only the air force, not only the navy, not only the army; it's the three forces combined that win the war. Similarly, when we combine harinamas, book distribution, prasadam distribution, festivals, etc. the result is amplified and it becomes easy to make devotees. In a broader sense, it doesn’t matter so much which of these activities we are doing: we just need to be a part of the combined effort and share the merits. Someone goes out to distribute books, another one stays to cook, others clean the temple, someone else cultivates the contacts brought by the book distributors, someone visits interested people, others organize harinamas, prasadam distribution, restaurants, nama-hattas, bhakti-vriksas, programs in schools, prisons, etc. When we do all of this in a combined way, then we can really start making new devotees on an industrial scale, creating a kind of back-to-godhead-machine.

More than just making new devotees, this joint effort creates a very nice spiritual atmosphere within the community, that makes everyone feel happy and spiritually nourished. It creates a Vaikuntha atmosphere, where even the ones that are not so spiritually strong can go with the flow and also start following strictly and doing great things, just by association.

New devotees who come to such an environment will also become attracted very easily, because they will see the practical application of the philosophy that they are reading about in the books. If we offer a dull and tamasic atmosphere in the temple, full of rancor and politics, people who read the books will think that we have a pipe-dream philosophy that looks good on paper but doesn't work in reality. And they will just go away, to look somewhere else.

In some cases, a person may even decide to try to follow spiritual life, taking instructions from Srila Prabhupada’s books, but to not associate with us. One example that I can give in this regard is that one time my wife distributed a Bhagavad-Gita to a very educated and intelligent man. He read the whole book in just a few days and came back to ask questions and get more books, and this continued for some time. He became a vegetarian, started to chant, etc. and was always very cordial and respectful. At some point, I invited him to start visiting a temple and get more involved. He visited the local temple and apparently traveled to visit another one. When I talked to him again he said: “I don’t want to offend you. I’m studying these books from Swami Prabhupada, I have the utmost appreciation for him and I’m convinced that these books contain the truth, therefore I’m trying to follow to my best capacity. But after visiting, I came to the conclusion that your institution is not reflecting the ideals exposed in these books, therefore I’m not interested in joining.” This is a sad story, but it illustrates this point that we may attract some sentimental people by some hodge-podge preaching, but if we don’t work together to keep high standards, this is actually the impression that intelligent people may have of us.

To distribute books and cooperate with other devotees may not be easy, but that’s the way for us to advance in spiritual life. We can’t expect to be very comfortable in this world, doing whatever we want and at the same time progress in spiritual life. In Bg. 4.34, Krsna orders us to find a spiritual master and learn the spiritual science from him. To be a disciple means to be under discipline. Without discipline, there is no question of being a disciple.

Srila Prabhupada once said that for one who desires a comfortable life in Krsna consciousness, advancement is very slow. In his purport to SB 2.9.24 he explains this point in detail:

"In executing penance, one must be determined to return home, back to Godhead, and must decide to undergo all types of tribulations for that end. Even for material prosperity and name and fame one has to undergo severe types of penances, otherwise no one can become an important figure in this material world. Why, then, should there not be severe types of penances for the perfection of devotional service? An easygoing life and attainment of perfection in transcendental realization cannot go together. The Lord is more clever than any living entity; therefore He wants to see how painstaking the devotee is in devotional service. The order is received from the Lord, either directly or through the bona fide spiritual master, and to execute that order, however painstaking, is the severe type of penance. One who follows the principle rigidly is sure to achieve success in attaining the Lord’s mercy."

The spiritual master is sacrificing his life to spread Krsna consciousness, therefore when a disciple makes a similar effort to assist him in his mission, he becomes very pleased and showers his mercy upon him. In other eras, yogis would endure severe penances to purify themselves and attain self-realization. Nowadays, the penance is simply to spread Krsna consciousness and to cooperate with other devotees, making some coordinated effort. Not only the process is much easier, but the benefit is much greater. If we can just sacrifice this short life to please Lord Caitanya and spread His message, we can obtain the most valuable gift.  

Bombing-raid or invasion?

Sometimes, sankirtana devotees may somehow develop an elitist mentality, that gives others the message that book distribution is the best service, that everybody else is in maya, etc. This is not just offensive, but also counterproductive, since it creates conflicts and tends to alienate devotees who are not book distributors, but could also assist in different capacities if properly cultivated.

There may be also different priorities in different situations. For example, in the early 1970s, when book distribution was starting, there were very few devotees and Srila Prabhupada wanted to spread the movement quickly. At that time there were only a few hundred devotees to preach in the whole world, so if these few devotees would concentrate in only one city to maintain a temple there, what about the rest of the world? In this situation, Srila Prabhupada's strategy was to make book distribution the topmost priority, to just distribute the biggest possible amount of books, as quickly as possible, even in places where devotees would not go back again. There was a big sense of urgency, to bring the message to the people. This effort gave fruits: so many people started coming because of the books, and ISKCON really started to spread around the world.

“There is no doubt about it, to distribute books is our most important activity. The temple is a place not for eating and sleeping, but as a base from which we send out our soldiers to fight with maya. Fight with maya means to drop thousand and millions of books into the lap of the conditioned souls. Just like during war time the Bombs are raining from the sky like anything”. (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Ramesvara, 03 August 1973)

Of course, nowadays we still have space for this pioneer flavor. There are still so many cities that don't have temples, don't have devotees, where nobody ever heard about Krsna consciousness, so there is still a lot of space and need for this very intensive program of book distribution. A small party or even one devotee alone can go to such places for a few days, distribute as many books as possible and then go to the next city. Even one devotee doing this alone can create a lot of change in these places. However, when we come to a point where we already have hundreds of devotees in the city, then the goals change a little bit. Then it's not just about doing bombing-raids anymore, it’s time to start an invasion.

Book distribution by itself is just like a bombing-raid: we throw a lot of bombs, creating a lot of destruction in the enemy’s territory, but we don't really take the place, we just bombard, preparing the field. Eventually, we need to actually invade: to fight street by street and finally take the city. When we get to this point, then we can't just continue only distributing books: we should combine further distribution of books with the cultivation of the persons who are receiving the books. Even in the front lines, we should create some balance between book distribution and cultivation, doing these two things side by side.

From this point, our concern is not just to give books to a person, but to also take his address, know a little bit about him, invite him to some program. We want him to really read the book, and return with questions, so we can keep in touch and cultivate him until he becomes a devotee. The priorities somewhat change.

Outside the front lines, the change is even more dramatic. Since now there will be already a number of devotees, there is the necessity of inspiring and organizing them, creating a cooperative effort to increase the preaching exponentially. The goal changes from simply distributing a large amount of books to also making devotees: to increase from one hundred to one thousand devotees, from one thousand to ten thousand, then to one hundred thousand, and then take the whole city.

"Be an instrument in the fight"

Lord Caitanya said that His name will be chanted in all towns and villages of the world. Before Srila Prabhupada coming to the west, this seemed something impossible, some kind of poetic exaggeration. Even many of Srila Prabhupada’s own godbrothers had no faith that this could really become true in the literal meaning.

HG Suresvara Prabhu: When Satsvarupa Maharaja was compiling the Lilamrta -- I was part of the team -- he would assign us to interview people, but he gave himself the assignment of interviewing Sridhara Maharaja, back in the 1980s, before he passed away. So he asked a question to Sridhara Maharaja, he said: It was only our Prabhupada who had this order to go to the west and preach? And Sridhara Maharaja said: "No, no, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was telling all of us this. That's what he wanted us to do, he wanted to take all over the world."

Because Mahaprabhu had said: Prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama, in every town and village my holy name will be preached. It wasn't happening. That was stated in Caitanya Bhagavata, hundreds of years ago, and nothing was happening. So after these Gaudiya Math leaders came back from Europe, with  not  much success --they were recalled by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta who was not very pleased with their results-- because they were running up against all these westerners, who were so degraded. Like the history that Bhakti Saranga Maharaja tells, that the Marquess of Zetland in the UK said to him: "Swamiji, can you make me a brahmin?" Oh yes! Just avoid these activities: intoxication, illicit sex, meat eating and gambling. It's very simple. "Impossible!" (laugs). So when the Gaudiya Math people came back to India --they were telling their experiences-- they thought: “How it's possible? Literally, in every town and village?” They thought maybe it was some poetic exaggeration.

So Sridhara Maharaja said: "But then, Swami Maharaja" --that's what they call Prabhupada-- "he actually did! Therefore, saktyavesh!" He did it, he did it! So it's new, we are taking part of history here. (Seminar: Srila Prabhupada our founder acharya)

Yet, we can see that this is coming to pass. Not only in India but everywhere. Nowadays there are so many devotees, even in very small cities or villages, and the number is only increasing. Not that necessarily everyone in the world will become a pure devotee, but at least a few pure devotees will be there, even in the smallest cities, as predicted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And because of the loud kirtana of these devotees, everybody else will get benefit, even the immovable living beings, what to say about human beings.

“On this earth there are many living entities,” the Lord said, “some moving and some not moving. What will happen to the trees, plants, insects and other living entities? How will they be delivered from material bondage?

Haridasa Thakura replied, “My dear Lord, the deliverance of all moving and nonmoving living entities takes place only by Your mercy. You have already granted this mercy and delivered them. You have loudly chanted the Hare Krsna mantra, and everyone, moving or not moving, has benefited by hearing it.

My Lord, the moving entities who have heard Your loud sankirtana have already been delivered from bondage to the material world, and after the nonmoving living entities like trees hear it, there is an echo. Actually, however, it is not an echo: it is the kirtana of the nonmoving living entities. All this, although inconceivable, is possible by Your mercy”. (CC Antya 3.68-71)

There are so many predictions that indicate that this is the plan of the Lord, that the chanting of His holy name will spread everywhere. It means that He has a plan on how to do this. There may be some drawbacks and difficulties, but ultimately it will happen.

HG Hari Sauri Prabhu: “Prabhupada told us, on the train from Allahabad to Kolkata, in 1977, about the importance of this movement. Myself and Rameswara Swami were with Prabhupada in the overnight train, and Prabhupada told us: ‘History will mark this period, how the Krsna consciousness movement saved the world’. We haven't seen that yet, there is a lot more preparation that has to be done, but we are on it. We may not understand that we are changing history, but Krsna has a plan, and ISKCON is very much a part of that plan”. (Class in Moscow, Sri Sri Dayal Nitai Saci Suta Temple, 15 January, 2016)

It’s more or less like in the battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna was hesitant in the beginning, just like when we say: "Oh, I'm tired, I don't want to go, people are not very receptive, It's too difficult, it's snowing...". But Krsna basically said to him: Arjuna, you may fight or not fight, that's your choice, but the result of the battle is already decided, I already have My plan. Therefore, fight and take the glory:

“With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain. Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasaci, can be but an instrument in the fight.

Drona, Bhisma, Jayadratha, Karna and the other great warriors have already been destroyed by Me. Therefore, kill them and do not be disturbed. Simply fight, and you will vanquish your enemies in battle.” (Bg 11.32-34)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura made several predictions about the spreading of the sankirtana movement. In his article "Nityadharma Suryodoy", published in 1885 in the Sajjana-tosani magazine, he wrote:

“Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama sankirtana will be propagated all over the world. Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mridangas, and karatalas and raise kirtana through their streets and towns! When will that day come?” 

In a later article, published in 1895, he wrote:

"Sriman Mahaprabhu did not descend with His associates to deliver a certain number of human beings in the land of India, but rather His purpose was to deliver and uplift all living beings in all countries of the world by practicing the eternal religion of all souls".

In his book "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts" he made another similar prophecy:

"The principle of kirtana, as the future church of the world, invites all classes of men without distinction of caste, creed, or clan to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church will extend all over the world and take the place of all sectarian churches which exclude outsiders from the precincts of their mosque, church or temple."

About five thousand years ago, at the beginning of the Kali-yuga, Nammalvar, one of the twelve great Vaisnava saints of the Sri Sampradaya predicted the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the spread of the sankirtana movement in his Tiruvaimoli. These predictions are explained in detail in the book “A Divine Prophecy” by HG Sridhara Srinivasa Prabhu.

“All glories! All glories! All glories to the devotees of the Lord! All the inauspiciousness and curses of the living entities are destroyed, no one is going to hell, Yamaraja has no work anymore, and the ill-effects of Kali-yuga have ceased to exist. I behold something wonderful: all over the world an increasing number of devotees of Kadalvannan (bluish-black complexioned Lord Krsna), sing His names while dancing and playing musical instruments.

I behold! I behold! I behold the visions that are sweet to the eyes. O devotees! Please come and join these enthusiastic devotees. Standing in joy with arms raised they are worshipping Lord Madhava, who wears a Tulasi Garland surrounded by intoxicated bees drinking its nectar. Roaming all over the earth they chant and sing in sweet mellow, the glories and names of Lord Krsna and dance with raised arms in jubilation.

The ill-effects of Kali-yuga have ceased and a new golden age of sankirtana-yajna has begun. The demigods have also joined the movement and the whole world is flooded with love of Godhead. The devotees of Kadalvannan (the complexion of a dark cloud and ocean-hued Lord Vishnu, or Krsna) have entered and occupied every corner of the earth and are singing the name, fame and glories of the Lord with great joy and enchantment.” (Tiruvaimoli 5.2.1-3)

In the Bhavishya Purana (20.71-73) there is another interesting prediction, this one spoken by Lord Jagannatha Himself:

"Lord Jagannatha, the Supreme Lord Sri Hari Himself, spoke these attractive words for the welfare of all: The mlecchas who are born from mixed countries ruled by descendants of Kasyapa (demons) and the sudras will become brahmanas by initiation. They will wear sikas and brahmana threads and will become well versed in the uncontaminated fruit of the Vedas (Srimad Bhagavatam). They will worship Me by the Yajna prescribed by the Lord of Lords, the protector of Saci (Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu)."

Srila Prabhupada was frequently speaking about a golden age of 10,000 years, that started with the advent of Mahaprabhu. In his purport to SB 8.5.23, for example, he wrote:

When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared, He ushered in the era for the sankirtana movement. It is also said that for ten thousand years this era will continue. This means that simply by accepting the sankirtana movement and chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, the fallen souls of this Kali-yuga will be delivered. After the Battle of Kuruksetra, at which Bhagavad-gita was spoken, Kali-yuga continues for 432,000 years, of which only 5,000 years have passed. Thus there is still a balance of 427,000 years to come. Of these 427,000 years, the 10,000 years of the sankirtana movement inaugurated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu 500 years ago provide the opportunity for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga to take to the Krsna consciousness movement, chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and thus be delivered from the clutches of material existence and return home, back to Godhead.

This period of 10,000 years is mentioned in the prophecies of the Brahma-vaivarta Purana. In the 129th chapter of part 4, there is a conversation between Krsna and Mother Ganga. The Lord is returning to His abode and mother Ganga is raising her concerns:

“Ganges said: O protector, Supreme enjoyer, on your departure for the perfect abode, Goloka, thereafter what will be my situation in the age of kali?

The blessed Lord said: On the earth 5,000 years of kali will be sinful and sinners will deposit their sins in you by bathing. Thereafter by the sight and touch of those who worship me by my mantra, all those sins will be burnt. There will be chanting of the name of Hari and reading of the [Bhagavata] Purana. Reaching such a place, attentively hear.

Sinful reactions including the killing of a brahmana can be nullified by hearing the Purana and chanting of the names of Hari in the manner of devotees. Just as dry grass is burnt by fire, by the embrace of My devotees all sins are burnt. O Ganges, the whole planet will become a pilgrimage sight by the presence of My devotees, even though it had been sinful. In the body of my devotees remains eternally [the purifier]. Mother earth becomes pure by the dust of the feet of my devotees. It will be the same in the case of pilgrimage sights and the whole world. Those intelligent worshipers of my mantra who partake My remnants will purify everything.

They are more dear to Me than My life, who everyday meditate only on Me. The air and fire become pure simply even by their indirect touch. For 10,000 years of kali such devotees of mine will fill the whole planet. After the departure of My devotees there will only be one varna [outcaste]. Devoid of My devotees, the earth will be shackled by kali. Saying this Krishna departed.” (Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.129.49-60)

There is, however, some controversy about this golden age of 10,000 years, even amongst some Vaishnavas outside ISKCON. The verses 4.129.49-60 from the Brahma-vaivarta Purana can be translated in slightly different ways, that gives a different meaning. It can be understood that Krsna is saying that there will be devotees for the first 10,000 years of Kali-yuga and that mother Ganga should stay for the first 5,000 years after His disappearance. There are also two verses in the 90th chapter of the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, that state:

"Lord Hari will stay on this earth for ten thousand years of Kali-yuga and along with Him the Puranas, scriptures, and the worship of the demigods will also be present for that duration on this earth. For half that period the Ganga, other holy places, the village temples, and the study of Vedas by learned brahmanas will be present.” (Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.90.32-33)

There is thus an apparent contradiction with the words from Srila Prabhupada. The first reference speaks about an era of 10,000 years (kaler dasa-sahasrani), but the chronology can be contested. The second reference gives the impression that such ten thousand years are counted from the begin of Kali-yuga. It sounds especially strange that 5,100 years after the beginning of Kali-yuga, the river Ganges is still present on the planet, which also creates an apparent contradiction between what is predicted and what can be observed in practice.

How these two references can be understood and how they can be reconciled with the words of Srila Prabhupada?

These statements can be harmonized once we consider the different passages of the scriptures that predict the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (like SB 11.5.32, Bhavishya Purana 20.71-73, etc.). The golden age didn’t start with the begin of Kali-yuga, but with the advent of Mahaprabhu, five hundred years ago. When the Brahma-vaivarta Purana states that “Lord Hari will stay on this earth for ten thousand years of Kali-yuga”, this describes how He is going to be present in the form of the holy names. During the first half of this period, the Ganges and other holy places are going to be present, and the golden age continues for five thousand years more after their disappearance.

Once we accept that Krsna was present on this earth as Mahaprabhu, 500 years ago, it doesn’t matter if one understands that Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.129.49-60 means that sinful people will bath in the Ganga for the first 5,000 years and after that will be a golden age of 10,000 years, or if one understands that it means that Ganga will stay for 5,000 years after the disappearance of Krsna (as Mahaprabhu) and there will be devotees for 10,000 years. In both cases, the statements are perfectly in line with the idea we get from Srila Prabhupada.

We are living right now in a transitional period since the disappearance of Mahaprabhu, where the tide of the sankirtana movement is gradually rising, and the world is being inundated. The symptoms of Kali-yuga are still present, but the population of pure devotees is increasing. Soon the tide will turn. Inside the golden age, there is an ascending period (in which we are living right now), and later a slow decline, leading to the remaining years of Kali-yuga (as briefly explained by Srila Prabhupada in his conversation of 13 May 1969 with Allen Ginsberg).

This idea is corroborated in the 11th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam:

In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions. (SB 11.5.32)

Those who are actually advanced in knowledge are able to appreciate the essential value of this Age of Kali. Such enlightened persons worship Kali-yuga because in this fallen age all perfection of life can easily be achieved by the performance of sankirtana. ( SB 11.5.36)

Indeed, there is no higher possible gain for embodied souls forced to wander throughout the material world than the Supreme Lord’s sankirtana movement, by which one can attain the supreme peace and free oneself from the cycle of repeated birth and death. (SB 11.5.37)

“My dear King, the inhabitants of Satya-yuga and other ages eagerly desire to take birth in this Age of Kali, since in this age there will be many devotees of the Supreme Lord, Narayana. These devotees will appear in various places but will be especially numerous in South India. O master of men, in the Age of Kali those persons who drink the waters of the holy rivers of Dravida-desa, such as the Tamraparni, Krtamala, Payasvini, the extremely pious Kaveri and the Pratici Mahanadi, will almost all be purehearted devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva.” (SB 11.5.38-40)

All the auspiciousness of the age of Kali, mentioned in different passages of the scriptures, is connected with the sankirtana movement, that was inaugurated by Mahaprabhu. The first 5,000 years of Kali-yuga where just a preparation, in which humanity fell down into the lowest levels of sinfulness, and a succession of acaryas (Lord Buddha, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, etc.) came to give progressively higher levels of understanding, culminating with the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who gave the conclusion.

Because of the sankirtana movement inaugurated by Him, many advanced devotees from other eras will take birth during the golden age to join Mahaprabhu’s movement. Such pure souls are going to take birth everywhere, but especially in South India. We don’t know how many of such pious souls are already walking amongst us, growing-up in devotees families, or waiting for someone to stop them and give them a book, but as they join, their presence is going to help to turn the tide of materialism and help the sankirtana movement to spread around the world. Everything is happening as part of a divine arrangement.

As predicted, the spreading of the sankirtana movement will happen sooner or later, the question is just about who is going to take the credit. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura came, preached, started the Gaudiya Math, opened so many temples, and left instructions to his disciples about how to continue. He gave them the chance, but when he passed away they started to dispute and divide, and the preaching work was hampered. Srila Prabhupada recreated the preaching work of his guru-maharaja in the form of ISKCON and inherited the business of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, all because he was following what his Guru Maharaja had instructed. Due to his faith and surrender, Srila Prabhupada succeeded where others failed. And then he left instructions to his disciples about how to continue. Of course, there were difficulties and problems after Srila Prabhupada departed, but they held together and continued the society, as Srila Prabhupada instructed. That's why despite all the difficulties the preaching is still expanding.

That's actually the main instruction from Srila Prabhupada: to work in a cooperative way and at the same time maintain the principles and the standards. Everybody has difficulties, limitations and so on, but as long as we are sincere, Krsna can keep us engaged and correct us, just like He promises in the Bhagavad-Gita:

"To those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have" (Bg 9.22).

Whatever good qualities we have He preserves, and whatever is lacking, He helps us to achieve, He brings to us. If we understand that, we can work together and appreciate each other’s good qualities.

It's not that nobody will disagree, it's not like some hippie idea, that everybody will just hold hands and dance around the fire. Everyone is a personality with his personal tastes, therefore there will always be difference of opinion. Even amongst the gopis, there is divergence: there are left-wing gopis and right-wing gopis. They all love Krsna, but they have different ideas on how to serve Him best. Still, because they all want to please Krsna, ultimately there is no problem. There is no envy or bad feelings.

In the highest sense, to work together we actually just need to be and act as sincere devotees. Usually, problems start when we get into maya, affected by the modes of passion and ignorance, when we start to care about fame, position and so on. The more we practice spiritual life seriously, and the more we dedicate ourselves to spread Krsna consciousness, the fewer problems we have.

In essence, the success of our preaching depends on how we cooperate. If we stop cooperating in ISKCON and it becomes some fragmented mission, with everyone having his small project and trying to do his own thing, someone else will start all over again, and he will get all the mercy. Then we will lose our opportunity to serve Srila Prabhupada.

Unity in diversity

We can't demand to have the association of only pure devotees in this material world, especially if we are not pure devotees ourselves. We can read in Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta that Srila Prabhupada was not rejecting anybody. Even the lowest person, if he had some sincerity, some propensity to do some service, however small, Srila Prabhupada would accept and engage him. He would "fan the spark" until it became a big fire, capable of incinerating one's contaminations. Similarly, we should also see the good qualities of others and try to engage them in Krsna’s service, according to their natural inclinations. To those who are newer, we can teach (especially through our own example) and engage them in different services. To those who are more or less on the same platform, we can offer our sincere friendship and cooperation, and we can also engage the ones who are senior by inviting them to give classes, to lead kirtan, to lead different programs, and so on. If we act perfectly ourselves, relationship problems with others are going to be rare.

ISKCON is becoming a very big movement. In the beginning, the system was that everybody would renounce everything, go live in the temples, and strive to preach and to become pure devotees. Of course, this is the goal; we can see in Srila Prabhupada's purports, especially in Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, that he is always speaking about the highest principles: how to get detached from this world and become attached to Krsna. For example, in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta (Antya 3.101, purport) he wrote:

"We must always remember that a devotee’s life is one of vairagya-vidya, or renunciation and knowledge. Therefore all devotees are warned not to live unnecessarily luxurious lives at the cost of others. Grhasthas living within the jurisdiction of the temple must be especially careful not to imitate karmis by acquiring opulent clothing, food and conveyances. As far as possible, these should be avoided. A member of the temple, whether grhastha, brahmacari or sannyasi, must practice a life of renunciation, following in the footsteps of Haridasa Thakura and the six Gosvamis. Otherwise, because maya is very strong, at any time one may become a victim of maya and fall down from spiritual life".

We have purports like this all over Srila Prabhupada's books, teaching that devotees should be renounced, pure, have very good sadhana, be very active in service, and so on. He showed us the way, how to become pure devotees, but it’s not that everyone will be able to immediately follow this path. We have all types of persons joining ISKCON nowadays. Many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples narrate that when Srila Prabhupada was present, he was pushing everybody with his personal energy, and because of this, all devotees would be empowered to do big feats. Nowadays it may be a little more difficult because this push is not there, but on the other hand, we have so many persons joining, ISKCON is becoming very big. In Srila Prabhupada's times there were a few thousand ISKCON devotees, nowadays we probably already have more than one million, and we should grow much more. For that, we should be able to accommodate persons who are not exactly pure devotees, but have some sincerity and can agree to follow and serve to some degree.

We must find this balance, how to be strict with ourselves, but accommodating with others, how to help everyone who comes in contact with us to get closer to Krsna, without lowering our own personal standards. Srila Prabhupada was doing like that. In the beginning, he had a few youths living with him in the first storefront; some of them would sleep there, hear the class, take prasadam and then go out to eat in cafeterias, to meet their girlfriends or some other nonsense, but Srila Prabhupada was not rejecting them, he was engaging everyone. And eventually many of them became sannyasis, gurus, and leaders. We need to learn from him.  

Advancing beyond rajas and tamas

In his purport on SB 2.1.2, Srila Prabhupada gives us a series of cues about what prevents us from cooperating to spread the sankirtana movement. The central point is envy, which comes from material consciousness.

“The word medhi indicates jealousy of others. The grhamedhis, being interested in family affairs only, are certainly envious of others. Therefore, one grhamedhi is not on good terms with another grhamedhi, and in the extended form, one community, society or nation is not on good terms with another counterpart of selfish interest. In the Age of Kali, all the householders are jealous of one another because they are blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth”. (SB 2.1.2 purport)

As Srila Prabhupada points out, enviousness is the central point of materialistic life, creating all kinds of quarrels, disputes and ultimately wars, in all spheres of human life. Someone who is very advanced in spiritual life is supposed to be free from such envy, but not being so advanced, we still may fall victim of it from time to time. It’s something that is deeply rooted in our hearts and follows us very far into spiritual life. The grhamedhi is the chronic example, but there are many more subtle cases.

When we envy someone, it’s almost impossible to cooperate with such a person. We tend to avoid doing anything that will be beneficial or pleasant for him. In fact, we will want to make him disappear, to exile him or tie a stone to his leg and throw him into the river. Such sentiments can sometimes endure for decades, serving as fuel for all kinds of disputes and intrigues. That’s material consciousness, a symptom of association with the modes of passion and ignorance. As long as we are engrossed in the association of these modes, it’s difficult for us to not think like that.

“Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrsni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?”

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.” (BG 3.36-37)

Nowadays, many devotees try to solve such problems by utilizing problem-solving techniques and other skills borrowed from modern psychology. Such techniques may help to some extent, but they don’t really cure the disease: they just mask the symptoms. They are more or less like an analgesic, that temporarily reduces the symptoms of the disease, making us feel a little less uncomfortable for the time being, without doing much to really cure it.

To really be able to get rid of this problem, both on an individual and on a collective level, we have to advance in spiritual life. That’s the main point. As long as we stay on the neophyte platform it will be difficult to cooperate. There will be a lot of intrigues, politics and so on, of which the root cause is lust and envy. We have to go up, progressing at least to the second platform.  

One of the greatest problems of a neophyte is that although he pays respects to the deity, he is not able to behave properly towards other devotees and people in general. He still needs to develop faith, humility, and compassion, and thus learn how to control his envy and treat others properly.  

Faith means to deeply accept this knowledge from our books and try to understand and follow this philosophy, adjusting our consciousness to the knowledge that Srila Prabhupada gives us, instead of the opposite. Faith means to take these scriptures as our heart and soul, accept that everything in Srila Prabhupada’s books is correct, and try to understand and apply each point from this perspective. Without faith, it is not possible to really understand these books, nor to successfully preach our philosophy, since someone who doesn’t have firm faith will not be able to inspire faith in others.

Next, we have humility and compassion, two qualities that frequently walk together. Both qualities come from spiritual practice and advancement. There is a saying from Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know”. Someone who knows very little usually thinks that he knows everything, but someone who knows more understands that there is much more to know. We have the same problem in spiritual life: someone who is not very advanced may think that he is a pure devotee, but someone who is a little more progressed starts to understand that there is still a long way to go, and thus starts to develop humility. As his knowledge and realization deepen he also starts to develop compassion, by understanding the precarious position of the people in this material world and by being able to relate to their distress.

As this faith, humility and compassion increase, we progress little by little towards the second platform, of which the main symptom is to be able to treat everyone properly. Because there is humility, compassion, and realization, it becomes natural to treat everyone well and cooperate with others.  A devotee on such a platform doesn’t see friends and enemies, nor thinks how to enjoy or have power; he just thinks about how to help, how to serve. He is not anymore interested in false prestige.

The first thing is that he gives his love to Krsna, understanding that Krsna is the Supreme and that he is His servant. To the devotees he gives his sincere friendship and cooperation, being their well-wisher. To innocent persons of the general public, he shows compassion, by preaching and trying to elevate them to the platform of devotional service. Finally, to those who are hostile or envious he shows indifference, staying out of quarrels and senseless disputes (SB 11.2.46). At this stage, we start to develop love for Krsna, and such love can be easily extended. As Srila Prabhupada explains: one who loves Krsna can love everyone. Where there is love, it is easy to have proper relationships and cooperation. As in other aspects of life, the true solution is to be Krsna conscious.

By advancing in spiritual life and being able to cooperate in spreading Krsna consciousness, we can please guru and Krsna, as the Lord personally says to the Pracetas:

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear sons of the King, I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one occupation — devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me.” (SB 4.30.8)

Sadhu-sanga and social interaction

We frequently hear about the glories and the importance of sadhu-sanga, association with devotees. In the Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami categorizes 64 principles for executing devotional service, which is explained by Srila Prabhupada both in the Nectar of Devotion and the Teachings of Lord Caitanya. From these 64 principles, five are especially important, since by cultivating these five principles we tend to automatically execute the others:

“...out of all of these the following five are most important: (1) to associate with devotees, (2) to chant the holy name of the Lord, (3) to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, (4) to live in a holy place such as Mathura or Vrndavana, (5) to serve the Deity with great devotion. These items are especially mentioned by Rupa Gosvami in his book Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.” (Teachings of Lord Caitanya ch. 12)

From these five principles, one is essential: to associate with devotees. By associating with devotees we automatically hear and chant the holy names, hear discussions on the Srimad Bhagavatam, serve the deity and live in a holy place (since pure devotees are themselves places of pilgrimage). Actually, just by associating with devotees we end up being trained and discharging the complete set of 64 rules.

Indeed, association with devotees is the root cause of devotional service. By association, we develop faith, get committed to the process of devotional service, make progress and ultimately become completely happy, free from the miseries of material existence.

‘In the beginning there must be faith. Then one becomes interested in associating with pure devotees. Thereafter one is initiated by the spiritual master and executes the regulative principles under his orders. Thus one is freed from all unwanted habits and becomes firmly fixed in devotional service. Thereafter, one develops taste and attachment. This is the way of sadhana-bhakti, the execution of devotional service according to the regulative principles. Gradually emotions intensify, and finally there is an awakening of love. This is the gradual development of love of Godhead for the devotee interested in Krsna consciousness.’ (CC Madhya 23.14-15)

The problem is that nowadays we frequently forget what “sadhu-sanga” means. Instead of chanting the holy names, discussing the scriptures and performing various services and preaching activities, we often simply have social activities, discussing the lives of others, sharing our frustrations, having prajalpa and so on. We have the so-called “sadhu-sanga” but don’t feel very much spiritually inspired afterwards. It becomes even worse when new devotees come and, due to the lack of proper association, learn that “sadhu-sanga” means to sit and speak about their lives.

Naturally, everyone needs friends to open their mind at times, discuss their problems and so on, but this can’t be taken as the main limb of our devotional practice.

"Prajalpa means talking all nonsense. Suppose politics. "What Mr. Nixon did yesterday, or what did he say?" So what interest we have got in Mr. Nixon? We shall not waste our time talking this politics, that politics, this sociology, this cinema, this affair, no. We have nothing to do with that. That is called prajalpa, unnecessary talking. Talking means decreasing your duration of life. Talking. So why should you decrease your life unnecessarily? Every moment you have to utilize, "Whether it is used for Krsna?" This is sadhana. This is sadhana, practice. Unnecessary talking, unnecessary making enemies. Unnecessarily, "You are my subordinate; I am your master." Who is master? Everyone is subordinate to Krsna. Nobody is master. Why you talk unnecessarily? (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on SB 1.16.6, 03 January, 1974)

Actually, idle talking is quite dangerous for our spiritual practice. It tends to root our consciousness in world-mindedness and sabotage the development of our spiritual consciousness. In his commentary on the Sri Upadesamrta, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura categorizes eight types of prajalpa which spoil our devotion: useless talks (not about Krsna or devotional service), arguments (quarrels), gossip (speaking badly about others to establish our own reputation), debates (manifestation of our desire for conquest), fault-finding in others, speaking falsehoods, worldly talks devoid of Krsna consciousness and blaspheming of devotees (which is the worst).

Prajalpa is bad not only for our consciousness, lowering it to the material level, but it is detrimental for our relationships as devotees as well, leading to gossip, politics, and quarrel. Instead of strengthening our bonds, it weakens them. In her prayers, Queen Kunti makes the point that worldly talking and mundane social activities are the cause of disagreements and disputes: “The dissensions between living beings are due to social intercourse”. (SB 1.8.28)

In contrast, real sadhu-sanga is described in the Bhagavad-Gita:

“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (BG 9.14)

“The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are surrendered to Me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss enlightening one another and conversing about Me.” (BG 10.9)

Purport: Pure devotees, whose characteristics are mentioned here, engage themselves fully in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Their minds cannot be diverted from the lotus feet of Krsna. Their talks are solely on the transcendental subjects. The symptoms of the pure devotees are described in this verse specifically. Devotees of the Supreme Lord are twenty-four hours daily engaged in glorifying the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Their hearts and souls are constantly submerged in Krsna, and they take pleasure in discussing Him with other devotees.

HH Tamal Krsna Maharaja recollects in his memories of Srila Prabhupada that once, in the early days, when he and HH Vishnujana Maharaja (at the time still two young brahmacharis) were having difficulties in their relationship, Srila Prabhupada recommended that they should do preaching activities together. That’s the best way to strengthen our bonds as devotees: by preaching together we naturally develop mutual admiration and a spirit of cooperation, of being a team. We realize that we have a common goal, that is to fight maya and spread the sankirtana movement.

Another healthy practice is to regularly discuss different philosophical points and purports from Srila Prabhupada’s books amongst ourselves. It’s a simple practice, where someone can read and then everyone can comment on different points, bringing other references, practical applications and so on. Such philosophical discussions are a very powerful type of sadhu sanga and can be held even amongst new devotees. The bhakti-vriksa programs are heavily based on such discussions and we can see that this is a format that is creating some quite tangible results.

Key points in this chapter

  1. Different from the ways of ascetics and mystic yogis, our process is based on cooperation. Our only chance to spread Krsna consciousness around the world is by working together.
  2. The final instruction of the Bhagavad-Gita is that one should spread Krsna consciousness. By spreading this knowledge, we can satisfy the Lord. To preach is important not only for others but especially for ourselves, it's an opportunity to share in the most intimate service to the Lord.
  3. A good preacher must be mature, not just someone working for fame and recognition, pushed by the mode of passion. For this, realization is needed, and realization, in turn, is obtained by seriously studying our philosophy and applying it to our lives. Without this deep understanding, our realization will remain superficial, or we will reach the wrong conclusions and thus deviate.
  4. Maturity means that we do things for the right reasons and we are sure about what we are doing. A classical example of immaturity is when one wants to renounce while still attached: out of frustration, to avoid inconveniences, or out of a desire for fame and recognition.
  5. ISKCON was created as a preaching mission, with the goal of sending souls back to Godhead on an industrial scale. For the system to work properly, there must be cooperation between different groups, e.g.: book distributors, temples, bhakti vriksa, prasadam distribution, cultural programs, etc. There must be a coordinated effort.
  6. More than just making new devotees, a good preaching spirit enlivens the whole community, which then works together towards a greater goal. Without this, devotees tend to fight amongst themselves and the whole atmosphere becomes tamasic.
  7. In order to be an effective preacher, one needs to be able to sacrifice his personal comfort, at least to some extent. "For one who desires a comfortable life in Krsna consciousness, advancement is very slow".
  8. To cooperate may not be easy, but that's the way to advance in spiritual life. Cooperation with other devotees is the real proof of humility.
  9. For maximum results, the efforts on book distribution must be combined with a proper cultivation effort, so interested people have an opportunity to join. By just distributing books, we will create changes in people's mentality but not necessarily make many devotees.
  10. Devotees who decide to follow Krsna consciousness after getting books and becoming interested in the philosophy tend to be the strongest since they join for the right reasons and with philosophical understanding.
  11. Lord Caitanya's prediction that His name will be chanted in all towns and villages of the world is not a poetic exaggeration. It's predicted in the scriptures and it's coming to pass. There is a divine arrangement that is already in motion.
  12. The result is already decided, but by engaging in the sankirtana mission we have the opportunity of advancing in spiritual life and attaining the mercy of the Lord.
  13. As ISKCON grows, it becomes more and more like a conglomeration of different congregations, and less of a unified movement. More and more, there are people with different views and different goals in life, who share the desire to advance in Krsna consciousness. In this environment, it's essential to be tolerant and flexible enough to be able to conciliate petty differences and collaborate with others to fulfill a greater goal.
  14. Instead of rejecting people who don’t fit into our stereotypes, we should "fan the spark", see good qualities in others and help them to use these qualities in Krsna's service. One of the secrets of success is to be strict with ourselves and accommodating with others, helping everyone who comes in contact with us to advance, without lowering our own devotional standards.
  15. Envy is the central point of material life, and it tends to accompany us even in the intermediary stages of devotional life, causing all kinds of intrigues and relationship problems with other devotees. When we envy someone it's very difficult not only to cooperate but to do anything pleasant or beneficial for him. While psychology and material relationship skills can help to a certain extent, the real solution is to raise ourselves above the lower material modes, which are the root cause of the problem.
  16. To progress from the neophyte to the intermediary stage, we need to develop faith, humility and compassion, qualities that can be developed only with spiritual advancement. Faith comes from accepting knowledge from the scriptures, applying it and observing the results. As we advance, we understand that there is still a long way to go, which fosters humility. By understanding people's precarious position in this material world, we develop compassion.
  17. One of the shortcomings of the neophyte is his tendency to mistreat other devotees and the public in general. Because of his humility, compassion, and realization, a devotee in the second stage is capable of treating everyone properly and thus cooperating with others. Envy (which is the root cause of so many problems) is treated. Such a devotee starts to develop love for Krsna, and such love can be easily extended. "One that loves Krsna can love everyone". The true solution is to be Krsna conscious.
  18. Association with devotees is vitally important. Indeed, it is the root cause of devotional service. The problem is that frequently we use socialization as a substitute for sadhu sanga. True sadhu sanga is spiritually nourishing, while socialization is on the material platform. Prajalpa is not only detrimental to our consciousness, but it erodes our relationship with devotees.
  19. Real sadhu sanga is centered around chanting, discussing spiritual topics, serving and preaching together. It strengthens our bonds as devotees and nourishes admiration and cooperation. Srila Prabhupada prescribed doing missionary activities together as a means to solve relationship problems.