I am very grateful to be here today. Special gratitude to Param Pujya Sri Srimad Vimalananda Maharaja who is a dear disciple of Sri Param Pujya Swami Shivanandji Maharaj, who my own guru Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Swami had very affectionate relationship with, Sri Vimalananda Swami Maharaj. In 1969, in San Francisco – Srila Prabhupada called San Francisco New Jagannath Puri because it is the first place in the Western world where the Rathayatra was celebrated – and in front of Lord Jagannath’s chariot Srila Prabhupada and Swami Vimalananda danced together.
Vimalananda Maharaja: In 1969, in San Francisco, he had chariot festival, 3 chariots. They had to remove the overhead wires so that chariots could pass easily. Towards the end we all went and danced with Prabhupadji. There were more than 5000 people there, and they were all given prasad in very beautiful way. It was a wonderful sight to see.
Radhanath Swami describes Srila Prabhupada’s Rath Yatra as a little boy
When Srila Prabhupada was a little boy, about eight years old, he used to look at the timetables of the Indian railway schedule to see what time the trains to Jagannath Puri would be from Calcutta where he lived. And when he was a little boy he got a little wagon and made a chariot for Jagannath and would have Ratha Yatras through the streets of Calcutta and dance and chant and give prasad. Then later he took that festival to the whole world. I am very grateful for your hospitality for welcoming us in this holy place.
Radhanath Swami on ‘Kali-yuga’s great benediction: The Holy Name of the Lord.’
Swamiji has asked me to speak something about bhakti and harinam. In the Srimad Bhagavat, there is important verse-
kaler doṣa-nidhe rājan
asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
This Kali Yuga is an ocean of faults and people have such bad habits. What is religion is taken to be irreligion and what is irreligion is taken to be religion. But there is one benediction, that in this age of Kali by simply chanting and kirtan, the name of Krishna, one can attain the perfection of liberation.
kali-kāle nāma-rūpe kṛṣṇa-avatāra
That Krishna has descended in this age of Kali in the divine name and Krishna descended himself as Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, to teach by his example in the role of a devotee, of what are the values we should cultivate in our chanting of Krishna’s names. There is a beautiful verse that Sri Chaitanya cited-
nitya-siddha krsna-prema sadhya kabhu naya
sravavadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya
That the love for Krishna is within the heart of every being, and by associating with saintly people and by chanting Krishna’s name that love is awakened. Swami Vimalanandji Maharaj was talking about how real wealth is in that love. I will briefly share one beautiful leela that has always very much moved my heart.
Radhanath Swami narrates story of Suklambar Brahmachari
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu established the Sankirtan Movement in Navadvip, West Bengal, and he would have the devotees chanting harinam. One day he said, “We were chanting in the day, but we are wasting precious moments of human life by sleeping at night. We should continue the kirtan throughout the night also.” And all of the devotees had so much faith in him, they were so inspired, they all said Haribol!!! Then Sri Gauranga taught them, “This is the method by which you can chant constantly. It cannot be done by our own determination or our own tapasya. It is only possible by Bhagavan Sri Krishna’s grace,” he said, “And this is how to reach that grace:
trinad api sunicena taror api sahishnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harihi
One should chant in a state of mind and one should live one’s life thinking oneself more humble than a blade of grass. One should feel oneself more tolerant and forgiving than a tree, one should offer all respect to others and not demand respect, or expect respect for oneself. If we live by these principles, we could chant God’s names constantly.” And he said, “Take this verse, put it on the string of the holy name and wear it always –
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis,
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah,
etadrisi tava kripa bhagavan mamapi,
durdaivam idrisam ihajani nanuragah
That the supreme Lord has many names and in each of these divine names the Lord has invested all of his potencies, his grace.”
namachintamani Krishna Chaitanya rasavigraha
The name of the Lord, and the Lord is present and there are no hard and fast rules for chanting.
So one day the Lord was having kirtan in the house of Srivas and Sri Gauranga at that time he was fulfilling the desires of all of his devotees. He saw one simple brahmachari named Sukhlambar. This Sukhlambar was very unknown, he was a beggar in the eyes of most of the people. He had a little thatched hut where he lived on the bank of mother Ganga, and every day with begging bowl he would go out to at least eight houses to beg. People would just give him a little, or the only thing they would give them is broken pieces of old rice because generally people don’t give beggars the best they have. Usually people don’t give beggars anything. But if they do give something, they give the cheapest thing they have. So he would have a little cloth bag and go house to house and collect these broken pieces of rice and the whole time he would be chanting the names of Lord Hari. He would be in the ecstasy of love for Lord Hari, but nobody knew. The common people thought he was just an ordinary beggar. He never advertised that he was a saintly person. He considered himself most ordinary. He was really trinad api sunicena. He had that humility. Quietly, silently, he would beg and would take him many hours till he got enough rice before he came with his bag to his little thatched hut chanting Krishna’s name. He would cook the rice and he would offer it to Krishna and then he would eat it.
One day, after he begged and before he came home, he came to the kirtan at Srivas Angan. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was sitting and everyone was chanting. Sukhlambar was so simple and very poor materially, yet had such a rich heart; he danced and he was dancing like a child with such spontaneous joy. Lord Chaitanya then was sitting on the altar because he was in his mood of Krishna. He saw Sukhlambar. Just to see the innocence, the humility, and the joy in which Sukhlambar was dancing, he said, “Sukhlambar come here.” Then Lord Chaitanya took his hand, he had very long arms, and with his hand he thrusted into the bag of Sukhlambar Brahmachari and took a handful of broken pieces of raw chipped rice and ate it. Sukhlambar started to cry and said, “No, no, this is not fit to be eaten by you My Lord”. And Sri Chaitanya Mahaprahu again put his hand in the bag and took more and more and more, and he ate the whole bag of rice. Lord Chaitanya said, “Today, because I am taking the rice from Sukhlambar’s cloth bag, I am for the first time truly tasting the love for Krishna.”
Radhanath Swami narrates “Suklambar Brahmachari as Sudama in past life”
And then Lord Chaitanya said to Sukhlambar brahmachari, “You do not remember, but I know you birth after birth. You are my poverty-stricken beggar devotee.In your last birth you were living very simple in poverty with your wife. Your name was Sudama and your wife told you, ‘Please go to Krishna. He was your classmate at the ashram of Sandipani Muni and now he’s living in Dwarka in beautiful palaces. He has so much wealth and you are so skinny and you have all dirty, not dirty, but very old torn clothes and we are just living in a thatched hut. I can’t tolerate seeing you in such poverty. Please go to Krishna and ask him for some help.’” Sudama would always say ‘no’. But just because he couldn’t tolerate seeing his wife in poverty, he decided, “Alright, I would go. But Krishna is Bhagavan. I have to offer him something.” His wife looked around in the house. There was nothing to offer him, so she went out begging and she got some chipped rice. She took an old piece of cloth, wrapped the chipped rice and gave it to Sudama and said, “Bring this to Krishna.” So Sudama walked from Porbandar, which is also the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, and he walked all the way to Dwarka. There when he saw the magnificent gates of the Yadu kingdom, he was amazed. There were guards, but as soon as they saw this simple little beggar person Sudama, a Brahman, they let him pass through all gates. He was escorted into Krishna’s principal palace where he was sitting on the bed with Rukhmini Devi. The various assistants of the palace were watching and they were thinking, “Who is this?” They were living in such opulence and here is this simple man in rags – so skinny. Why, why is he being allowed in? Suddenly Krishna got off of his bed, and he went running, and he touched Sudama’s feet, embraced him with such affection, and he put Sudama on his seat. Krishna himself washed Sudama’s feet, honored him, worshiped him. Krishna is worshiping him and then he brought him wonderful Prasad. Meanwhile Rukhmini Devi, the supreme goddess of fortune had a chamara, a fan, humbly serving Sudama by fanning him. And after he was received with so much love by the Lord, they spoke remembering the days when they were living with Sandipani Muni in Ujjain, the ashram when they were small, they spoke all night long. Wonderful stories are shared in the Srimad Bhagvatam. In the morning Krishna asked Sudama, “Did you bring something for me?” Seeing the jewels, gold and silver and the silks and after eating such a prasad Krishna had prepared for him, he was really thinking, “How can I give Krishna that stale, broken chipped rice that I am holding in this little cloth?” He said, “No my Lord. I didn’t bring anything.” Krishna knows everything, he specially knows the heart of his devotee. So Krishna suddenly – he knew exactly where that little bag was – he grabbed it and he took the chipped rice and ate a morsel. And he was about to take it again, and Sudama was saying, “No, no, no, my Lord this is not fit for you.” He was about to eat more and Rukhmini said, “That’s enough.” Now different acharyas give you different explanations why she said, “This is enough.” Because she knew just by that morsel, Sudama would have more wealth than Indra, the king of heaven, what to speak if he ate more? How much more wealth he would get! And another reason is, because she saw how much Krishna was enjoying the love of devotee in the form of that chipped rice, she wanted some. She wanted to share with all of her people, all of her maidservants and all of the other queens and all the other assistants. “If Krishna enjoys the love of his devotee in the form of this rice so much, I want to share with everyone; this will please Krishna the most.” She said, “You’ve already satisfied the 14 worlds by taking this one morsel.”
So after such a beautiful meeting, Sudama took leave and returned. And as he was walking back to his home, in his mind he was just remembering all the beautiful pastimes and conversations he just had with Lord Krishna. He was thinking, “Krishna, he’s the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune, and who am I? I am just a very fallen insignificant friend of a Brahman, and yet with his own arms, he embraced me. He put me on his bed, he worshipped me, he was overwhelmed with gratitude and love.” But he was thinking of his wife, because she gave him that chipped rice and Krishna ate it. But he was supposed to ask Krishna for some wealth, but he didn’t as in his mind he was thinking, “How could I ask God for anything?” In the seventh canto, when Prahlad Maharaj was offered benediction by Narahari Narasimha Dev, he said, “My beloved Lord, if I ask anything in return for my devotion to you, then I’m not a devotee, I am not a bhakta, I am just doing business with you. My love, my service, my life, is only for your pleasure. I want nothing in return, except to love and serve you and always remember you.” That was the mood of Sudama, but when he got to the place where his house was supposed to be, he happened to see, there was a beautiful palace, with gardens and lakes and swans and wonderful trees and beautiful celestial people walking all around. He was thinking, “Where am I?” He was really astonished and then he saw this beautiful lady come out, in elegant gowns. And she came before him and he looked at her and then one of the ladies who was close by said, “This is your wife.” He recognized her, and she just looked down and together they walked into their palace.
It is described that for the rest of his life, with his wife, they lived with the same simplicity, the same humility, the same spirit of service, as they did when they were in the little hut, because they understood that everything is God’s property. Whether they were living in a thatched hut, or whether they were living in a palace, they used everything in the service of Krishna as das dasa-nu-das, and were constantly serving everyone by inspiring and enlightening. Their consciousness was the same, whether one is living in a palace or under a tree.- Radhanath Swami
Neither one is a disqualification or a qualification; akinchan gocharam means ‘nothing is mine’.
So Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, when he was reminding Sukhlumbar brahmachari, “You are Sudama and now you have come again and it’s my greatest satisfaction to steal your rice.” Vrindavan Das Thakur explains that according to shastras, Pancharatriki Vidhi, there are certain rules and regulations and rituals in order to make an offering to Bhagavan. There are mantras and yantras and tantras and pujas and mudras, but Sukhlumbar, Sudama they didn’t do any mantras, they didn’t even offer it, but because of the simplicity and the humility of their devotion, even without an offering or an intention to offer, the Lord was so hungry that he stole it.
Radhanath Swami says, “Krishna tastes the love and devotion of a devotee.”
In Vrindavan, Gopis, little Gopas would come and steal their butter, and they would, just for the opportunity to talk about these pasttimes, they would go to Yashoda Mai’s house to complain about Krishna. And they would say all the different things Krishna was doing to steal the butter – Makhanchor. And Yashoda Mai said, “Then I will keep Krishna at home.” They said, “No, no, no, no, don’t do that. The only reason we make butter is with the hope that Krishna will come and steal it. The only reason we live is with the hope and prayer that Krishna will come and steal our butter.” They were not offering to Krishna, but because it was made with love and devotion for Krishna’s pleasure, Krishna would come to taste it. These beautiful pastimes are there to teach the world, Krishna is bhakta vatsala.
The Lord, by his own supreme power, willingly becomes subordinate to the love of his devotee. And that love is within all of us; it is dormant within our hearts and when through the practice of devotion, our hearts become soft and sweet like butter, then Krishna will steal our hearts and that is the ultimate aspiration of bhakti yoga – to offer our hearts to Krishna. – Radhanath Swami
And if he accepts it, that’s the perfection of our lives. Chanting these beautiful names of the Lord Hari’s in kirtan is a sublime way of awakening that love and softening our hearts. Thank you very much.