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Ocean of Eternal Nectar

In mid-November, Prabhupada began giving us morning classes on Caitanyacaritamrta, the sixteenth-century authoritative biography of Lord Caitanya, written by one of His personal associates, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. He introduced us to the next few months of classes on the subject by saying, “Because you are a little advanced, I am going to read today from the Caitanya-caritamrta. Be patient as I present this,” It felt like he was inviting us into a great historical event. He continued, “It is revolutionary, but you should just be patient.”

For the next several Caitanya-caritamrta classes, Prabhupada concentrated on Lord Caitanya’s teachings to Sanatana Gosvami, one of His most important disciples. Since one class in this series led into another, many of us felt we were following a suspenseful TV serial, and at the end of each class, sitting at the edges of our seats, so to speak, we wondered what was coming next.

In one class he taught about one of the main qualifications of the disciple— humility—a qualification that would be something too srive for. He began, “Sanatana Gosvami very humbly fell down at the lotus feet of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and most humbly he submitted. What is this submission? Nica jati, nica-sangi, patita adhama, kuvisaya-kupe padi gonainu janama: ‘My dear sir, I have wasted my time in simply sense gratification. That is my qualification. And I belong to the lowest caste.’ Nica jati nica-sangi: ‘And my association is also the lowest type.’ And patita: ‘I am fallen, and I am the lowest of all. This is my qualification.'

In one class Prabhupada taught us how to pray. He said we should not ask Krsna for liberation from suffering. Rather, we should follow Lord Caitanya’s example of not wanting wealth, followers or beautiful spouse. We should pray, “My dear Lord, I may be put in any condition of My life, but please bestow this benediction, that I may not forget You. That’s all. I may not forget you. Due to my forgetfulness I am suffering so much. So if I can remember You, I don’t mind in whatever condition I am.”

A tear fell from Prabhupada’s eye. His feelings of beautiful spiritual longing were obvious in one sense, and hidden in another.

He continued, “I may achieve millions of dollars, but that does not make me satisfied. I want further ten millions of dollars. There is no cessation. So here is a thing—Krsna consciousness. My desire should be not to forget Krsna. That’s all. That one desire.”

A week later Prabhupada explained that to understand Krsna is the purpose of all the scriptures, and that the more we understand Krsna, the more liberated we become. He also introduced us to the various forms of Krsna and His different energies. He explained how Lord Caitanya defeated impersonalism, or the concept that we are all God, with a philosophy called acintyabhedabheda- tattva. Explaining how everything is simultaneously one with and different from Krsna, he was brilliant.

Class after class he elaborated on Krsna’s greatness, and in the same stroke made it clear why he was giving us these Caitanya-caritamrta classes. On December fifth he said, “Suppose I am serving at a place, I am engaged in a service to a master, but I do not know how big is my master. When I understand the influence and opulence of my master, I become more devoted.”

Prabhupada’s statements, day after day, confirmed the concept of
remembering Krsna as being the perfection. Krsna consciousness meant just that—remembering Krsna. By remembering Krsna one wants to serve Him, and by service one becomes qualified to remember Him.

I was enlivened, and particularly struck by his analogy: “Suppose there is a glass of water. I am thirsty; I want glass of water. But I say, ‘water, water, water, water’. That will not quench my thirst. I must have the thing—water— and then it will be acting. But Krsna is advaya jnana; absolute. So when we hear Krsna’s name, then we should understand that Krsna is before us in His sound vibration. He is present before us in sound because He is everything. Similarly, when we read Bhagavad-gita, that is also Krsna. Therefore we should pay respect. When we enter into the temple of Krsna, it should be understood that we are in touch with Krsna. Everything in relation to Krsna. That is not to be imitated, but in the higher stage the devotee sees nothing but Krsna.”

Two days later Prabhupada walked us through a graphic demonstration of our place in relation to Krsna. “No land belongs to you. Everything belongs to God. Isavasyam idam sarvam. He is the proprietor. Every place belongs to God. But that Goloka Vrndavana, that place is particularly His abode. You have seen the picture. It is lotus-like. He is the origin; His planet, Goloka Vrndavana, is the original planet.”

I reflected on the painting I had done of Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana. Now I understood why Their planet in the print looked like a lotus flower.

“And from that planet,” Prabhupada continued, “that brahmajyoti, light, is
coming; and in that light, everything is resting.”

I also remembered the private ‘science class’ that Prabhupada had given me in his quarters.

“And in an insignificant portion of that light,” he continued, “this material world is situated. In that place there are innumerable universes. And in one of these universes there are millions and billions of planets, of which this earth is only a insignificant fragment.”

Innumerable universes? That was a new concept! My mind conjured up an image of the planets spinning around in the solar system, of the Milky Way and all the stars. Then, with his next statement, he came back to our planet:

“And in that earth, the land of America, United States is still more
insignificant. And in that state, New York is still more insignificant. And in that New York City, this 26 Second Avenue is insignificant. And we are sitting here.”

I felt myself becoming smaller and smaller and smaller.

“So just see how much insignificant we are. And we are claiming ‘God’.”

“This is truly liberating information!” Hayagriva exclaimed. Had I been brave enough I would have shouted it to everyone on my train journey home that evening.

In the early morning of December 13, Prabhupada described the expansions of Krsna during his lecture. “They are described in different Vedic literatures and we are getting the information in one place—from Lord Caitanya. To find out different information from different scriptures it is very difficult, but if we come in the line of disciplic succession, all the experience is at once achieved. The experienced spiritual master gives us the information in one place.”

I was so happy and grateful—I wanted to get up and go out right then and there, and shout the news to all the people.

For two weeks I regularly attended the Caitanya-caritamrta classes. Then, for a few days I was ill with the flu, and frustrated, and upset that I could not come to the temple. Fortunately, by the 29th I was better, and although the snow was high, even up to my knees in some places, I didn’t mind the long journey to the storefront at all. I was anxious to catch up on what I’d missed.

When I arrived, Prabhupada was sitting on his dais, continuing his series. As usual, many people strayed in and out of the storefront. Some dropped in out of curiosity, and the all-nighters who straggled in slept through the class and then left. Prabhupada’s voice was peaceful, yet urgent, throughout all these comings and goings. He really wanted to dispel everyone’s illusions with this year’s penultimate Caitanya-caritamrta class.

“Kuhaka means illusion,” he said. “Just like here, everything is kuhaka, everything is made of earth, water, and other temporary things. You sometimes find in the storefront of a big mercantile firm, there is a nice girl standing with dress. So that is kuhakam, illusion. That is illusion. Those who know, they will say, ‘Oh, it is a doll.’

I tried to visualize what he meant, smiling when I finally realized he meant a store mannequin.

“Similarly, that is the difference between a man in knowledge and a man in ignorance. They are accepting this material doll as reality. That is materialism. And those in knowledge, they know, ‘No, it is a doll. The reality is different.’ Those in knowledge won’t go there. ‘No, it is a doll.’ The reality is different— there is no doll there.”

Although I had no problem in taking in the large expanse of clouds, sky and skyscrapers into my tiny eyes, nor had I any difficulty in pouring vast amounts of sound into my tiny ears, I was unable to accommodate all of Prabhupada’s classes into my tiny brain. I aspired to be like the sages mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam who felt as if they were drinking sweet nectar through their ears when they heard the Bhagavatam. Sometimes I could not remember from one minute to the next what Prabhupada had just said, because the nectar seemed to go in one ear and out the other. I often drifted back to remembrances of school, or to fights with my family, or to some insult I had received earlier that morning. But Prabhupada kept calling me back with his sweet words. It was as if he were beckoning, “Come to the Lord’s abode, where there is no illusion.”

After each class Prabhupada went to his own room for breakfast, leaving the rest of us to take our breakfast in the temple. As we honored prasadam we listened again to the class as it replayed on the temple’s large reel-to-reel tape recorder. This was now a regular daily practice in our lives, and I was so grateful for that ritual, as I was able to catch things I had missed in the class.


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