Kṛṣṇa consciousness is itself the purifying process, and by the direct method of devotional service it is simultaneously easy and sublime.
Bhagavad Gita 3.3, Purport
Purification in the literary sense means, getting rid of any contamination so as to restore the original pure state of any substance.
In order to understand the purification related to us, we must understand what is our pure state and what is (are) the contaminant that is polluting us.
Pure State, Contaminated State
As living spiritual souls, we are all originally Kṛṣṇa conscious entities, but due to our association with matter from time immemorial, our consciousness is now adulterated by the material atmosphere.
The basic principle of all such misgivings is the false consciousness that I am the lord of all I survey.
Chapter 6: The Hare Kṛṣṇa Mantra
Krsna Consciousness, the Topmost Yoga System
H.D.G. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada has described our pure and contaminated state in an extremely simple way. In a pure state of consciousness, we all are Krishna Conscious.
In a contaminated state, we are forgetful of our original identity and assume ourselves to be - controller and enjoyer of everything and everyone. This misidentification is due to our false ego. Due to this misidentification, we tend to get further contaminated with more impurities.
The impurities could be broadly classified into -
Therefore, purification would mean - a process that could help us get rid of all these impurities (anarthas) and also cure the root cause - our false ego.
The 'Ego' is an element that helps us identify ourselves. Our 'True Identification' (true ego) is that we are Krishna Conscious souls meant to love and serve Krishna. Our 'Mis-Identification' (false ego) is that we are the enjoyer. With this enjoyment propensity, we develop lust. This lust or enjoying propensities can be either gross sense gratifications or subtle sense gratifications (hankering for profit, adoration, distinctions - 'labh, puja, pratishtha').
Thus, one of the major steps in purification is to purify our false ego and transform it into a true ego. Without this process, the purification process is always incomplete.
Pure is attractive, Purification is painful
In any purification process, be it dental clean-ups or polishing diamond or purifying gold / silver in fire or anything, the end result is extremely attractive, however, the purification process in itself is equally painful and consumes a lot of energy and effort.
Even then every person, tend to take a good amount of time and attention to choose the most purified state, based upon their best abilities. The same goes with the Supreme Person - Supreme Personality of Godhead - Krishna. He too takes minute attentions to details while purifying the hearts of His devotees.
Throughout the revealed scriptures of the world, it is unanimously agreed that Lord takes special attention to purify the heart or consciousness of His devotees.
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness
- Holy Bible: Malachi 3.3
Boy and His Puppy
Once there was a boy, who saw six puppies on the roadside. He went close to play with them. Out of them, one puppy was extremely friendly and playful with the boy. The boy got attached to the puppy and picked it up to take it home.
On the way, he found some dirt and filth on the fur. The first thing the kid did was - put the puppy in a tub and gave it a nice bath. It must have been the first-time bathing experience for the puppy; hence it was not liking the ambiance, the feel of water, the smell of soap and shampoo. It was crying, jumping, trying to escape the grip of the kid, but the boy was determined to clean it thoroughly.
The puppy must have been thinking, his siblings were (apparently) happy on the street with dry fur and must have been cursing the boy or its fate for the traumatic experience.
Why didn't the boy let the puppy go, even though it was not liking it?
Answer: Love and Affection.
Had the puppy escaped the grip to run into the filthy dirt with its siblings, apparently, it would have been happy but frequently tormented by itchy skin, lice and dirt.
Just like the boy, Krishna too with his causeless mercy chooses to bathe us - to purify us. The purification process definitely isn't pleasant, but if we hang on, the end result will definitely be pleasant. Hanging on means to tolerate the purification process and not run back into the filthy state of consciousness.
Pure devotees are those who had tolerated their purification phase.
How does Krishna Purify His Devotees?
Just as we need three primary ingredients to clean any dirty cloth -
Similarly, Krishna through the process of Krishna Consciousness also uses these three elements to clean our consciousness.
Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare is the transcendental process for reviving this original pure consciousness. By chanting this transcendental vibration, we can cleanse away all misgivings within our hearts.
Chapter 6: The Hare Kṛṣṇa Mantra
Krsna Consciousness, the Topmost Yoga System
H.D.G. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
'After searching through all the Vedic literature, one cannot find a method of religion more sublime for this age than the chanting of Hare Krishna.'
Prabhupāda: That is not possible. Suppression willing, that is not possible. He has to change the quality of willing; then he will be happy. And that is bhakti. Sarvopādhi-vinirmuktaṁ tat-paratvena nirmalam (CC Madhya 19.170). The process of willing should be purified. Then he will be happy. And the process of purifying the willing is bhakti, śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ (SB 7.5.23), chanting and hearing of the pastimes, all about the Lord. That will purify him. He is missing the point that he is individual, accepting that life is eternal, and still he wants, prefers this nirvāṇa. But he does not know what is nirvāṇa. Nirvāṇa means this kind of whimsical willing is troublesome. He has to stop this whimsical willing. He has to come to the standard willing. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
[Srila Prabhupada - Philosophy Discussion on Arthur Schopenhauer]
So the most important item is śravaṇam, or hearing. If you do not do anything else, if you simply sincerely hear about God, then gradually you will be God conscious.
[Srila Prabhupada - Initiation Lecture - Caracas, February 22, 1975]
The most important thing for a devotee is getting a chance to hear about the pastimes and glories of the Lord.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.33, Purport]
Definitely, soap and water are an essential part of the cleaning process, but the brush is also equally important. To the degree, the cloth has accumulated dirt to the same degree the intensity of scrubbing/brushing is executed. Similarly, to the degree, a devotee's consciousness is infected with the material dirt to the same intensity is the purification done by Krishna.
Just like to polish a diamond we need to take the help of another diamond, to polish / clean / purify a devotee Krishna takes the help of another devotee.
Purification from devotees can generally be coming in four broad categories -
Any honest and sincere devotee if chastised or receives feedback for any mistake that he has done will genuinely try to accept it and rectify it. However, dealing with situations when false allegations come, resulting from envy, jealousy, politics is extremely difficult.
There are incidents when sincere devotees who are selflessly trying to render service, get victimized by these activities. This shakes the faith of many devotees, and of them - those with weaker sadhana are at times compelled by situation to leave the movement, just like trees with weaker roots are uprooted in storms.
Definitely, this calls for strong, honest, and mature leadership.
Bhishmadeva: “Compassion must be a part of the leader’s mental make-up, but he must guard against displaying a too-forgiving nature, because then he will be considered weak by low men, and they will take advantage of him.”
Again, a leader should not be too mild. Neither should he appear too forgiving if he wants to see actual rectification in his subjects. If one of his subjects commits an offense, that person must be punished to bring about the necessary rectification and to dismiss the karmic reaction.
Also, if a leader is too forgiving, “low men” will try to take advantage of his kindness and will continue their sinful activities without fear.
H.H. Bhakti Tirtha Swami
Leadership for an Age of Higher Consciousness Volume II: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times
During my engineering days, I had heard an incident about a rich landlord who had five servants. Out of the five, one was serving the landlord for generations, hence was extremely faithful and loyal while others weren't. They used to form a group to steal money and items from the house of the landlord. The loyal servant tried many times to warn the landlord but in vain. The group together used to present a story in defence and made the landlord believe in them. Eventually, the loyal servant had no other choice but to quit his job. Within a year, the landlord was seen in the police station filing FIR against the servants for a huge robbery. Only if he had taken the warnings seriously in time, such harassment could have been avoided.
It is definitely assumed that in Krishna Consciousness and devotee associations such incidents don't take place. However, we must remember this is the age of deterioration.
Many times new devotees get shocked because of this. They are not able to accept the fact that how could material disqualifications be part of a spiritual association. This breaks their faith on the entire institution.
It is thus a responsibility of all existing devotees and preachers to present an honest and correct picture, and not just all-good-situations. Spread awareness of the possible pitfalls and guide how to avoid falling into such situations.
This will help the new joinees to have a firm base and stay mentally prepared and alert. Then their faith on the institution will not be hampered due to few miscrents.
We must learn from Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of the Hare Krishna movement, how to be honest and transparent.
ISKCON is His Institution, if He wanted He could have given all goody-goody picture about His institution to attract more and more people. But he didn't do that. He is a Pure Vaishnava who is more concerned about the welfare of everyone. He has no selfish agendas.
Thus, He had openly issued a strict warning to all of us -
... One who is envious of the success of a Vaiṣṇava is certainly not a Vaiṣṇava himself but is an ordinary, mundane man. Envy and jealousy are manifested by mundane people, not by Vaiṣṇavas. ... A mundane person in the dress of a Vaiṣṇava should not be respected but rejected. This is enjoined in the śāstra (upekṣā). The word upekṣā means neglect. One should neglect an envious person. A preacher’s duty is to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make friendships with Vaiṣṇavas, show mercy to the innocent and reject or neglect those who are envious or jealous. There are many jealous people in the dress of Vaiṣṇavas in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, and they should be completely neglected. There is no need to serve a jealous person who is in the dress of a Vaiṣṇava. When Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says chāḍiyā vaiṣṇava sevā nistāra peyeche kebā, he is indicating an actual Vaiṣṇava, not an envious or jealous person in the dress of a Vaiṣṇava.
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 1.218, purport
These kind of enviousness leads to groupism and politics which eventually creates a state of disharmony in the devotee association.
Since these elements are impossible to stop from entering the Vaishnava community, Srila Prabhupada has sent out a formal warning in His Bhakti Vedanta Purports so that this will be available for everyone who is reading his books. He instructed all the preachers, that all the sincere devotees are protected.
Thus, we must try to learn how to protect and safe guard ourselves, also, learn how to deal with a situation when we are victimized by such elements.
Mood of Krishna
Sometimes questions arise - why do such envious soul get limelight, attention, apparent happiness, material prosperity while the innocents get prosecuted and accused?
For this, we must understand how Krishna reciprocates with us.
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham .
As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly.
[Srimad Bhagavad Gita 4.11]
So basically, Krishna reciprocates with us based upon our consciousness. He never interferes with our free will. If someone want to associate with devotees or come to temple to get name-fame-adoration-position, Krishna supplies that.
But if someone with a genuine heart, comes to the temple in order to serve selflessly, for the pleasure of Hari-Guru and Vaishnavas, Krishna picks him up in His lap and takes him to the bathtub. Then starts the purification process.
So, the apparent pain, insults, accusations, false allegations, politics are all the bathing process that we are going through.
ISKCON has seen such remarkable examples since the very beginning. Such envious elements who wanted to be independent and not under the supervision of Management / GBC (inspite of Srila Prabhupada's orders), had accused HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj - a loyal dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupada - with the poisoning theory. Even though they lost the case legally and their conspiracy theory was scientifically busted, they still continue to blame Him.
HH Tamal Krishna Maharaj had to undergo so much, in spite of his loyal service to ISKCON and Prabhupada, both before and after the departure of Srila Prabhupada.
He never quit serving.
He didn't feel all his services and sacifices went in vain, just because some envious soul didn't recognise or appreciate His loyalty or dedication. Rather He vigorously started serving ISKCON.
This is the classic example of purification process and this is the attitude of any humble servant, who is determined to be an instrument of Guru and Krishna's will.
Our goal is not to please everyone, not to impress everyone, not to prove and justify everyone. Our goal is to serve Hari-Guru and Vaishnavas with a genuine heart. We can't imitate great souls like HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj, but ISKCON as a community has many such great legendary examples - which shows the attitude we must have in order to successfully go through the purification process.
All we can do is, be inspired to follow their footsteps.
Blessing in disguise
Bali Maharaj was then the ruler of Lower Planetary Systems and Planet Earth, he was about to perform the last yagna which would have empowered him to take on the higher planetary systems, so we must understand that he was at the peak of material possessions.
In the next moment, he lost everything to Vamanadev.
All the sages and demigods were happy and rejoicing as Bali Maharaj was cheated by Lord. Such a shameful situation. Entire world whom he was once ruling, is now mocking at him. Demigods who were fearful of him are now mocking him. Why? Only because he trusted the words of Vamana Dev and was determined to serve Him? Best case situation for anyone to lose complete faith in Krishna and the process of Krishna Consciouness.
However, Bali Maharaj was composed.
Neither was he repentant nor was he depressed, never for once did he question the Lord, rather, he said
"My dear Lord, you are the greatest deceiver. For the world, for the demigods, for the sages, it seems you have supported Indra and demigods. But in reality, you have cheated them. You have just given Indra the toy of Material World to play with. But to me, you have given me the humble opportunity to surrender myself to you. You have blessed me by placing your lotus feet on my head thereby restoring my constitutional position of your eternal servant."
We must understand this principle and look beyond.
We must realize Krishna's mercy is not to be estimated through the material oppulences like - name, fame-adoration or lime-light or getting into good books of management / leaders, but rather His mercy is reflected when He mercifully tries to clean us of our impurities.
One’s greatness has to be estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.
The highest principle of practicing Krishna Consciousness is - Tolerating the Provoking Situations, as HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj had explained in his lecture. Maharaj continued to explain -
If someone offends lord or devotees we must protect, but when the offense comes on us, our greatness has to be estimated based upon how we tolerate such provoking situations.
Maharaj cites few examples from scriptures where we see great personalities who were not at fault yet were offended by envious hearts, still they tolerated the provoking situation.
Generally, when we find ourselves trapped in such a situation where we are politically harassed by an envious conspiracy, the first thought that comes to our mind is to quit. Quit the services or quit the devotee association or quit the society in extreme cases. However, we must realize these apparent tough times appearing as provoking situations are nothing but the brushes and scrubbers that Krishna is running on our false ego. Quitting means we are attempting to run out of His lap, back to the filthy roadside life. Instead if we can understand and tolerate the situations then we are on the path of purifications.
There is no doubt that the situation will be extremely painful and difficult to tolerate when we are penalized for zero faults of ours.
We cannot be magnanimous like Kunti Maharani to pray for calamities always but all that we can do is during these provoking situations, learn to see the hands of Krishna and realize the Supreme Being - The Supreme Personality of Godhead - is personally taking care of us. We are so fortunate, thus, tolerate the pain of purification process.
Surviving the intense Purification
It is a very easy concept. If some is scrubbing a cloth very hard and there is little or no water, it will result in fabric damage or tearing of the cloth. Similarly, if there is only brushing but no soap/detergent/washing power is applied cleaning is slow or less effective.
This is the concept that applies to our purification process also. When Krishna is intensely scrubbing our consciousness by means of various provoking situations, if we do not supply enough detergent (Hari Naam) or Water (Sravanam), it will result in rapture. This is the reason why many devotees find it difficult to continue with the bhakti process.
Thus we should be extremely focused and sincere with our regular sadhana - reading Srila Prabhupad books, hearing Srila Prabhupad, Guru Maharaj, Senior Vaishnavas and chanting.
Another important thing to remember is the analogy of a washing machine. The way the washing machine works is, it creates a whirlpool-type situation to do the cleaning. The clothes are then sometimes tossed deep inside water and sometimes brought to the surface. To create the situation worse, the whirlpool now changes direction. Extreme chaotic situion. Sometimes our purification process seems to be like a whirlpool in a giant washing machine. The devotee is caught up in the whirlpool finds it extremely difficult to understand anything, by the time he tries to make some material adjustment, the direction of the whirlpool changes, and all his plans fail. He feels I am trying my best to make the best adjustment to the situation but why are the situations still lashing me!!! This is extremely difficult to make sense out of anything from within the system. Unless we are selfrealized, we cannot make sense out of the material situations we are made to undergo.
The process of removing our contaminations is given in Srimad Bhagvatam and mercifully explained by Srila Prabhupad in His purports.
bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī
By regular attendance in classes on the Bhāgavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.
Here is the remedy for eliminating all inauspicious things within the heart which are considered to be obstacles in the path of self-realization. The remedy is the association of the Bhāgavatas. There are two types of Bhāgavatas, namely the book Bhāgavata and the devotee Bhāgavata. Both the Bhāgavatas are competent remedies, and both of them or either of them can be good enough to eliminate the obstacles. A devotee Bhāgavata is as good as the book Bhāgavata because the devotee Bhāgavata leads his life in terms of the book Bhāgavata and the book Bhāgavata is full of information about the Personality of Godhead and His pure devotees, who are also Bhāgavatas. Bhāgavata book and person are identical.
[Srimad Bhagvatam 1.2.18 - Translation and Purport]
Therefore we need to
(1) intensify our sadhana
(2) take shelter of book Bhāgavatas
(3) take shelter of pure devotees (person Bhāgavatas) like Srila Prabhupada or Guru Mahraj through their vani
(4) approach a senior & sincere devotees and do guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati [NOI - 5], inquire confidentially from them to understand the situation and how to deal with it.
Surviving in the association of Vaishnavas
Definitely we must be tolerant to the purification process. However, we are not obliged to tolerate the association of such envious souls. We can serve together, but avoid their personal association.
If someone's heart is filled with the poison of envy for us, we must avoid their company to save ourselves from comitting Vaishnava Aparadh and bringing in additional distress or ruining our bhakti all together. That is why Acharyas have repeatedly instructed us to understand who should be associated with.
We can offer mental respect to everyone but choose our association carefully. Defenitly we must understand these souls are like postman, an instrument to our purification, planned by Krishna. So having any grudge against them is baseless. But still for a safer and peaceful jouney of Krishna Consciouness we can try to safely distance ourselves, till the time, Krishna makes the situation favorable for us.
Here are a few scriptural injunctions and instructions of acharyas, which must be our guiding star in deciding whom to associate with.
A devotee should have intelligence to know who is deviating. Surrender by your intelligence but don't surrender your intelligence
Srila Prabhupada, 1974 letter to Bali Mardan
mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa,
one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [dīkṣā] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity,
associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.
Nectar of Instructions - Verse 5
love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make friendships with Vaiṣṇavas, show mercy to the innocent and reject or neglect those who are envious or jealous. There are many jealous people in the dress of Vaiṣṇavas in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, and they should be completely neglected. There is no need to serve a jealous person who is in the dress of a Vaiṣṇava.
Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 1.218, purport
associate only with devotees who are sincerely aspiring.
H.H. Radhanath Swami Maharaj
Objective is not to become jurdgemental of others.
Understanding Vaishnava Aparadh
Sometimes because of the fear of committing Vaishnava Aparadh, we become bewildered should we express our opinion against the misdeeds of such envious people, or how to deal as a part of management team or as part of any services.
2003-08-17 in a class on Srimad Bhagavatam 7.10.5, HH Radhanatha Swami Maharaj was asked a question,
Q. When engaged in the service with devotees for an event, when the time is short, and pressure is very high, and considering the consequences of what will happen if there is a mistake. So sometimes, one may flare up, when something doesn't happen as you have told someone to do, and there are so many other devotees who will be affected because of that. So in such cases, what is the practical advice, how to keep one's cool?
Points from the Answer by HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj:
When we are trying to serve the Vaishnavas, and we become excited, sometimes overexcited, under the pressure of our service, that is not a serious offense.
If we are intentionally trying to harm someone, if we are intentionally trying to ridicule or minimize a person's position in the eyes of others, that is an offense.
But if we simply, "no-no you do like that, not like that", that is not offensive.
However, if you have hurt somebody's heart by doing it, then you should ask for forgiveness.
But the provoking situations are when we are offended, when we are insulted, or when lust, envy, anger, greed, pride, illusion comes upon us.
Sometimes, in the serice of others, we may act in an excited way, then we should be careful to do it in such a way that we have not hurt the heart of others. And if we do, we should ask for forgiveness.
But that is not offensive.
The offense is when you deliberately try to avenge someone for what they have done to you, or when we give in to our lower nature.
Krishna reciprocates based upon our intentions.
Special mercy of Krishna is shown when He is purifying us.
Understand His blessing in disguise.
Respect everyone but associate only with sincere devotees who are non-envious.
Tollerate the purification process - quiting means rejecting the purification process.
Understand what is Vaishnava Aparadh and seek forgiveness if committed.
It is definitely easy to say but extremly difficult to practice. In fact, this article is written more with an intention to self-motivate myself in tolerating such provoking situations and refrain from quiting. I humbly beg to each one of you to please pray for me and bless me, so that I too can get strength to tolerate the provoking situations and the purification process.
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