Never a Mistake
A letter from Srila Prabhupada
Monday, 30 April, 1973
My dear Lynne Ludwig,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter from California dated November 27, 1972, and I have noted the contents carefully, although due to extensively travelling and preaching tour in India, I have not yet got the opportunity to reply you at length until now.
Your complaint is that you have met two of my young disciples in California and they appeared to you as having "a very negative outlook towards the people they meet."
Of course, I do not know the case, what are the circumstances, but kindly forgive my beloved disciples any unkindness or indiscretions on their part. After all, to give up one's life completely for serving the Lord is not so easy thing. And Maya, or the illusory material energy, she tries especially hard to try to get back and entrap those who have left her service to become Devotees.
So sometimes in the neophyte stage of devotional service, in order to withstand the attack of Maya and remain strong under all conditions of temptation, young or inexperienced devotees will adopt an attitude against those things or persons possibly harmful, threatening to their tender devotional creeper.
They may even over-indulge in such feelings just to protect themselves, and thus they will appear to some non-devotees, who are perhaps themselves still very enamoured by the material energy of Maya, as being negative or pessimistic.
But actual fact is that this material world is a miserable, negative place, full of danger at every step, duhkhalayam asasvatam [Bg. 8.15], temporary abode of death, birth, disease and old-age, home of suffering and pain only. To come to that platform of understanding of things as they are, that is not a very common thing, and therefore such persons who attain to it, they are described as great souls:
mam upetya punar janma
samsiddhim paramam gatah
This verse is spoken by Krishna, or God, Himself in Bhagavad-gita so who can be more final authority? That means that anyone who has understood that the material worlds are places of misery and temporaryness, duhkhalayam asasvatam [Bg. 8.15], they never return here again, and because they are mahatmanah, the great souls, Krishna keeps them with Him, having qualified themselves to escape this nasty place by becoming His pure devotees.
So the point is that to make advancement in spiritual life, everything material, unless it is utilized to serve and please Krishna, must be viewed with a pessimistic eye. We are not very much hopeful for any lasting pleasure or satisfaction for our deepest cravings within this realm of gross matter.
You refer to the word love several times in your letter, but actual fact is there is no love in this material world. That is false propaganda. What they call love here is lust only, desire for personal sense-gratification;
kama esa krodha esa
viddhy enam iha vairinam
Krishna tells Arjuna, His disciple, that "It is lust only . . . which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world." In the Vedic language, their word for materialistic love as we call it at present day; kama lust for material desire, not love. The word for love, actually love we find in Vedas is prema, meaning one's love of God, only.
Outside God, there is no possibility of loving. Rather it is lusty desire the whole range of human activities, whatever and whenever, so long with this atmosphere of matter, the every activity of the human being -- or any living entity -- is based upon or given impetus, and thus polluted, by the attraction between male and female, sex-desire. For that sex-life, the whole universe is spinning round -- and suffering!
That is the harsh truth. So-called love, here, means "you gratify my senses, I'll gratify your senses," and as soon as that gratification stops: immediately there is divorce, separation, quarrel, hatred. So many things there are, going on under this false conception of love. Actual love means love of God, Krishna.
Everyone wants to repose his loving tendency in some object which is in his opinion worthy. So it is a question of ignorance only, poor fund of knowledge, where to find that Supreme Lovable Object actually worthy to accept and reciprocate their love. People simply do not know, there is no proper information.
Anything material, as soon as there is some attachment, it will kick you upon the face, deteriorate, disappoint you -- it's bound to dissatisfy and frustrate you, that's a fact. So these young boys in your country, and all over the world, they are accepting. "Yes, that is fact," and they are getting the right information from Krishna:
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah
"After many births and deaths, he who is actually wise surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare." [Bg. 7.19]
Again Krishna uses the word mahatma, great soul. So these are not ordinary boys and girls, our devotees, that you have met, no. They are to be considered as actually wise, great souls, because they have experienced in so many births the miserable disease of material life and they have become disgusted.
Therefore they are seeking higher knowledge, something better, and when they find Krishna and surrender unto Him, they become mahatma, actually in knowledge. This material world is just like a prison-house, a punishing place just to bring us to that point of becoming disgusted and surrendering at last to Krishna, going back to my original mature of eternal life of bliss and complete knowledge.
So these devotees, that is their credit, they have done what is "very rare" amongst all men in the human society, sudurlabhah, very rare. So after surrendering to Krishna, that will be the final receptable for investing his love: in God. If somehow or other anyone develops their dormant love of God -- love of god is present there in everyone.
Just like fire is there in the unlit match, covered-over -- if Krishna becomes the Supreme Adorable Objective, the Supreme Friend, the Supreme Master, the Supreme Lover -- then, oh, he shall never again become disappointed or unhappy. Rather, because his loving propensity is rightfully placed.
kathayantas ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca
The devotee, one whose life is surrendered to Krishna, is always enjoying great satisfaction and bliss and he is constantly enlightened, always positive, not negative as you say. The advanced devotee is the friend of everyone: yoga-yukto visuddhatma, purified soul engaged in loving devotional service to Krishna, sarvabhutatmabhutatma, he is dear to everyone and everyone is dear to him.
And in another place Krishna claims that: yo mad bhakta sa me priya, that His devotee who is very dear to Him, advesta sarva-bhutanam, maitah karuna eva ca, is not envious but is the kind friend to all living entities. The devotee is supposed to be, furthermore, equal to everyone, panditah sama-darsinah [Bg. 5.18], never discriminating; this one good, this one bad, no.
So these are the descriptions of the more advanced stages of Krishna Consciousness devotees, when has got mature knowledge by development, and at present many of our students are young boys, they are learning gradually and the process is so effective, certain, and authorized that if they stick to it they will come to the right point, as you say, of loving.
But that love is not material, that is our point, so it may not be judged on the on the false sentimental platform of ordinary mundane dealings. So to say they are not loving, that maybe true from the materialists point of view -- they have given up affection for family, friends, wife, country, race, like that, all based upon the bodily concept of life or flickering sense-gratification -- they have become little detached from Maya's love, or lust, and they want Krishna's love, or endless, full, rewarding love.
But they have not yet developed to that point, that's all and we cannot expect that all of a sudden, being addicted to so many bad habits, your countrymen, will give up eating flesh, taking intoxication, sex-life, and so many other nasty things, and become overnight great self-realized souls. That is not possible. That is utopian. Just becoming initiated as Krishna's devotee puts him in the topmost category of human society:
sa buddhiman manusyesu,
sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt:
"He is intelligent among human society, he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in sorts of activities." [Bg. 4.18]
And such devotee, no matter he has not advanced yet to the highest level of spiritual understanding, still he is to be considered the most exalted personality never mind he has got any temporary frailties:
api cet suduracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah
"Even if a devotee commits the most abominable actions, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated." [Bg. 9.30]
As you will say, to err is human, so in the neophyte stage we may always expect some discrepancies are there. Kindly see the things in this light and forgive their small mistakes.
The big thing is they have given their life, everything to Krishna -- that is never a mistake.
Your ever well-wisher,
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
(*Photo: Vancouver devotees, mid-seventies)