(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada)
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
[And of all yogīs, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.]
This is the conclusion, that "Of all yogīs, who is always thinking of Me, śraddhāvān..." Without being śraddhāvān... Śraddhā is the beginning of everything. Faith, śraddhā, respect. If you have no respect for Kṛṣṇa, if you have no faith in Kṛṣṇa, there is no advancement of spiritual life or yoga life. Therefore it is said śraddhāvān. Ādau śraddhā.
The beginning of spiritual life is śraddhā, faith. Ādau śraddhā. Ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgaḥ (CC Madhya 23.14-15). First of all, faith, and faith has been described by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī as... faith means viśvāsa. So he explains:
'śraddhā'-śabde-viśvāsa sudṛḍha niścaya, sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
(CC Madhya 22.62)
[Śraddhā is confident, firm faith that by rendering transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. Such faith is favorable to the discharge of devotional service.]
This is the śraddhā. Śraddhā means firm faith. As Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja (BG 18.66). So unless one has got faith. Why one should consider himself that, "I must be completely surrendered to Kṛṣṇa," unless one has got faith? Therefore faith is the beginning. And to create faith, Kṛṣṇa has explained about Himself in the whole Bhagavad-gītā. So one who is fortunate, after reading Bhagavad-gītā thoroughly, he'll have a strong faith in Kṛṣṇa. If you have failed to achieve this status of faith, then there is no question of progress.
That is explained by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī: śraddhā-śabde viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya (CC Madhya 22.62). Śraddhā means firm faith, with conviction, "Yes, if I surrender to Kṛṣṇa, then all my business will be perfect, all my spiritual life will be perfect." Therefore Kṛṣṇa says śraddhāvān bhajate; with śraddhā, with full faith. Ādau śraddhā. Beginning is śraddhā.
If one has developed a little śraddhā... just like we are giving chance throughout the whole world by this propaganda, opening centers to create little śraddhā. And if the śraddhā is there, then next stage is sādhu-saṅga (CC Madhya 22.83). If one wants to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, if he has developed a little faith in it, the next stage is to associate with sādhu.
And who is sādhu? Sādhu... sādhavaḥ sādhu-bhūṣaṇāḥ. Titikṣavaḥ kāruṇikāḥ suhṛdaḥ sarva-bhūtānām. So sādhu means very tolerant. In another place, sādhu is described in the Bhagavad-gītā: bhajate mām ananya-bhāk sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ (BG 9.30). Api cet su-durācāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ. In another place in the Bhāgavata the sādhu is described:
[The symptoms of a sādhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.]
A sādhu, the first qualification is he must be a staunch devotee of Kṛṣṇa, or God, whatever you say. That is sādhu. That is the basic definition... religion means to abide by the orders of God. That is religion. And sādhu means who is staunchly a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. These are the description of sādhu. Therefore sādhu-saṅga means to associate with devotees, those who are devotees of Kṛṣṇa. That is sādhu-saṅga.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in another place, says: sādhu-saṅga sādhu-saṅga sarva-śāstre kaya lava-mātra sādhu-saṅga... sādhu-saṅga sādhu-saṅga sarva... lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya (CC Madhya 22.54).
[The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.]
Sādhu-saṅga is very important. If we can associate with real sādhu, means real devotee, unadulterated devotee, anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam (Brs. 1.1.11), then the recommendation is that simply by associating with sādhu all perfection will come. By simply association. Sādhu-saṅga sādhu-saṅga sarva-śāstre kaya, lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi. So this is very practical. We have got little experience how sādhu-saṅga is powerful. So ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgaḥ. First thing is faith.
ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgo 'tha bhajana-kriyā
tato 'nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt tato niṣṭhā tato rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas...
sādhakānām ayaṁ premṇaḥ prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ
(CC Madhya 23.14-15)
[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 sādhana-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 Kṛṣṇa consciousness.]
These are the steps, krama. Krama means one after another. So our this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is enacted just to create little faith in Kṛṣṇa. Then the person whom we are trying to help, his business is to associate with sādhu. Satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido . . . hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ (SB 3.25.25). Satāṁ prasaṅgāt. If we discuss Kṛṣṇa consciousness... boddhayantaṁ parasparaṁ tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca. Everywhere, the same thing.
So the śraddhā is required. Then sādhu-saṅga (CC Madhya 22.83), then bhajana-kriyā. If anyone actually seriously associate with sādhu, the next stage will be bhajana-kriyā: how to worship. Bhajana-kriyā. Tataḥ anartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt. Then anartha. Anartha means unnecessary things. We have practiced so many unnecessary things in our life. That unnecessary things, when they are too much strong, that becomes sinful life. Unnecessary. The modern civilization is simply meant for creating unnecessary necessities of life. That's all.
So we are becoming deviated from God. The more we are advancing in so-called material civilization, we are more becoming far away from God. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has sung, jaḍa-bidyā yata, māyāra vaibhava, tomāra bhajane bādhā. Jaḍa-bidyā, the material education, they are simply paraphernalia of this illusory energy, māyāra vaibhava. And the effect of this advancement of material civilization means stopping one's relationship with God.
Jaḍa-bidyā yata, māyāra vaibhava, tomāra bhajane bādhā, anitya saṁsāre. Anitya means this temporary life, this... everyone, we are in this material world, say, for fifty years, sixty years, hundred years. That is temporary. In the unlimited time, a duration of life, say of hundred years, that is nothing. Even, not even a point. It is very temporary, but in this temporary life we are addicted to so many unnecessary things, and we are forgetting our real business: how to go to home, back to home, back to Godhead.
Therefore Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura laments... he was a great, responsible government officer, magistrate, but a great devotee of the Lord, and he's one of the ācāryas, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. So he writes about his own experience that jaḍa-bidyā yata, māyāra vaibhava, tomāra bhajane bādhā: the more we make advancement in the temporary materialistic comforts, the more we become implicated in unnecessary things, and they are all impediments for making progress in spiritual life. That is his opinion.
And that's a fact. We have seen in Western countries, they are still more materially advanced, but spiritually they are dull, block-headed, spiritually. Very difficult to convince them spiritually. So sādhu-saṅga, by association of sādhu one can achieve advancement in spiritual life.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Ahmedabad, December 12, 1972)