(Vintage photo of Sri Sri Madan Mohan, Vancouver)
"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 kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
(CC Madhya 22.62)
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...
In another place in the Bhāgavata the sādhu is described:
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. And sādhu means who is staunchly a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. These are the description of sādhu. Therefore sādhu-saṅga (CC Madhya 22.83] 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). Sādhu-saṅga is very important. If we can associate with real sādhu, means real devotee, unadulterated devotee, anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11), then the recommendation is that simply by associating with sādhu all perfection will come. By simply associating... 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 rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas tataḥ premābhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayaṁ premṇaḥ prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ
(CC Madhya 23.14-15)
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 bhavanti 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 śraddhā is required. Then sādhu-saṅga, then bhajana-kriyā. If anyone actually seriously associates 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. 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 jato, 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 jato, 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 jato, 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 (CC Madhya 22.83), by association of sādhus one can achieve advancement in spiritual life."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Ahmedabad, December 12, 1972)