Coming together is beginning; keeping together is progress; serving together is success.

More than 800 people had come to participate in the weekly Sunday Feast program at our local ISKCON temple. After the discourse everyone queued up to get their plate of prasada feast. The prasada distribution in-charge, Kesava Nimai Dasa, noticed, to his horror, that almost all leaf plates had holes in them. “How will I arrange for new plates in such a short time?” he wondered. There was no time to go to the market and get new plates; he had to think quickly.

Suddenly an idea struck him. By using two plates one over the other, he saw that each plate covered the holes of the other plate! A relief – what appeared like a huge heap of garbage could now be used to form thick dishes that could hold the food more securely.

A realization soon dawned upon him. All of us are like those leaf plates with holes – we have so many faults. But instead of rejecting individuals as imperfect or useless, if we come together and serve in a cooperative spirit, we will be able to make up for each other’s weaknesses and soon taste the nectarean Krishna prasada and distribute it to others effectively.

The Lord is pleased when we serve Him in a spirit of cooperation. He will engage us as instruments in His grand, marvellous plans. Srila Prabhupada would say, “Your love for me will be shown by how you co-operate with one another.”

In fact, the entire varnasrama society – the scientific social order comprised of four varnas (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra) and four asramas (brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa ) – was organized for harmonious cooperation. Even though these four social orders have apparently disparate activities, they actually complement each other. In its pure form, there was no discrimination among the classes, based on their superiority or inferiority. Each member of every order worked cooperatively for the progress of the entire society, just as every limb in a body works cooperatively for the whole body. This social harmony was a hallmark of Vedic culture, which unfortunately is absent in modern society due to being driven by excessive competition and greed. Therefore modern society is characterised by immorality and turmoil. If today’s political leaders seek guidance from self-realized persons, we can usher in a golden period even within this dark period of Kali-yuga.

Following a life governed by the principles of bhakti is like taking a bath. A person standing under shower cannot be condemned for being dirty, because he has adopted the cleansing process, and he will soon come out clean and pure. Overlooking all imperfections and faults, we should come together and encourage each other to work for Lord Caitanya’s mission.

Examples from Scriptures

Many examples in the scriptures tell us how the Lord is pleased when Vaisnavas serve together in a spirit of cooperation. In the ramayana, the monkey-army of Lord Rama did not possess the skills needed to span the vast ocean. But they cooperated and persevered in their efforts keeping Lord Rama as the focus of their labors. As a result, they were able to erect a 100-mile wide, 800-mile long bridge over the ocean within just ten days. Moreover, they were successful in completely routing the well-trained, well-equipped army of Ravana.

In the Mahabharata, the Pandavas had their differences of opinion; they had their peculiar personality traits. Even if a rare argument would arise among them they would co-operate with each other keeping Lord Krishna in the centre. Consequently they emerged victorious in the Kuruksetra war.

King Pracinabarhisat had sent his sons, the Pracetas, to perform austerities in order to qualify themselves. Seeing their friendly and cooperative mood, Lord Visnu was extremely pleased. He personally appeared before them and said, “All of you are engaged in one occupation – devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune.” This story appears in the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Secret of Peace in Family

The same principle applies in family life. The husband and wife need to overlook each other’s obvious shortcomings and try to cooperatively steer the household progressively ahead. Devahuti, the daughter of Emperor Manu, was raised very opulently. Upon marrying Kardama Muni, who was an ascetic engaged in performing severe austerities in the forest, she readily accepted the arduous lifestyle in her husband’s hermitage. Seeing her submissiveness and cooperative mood, the Supreme Lord agreed to appear as her son in the form of Lord Kapiladeva. Lord Kapiladeva blessed her with love of Godhead. In this connection, Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.23.1), “The wife is dependent on the husband, and if the husband is a Vaisnava, then naturally she shares the devotional service of the husband because she renders him service.” Even if such a woman is not well versed in the scriptures, the Lord becomes obliged to ensure her spiritual progress.

Mother Parvati is another example who was raised in royal opulence, but after her marriage to Lord siva she agreed to stay under a tree and collaboratively serve him.

Human-Demigod Interaction

As controllers of various departmental affairs of the universe, the demigods hold immense power in deciding the destiny of humans. By ignoring them, we invite disastrous consequences on earth, but by cooperating with them, our life can be happy and peaceful. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita (3.11),

devan bhavayatanena
te deva bhavayantu vah
parasparam bhavayantah
sreyah param avapsyatha

“The demigods, being pleased by sacrifices, will also please you, and thus, by cooperation between men and demigods, prosperity will reign for all.”

Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport, “The supply of air, light, water and all other benedictions for maintaining the body and soul of every living entity is entrusted to the demigods, who are innumerable assistants in different parts of the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Their pleasures and displeasures are dependent on the performance of yajnas by the human being. Some of the yajnas are meant to satisfy particular demigods; but even in so doing, Lord Visnu is worshiped in all yajnas as the chief beneficiary. It is stated also in the Bhagavad-gita that Krishna Himself is the beneficiary of all kinds of yajnas: bhoktaram yajnatapasam.”

Srila Prabhupada later adds, “In the Age of Kali, the sankirtanayajna (the chanting of the names of God) is recommended by the Vedic scriptures, and this transcendental system was introduced by Lord Caitanya for the deliverance of all men in this age. Sankirtana-yajna and Krishna consciousness go well together.”

The Key to Real Progress

Srila Prabhupada would quote the phrase andha-pangu-nyaya, “the logic of blind and lame.” A blind man can walk but not see, and a lame man cannot walk but can see. The blind man may take the lame man over his shoulder, and as he walks the lame man may give him directions. India is like the lame man and the West like the blind man. Though India has a rich spiritual culture, she is lame in material progress. The West, on the other hand, is materially progressive but is blinded by the glamor of materialism and can’t see the real goal of human life, which is selfrealization. If technology of the West and spirituality of India are combined synergistically, then the whole world can greatly benefit.

Of course, cooperation is not easy to achieve, especially in this age of rebellion and disunity. But somehow we need to cooperate with each other and engage in devotional service in order to withstand the storms of Kali-yuga. America’s redwood trees are a good example that can teach humanity a lesson. Growing on its West coast in the state of California, these trees are able to withstand the many tornadoes and hurricanes that batter the shores. How? Their roots are intertwined with each other under the surface of the earth, which make them unshakeable. By holding on to each other in friendly cooperation, human beings too can face all odds successfully.

If our ultimate goal is to go back to Godhead and serve Krishna in the spiritual world, then we must learn to cooperate among the society of devotees while living on earth. In the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Brahma gives a glimpse of the mood of the residents of Vaikuntha: “When the king of bees hums in a high pitch, singing the glories of the Lord, there is a temporary lull in the noise of the pigeon, the cuckoo, the crane, the cakravaka, the swan, the parrot, the partridge and the peacock. Such transcendental birds stop their own singing simply to hear the glories of the Lord.” Seen with a mundane vision the bees are not known to have a good voice. The other birds sing far more melodiously than the bees. Still, as soon as the bee starts singing, all the others birds go silent and encourage the bee. This is co-operation indeed. We find no trace of envy in Vaikuntha. There is just an overwhelming sense of harmony and co-operation in the spiritual world.

As mentioned in the beginning, every individual, despite his or her faults, can be engaged in the service of the Lord. Canakya Pandita explains this concept in his Niti-sastra. Amantram aksaram nasti nasti mulam anausadham/ ayogyah purusah nasti yojakastatra durlabhah: “There is no syllable in the Sanskrit language which does not give rise to some mantra; there is not a plant that is not a medicine and there is no person in the world that is totally useless. Only the harnesser is hard to find!”

Srila Prabhupada would plead with his disciples to work together in order to successfully take the mission forward. In a letter to his disciple, he wrote, “Now, we have by Krishna ’s grace built up something significant in the shape of this ISKCON and we are all one family. Sometimes there may be disagreement and quarrel but we should not go away. These inebrieties can be adjusted by the cooperative spirit, tolerance and maturity so I request you to kindly remain in the association of our devotees and work together. The test of our actual dedication and sincerity to serve the spiritual master will be in this mutual cooperative spirit to push on this movement and not make factions and deviate.”

Srila Prabhupada has brought together people from all different backgrounds and inspired them to practise Krishna consciousness cooperatively. By continuing to follow his instructions, we can fulfil his dream and Lord Caitanya’s prediction of taking Krishna consciousness to every town and village.