Pure devotees of the Lord can make any place pure, because they are always in His company.

A lecture given in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 1, 1974

bhavad-vidha bhagavatas
tirtha-bhutah svayam vibho
tirthi-kurvanti tirthani
svantah-sthena gadabhrta

My lord, devotees like your good self are verily holy places personified. Because you carry the Supreme Personality of Godhead within your heart, you turn all places into places of pilgrimage.(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.10)


TIRTHA MEANS "holy place of pilgrimage." In every religion there is the system that followers go to a holy place of pilgrimage. In India there are many holy places Gaya, Prayag, Mathura, Vrndavana, Haridvara, Ramesvaram, Jagannatha Puri, Navadvipa. Some of them are very prominent, and many more are not prominent. Similarly, the Muslims go to Mecca, Medina, and the Christians go to Jerusalem.

In human society there must be some religious process; otherwise, it is animal society. And in every religion there is the recommendation to go to holy places of pilgrimage.

The first-class devotees are themselves holy places, and wherever they go they make that place a holy place of pilgrimage. That is the idea expressed in this verse, spoken by Maharaja Yudhisthira to Vidura, who had just returned home. Although Vidura belonged to the royal family, he left home after his nephew Duryodhana misbehaved toward him.

Vidura was very fond of his elder brother Dhrtarastra, so before the Battle of Kuruksetra, Vidura always gave Dhrtarastra good counsel: "My dear elder brother, why are you intriguing against the Pandavas?" But Dhrtarastra would not hear the younger brother's advice.

Dhrtarastra's son Duryodhana thought, "My uncle Vidura is always trying to persuade my father not to take part in vanquishing the Pandavas."

So Duryodhana used harsh words to criticize Vidura, who, although the son of a king, was not born of the queen. He was born of a maidservant. Formerly, the queens had many maidservants, and they also sometimes bore children by the king. Such a child was called dasi-putra, "son of a maidservant." Legally they could not inherit anything from the king.

Vidura was born like that. He was not born of the queen but of a maidservant. But his elder brother Dhrtarastra liked him very much. Dhrtarastra raised Vidura nicely. He got him married and gave him sufficient property. Dhrtarastra was very kind to him. And therefore Vidura was also very much obliged to him and always gave him good advice. Vidura was a great devotee.

Vidura left home because of the family dissension between the Kurus and the Pandavas. And after the Battle of Kuruksetra, when everything was finished, he returned. He still had affection for his eldest brother and gave him advice: "My dear brother, now everything is finished, including all your sons, for whom you intrigued so much. You are living shamelessly. You treated the Pandavas, your nephews, very badly. You wanted to kill them in so many ways. There was a battle, and your sons and grandsons are all dead. And still you are shamelessly living in the house of your nephew, whom you treated so badly. You have no shame."

In this way Vidura strongly criticized his brother.

Then Dhrtarastra surrendered: "My dear brother, what do you want me to do?"

Vidura said, "Come with me at once. Don't stay here."

So Dhrtarastra left home, underwent austerities, and got salvation.

Here, when Vidura returns after the battle, Yudhisthira, his nephew, is receiving him. Yudhisthira knew, "Our uncle Vidura was always on our side and tried to protect us." Yudhisthira was very pleased to welcome Vidura.

During the Kuruksetra war Vidura had traveled to holy places of pilgrimage and spoken with his spiritual master, Maitreya. Because he had been traveling to holy places, Yudhisthira Maharaja told him, "My dear uncle, you are such an exalted devotee that you do not even need to travel to the holy places of pilgrimage, because wherever you stay will turn into a place of pilgrimage."

Narottama Dasa Thakura sings, tirtha-yatra parisrama, kevala manera bhrama: "To go to holy places of pilgrimage is only a mental satisfaction." Actually, if one is fully surrendered to the lotus feet of Krsna, he is so exalted that wherever he lives becomes a holy place of pilgrimage. The pure devotees of Krsna are always thinking of Krsna. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti.They cannot forget Krsna even for a second. They are carrying Krsna. Therefore, because Krsna is with the devotee, wherever a devotee goes becomes a place of pilgrimage.

Cleansing the Holy Places

It is also said that ordinary persons go to the holy places of pilgrimage and leave their sinful reactions there. That is one purpose of going to the holy place. One thinks, "Whatever sinful activities I have done during my life, now I leave them here, and I become purified."

It is true that one becomes purified by visiting a holy place. But the ordinary man does not know how to keep his life purified. He returns home and commits the same sinful activities. In the Christian church people must go to the church weekly and perform atonement because they keep performing the same sinful activities. This is not very good. Once purified, you should remain purified.

When the holy places of pilgrimage become piled up with the sinful reactions of the common man, a saintly person goes there and makes the holy place clean. Bhavad-vidha bhagavatah. Bhagavata means "one who has a relationship with Bhagavan." Bhagavan is linked to the word bhagavata. Anything in relationship with Bhagavan, the Personality of Godhead, is called bhagavata. This book [Srimad-Bhagavatam] is calledBhagavata because it has nothing to do with anything except the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

There are two kinds of bhagavata: the book Bhagavata and the person bhagavata. Bhagavata reading should be performed by the person bhagavata. Then it is very nice.

Bhagavatas tirtha-bhutah. The person bhagavatas are already pure holy places of pilgrimage. Mahad-vicalanam nrnam grhinam dina-cetasam. Therefore, because they are merciful they travel all over the world to purify the ordinary human beings.

Materialistic persons think, "It is my duty to live comfortably, to give all facilities to my family or to my society or to my nation, to earn my livelihood and spend for sense gratification." That is their philosophy. They do not know anything more than that.

Especially in the Western countries people are expert in adjusting materially for sense gratification. They know how to live comfortably in the material world, but they have no spiritual information. That is the defect of the Western civilization. People have only a vague idea of God, practically no idea. But human life is not meant simply for living very comfortably in material life. The other necessity is that we should know Bhagavan; we should become bhagavatas.

People Must Learn

Because people have practically no information about Bhagavan, they should learn something from the Krsna consciousness movement. Therefore we have published so many nice books. It is the desire of Krsna that people read these books and try to understand the Krsna philosophy, the science of Krsna, the science of God. Then their life will be perfect. Otherwise, this one-sided civilization of material comforts will not help them. However you may create your city or home very nice, clean, materially comfortable you will not be allowed to stay. That defect people do not understand. And after you leave this body, there is no certainty what kind of body you are going to get. There is certainty according to the material laws, but people do not know it.

One's next body will be manufactured according to one's present association with the material modes of nature. There are three material modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. If you keep yourself in touch with the material mode of goodness, you will be promoted to a higher standard of life. Urdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthah. Therefore, you may enjoy material life, but you should at least keep yourself to the standard of brahminical culture. Then there is a guarantee that you won't degrade yourself; you'll get a higher status of life in the higher planetary system: Janaloka, Maharloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka.

But if you keep yourself as you are, you will stay in this planetary system, called Bhurloka. Above this is Bhuvarloka, then above that the heavenly planets.

If you keep yourself in the association of the mode of ignorance, or in foolishness, then you go down. Jaghanya-guna-vrtti-stha adho gacchanti tamasah. Tamasika means "abominable character," and abominable character entails four things: illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. These are the exhibition of tamo-guna, the mode of ignorance. If you keep yourself in the association of the mode of ignorance, then you are going to become adhah. Adhah means "down." You will go down to the lower planetary systems.

We don't criticize you for trying to live comfortably in the material world. Do that. But don't associate with the mode of ignorance. That is very risky. Whether you stay in householder life or brahmacari [celibate] life or sannyasa [renounced] life, at least keep yourself always in goodness. Then your position is all right. Otherwise, it is very risky.

No Interest

The Western people do not do that. They keep themselves in the mode of ignorance. Theirs is a very risky civilization. At least you Europeans and Americans should know this, and you should distribute this knowledge. It is your duty to save people. They do not know this knowledge. As soon as there is talk of goodness and warnings about sinful activity, immediately they go away. Immediately. Yesterday a gentleman came, and just when I began to talk about pious activities and impious activities, he immediately left "I have got another meeting."

That is the position of people today. Upadeso hi murkanam prakopaya na santaye. If your give a foolish person good instruction, he will be angry. He will not take it. Payah-panam bhujanganam kevalam visa-vardhanam. That situation is compared to giving milk to a snake. Snakes are fond of drinking milk. So sometimes a snake charmer will mix milk with bananas and give that to the snake to eat to his satisfaction. But what is the result? As soon as the snake becomes strong by eating, his teeth become filled with poison. Within the pocket of the teeth is venomous poison. When the snake bites, the poison is emitted, and the bitten man or animal dies.

If you are infected by some disease, you will have to suffer from that disease. This is a fact. It is scientific. Similarly, if you are infected with a particular mode of nature, you will have to suffer accordingly. If you stay in ignorance, you will get the body of an animal.

Therefore every one of you should become a pure devotee, a first-class devotee. In this age it has been made very easy. Simply keep yourself cleansed by not indulging in the four prohibitions [no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling], and chant Hare Krsna. Then you will all be first-class devotees. And wherever you will go wherever you speak, wherever you sit you will be able to purify that place.

Keep your spiritual strength intact. Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra keeps Krsna always within your heart.

Krsna consciousness is not expensive at all. You don't have to make an exalted throne for Krsna. You can imagine, "In my heart I have placed a diamond throne, and Krsna is sitting there." That thinking is accepted by Krsna. "I have kept a diamond throne a very costly throne because Krsna is coming. He will sit down here." That thinking is not false. It is a fact. You create such a situation within your heart. "Now Krsna has been seated. Let me wash His feet with Ganges water, Yamuna water. Now I shall change His dress to first-class costly garments, then decorate Him with ornaments. Then I shall give Him something to eat." You can simply think like this. This is meditation. Svantah-sthena gadabhrta. It is such a nice thing. You can sit down anywhere and think that Krsna is sitting in your heart and you are receiving Him in such a nice way. It is so easy.

If you simply carry Krsna within your heart always in devotional service exalted devotional service and chant Hare Krsna, and think of Krsna, wherever you will go you will purify the whole place.Svantahsthena gadabhrta. It is a fact. It is confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Try to stay in your position as a devotee, and as far as possible teach these rascals who are simply attracted by the glaring material stones and wood. Let them have some knowledge, and do benefit to your countrymen, to your society, to your family.

Thank you very much.