God is all merciful. If we approach Him in the right mood,
He will bestow unlimited blessing upon us.
Nityananda-trayodasi 2011. Like every year, I eagerly awaited this day the appearance day of Lord Nityananda, one of the members of the Panca-tattva. An incarnation of Godhead as divine master, He is unlimitedly merciful and showed how the mercy of a real devotee is bestowed upon the lowest of mankind. I decided to visit the ISKCON temple in Mumbai and participate in the abhiseka ceremony, where one can personally bathe the transcendental form of the Lord in His Deity form.
The abhiseka was scheduled for 6 pm. As I took a shower, put on a fresh dhoti and shawl, and prepared to leave, I saw my wife and child were still not ready. The reason? My daughter’s homework assignment was pending. That it had to be done immediately was justified, because by the time we got home from the temple it would be too late for her to work on it. So she hurriedly finished her work, and we all went and sat in the car.
But as we were about to leave, our building’s civil engineer phoned me to attend to a problem on our premises. After quickly dealing with it, we finally hit the road at 5:30 pm. It takes exactly thirty minutes from our home to the temple. But that day also happened to be the Islamic festival Eid, and I saw on the streets thousands of Muslim brothers dancing in jubilation. Yet I was crying because I could hardly move through the traffic. I feared I would not make it to the ceremony on time.
After a prolonged drive we reached the temple, and there I faced another problem: there was no place to park, because so many sincere souls begging for Lord Nityananda’s mercy had come to the temple in their individual cars. Finally, I found a parking spot, dumped the car, and raced to the main Deity altar. And to my utter disappointment, the abhiseka was over by just a few minutes, and the devotees were cleaning the whole area after moving the Deities out. I was devastated like a person who has missed a bus, train, or plane. In this case, I had missed my plane to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.
THE BLAME GAME
Feeling utterly hopeless, I left the altar. I didn’t know whom to blame those dancing on the roads or the traffic police for their bad traffic management, the engineer who called me in at the last minute or my daughter’s homework assignment. I was totally disappointed.
Lord Nityananda’s lotus feet were my only hope. If I fail to get His mercy, what hope do I have to attain the mercy of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna? The great Vaisnava poet, Narottama Dasa Thakura, in his bhajana Nitai-Pada-Kamala, sings, heno nitai bine bhai, radha-krsna paite nai: “One cannot attain Sri Sri Radha-Krsna without the mercy of Lord Nityananda. If not Nityananda, who will save me?” Lord Nityananda saved the two ruffians Jagai and Madhai even though they tried to kill Him. He even engaged the fallen Kala Krsna Dasa in devotional service after he was rejected by Lord Caitanya. Although Kala Krsna Dasa was serving Lord Caitanya during His South India tour, he fell prey to the allurements of Bhattathari women. Lord Caitanya rejected him, but Lord Nityananda engaged him in devotional service by sending him to Bengal to narrate Lord Caitanya’s pastimes to the devotees there. Who can be more merciful than Lord Nityananda?
I concluded that the main reason I missed the program was my daughter’s inability to finish her homework on time. While returning home, I listened to a class given by Srila Prabhupada where he said that not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of the Supreme Lord. I realized that I was not destined to make it for the abhiseka. That’s why I kept on facing obstacles. There was no point blaming my daughter and her homework or anyone else. More likely, it was my inability to perform my spiritual homework properly. Just as homework centered on academic subjects solidifies what a student has learned at school, spiritual homework the practice of the devotional principles at home solidifies the spiritual lessons a disciple learns at a spiritual institution, like a temple. Most of us restrict our devotional service to the temple premises. We become saints the moment we enter the door, but as soon as we step outside we are back to our mundane, ignorant selves.
THE TEMPLE SCHOOL AND HOMEWORK
When someone asked Srila Prabhupada why he was building so many temples although there were already many temples in India, he said none of those Indian temples preached the absolute message of Godhead. ISKCON temples are meant to spread the divine message of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
So our ISKCON temples are like schools. Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrta, and other Vedic scriptures as given by Srila Prabhupada are our textbooks, and the discourses in the temple are our lectures. The preachers of the Krsna consciousness movement are our teachers, and the fellow students our classmates. Our homework is to follow in our daily lives the spiritual instructions we receive.
Good homework means to rise early in the morning, chant our rounds attentively, read Srila Prabhupada’s books daily, regularly associate with devotees, and eat only food cooked for Krsna and offered to Him with love (krsna-prasada). Doing our homework badly means to drag out our japa till late at night, not study Srila Prabhupada’s books thoroughly, not associate with devotees (even associating with non-devotees in the form of television, the internet, or other mundane entertainment), and to eat food cooked by non-devotees (or not offered to Krsna).
It is important if we want to make progress to maintain good attendance at school and then follow the proper discipline at home. A critical disciplinary rule is to avoid offenses against our schoolmates (other practicing devotees). Lord Krsna is highly displeased and may even suspend us from the bhakti school.
I realized that I was lax in doing my homework. So I should not complain if I am occasionally punished not being allowed to perform abhiseka to His Lordship, for example. Every time we are punished we should examine our spiritual life: “Am I doing the prescribed homework properly? 100%?”
MERCIFUL TEACHER NITYANANDA
A school may impose strict rules on its students, but there are always some teachers who are lenient and merciful. Lord Nityananda is the most merciful teacher in the school of devotional service.
The day after Nityananda-trayodasi I arrived at the temple to chant my japa. I intensely prayed to Lord Nityananda, “O Lord, if I am deprived of Your mercy, how will I survive in this dangerous world?” I decided to fast that day. But the moment I finished my sixteen rounds a devotee came up to me and said, “Go to the prasada hall and take a piece of the birthday cake offered to Lord Nityananda yesterday.” I took it as the Lord’s special mercy. I ran downstairs and stood in the queue. Everyone was getting only one piece of the cake, but when I arrived at the counter, a huge piece fell onto my plate equivalent to a double serving. I understood this as double mercy from the Lord. While gratefully honoring the cake, a devotee congratulated me, “You received great mercy!” This too I accepted as special mercy. Within three minutes I had received triple mercy.
In Kali-yuga our brains are so dull we cannot appreciate Vedic instructions easily. For example, the Vedas instruct, harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam: “The name of Lord Hari, the name of Lord Hari, the name of Lord Hari is the only means of deliverance.” The point is made three times for emphasis. So when I received this triple mercy I realized that the most merciful teacher had forgiven me for my bad homework and still rewarded me with His mercy, boosting my depressed spirits. For the first time in my life I honored the cake prasada with real humility and gratitude. Tears flooded my eyes as I ate every bite. Afterwards, I went upstairs to Lord Nityananda and thanked the merciful ßord. I left the “school” that day with the determination to be a better student regular in attendance and promising to do better homework.
Yugavatara Dasa is an associate professor in Anatomy in a medical college in Mumbai. He is a regular contributor to BTG.