Aspiring Tree Huggers
The first three letters were written to Yugavatara Dasa, author of “Just to Embrace a Tree.”
I was reading the devotional article about your visit to the Hare Krishna Tree in New York, under which Srila Prabhupada used to chant. The Hare Krishna movement took birth in that most fortunate place. Reading the article in BTG has motivated me to see that fortunate tree. It’s inspiring to hear that visiting the tree was your main goal during your trip to the USA. I have gone to the New York many times, and have attended the New York Ratha-yatra as well, but I never thought of going to see this special tree. Now I will go there for sure and ask for mercy for spiritual progress in Krishna consciousness. Millions of thanks for making us all aware of this tree. 
(Vijaya Krishna Dasa)
I was just reading Back to Godhead magazine, and I came across your article “Just to Embrace a Tree.” After reading about your experience, I felt so small and heartbroken, because I have been to the USA on many occasion, and although I did visit the Brooklyn temple, I never visited this chanting place of Prabhupada. I am going to the USA in July, and because of you I am going to visit that park, and I want to hug that tree just like you did. 
(Damodara Priya Devi Dasi,Trinidad)
When I saw the title “Just to Embrace a Tree,” my first thought was, “Wow, someone feels the same as I do about the tree.” Your article was written in my favorite style, as a story, in very simple language, yet expressing very high truths. 
I like your prayer that you won’t mind taking birth as a hippy in order to hear Srila Prabhupada chanting Hare Krishna. That must have resounded with a lot of people, from India and here in the West. As a former hippy, I was thinking, “You don’t know what you’re praying for. Culturally it’s a giant leap backward.” But I understood your mood and appreciated how you had presented it so eloquently. I admit that the article brought tears to my eyes. 
(Mitrasena Dasa, Sandy Ridge, North Carolina)
What Is “Causeless Mercy”?
We learn in the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other Vedic scriptures that everything has a cause. Krishna is called “the cause of all causes.” The coming of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada to the West had a cause the transcendental order of his Guru Maharaja. Still, it is said that the mercy of guru and Krishna is causeless. Even if we accept that the mercy of guru and Krishna has no material, karmic cause, it still has a spiritual cause. So why do we speak of causeless mercy?
(Jaya Gurudeva Dasa)
Our reply: The word causeless in this context is used to emphasize the fact that the mercy of the Lord and the mercy of His pure devotee are not the product of someone’s karmic destiny but the free choice of the person bestowing the mercy. It is also true that mercy is an intrinsic transcendental quality of both the Lord and His pure devotee, and thus not caused by something else. Both the Lord and His devotee are inclined to be merciful, but both the extent and the manner in which this mercy is manifest in a particular situation is the choice of the Lord or His pure devotee, and not caused by anything external. 
Srila Prabhupada would sometimes make the point that the Vaishnava is not obliged to do anything. For example, he may speak liberally on the Absolute Truth or remain silent, as he chooses.
Guru/Disciple Qualifications
What are the qualifications of a spiritual master and a disciple?
(Shreepad Gadre)
Our reply: The qualifications for both are described in several places in our scriptures. For example, the Upadesamrta (Text 1), by Srila Rupa Gosvami, describes that the spiritual master must be able to control the six urges: “A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger, and the urges of the tongue, belly, and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.” These qualifications are elaborated on in several places, and Srila Prabhupada often mentions that by the order of Lord Caitanya and the spiritual master, one can become qualified to be a spiritual master as long as one strictly follows the instructions of Lord Caitanya and one’s own spiritual master.
As for the qualifications of the disciple, those are described in the Bhagavad-gita (4.34): surrender, submissive enquiry and service. When the disciple and spiritual master are qualified with these ornaments, then the relationship will bring love of Krishna.
The disciple and the spiritual master should examine each other for at least six months to a year to be sure they are right for each other. The disciple must have sufficient faith to submissively follow the order of the spiritual master.
Lord Shiva in Caitanya’s Pastimes
I have heard that all the saints and demigods were present during the descent of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. During Lord Rama’s descent, Lord Shiva came as Hanuman. Who was the avatar of Shiva during Lord Caitanya’s time?
(Ankur Wahi)
Our reply: In the pastimes of Lord Caitanya, Lord Shiva is Srila Advaita Acharya, one of the Pancha-tattva (Lord Caitanya and His four main associates). It was Advaita Acharya who petitioned Lord Krishna to appear on earth as Lord Caitanya. Advaita Acharya was so disturbed by the atheistic attitude of the people that he prayed and offered pujas to evoke Lord Krishna’s appearance. He told Krishna, “If you do not come and change their consciousness, then I will destroy them all.” Hearing this, Lord Caitanya appeared on earth, bringing the holy name as the easiest means to change the materialistic consciousness of the people of this age, Kali-yuga. Srila Advaita Acharya was one of Sri Krishna Caitanya’s most intimate and dear devotees.
Replies to other letters were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.
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