While listening to gaura-arati, I noticed the words nikaTe advaita, srinivasa chatra-dhara. Are Srinivasa and Srivasa two different devotees?
—B.K. Mehta, by email
Our reply: The personality mentioned in the gauraarati holding an umbrella over Lord Caitanya’s head is Srivasa Thakura, part of panca-tattva. He also has another name Srinivasa. We can see the names Srivasa and Srinivasa being used interchangeably for the same person in the following slokas from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 4.227-228, 13.3, Madhya 1.278, 1.281, 13.92, 13.93, 13.94, 14.229, 16.205, Antya 11.4). We are familiar with the word Srinivasa referring to Srila Srinivasa acarya, who was a disciple of Srila Jiva Gosvami and existed at a much later time, but the personality Srinivasa mentioned in the gauraarati is Srila Srivasa Thakura.
Restore Pure Devotion
I have been an ISKCON life member for the last 20 years. ISKCON came up originally with devotees of true vaisnava order at the helm of affairs, but with its fast expansion, so many others have entered it due to opportunities of commercial nature. The pujaris have in many cases their own favorite clientele of devotees whom they favor and give special treatment and attention. I honestly feel that instead of expanding, greater attention should be given to restoring true devotion, knowledge and service without creating sections of favoritism within devotees.
—S.S. Sharma, by email
Our reply:Witnessing some devotees or pujaris favoring guests by giving them special treatment and attention definitely affects adversely. We can also see this from a different perspective. Different visitors or guests who visit ISKCON temples are at different levels of spiritual progression. Some who visit the temple do so with the same giveand- take feeling they have when they visit any other temple. They consider an ISKCON temple any other regular temple where they can appease God as an ordersupplier. Very few people truly understand and value the special gift of pure bhakti that is distributed in ISKCON temples by means of classes, books or personal interactions. In such cases, the devotee sees himself as an order-supplier for the pleasure of the Lord. Others can be anywhere in between these two states of mind.
Considering different states of consciousness, different visitors have to be dealt with differently with the single aim that ultimately all of them come to the final platform of pure bhakti where one serves the Lord without any selfish motive whatsoever. We may not understand the intricacies of the pujari’s compassionate preaching spirit as he gives special attention to some guests and treats others in another way.
Caught in a Vicious Cycle
When I try to progress in spiritual life, I get dragged down due to my past habits. I want to chant more but I can’t. I want to become more pure but my past prevents me. I am caught in a vicious circle. Please help.
—Amit Kanwar, by email
Our reply: Just as people who wish to become fit must exercise and build their physical muscles, so we need an exercise program for building our mental muscles. But to perform even a basic exercise regimen, one needs to have some minimum physical strength, which will increase over a period of time. A weak and lean person will struggle to perform the basic exercise. So without exercise, you don’t gain strength, and without minimum strength, you cannot exercise. Similarly, because of past bad habits we cannot chant, and because we do not chant we remain impure. But what can be done? Somewhere, this vicious cycle of perpetual weakness has to be broken with determination. This determination can come by the association of determined devotees and by the mercy of the Supreme Lord.
When someone tries to enter a sea to swim, the waves crashing into the shore push you back. These waves are difficult to cross. But if the swimmer persists and crosses this obstacle then after some distance there is no more resistance to entering deeper into the sea. The waves of resistance exist only in the beginning; later there is only the pleasure of swimming. Similarly, when we start practicing purity in the form devotional service, the waves of the contaminated mind will resist us in the beginning but soon we will enjoy the pleasure of swimming in the ocean of devotional service.
There is no magical way to control the adamant mind. Association of devotees will give you some practical tips to stay determined. Continue chanting whatever rounds you can with sincerity and prayers. Never give up chanting. Slow and steady wins the race.
The answers were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.