Continue Karmakandi Occupation?

Can a karma-kandi brahmana continue his occupation after becoming a Krishna devotee?
  – Nidhi Bhatt, by email

Our reply: A karmakandi brahmana’s occupation is to conduct different Vedic ritualistic ceremonies for people in general. Certain social conventions like vivaha (marriage), sraddha (offering oblations to departed parents), etc. are performed even within the Vaisnava community. Although not the highest platform of elevated consciousness, karmakandi rituals help preserve Vedic culture in today’s times of rapid cultural degradation and engage those with materialistic tendencies for sensual enjoyment in worship of authorized personalities like demigods.

In today’s situation, however, there is an urgent need to not only perform the rituals but also to give a proper philosophical understanding to those for whom the ritual is performed. In absence of any explanation (which is usually the case for typical karma-kandi rituals), general people do not understand the purpose behind the rituals, and slowly the ritual instead of upgrading to a spiritual activity (which is the original purpose) degrades to a systematic, substance-less chore. Thus, there is definitely a need for karmakandi brahmanas to be philosophically sound in order to guide and explain to people about the immediate beneficiary (particular demigod(s)) and also the ultimate beneficiary (Lord Visnu) of such rituals. A karmakandi brahmana who is a devotee fills in this gap. Such a devotee karma-kandi brahmana can elevate many a materialistic people caught up in a selfish enjoyment mood (but having strong faith in the Vedas) to the highest platform of Krishna consciousness by dint of his unique occupation. A typical Vaisnava might not have access to this class of society because of his spiritually flavored talks that always denigrate materialistic sensual enjoyment. For example, a devotee karma-kandi brahmana can explain that a marriage is not just a means to have family life and propagate one’s dynasty but a facility to serve Lord Krishna in the association of another devotee (wife) and arrange for the deliverance of one spirit soul (one’s child) back home back to the spiritual world. A devotee karma-kandi brahmana can explain the supreme value of visnu-prasada since the oblations in a sraddha ceremony need to be visnu-prasada. Dovetailing one’s occupation to please Krishna is definitely a worthwhile activity as per the Bhagavad-gita (3.35, 18.47) and one should definitely follow this line of thought whatever his or her occupation may be. But understanding that even karma-kanda binds one to the material world, such a person always guides others to the highest truths of Krishna consciousness in a gradual manner but at the same time carefully keeps himself free of any karmakanda tendencies.

Few Attentive Rounds or 16 Inattentive rounds?

I have heard that Srila Prabhupada has assured us that if we chant sixteen rounds, we will go back to Godhead. Is it true? I am currently chanting eight rounds everyday with full concentration but cannot chant sixteen rounds. Is it mandatory to chant sixteen rounds? During the brahmamuhürta time of 5-7 am, I see many devotees fall asleep during japa or are unable to chant attentively.
  – Veerendra Ekbote, by email

Our reply: The mind is always ready to give all sorts of logical justifications to not allow us to advance spiritually. At face value it sounds intellectually appealing that instead of chanting sixteen inattentive rounds, it is better to chant eight attentive rounds. This is essentially a perpetual tussle between the concepts of quality and quantity. Quality becomes a challenge only when there is abundant quantity. Exceptional quality for extremely less quantity is never a challenge. Someone can use his own logic to chant “super-attentive” single round rather than inattentive sixteen rounds. The concept of quality gains importance only when we chant sixteenrounds. The number of sixteen rounds has been personally instituted by Srila Prabhupada and so has special significance for followers of ISKCON. Anyone who sincerely tries his best to chant sixteen rounds daily – whether attentive or inattentive – attracts Srila Prabhupada’s special mercy just by adherence to this injunction. Still, a devotee genuinely tries to chant with full attention. There are many instances where Srila Prabhupada has declared that anyone who chants minimum sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna maha-mantra everyday and follows the four regulative principles will go back home, back to the spiritual world in one lifetime. Also, from another perspective even if our eight rounds are attentive, our efforts might not be very pleasing to Lord Krishna since the struggle involved in maintaining good quality for eight rounds is definitely less as compared to the struggle involved for maintaining good quality for sixteen rounds.

Another question to ask is: what is the guarantee that my eight rounds are attentive? If I am always observing others who are falling asleep and are drowsy and not able to concentrate on their chanting, what is the quality of my own chanting? There is a greater chance that while judging others I may lose focus on my own chanting.

Replies were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.