Nanda Maharaja

For serving Lord Krsna, is being simple a bad thing?

AFTER SUCCESSFULLY launching the Hare Krsna movement in the West, Srila Prabhupada returned to India with plans to build at least three large centers, including one in Mumbai. I worked on the Mumbai project, and because Prabhupada was intimately involved with it, I was fortunate to learn many valuable lessons from him during that time.

In late 1971 a prominent businessman, Mr. A. B. Nair, offered Prabhupada some land in Juhu, on the outskirts of Mumbai. Later we discovered that Mr. Nair was very tricky and cunning. Before taking money for the land from Prabhupada, he had already taken and kept money from two other parties.

After Prabhupada signed the purchase agreement and left Mumbai, Yaduvara Dasa and I had to deal with Mr. Nair. We would meet him at his home in Juhu and talk, but we couldn't understand: Was he our friend, or was he our enemy?

Ultimately, from thousands of miles away in Los Angeles, Prabhupada concluded that Mr. Nair was trying to cheat us.

Eventually Prabhupada came to Mumbai to deal with the matter. Tamal Krsna Goswami told him how Mr. Nair had bluffed me. Perhaps he expected Prabhupada to reprove me. But Prabhupada replied, "Giriraja is simple. What can be done?"

Prabhupada's words stayed in my mind: "Giriraja is simple." I considered my simplicity a fault or a disqualification.

Some months later, while reading the book Krsna to Prabhupada during his morning walks on Juhu Beach, I came to the chapter "The Salvation of Trnavarta," in which Lord Krsna defeats a demon who had assumed the form of a whirlwind. There I read: "After observing such wonderful happenings, Nanda Maharaja [Krsna's foster father] began to think of the words of Vasudeva [Krsna's father] again and again."

Previously we had read how Nanda Maharaja considered Vasudeva a great sage and mystic yogi because Vasudeva had foretold an incident that happened in Vrndavana, where Krsna was living.

Prabhupada remarked, "Vasudeva is a ksatriya [a member of the ruling or martial class]. With political eyesight, Vasudeva predicted, 'This may happen,' but Nanda Maharaja, as a vaisya, a simple agriculturalist, thought, 'Oh, Vasudeva is a foreseer.' "

I noticed that Prabhupada was applying the word simple to a pure devotee Nanda Maharaja and I was surprised. I wondered how a pure devotee like Nanda Maharaja could have a disqualification such as being simple.

So I asked Prabhupada, "Simplicity is not considered a bad quality?"

Prabhupada replied, "No, no. For him it is all right. He is a vaisya, so he should believe like that. And a politician should act like Vasudeva. One should not imitate. For example, a physician does operations, but I should not imitate and take the knife and operate. That is not my business."

Then Prabhupada explained, "But Vasudeva was thinking of Krsna, and Nanda Maharaja was also thinking of Krsna. As a simple agriculturalist, Nanda Maharaja was thinking of Krsna. And Vasudeva, when he was asking Nanda Maharaja, ÔGo take care of your children there,' he was also thinking of Krsna. If thinking of Krsna is there, then whether ksatriya or vaisya or brahmana it doesn't matter. Everyone gets the same benefit.

"Everyone should understand, whatever I may be, I am an eternal servant of Krsna.' So if this consciousness is maintained and everyone is engaged in the service of Krsna by his work and by his occupational duty, then he is perfect."

Prabhupada's answer was deep. He said that for a person in a certain position simplicity may be a good qualification, and for another it may not be. For a vaisya or a brahmana to be simple may be good, but not for a ksatriya, who has to deal with politics and diplomacy. Yet ultimately it doesn't matter whether one is a brahmana, ksatriya, a vaisya, or whatever. What matters is that one works in Krsna's service and thinks of Him in love in Krsna consciousness.

Giriraja Swami serves as an ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner for Mumbai, Mauritius, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and several other places.