Recently I Left Vrndavana to return to the West. I was in Vrndavana for almost four months, and it wasn't until the end that I realized I had not entered as deeply into Vrndavana meditation as I could have. My underlying restlessness to go "home" was gradually replaced by an unwillingness to separate myself from the sweetness of the dhama, the holy land. Nevertheless, it was time to go.
Vrndavana holds a great treasure that only constant living in the dhama can fully reveal. But even four-month visits to the dhama can give enough of a glimpse of the treasure to entice us back.
I returned to the West filled with new Krsna conscious inspiration I hoped to share with the devotees here. In Vrndavana I was hearing about, glorifying, and remembering Krsna under ideal circumstances. I became convinced that Prabhupada is right that hearing and chanting really are the most important things. I saw that we in the West have to simplify our lives and find time to learn how to love Krsna in the mood of Vrndavana.
The first time I spoke about this in an assembly of devotees, I experienced culture shock. It took me a few moments, but I realized that many devotees in the West have other concerns I hadn't taken into consideration. They have financial concerns, some are involved in the psychological search for self-esteem and peace, and others have gone on intellectual tangents peripheral to Krsna consciousness. I looked out at them, and they looked at me culture shock.
There is a sharp contrast between Vrndavana and the West. Vrndavana means culturing a life conducive to using one's time in spiritual pursuits hearing, chanting, visiting holy sites, and associating with devotees. Vrndavana means the place where Krsna's pastimes are enacted. The Gosvamis instruct us to live in Vrndavana, and they insist that even if we can't live there, we have to learn to keep Vrndavana in our hearts.
It seems that the real concern for many devotees in the West is economic: how to make a living in the world while retaining one's Krsna conscious practices? When I speak about culturing Vrndavana consciousness and hearing krsna-lila, some devotees look at me as if to say, "What does this have to do with our real lives?"
I have to face facts: devotees are struggling with all these things. So how can we recapture the precious jewel of Vrndavana meditation? Rupa Gosvami writes in The Nectar of Instruction (Text 8):
tan nama-rupa caritadi-sukirtananu-
smrtyoh kramena rasana-manasi niyojya
tisthan vraje tad-anuragi-jananugami
kalam nayed akhilam ity upadesa-saram
"The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one's full time twenty-four hours a day in nicely chanting and remembering the Lord's divine name, transcendental form, qualities, and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one's tongue and mind. In this way, one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vrndavana-dhama] and serve Krsna under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord's devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service." This is calledupadesa-saram, the essence of all instructions. We are all meant to give our main attention, our best attention, to hearing and chanting about Krsna.
We need to address the attitude of thinking we have to spend so much time to maintain ourselves. It is not absolutely true. If we accept the main thrust of Prabhupada's preaching that we must use this human form of life to achieve Krsna consciousness and that nothing else has lasting value then we will understand our real priority. Prabhupada writes, "In the material world everyone is very active in earning more and more money and in increasing eating and sleeping and gratifying the senses; such is the mission of most people's lives. But these activities should be absent from the life of a devotee."
The desire to practice Krsna consciousness more fully, to find a way for more concentrated chanting and hearing, is called utkana, or expectation. Bhaktivinoda Thakura exemplifies the mood of a devotee who is experiencing this expectation in his song "Kabe Ha'be Bolo":
When, oh when, will that day be mine? When, my offenses ceasing, taste for the name increasing, when in my heart will Your mercy shine? When, oh when, will that day be mine?
Lower than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree when will my mind attain this quality? When I'm respectful to all, not expecting honor then I shall taste the name's nectar sublime. When, oh when, will that day be mine?
The more we concentrate on how hard it is to struggle in the material world, the more the material energy will absorb our time and attention and divert our energy from Krsna consciousness. If we hear this and accept Prabhupada's teachings on this point, then we can ask, "How can I carry this out in my present circumstance?" Prabhupada is not teaching something unreasonable or unrealistic. He is trying to teach us to save our best time for Krsna.
But still we may be faced with so many economic realities. How can we carry out this instruction and increase our Vrndavana meditation? Perhaps we can't change our jobs or our home life, but we can adjust things even in our present situation. Hearing and chanting and developing love of God have more to do with determination and firm resolution than any external circumstance. The early-morning hours are there for us wherever we are. They're the ideal time for concentrated chanting. But if we simply wake up, chant a few hurried rounds, and rush off into our day, we will come to hate those rounds and hate chanting. Such rounds will be meaningless. Rupa Gosvami says that concentrated, devotional chanting gives us a taste to hear about Krsna. Therefore all the acaryas recommend giving the best time of the day to chanting with care and devotion.
Chanting Hare Krsna means to call on Radha and Krsna. Mechanical chanting is impersonal; we have to become aware that we are calling on the Lord and His consort to engage us in Their service. And chanting will be even more effective if we also hear Krsna's pastimes and instructions as given in the scriptures.
Sometimes devotees say that if they just work hard for the ISKCON mission, Lord Caitanya will come to them at the time of death and take them back to Godhead. Prabhupada made a statement like this. But some devotees cling to it as justification for not giving their best time to regulated spiritual practices. Still, when we analyze Prabhupada's books, we will see that his main teaching is that we have to develop a specific attraction to Krsna in a particular rasa, or relationship, before we can go and be with Krsna in the spiritual world. We cannot go to Krsna at the time of death if we have not developed any specific interest in Krsna during our lives. We cannot simply work hard for Krsna's mission without developing any real attraction to Krsna Himself. Prabhupada said we have to "become mad after Krsna."
We can only become mad after Krsna by culturing our desire to hear about his activities and by chanting His holy Name in love. That is what Prabhupada came to teach us, and that is what Vrndavana meditation means.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.