Chapter Six
The Perfect Devotee
February 29, 1972, evening
Syamasundara: Srila Prabhupada, this afternoon we were discussing austerities.
Srila Prabhupada: Mm?
Syamasundara: If we don’t practice austerities voluntarily, then we must involuntarily practice some austerities.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, under the direction of the spiritual master one should... You have no mind to follow austerities, but when you accept a spiritual master, you have to carry out his order. That is austerity.
Syamasundara: Even if you don’t want to practice austerity, you must.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you must. Because you have surrendered to your spiritual master, his order is final. So even if you don’t like it, you have to do it. To please me.
Syamasundara: Ah.
Srila Prabhupada: But you don’t like... [He laughs.] Nobody likes to fast, but the spiritual master says, “Today, fasting,” so what can be done? [Syamasundara laughs.] A disciple is one who has voluntarily agreed to be disciplined by the spiritual master. That is austerity.
Syamasundara: Say, like our parents or many people in the material world, completely enamored by the material life—they don’t want to undergo austerity or bodily pain, but still they must. They are being forced by nature to suffer austerities.
Srila Prabhupada: That is forced austerity. That is not good. Voluntary austerity will help.
Syamasundara: If you don’t undergo voluntary austerity, then you must be forced to undergo austerity.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the difference between man and animal. An animal cannot accept austerity. But a man can accept it. There is a nice foodstuff in the confectioner’s shop, so a man wants to eat it, but he sees that he has no money, so he can restrain himself. But when a cow comes, immediately she pushes her mouth in. You can beat her with a stick, but she will tolerate it. She will do that. Therefore an animal cannot undergo austerity. Our austerity is very nice. We chant Hare Krsna, dance, and Krsna sends very nice foodstuffs, and we eat. That’s all. Why are your people not agreeable to such austerity? Chanting, dancing and eating nicely?
Bob: What is that?
Srila Prabhupada: Because we are following austerities, Krsna sends us nice things. So we are not losers. When you become Krsna-ized, then you get more comforts than at the present moment. That’s a fact. I have been living alone for the last twenty years, but I have no difficulties. Before taking sannyasa I was living in Delhi. So I had no difficulties, although I was living alone.
Syamasundara: If you don’t accept spiritual discipline, then nature will force so many calamities.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita:
[“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.”] Maya is imposing so many difficulties, but as soon as you surrender to Krsna, no more imposition.
Syamasundara: We were so foolish that we were always thinking, “In the future I’ll be happy.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is maya, illusion. That is like the ass. You sit down on the back of the ass and just take a morsel of grass. The ass is thinking, “Let me go forward a little, and I shall get the grass.” [Bob laughs.] But it is always one foot distant. That is ass-ism. [They all laugh.] Everyone is thinking, “Let me go a little forward, and I’ll get it. I’ll be very happy.”
Bob: I... I thank you so much for...
Srila Prabhupada: Hmm?
Bob: Tomorrow I’ll have to leave you and—
Srila Prabhupada: Don’t talk l-e-a-v-e, but talk l-i-v-e.
Bob: I cannot yet, but I was thinking now of returning tomorrow to my town. But...
Srila Prabhupada: Don’t return.
Bob: I should stay here tomorrow—here?
Srila Prabhupada: Stay here.
Bob: You tell me to, I’ll stay.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you are a very good boy. [There is a long pause. It is now, much quieter.] It is very simple. When the living entities forget Krsna, they are in this material world. Krsna means His name, His form, His abode, His pastimes—everything.
Bob: What was that last?
Srila Prabhupada: Ah? Pastimes.
Bob: Pastimes.
Srila Prabhupada: When we speak of a king, it means the king’s government, king’s palace, king’s queen, king’s sons, secretaries, military strength—everything. Is it not?
Bob: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, Krsna being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as soon as we think of Krsna, this means all the energies of Krsna. That is complete by saying, “Radha-Krsna.” Radha represents all the energy of Krsna. And Krsna is the Supreme Lord. So when we speak of Krsna, the living entities are also included because the living entities are energies, different energies of Krsna—superior energy. So when this energy is not serving the energetic, that is material existence. The whole world is not serving Krsna. They are serving Krsna in a different way. They are serving indirectly, just as disobedient citizens serve the government indirectly. Prisoners come to the prison house on account of their disobedience of the laws of the state. So, in the prison house, they are forced to obey the laws of the state. Similarly. all the living entities here are godless, either by ignorance or by choice. They do not like to accept the supremacy of God. Demoniac. So we are trying to bring them to their original condition. That is the Krsna consciousness movement.
Bob: I’d like to ask you just something I talked with devotees about—medicine. I walked to the river with some devotees today. I have a cold, so I said I shouldn’t go in the water. Some felt I should because it is the Ganges, and some said I shouldn’t because I have a cold, and we were talking, and I don’t understand. Do we get sick because of our bad actions in the past?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that’s a fact.
Bob: But when one...
Srila Prabhupada: Any kind of distress we suffer is due to our impious activities in the past.
Bob: But when someone is removed from karmic influence...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes?
Bob: ... does he still get sick?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Even if he gets sick, that is very temporary. For instance, this fan is moving. If you disconnect the electric power, then the fan will move for a moment. That movement is not due to the electric current. That is force—what is it called, physically, this force?
Syamasundara: Momentum.
Srila Prabhupada: Momentum. But as soon as it stops, no more movement. Similarly, even if a devotee who has surrendered to Krsna is suffering from material consequences, that is temporary. Therefore, a devotee does not take any material miseries as miseries. He takes them as Krsna’s, God’s, mercy.
Bob: A perfected soul, a devotee, a pure devotee...
Srila Prabhupada: A perfected soul is one who engages twenty-four hours a day in Krsna consciousness. That is perfection. That is a transcendental position. Perfection means to engage in one’s original consciousness. That is perfection. That is stated in Bhagavad-gita:
“By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect.” Complete perfection. Samsiddhi. Siddhi is perfection. That is Brahman realization, spiritual realization. And samsiddhi means devotion, which comes after Brahman realization.
Bob: Could you just say that last thing again please?
Srila Prabhupada: Samsiddhi.
Bob: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Sam means complete.
Bob: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: And siddhi means perfection. In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that one who goes back home, back to Godhead, has attained the complete perfection. So perfection comes when one realizes that he is not this body; he is spirit soul. Brahma-bhutathat is called Brahman realization. That is perfection. And samsiddhi comes after Brahman realization, when one engages in devotional service. Therefore if one is already engaged in devotional service, it is to be understood that Brahman realization is there. Therefore it is called samsiddhi.
Bob: I ask you this very humbly, but do you feel diseases and sickness?
Srila Prabhupada: Hm-m?
Bob: Do you personally feel disease and sickness?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Bob: Is this a result of your past karma?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Bob: So one in this material world never escapes his karma completely?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he escapes. No more karma for a devotee. No more karmic reaction.
Bob: But you must be the best devotee.
Srila Prabhupada: Hm-m... No, I don’t consider myself the best devotee. I am the lowest.
Bob: No!
Srila Prabhupada: You are the best devotee.
Bob: [Laughs.] Oh, no, no! But, see, you say—what you say... always seems right.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Bob: Then you must be the best devotee.
Srila Prabhupada: The thing is that even the best devotee, when he preaches, comes to the second-class platform of a devotee.
Bob: What would the best devotee be doing?
Srila Prabhupada: The best devotee does not preach.
Bob: What does he do?
Srila Prabhupada: He sees that there is no need of preaching. For him, everyone is a devotee. [Bob laughs heartily] Yes, he sees no more nondevotees—all devotees. He is called an uttama-adhikari. But while I am preaching, how can I say I am the best devotee? Just like Radharani—She does not see anyone as a nondevotee. Therefore we try to approach Radharani.
Bob: Who is this?
Srila Prabhupada: Radharani, Krsna’s consort.
Bob: Ah.
Srila Prabhupada: If anyone approaches Radharani, She recommends to Krsna, “Here is the best devotee. He is better than Me,” and Krsna cannot refuse him. That is the best devotee. But it is not to be imitated: “I have become the best devotee.”
(Bhag. 11.2.46)
A second-class devotee has the vision that some are envious of God, but this is not the vision of the best devotee. The best devotee sees, “Nobody is envious of God. Everyone is better than me.” Just like Caitanya-caritamrta’s author, Krsnadasa Kaviraja. He says, “I am lower than the worm in the stool.”
Bob: Who is saying this?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsnadasa Kaviraja, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta: purisera kita haite muni se laghistha. He is not making a show. He is feeling like that. “I am the lowest. Everyone is best, but I am the lowest. Everyone is engaged in Krsna’s service. I am not engaged.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu said “Oh, I have not a pinch of devotion to Krsna. I cry to make a show. If I had been a devotee of Krsna, I would have died long ago. But I am living. That is the proof that I do not love Krsna.” That is the vision of the best devotee. He is so much absorbed in Krsna’s love that he says, “Everything is going on, but I am the lowest. Therefore I cannot see God.” That is the best devotee.
Bob: So a devotee must work for everybody’s liberation?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. A devotee must work under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, not imitate the best devotee.
Bob: Excuse me?
Srila Prabhupada: One should not imitate the best devotee.
Bob: Imitate. Oh. I see.
Syamasundara: One time you said that sometimes you feel sickness or pain due to the sinful activities of your devotees. Can sometimes disease be due to that? Caused by that?
Srila Prabhupada: You see, Krsna says:
“I will deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” So Krsna is so powerful that He can immediately take up all the sins of others and immediately make them right. But when a living entity plays the part on behalf of Krsna, he also takes the responsibility for the sinful activities of his devotees. Therefore to become a guru is not an easy task. You see? He has to take all the poisons and absorb them. So sometimes—because he is not Krsna—sometimes there is some trouble. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu has forbidden, “Don’t make many sisyas, many disciples.” But for preaching work we have to accept many disciples—for expanding preaching—even if we suffer. That’s a fact. The spiritual master has to take the responsibility for all the sinful activities of his disciples. Therefore to make many disciples is a risky job unless one is able to assimilate all the sins.
vancha-kalpa-tarubhyas ca
krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo
vaisnavebhyo namo namah
[“I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord. They are just like desire trees who can fulfill the desires of everyone, and they are full of compassion for the fallen conditioned souls.”] He takes responsibility for all the fallen souls. That idea is also in the Bible. Jesus Christ took all the sinful reactions of the people and sacrificed his life. That is the responsibility of a spiritual master. Because Krsna is Krsna, He is apapa-viddhaHe cannot be attacked by sinful reactions. But a living entity is sometimes subjected to their influence because he is so small. Big fire, small fire. If you put some big thing in a small fire, the fire itself may be extinguished. But in a big fire, whatever you put in is all right. The big fire can consume anything.
Bob: Christ’s suffering was of that nature?
Srila Prabhupada: Mm-m?
Bob: Was Christ’s suffering—
Srila Prabhupada: That I have already explained. He took the sinful reactions of all the people. Therefore he suffered.
Bob: I see.
Srila Prabhupada: He said—that is in the Bible—that he took all the sinful reactions of the people and sacrificed his life. But these Christian people have made it a law for Christ to suffer while they do all nonsense. [Bob gives a short laugh.] Such great fools they are! They have let Jesus Christ make a contract for taking all their sinful reactions so they can go on with all nonsense. That is their religion. Christ was so magnanimous that he took all their sins and suffered, but that does not induce them to stop all these sins. They have not come to that sense. They have taken it very easily. “Let Lord Jesus Christ suffer, and we’ll do all nonsense.” Is it not?
Bob: It is so.
Srila Prabhupada: They should have been ashamed: “Lord Jesus Christ suffered for us, but we are continuing the sinful activities.” He told everyone, “Thou shalt not kill,” but they are indulging in killing, thinking, “Lord Jesus Christ will excuse us and take all the sinful reactions.” This is going on. We should be very much cautious: “For my sinful actions my spiritual master will suffer, so I’ll not commit even a pinch of sinful activities.” That is the duty of the disciple. After initiation, all sinful reaction is finished. Now if he again commits sinful activities, his spiritual master has to suffer. A disciple should be sympathetic and consider this. “For my sinful activities, my spiritual master will suffer.” If the spiritual master is attacked by some disease, it is due to the sinful activities of others. “Don’t make many disciples.” But we do it because we are preaching. Never mind—let us suffer—still we shall accept them. Therefore your question was—when I suffer is it due to my past misdeeds? Was it not? That is my misdeed—that I accepted some disciples who are nonsense. That is my misdeed.
Bob: This happens on occasions?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This is sure to happen because we are accepting so many men. It is the duty of the disciples to be cautious. “My spiritual master has saved me. I should not put him again into suffering.” When the spiritual master is in suffering, Krsna saves him. Krsna thinks, “Oh, he has taken so much responsibility for delivering a fallen person.” So Krsna is there.
[“O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.”] Because the spiritual master takes the risk on account of Krsna.
Bob: Your suffering is not the same kind of pain...
Srila Prabhupada: No, it is not due to karma. The pain is there sometimes, so that the disciples may know, “Due to our sinful activities, our spiritual master is suffering.”
Bob: You look very well now.
Srila Prabhupada: I am always well... in the sense that even if there is suffering, I know Krsna will protect me. But this suffering is not due to my sinful activities.
Bob: But let us say when I—in the town I live in, I take boiled water because some of the water has disease in it. Now, why should I drink boiled water if I have been good enough not to get a disease? Then I may drink any water. And if I have been not acting properly. then I shall get disease anyway.
Srila Prabhupada: So long as you are in the material world, you cannot neglect physical laws. Suppose you go to a jungle and there is a tiger. It is known that it will attack you, so why should you voluntarily go and be attacked? It is not that a devotee should take physical risk so long as he has a physical body. It is not a challenge to the physical laws: “I have become a devotee. I challenge everything.” That is foolishness.
anasaktasya visayan
yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
yuktam vairagyam ucyate
The devotee is advised to accept the necessities of life without attachment. He’ll take boiled water, but if boiled water is not available, does it mean he will not drink water? If it is not available, he will drink ordinary water. We take Krsna prasada, but while touring, sometimes we have to take some food in a hotel. Because one is a devotee, should he think, “I will not take any foodstuffs from the hotel. I shall starve”? If I starve, then I will be weak and will not be able to preach.
Bob: Does a devotee lose some of his individuality, in that—
Srila Prabhupada: No, he has full individuality for pleasing Krsna. Krsna says, “You surrender unto Me.” So he voluntarily surrenders. It is not that he has lost his individuality. He keeps his individuality. Just like Arjuna—in the beginning, he was declining to fight, on account of his individuality. But when he accepted Krsna as his spiritual master, he became sisya [a disciple]. Then whatever Krsna ordered, he said yes. That doesn’t mean he lost his individuality. He voluntarily accepted: “Whatever Krsna says, I shall do it.” Just like all my disciples—they have not lost their individuality, but they have surrendered their individuality. That is required. For example, suppose a man does not use sex. It does not mean he has become impotent. If he likes, he can have sex life a thousand times. But he has voluntarily avoided it. Param drstva nivartate: he has a higher taste. Sometimes we fast, but that does not mean we are diseased. We voluntarily fast. It does not mean that I am not hungry or cannot eat. But we voluntarily fast.
Bob: Does the devotee who surrenders keep his individual taste?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, in full.
Bob: Taste for different things?
Srila Prabhupada: Hm?
Bob: Does he keep his individual likes and dislikes?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, he keeps everything. But he gives preference to Krsna. Suppose I like this thing but Krsna says, “No, you cannot use it.” Then I shall not use it. It is for Krsna’s sake.
Krsna says positively, “I like these things.” So we have to offer to Krsna what He likes, and then we’ll take prasada. Krsna likes Radharani. Therefore all the gopis, they are trying to push Radharani to Krsna. “Krsna likes this gopi. All right, push Her.” That is Krsna consciousness. To satisfy the senses of Krsna, not to satisfy my senses. That is bhakti. That is called prema, love for Krsna. “Ah, Krsna likes this. I must give Him this.”
Bob: There is some prasada [food offered to Krsna]. It’s offered, and then we go and eat, and different prasadams are served. Some I like, and some I find the taste not at all to my liking.
Srila Prabhupada: You should not do that. The perfection is that whatever is offered to Krsna you should accept. That is perfection. You cannot say. “I like this, I don’t like this.” So long as you make such discrimination, that means you have not appreciated what prasada is.
A devotee: What if there is someone speaking of likes and dislikes? Say someone is preparing some prasada...
Srila Prabhupada: No disliking, no liking. Whatever Krsna likes, that’s all right.
A devotee: Yes. But say someone prepares something, like some prasada for Krsna, but he does not make it so good, and it is—
Srila Prabhupada: No, if made sincerely with devotion, then Krsna will like it. Just like Vidura. Vidura was feeding Krsna bananas, but he was so absorbed in thought that he was throwing away the real bananas and he was giving Krsna the skin, and Krsna was eating. [All laugh] Krsna knew that he was giving in devotion, and Krsna can eat anything, provided there is devotion. It does not matter whether it is materially tasteful or not. Similarly, a devotee also takes Krsna prasada, whether it is materially tasteful or not. We should accept everything.
A devotee: But if the devotion is not there, like in India...
Srila Prabhupada: If devotion is not there, He doesn’t like any food, either tasteful or not tasteful. He does not accept it.
A devotee: In India... Somebody—
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, India, India. Don’t talk of India! Talk of philosophy. If there is not devotion, Krsna does not accept anything, either in India or in your country. Lord Krsna is not obliged to accept anything costly because it is very tasty. Krsna has very many tasteful dishes in Vaikuntha. He is not hankering after your food. He accepts your devotion, bhakti. The real thing is devotion, not the food. Krsna does not accept any food of this material world. He accepts only the devotion.
[“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.”] “Because it has been offered to Me with devotion and love”—that is required. Therefore we do not allow anyone to cook who is not a devotee. Krsna does not accept anything from the hands of a nondevotee. Why should He accept? He is not hungry. He does not require any food. He accepts only the devotion, that’s all. That is the main point. So one has to become a devotee. Not a good cook. But if he is a devotee, then he will be a good cook also. Automatically he will become a good cook. Therefore one has to become a devotee only. Then all other good qualifications will automatically be there. And if he is a nondevotee, any good qualifications have no value. He is on the mental plane, so he has no good qualification. [There is a long pause in the conversation.]
Srila Prabhupada: And the time?
Syamasundara: Six o’clock.
Srila Prabhupada: Questions and answers are required. They are beneficial to all.
Bob: I still have a question on the prasada.
Srila Prabhupada: Suta Gosvami says:
munayah sadhu prsto ’ham
bhavadbhir loka-mangalam
yat krtah krsna-samprasno
yenatma suprasidati
[SB 1.2.5]
[“O sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are worthy because they relate to Lord Krsna and so are relevant to the world’s welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying the self.”] Krsna-samprasnah, that is very good. When you discuss and hear, that is loka-mangalam, auspicious for everyone. Both the questions and the answers.
Bob: I still do not understand so much about prasada. But if you like I’ll think about it and ask you again tomorrow.
Srila Prabhupada: Prasada is always prasada. But because we are not elevated sufficiently, therefore we do not like some prasada.
Bob: I found specifically that what I mean—that some are too spicy, and it hurts my stomach.
Srila Prabhupada: Well... That is also due to not appreciating, but the cook should have consideration. Krsna must be offered first-class foodstuffs. So if he offers something last class, he is not performing his duty. But Krsna can accept anything if it is offered by a devotee, and a devotee can accept any prasada, even if it is spicy. Hiranyakasipu gave his son poison [and the son offered it to Krsna], and the son drank it as nectar. So even if it is spicy to others, taste, it is very palatable to the devotee. What is the question of spicy? He was offered poison, real poison. And Putana Raksasi—she also offered Krsna poison. But Krsna is so nice that He thought, “She took Me as My mother,” so He took the poison and delivered her. Krsna does not take the bad side. A good man does not take the bad side—he takes only the good side. Just like one of my big Godbrothers—he wanted to make business with my Guru Maharaja [spiritual master], but my Guru Maharaja did not take the bad side. He took the good side. He thought, “He has come forward to give me some service.”
Bob: Business with your—what was that? Business with who?
Srila Prabhupada: I am talking about my Guru Maharaja.
Bob: Oh, I see. I have another question on prasada, if I may. Let us say some devotee has some trouble and does not eat a certain type of food—like some devotees do not eat ghee because of liver trouble. So these devotees, should they take all the prasada?
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Those who are not perfect devotees may discriminate. But a perfect devotee does not discriminate. Why should you imitate a perfect devotee? So long as you have discrimination, you are not a perfect devotee. So why should you artificially imitate a perfect devotee and eat everything?
Bob: Oh.
Srila Prabhupada: The point is, a perfect devotee does not make any discrimination. Whatever is offered to Krsna is nectar. That’s all. Krsna accepts anything from a devotee. “Whatever is offered to Me by My devotee,” He accepts. The same thing for a devotee. Don’t you see the point? A perfect devotee does not make any discrimination. But if I am not a perfect devotee and I have discrimination, why shall I imitate the perfect devotee? It may not be possible for me to digest everything because I am not a perfect devotee. A devotee should not be a foolish man. It is said:
So a devotee knows his position, and he is intelligent enough to deal with others accordingly.

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