Brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva, guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja (CC Madhya 19.151). True to this revelation by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the lives of Wellington Vaiṣṇava community blossomed with good fortune when HH Vedavyasapriya Swami Maharaj recently graced Wellington. A disciple of Srila Prabhupada and one of the initiating gurus of ISKCON, Maharaj visited Wellington from 27th Sep (Wed) to 2nd Oct (Mon) to reunite with Wellington community and created an environment of spiritual bliss through his melodious singing, insightful discourses, and scholarly yet humorous rejoinders to many inquisitive queries.
The highlight of this visit was his four-day seminar on ‘The prayers of Queen Kunti’. Spread throughout the greater Wellington region, these seminars were held at ISKCON Wellington Newland Temple, Journey of Self Discovery Lower Hutt and various Devotees’ residences. Notwithstanding the fact that the first three seminars were scheduled on week days, all sessions were filled to capacity. Devotees raced from work and flocked like the birds of a feather to purify their hearts, eyes and ears through the association of this great Devotee and commander of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission.
Among the many intriguing and thought provoking topics covered by Maharaj, some of the key ones are presented here to share our fortune with everyone. The first and foremost was the glories of Shrimad Bhagavatam. Maharaj revealed that among the 18 canonical Puranas, Shrimad Bhagavatam was the only one that was ‘spotless’ – that is, free from the three modes of material nature. He mentioned that Bhagavatam reveals the means for becoming free from all material work. Anyone who seriously tries to understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, who properly hears and chants it with devotion, becomes completely liberated (SB 12.13.18).
How to See Krsna [SB 1.8.18-22]
Speaking about how devotees can see and associate with Krsna throughout the day Maharaj mentioned that due to our soul being trapped in this conditioned body, the transcendental vision of Lord Krsna was not available to us through our materially tainted eyes. But, since Krsna and His names are non-different, associating with Krsna through our ears, by listening to the transcendental sound vibration, was definitely within our reach. Vaiṣṇavas, therefore, develop a keen taste for listening to Hari-katha and Hare Krsna Maha-Mantra that fills their hearts with Krsna’s love and mercy.
Responding to a question on how to develop humility, Maharaj said that the easiest way to achieve that tricky goal was to always think of our original svarupa – krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’. Remembering this mantra would surely instil humility in our hearts.
Dangerous Encounters [SB 1.8.23-24]
On day two, talking about the dangerous encounters and risks of living in the material world, Maharaj emphasised that if we take shelter of Krsna , the greatest dangers become as insignificant as the water contained in the hoof-print of a calf. He mentioned that Lord Krsna is cognizant of everything that happens. So we need to believe that nothing could happen without Krsna’s will and that He would always protect us (even when our imperfect senses suggest otherwise). Therefore, a devotee’s nature is to never complain, even in the midst of a calamity. He understands that the material nature is working under Krsna’s instructions, and all necessities we need are already provided in the material nature.
At this point, Maharaj also reiterated the significance of congregational chanting; highlighting that congregational chanting would make us victorious because it has a built-in protection that serves to safeguard our progress by minimising offenses. At the same time he cautioned that the mercy of the Holy name is withdrawn when a devotee is offended, an oversight to seriously safeguard against.
Fever of Illusion [SB 1.8.26]
Conversing on how to decrease the fever of illusion, Maharaj said that the general tendency among us is to think that the material nature will satisfy us. This satisfaction is, however, never achieved. But if we connect to Krsna, we will become self-satisfied (Atmaram). This requires taking shelter of Krsna by trading-in the temporary material opulence for Krsna. We have to see Krsna with the ‘eyes of knowledge’ that is anointed by His love. This process of remembrance is the topmost of yoga that can free us from all illusions. All other do’s and don’ts, vidhis and rituals are subservient.
Attachment – the root cause of all miseries [SB 1.8.28-31]
Elaborating on the causes of attachment, Maharaj mentioned that we think that our gains are due to our hard endeavour. Therefore, we attempt to preserve these gains, and thus become attached to it. This attachment is the root-cause of all miseries. The recipe to overcome this attachment is to understand that as miseries (and losses) come to us unsought, so would happiness (and gains). We must, therefore, cultivate the faith that both happiness and distress would come of its own accord and practice detachment from both.
Healthy Renunciation – a message for Grhasthas [SB 1.8.39-43]
Addressing the grhasthas on the fourth day, Maharaj said that the aim of grhastha ashram is to keep our consciousness centred upon Krsna. He recapitulated that tyaga (renunciation) was not required for advancement in Krsna consciousness, but vairagya (detachment) indeed was. He, therefore, recommended that instead of loving each other’s bodies, we should endeavour to employ our bodies to nurture soul-level companionship, keeping Krsna always in the centre. Therefore, the only renunciation that was required was of the ‘bodily conception’ of life. Maharaj termed this a healthy renunciation and a recipe for success in grhastha life.
The final day of HH Vedavyasapriya Swami Maharaja’s stay was bedecked with a blissful ceremony, wherein ten new and existing Vaishnavas took spiritual initiation. Prominent among those were the second, Brahmana, initiations of HG Ambarish Maharaj Das and HG Anang Manjari Devi Dasi, who have been the driving force behind the recent surge of devotional activities throughout Wellington. Following the instructions of HH Vedavyasapriya Swami Maharaj in letter and spirit, this Vaiṣṇava couple has been serving the Wellington community as an extended arm of their Guru, leading and inspiring many new souls to embrace Vaishnava lifestyle and Krsna consciousness.
To conclude, through his melodious chanting and insightful discourses HH Vedavyasapriya Swami Maharaj created an environment of devotional jubilation – wherein everyone danced in ecstasy, listened in humility and honoured parasadam in gratitude. Maharaj made us taste the highest quality of Vaiṣṇava life through his association, and left us craving for more. We consider ourselves one of the most bhāgyavān jīvas (fortunate souls) on having received this special mercy. In the words of our Founder-Acharya, Srila Prabhupada, as the river flows on till she reaches the sea, similarly pure devotional service flows by the association of pure devotees till it reaches the ultimate goal, namely, transcendental love of God (SB 1.5.28, Purport).
All glories to Srila Praphupada! All Glories to Guru & Gauranga!!