Why hear shastra from a Deovtee

Smt. Ramaa Bandhopadhyay was a female saint of the Gaudiya Sampraday. She was a direct disciple of Shri Ramdas Babaji Maharaj. A learned scholar and professor, she travelled throughout India giving discourses on bhakti-yoga. She also wrote a number of books including a commentary on Chapter 14 of the Shrimad Bhagwatam, the Brahma Stuti.
In this portion of the commentary, Prof. Bandhyopadhyay dicusses the following verse of the Brahma Stuti:jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva
jīvanti san-mukharitāṃ bhavadīya-vārtām |
sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṃ tanu-vāg-manobhir
ye prāyaśo ‘jita jito’py asi tais tri-lokyām
||SB 10.14.3||

Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are spoken by You personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer You, although You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone in the three worlds.
Commentary: “There are some who, without stuggling in gyan-marg, remain in the same order of life in which they were called, spending all their time hearing with great humility descriptions of Your excellences from Your great devotees. All their actions–speech, thought and their every breath is saturated with devotional fervor for You. You, who are unconquerable by anything in the three worlds are certainly conquered by them.”
Hearing the glories of Krishna’s devotee is more helpful to the jeev (soul) than glorification of Krishna Himself. This is the reason that Brahmaji is using the term “bhavadeeya.” Brahma has also has used another term, “san-mukaritaam,” which means the glories of Krishna and His devotee should be san-mukaritaam, or in other words one should hear the glories of Krishna and His devotees from the lips of of a Vaishnav. The effect of hearing Hari-katha from a non-Vaisnava will not be the same. For example we drink milk to attain bodily strength, but if the tongue of a snake contacts that same milk, that milk will become like poison.
Here one can raise the question why it is required to hear the Hari-katha from the mouth of a Vaishnav? A real Vaishnav will just speak from shastra, and I can just read the shastras myself. What is the necessity to listen to the same thing from the mouth of a Vaishnav? This is an improper conclusion. It is true that the Vaishnav would be speaking from shastra, but he would not only be speaking the words from shastra-–as saints follow the words of the scriptures for their own sadhan and bhajan, they actually experience shastra. They directly realize what they are speaking and thus when they mix their own bhajan-realization with the words from the sastra while delivering Hari-katha, their speech becomes extremely powerful and has much more of an impact upon the listener.
With the help of a mundane example this may become clearer. Beneath a banyan tree one can find numerous small banyan fruits, which contain small seeds within. Though all the required ingredients to germinate the seeds like soil, water, air and light are available beneath the banyan tree, we do not see the appearance of new banyan saplings growing beneath the tree. Rather we can find that the saplings of the banyan trees are appearing on the edge of roofs, near houses, on top of walls, etc. The saplings are found to grow where the normal required ingredients for germination are largely absent. How is this possible that they are growing in places where the main ingredient, soil is absent? The reason is that when the fruits of the banyan tree are consumed by birds, these seeds become mixed with the saliva of the birds. When they are digested they are transformed and they are transferred to those remote locations in the stool of those birds. Thus those otherwise dormant seeds grow wonderfully even without the presence of soil which would normally be necessary for sucessful germination. The new saplings are even sometimes seen growing on stone.
Similarily, great Vaishnavs practice the teachings of the words of the sastras in their devotional lives. They digest those words in their hearts and mind and a transformation occurs through their bhajan. When the words of the shastra and bhajan realization are combined and presented in the form of speech eminating from the lotus-lips of a Vaishnav, the power of Bhakti Maharani is manifested and even a greatly fallen person is delivered from ignorance at once by hearing such katha.
Bhagavan Sri Kapil Dev has said that Hari-katha from the mouth of great saints acts like a medicine in the mind and heart of the jiva. It cures the disease and weakness of the mind and ears. An example of a disease of the ears is interest or ruchi in hearing mundane talks about wealth and property. Blaspheming others and having interest in hearing about ones own “glories” is another example. With such weaknesss of the ears one is not able to listen to Hari-katha for any length of time. Just as in the case of a weak patient who is unable to walk for a long period of time, he requires periodic rests during his walks. Likewise, if one is unable to listen to Hari-katha for a long period of time that is a sign of having a weakness of one’s ear.
By hearing Hari-katha from the lips of a Vaishnav, the disease of the ear will be cured. At that time one’s ears will not be interested in hearing talks about mundane wealth or material enjoyment. One can understand that their disease is cured if they could go on listenting to Hari-katha indefinitely. We have been speaking of the ears, but the same is true for the mind as well. The disease of the mind is enjoying thoughts of materialistic topics, and the symptom of its weakness is to be unable to think of Krishna. Hearing the glories of Krishna from the mouth of a Vaisnava will cure one’s mental diseases and strengthen the mind as well. That is why Brahmaji is telling, “san-mukaritaam” – hearing the excellences of Krishna and His devotees from the mouth of saints is understod as the easiest way to sustain their life.
Brahmaji has talked about hearing Hari-katha, but in which way should one hear Hari-katha? Is it dependent on the person who is about to hear Hari Katha? Is that person independent? In other words can he listen to Hari-katha according to his own will? Brahmaji is going to answer that now.
No! The person who wants to hear Hari-katha is not independent. The Goddess of Hari-katha is the controller of this and she is supremely independent. Thus the master of language, the speaker of the Veda, Brahma has used the term “shruti-gataam”. Hari-katha is supremely independent. If Hari-katha mercifully enters into the ears of devotee then he can hear it, otherwise not. Now a question may arise. How is this possible? If I sit near the Vaishnava while he is delivering Hari-katha, why can I not have access to this? Great saints are telling us, in spite of sitting in a place where Hari-katha is taking place, unless and until one receives the mercy of Hari-katha Devi he will still not be able to actually hear it. He would feel sleepy or his mind would wander and think about something else. Eventually the Hari-katha will be finished and he will not be able to taste even a single drop of it.
Then what is the remedy? The solution is that before coming to hear Hari-katha one should pray to Bhakti Maharani. “O! Hey! Goddess of Harikathai! O Bhakti Maharani! Please be merciful to me! Please manifest your presence in my ears!” This is the significance of the usage of term “shruti-gataam.”
In order to attain Hari-katha one should associate with Vaishnavs. Hari-katha is only available near the Vaishnav. Everyone has their own taste. Wealthy people relish talks about money, and the Vaishnav only talks about Krishna. One can find rotten meat where dogs live, while in a lion’s den one can expect to find elephant pearl, “gajamuktaa”, as after killing elephants lions will keep the elephant pearl in their own den. So, as one would find rotten talks of wealth near rich people, precious Hari-katha is only found near the Vaishnav.vaishnav sangete man, aanandita anukshan,
sadaa hoy krishna parasanga
deen narottama kaande, hiyaa dhairya naahi baandhe
mor dashaa keno hoilo bhanga

(17 Prarthana)

“Oh mind! In the association of the Vaishnavs you can constantly and blissfully discuss topics of Krishna! The fallen Narottam weeps: Alas! my heart has become impatient (because I am deprived of such association)! Why have I ended up in this condition?”

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