How we should be progressive in our understanding of the Deity.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

In Manipur some one hundred years ago, there were Vaisnavites who were disciples of Srila Narottam Thakur. The king was as well. A general named Mr Tikendrajit wanted to overthrow the influence of the British there, and he used  the compound of the Radha-Govinda Temple for his war materials. Somehow, the British military picked up the scent, and a captain or some military officer was sent to find out the truth behind the rumour. The king did not allow him to enter the Temple compound because he was a mlechchha, but he entered forcibly. General Tikendrajit murdered him at once. Then, a military force was sent to capture the whole state, and a special instruction was given that the Temple compound be demolished because it had been utilised for a political purpose. And so it was demolished. By the force of cannon fire, the whole Temple and the Deities inside it also were smashed and destroyed.

Our Guru Maharaj explained this. How could it be? People say the Deities there were worshipped by the disciples of Srila Narottam Thakur. Did the Deities not have the power to protect Themselves? Did Krishna not have the power to protect Himself? Were the Deities just idols, dolls? What is this? Prabhupad explained that without the will of Krishna, nothing can be done. Nothing, not even the straw, can move without the will of Krushna. So, has such a great disaster occurred by the will of Krishna? Was it the will of Krishna that His worshippable figure be demolished by the shot of a cannon? Prabhupad said yes. And why? He explained that we say in general that the spiritual truth comes down in the form of the Deity to this mundane world and our plane of experience to help us, but that form is not the same as wholesale spiritual existence. So, to do away with our wrong conception that Krishna is what we see here to be the Deity, to demolish that wrong idea, this was done by Krishna’s will. Do you follow?

archye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhir
visnor va vaisnavanam kali-mala-mathane pada-tirthe ’mbu-buddhih
sri-visnor-namni-mantre sakala-kalusa-he sabda-samanya-buddhir
visnau sarvesvarese tad-itara-sama-dhir yasya va naraki sah
(Padma-purana)

We really are pilgrims on the way to hell if we know only superficial things, if we think that what we see as stone is really Krishna, if we think Krishna is limited there. To do away with such misconception, Krishna takes such a bold step. He is saying, “I am not this sense-conceived, eye-conceived, piece of stone. I am something more.” So, what was given by Him to elevate you from the lowest position to a somewhat higher one is demolished by Him to give you an even higher position.

Consider the national flag. It represents the honour of the nation. If the flag is captured by the enemy party and trodden under foot, then of course the nation’s honour is demolished, but still we have to think that the nation is still there. The honour of freedom is related to that flag, but even if the flag is torn to pieces, bruised under foot, or burned to ashes, the prospect of future independence is still there. Again some one may come and conquer the enemy. So, only a partial relation is there between freedom and the flag. The honour of freedom for a country is identified with the national flag, but still it is not that the national flag represents the whole of the country’s freedom. Similarly, the Deity is necessary, but with that you must try to go further. That is, a symbol is given to you, and you are encouraged to see that as He Himself and not otherwise, but He Himself is not what you conceive through your senses. You have to differentiate between them. So, progress always means elimination and acceptance. And here Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur says, “We must be free. We must always be unprejudiced to accept truth. This is expected for us to understand the revealed truth.”

Source

Spoken on 30 March 1983.

References

archye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhir
visnor va vaisnavanam kali-mala-mathane pada-tirthe ’mbu-buddhih
sri-visnor-namni-mantre sakala-kalusa-he sabda-samanya-buddhir
visnau sarvesvarese tad-itara-sama-dhir yasya va naraki sah
(Padma-purana)

“Those who consider the Deity of Visnu to be stone, Sri Guru to be a man, a Vaisnava to be a member of a particular caste, the wash from the feet of Visnu or the Vaisnava, which destroys the contamination of Kali, to be water, the Name of Visnu and mantras for worshipping Him, which destroy all contamination, to be ordinary words, or Visnu the Lord of all lords to be equal to others are doomed.”

Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj is the foremost modern exponent of the conception of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the school of Srila Rupa Goswami. Subtle and profound yet vivid and practical, his representation of both the broadest and deepest spiritual truths has and continues to fortify and nurture the faith of spiritual aspirants the world over. For more information on Srila Sridhar Maharaj, please visit his biography page.

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