Lord Caitanya on Renunciation, Part 3
BY: SUN STAFF
Sri Caitanya Shaves before Taking Sannyasa
Jan 15, 2011 CANADA (SUN) An exploration of Sri Caitanya's instructions on renunciation and austerities.
Continuing with our discussion of asat-sanga-tyaga, the renunciation of association with non-devotees, Lord Caitanya instructs that those who are asat, materially attached, are to be avoided. By getting the association of those who are spiritually interested, we can make progress. By keeping company with persons who are materially interested, we cannot make progress. As stated in Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 12.51, "One can avoid such association simply by always remembering Krsna within his heart."
Of course, "simply remembering Krsna" is not such an easy thing. Srila Prabhupada also instructs his followers to stay in the spiritual society he created for us in order to get shelter from bad association.
"Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He was asked by one devotee, grhastha devotee, householder, "Sir, what is the duty of a grhastha devotee, Vaisnava?" Devotee means Vaisnava. So He immediately informed him, asat-sanga-tyaga ei vaisnava-acara: "A Vaisnava's behavior should be that he should give up the company of asat, nondevotee." That is his first business. He should give up the company of nondevotee. This is first business. Because he will be infected. Therefore we insist our students that "Don't go out." Even you are discomfortable, you should tolerate, but you should not go out of the society. Then you will surely fall down, surely fall down. So if there is inconvenience, little... That is advised in Bhagavad-gita, matra-sparsas tu kaunteya sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah. These, just like extreme cold or extreme heat, they are troublesome to the body, matra-sparsah. On account of this material body, we feel extreme cold, extreme heat. But Krsna says, "They come and go." It is not that winter season will remain forever or the summer season also remain. They will come and go. If it is intolerable, please tolerate, please tolerate. Then it will be all right. I have repeatedly said... Narottama dasa Thakura, tandera carana-sevi-bhakta-sane vasa. Why we have opened this society? I could have initiated, and let him remain at his home. No. The society required. So by association we become good or bad. If you associate with goodness, then you acquire goodness quality, and if you associate with bad, passionate, ignorant, then you get that quality."
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.34, Los Angeles, December 12, 1973)
Taking shelter of the association of godbrothers and godsisters within Srila Prabhupada's society, we are instructed to get the association of sadhu, rejecting the asat in favor of sadhu-sanga.
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised, sadhu-sanga sadhu-sanga sarva-sastre kaya. In all the sastras they advise that to associate with the sadhu. Tyaja durjana-samsargam bhaja sadhu-samagamam."
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.21, Bombay, November 21, 1974)
"First of all one must get a little faith and then associate with the devotees. Adau sraddha tato sadhu-sangah atha bhajana-kriya. Then, by associating with the devotees, we learn that "These devotees are worshiping the Deity, they are chanting Hare Krsna mantra, and they are eating prasadam, and they are very happy. So why not engage me also in this way?" So therefore gradually they come and offer, "Now, sir, I shall join, and initiate me." In this way we are doing."
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.1, Melbourne, May 21, 1975)
In his purport to Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 19.157, Srila Prabhupada explains the grave importance of avoiding association with non-devotees. He explains that one should not only seek the association of sadhu in the form of devotees who take shelter of the Spiritual Master's society, but one must also be protected by the company of pure devotees. In the case of the ISKCON society, of course, that protection comes in the person of Srila Prabhupada himself, a most exalted pure devotee.
"While the bhakti creeper is growing, the devotee must protect it by fencing it all around. The neophyte devotee must be protected by being surrounded by pure devotees. In this way he will not give the maddened elephant a chance to uproot his bhakti creeper. When one associates with nondevotees, the maddened elephant is set loose. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said, asat-sanga-tyaga, -- ei vaisnava-acara. The first business of a Vaisnava is to give up the company of nondevotees."
Srila Prabhupada goes on to explain in his purport that this instruction of Sri Caitanya's, asat-sanga-tyaga also applies to more advanced devotees who have gotten the association of pure devotees, then abandoned it:
"A so-called mature devotee, however, commits a great offense by giving up the company of pure devotees. The human being is a social animal, and if one gives up the society of pure devotees, he must associate with nondevotees (asat-sanga). By contacting nondevotees and engaging in nondevotional activities, a so-called mature devotee will fall victim to the mad elephant offense. Whatever growth has taken place is quickly uprooted by such an offense. One should therefore be very careful to defend the creeper by fencing it in -- that is, by following the regulative principles and associating with pure devotees."
In the remainder of the purport, Srila Prabhupada explains how one should approach the situation if the spiritual society has become populated with pseudo-devotees or non-devotees. We will offer some editorial commentary on how the principle of asat-sanga-tyaga currently applies to ISKCON, when the series resumes next week.
Even those devotees who are fortunate enough to have shelter of the Spiritual Master's society by living in the temple asrama will still have to deal with the problem of associating with non-devotees in order to preach to them. Srila Prabhupada has explained in detail how Lord Caitanya's instructions on asat-sanga-tyaga are to be understood and practiced in this regard:
"We have established this Krsna consciousness society--means that to avoid the asat-sanga, to avoid the... Of course, we are preaching Krsna consciousness amongst the people who are interested in material subject matter. But we are not associating with them. We are associating with Krsna, because we don't talk anything except Krsna. We are not interested with their business. Everyone is interested with his own business. Similarly, we are interested with our own business, Krsna consciousness business. Even if we go to a materialistic person, we canvass, "Kindly become our member. Kindly read this book. Purchase this book," so we are not going to take their activities. We are trying to bring them in our activities.
So asat-sanga-tyaga, vaisnava-acara. The Vaisnava, he should be always careful not to intermingle, means not to take up their ideas and thoughts. No. That is vaisnava-acara."
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.25, Bombay, November 25, 1974)
"Associate does not mean to talk with a nondevotee is association. No. That we have to do. As gentlemen, as devotee, we can. But not intimately. Associate means dadati pratigrhnati bhunkte bhojayate caiva, guhyam akhyati prcchati ca. These are intimate relationship, dealing: giving something to your friend, accepting something from your friend, feeding your friend, accept food from him, and disclose your mind to your friend, and understand his mind."
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.28, Vrndavana, November 15, 1976)
There are numerous examples wherein Lord Caitanya demonstrated the principle of asat-sanga-tyaga by refusing to engage in the six intimate activities described above, e.g., refusing to accept foodstuffs from non-devotees. We will discuss these examples in a future segment, and how the regulative principles and rules for honouring prasadam are illustrative of the asat-sanga-tyaga principle.
As for how we are to avoid asat association while at the same time preaching to non-devotees, Srila Prabhupada provided this no-nonsense answer:
"There is no difficulty to distinguish between rascals and intelligent, guru and bluffer. Everything is there. And to become a perfect Vaisnava, Caitanya Mahaprabhu said asat-sanga tyaga ei vaisnava. Don't talk even with these rascals. But sometimes in the preaching work we have to talk with such rascals, but not to take their theory but to teach them our theory. If you become defeated by their theory, then you are not a preacher. Don't preach, chant Hare Krsna. You are not fit for teaching. If you become overcome by their teaching, then you are finished. A preacher is madhyama-adhikari, advanced devotee. He can preach. Kanistha-adhikari should be engaged in temple worship, very nicely, then gradually he'll come to the madhyama-adhikari. So the preacher is madhyama-adhikari. A kanistha-adhikari cannot become preacher. He is in the lowest stage of devotional service; he cannot become preacher. He'll be conquered by the asat. And madhyama-adhikari, he knows how to deal with asat. At least he does not mix with them. That's all. If he cannot defeat them, he should avoid them, because that valuable time can be utilized for preaching Krsna consciousness to a person who is inquisitive to hear."
(Garden Conversation, June 27, 1976, New Vrindaban)
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