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Acyuta, Drive My Chariot

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by Patitoddharana dasa (ISKCON Edinburgh)

1973-01-55-17

“Acyuta, drive my chariot!” This was the command given by Arjuna, the great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna, unto Lord Krsna Himself on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. Lord Krsna, who was attracted to Arjuna’s attitude of pure love, was acting as the chariot driver of His devotee. Their conversation on the chariot has been recorded by the great sage Srila Vyasadeva, and it is still well known in many languages in many lands, for their talks comprise the verses of the scripture Bhagavad-gita.

Arjuna is addressing Lord Krsna in the 21st verse of the First Chapter as “Acyuta,” or “the infallible Lord.” The main point of understanding in this connection is that when Krsna sees His devotee surrender to Him without motivation, He becomes attracted to serve His devotee. Sometimes we have difficulty understanding certain apparently contradictory things about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For instance, the Isopanisad says that He is far away and He is very near as well. The Brahma-samhita says that although He is the oldest, He still appears as a fresh sixteen-year-old youth. Thus it is difficult for us to understand how the Supreme Lord of all living entities can act as the servant of His devotee, for it seems that the devotee should serve His master, Lord Krsna. However, for one who is a pure devotee such as Arjuna and who only wants to serve Krsna without self-motivation of any sort, Krsna is easily purchased. Indeed, Krsna becomes the servant of His devotee. In this understanding is found the confidential truth about devotional service.

Arjuna’s unmotivated desire to serve is rare in its purity. Mostly persons who have initial attraction for God would approach the Lord as their order supplier and request Him to send them wealth. The pure devotee, however, does not even desire to seek from the Lord the boon of liberation from material life. Thus by his service attitude, born of unalloyed love, the devotee wins the highest benediction and remains free of material contamination in much the same way as a lotus, although apparently resting on the water, remains untouched by it. Krsna derives much pleasure in serving such a surrendered soul as Arjuna.

Lord Sri Krsna, desiring to deliver the fallen conditioned souls, appeared 500 years ago in Navadvipa, India, as Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. From His pastimes as Caitanya Mahaprabhu there is much to be learned, for His entire mission was to teach the rarest gift, that of pure, unadulterated love of God. Lord Caitanya would walk through jungles, towns and villages, enchanting the countryside with His singing of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. One day, as He was traveling, He came across a poor brahmana who was looking over a copy of Bhagavad-gita. The brahmana was not a puffed up erudite scholar but a simple and pure devotee. He was holding his copy of Bhagavad-gita in a very loving and gentle way. On the cover was a picture of Krsna driving the chariot of His devotee Arjuna. Tears of love flowed forth from the lotus eyes of the devotee, and a joyous smile adorned his lips. The Lord asked His devotee, “Why are you crying, O brahmana?” The devotee replied, “My spiritual master has asked me to read all the chapters of Bhagavad-gita each day. But the difficulty is that I do not know how to read. Thus I am simply turning the pages, but when I think how kind Krsna is for consenting to drive the chariot of Arjuna, I am moved to cry in this way.”

Lord Caitanya felt the ecstasy of devotional pleasure on hearing the purified feeling expressed by His devotee. He exclaimed, “You are the one who is truly learned in the real message of Bhagavad-gita!” With these words, the Lord embraced the brahmana to His breast, and the brahmana’s good fortune was unbounded. The brahmana had simply appreciated Lord Krsna’s causeless mercy upon His pure devotee Arjuna, and for doing so he received the highest of benedictions, the Lord’s loving embrace, for Krsna is attracted by pure devotional service. As the brahmana understood Krsna’s attraction to drive the chariot of His devotee Arjuna, let us also try to understand it.

Sometimes the class of men whom we refer to as “impersonalists” or “Mayavadis” make the mistake of trying to become the Supreme Lord Himself. They have invented the idea that by somehow or other “merging” themselves with God they can suddenly acquire all the opulence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is the controller of both the spiritual and material worlds. Krsna, who is the actual knower of all things, is not particularly pleased with men who simply try to usurp His exalted position. Such men are jealous of the Lord, and their goal of merging into the Lord’s bodily effulgence is the same as the goal of the enemies of God, the demons, who, foolishly enough, face the Lord in battle and are consequently vanquished by Him. The impersonalists think that simply by merging they will receive the highest glories, but actually Krsna is more pleased with His surrendered devotee, whose position is that of a most humble servant. It is to him that the highest benedictions actually go.

For the present age Lord Caitanya has recommended the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and He has declared that humility is a prerequisite qualification for uttering the holy name. He said in His Siksastaka: “One can chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking himself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” Therefore, the humble man who actually aspires after the Lord’s grace will add this chanting process to his life in a humble and sincere way, and thereby by purified chanting, he will become the actual attractor of Krsna.

THE REAL SCHOLAR OF BHAGAVAD-GITA in the ecstasy of devotion, Lord Caitanya embraced the pure-hearted brahmana who had appreciated Krsna's mercy.

THE REAL SCHOLAR OF BHAGAVAD-GITA in the ecstasy of devotion, Lord Caitanya embraced the pure-hearted brahmana who had appreciated Krsna’s mercy.

Service to the Lord is actually the constitutional eternal engagement of the living entity. The Lord is complete in Himself, yet because He desires to enjoy and share in relationships of countless unique varieties, He has expanded Himself into the living entities. Without His expansions He would not be complete. The conception of “Lord” is not complete if there is no one to overlord. Therefore His completeness is found in His being both infinite and infinitesimal. He has given each soul the choice of serving Him or serving one’s own self apart from Him. If there were no question of choice, there would be no question of love. He is most pleased, therefore, when a living entity turns to serve Him. It is just as if a rich landowner were offered a small cracker by His child at the dinner table. Even though the offering is insignificant in comparison to the father’s great wealth, he is not concerned with its meager material value. He is concerned with the loving sentiment with which the offering is made. One of the Lord’s names is Ajita, or “the unconquerable.”

Many demons attacked Lord Krsna while He was on this planet, but they all failed and were subsequently conquered by His strong arms and superior prowess. For the devotee, however, who is pure in thought, word and deed, Ajita, the unconquerable, becomes jita, or conquered. The devotee, blessed by Krsna, is the most happy of all persons.

One mustn’t think that Krsna requires the devotee to serve for any length of time before the benediction of pure devotional service is awarded to him. Surrender to Krsna may take only a moment if the devotee so desires. This is exemplified in the life of Bali Maharaja, who had accepted a spiritual master who was unqualified due to his desires for personal aggrandizement. Bali’s master, Sukracarya, guided him to conquer the celestial kingdom of Indra. As Bali did this, the rightful proprietors of the heavenly kingdoms, the demigods headed by Indra, were all chased away. The vanquished demigods, however, were all devotees of the Lord; hence they prayed that He return them to their posts so that they could continue their service of universal administration. In order to answer the prayers of His devotees, the all-auspicious Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna incarnated Himself as Vamanadeva, a beautifully effulgent brahmana boy who was no larger than a dwarf. He is often simply called the dwarf incarnation. He proceeded at once to the kingdom of Bali Maharaja, which rightfully belonged to the demigods.

When Vamana arrived, Bali Maharaja was most attracted to His extreme beauty. Especially noticeable was Vamana’s glowing effulgence. Sukracarya, Bali’s spiritual master, recognized that this dwarflike brahmana must be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, knowing that a brahmana approaches the rich for the purpose of begging something from them, he declared to Bali, “Don’t give this boy anything!”

Bali, on the other hand, wanting to offer something, ran forward to the brahmana boy out of spontaneous attraction, declaring that whatever He wanted He could have. Bali was ready to surrender everything, but Lord Vamanadeva declared that since He Himself was a brahmana, He needed only enough land upon which to sleep. A brahmana is very humble in his material needs. Therefore, Lord Vamanadeva requested of him, “Please give Me three steps of land.”

“Is that all You want?” Bali asked.

“Please ask for whatever You would like.”

Vamanadeva said, “Three steps of land will be enough.”

INCONCEIVABLE POTENCY expanding to gigantic size, Lord Vamanadeva covered the entire universe in two steps.

INCONCEIVABLE POTENCY expanding to gigantic size, Lord Vamanadeva covered the entire universe in two steps.

With that, the Lord took His first step. He expanded Himself into gigantic size with His inconceivable potency, and His first step covered the entire lower and middle planetary systems. Then, expanding to universal size, He took His second step, and with this step the Lord covered the entire heavenly planetary system. He said to Bali Maharaja, “Now I have covered the entire universe in two steps. You promised to give Me three steps. Where can I put My third?”

Bali Maharaja realized that the inconceivable Lord, the Personality of Godhead, had come to take from him his ill-gotten gains. He surrendered unto the Lord and said, “You may put Your third step on my head, my Lord.” The Lord was pleased with Bali’s surrender, and placing His lotus foot on Bali’s head, He benedicted him with pure devotional service. That is the Lord’s kindness. Krsna was pleased with Bali’s offering of everything he could give, including his own self. If one rejects all his past nonsense and surrenders unto Him fully, that is called pure devotion. Bali Maharaja, in his surrender, rejected an unqualified spiritual master who was interested only in greedy motivations. For this, Bali Maharaja is called a mahajana, or great devotee of the Lord. There are twelve such mahajanas who are accepted as great authorities of the Krsna consciousness devotional process.

Lord Vamana, in order to further bless His mahajana devotee, gave him a kingdom in the lower regions of the universe. The Lord is so kind to His pure devotee Bali Maharaja that there, on the planet of Bali Maharaja, He acts as his personal doorman. Whenever someone comes to see the mahajana Bali, the Lord in His four-armed form is there to greet the guest. That is Krsna’s love for His pure devotee who took only a second to surrender. Krsna does not mind offering service to His pure devotee Bali as a doorman any more than He minds offering to drive the chariot of Arjuna, for the Lord is the servant of His servant. He is attracted by the loving attitude of His devotee.

Lord Krsna enjoys with all His blissful devotees in unending relationships (rasas). Sometimes Krsna, who is the slayer of gigantic and fierce demons such as Kamsa, Hiranyakasipu and Ravana. allows His cowherd boy friends to conquer Him in play fighting while they sport as children in Vrndavana, India. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears, He manifests all the pastimes of an ordinary person. Therefore, He accepts a mother, and He displays His pastime of growing up. But Krsna never gets old. Nor does He have to meditate to “become God.” He is God on the lap of His mother or playing with His friends. He is eternally the supermost person, the one without a second. In sporting with His friends, Lord Krsna plays blissfully with His pure devotees. These are souls who have acted with the desire only to serve Him for thousands of births. By His mystic potency the Supreme Lord has allowed these boys to forget that He is God in playing with Him. They simply think of Him as their most wonderful friend. To add to their joy, He allows these boys to defeat Him in their wrestling matches. He carries His triumphant playmate Sridama on His shoulders, and in that way they play together through the Bhandhiravana Forest. Here again the unconquerable becomes conquered, through pure devotional love.

Lord Krsna is not only the supreme servant of His pure devotees who find never-ending bliss in their relationship of transcendental reciprocation, but He is the supreme servant of everyone. Everyone accepts the beautiful gifts that Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is giving us, such as the sunshine, the rain, the natural beauty of the countryside, the fragrance of a flower, the service of the farm animals, the milk of the cow, and many others, but the pure devotee glorifies the Lord by offering these things to Him in love. The pure devotee wants only to give transcendental pleasure to the spiritual senses of Krsna. Thus by his offerings the devotee glorifies the Lord, but even if one does not make any offering to the Lord, the Lord is so magnanimous that He continues to serve the living entity’s needs in every way. The insignificant ant gets his lone grain of rice each day, and the elephant gets his hundred pounds of hay.

It is simply out of ignorance that the atheistic man thinks that there is scarcity and that abundance can be the result of his work alone. By the so called progressive work of the modern demonic civilization, millions of people have unnecessarily suffered physically and psychologically from the influences of over-industrialization and resultant social degeneration and conflict. The Vedic system, however, is one of simplicity in which a man can live happily with his wife, perform his occupational duty and remain happy serving the Lord with the gifts that He provides. His most valuable asset, his breath, he also offers to God, simply by singing His name, chanting Hare Krsna. Thus the devotee uses Krsna’s energy to please Krsna in pure devotional service.

Clumsy modern man, in his ignorance of Krsna’s devotional service, tries to compete with the Lord. But although he may create a plastic flower or fruit, no man can create a real fruit or flower as the Lord can. A man considers himself powerful if he can create many machines, but no one can create a machine that can duplicate itself long after the original inventor has gone away, although the bodies of humans, aquatics, plants and the other species of life created by the Lord can do this without difficulty. Only the devotee of the Lord, with his clear vision, sees properly that these wondrous manifestations of nature are actually the perfect creations of Godhead. Thus he never competes with Krsna, and Krsna loves him for his service attitude.

Despite the arrogance of modern speculators who try to deny the glories of the Supreme Lord by theorizing that “in the beginning there was a chunk,” the Lord undauntedly provides for all his sons equally, even if some of them are rascals. The Lord is forbearing, like the earth, which yields its fruits equally for everyone. No one is denied. The pure devotee, always absorbed in trance by blissfully singing the names of God, uses these elements of nature in the consciousness of a servant, like one who borrows a car from a friend to do his friend an errand. The devotee walks through this world and uses everything here, but in the consciousness that Krsna is both the provider and proprietor. Thus the devotee quickly goes back to Godhead, whereas the demon must revolve through the cycle of millions of births and deaths until he turns his attention to God and becomes His devotee also. As a good father is the supreme servant of his family, so the Supreme Father, the Personality of Godhead, is ever waiting for us, His long lost sons, to turn to Him. Krsna is equal to everyone, but just as a mother turns her favor to the child who calls for her, so Krsna is especially fond of His devotee who chants Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Once Narada Muni, the great devotee whose eternal mission is to serve Krsna by spreading the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, came to visit Lord Krsna when the Lord was in His role as a king. Despite His regal opulence, Lord Krsna bowed down His head and offered Narada a seat on His royal throne. Because he knew that it was Krsna’s desire to thus teach the world how to respect a saintly person, Narada accepted the service. But this was only to teach us. Narada or any pure devotee never makes the mistake of trying to make the Supreme Lord serve him. The pure devotee’s only joy, his only relish, is to use every quickly fleeting moment of his life in serving Krsna. He never asks for a moment that Krsna serve him. When Krsna sees His loving servant engaged in this selfless way, He Himself becomes attracted, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes the servant of His devotee. That is real love; that is Krsna consciousness.

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