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Why do Devotees have a Negative Outlook?

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The editors of Back to Godhead welcome correspondence pertaining to the subject matter of Krsna consciousness. All letters will be personally replied, and correspondence of special interest will be published regularly.

Your Grace:

K-Mart; San Fernando.

Please accept this letter with Love. We have talked with two of your boys at different times. Both had a very negative outlook towards the people they meet.

Do not believe this is in any way as it should be.

These boys happen to represent God. This comes from within. Their outlook must have mercy. We realize this; therefore handpick these little peaces [sic] of heaven to place in the middle of these people. Or else it will defeat your purpose.

Love Is. Let it be as it is; with Love or not at all.

My prayers be with you… and I beg yours with me.

Yours in God, Blessed Be, Lynne Ludwig

My dear Lynne Ludwig,

Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter from California, and I have noted the contents carefully, although due to extensively traveling and preaching in a tour in India I have not had the opportunity to reply to you at length until now. Your complaint is that you have met two of my young disciples in California and they appeared to you to have “a very negative outlook toward the people they meet.” Of course, I do not know the case and what the circumstances are, but kindly forgive my beloved disciples for any unkindness or indiscretion on their part. After all, to give up one’s life completely for serving the Lord is not an easy thing, and maya, or the illusory, material energy, tries especially hard to again entrap those who have left her service to become devotees. Therefore, in order to withstand the attack of maya and remain strong under all conditions of temptation, young or inexperienced devotees in the neophyte stage of devotional service will sometimes adopt an attitude against those things or persons which may possibly be harmful or threatening to their tender devotional creepers. They may even overindulge in such feelings just to protect themselves, and thus they will appear to some nondevotees, who are perhaps themselves still very much enamored by the material energy of maya, to be negative or pessimistic.

But the actual fact is that this material world is a miserable, negative place, full of danger at every step; it is duhkhalayam asasvatam [Bg. 8.15], a temporary abode of death, birth, disease, and old age, a home of suffering and pain only. To come to the platform of understanding these things as they are is not very common, and therefore persons who attain to it are described as “great souls.”

mam upetya punar janma
duhkhalayam asasvatam
napnuvanti mahatmanah
samsiddhim paramam gatah
[Bg. 8.15]

This means that those who have understood that the material worlds are places of misery and temporariness (duhkhalayam asasvatam) [Bg. 8.15]) never return here again, and because they are mahatmanah, the great souls, Krsna keeps them with Him because they have qualified themselves to escape this nasty place by becoming His pure devotees. This verse is spoken by Krsna, or God Himself, in the Bhagavad-gita (8.15). Who can be a more final authority? The point is that to make advancement in spiritual life, one must view everything material with a pessimistic eye unless it is utilized to serve and please Krsna. We are not very much hopeful for any lasting pleasure or satisfaction for our deepest cravings within this realm of gross matter.

You refer to the word “love” several times in your letter, but the actual fact is that there is no love in this material world. That is false propaganda. What they call love here is lust only, or desire for personal sense gratification:

kama esa krodha esa
rajo-guna-samudbhavah
mahasano maha-papma
viddhy enam iha vairinam

Krsna tells Arjuna, His disciple, that “It is lust only… which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bg. 3.37) In the Vedic language there is no word for materialistic “love,” as we call it in the present day. The word kama describes lust or material desire, not love, but the word that we find in the Vedas for actual love is prema, meaning one’s love of God only. Outside of loving God there is no possibility of loving. Rather, there is lusty desire only. Within this atmosphere of matter, the entire range of human activities—and not only every activity of human beings but all living entities—is based upon, given impetus and thus polluted by sex desire, the attraction between male and female. For that sex life, the whole universe is spinning around—and suffering! That is the harsh truth. So-called love here means that “you gratify my senses, I’ll gratify your senses,” and as soon as that gratification stops, immediately there is divorce, separation, quarrel, and hatred. So many things are going on under this false conception of love. Actual love means love of God, Krsna.

Everyone wants to repose his loving tendency in some object which is in his opinion worthy. But the question is one of ignorance only, because people have a poor fund of knowledge about where to find that supreme lovable object who is actually worthy to accept and reciprocate their love. People simply do not know. There is no proper information. As soon as you have some attachment for anything material, it will kick you upon the face, deteriorate, and disappoint you. It’s bound to dissatisfy and frustrate you. That’s a fact. But these young boys in your country, and all over the world, are accepting, “Yes, that is a fact,” and they are getting the right information from Krsna:

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bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually wise surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Bg. 7.19) Again Krsna uses that word mahatma, great soul. Therefore our devotees that you have met are not ordinary boys and girls. No. They are to be considered actually wise, great souls because they have experienced in many births the miserable disease of material life and have become disgusted. Therefore they are seeking higher knowledge—they are seeking something better—and when they find Krsna and surrender unto Him, they become mahatmas, who are actually situated in knowledge. This material world is just like a prison house; it is a punishing place meant to bring us to that point of becoming disgusted, surrendering at last to Krsna, and going back to our original nature of eternal life in bliss and complete knowledge. Therefore it is to the credit of these devotees that they have done what is sudurlabhah, very rare among all men in human society.

By surrendering to Krsna one will find the final object in which to invest his love: God. Love of God is present in everyone, just like fire in an unlit match, but it is covered over. But if one somehow or other develops his dormant love of God, and Krsna becomes his supreme adorable object, supreme friend, supreme master, or supreme lover, than he shall never again become disappointed or unhappy. Rather, because his loving propensity is rightfully placed:

mac-citta mad-gata-prana
bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca
(Bg. 10.9)

I he devotee whose life is surrendered to Krsna is always enjoying “great satisfaction and bliss,” and he is constantly enlightened, always positive, not negative, as you say. The advanced devotee is the friend of everyone. The yoga-yukto visuddhatma, purified soul engaged in loving devotional service to Krsna, is sarva-bhutatma-bhutatma, dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. In another place Krsna claims that yo mad-bhaktah sa me priyah, His devotee, who is very dear to Him, advesta sarva-bhutanam maitrah karuna eva ca, is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities. The devotee is supposed to be, furthermore, equal to everyone (panditah sama-darsinah [Bg. 5.18]). He never discriminates, saying, “This one is good, this one is bad.” No.

These are descriptions of the more advanced stages of Krsna consciousness that devotees get by development of mature knowledge. At present many of our students are young boys. They are learning gradually, and the process is so effective, certain, and authorized that if they stick to it they will come to the right point, as you say, of loving. But that love is not material, so it should not be judged on the false, sentimental platform of ordinary, mundane dealings. That is our point. Therefore to say they are not loving may be true from the materialists’ point of view. They have given up affection for family, friends, wife, country, race, and so on, which is all based upon the bodily concept of life, or flickering sense gratification. They have become a little detached from maya’s love, or lust, and they want Krsna’s love, or endless, fully rewarding love, but they have not yet developed to that point, that’s all. We cannot expect that all of a sudden your countrymen, who are addicted to so many bad habits, will give up eating flesh, taking intoxicants, having illicit sex life, and so many other nasty things, and overnight become great, self-realized souls. That is not possible. That is utopian. But just being initiated as Krsna’s devotee puts one in the topmost category of human society. Sa buddhiman manusyesu sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt: [Bg. 4.18] “He is intelligent in human society. He is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” And although such a devotee may not yet have advanced to the highest level of spiritual understanding, still he is to be considered the most exalted personality, regardless of any temporary frailties.

api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah

“Even if a devotee commits the most abominable actions, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Bg. 9.30) As you will say, “To err is human.” Therefore in the neophyte stage we may always expect some discrepancies. Kindly see the thing in this light and forgive their small mistakes. The big thing is that they have given everything, even their lives, to Krsna—and that is never a mistake.

Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Most Worshipable Srila Prabhupada, Please, accept my most humble obeisances. It has been more than two months since Janmastami, and I am still cherishing the vision of your lotus face while seeing you off at Pittsburgh Airport. After hearing you for six days and seeing you every day, my ears and eyes have become lusty. The ears do not want to hear anything but your transcendental voice, and the eyes do not want to see anything but your lotus face. I have been living in the Chicago temple since Janmastami. Every day I keep looking at your picture on the vyasasana, thinking that some day you will speak. It hasn’t happened yet, and having become impatient, I decided to write to you so that you can hear me more distinctly.

All my desires to work as an engineer seem to have dwindled by seeing your lotus face in New Vrndavana. I am enjoying the nectar of devotion more and more every day. I have been going on sainkirtana every day for an average of six to eight hours (sometimes even fifteen) ever since I have been in this temple. I love to go out on sankirtana and distribute your books, and Krsna is rewarding me with unexpected pleasure.

Every day I am realizing more and more the magnanimity and potency of your sankirtana movement, which is giving me the strength to resist the attack of this dense forest of the material world with its wild animals, the karmis (materialists). The people in general are taking one major step every day towards degradation. I cannot understand their royal march towards hell, even though I would have been one of them had you not picked me up from this holocaust. This is more true with Indians than anybody else, especially those present in this country. They do not know anything about Vedic philosophy. They do not have any religion but Carvaka’s “eat, drink and be merry.” Varnasrama-dharma is existing only in a skeleton form. The brahmana class has become almost extinct. The society is a headless body. How can there be any peace and prosperity when they do not know what peace and prosperity mean? How can there be brotherhood when they do not know who their father is? How can there be Rama-rajya [the kingdom of God] without Rama [God] ?

Amidst all the hypocrisy, quarrel, chaos and disarray, you have come forward with this nectar of Bhagavata-dharma—the function of soul. Only very fortunate people—those who are picked up by the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna Himself—can taste this nectar, as confirmed in the Gita:

bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Bg. 7.19) This sankirtana yajna is undoubtedly the highest of all yajnas [sacrifices], and anybody, whether a brahmana or sudra or even worse, pure or impure, can take part and get the highest benediction—bhakti unto Adhoksaja, Sri Krsna. Out of causeless mercy, you have planted these seeds in our hearts and chosen us to go all over the whole world and plant the seeds of devotion in everyone’s heart. Only through your transcendental mercy can one approach Ajita, Krsna. Krsna has given you all powers to purify anybody. The Bhagavatam confirms this:

yat pada-samsrayah suta
munayah prasamayanah
sadyah punanty upasprstah
svar-dhunyapo ‘nusevaya

“O Suta, those great sages who have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord can at once sanctify those who come in touch with them, whereas the waters of the Ganges can sanctify only after prolonged use.” (Bhag. 1.1.15)

One of the most important and attractive things about you is that you started this movement after being on the brahma-bhuta [self-realized] platform, on which one does not have to perform any duties and has already realized the Absolute Truth. Every word in Bhagavad-gita As It Is and the Bhagavatam volumes is a proof of this fact. Only a fool can read Bhagavad-gita As It Is and not understand that you are an absolutely realized soul. (A nice Indian friend of mine has already read your Gita twenty-five times.) Your purports in Bhagavatam are so powerful and honest that sometimes I simply cannot take so much mercy and cry in ecstasy. Bhagavatam, the most ripened fruit of the Vedic tree, is naturally very beautiful and is made sweeter by Suka, its speaker. Your final touch in the form of purports has made it unbearably beautiful.

I was so stupid and dumb. Although born in a pious brahmana family and brought up nicely, I went off the track and was living like a dvija-bandhu [degraded brahmana]. Somehow or other Krsna gave me the intelligence to realize that Your Divine Grace is my only hope, and I surrendered to you wholeheartedly. Ever since then, there is always bliss in my life. The emptiness and vacant mood that I was feeling before have been replaced by enthusiasm and satisfaction. In you I have seen a wonderful lake with cool water in the midst of a plain desert. You have given me both jnana [knowledge] and vijnana [realization]. You have given me the vision that vasudevah sarvam iti [Krsna is everything], knowing which I do not have to know anything else. I have no qualifications whatsoever, but because I have accepted you as my master and guide, and whatever I know comes from you, I am sure of success, even with al I my imperfections and defects.

api ced asi papebhyah
sarvebhyah papa-krttamah
sarvam jnana-plavenaiva
vrjinam santarisyasi

“Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.” (Bg. 4.36)

My attachment for you is not at all sentimental. Until now, my definition of love was in terms of superficial material relationships with parents, family and friends. Now, since I have developed feelings for you, I am beginning to realize what love is like and how perfect and blissful a loving relationship can be. From time immemorial I have been rotting in this hell, and of trillions and trillions of living entities, how fortunate I am to be born at the same time that you have appeared and to be accepted by you as your spiritual son. You are not an ordinary saint or sage. You can very easily be considered as influential as Christ, Mohammed or Sankaracarya, and yet they did not preach the complete transcendental truth or Bhagavata-dharma. Like the twelve mahajanas, you are a maha-bhagavata [fully realized devotee] who has influenced this whole age. All Vaisnavas for all time must pay you their obeisances. Oh, Prabhupada, may I lose my legs, may my hands be cut off, may I lose the sight of my eyes and my ability to speak, but may I never lose the shelter of your lotus feet. I do not know if I can develop love for Krsna in this life, but if I can develop love for you, that will be enough.

Anyone who comes in contact with you directly or indirectly will be benefited. The best way one can come in contact with you is through your books. If the degraded and misguided Indians can read your books, they may understand the real purpose of Bhagavatam instead of being brainwashed by professional reciters. There are hundreds of misleading Gita commentaries. The foolish impersonalists and dangerous cheaters have turned people to near atheism. There is no systematic teaching of Bhagavad-gita nowadays. My teachers taught me about the French revolution and American revolution, but they never mentioned Bhagavad-gita in school. Hence I very sincerely believe that they should read your books. I am wondering if I can translate your books into Gujarati. Gujaratis seem to me to be comparatively a little more God conscious than others, and materially they are happier too. If they can read your books, they may become fortunate enough to recognize you. I would very much like to know your opinion about this and would like to be advised as to how I can start it, if you approve it. I am not an expert linguist, but I was a good language student in high school, and your language is fairly simple and straightforward. Hence it would not be difficult to translate them. Also, I was a very good Sanskrit student in high school, although I later gave up Sanskrit to become an engineer. I can understand more than half the meaning of the verses even now. I am wondering if I should continue this and learn the language well, which should not take a long time.

I did not expect to make this so tedious and long a letter. But I do not know how to write nicely and briefly. However, if you read my broken language, then the goddess Sarasvati will be pleased with me, and I will be able to write better in the future.

yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
prakasante mahatmanah

“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” (Svet. Up. 6.23)

It is true that you are present in your books, but as I read your books more and more, I feel your separation more and more, and my desire to see you becomes more and more intensified. I am looking forward to seeing you when you visit Chicago next spring. Please accept again my prostrated obeisances.

Eternally at your lotus feet,

Yasomatinandana dasa Brahmacari

My dear Yasomatinandana,

Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter, and I am so much pleased to read it. Your letter is so nice that I am advising that it be published in Back to Godhead. In the meantime you can immediately begin translating all our books into the Gujarati language. All these translations will be published in series in our Gujarati BTG, and if you are serious about it, you can be the Editor. So immediately begin translating and regularly produce books in Gujarati, and it will be a great service for you. The more you render service, the more you will be enlightened by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thank you once more for understanding our philosophy very nicely.

Hoping this will meet you in good health,

Your ever well-wisher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

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