Focusing on our relationship with Krishna
Srimad Bhagavatam – 1.16.6
athavasya padambhoja -
kim anyair asad alapair
ayuso yad asad vyayah
The devotees of the Lord are accustomed to licking up the honey available from the lotus feet of the Lord. What is the use of topics which simply waste one's valuable life?
Lord Krishna and His devotees are both on the transcendental plane; therefore the topics of Lord Krishna and of His pure devotees are equally good. The Battle of Kurukshetra is full of politics and diplomacy, but because the topics are related with Lord Krishna, the Bhagavad-gita is therefore adored all over the world. There is no need to eradicate politics, economics, sociology, etc., which are mundane to the mundaners. To a pure devotee, who is actually related with the Lord, such mundane things are transcendental if dovetailed with the Lord or with His pure devotees. We have heard and talked about the activities of the Pandavas, and we now are dealing with the topics of Maharaja Parikshit, but because all these topics are related to the Lord Sri Krishna, they are all transcendental, and pure devotees have great interest in hearing them. We have already discussed this matter in connection with the prayers of Bhishmadeva.
Our duration of life is not very long, and there is no certainty of when we shall be ordered to leave everything for the next stage. Thus it is our duty to see that not a moment of our life is wasted in topics which are not related with Lord Krishna. Any topic, however pleasant, is not worth hearing if it is devoid of its relation to Krishna.
The spiritual planet, Goloka Vrindavana, the eternal abode of Lord Krishna, is shaped like the whorl of a lotus flower. Even when the Lord descends to any one of the mundane planets, He does so by manifesting His own abode as it is. Thus His feet remain always on the same big whorl of the lotus flower. His feet are also as beautiful as the lotus flower. Therefore it is said that Lord Krishna has lotus feet.
A living being is eternal by constitution. He is, so to speak, in the whirlpool of birth and death due to his contact with material energy. Freed from such material energy, a living entity is liberated and is eligible to return home, back to Godhead. Those who want to live forever without changing their material bodies should not waste valuable time with topics other than those relating to Lord Krishna and His devotees.
Shaunaka Rishi on behalf of the sages of Naimisharanya says they want to know more about Parikshit Maharaj and all the incidents provided they are related to Krishna. Here Prabhupada says that we take interest in these topics, about a king, how he ruled, how he lived, because they are all related to Krishna. Otherwise we should have no interest. There is no need to eradicate politics, economics, sociology, etc., which are mundane to the mundaners. To a pure devotee who is actually related with the Lord, such mundane things are transcendental if dovetailed with the Lord or His pure devotees.
Prabhupada gives many examples in the Bhagavad gita, it is all about warfare, how to become a king, how to conquer the enemies. Because it was in relation to Krishna, they give a transcendental benefit to those who are hearing this. Prabhupada also says, in this way anything in the material world can be dovetailed, provided it is directed by a pure devotee who is well established in the principles of devotional service; he will know how to engage these in the service of the Lord.
Also here it is said, that please tell us about all these things provided they are related to Krishna. This is also a very important principle in our life. Especially in the early stages of devotional life and of course at all stages of one’s spiritual life before we act in some way, we should always see whether this is related to Krishna. One has to apply that in the initial stages of spiritual life and it should become one’s very nature.
Before we act in a certain way we must apply this test – whether this is pleasing to guru and Krishna. If it is not in relation to Krishna, we must avoid it. So when we practice this very consciously reminding ourselves, guiding our senses using spiritual intelligence we will come to a state when we will naturally be able to think in that way. This is a very important guideline in spiritual life.
Even the sages of Naimisharanya, Shaunaka Muni, they have heard something about Parikshit Maharaj and how he acted, he didn’t kill, he only punished kali purusha who was actually harming a cow, so they want to know more about it provided it is all in relation to Krishna. In the beginning stages of our spiritual life we are advised to desist reading newspapers because it is full of material subject matter, we can get completely carried away.
So here it is said - athavasya padambhoja makaranda liham satam – Prabhupada has explained this many times – the word satam refers to devotees because it comes from the word sat, which means eternal. Devotees are only interested in eternal things and here it is said that these satam – the great devotees are always used to padambhoja makaranda liham – lihanti means to lick, pibhanti means to drink. makaranda liham satam – makaranda means honey. Devotees are accustomed to licking the honey from the lotus feet of the Lord – a very poetic way of saying that devotees are always relishing the sweetness of the topics of Krishna, serving Krishna, hearing about Krishna, chanting about Krishna. So when they are doing that kim anyair asad alapair – when they are relishing that makaranda liham, what is the use of asad alapair? Alapana means to speak. Here a very nice word is used – asad alapana - asad alapair – talking about temporary things connected with the material world and what happens when you talk like that? ayuso yad asad vyayah – vyayah means to deteriorate or diminish – avyayah means something that will not deteriorate. So vyaya means something that will diminish, avyaya means something that will be wastefully spent away. ayuso yad asad vyayah – our very life time will be wasted if we engage in asad alapair. This is the point that the sages are making here, we want to hear things connected with Krishna, something that is not connected with eternal subject matter, they simply deplete our life wastefully. asad vyayah, ayuso yad asad vyayah.
Once Srila Prabhupada was in Dallas, he had gone on a morning walk to a park which was next to a big golf course and he was intrigued to see so many people walking, big bags, somebody behind them, a trolley and all that. So Prabhupada asked, what do they do? The devotees explained - they have a ball and a stick and they hit that and then the ball has to go far away and there is a hole and they have to see that the ball falls into the hole. After hearing all that there was a tear drop in Srila Prabhupada’s eye and he said, see how they are wasting their time hitting a little ball. This is a very big activity in this material world, playing golf, people all over the world, there are big golf courses of hundreds of acres, very well maintained for a few people to come and hit a ball till it falls into the hole. This has been made into a grand activity. This is called asad vyayah, ayuso yad asad vyayah; how one gets engaged in these kinds of activities and waste their life. Seeing this Srila Prabhupada was filled with compassion.
Once I met a very big man in Dubai, we went to his office, it was pretty much empty, just one or two people were there and this man had given special time to meet. After we met him and told him about our temple and Akshaya Patra, we came out. I asked the person who had taken us, what is this man’s business? He said, ‘this man is very rich. You saw his office, it was practically empty because he doesn’t usually sit here’ because we had asked for time, he had come to the office. So I asked him, what does he do? ‘He has got a few big properties in the world, and he gets so much rent, wife passed away and he has got one or two sons and they are also well settled in some foreign countries. He has got so much money. All that he does is flying from one city to another city, stay for a few days playing golf with his friends there.’ So you see a rich man, he has been blessed with so much money but he has no idea how to spend his time and money, just hitting a little ball into a hole and that is his life.
So why does this happen? This happens because of improper training. This is what Srila Prabhupada points out. If at the right time, the right kind of training is imparted, people will develop appreciation of spiritual topics. Otherwise they will spend their time - asad alapair. Conversing on all asad topics, temporary topics of this material world. So this is the very sad aspect of the material civilization, people think that they are very advanced because they have big bungalows, motor cars and big roads, but the important thing, what that human life can give them, that they are missing out and they are engaged in asad alapana - temporary things.
I saw one video, someone showed me of a saintly person who had passed away and they were doing the cremation. When they were doing that one person was constantly holding the body’s head. Actually that is because, when a person leaves immediately what happens? The head will fall down, it is a dead body. So we can see how the soul is so important. Today we are simply sitting like this, talking, hearing, because of the presence of the soul. The moment the soul leaves, the head will hang down.
So the soul is so important and we neglect it and are engaged in asad alapana, all our lives. This is the sad part of modern civilization. One day we will have to leave this body, nobody is exempted and at that time we will regret – so much time I had and I did not use my time to understand about the reality of the spirit soul. So that should not happen and devotees, satam means they are so focused on eternal subject matter. Their interests, their conversations are all connected with eternal subject, not temporary subject matter of this world. That is why Krishna says in the Bhagavad gita - antavanta ime deha nityasyoktah saririnah - this body is antavanta, it is destined to be finished but there is something within the body which is nityasya – which is eternal. So we should become interested in that eternal, for that we have to be trained.
So it was the desire of Srila Prabhupada that his devotees, his followers take this message of Krishna consciousness to others. So if we become carriers of this message to people at the right time in the right context and present it properly, in a way that is pleasing to them for their understanding and Srila Prabhupada says that requires realization. Realization does not mean that we will be able to extract some new meaning. Realization means to present the original message as it is. He wanted us to make this presentation of Krishna consciousness to people in the world and help them appreciate Krishna consciousness, the value of human life. Otherwise kim anyair asad alapairayuso yad asad vyayah – otherwise their life is being simply spent away in asat alapair – in conversing about temporary subject matter.
So this whole verse and the purport is about how we should not waste our time in temporary matters and keep our focus on things that are related to eternal subject matter, about the soul and our relationship with Krishna. If we can apply this in our life, if this becomes our nature, we will be able to handle many difficulties that come in the material world because our focus and our attention are on eternal subject matter. So this is a very important instruction for all of us to remember and practice.