Lecture by His Holiness Prabhavisnu Swami (download mp3), at the 2007 Gaura Purnima Festival, Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, Mayapur, India.
sa nirgatah kaurava-punya-labdho
gajahvayat tirtha-padah padani
adhisthito yani sahasra-murtih
TRANSLATION: By his piety, Vidura achieved the advantages of the pious Kauravas. After leaving Hastinapura, he took shelter of many places of pilgrimages, which are the Lord's lotus feet. With a desire to gain a high order of pious life, he traveled to holy places where thousands of transcendental forms of the Lord are situated.
PURPORT: Vidura was undoubtedly a highly elevated and pious soul, otherwise he would not have taken his birth in the Kaurava family. To have high parentage, to possess wealth, to be highly learned and to have great personal beauty are all due to past pious acts. But such pious possessions are not sufficient for obtaining the grace of the Lord and being engaged in His transcendental loving service. Vidura considered himself less pious, and therefore he decided to travel to all the great places of pilgrimage in the world in order to achieve greater piety and advance nearer to the Lord. At that time, Lord Krsna was personally present in the world, and Vidura could have at once approached Him directly, but he did not do so because he was not sufficiently freed from sin. One cannot be one hundred percent devoted to the Lord unless and until he is completely free from all effects of sin. Vidura was conscious that by the association of the diplomatic Dhrtarastra and Duryodhana he had lost his piety and was therefore not fit to associate at once with the Lord. In Bhagavad-gita (7.28) this is confirmed in the following verse:
yesam tv anta-gatam papam jananam punya-karmanam te dvandva-moha-nirmukta bhajante mam dròha-vratah
Persons who are sinful asuras like Kamsa and Jarasandha cannot think of Lord Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth. Only those who are pure devotees, those who follow the regulative principles of religious life as prescribed in the scriptures, are able to engage themselves in karma-yoga and then jnana-yoga and thereafter, by pure meditation, can understand pure consciousness. When God consciousness is developed, one can take advantage of the association of pure devotees. Syan mahat-sevaya viprah punya-tirtha-nisevanat: one is able to associate with the Lord even during the existence of this life.
Places of pilgrimages are meant for eradicating the sins of the pilgrims, and they are distributed all over the universe just to give facility to all concerned for attaining pure existence and God realization. One should not be satisfied, however, merely by visiting the places of pilgrimage and performing one's prescribed duties; he should be eager to meet the great souls who are already there, engaged in the service of the Lord. In each and every place of pilgrimage, the Lord is present in His various transcendental forms.
These forms are called arca-murtis, or forms of the Lord which can be easily appreciated by the common man. The Lord is transcendental to our mundane senses. He cannot be seen with our present eyes, nor can He be heard with our present ears. To the degree that we have entered into the service of the Lord or to the proportion to which our lives are freed from sins, we can perceive the Lord. But even though we are not free from sins, the Lord is kind enough to allow us the facility of seeing Him in His arca-murtis in the temple. The Lord is all-powerful, and therefore He is able to accept our service by presentation of His arca form. No one, therefore, should foolishly think the arca in the temple to be an idol. Such an arca-murti is not an idol but the Lord Himself, and to the proportion to which one is free from sins, he is able to know the significance of the arca-murti. The guidance of a pure devotee is therefore always required.
In the land of Bharatavarsa there are many hundreds and thousands of places of pilgrimage distributed all over the country, and by traditional practice the common man visits such holy places during all seasons of the year. Some of the arca representations of the Lord situated in different places of pilgrimage are mentioned herewith. The Lord is present at Mathura (the birthplace of Lord Krsna) as Adi-kesava; the Lord is present at Puri (Orissa) as Lord Jagannatha (also known as Purusottama); He is present at Allahabad (Prayaga) as Bindu-madhava; at Mandara Hill He is present as Madhusudana. In the Anandaranya, He is known as Vasudeva, Padmanabha and Janardana; at Visnukanci, He is known as Visnu; and at Mayapura, He is known as Hari. There are millions and billions of such arca forms of the Lord distributed all over the universe. All these arca-murtis are summarized in the Caitanya-caritamrta in the following words:
sarvatra prakasa tanra-bhakte sukha dite jagatera adharma nasi' dharma sthapite
"The Lord has so distributed Himself all over the universe just to give pleasure to the devotees, to give the common man facility to eradicate his sins, and to establish religious principles in the world." [End of purport]
Prabhavisnu Swami: (repeats translation) So Prabhupada says here, Vidura was undoubtedly a highly elevated, pious soul. As we know, Vidura was actually Yamaraja. Yamaraja, of course, is one of the twelve mahajanas, one of the most exalted devotees of the Lord who fully understands the science of Bhagavat-dharma.
Once there was a sage called Manduka Muni. He lived in a cave. It so happened that some thieves were fleeing from the government and they took shelter in the cave of this sage. The police chased them and arrested them. They also arrested the muni, thinking him to be involved. So they were brought back to the capital city and they were punished by being pierced with lances. So the thieves left their bodies, but this sage, he was very powerful and he didn't give up his body. He remained there alive.
This information was brought to the king, who was very shocked. He immediately went there to apologize, to beg forgiveness from that muni. The muni, he forgave the king, but he demanded to know from Yamaraja, because he knew there is some higher power behind this. So he demanded to know from Yamaraja, "Why has this happened? Why have you ordained such punishment for me?"
Yamaraja said, "When you were a child, you used to pierce insects with a blade of grass."
That muni became very upset, "I was an innocent child. I didn't know any better. This is very severe punishment for such an insignificant offense." He cursed him, "You will have to take birth as the son of a sudrani."
In this way, he took birth as Vidura. Of course his father was Vyasadeva, actually. As we know that story also from Mahabharata. He was born of the maidservant of those two queens, Ambika and Ambalika, who were the wives of Victravirya. Victravirya had died early, could not produce any offspring.
Satyavati was very worried how the royal dynasty would be continued. She pleaded with Bhisma. He was her stepson. He was born from Ganga. So she pleaded with him to kindly marry, but he had taken the vow not to marry so that his father could marry Satyavati.
He suggested that in such cases it sometimes happens that a first-class brahmana can be called upon to beget children in the womb of the wife or wives of the king. Then she recalled, she told Bhisma how when she was a young maiden, Parasara Muni had begotten a child, Vyasadeva, in her womb. The child had grown up fully instantly after taking birth. He told his mother, "If you ever need me, just meditate on me, think of me. I'll come immediately."
In this case, Bhisma advised, "Yes, this is appropriate to call Vyasadeva."
He came and he begot in the wombs of these two wives, but the first wife was so shocked by his appearance, she covered her eyes, closed her eyes, so he said, "The child will be born blind."
The second wife was trembling so the child was born white, like an albino. That was Dhrtarastra and Pandu.
The third time, because Satyavati wanted a very perfect child to be the king, she requested again to beget a child in the womb of the first wife. That wife was so turned off by the idea that she sent her maidservant instead. The maidservant was very humble and pleased Vyasadeva. In this way, he gave blessings: "This child will be a great devotee." That's Vidura. In this way, he took birth as the son of a sudrani, but his father was of the highest caliber.
Thus he played a very important role in all these pastimes of Krsna, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. He was always the well-wisher and protector of the Pandavas, helping them in so many ways when the Kauravas put them into difficulty. He was also the well-wisher of the Kauravas, always giving them good advice even though they didn't like to hear it. He was neutral. He was impartial.
He had the characteristics of a great soul:
titikasavah karunikah suhrda sarva-bhutanam ajata-satravah santah sadhavah sadhu-bhusanah
That the ornaments of a devotee, described by Kapiladeva, are that he is tolerant, he is merciful, and he is a friend and well wisher of all living entities. He was no enemies. He is very peaceful, he always abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.
This verse can be applied to Vidura. Another famous verse Yudhisthira Maharaja spoke directly about Vidura, "Saints like you are likened unto places of pilgrimage because you carry the Lord within your heart. Therefore, you are like a place of pilgrimage."
Places of pilgrimage are also considered non-different from Krsna. Krsna is present in so many ways in his name, form, pastimes, and his abode. So therefore, as Prabhupada mentions here in the purport, since time immemorial, people of India go to visit such holy places for purification.
But just going to holy places to take bath is not sufficient. Rather, it is strongly advised that one should associate with the devotees, the pure devotees, who reside in such holy places, and hear from the about Krsna, engage in kirtan in glorification of the Lord with them. In this way, one will get the real benefit of visiting the holy places.
Therefore Srila Prabhupada established this wonderful Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir and the Sri Krsna Balarama Mandir in Vrindavan. He stressed that when devotees come to these temples, they should attend the programs, join in the kirtans, listen to the classes, have the association of the devotees. In this way, get the full benefit of being Krsna consciousness because in the holy places, one can get the concentrated Krsna consciousness.
But of course, there are also so many other temples of ISKCON throughout the world. Srila Prabhupada said they are embassies of Mayapur and Vrindavan because the same activities are also going on there: devotional service to the Lord, worship of the Lord, hearing and chanting about the Lord. But still there is extra potency in the holy dhams because devotees are living in those temples or near to those temples engaging in devotional service, but still, they go out to preach, they go out into the public for different services. There may be some sort of effect due to the sinful behavior of the people in those countries.
For extra purification and recharging of one's spiritual batteries, it is recommended by Srila Prabhupada that devotees visit these temples of Mayapur and Vrindavan, especially during the time of the festivals when many devotees are gathered together so the potency is increased, the potency of kirtan, the potency of hearing and chanting.
We are very fortunate that we have this opportunity created for us by Srila Prabhupada. Certainly we wouldn't know anything about Krsna consciousness if we simply took birth in the western world during some other time like the first part of the last century, or previous centuries. People were not at all engaged in devotional service in those countries. But now so much facility is available. There are so many temples, books are available in so many languages of the world, so many devotees who are practicing Krsna consciousness and can show us the example of how to do that.
So therefore, visiting places of pilgrimage, but most important is the association of the devotees of the Lord. By that association, one can get strength and inspiration in Krsna consciousness.
Lord Caitanya described sixty four aspects of bhakti, but among those he stressed:
sadhu-sanga, nama-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana mathura-vasa, sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana
sakala-sadhana-srestha ei panca anga krsna-prema janmaya ei pancera alpa sanga
The association of devotees, sadhu-sanga, the chanting of the Holy Names, the hearing of the Bhagavatam, the visiting of holy places, and the worship of the Deities. These are the five most important items of devotional service. We find all these items are there in ISKCON. These are the pillars, foundation of ISKCON, especially we find these present here in the holy dham.
So we welcome all of the devotees here and encourage you to take full advantage of this wonderful opportunity and to spread the glories of the holy dham all over the world, to invite more and more people to come here and help to develop the community of Vaisnavas. The bigger and stronger the community of Vaisnavas grows in Mayapur, the stronger the movement will be all over the world. Srila Prabhupada said that in the rainy season there is flooding in Mayapur and this is the sign that from Mayapur, the world will be flooded with love of Godhead. This is the fountainhead, the source of krsna-prema.
Lord Caitanya is the form of Krsna who has appeared in this Kali-yuga. He came to taste that krsna-prema himself. The Lord wanted to taste the ecstatic love that Radharani felt for him. Therefore, he took the mood and color of Srimati Radharani. She is Gaurangi, so he is Gauranga. In this way he tasted krsna-prema. He tasted it especially by performance of congregational chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord.
So even though one may not have any previous pious qualification, still, by this special mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he can enter into this lila of sankirtana and also taste this krsna-prema.
Here Srila Prabhupada has quoted the verse:
yesam tv anta-gatam papam jananam punya-karmanam te dvandva-moha-nirmukta bhajante mam drdha-vratah
"Persons who have acted piously in this life and previous life, whose sinful activities have been eradicated, can engage in devotional service with determination."
Once a devotee asked Srila Prabhupada that, "We did not perform any pious activities in previous lives, or even in this life, so how is it that we have the chance to engage in devotional service?" Srila Prabhupada said, "I have created your pious activities." So simply by giving the Holy Name, by giving Krsna consciousness, everything is included.
There is a verse in the Third Canto spoken by Devahuti:
aho bata sva-paco 'to gariyan yaj-jihvagre vartate nama tubhyam
That one who is chanting the Holy Name of the Lord, even if he is born in a family of dog eaters, it is considered that he has studied all the Vedas, visited all the holy places, performed all kinds of austerities, and done everything necessary.
So just by chanting the Holy Name, everything is included there, all kinds of sub-religious principles. In the Bhagavad-gita also it is described how person who are engaged in devotional service of the Lord, it is considered that they are acquiring -
vedesu yajnesu tapahsu caiva danesu yat punya-phalam pradistam
They have gotten the results of studying the Vedas, performing all kinds of sacrifices, performing austerities, giving in charity. Everything is there. It is included in devotional service, and so much more as well. Therefore, it is not so important to be performing all those other kinds of activities if one is simply engaged in devotional service, chanting the Holy Names.
Of course we may have some yajna, fire yajna here or there. We are studying these sastras of course, mostly Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, but sometimes devotees may study little bit from other scriptures, to give them a little bit broader understanding and to back up their understanding of Krsna consciousness. But ultimately, it is not so important, all those other activities. The most important activity is chanting the Holy Names of Krsna.
Just like when Srila Prabhupada installed the Deities in the Krsna Balarama Mandir, he invited the local brahmanas to perform various rituals, but he said, "Actually this is to satisfy the local people that the installation has been done properly. We could install the Deities simply by chanting Hare Krsna."
Of the five types of devotional service that Lord Caitanya stressed, he did say the chanting of the Holy Name is most important. It is the yuga-dharma. But in order to chant, we must chant in the association of devotees, so the association of devotees is also especially important.
In this way we can follow in the footsteps of Vidura. When he went to these holy places, he absorbed himself in devotional service. He worshiped the Deities. He chanted the Holy Names of the Lord. In this way he was in ecstatic Krsna consciousness at all times. He was not a materially attached person. He just left his home, his family. As we were reading, due to the abusive behavior of Duryodhana, who wanted him kicked out, he simply left, gave up everything because his attachment to Krsna was so much stronger than his attachment to anything else. And because he always carried Krsna in his heart, it was no problem at all for him to leave. He took it as an opportunity to surrender more to the Lord, to become more advanced in Krsna consciousness.
In the lives of devotees sometimes there are difficulties or reverses, but a devotee should learn to see those as the arrangement of the Lord to become more dependent on the Lord. Just as Queen Kunti prayed, "I wish all of those difficulties would happen again for thus we would remember you again and again and remembering you is the only way to cross over the ocean of birth and death."
Now we have such a wonderful opportunity to remember the Lord, to absorb ourselves fully in the devotional service of the Lord. let us take this opportunity and perfect the human form of life. This will be beneficial for us and beneficial for the entire world.
Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada ki jai.
Grantha raja Srimad Bhagavatam ki jai!
Samaveta bhakta vrnda ki jai!
Gaura premanande, hari, haribol!