Monday, July 26, 2010

Travel Journal#6.12a: Brahmacari Convention

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No.12a
By Krishna-kripa das
(June 2010, part two, section one)

Brahmacari Convention

(Sent from Opatija, Croatia, on July 27, 2010)


Bhakti Rasamrita Swami (on devotee relationships)

Bhakti Vijnana Swami (on the subtle body)

Krishna Ksetra Prabhu (on peace of mind)

Bhakti Caru Swami (on just offering this life to Krishna)

Prahladananda Swami (realizations)

Candramauli Swami (on association with women)

Jayadvaita Swami (questions and answers)

Panel Discussion on the Brahmacari Asrama

(With Prahladananda Swami, Yadunandana Swami, Bhakti Rasamrita Swami, Krishna Ksetra Prabhu, and Kripa Moya Prabhu)

Where I Went and What I Did

I heard about the UK/European brahmacari convention last year, but I did not have enough money to travel to it last year. This year, it was one of many reasons for me coming to England. About sixty or seventy brahmacaris came to the convention held at Bhaktivedanta Manor June 18-23, 2010. The following notes are mostly chronological, although I lump the several contributions from the same personality together, for those who want to read what their favorite speakers said. Thanks to all the organizers, speakers, and participants. A lot of useful realizations and instructions were shared. Notes on the regular morning classes during this period, I will share in the next journal to keep this from getting even larger.

Brahmacari Convention at Bhaktivedanta Manor

Introduction by a longtime Bhaktivedanta Manor devotee:

Our life is 10% the circumstances we encounter in life and 90% the way we respond to them.

Canakya Pandit speaks of four types of blind people: (1) those who are born blind, (2) those who are blinded by lust, (3) those who blinded by greed, and (4) those who are blinded by pride. That last is the worst, because one who blinded by pride cannot be instructed.

Bhakti Rasamrita Swami:

It is difficult to practice brahmacarya in the West because the culture neither supports nor facilitates it, so it is good to have these conventions to encourage those to practice it.

Life is all about love. Krishna expands as jivas (individual souls) for the enjoyment of loving exchanges with them and between them.

Our anarthas (unwanted desires) make it difficult to have loving relationships in this world. We can see in Caitanya-caritamrita the dealings of the pure souls and learn from them.

Sometimes there are misunderstandings between great souls.

When Rupa Goswami was composing Bhakti-rasamrita sindhu out of his natural humility he asked Vallabha-bhatta look at his manuscript and make any corrections. Jiva Goswami, who was a disciple of Rupa Goswami, found it arrogant that Vallabha-bhatta found faults with Rupa Goswami, whose character and composition were perfect. He accompanied Vallabha-bhatta to the Ganges to take his bathe on the pretext of serving him and proved to him that his so-called corrections were actually mistakes. Vallabha-bhatta agreed and praised Rupa Goswami for having such a learned disciple. Rupa Goswami, however, sent Jiva Goswami away for manifesting pride in scholarship that was not befitting a resident of Vrindavana. Sanatana Goswami had to mediate the situation to bring Jiva Goswami back. Mediation did not begin in ISKCON.

Brahmacari life is simple and thus it is easier to have loving exchanges among brahmacaris. If we cannot learn this point, it is difficult to find out where we can learn it.

When the brahmacaris have nice relationships, are humble, and have a nice service attitude, the whole congregation is inspired. I have seen it myself. When that is not there, and thebrahmacaris quarrel, the congregation becomes cynical. A strong brahmacari asrama means a strong community.

Brahmacaris are like brothers living in the same house.

Two brothers who disliked each other were massaging their father’s body. To get the other brother in trouble with their father, the one reached over and pinched the father’s body on the side the other brother was massaging. The father cried out in pain. The other brother seeing what his brother did, reached over and pinched the father on the side his brother was massaging. Again the father was pained. This continued. From this, we can learn that cooperation among the brahmacaris is essential to please the Lord.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: ‘My dear sons of the King, I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one activity—devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual relationship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me.’” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.8)

The Lord did not say, “I am pleased with you for spending so many years meditating under water.” Nor did He say, “I am pleased because you chanted each syllable of the mantra without a mistake.” He said, “I am pleased by your friendly relationships.”

Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport to this verse, “Disunity between individual souls is so strong within this material world that even in a society of Krishna consciousness, members sometimes appear disunited due to their having different opinions and leaning toward material things. Actually in Krishna consciousness, there cannot be two opinions. There is only one goal, to serve Krishna to one’s best ability. If there is some disagreement over service, such disagreement is to be taken as spiritual.”

Different opinions can be dealt with, but leaning toward material things will pose a more serious problem.

The brahmacari must always try to control the senses. The brahmacari must live simply for the benefit of the spiritual master. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.1)

The brahmacari must be very submissive and do whatever the spiritual master desires, always thinking of himself as being very low, being devoid of pride. A disciple follows the discipline of the spiritual master.

Loving exchanges happen when the senses are controlled, there is humanity, and when service to Krishna and one’s superiors is at the forefront.

Q: How do we keep loving exchanges from being superficial?

A: According to our development of Krishna consciousness, we are more or less better at loving exchanges. Even small expressions of appreciation are valuable. If one’s need for emotional relationships is not fulfilled with the brahmacaris, one will seek fulfillment in male-female relationships.

It is sometimes a problem that people insist on being right and want to establish themselves as right. In reality, we should not desire to be right but rather, desire do to the best thing for our Krishna consciousness and that of the others involved.

“Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasada, and offering prasadam are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.” (Nectar of Instruction, verse 4)

Srila Prabhupada says that the gift of the holy name is the best gift.

Chanting and hearing about Krishna together is very important. Try to make it when there is a chance to chant kirtana or japa together. We must inspire each other on sankirtana and japa.

There was brahmacari who would fall asleep if he sat down either in japa, kirtana, or class for more than 15 seconds. Because he was receptive, he was able to improve considerably. Otherbrahmacaris whose sleep attachment was less severe, because they were not receptive, did not improve so much.

It is safer to share gifts with the other brahmacaris, otherwise you can get materially attached. It is good to give gifts to everyone. Otherwise favoritism can arise.

It is important that things that are shared confidentially remain confidential. There are some cases that people have left the movement because people spoke publicly about things that were spoken in confidence to them and they felt very bad about it.

If we have loving exchanges with the devotees, we will be mentally strong.

It is nice if the brahmacaris can take at least one meal together, and one can read some scripture.

Comment by Janananda Swami: Taking prasadam together, and serving prasadam nicely are important.

Q (by Tattvavit Prabhu): Sometimes we take prasadam around to people and at other times, we have a buffet. Does it matter?

A: It is always better to do it in the Vedic way, with the devotees sitting down and the servers bringing prasadam to them, unless it is completely impractical.

If we chant our japa, go to the kirtanas and classes, try to serve the devotees, and absorb ourselves in our service to Krishna, then 90% of our problems will be solved by Krishna’s grace.

Srila Prabhupada advice to “chant Hare Krishna and be happy” is not just a slogan but a deep philosophical point.

Srila Prabhupada explains that love comes from service. In the beginning, we do not love Krishna, but by serving Krishna the love develops. Similarly we may not have love for the otherbrahmacaris, but by engaging in these different exchanges the love develops.

Q: Sometimes we want to help someone, but they do not accept our help, and we become frustrated. Are we wrong or not?

A: Perhaps. Perhaps you are not the best person to speak to them, perhaps you did not use the best words, or perhaps you did not choose the best time to speak them. Perhaps you could find someone else you could engage in helping them.

Q: Some groups like the Swami Narayana people and the Jehovah’s Witnesses preach in pairs, but we do not do this. Should we?

A: It is always safer for brahmacaris to preach in pairs.

Srila Prabhupada, after traveling all over the world, commented that his realization was that people everywhere are basically the same.

Q: Srila Prabhupada said we should be independently thoughtful. How do we apply that?

A: We have to be thoughtfully independent. We have to be responsible for what we do. We have to consider what is beneficial for our spiritual life. Too much individual independence is a cause of the degradation of the world.

Laksmi performed austerities giving up all other desires except to attain the dust of the lotus feet of Krishna and enter into His sportive pastimes. She failed because she could not give up her form as Queen of Vaikuntha. In Golola Vrndavana, the only queen is Srimati Radharani.

Krishna has four especially sweet characteristics, surpassing other avatars:

(1) venu-madhuri—He plays the flute especially wonderfully.

(2) prema-madhuri—He is surrounded by especially loving devotees (the gopis)

(3) lila-madhuri—He performs especially sweet pastimes (in his childhood)

(4) rupa-madhuri—His beauty is even greater than that of Lord Narayana

Bhakti Vijnana Swami:

[I only have notes on his first session, as I skipped the second to attend the Borehamwood Ratha-yatra.]

Subtle Presiding Gross

Element Deity Element Function


1. Citta Vasudeva Air Exist.

2. Ahankara Sankarsana Earth I exist.

3. Manas Aniruddha Water I want.

4. Buddhi Pradyumna Fire I act.

Citta refers to what the modern psychologist call the unconscious mind.

Vasudeva means all-pervading which applies to the unconscious mind.

Sankarsana means attracting. Aniruddha means difficult to overcome, which applies to the mind. Buddhi is the processing part of the mind.

Pradyumna means showing efflugence.

First we feel we exist (citta), and then the sense of “I am” ego arises (ahankara), then the sense “I want” arises in the mind, and the intelligence determines what “I do.”

Ahankara means we are not satisfied being one ten-thousandths the tip of a hair in size.

Manas is binary. The computer scientists have not invented anything new. Mind simply either accepts or rejects.

Citta is large, like the hard disk on our computer, but like with our hard disk, most of the stuff in our unconscious mind we never use.

The buddhi digests our different experiences and transforms them. When we encounter some happiness, buddhi asks, “What is the big deal?” When encounter distress, buddhi asks, “What is the big deal? Thus we can be fixed in equanimity as Krishna recommends. When intelligence is weak, the intensity of the experiences is recorded in our unconsciousness.

Previous negative experiences cause the intelligence to distort the situation. When too much information is distorted, one can become mad.

Memory is not a question of what is recorded in the unconscious (citta), because everything is recorded. It is a question of how accessible the citta is to our buddhi.

Krishna-ksetra Prabhu (topic Shanti, Shanti, Shanti):

I apologize for not having a Powerpoint presentation, but after all, our process is one of hearing, so I will stress that.

Peace is not contrary to our practice of bhakti.

We will look at our emotions, analyze them, and then ask ourselves if we can let them go, because, after all, vairagya, or letting go, is what we as brahmacaris and sannyasis practice.

Because we should have faith in Krishna, we tend to neglect what we actually have faith in. What matters to us is what we have faith in.

Krishna describes in Bhagavad-gita 17.3 that we are made of faith. Sraddha-mayo ’yam puruso yo yac-chraddhah sa eva sah: “the living entities are full of faith according to the modes they have acquired.”

Along with our devotional activities, there is a voice inside of us of resistance, “No, I don’t want to read Bhagavad-gita, not today.”

Sometimes we allow circumstances to be there that restrict our practice of spiritual life, and we should examine these from time to time.

Anartha-nivritti means “non-engagement in activities of no value.” When anartha-nivritti happens then naturally we become fixed in spiritual practice (nistha).

Srila Prabhupada wanted to create a society of sadhus. Who is guru is a lesser consideration. Our society collectively will be seen as guru for the greater society.

Peace is a good thing. It is about balance and freedom from lower modes of nature.

Krishna explains that there is no happiness without peace, and I will suggest there will not be peace until we learn how to deal with our emotions.

A brahmacari is one who goes in Brahman.

We tend to lament about the past and hanker about the future. So na socati na kanksati means to not be concerned about the past or future but the just the present. Sama sarvesu bhutesumeans having an equal attitude to all living beings. If we can do these things, Krishna explains, then we can attain the supreme devotion to Him. (Bg. 18.54)

We tend to “want” to be separate under the influence of false ego. This derives from our want to be separate from Krishna. We also have a “want” for oneness. Sometimes we want to be by ourselves, and sometimes we want to be with others. When we separate ourselves from Krishna, we want to survive, which then becomes an issue, because we separate ourselves from the protection of Krishna. We also want approval. And when cannot get approval we want control. And then, out of frustration, we desire to be controlled.

List of emotions:










Lust (Desire)





Renunciation is giving up material things, and I would also say, giving up emotions, but emotions cannot be given up artificially or you end up with more difficulty than you started with.

Our tendency is to be so absorbed in our list of wants, we do not see what is around us. The first step is to notice this.

After noticing an emotion, we welcome it, question it, and then ask if we can let it go. The answer to the final question, does not always have to be yes, for if we artificially make it yes, we may not actually give the thing up.

“Can I let go of this?” can mean “Can I let go of this happiness?”

Confidence comes when you do something, and it works out. Then you have a little more confidence.

When we experience success there are also bodily sensations accompanying that feeling.

“Expressing” is a rajasic activity of getting the feeling out there for others to deal with. “Releasing” is a sattvic activity of letting a feeling to go away and be.

Tattvavit Prabhu remarked that Srila Prabhupada added four words to the saying “Failure is the pillar of success”: “for persons who succeed.” In other words, the successful person is he who continues to try in spite of repeated failures.

The first step in controlling the wandering mind is noticing that it has wandered. One can ask the mind, “Where are you going now?” Then you can ask the mind, “Do you have to think of this right now?” The mind often says, “Yes, otherwise I might forget.” This can be remedied by keeping a notepad and noting the thought.

Often the mind is worried about issues of defense. We can waste lots of time worrying about how we will protect ourselves from something that is not a serious threat.

Until we process things, they will continue to appear in the mind again and again.

A lot of people get married thinking that they will possess a person of the opposite sex, but in reality, it is the other way around, we become possessed by a person of the opposite sex. To possess someone we generally depersonalize him or her. This ultimately causes trouble because people do not like to be treated as objects.

We want to be happy. If we are not, we will think, “I do not want to be a devotee” or we will think, “I do not want to be a brahmacari.

Attachment to happiness, we know, is the negative side of the mode of goodness, so we have to ask the question, “Can I give up this happiness?”

Bhakti Caru Swami [on “Just Offer This Life to Krishna”]:

We need to be reminded of our objectives time and time again, otherwise, we may forget.

During my first darsana with Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur [I had already met him in Allahabad where he told me to translate his books in Bengali], he gave me a stack of Bengali letters and asked me to reply to them giving me the main points.

At that time he also instructed me:

“Just offer this life to Krishna. For so many lives you have done other things. This life is one out of so many. Don’t get involved with any women. This material nature is a prison house of sex desire. Just as a prisoner is tied down with shackles, so in the material world we are tied down with the sex desire. He gave three examples: The camel eats thorns, his mouth bleeds and by tasting the blood he foolish thinks he is enjoying. Similarly, in sex, we lose our vital energy, but we foolishly think we are enjoying. Sex is like an itch. When we scratch, we think we will get relief, but actually it get worse. Sex pleasure is like a mirage. The mirage appears to offer cool water, but as you get closer, the water seems further away. Although offering cool water, it is simply hot sand. Pouring ghee on the fire, does not put it out, but increases it, similarly, indulging in sex desire only increases it.

Conquering sex desire is not the real goal of Krishna consciousness, it is to get a higher taste of nectar—not only to drink, but swim and play in.

The devotees in Krishna consciousness have transcended the material platform. So we have been given such a great opportunity. We just have to commit ourselves. If we remain in the association of devotees, our spiritual life is safe. This ISKCON is the association of devotees. Therefore, we have to be very careful not to offend the devotees. The best way not to offend the devotees is to serve the devotees, to befriend the devotees, and to appreciate the devotees. Then we will make advancement in leaps and bounds.

Thirty-three years after Srila Prabhupada left, this movement is still going on.

Once a very exalted leader in our movement, who was a sannyasi and got married, came to see Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada encouraged him to remain in the society of devotees. He did and is still serving today.

The reward for remaining in ISKCON is that at the time of death, we will die in Krishna consciousness. The devotees will help us remember Krishna at the time of death and pave our way for going back to Godhead.

Q: It is difficult that there are so few brahmacaris.

A: That is true. But it is best to stay, even if one is the only brahmacari in a temple, because then there is a least one brahmacari, and then others may be inspired to become brahmacaris. Try to make ten brahmacaris.

If we are still subjected to our karma, we can understand that is a lack of our surrender to Krishna, and we can use that as impetus to surrender more to Krishna.

In time, we can realize a crisis that was a stumbling block was actually a stepping stone.

To make advancement in spiritual life, we have to give up sex desire. The purpose of sex desire is procreation, but because procreation is such a troublesome affair, a little pleasure has been added to it to allure people into it. But due to ignorance, people take this little pleasure as a very important thing. We can give up sex desire only by getting a higher taste from our spiritual practice.

Srila Prabhupada said, “I pray to Krishna always that I do not fall down.” So we adopt that attitude.

First we chant Hare Krishna, then we follow the four principles against illicit sex, intoxication, meat eating, and gambling. By chanting, we get the strength to follow the principles. In the association of devotees, we are also encouraged to follow the principles.

Q: It is difficult to convince people to dedicate their whole life to spiritual practice.

A: People are attracted to excitement. If we create an atmosphere of excitement in our temples, people will be attracted. The brahmacaris should make the temple atmosphere so exciting thegrhasthas will think, “Oh my God, I made a mistake,” and they will want to come to the temple more and more. The business of the householders is to take care of the brahmacaris, vanaprastha, and sannyasis, and when they do, a sweet mood of reciprocation develops.

Any movement takes place in the form of a wave, with its ups and downs. Therefore we should not become disheartened in difficulties. Consider all the difficulties the devotees in Russia went through. The situation in America is critical, but I often remember Srila Prabhupada saying, practically with tears in his eyes, that he was so indebted to America for helping start his movement. So I think that a place for which Srila Prabhupada has such affection will certainly have a glorious future.

A devotee will endeavor to push on this movement no matter how hard it is and thus be successful, just as a ksatriya is eager for a fight.

Lust in this material world is just the perverted reflection of our love of Krishna. Thus there is a great different between lust, which is like the dense darkness and love, which is like the blazing sun.

Prahladananda Swami:

At one point, I realized that the purpose of life was to come to higher stage of awareness.

I would go three times a week to argue with the devotees because I was convinced that hatha-yoga was the way to attain perfection.

Some of my friends joined Srila Prabhupada in 1966 when they heard about it in the Village Voice, but I never took it seriously.

The Buffalo temple was in an abandoned railway shack. In the beginning they did not have Bhagavad-gita but just a copy of the translation of Radhakrishnan’s verse 2.13. So three times a week I heard Bhurijana Prabhu explain about how we are not the body. I wondered if this was all there was to the philosophy. Then one day, I heard I was not the body, and I thought, “How profound! I am not this body!”

Once a friend and I were chanting on a bus, and we noticed everyone on the bus became friendly. We saw my friend’s family and they were arguing when we arrived, but when we chanted they became friendly. I thought, “This chanting is very powerful.” Worrying about what would happen if I stopped chanting, I decided to join the temple.

We just have to listen with perfect attention to attain perfection. That is the essence. Nothing else is required.

To chant with attention, we have to be absorbed in the holy name. Our conviction should carry our intelligence.

I asked Srila Prabhupada if it was alright when I am chanting to remember Krishna book. He replied, “No, you should just chant and hear the holy name. If remembrance of Krishna comes that is nice, but we should not try to artificially remember Krishna while we are chanting.”

Our problem is we think we are great, and the holy name is just some sound vibration.

Krishna may be there, but whether our heart is open to receive Him is another thing.

I can say from my experience that if you chant and hear the holy names, considering they are identical with the Lord, everything will gradually develop.

We cannot break into the spiritual world by our meditation: “Krishna may want me or not, but I am coming.”

Krishna is there. We are just trying to adjust our consciousness so we perceive Him. Just as radio waves are everywhere, but with a radio we can perceive them.

Kamsa was so much absorbed in thinking of the Lord that once when his wives approached him. He raised his sword, and angrily shouted, “Krishna and Balarama, You are dead!” They said, “We are not Krishna and Balarama, we are your wives!”

Our first business is to cry out to Krishna, but not in a complaining mood. We chant in a happy mood, but it is not possible to be completely happy in the material world. Try to get a sense of Krishna’s presence as you chant, and the more Krishna reveals Himself, the more you become happy feeling His presence.

Q: When you chant Hare Krishna, where does the sound come?

A: It comes from Krishna. Krishna is descending.

As long as we desire according to the modes, our consciousness is materially affected, but when we constantly desire according to Krishna, the spiritual master, and the succession of spiritual teachers, we become more conscious of Krishna.

Once I went with Srila Prabhupada to a monastery of monks who meditated on the holy name. Srila Prabhupada gave a lecture on the importance of hearing and chanting the holy name. He did not stress meditation.

At nistha, Krishna’s form spontaneously appears while we chant and is not seen as different from the holy name.

Having a little reverence for the holy name is nice. It is not that reverence is only for those Vaikuntha-vasis, the rejects from Goloka Vrndavana.

When the inspiration for sadhana comes from anything other than a natural attraction to service, it is vaidhi-bhakti.

Causes of deviation [numbered entries in the outline below] and what we can do about them [lettered entries below the numbers]:

1. Seeing women as sense objects.

a. being respectful

b. seeing them as matajis [mothers]

c. understanding we are not enjoyers, Krishna is the enjoyer

d. seeing their beauty as part of Krishna

2. Not making time for sadhana.

a. write down a daily schedule

b. have a devotee check in with you weekly.

3. Not having the desire for spiritual life.

a. associating with those who have a desire.

b. praying for the desire

c. reflection and introspection.

4. Not serious about spiritual life.

a. introspect

5. Lacking knowledge.

a. reading books

b. studying

c. congregational chanting

d. take bhakti-sastri course

e. engaging in the nine items of bhakti

6. No conducive environment.

7. Commit offenses.

a. serving devotees

b. chant

c. care and attention

d. get feedback from seniors

e. ask for feedback.

f . cultivate friendship with other devotees

8. Previous attachments.

a. chant more and more attentively

9. Thinking that you are doing things perfectly.

10. Bad association.

11. Over eating.

I joined the movement in 1968, and the first thing we called that ladies was gopis. Later we addressed them as mataji as Srila Prabhupada recommended and did himself.

Candramauli Swami on association with women:

[I only took notes on the first part, as I skipped the second to recover from the Stonehenge Solstice festival.]

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 5 Chapter 5 is one of to he most philosophical sections of the Bhagavatam.

The attachment of male and female is the basic principle of material existence. Based on this misconception, the whole realm of material entanglement arises. The attachment is a perversion of the pure affection the soul has for the Supreme Soul, the Lord.

Women and wealth are stumbling blocks on the man’s path of self-realization.

The advantage in the brahmacari asrama is one has less baggage to travel with, thus one can concentrate on his spiritual practice.

Grhastha life is like if you see a rock on the ground, and you decide you like it, so you carry it on your back.

The male-female attachment is the strongest attraction in this world.

If we do not talk about the difficulties caused by the male-female interaction, then desires to enjoy it may arise in the mind.

Both aversion and attraction to the opposite sex are not Krishna conscious, but aversion is less bad.

Do not make eye contact, when you talk to the opposite sex. It is not fanatic to avoid association with the opposite sex but philosophically justifiable.

One must be aware there is no enjoyment in the male-female relationship.

Out of sight, out of mind.

The more we are loose in other aspects of our spiritual practice, the more we will be loose in our relationships with the opposite sex.

Maya shows your weak spots in your Krishna consciousness to test you and so you can make your weak points stronger.

Srila Prabhupada said that we should regularly read Srimad-Bhagavatam verses 1.2.17 and 1.2.18.

Maya encourages you to try a little sense enjoyment, bit by bit, and you find your Krishna consciousness can be covered.

There are two reasons that brahmacaris lose determination and seek male-female relationships:

(1) the basic male-female attraction

(2) failure to develop nice relationships with other devotees

Women thrive on attention.

A man chases a woman until she catches him.

Sometimes women join our movement just to find a nice husband. If you want Krishna more than she wants you, then you win, otherwise she wins.

At least half the sannyasis have fallen down so we have to be careful.

If one wants to take up the grhastha asrama, that is alright, but it should be done graciously, not by accident.

I used to do book distribution. After a while, I stopped approaching women because it was easier for me.

We should speak to ladies respectfully and not in the mood of trying to enjoy the situation.

Jananivasa Prabhu explained to us in Mayapur that when you call to Krishna for help, He does not respond immediately but waits to see how serious you are. If you call to Him again, he takes it more seriously. And finally, if you call out a third time, He will help you. However, your spiritual master wants very much that you advance spiritually, so if you call once to Srila Prabhupada for help, he will help you immediately.

Comment by Tattva-vit Prabhu: As far as I understand, in the Swami Narayana movement, they have female gurus who guide the ladies, so the sannyasis do not have to do it.

Strict sadhana is the strength in our spiritual practice.

We should always have people who can give enlightened guidance. One should not choose a direction without help from others. You cannot trust the mind. It always flips back and forth.

Brahmacarya is training for all the others asramas.

Ultimately we have to see the ladies as devotees of the Lord and not as women.

We are not looking for the women to fulfill some desire.

Jayadvaita Swami:

The main thing is service to Krishna. If we are engaged in the service of Krishna, it does not matter what asrama one is in. Whether or not one can perfectly execute the duties of anyasrama, if one can render service to Krishna, that is the important thing. You may try to present the value of living in a particular asrama, but it up to the individual to realize it or not and follow it or not.

Everyone service is voluntary.

Q: Some people move from one temple to another, others stay in one place. Is one better?

A: If they are traveling for service, it is good. If is just restlessness, that is not so good.

I left high school in my senior year. I never continued my education. I never went a day without food. I am the chief editor for an international publishing house, and I find mistakes in professionally published works.

If someone wanted to go to college, Srila Prabhupada would say, “Why waste your time?” If someone was in college and almost finished, he would encourage them to continue.

In Alachua, I gave a class more or less bashing the necessity of college. If you are meant to make money, you will make money. If you are meant to be poor, you will be poor. It does not matter. Radha Jivan Prabhu was in the back of the room. I asked him if he went to college. He said, “No, much to my father’s dismay.” He was brahmacari for a few years, got married, and then started a million dollar business.

Q: Should we take Bhakti sastri or study on our own?

A: People find the structure of Bhakti-sastri helps people study. Canakya advises study in twos. By yourself, you may space out.

Q: Ashram life is very brahminical. What if people are not brahminical inclined?

A: That is alright. Let them do what they can do.

Q: About 20-30% of classes bash the scientists, the Mayavadis, the Buddhists. Wouldn’t it better, if our philosophy is superior, that we just focus on the positive?

A: Bhatkisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura makes the point that in relationship to opposing philosophies, Krishna consciousness can be shown to be more clear by the contrast.

You can be brahmacari the whole time. Some people think you have to choose grhastha or sannyasa. That is not true.

Q: Some people get married in their forties and fifties. Sometimes they say they were not cut out to be brahmacaris.

A: I have one godbrother who thinks he is not cut out . . .

Q: Anything we should watch out for?

A: Association with the opposite sex. Association with nondevotees. Looseness following regulative principles. Offenses to devotees.

Q: Are there any signs one is not cut out for being brahmacari?

A: Holding hands with a girl.

Try being a brahmacari:

Save yourself a lot of trouble.

Just chant Hare Krishna and be happy.

Your life is uncomplicated, no attachments, no big attachments (your dhoti, your mat). But if it becomes too difficult and you are not able to withstand the feminine attachment, get married. Srila Prabhupada would say to get married if it is too inconvenient to be brahmacari.

If you are too much attached to collecting, you do not have to get married. You can collect for Krishna. Use your passion for Krishna. You are attached to controlling. What is controlling one woman? Control a whole project for Krishna.

Q: Why do you not initiate many devotees?

A: I don’t think I am very qualified. I do not think that is what Krishna wants from me. I have enough problems with my own life.

[Jayadvaita Swami describes an exchange with a Russian girl in Russia]

Russian girl: What would it take for someone become your disciple.

JAS: I am not accepting any disciples.

Russian girl: But why not?

JAS: I do not think that is what Krishna wants from me.

Russian girl: But why not?

JAS: I have so many qualified godbrothers.

Russian girl: But why not?

JAS: I am not very qualified to be a guru.

Russian girl: Well I am not very qualified to be a disciple.

JAS to devotees: I nearly initiated her on the spot.

Q: Are there differences between the duties of a younger and older brahmacari? What is the difference between the older brahmacari and the vanaprastha.

A: Both are menial servant of guru. The older one can guide the younger. The vanaprastha has so many attachments to get rid of while the older brahmacari does not.

In the West, we have divorce, and in Vedic culture, they have the vanaprastha asrama. I thought of creating a Ministry for Creative Divorce. The only rule is once divorced, then remain divorced [don’t get married again]. We welcome back all the bruised and wounded grasthas to the brahmacari asrama. During Srila Prabhupada’s time, some men returned to brahmacarilife after their marriages did not work out.

I know quite a number of brahmacaris who got in deep trouble from going to wrong sites on the internet. If you go to the wrong place, do not go back there. If you can’t help it, cancel your internet connection.

Q: Can you tell us about masturbation?

A: Yes. I did some research. One study in 1994 found masturbation was the topic people were most quiet about. The survey takers had to make it completely confidential to get data on it. The Freudian story is that there is this sexual force in the human being that builds up and builds up, and if it is not released, makes one go crazy. The study found that the environment affects sexuality, including masturbation, more than one’s own biological demands. Masturbation is supplementary, complementary, or independent of sex with a partner. The more likely you engage in other kinds of sex, the more likely you are to engage masturbation. The more years of education you have, the more likely you are to masturbate and the more often.

Brahmacari life is a question of discipline. Just like on Ekadasi, if you decide to fast, it is much easier than if you think that maybe you will fast half a day, and then see how it goes. If they do not serve that prep you really like for lunch, you might fast to dinner. If you think like that then it is difficult. It is like that with being brahmacari.

Q: Is it still better to be brahmacari even if after many years you still on the mental platform about getting married?

A: Well you do not have to work eight hours a day to maintain a thought, so you have so much more time to dedicate to your spiritual life as a brahmacari. These thoughts come and go. If you can just let the thoughts go, and not be disturbed, it is better be brahmacari.

Srutidharma Prabhu:

As a brahmacari you have just one mind to deal with, but as a grhastha you have at least two minds to deal with, and maybe even four or five.

Bhakta Robert:

It is difficult to live in the temple, but it is more difficult to live outside the temple.

Notes from a Panel Discussion on Brahmacarya

Yadunandana Maharaja:

“The main purpose of asrama dharma is to awaken knowledge and detachment.” (SB 1.9.26, purport)

The brahmacari asrama is the foundation for the whole varnasrama system.

Example of brahmacaris: Sri Narada Muni, Sri Narottama Dasa Thakura

Wasting time can be caused by going too slow or by going too fast (and then not being able to sustain it).

Sometimes people hide from personal, social, emotional responsibilities in brahmacari ashram.

Dhirasanta Prabhu: You can tell your mind, “I need your help to chant these sixteen rounds. After that you can do whatever you want.”

Comment by Syamananda Prabhu: I have heard our biggest attachment is our attachment to distress.

Prahladananda Swami:

In one sampradaya they consult the horoscopes at the age of five and determine whether or not the brahmacari will take sannyasa in that life. Often they take sannyasa at the age of eight, and thus their sannyasa rods are very short. Interestingly enough they have had only one or two cases of fall down in 800 years.

Krishna Ksetra Prabhu:

When I first met the devotees, Sivananda Prabhu told me that the devotees practiced bhakti-yoga. I heard about it and told him, “Yes, I think that is what I am looking for.” They told me their morning service was at 4:30, and I said I would be there. I turned up at 4:30, but nobody answered the door.

One leader joked with me, “Harry, don’t marry.” I took it seriously. Tamal Krishna Goswami looked at me, and said, “How come you aren’t a sannyasi?” Then he related that Narada Muni is a brahmacari and that the Kumaras are brahmacaris, implying it was alright to be a brahmacari.

I was exposed to a women who I could hear through the walls was always having family arguments but in public always appeared with a smile. I felt something was wrong there.

My parents divorced when I was a teenager and remarried. That helped to make me reluctant to marry.

Q (by Prahladananda Swami): You are a brahmacari guru and sometimes young women want initiation, with less than uttama-bhakti aspirations. What do you do?

A: This is certainly true. There are even those disciples who announce their intention to marry me, which makes it difficult for them to understand it will not happen and for them to accept me as a guru instead of a husband. If I were a marriage arranger, I could do that service for them, but it is not my nature, so I advise them to find a grhastha to help them find a suitable husband.

As Bhakti Rasamrta Swami advised for his sannyasa asrama, we can ask the devotees for their mercy to remain brahmacari.

A main duty of the brahmacari is to show respects to members of all asramas.

Kripa Moya Prabhu:

A young man asked Socrates if he should get married. Socrates replied, “If you stay single you will be happy. If you get married, and you have a good wife, you will be happy. If you get married and have a bad wife, you will become a great philosopher and then you will become happy.”

If you are happy, you are in the right asrama, and if you regularly feel something is missing, you are in the wrong asrama. The wife is never the shelter in the grhastha asrama. Only Krishna is the shelter.

I have been married twenty-eight years, and I can say it is a dreamlike state, but then again, our entire situation in the material world is a dreamlike state.

In the history of ISKCON, we lost a lot of devotees who were brahmacaris, who weren’t suited for the asrama.

I was only a brahmacari for eight years, but they were the best years of my life and gave the most realizations. Brahmacari life is meant for realization of the Absolute Truth.

You have to think about other people first and care about other people first as a grhastha. It may seem that detracts from our spiritual focus, but actually it is good.

If you can be a brahmacari your whole life, by all means do. No one is more inspiring for a grhastha, than such a happy brahmacari, except such a brahmacari who is also philosophical astute and preaches, take caring of people.

Lonliness is the greatest enemy of a brahmacari. If you want to remain a senior brahmacari, have friends who are brahmacaris.

It is difficult seeing so much explicit sensuality when we approach the public to sell books, thus Srila Prabhupada advised we go to the holy dhama and get strength.

There are four asramas. Choose one. Do it right. And do not let the opinions of others disturb your conviction.

Krishna is definitely there. If you did not pray to Krishna as a brahmacari, you will definitely do so as a grhastha.

Q: We hear it is best for men to be brahmacari and best for women to get married? How do we adjust these two apparently contradictory ideas?

A: If I were Catholic, I would say, “That, my friend, is a mystery.”

A (Tattva-vit Prabhu said Bhakti Caru Swami said): If the devotee women marry persons who are not devotees but make them devotees by their association, then both could be true.

Traveling and preaching is the best life for a brahmacari. Beware of the temple. Then Krishna Ksetra Prabhu added, “Beware of the kitchen.” And Prahladanana Swami added, “Beware of the deity room.”

Q (by Shyamananda Prabhu): I can see grhastha life can help with emotional maturity, but is that necessary to be a good devotee?

A: Emotional maturity is important, but it is not required to be a grhastha to attain that. One thing we do not do in ISKCON well is to give people life-death situations after seven years, like they do theological seminaries, so brahmacaris can learn to really help people in a deeper way.

Bhakti-rasamrita Swami:

Marriage was never an option for me. I was satisfied to remain brahmacari for the rest of my life. But I became sannyasi because I felt it was better for preaching. People take your instructions more seriously. I always thought sannyasa was something that was awarded, not demanded or sought after. So I never brought it up.

One danger of sannyasa is that there are more opportunities for getting more honor and respect, which could prove distracting.

One brahmacari who was always a problem to engage, when he saw me as a sannyasi become so much more serious about his spiritual life, increasing his desire to take responsibility and to preach.

When people offer you additional respect because you have taken sannyasa, they are offering respect to your danda not to you.

Before taking sannyasa, I wrote all the leaders asking for their blessings. One person challenged me, “Sannyasa is not recommended in this age. Why are you taking it? Are you free of sex desire? Are you transcendental to the three modes of material nature? Are you a paramahamsa? Answer all these as honestly as possible.” I did and asked for his blessings, and he gushed forth with them.

It is better to be a brahmacari that people feel should have taken sannyasa, than a sannyasi than others feel should have remained a brahmacari.

It is always better to take sannyasa at the request of the devotees rather than because of one’s own ambition.

Prahladananda Swami:

We have tendencies toward brahmacarya or grhastha life, but beyond that, there is the power of the holy name. If we take shelter of the holy name, whatever asrama one is in, one will be a brahmacari, and if one does not take shelter of the holy name, whatever asrama one is in, one will not be a brahmacari.


śrī-nārada uvāca

brahmacārī guru-kule

vasan dānto guror hitam

ācaran dāsavan nīco

gurau sudṛḍha-sauhṛdaḥ

“Nārada Muni said: A student should practice completely controlling his senses. He should be submissive and should have an attitude of firm friendship for the spiritual master. With a great vow, the brahmacārī

should live at the gurukula, only for the benefit of the guru.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.1)