Friday, July 19, 2019

Obstacles to Devotion / His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura

"There are eighteen obstacles that pollute one's ecstatic love in the wonderful mood of Vraja. Contemplating the names of these obstacles is the indirect consideration of the mood of Vraja.

Persons who are on the path of attachment should avoid the first obstacle, accepting a bogus guru, by discussing Putana's arrival in Vraja in the guise of a nurse [see Appendix A]. There are two types of gurus—antaranga, or internal, and bahiranga, or external. The living entity who is situated in samadhi is his own antaranga guru. 

One who accepts argument as his guru and who learns the process of worship from such a guru is said to have accepted the shelter of a bogus guru. When argument poses as nourishment for the living entities' constitutional duties, this may be compared with Putana's falsely posing as a nurse. Worshipers on the path of attachment must immerse all arguments in spiritual subjects and take shelter of samadhi. 

The external guru is he from whom the science of worship is learned. One who knows the proper path of attachment and who instructs his disciples according to their qualification is a sad-guru, or eternal guru. One who does not know the path of attachment yet instructs others in this path or who knows that path and instructs his disciples without considering their qualification is a bogus guru and must be given up. 

The second obstacle is false arguments. It is difficult for one's ecstatic emotion to be awakened until Trnavarta, in the form of a whirlwind, is killed in Vraja. In the form of Trnavarta, the arguments of philosophers, Buddhists, and logicians are all obstacles to the ecstatic emotion of Vraja.

Those who do not understand the purpose of the regulative principles but simply carry the burden of following them out of formality are unable to develop attachment. When one destroys Sakata, who personifies carrying the burden of the regulative principles, the third obstacle is overcome. 

Bogus gurus who did not consider their disciples' qualification for the path of attachment and thus instructed many Sakata-like people to accept service in the mood of manjaris and sakhis committed offenses in the form of disrespecting confidential subject matters and fell down. Those who worship according to such instructions also gradually fall away from spiritual life, because they do not attain the symptoms of deep attachment for those topics. 

Yet they may still be delivered by the association of devotees and proper instructions. This is called breaking Sakata. The living entities are sober by nature, but when they are disturbed due to possessing a body made of blood and flesh it is called bala-dosa, or juvenile offenses. This is the fourth obstacle, in the form of Vatsasura [see Appendix B].

The most clever Bakasura, who is the personification of cheating religion, is the fifth obstacle for Vaisnavas. This is called namaparadha, offenses against the holy name of the Lord. Those who do not understand their qualification but accept the instruction of a bogus guru and engage in the process of worship meant for exalted devotees are cheated asslike people. And those who have understood their ineligibility yet with a goal to accumulate money and prestige still follow the process of worship meant for exalted devotees are called cheaters. 

Until this cheating in the name of religion is destroyed, one's attachment will not awaken. Such people deceive the entire world by making a show of sectarian formalities and pseudo-renunciation.

Those who see and respect such proud people's show of external formalities cannot attain love for Krsna and are like thorns in the side of the world. It is to be understood here that one should not disrespect a swanlike person just because he has accepted external formalities that are generally considered detestable. It is the eternal duty of Vaisnavas to develop the symptoms of love by associating with and serving devotees, while remaining indifferent to external formalities.

Aghasura, the personification of intolerance and cruelty, is the sixth obstacle. Due to a lack of compassion for the living entities there is a possibility that one's attachment will gradual diminish, because compassion cannot remain separated from attachment. The basis of compassion for the living entities and devotion to Krsna is the same.

If one intensely absorbs his mind in various arguments, opinions, and their respective literatures, then all realizations attained through samadhi are practically lost. This is called illusion based on the flowery words of the Vedas. Being overwhelmed with this illusion, Brahma doubted the supremacy of Krsna. The Vaisnavas should regard this illusion as the seventh obstacle.

Subtle discrimination is extremely important for Vaisnavas. Those who invent social distinctions and preach the unbreakable principles of Vaishnavism while breaking them to suit their needs are said to possess gross discrimination. This gross discrimination takes the form of the ass Dhenuka. The ass cannot eat the sweet palm tree fruits, and he opposes others' attempts to eat them. 

The purport is that the previous acaryas of the authorized sampradayas have written many spiritual literatures, which people with gross discrimination neither understand nor allow others to see. Asslike devotees who are simply interested in the regulative principles and under the control of gross discrimination are unable to attain a higher platform. Vaisnava principles are so unlimitedly exalted that those who simply remain entangled in the regulative process without endeavoring to understand the science of attachment are comparable to ordinary fruitive workers. Therefore, until the ass Dhenukasura is killed, one cannot advance in the science of Vaishnavism.

Many weak-hearted people give up the path of regulative principles and enter the path of attachment. When they are unable to realize the souls' spiritual attachment, they behave like Vrishabhasura [Arishtasura, the bull] by cultivating perverted material attachment. They will be killed by the prowess of Krsna. The example of this obstacle is regularly found among the selfish dharma-dvajis, the show-bottle devotees.

Kaliya's malice always pollutes the water of the Yamuna, which is the spiritual liquid of the Vaisnavas. It is everyone's duty to give up this tenth obstacle [see Appendix C]. The eleventh obstacle of the Vaisnavas is sectarianism, which takes the shape of the forest fire. Due to sectarianism a person cannot accept anyone outside of his own group as a Vaisnava, and as a result he faces many obstacles in finding a guru and associating with devotees. Therefore extinguishing the forest fire is most important.

The impersonalists desire to merge the soul in the impersonal Brahman. In other words, searching for the liberation of complete merging is the defect of stealing the self, because there is no happiness in this state. Neither the living entity nor the Lord gain anything from this. If one believes the impersonalists' philosophy, then he must accept this material world as false. 

One then denounces Brahman as indifferent and gradually develops doubts about the basis of Brahman. If one deeply discusses this topic, then he is compelled to accept meaningless nescience and nonexistence of the living entities. Thus all of mankind's endeavors and considerations become meaningless. Sometimes this philosophy enters amongst Vaisnavas in the form of Pralambasura to spread anarthas, in the form of stealing the self. This is the twelve obstacle in the Vaisnavas' science of love.

The thirteenth obstacle for the Vaisnavas is the worship of minor demigods such as Indra with a desire for fruitive results even after becoming situated in the process of devotional service.

The fourteenth obstacle in developing love for Krsna is stealing others' property and speaking lies. These create disturbances in Vraja in the form of Vyomasura.

The transcendental happiness of the living entities in Vraja is known as nanda. In order to enhance that happiness, some deluded people drink wine, and as a result they create the great anartha of forgetting themselves. Kidnapping Nanda to the abode of Varuna is the fifteenth obstacle for the Vaisnavas. People who are absorbed in the mood of Vraja never drink wine.

The desire for gaining fame and sense gratification through bhakti is called Shankhacuda. This is the sixteenth obstacle. Those whose actions are motivated by a desire for fame are also proud, therefore Vaisnavas should always be careful of such persons.

As the Vaisnavas' happiness continually increases in the process of worship, they sometimes lose consciousness. At that time the feeling of merging overcomes them. This feeling of merging with the Lord is the snake that swallowed Nanda Maharaja. A practitioner who remains free from this snake will become a qualified Vaisnava.

Kesi, a demon in the form of a horse, personifies the practitioner's conception of being more expert than others in devotional service. When he comes to Vraja, he creates a great disturbance. As a Vaisnava gradually begins proclaiming his own superiority, a mentality of disrespect for the Lord arises and the devotee falls from his position. Therefore it is most important to prevent this evil mentality from entering the heart. Even if one is expert in devotional service, a Vaisnava will never give up the quality of humility. If one does so, then there is a need for killing Kesi. This is the eighteenth obstacle.

Those who want to happily serve Krsna in the pure mood of Vraja should carefully destroy the above-mentioned eighteen obstacles. Some of these obstacles should be destroyed by a person's own endeavor and purity, and some should be destroyed by the mercy of Krsna. A living entity is able to personally destroy the obstacles that are found under the shelter of religious duties through samadhi known as savikalpa. The Srimad Bhagavatam explains that these obstacles are actually destroyed by Baladeva. But it is also described that the obstacles that are destroyed by taking shelter of Krsna are actually destroyed by Him. Swanlike persons with subtle discrimination should carefully discuss these topics.

Those who are on the path of jnana should give up the offenses found in the realm of Mathura, and those who are on the path of fruitive activities should give the offenses found in Dvaraka. But devotees should give up the obstacles that pollute the mood of Vraja and be absorbed in love for Krsna."

His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura

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