Understanding The Meaning of Rituals

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.20.36-37 - Understanding The Meaning of Rituals (download mp3)
by Krishna Chandra Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

SB 11.20.36
na mayy ekanta-bhaktanam
 guna-dosodbhava gunah
sadhunam sama-cittanam
 buddheh param upeyusam

Material piety and sin, which arise from the good and evil of this world, cannot exist within My unalloyed devotees, who, being free from material hankering, maintain steady spiritual consciousness in all circumstances. Indeed, such devotees have achieved Me, the Supreme Lord, who am beyond anything that can be conceived by material intelligence.

The words buddheh param indicate that the material modes of nature cannot be found within a pure devotee absorbed in the transcendental qualities of the Lord. In the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna clearly explains that a pure devotee is recognized by complete detachment from personal desire; therefore, a pure devotee constantly engaged in selfless service to Lord Krsna may not always observe the innumerable details of Vedic rituals and regulations. Such occasional negligence is not to be considered a transgression. Similarly, observance of ordinary material piety does not constitute the ultimate qualification of a soul surrendered to God. Love of Krsna and absolute surrender to the Lord’s will raise one immediately to the transcendental platform, where activities performed on the Lord’s behalf are absolute, being an expression of God’s will. Ordinary materialistic persons sometimes falsely claim this exalted status for their whimsical, immoral activities and cause a great disturbance in society. However, just as an ordinary person should not falsely claim the executive privileges of the personal assistants of a national leader, similarly, an ordinary conditioned soul may not foolishly claim that his immoral, whimsical or speculative activities are sheltered by divine right, being the will of God. One must actually be a pure devotee of the Lord, empowered by the Lord Himself and completely surrendered to the will of the Lord, before one may be accepted as transcendental to ordinary piety and sin.

There are cases of highly elevated devotees who momentarily fell down from the saintly platform of devotional service. The Lord instructs in Bhagavad-gita (9.30):

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

A momentary falldown by a sincere devotee of the Lord cannot change the Lord’s feelings toward such a person. Even an ordinary father or mother quickly excuses a momentary transgression by their child. Just as children and parents enjoy mutual love, the Lord’s surrendered servants enjoy a loving relationship with the Lord. An unpremeditated, accidental falldown is quickly excused by the Lord, and all members of society must share in the Lord’s own feelings, excusing such a sincere devotee. An advanced devotee should not be branded as materialistic or sinful because of accidental falldown. A devotee immediately returns to the platform of saintly service and begs the Lord’s forgiveness. However, one who permanently remains in a fallen condition can no longer be accepted as a highly elevated devotee of the Lord.

SB 11.20.37
evam etan maya distan
 anutisthanti me pathah
ksemam vindanti mat-sthanam
 yad brahma paramam viduh

Persons who seriously follow these methods of achieving Me, which I have personally taught, attain freedom from illusion, and upon reaching My personal abode they perfectly understand the Absolute Truth.

Thus end the purports of the humble servants of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to the Eleventh Canto, Twentieth Chapter, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, entitled “Pure Devotional Service Surpasses Knowledge and Detachment.”

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