Q: Many devotees leave householder life and stay in Vraja Dham by the mercy of Radharani. Although they come with the intention of doing bhajan, often they become attached to various pleasurable objects or people. Why does this happen?
A: When the sadhak leaves home, comes to Vraja Dham and gradually, settles down to a comfortable lifestyle, his initial zest for bhajan subdues and he becomes lazy in bhajan. In present times, it is easy to find comfortable accommodation, Prasadam, etc in Vraja Dham and this is leading to a degradation in the quality of bhajan of devotees living here. Along with that, mingling with many people and lack of a lifestyle of austerities leads to deviation from the path of Bhakti. [It is important to understand that even though we mostly mingle with devotees in Vraja Dham, if our conversations involve anything other than the qualities and pastimes of Guru, Krishna and Radharani, it is a deviation from bhajan.]
When the sadhak is in Grihastha Ashrama, he naturally faces a lot of struggle in the path of Bhakti, since no family is devoid of problems, diseases, calamities and disagreements. Irritated and aggrieved by these problems and quarrels, the sadhak, who has Samskaras of Bhakti from previous lives, often leaves Grihastha Ashrama and goes to stay in Vraja Dham for doing bhajan. He thinks, “Alas! I have become so entangled in Maya! This human birth was given for breaking free from the cycle of birth and death. How will I free myself from Maya? How will I achieve pure Bhakti of God?” He starts developing detachment from the material world and experiences a lot of pain in his heart while engaging in worldly activities. He attempts to free himself from problems of householder life but is not able to do so.
At that time, he thinks he has developed Vairagya from the material world but in reality, he still has many desires hidden in his heart. Due to the association of Sadhus, he might develop some detachment from the material world but he is not really eligible to leave Grihastha Ashrama at that time. Such people find a comfortable place to live in Vraja Dham, bring or keep money in banks and ensure that there will be no problem in eating and sleeping while staying here. This is not a life of a renunciate. [Those who are in Grihastha Ashrama can come to stay in Vraja Dham with their families and money, while still performing their duties as a householder. But if someone truly wants to renounce the householder life, then keeping money for oneself is not allowed.]
If you pick an unripe fruit and ripen it with carbide (a chemical to artificially ripen fruits and vegetables), it will gain the appearance of a ripe fruit but not the sweet taste that a naturally ripened fruit has. When a fruit ripens naturally, it falls from the tree on its own. One does not have to pick it manually. Similarly, a sadhak should not take renunciation while he has hidden desires in his heart. If that happens, he might wear the clothes of a renunciate, keep dreadlocks and beard but at some point, his desires start forthcoming and he becomes a fraud.
Nowadays, in Vrindavan, such Sadhus have no worry about getting chapati daily. Even if they visit one ashram at a time, they need not revisit the ashram in a month! This kind of abundance leads to complacency in sadhak, they just live happily without much yearning to progress in Bhakti path. No worry, no responsibility on their shoulders combined with lack of a proper lifestyle of bhajan leads to deviation from Bhakti path.
Since they eat whatever is served to them as Prasadam, there is high chance of Anna doshas (see here). Jāti dosh, Āshray dosha, Nimitta dosha should always be considered by a sadhak. Although it is Prasadam, one must consider who is cooking the food, the source of the money used, whether the money is authentic or earned through illegal and fraud means, whether the people serving are really devotees - all these lead to contracting various impure tendencies of mind and distraction from bhajan.
The buried Samskaras and desires, which were not visible even in Grihastha Ashrama, get reawakened after some time and the sadhak starts engaging in materialistic pursuits. Although, at the time of leaving Grihastha Ashrama, the sadhak thinks there are no desires in his heart, afterwards, they get reawakened.
The most important thing is that one must not leave Grihastha Ashrama due to frustration from problems in his life or lack of money and material needs. Many a times, people who lack money or face a lot of problems in life think that the life of a Sadhu is easy. They think, ‘there are so many feasts and services for Sadhus in Vraja Dham. So why not become a Sadhu? Ultimately, the human life is given for bhajan, so let’s just leave all these problems and become a Sadhu.
In this way, I will be able to do some bhajan and there will be no concerns about getting food and clothes.’ The truth is that if they had material happiness, abundant money and all the tools for enjoying worldly pleasures, they would not have left Grihastha Ashrama. But due to the lack of that, they became Sadhu. This kind of renunciation does not last long or results in fraud Sadhus.
This is why a sadhak must not leave Grihastha Ashrama until he really becomes detached from materialistic attractions. When the sadhak doesn’t even remember what money is, what home and family are, what delicious food tastes like, then he must leave Grihastha Ashrama. Griha (home) is not bricks and cement, or the people we have grown up living with. Griha is desire of material pleasure. The sadhak has to take renunciation from comforts, from pleasing people for material security, from relying on money for daily needs.
How does this happen? When the mind gets fixed in contemplation of Radha Krishna, in their love and loving service, then all material existence becomes unreal like a dream. Then the sadhak forgets what is material pleasure. Money seems like fire coming to engulf him. Association of materialistic people feels like drinking poison. Appreciation feels like excreta of pig. In such a state only, the sadhak must leave Grihastha Ashrama and come to live in Vraja Dham. Then, he lives by eating the Madhukari prasadam given by Brajavasi Maiyas and lives with minimal needs, chanting Harinaam constantly and contemplating the divine lilas of Radha Krishna. He rolls in the dust of Braj Dham in ecstasy for seemingly no reason! Until then, the sadhak must stay in Grihastha Ashrama and perform bhajan along with detaching himself from material pleasures.
Srila Raghunath Das Goswami was the sole heir to the abundant wealth of his father and uncle. Their annual income was 12 lacs of Rupees at a time when the valuation of Rupee was much greater than today. In today’s time, it would be like earning millions of Rupees every month. On top of that, he was married with a girl who had a beauty like Apsarās (celestial female dancers). But still, he did not want to stay in Grihastha Ashrama.
When he went to take darshan of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he was overwhelmed by the desire of leaving worldly duties and pleasures. He wanted to leave householder life immediately and stay with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Yet, Mahaprabhu said:
Yathā yogya visaya bhuñja’ anāsakta haña.
Antare nisthā kara bāhye loka vyavahāra,
Acirāt Krishna tomāya karibe uddhāra.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.238-239)
Meaning: You must not become a false renunciate like a monkey by external show of renunciation. Accept material pleasures according to your needs but stay detached from them. In your heart, you must contemplate on God with determination, but externally, you must behave and engage in worldly duties like an ordinary man. Krishna will soon be pleased with you and free you from the clutches of Maya.
Later, when He again preached the meaning of Vairagya to Srila Raghunath Das Goswami, he said:
Bhāla nā khāibe, bhāla nā paribe.
Amāni mānada haña Krishna nāma sadā labe,
Vraje Rādhā Krishna sevā mānase karibe.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.6.236-237)
Meaning: Do not listen or speak idle talk. Do not eat tasty food, nor wear nice clothes. Do not expect honour for oneself, but always give honour to others. Always chant the holy names of Lord Krishna and serve Radha Krishna in Vrindavan mentally.
Therefore, a sadhak must not haste to become a renunciate. He must perform the very same actions as any other householder but remain detached to the worldly pleasures mentally. He must first develop his Vairagya internally. He must try not to eat nice food, wear nice clothes, etc. He must contemplate on the lotus feet of Radha Krishna always while engaging in worldly duties physically. In this way, his detachment to the material world will strengthen and Radha Krishna will soon save him from Maya.
Srila Raghunath Das Goswami followed Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings and started acting like normal householders. His parents had ordered eleven servants to serve him as well as restrain him from running away. When they saw that their son had abandoned his craze for leaving home and engaged in householder duties, they relieved him of the eleven servants and the restrictions they had put on him. Meanwhile, Srila Raghunath Das Goswami’s detachment from material world and yearning for Prem Bhakti deepened in his heart.
One day, he was escorting Sri Yadunandan Acharya to his home. On his way back, Srila Raghunath Das Goswami saw a golden opportunity to run away as there was no one around. With great yearning to see Mahaprabhu, he ran from there for twelve days until he reached Sri Jagannath Puri Dham, where Mahaprabhu resided. On his way, he took food barely three days. Other than that, he just kept running towards Puri Dham without a thought for food or water.
This is how renunciation should be! Even when all the worldly pleasures are present, if the sadhak doesn’t feel any attraction to them, then he has developed true renunciation and is eligible for leaving Grihastha Ashrama. If someone wants to leave Grihastha Ashrama and do bhajan in solitude, he must be tested. Take a Rasagulla (sweet made of cottage cheese balls boiled in sugar syrup) Prasadam to him and ask him to partake it. Then ask him how it tastes. If he says it is sweet, then he is ineligible to take renunciation. If he sincerely says that he doesn’t know how it tastes, only then he is eligible for renunciation as his mind is truly immersed in contemplation of Radha Krishna and fully detached from the material world.
If a sadhak leaves Grihastha Ashrama before this stage, there will always be a chance that as soon as he comes in contact with worldly pleasures (Sukriti Jata Anarthas), desires will start attacking him again. And due to materialistic Samskaras of innumerable previous lives, he would be unable to restrain himself from enjoying those desirable objects.
When a sadhak develops real yearning for Prem Bhakti and gets truly immersed in the contemplation of Radha Krishna, no worldly matter or person will be able to give him any pleasure. His mind will be fixed in Radha Krishna. At that time, he automatically leaves Grihastha Ashrama. But before that, it is not right to leave by intellectual reasoning like ‘since I am not able to become detached while staying amidst worldly pleasures, let’s just leave home and become a Sadhu’.
Therefore, a sadhak must always try to contemplate on Radha Krishna and chant Harinaam. Once, a Tantric Sadhu became a Siddha in the worship of ghosts. He could summon a ghost using mantra and make it do whatever he wanted.
The rule in Tantra way of worship is that if one fails to succeed in a ritual, it will harm the ritualist. So, when the ghost was summoned, it said to the Sadhu, “I will do whatever you tell me to do. But I will not rest. If you fail to give me any work, I will eat you.” The Sadhu gave it many works but the ghost could complete a month’s worth of work in a few minutes. Eventually, the Sadhu ran out of ideas for work. So, he improvised a plan. He brought a bamboo stick with 108 nodes and said, “Until I give you more work, keep climbing up and down this bamboo stick.”
Our mind is like that ghost. If we don’t focus it on the contemplation of Radha Krishna, it will wander in all the dirt of worldly matters and destroy us. So, Gurudev gave us this Japamala with 108 beads. Keep chanting and counting from this side to that side and back! In this way, one can gradually develop true Vairagya.