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Amrta Vani
Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Why were the mathas established?

The mathas were not established to favor ordinary people but to help pure devotees advance in spiritual life. We serve Lord Gauranga simply by performing sri-krsna-sankirtana. The Bhagavatam verse, yajnaih sankirtana prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah, supports this idea. The example set by Sri Krsna’s Gaura pastimes is the only auspicious way to perfection for the jivas. The mathas have not been established to please bhogis or tyagis (enjoyers or renunciates). They have been established to preach pure devotional service. We receive blessings as we serve Hari by establishing mathas. Our intention is not to collect one or two rupees to benefit the matha. We should not be eager to take help from unscrupulous people. Rather, if we can benefit anyone by speaking the bold truth, then the matha’s purpose is served. People will often play tricks on us. We should consider such tricks the Lord’s test. It is difficult to cross beyond insurmountable maya unless we are greatly fortunate. Mayavadis and bhogis are both conditioned souls. By the mercy of Krsna’s devotees, persons who surrender to Hari can discriminate between good and bad, right and wrong. Know for certain that being drawn by the enjoying spirit, many people cannot realize the Absolute Truth.

Is it our business to build a matha and live there?

It is more intelligent to create a living matha rather than to build a matha for comfortable living. Creating a living matha means to attract faithful persons to surrender at the lotus feet of the spiritual master. The highest welfare activity is to attract living entities to serve the spiritual master’s lotus feet by describing to them the spiritual master’s glories and service. For this we spend gallons of blood. Such preaching will please both guru and Krsna. Therefore to dedicate body, mind, and speech to such philanthropic activities is the perfection of life.

“Devotees who are fully dedicated to their spiritual master are the living source, and we are to hear from such living sources so that we too can become dedicated devotees. People devoid and bereft of service to the spiritual master
are dead even as they breathe.”

Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

A matha surcharged with talk of Krsna’s glories and service is non-different from Vaikuntha. Thus living in a matha is just like living in a dhama. Hari-katha must be prominent in the matha. There is no use in building a matha simply to facilitate eating and sleeping. Mathas should be built only to spread hari-katha. This will benefit ourselves and others. Devotees who are fully dedicated to their spiritual master are the living source, and we are to hear from such living sources so that we too can become dedicated devotees. People devoid and bereft of service to the spiritual master are dead even as they breathe. Do not associate with such non-devotees if you do not want to harm your spiritual progress.

Amrta Vani - How is it possible to actually serve Krsna?
Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

Actual service to Krishna is rendered simply by serving the spiritual master and the Vaisnavas. The sahajiyas (imitators) cannot understand this. They think that one who worships Krishna is great, and therefore they proudly consider themselves Vaisnavas, accept service from others, and renounce their guru-seva and vaisnava-seva. Those who have heard the teachings of Sri Caitanyadeva and the Gosvamis, however, know well that it is possible to serve Krishna only by serving the Guru and the Vaisnavas, who are all Krishna’s dear devotees. What is the point in making a show of serving Krishna while neglecting to serve His devotees?

Those who renounce their subordination and service to the spiritual master pretend to serve Krishna and chant the Holy Name, but they commit offenses at every step. As long as one continues to commit offenses he cannot serve Krishna or chant His Holy Names purely. Only the surrendered devotees engaged in guru-seva and vaisnava-seva attain pure devotion by their mercy. Sri Caitanyadeva and the Gosvamis bestow mercy on those who serve Guru and the Vaisnavas with love and devotion.

“Actual service to Krishna is rendered simply by serving the spiritual master and the Vaisnavas. The sahajiyas (imitators) cannot understand this. They think that one who worships Krishna is great, and therefore they proudly consider themselves Vaisnavas, accept service from others, and renounce their guru-seva and vaisnava-seva.”
Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

I used to think of myself as a learned scholar in mathematics and philosophy, but by my good fortune I met my spiritual master. When he shocked me by pointing out that my great qualities—my truthfulness, my pure moral life, and my vast learning—were insignificant, I realized how great he must be to consider such qualities insignificant. By his push I could understand that there was no person as fallen and wretched as myself. I understood my actual position.

Here was a great soul who placed no value on qualities such as learning and moral character—qualities I esteemed highly. I understood what an invaluable object this great personality must possess! I concluded that he was either extremely merciful or extremely proud. Thereafter I took shelter of the Supreme Lord with humility. By the Lord’s mercy I realized that without the service and mercy of such an akincana, I could not achieve spiritual success. When I developed that good intelligence, I received the shelter and unlimited mercy of my spiritual master and my life became successful. Here I am speaking about that most auspicious personality whom I have realized by the mercy of the Supreme Lord, my own spiritual master.

The shock I received from my spiritual master made me realize that unless people are similarly shocked they will not come to their senses. Therefore I declare that I am the most foolish person in the entire world. Do not become foolish like me! Do not try to measure the spiritual master or Krishna. Discuss krsna-katha and you will certainly become a great personality.

Amrta Vani - Does Lack of Faith in God Cause Distress?
Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

Wherever there is an absence of complete faith in the most auspicious personality, there is bound to be inauspiciousness. Therefore, the ascending or unauthorized path should be totally rejected and the descending or authorized path of disciplic succession accepted. If we really want to benefit, we will have to offer everything we have accumulated since birth to the Lord’s lotus feet without reservation and await His causeless mercy. Until we are favored by a glimmer of His causeless mercy, we will not be able to understand krsna-katha. If we do not have full faith that the Lord alone bestows all auspiciousness, we will not be able to give everything up without hesitation. We may think, “If I give everything to Krsna, I may actually lose everything and find myself in trouble if Krsna has nothing to give me.” Such doubts are baseless. By maintaining such doubts, we simply invite inauspiciousness.

We have an invaluable jewel called independence,
but even in our independence we are dependent
on the Lord. The moment we attempt to misuse
our independence by opposing this understanding
we will bring about our own ruination.

Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

The Lord never refuses His surrendered devotee or leaves his desires unfulfilled. The Lord has the sole power to fulfill all our requirements and to give us full protection. If we can gain this conviction, we will become fearless. We will no longer feel anxiety. We will become happy. It is not possible to describe how much benefit the living entity receives by the Lord’s causeless mercy. When the Lord does bestow His mercy, it’s not that we become satisfied even after serving Him constantly. Rather, we receive an invaluable wealth of transcendental longing for the Lord’s service. We will not lament that we cultivated attraction to the Lord’s name, form, qualities, and pastimes, and we will not think they are boring or that our future is dark with possible disappointment. We will never think we have been cheated by surrendering to His lotus feet. Our most magnanimous, able, and grateful Lord will never throw us into the ocean of disappointment.

We have an invaluable jewel called independence, but even in our independence we are dependent on the Lord. The moment we attempt to misuse our independence by opposing this understanding we will bring about our own ruination.

If we approach worldly people with high expectations, they can neither fulfill our ambitions nor solve our problems. That is why Bhagavad-gita clearly instructs us to take complete shelter at Sri Krsna's lotus feet. He alone is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord. To surrender to Him is the ultimate goal of our life. Simply by surrendering to Him, we perfect our life. We should discuss how to surrender completely despite our anarthas and impediments.

Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura

No path in this material world is auspicious except the path of service to the Supreme Lord. The mentality that we understand life better than the devotees do leads us to hell, and therefore keeping such a mentality is harmful. The secret of success in spiritual life is to follow the path traversed by the Lord's devotees.

We should follow the devotees no matter how difficult the path is. If we wish to be successful in our following, we must be humble enough to realize how worthles we are. If we understand our disqualification, we can become qualified to see the beauty of the lotus feet of Krsna's devotees.

Ordinary human beings are always proposing how to get sense gratification. If we consider such topics religious, we can never become religious. Serving the devotees is the best form of auspiciousness.

Amrta Vani
Who is Learned?
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

A devotee of the Lord whose intelligence is illuminated with Vedic knowledge is actually learned. The sastra (scripture) states, pandito bandha moksa-vit, murkho dehady-aham-buddhih: “A wise man is one who knows the process of freedom from the bondage of material life, and a fool is one who identifies with his material body and mind.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.19.41-42). One who considers the material body to be the self is certainly a fool, even though he may have a certificate for his education.

Mundane scholars are aware only of mundane sound vibration. Since they are conditioned by maya (illusion) and consider the body to be the self, they are unable to realize scripture's actual purport. Because Srimad Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures are non-different from the Supreme Lord, they are understood and realized only by devotion.

Since the proud mundane scholars are devoid of devotional service to the Lord, they are intoxicated by false ego. Therefore how will such people understand the confidential purport of the sastras headed by Srimad Bhagavatam, which are non-different from the Lord? Can an idol maker see the Lord's Deity form?

If wealth, beauty, high birth, and learning are not attributed to proper candidates, they cause ruination. For non-devotees they are as good as death. They give anxiety, cause material existence, and enhance the false ego. For devotees, however, they are ornaments and do not produce anarthas.

“If we hear from the sadhus (saints) while
surrendering body, mind, and speech, only
then will we be able to realize the confi-
dential purport of the sastras (scriptures).”

Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

The meaning of the sastra and the meaning of material sound vibration is not the same. The sastras appear to contain mundane words, but they are full of transcendental sound vibration. They are the incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Therefore the mahajanas (great souls) said that transcendental subject matter is inconceivable – Adhoksaja. The sastras can be realized only by a devotee practicing devotional service and not by worldly academic learning.

Sastra is directly Krsna. It is His incarnation. Lord Krsna has personally manifested in this world, in the form of sastra, to provide us with something we need. Gaurangadeva said:

sastra-guru-atma'-rupe apanare janana krsna mora prabhu, trata' jivera haya jnana

“The forgetful conditioned soul is educated by Krsna through the Vedic literatures, the realized spiritual master, and the Supersoul. Through these, he can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is, and he can understand that Lord Krsna is his eternal master and deliverer from the clutches of maya. In this way, one can acquire real knowledge of his conditioned life and can come to understand how to attain liberation.”

(Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 20.123)

If we try to study sastra while lost in mental speculation, we will be cheated. Sastra reveals its treasure only to surrendered souls. If we have the same unalloyed devotion for the spiritual master as we have for Supreme Lord, the purports of all scriptures will reveal themselves to us automatically. People proud of their knowledge cannot understand the purport of sastra. If we hear from the sadhus (saints) while surrendering body, mind, and speech, only then will we be able to realize the confidential purport of the sastras (scriptures).

Amrta Vani
Is it necessary to worship Hari after having taken birth in a human body?
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

By good fortune and the Lord's mercy we have been given a human birth. The human form of life is extremely rare, and there is no guarantee that in our next life we will again become humans. By some misfortune we might become a ghost, witch, hobgoblin, animal, bird, or insect. It is not possible to worship Hari in those species. Therefore we should not use whatever time we have left in our present body for pointless activities.

Life is temporary. Still, human life can award spiritual salvation. Therefore as long as we are alive, we should quickly earn our spiritual perfection. Human beings proudly consider themselves brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, or sudras, brahmacaris, grhasthas, vanaprasthas, or sannyasis. Those who are intelligent, however, should not claim these false identities. We are simply the Lord's servants. We are not products of this world. To consider the body the self is an illusion. Sri Mahaprabhu said:

jivera svabhava, krsna-'dasa'-abhimana
dehe atma-jnane acchadita sei 'jnana'

The original nature of every living entity is to consider himself the eternal servant of Krsna. But under the influence of Maya he thinks himself to be the body, and thus his original consciousness is covered.

(Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 24.201)

Hari's holy name does not appear on the tongues of persons puffed up with the false ego of material proprietorship. We are eternally conditioned souls. Due to our forgetfulness of Krsna we have fallen into illusion. Now we have no alternative but to give up our false ego and take complete shelter at the lotus feet of guru and Krsna. Elephants think themselves elephants and dogs dogs, but humans should not think like this. Rather, they should be proud of their real identity. Sri Mahaprabhu said, jivera 'svarupa' haya krsnera 'nitya-dasa: "It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna" (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 20.108) Lord Hari is situated in every atom, and He attracts fools and the learned alike. Only those who have no desire for material enjoyment, for becoming the master, no desire to command respect as sadhus, are qualified to hear His instructions. Those who are attached to something so insignificant as their own pride, however, will not hear the Lord's call.

Still, such persons should know that death is inevitable, adya vabda satante va mrtyur vai praninam dhruvah: either today or in a hundred years every living entity must die. We are cognizant, but if despite our cognizance we did not approach the Lord's devotees and hear their instructions attentively, ruination is inevitable.

There is no chance to worship Hari in any form of life other than the human form. Therefore we should engage in Hari-bhajana until we die by giving up all other engagements. That's the only way we can attain the ultimate goal of life.

Everyone in this world is ready to ruin us. In this land of nofriendship, our so-called relatives are unfavorable for our devotional service. We therefore have no alternative but to take shelter of Vaisnavas. Vaisnavas are our actual relatives. We do not need to do anything for anyone. Just serve the Lord's devotees along with others. Let everyone serve the Lord with his or her knowledge, intelligence, academic qualification, physical strength, wealth, and expertise. The more we delay doing so, the more trouble we will find ourselves in.

People who follow non-Vaisnava religious principle cannot attain auspiciousness. All auspiciousness is held in the hand of those who take shelter at the lotus feet of a Vaisnava. The non-Vaisnavas are decorated only with the garlands of birth and death. Persons attached to hari-bhajana no longer enter the wombs of mothers. What to speak of Vaisnavas, even those who have the opportunity to see the lotus feet of an extraordinary Vaisnava will not take birth again.

Transcendental Condolences
a letter written by Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

My affection incarnate,

I have this morning come to Sri Gaudiya Math from Puri with “P”. Immediately on arrival at the station I heard that by the will of God “T” has gone away from us. You knew “T” as your son; he is a servant of Krsna. He came into the household of Vaisnava, you served him in the office of the parents of a Vaisnava, he has gone away after accepting that amount of service which he was in need. “T” indeed got his body from you but he is a soul – a Vaisnava. His eternal duty is service of God.

A Vaisnava comes into this world on the pretext of individual need and remains in material space for the alloted period of such mission and thereafter proceeds wheresoever Baladeva sends him according to his fitness. You know Maha Laksmi (sat energy) dwells in the heart of Baladeva and Krsna with His ecstatic energy dwells in Maha Laksmi. Therefore “T” has gone away in order to serve the object of his worship. As he happens to be a soul - a Vaisnava, emanating from Lord Nityananda, the incarnation of the power of being, if you learn to look upon Nityananda as a son, you will no longer experience any want. Nityananda Himself has been present as the Knower of the heart of “T”, you have served Him – continue to serve Him still.

The mass of matter of which the body of your son was composed in elemental space, has dissolved into five elements. But the soul of “T” remains employed in the constant service of God and His energy. Your son as an object of selfish enjoyment has been dissociated from the company of his father, as a similar object of selfish enjoyment. He is an object of enjoyment of God, and therefore his duty as a Vaisnava is to remain the object of God's enjoyment; that is God's servant.

God knows that you are not enthralled in the bondage of maya (illusory energy). He will not, therefore, overwhelm you in your misery, aiding you with the power of His infinite mercy. Please recall to memory the story of Srivas and his son.* Peruse Soka-satana of Thakur Bhaktivinode and Sri Caitanya Bhagavata of Thakur Vrindavan Das.

At the time when Mahaprabhu accepted sannyas, He said to his aged mother, His wife Visnu priya Devi and to the inhabitants of Navadwip: “I'm only a being variously connected with you. After my departure establish in My place, all these relationships with Krsna and afford me opportunity of freely serving Krsna.” In the absence of “T” you also will have more time for serving Godhead. What God does is for our good. What more can I say to console you?

With eternal blessings,
Sri Siddhanta Sarasvati

(this letter was originally published in The Harmonist, in September 1927)

*The story runs thus in the Caitanya Bhagavata (Madhya-khanda 25, 57-65): The Lord ask the dead child: “Why are you leaving Srivasa's house?” The child replied, “O Lord, this is the destiny arranged by You. Who has the power to change it?” All the devotees were struck with wonder to hear the dead child reply to the Lord's question. The child said,”I stayed and enjoyed as long as I was destined to live in this body. That destined time is now completed, so I cannot remain longer. Now I'm going to another predestined body. My destined time in this body is finished, so I cannot stay. Be merciful so that I may not forget You. O Lord, who is anyone's father and who is anyone's son? Everyone enjoys the fruit of his own karma. As long as I had the good fortune, I lived in at the house of Srivasa. Now I'm going to the house of someone else. I offer my obeisances at the feet of You and Your associates. Please don't consider my offenses. I'm leaving now.”

Amrta Vani
Let us leave our worldly experiences
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Whatever we have learned since childhood is mundane education. Such education simply taught us how to live in this world. When spiritual knowledge is established in the heart, we easily realize the insignificance of the above-mentioned education. “I am a servant of the Lord and not the object of service. To render service to the Lord is my only duty. I will not do anything other than serve the Lord": when these pious mentalities capture my heart, all my sinful mentalities and whatever I have learned from my worldly father, mother, relatives, and teachers will be removed. As soon as I forget that Krsna is the only enjoyer, I will fall into the ocean of material existence.

The conditioned life of those inclined to the Lord's service is exhausted, and the conditioned life of those averse to the Lord's service is enhanced. Those who are attached to this world do not like to serve, hear about, or have time for the Lord. Even if they make a show of hearing about the Lord, they immediately reject the teachings if they are not to their liking. They give no importance to hari-katha. They prefer to pay attention only to needs of the today.

If we want to know God, we must approach God’s devotees. There is no other way to know Him.

Amrta Vani
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

How can we maintain the fortune we have received?

Do not thirst for sense gratification. Do not desire to commit sinful activities. Rather, use your energy to engage in Lord Hari's service staying far away from the concerns of worldly morality. With such full surrender, you will achieve perfection. Jagai and Madhai did not commit further sinful activities after taking shelter of Sriman Mahaprabhu, and we should not either.

Only those who understand that hari-bhajana is the ultimate goal can feel the distress of others. By worshiping Hari one achieves eternal life; those who worship Him do not die. While materialists engage constantly with the enemies of lust, anger, and greed, devotees have no such enemies. When one has the natural tendency to worship Hari, one need not control his senses by force. Rather, by sincerely engaging in the Lord's service, the poisonous teeth of the senses are easily uprooted by the Lord's mercy.

Even the most experienced conditioned souls are interested in sense gratification, even though in their pursuit of happiness they are forced to suffer distress. Devotees, however, do not meet the pendulum swing of happiness and distress in this world. Rather, this world is a place of complete happiness for them because they have no desires. They do not even desire to become an Indra, what to speak of a Brahma, lord of all the demigods. A materialist would never choose to become an insect in this world, but a devotee would not mind such a birth as long as he could engage in hari-bhajana. Because of such an attitude, even the demigods are made fortunate by the mercy of Lord Caitanya's devotees.

It is important to become self-realized in this life. Otherwise, absorbed in matter at the time of death, we will be forced to take birth again in the material world. If we do not associate with the Lord's devotees during this life, we will end up forming narrow-minded groups and sects.

Amrta Vani
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

What instruction does a bona fide spiritual master give?

There is no scarcity of instructors in this world. People in this world advise us to pay special attention to our immediate needs, but this creates more bad than good because our needs go on increasing. While trying to fulfill our temporary needs we drown in the ocean of unlimited needs and difficulties. It is neither beneficial for us to live in this world with attachment nor to display detachment. We should become free from the cheaters who, in the guise of saints, induce ordinary people to aim for religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation and who are busy trying to make ordinary people as apparently religious as themselves. Instead, we should become intelligent enough to concentrate our mind on topics about Sri Caitanyadeva.

Brhaspati is the spiritual master of the demigods. He instructs the demigods in such a way that they can enjoy a better standard of life. Both Brhaspati's sharp intelligence and his instructions on religious principles are meant simply to increase his disciples' enjoying propensity. There are many good instructors in human society too— family priests, community leaders, country leaders, and relatives— whose instructions are similarly meant. There are also family spiritual masters such as Vasistha who instruct their disciples to renounce sense gratification. But a Vaisnava spiritual master instructs people only to worship Hari. He makes neither material enjoyment nor dry renunciation the goal of his instructions. Instead, he instructs others for their eternal benefit.

Amrta Vani
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Please awake your soul!

The type of bhakti Sri Gaurasundara preached is the highest service. Glorification of the Lord such as it was inaugurated by Sri Gaura is the remedy to cure our diseased condition and awaken our propensity for loving service to the Lord. It is our duty to faithfully accept this remedy. Then we will be peaceful. Chanting Krsna's holy name is that infallible remedy. Thus we should glorify Hari all the time. The Lord has invested His holy name with all His energies, and He has included the crest jewel of all objectives in the chanting. It is the duty of those devotees who have taken complete shelter at the Sri Caitanya's lotus feet to cultivate the conclusion of Srimad-Bhagavatam while following in His footsteps.

Forgetting our service to Krsna, we have become masters. We wanted to become masters, and this material world provided us with the opportunity. This world is perfectly arranged for that purpose. But mastership is not our constitutional position. Rather, it is the tendency of conditioned souls. There is no peace in following one's conditioning. Peace can only be attained by practicing devotional service, by considering oneself a servant of Krsna.

We have become degraded because we have forgotten who we are. We are Krsna's servants. The spiritual master, who is dear to Krsna, imparts to us this transcendental knowledge. This process is called initiation. Simply by serving the spiritual master the desire to engage in devotional service is awakened. If we can sincerely approach Krsna's devotees and hear from them submissively, we will certainly benefit both in this life and the next. Our lives will become fully successful when we begin to engage everything in the Lord's service.

You all are learned. I do not consider you nondevotees. Because you are devotees I fall at your feet and beg you to please give me these alms: forget that you are important persons in this world. Give up everything and become attached to the lotus feet of Sri Caitanyacandra. If you are even a little attracted to the Lord, you can immediately understand that there is no inconvenience in practicing His teachings. Whoever hears His instructions will certainly begin to chant Hari's holy name. O my brothers! Why are you traveling the path of inauspiciousness? What do you gain by discussing worldly topics? Always hear krsna-katha and engage in Krsna's service.

At present, the soul is sleeping peacefully after entrusting all its responsibilities to the mind. Break the soul's sleep, because the mind is the greatest enemy and extremely unreliable. The mind will lead you only deep into the ocean of distress. You must keep the mind under control.

It does not matter what our situation, if we forget the Lord we will find only trouble. Our fortune lies in taking shelter at Krsna's lotus feet. If we give up Lord Hari, we will suffer material misery after falling into darkness. We have attained this human form of life by good fortune, not to become foolish or ignorant. Engage in your normal human condition as servants of the Lord. Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 22.33 states:

krsna, tomara hana' yadi bale eka-bara
maya-bandha haite krsna tare kare para

One is immediately freed from the clutches of Maya if he seriously and sincerely says, "My dear Lord Krsna, although I have forgotten You for so many long years in the material world, today I am surrendering unto You. I am Your sincere and serious servant. Please engage me in Your service."

Amrta Vani
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Is it possible to achieve fortune without surrendering?

Without complete surrender to Krsna the living entities do not attain complete fortune. If Krsna is not in our remembrance at every step, at every movement, and at during every activity, we will certainly be misguided. If we maintain the conception of "I and mine" on the strength of the knowledge we have gained through our senses, we will be baffled in the end. If we are covered by the misconception that we are enjoyers and this material world is meant for our enjoyment, then we will certainly become degraded.

We are souls and this material world is dead matter. "Matter" is that which we can enjoy. Forgetting our constitutional position we are controlled by false ego, imagining ourselves enjoyers and all matter meant for our enjoyment. When false ego peaks, then the sinful conception, "I am almighty God" ruins us. If we are bewildered by our own apparent greatness, then we should know that our advancement has been totally obstructed.

Amrta Vani
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Are the tests the Lord presents the living entities manifestations of His mercy?

Teachers mercifully arrange for examinations in order to take students to a higher class. For attentive, intelligent students, examinations are a source of happiness. Only the inattentive students are afraid of or dislike examinations.

Those who glorify material enjoyment and who speak accordingly to their audience's taste do not face danger, inconvenience, or obstacles in their preaching, but those who preach about devotional service and the soul's eternal propensity face many difficulties. These inconveniences come and try to cause discouragement. But those who have taken shelter of devotional service should definitely know that these obstacles have come to test our love of and determination for the Lord's service; they are actually assisting us in our progressive advancement on the devotional path.

We should remain firmly fixed in devotional service while accepting the ideal examples of namacarya Haridasa Thakura and the topmost devotee, Prahlada Maharaja. Both of them exhibited a wonderful service attitude and a high degree of tolerance. Simply to achieve something temporary, human beings are baffled for hundreds of lifetimes. If in spite of seeing thousands of examples of failure, such people will even dare to give up their lives to attain insignificant enjoyment, then can't intelligent and fortunate devotees dedicate their temporary lives to understand the Supreme Lord, who is the Absolute Truth for all time?

Amrta Vani
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Some people say that everyone is equal. Are they correct?

How can the honest and dishonest, devotee and nondevotee, pious and impious, literate and illiterate, demigod and Supreme Lord, chaste and unchaste, religious and irreligious, light and dark, constitutional and conditional, as well as devotional and nondevotional service be equal? Everything seems easy to those who are unaware of internal objects or who cannot enter more subtle understandings of them. A foolish boy may claim that his illegible writing has meaning because the writing of an intelligent person has meaning. If illegible writing and meaningful writing are considered equal, foolish people will think that anyone trying to make a distinction between them is guilty of sectarianism or partiality. If we appeal to those who have no understanding of the Supreme Lord Hari to discuss topics about Hari and their conclusion, they will say that to reveal the conclusion would be sectarian. Then they would say that refuting an improper conclusion amounts blasphemy. They think that because we don't know everything, better to balance the account by calling everything equal. In this way, everyone will be pleased and we will have created no enmity. But truth and falsehood, devotion and non-devotion are never one. For those devoid of devotional sentiment, who feel no necessity to serve the Supreme Lord, who do not want actual benefit, and whose life's goal is material enjoyment and fame, devotional service and pseudo devotional service appear one.

Is the phrase "As many opinions, as many paths" correct?

Opinion is born from mental speculation. As there are innumerable living entities, there are innumerable thoughts and tastes. The path that has been created, is being created, and will be created in the future by peoples' whims can never be the eternal occupational duty of the spirit soul (sanatana-dharma). Although there have been and will be innumerable opinions based on mental speculation. Srimad-Bhagavatam, the king of all sastra, declares:

sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje

ahaituky apratihata yayatma suprasidati

"The supreme dharma for all human beings (sadhana-bhakti) is that by which prema-bhakti to the Lord arises, which is not caused by anything other than itself, cannot be obstructed, and which satisfies the mind completely." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.6)

The philosophy of "as many opinions, as many paths" found in this world is a path born from material knowledge; it is a path favorable to the material world. It is unmotivated, uninterrupted devotional service to Hari that is the supreme opinion for all humanity. The soul can be happy by no other means. Since other religious principles and processes award little pleasure to body or mind, gross materialists and mental speculators consider such religious principles and processes as their ultimate goal. Discussions of the Absolute Truth must be heard from the living source. Then the living entities can attain highest eternal benefit. Otherwise, there will be danger at every moment for those who are misguided.

(Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati)