Kiev, the Ukraine
5 September 2004
Notes from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's rendition of Srimad-Bhagavatam 1. 2. 16, translated by Punya-palaka Prabhu of ISKCON Prague.
The verse as it appears in the BBT edition of Srimad-Bhagavatam, translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:
syan mahat-sevaya viprah
O twice-born sages, by serving those devotees who are completely freed from all vice, great service is done. By such service, one gains affinity for hearing the messages of Vasudeva.
Srila Sarasvati Thakura's translation (rendered into English from the Thakura's Bengali):
O Saunaka and other sages, attachment to topics of Sri Hari arises in those who have faith in the words of sadhu, guru and sastra and who desire to hear about the Lord, as the result of visiting the holy places connected to Lord Visnu, serving the bona fide spiritual master and serving the saintly devotees of Krsna.
From Srila Sarasvati Thakura's explanation:
. . . The heart of a devotee of the Supreme Lord is a holy place, as is the place where he lives. These two kinds of holy places stimulate the awakening of taste for the topics of the Lord. Besides the tirtha-seva, another reason for awakening this taste is mahater-seva, a service to great personalities. Yasyasti bhaktir bhagavad akincana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah / harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih (SB 5. 18. 12).
. . . When one thoroughly discards bad association and associates with saintly great souls, then his bad taste transforms into taste for the topics of the Lord. . . . By serving the great souls, the proper behavior of the living entity is manifested, and he leaves aside the path of logic and reasoning. Then, accepting the path of hearing hari-katha, he takes shelter in devotional service called kirtana. The performer of kirtana ceases to consider the Lord and His illusory energy to be the same, and he exclusively dedicates himself to the service of the Lord.
This was sent in by a regular reader:
That's not a body, that's my wife!
Jeff Green is a 32 year old American who lives in Arizona. Not long ago his wife passed away. Due to the grief he suffered at her death, he did something totally out of character for a normal and sane person. He said, "I could no longer take the pain that my wife's death caused me and so I brought her back home. "
His wife, Lucy, was born with a heart condition that cut her life short at the young age of 29. Lucy's last words to Jeff were, "We will meet again in heaven. " But these words were of no consolation in Jeff's despair. At the funeral, in an act of desperation, Jeff decided that he would not let Lucy leave him.
"I called the cemetery caretaker and explained my feelings. " he said later. "I spoke with the authorities and got special permission to take my wife home with me. They thought it strange, but I was allowed to take her with me. I'd rather have her at home than six feet under ground. Lucy had a great sense of humor and I'm sure she would appreciate being my coffee table. "
Jeff ordered a special hermetically sealed glass case that eliminates the decomposition of a dead body. "It cost me about $6,000. 00, but it was worth it. "
Some of his friends and relatives, filled with fear, stopped visiting him, but his true friends respected his decision and continue coming over.
Some even comment that it makes a nice piece of furniture.
This question was emailed to me by a Bhakta in New Zealand:
Lately Ive been wandering what exactly is the exact definition of breaking the Gambling regulative principle. The other regs are quite clear. Gambling however has diffrent degrees and different forms including speculation.
For instance Gambling is generally in western terms meaning casinos and horse races etc. Dabbling with that with the expectation of making some money . It seems that the obvious transgression is that It leads to Lust and Greed and bad association etc.
However there are also other types of activity like lotto or buying a product which has attached to it a draw one can enter into to say win a car etc , by answering a question.
Also there is dabbling in various forms of sharemarkets and stock exchange. Its interesting that once Shyamasundara and Srila Prabhupada Dabbled in gold. Of course it was Shyamasundara who first bought the Gold . Then Srila Prabhupada Kind of joined in the fun. However after this he said Shyamasundara is expert wheras its better that no one else does this. In one sense buying and selling things is kind of similiar. Or entering into a business partnership with some idea of making some gain.
So my Question is what exactly constitutes breaking this principle. For instance Im aware that some devotees buy lotto tickets which could be seen as being in one sense less innocent compared to say entering a gambling casino.
I would very much appreciate what you would have to say.
Srila Prabhupada counted mental speculation as a transgression of the "no gambling" rule. See for example his letters to Dinadayal das (70-02-02), Hanuman Prasad Poddar (70-02-05), and Manmohini dasi (70-02-21). In addition, there's a letter from Srila Prabhupada to his disciple Sacisuta das in Boston, dated 68-05-30. In it Srila Prabhupada discussed the rules that initiated devotees must follow. Along with the 4 regulative principles and the 10 offenses against the holy name, several other rules are listed, including these two:
Should not waste time in idle talks
Should not become engaged in frivolous sports
In my mind, idle talks and frivolous sports are subsets of gambling, which basically means to take an unauthorized risk.
Srila Prabhupada clearly did authorize risk-taking in the preaching field. Consider this statement, from a 1968 lecture:
Krsna said that devotees, that you should not disturb them. [Prabhupada means that Krsna said in the Gita that devotees ought not to disturb persons who are attached to material activities. ] But devotees are so kind that taking all risk. Just like Nityananda Prabhu took all risk, Lord Jesus Christ took all risk. Therefore a devotee is more kind than God. A devotee is more merciful than God Himself. We should always remember this. And therefore Krsna says, mad-bhaktya pujyabhyadhika. "Anyone who worships My devotee, he worships more than what he can do for Me. " That means He appreciates the worship of His devotee than to Himself. So actually, devotees are so kind. Krsna says, "Those who are absorbed too much in material consciousness, don't disturb them. " But devotees take the risks, even at the cost of life. Therefore devotee is so dear to Krsna.
Betting money in a casino, or playing the lotto, or even just letting the mind wander here and there in haphazard mental speculation, or wasting time and energy in idle talks and frivolous sports, all amount to taking risks that are not sanctioned by our Founder-acarya. Gambling does not only entail the risk of losing money. When one engages in foolish thoughts, idle talks and frivolous sports, one risks being caught by death in the midst of material consciousness.
You mentioned Srila Prabhupada's gold-buying adventure with his disciple Syamasundara Prabhu, which took place during a visit to Switzerland. Yes, there was an element of risk involved in that--but obviously that risk was entirely for Krsna's service. And as you pointed out, Srila Prabhupada did not intend for other disciples to take such financial market risks, even if in the name of Krsna's service. The falldown of one of ISKCON's big leaders a few years ago was attributed by observers to his risking Krsna's laksmi in the Russian financial market.
In conclusion, I think it is useful to equate "gambling" with "risk-taking" because
1) by understanding what kinds of risk-taking are encouraged and what kinds are forbidden, we learn that there are gambles that can be rightly and properly taken in devotional service;
2) plus we learn that the rule against gambling encompasses more than just the games of hazard (roulette, cards, horse-betting) that in karmi society typically go under the rubric gambling.
Ergo, authorized risks constitute the absolutely best service that one can perform for the Lord; while unauthorized risks constitute gambling.
I will spend Janmastami and Srila Prabhupada Vyasa-puja in the Kiev temple. On the evening of 7 September I take a train to Dnepropetrovsk. The photo report about the Kiev festivities will be uploaded from there.