Studying Prabhupada’s Books:
What are Srila Prabhupada’s books?
These books are transcendental, they’re not ordinary literature. Essentially, Prabhupada’s books are a compilation of the previous Acharyas’ works, teachings and realisations. Note the use of the word “Acharyas’”, plural. This doesn’t just mean we’re reading the teachings of Srila Prabhupada or Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, this means we’re getting the direct association of ALL the Acharyas in our line, (Lord Brahma, Lord Caitanya, the Six Goswamis etc.), and more importantly, we can have this association AT ANY TIME! This is the treasure that Prabhupada has given us. Thus one may lament the fact that we never had the personal association of Srila Prabhupada or that we never had an opportunity to directly serve him, whereas, in actuality, greater than personal association (vapu) is following instruction (vani) of the guru. Prabhupada has explained:
“Vapu means the physical body, and vani means the vibration. So we are not concerned about the physical body. Not concerned means… We are concerned, of course, because the spiritual master, those who are ācāryas, their body is not considered as material… So although a physical body is not present, the vibration should be accepted as the presence of the spiritual master, vibration. What we have heard from the spiritual master, that is living.” Lecture — Los Angeles, January 13, 1969
“Next you ask if I am present in my picture and form? Yes. In form as well as in teachings. To carry out the teachings of guru is more important than to worship the form, but none of them should be neglected. Form is called vapu and teachings is called vani. Both should be worshiped. Vani is more important than vapu.” Letter to Tusta Krsna — Ahmedabad 14 December, 1972
The last sentence is the most important. “Vani is more important than vapu”. Thus by reading this literature regularly, it is non-different to associating with Srila Prabhupada face to face.
Why should we read?
Bhuta Bhavana Prabhu gives 6 main reasons why we should regularly read Prabhupada’s books.
1) Develop Bhakti:
The purpose of Krishna Consciousness is to know Krishna and love Him. However, we can’t love someone who we don’t know. Therefore, reading Prabhupada’s books allows us to know Krishna, thus develop our relationship with Him. Srila Prabhupada mentions in Srimad Bhagavatam 2.7.19: “There is a natural affinity of the living entity for the loving service of the Lord. This affinity becomes artificially covered by the influence of material association, and Srimad Bhagavatam helps one very genuinely remove that artificial covering.” So what is being said here is that by reading of Prabhupada’s books, the natural loving service that we all have for Krishna gradually becomes revealed.
2) Gain Spiritual Potency:
Our Supersoul is trying to connect with us at every single moment of our life; the soul desires and the Supersoul sanctions. However, we still have the tendency to make mistakes due to the level of “static” between the way of ourselves and the Supersoul. By reading Prabhupada’s books, the pages are non-different to what the Supersoul was trying to tell us. So the signal becomes clearer, the static decreases and we find we have better judgement, better ideas and become more successful. Not only that but by regularly reading Prabhupada’s books, we gain immense spiritual strength (shakti). This allows us to control mind and senses more easily. Furthermore, because we are doing exactly what Prabhupada wants us to do, we gain the special shakti that can only come from following the instruction of a pure devotee.
3) Increased Faith:
By reading regularly, our faith in the Krishna Consciousness Philosophy will increase. When reading, we understand that the books have all the answers! Every single doubt we have about Krishna Consciousness can be extinguished by what Prabhupada has written. When our faith goes up, it makes us stronger, therefore our conviction and confidence gets stronger. Through reading, we gain the ability to see Krishna everywhere which massively accelerates our devotion and leading to even more faith. This faith (sraddha) is the root of all devotional activities and is not at all blind, but realised faith. With this faith and conviction, we can share our knowledge in a more powerful way.
All the devotees connected with the Krishna consciousness movement must read all the books that have been translated (the Caitanya-caritamrita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita and others); otherwise, after some time, they will simply eat, sleep and fall down from their position. Thus they will miss the opportunity to attain an eternal, blissful life of transcendental pleasure. – CC Madhya 25.278
When we start to read regularly, it concentrates our energies and everything we do becomes more potent. This concentration occurs not only in our devotional life but in anything we do (studying, working etc…). So through this harnessed concentration and energy, when we speak it’s like a laser in a person’s consciousness. Japa would become much easier because reading allows your consciousness to become focussed, and with the increased faith, it becomes more powerful.
5) Determination to Overcome Obstacles:
Through the regular reading of the books, we gain the drive and determination to progress further in our spiritual life and the ability to hold the meaning of sastra in our consciousness. Therefore, when challenges arise in our spiritual life, we don’t need to slow down, we can go through them even faster! Sometimes we think it’s hard to give up things we’re attached to. Actually, it’s not. Once we gain the knowledge, it’s very easy. Thus we can always act on the principle even if it is difficult giving us integrity and trust.
In addition, by reading we destroy the lower modes of ignorance and passion, causing the way we think about everything to subtly change. Every single person who is successful today is only so due to their interactions with the mode of goodness, whether in this lifetime or the last, and by engaging in devotional service by reading, we automatically evolve to the mode of goodness.
6) Wider Perspective:
By the regular reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books, we become detached from the external situation that’s around us. For example, we may see that some devotees may be criticising everyone, but they appear to be doing well in their life. HH Jayadvaita Swami says: “Give it time.” They must get a reaction, it’s just a matter of time. Even if it seems as though they’re getting away with it, they won’t in the long run. Therefore, we gain the ability to see situations through the eyes of Sastra.
In addition, reading gives us the skill of discrimination – Sastra gives us a darshan i.e. a particular view of seeing the world. With this proper vision, we can choose the best opportunities for ourselves. Knowledge also leads to Tapasya which then brings detachment, we can see things as they are. Therefore we gain the able to analyse people, events and situations as we don’t become emotionally involved.
How to read?
One of the biggest problems we have is that we don’t know how to read. Bhuta Bhavana Prabhu explains that there is a science to reading that makes it both transformative and fun! The books are alive and contain tremendous transcendental Shakti, we just need to be able to approach reading in the proper way in order to fully gain access.
First things first, every time where reading has been mentioned previously, this must be replaced by the word “studying”. Prabhupada didn’t want us to simply read, he wanted us to study! Simply by reading, we won’t get so much out of it and we can start to lose taste. We all have so much information coming in from different sources. Rather we have a little bit of knowledge, but well digested. Through the process of studying, we try to take our time and try to understand what Prabhupada is saying.
The most effective way to study is to use the principles of: sravanam, mananam, nididhyasanam and vandanam; to read the books, contemplate on their meanings, apply their teachings and pray for realisation.
Sravanam means to read or to hear from an authority. Devotional service’s first principle with sravanam (sravanam, kirtanam, visnu smaranam etc…) therefore it is the most important aspect when done correctly. We should read slowly and attentively as a form of mental training, to train the mind to become focused. We should try to read word for word and digest what Prabhupada is saying. It is not at all about trying to finish the book or the chapter. Even if we’re spending 1 hour on 1 paragraph, we must read until the message sinks into our consciousness. When we read the books, the knowledge fills our heart and gets rid of the anarthas (unwanted qualities) that reside there, but only if we read, contemplate and apply.
Mananam means to contemplate on what we have read and to try and analyse it from different angles. To contemplate can mean things such as: discussing the points with devotees and seeing what their view on it is; making some notes on what you’re reading; thinking about what this means and how you can apply it etc. Bhuta Bhavana Prabhu says that this is the stage where most devotees miss out on, we don’t think about what we’re reading. Some practical tips can be to highlight any key points that we read and try to see it from different angles. We can also write down questions of anything we don’t understand and find some time to ask an authority in the future.
We can also use a technique called “visual reading”, where we read up until Prabhupada gives us an instruction. We then stop at this point and meditate: “To what extent am I doing this properly?” and imagine ourselves as if we’re doing this properly. For example, Prabhupada says that devotees should be fearless. We can think to ourselves: How would I speak to people if I was completely fearless? Thus we use all the senses in visualisation: how we feel, what we’re smelling, hearing etc. making reading much more transformative as it starts to change our character.
The Nididhyasanam stage is probably the hardest stage to practice, where we actually apply the teachings of the books into our day to day lives. This cannot be achieved without the first two. For example, it is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, 6.19.4 that Lakshmidevi, the goddess of wealth and fortune, is actually the wife of Lord Vishnu, but not many people know this. One may think: “How can I apply this to my life?” We can apply this by understanding that we may use wealth for many different things but ultimately, as Lakshmidevi is always serving Lord Visnu, wealth should be used in the service of the Lord.
Vandanam means to pray for realisation. Bhuta Bhavana Prabhu explains how our progress in spiritual life is a gift by the parampara who are pleased by our service. The endeavour is not to become advanced, our endeavour is to please them and by doing so, they grace us with advancement. We should pray to Srila Prabhupada before and after reading to be able to absorb and apply the teachings of the sastra. Therefore, by praying we are begging for the mercy and blessings of the Acharyas and thus the knowledge becomes rooted in our consciousness and character.
To conclude, we should deeply study Prabhupada’s books every single day, for a fixed amount of time. If done properly, we can become a channel that Krishna can use and we’ll have Shakti to spare!
“If you want to stay in Krsna consciousness you will have to develop firm faith in guru and sastra. Therefore, you must study my books very scrutinizingly, follow the four regulative principles very strictly and chant sixteen rounds daily avoiding the ten offences. Don’t take this movement as something cheap.”
– Srila Prabhupada
– Bhuta Bhavana Prabhu (Transcribed by Kishan Paun)