Engaging our Senses in Bhakti - Part 11

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis, 
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva.

In continuation of the mail on "Engaging our Senses in Bhakti", let us learn from pure devotees like Maharaj Ambarish, Srila Prabhupada and Guru Maharaj as to how we can use our head in Krishna's service. 

śiro hṛṣīkeśa-padābhivandane -  Ambarish Maharaj used his head in bowing down before the Lord.

1) Although Maharaj Ambarish, was in highest position of being the empire of this whole world - he knew that Lord is the Supreme controller and owner of everything and that he is just entrusted with this position. Since he knew his original position is servant of the Supreme Lord, he bowed his head before the Lord.

In Srimad Bhagavatam verse 2.3.21 Shaunaka rshi explains about the head that does not bow down before the Lord.

bhāraḥ paraṁ paṭṭa-kirīṭa-juṣṭam apy uttamāṅgaṁ na namen mukundam

The upper portion of the body, though crowned with a silk turban, is only a heavy burden if not bowed down before the Personality of Godhead, Mukunda.

Srila Prabhupada emphatically says - "The common man who is puffed up with his material position and does not bow down before the Deity of the Lord in the temple, or who defies temple worship without any knowledge of the science, must know that his so-called turban or crown will only succeed in further drowning him in the water of the ocean of material existence. A drowning man with a heavy weight on his head is sure to go down more swiftly than those who have no heavy weight. A foolish, puffed-up man defies the science of God and says that God has no meaning for him, but when he is in the grip of God's law and is caught by some disease like cerebral thrombosis, that godless man sinks into the ocean of nescience by the weight of his material acquisitionAdvancement of material science without God consciousness is a heavy load on the head of human society, and so one must take heed of this great warning."

2) Our head is the last thing that will submit to the Lord. Because all that we are proud about ourselves is present in the upper portion of our body, i.e., our head. All our knowledge acquiring senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue etc) are present in the head portion. Our brain which is the source of all our thinking, intelligence etc is inside our head. Our face which reflects most of our beauty is also in the upper portion of our body. We do not really boast about our other bodily functions such as digesting capacity, breathing, kidney function etc normally but we are very proud of our thinking, intelligence, speaking, hearing abilities. Maximum time we spend in front of the mirror only to beautify our face, our hair etc. But Krishna wants us to surrender all these things to Him because whatever we are proud of, if we think for a moment, is not ours. It is ultimately Krishna's property. Moreover, they are temporary and fickle in nature. Hence, we should bow down unto Him. Our bowing down, which is an external activity, should be triggered by our internal determination to surrender our thinking, our seeing, talking, hearing, tasting and smelling capacities and utilize them fully in His service.

3) Actually, our bowing down is a symbol of our humility. It is said in the shastras namante phalino vṛkṣa namante gunino janāḥ - Only a tree with lots of fruits will bow down and similarly only a person with all good qualities (such as humility, tolerance, honesty, respectful, obedience etc) will bow down to others. It is not only that we should bow down before the Lord, but actually we should bow down to all the elders, especially our parents and spiritual masters. This bowing down should not be just a show, but it should come from the heart. And more importantly we should pay dandavat pranams. Dandavat means falling flat like a rod. It symbolizes complete surrender meaning 'I am completely at your disposal and you can do anything you want to do with me' - 'aśliṣya vā pāda-ratāṁ pinastu māṁ'. This is the kind of surrender Krishna expects from us. Not because He is God and we are His servants. But because that is the only way we can cross this ocean of material sufferings. Suta Goswami concludes with his last verse in Srimad Bhagavatam 12.13.23 beautifully with this fact:

nāma-saṅkīrtanaṁ yasya sarva-pāpa praṇāśanam
praṇāmo duḥkha-śamanas taṁ namāmi hariṁ param

I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Hari, the congregational chanting of whose holy names destroys all sinful reactions, and the offering of obeisances unto whom relieves all material suffering.

4) Our senses are strong and fully functional only when we are young, hale and healthy. Unfortunately, that is the period we are proud of ourselves and hence bowing down before the Lord is next to impossible for us. Even if we tend to bow down once, we will think if we have to bow down the second time. It is familiar for us when we meet with other devotees, we pay dandavats first time and then when we meet the next time, we think if we have to pay obeisances. The third time we justify to ourselves that I have already paid obeisances to him once and I don't need to pay him obeisances again. We should understand that when we pay obeisances to any devotee (or anyone for that matter) we are paying respects to the Supersoul as well. Therefore, any number of obeisances is not enough. The more we pay dandavats, the more all our body parts will be strong. We ignore this aspect and later foolishly go to the gym and do several pushups daily. Really our foolishness knows no limits.

In this regard, we are always humbled whenever we observe our Guru Maharaj paying full dandavats to Srila Prabhupada murti and the Deities every time he enters the temple. He would pay dandavats even when any Vaishnava comes to meet him. Needless to say, we cannot realize it until we personally see him doing this austerity with an 89 year old body and with so many bodily ailments that accompany old age. He would always say, "If you do not bow down voluntarily to the Lord now, then He will force you to bow down in old age. At that time you will have no choice. Better to bow down willingly when you are able to bow down."

5) Lastly, it is important we understand that when we bow down, we are putting our head at the lotus feet of the Lord which means we have to take the dust of the lotus feet of the Lord and put it on our head (at least mentally). The same is true when we bow down to our spiritual master, elders and other devotees.

We humbly bow down at the lotus feet of our dear Spiritual master and all the exalted Vaishnavas, taking the dust of their lotus feet upon our head and seek their blessings to eternally surrender our heads unto the lotus feet of the Lord and His dear devotees.

Thank you very much.
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva,
Kalacakra Krsna das and Sudarshana devi dasi.