Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains the imperative duty of all devotees.
Student: I feel that in the modern world in general and in the Western world in particular, we have to make people realise that there is a God, secondly that there is life after death, thirdly that every action has a reaction, fourthly that whatever is happening to us in this life is happening because of our karma in our previous life, and fifthly that we will have to face in our next life whatever we do in this life. Most people in the world, especially the Western world, have been made to think that we have come here for the first time and will never come back again. Thus, they are trying to enjoy their lives all the time, and that is why we have all this suffering: families are breaking down and nobody is interested in anybody except themselves.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: Why do you concentrate only on the Western world? There are so many beasts, so many insects, and so many trees in a similar position and even a worse position. Why do you not feel more affection for them? Why do you feel only for the family or for the society or for the country where you are? Why don’t you feel for those who are the most needy? The trees and the other sections of plants and animals are also souls (jīvas) like us. The Manu-saṁhitā says this, and in that passage I think Manu is weeping as he says it:
tamasā bahu-rūpeṇa veṣṭitāḥ karma-hetunā
antaḥ saṁjñā bhavanty ete sukha-duḥkha-samanvitāḥ
While describing the creation, when Manu comes to the creation of the trees and plants, he says that because of the covering of their own evil karma, the plants and animals are in such deplorable position now. There is no one to blame for their present position; it is a result of their own karma that they have acquired such a position. Sukha-duḥkha-samanvitāḥ: they have feelings of pain and happiness also in their present position. Manu cries for them, weeps for them here.
So, there are so many souls suffering in such an acute and helpless position, but your attention is only on a particular locality. What is the justification for this?
Student: The reason is that in the courts, both children’s courts and the adult courts, I always see that most of the criminals who come in have come from a broken home.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: If there is a famine in a particular area and you have some food to save the people, then as much as you can, you should try your best to distribute the food to whomever you find. Similarly, you must give something to all the souls you meet who are suffering in material existence. You must give them amṛtam, nectar. What amṛta? “You are not this body; you are a soul above that.” Though some may be engaged in adultery and some engaged in pure life, it may happen that someone living a pure life may be detained, may be delayed in entering above, and someone not living a pure life may go up earlier. It is possible. With the help of the proper medicine, even the worst patient may return to good health before another person who seems to be nearly healthy. It is possible.
So, your duty, your responsibility, will be to distribute to the best of your ability the amṛta, nectar, that you have received, and there your responsibility will finish. You will give food to whomever you find that is unfed. What more can you do?
When I was the Maṭh-in-charge in Madras, a fakir from there came to ask me: “Swāmījī, what do you do about the needy? The Ramakrishna Mission is rendering service to so many needy persons. If these persons die, then with whom will you talk about Kṛṣṇa? First, you should help them to live and then you should talk to them about Hari.”
I told him, “Suppose I have some food in a time of famine and I am distributing the food to so many people around me who are taking what I am giving them. If some others run away from the place, why should I stop giving food to the people accepting it and run after the gentlemen who are flying away? Shouldn’t I engage myself in what I am doing, in distributing food to those that are present? What should I do? Because one person may die, should I go to look after them and leave aside all the others whom I am helping? There are so many on all sides around me to help that I can’t find any leisure to look after those who are running away; at all times I am giving out nourishment, and there are so many around me to receive it.”
So, if you have some nectar, if you can save others with nectar, you should give it to whoever you find, whomever you come across. That should be your duty. Why will you be particular that a certain section must get it and avoid another section? Why must you go there and give the nectar only to them? You should give it to whomever you find. Otherwise, you’ll be fit to be blamed; you’ll be prejudiced. If you are unprejudiced, you will distribute the nectar to whoever comes to you. That is your duty, your responsibility. Your conscience will dictate that. You will eliminate some and go to give the nectar only to a particular group? What is the justification for such action?
Student: There is no justification.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: Śrīman Mahāprabhu says:
yāre dekha tāre kaha kṛṣṇa-upadeśa
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 7.128)
“Whomever you find, try to connect them with Kṛṣṇa, with the centre, and they will be saved.” Make no discrimination about this or that, good or bad, child or old, wise or foolish, rich or poor, or ignorant or whatever. Whomever you come across, give them nectar. It is the universal cure. Whomever you give the nectar will be saved; from whatever position they are in, if they take it, they will be saved. That thing you have in your hand, so whomever you come across, like a patron with selfless heart, distribute it to them without any particular prejudice. If you think that it must be given to someone and anyone person must be eliminated, must not be given the nectar, then you will be a culprit. With an open heart, you are to help the fallen, the neediest people, with your medicine, the nectar. You must be clear hearted.
Kṛṣṇa consciousness will help everyone wholesale; it is the wholesale cure.
bhidyante hṛdaya-granthiś chhidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ
kṣīyante chāsya karmāṇi mayi dṛṣṭe ‘khilātmani
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.20.30)
What is Kṛṣṇa consciousness? Bhidyante hṛdaya-granthiḥ: the ties in our mind, so many thousands of ties—“I want this, that, and so many other things”—all will be untied. We will not want anything any longer; our thirst will be quenched wholesale, and we will want nothing. Chhidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ: all our doubts as to whether this is right or that is right will be cleared.
In the Upaniṣads it says,
yasmin jñāte sarvam idaṁ vijñatam bhavati
yasmin prāpte sarvam idaṁ prāptaṁ bhavati
“If we know Him, everything is known. If we get Him, everything is had. This is Brahma (the Absolute).”
In Bhāgavatam also, there is an analogy:
yathā taror mūla-niṣechanena
prāṇopahārāch cha yathendriyāṇāṁ
tathaiva sarvārhaṇam achyutejyā
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 4.31.14)
“If we put water on the root, the whole tree is watered, and if we put food in the stomach, the whole body is fed.” Similarly, if we know Him, everything is known. Such a central position He has: He is the wholesale cure. That sort of medicine you have, and whomever you give it to will be cured wholesale; they will attain the fulfilment of life. There, you must not be a miser, partial, or prejudiced. Whoever you find, you must give it to them, and they will be perfectly cured and get the fulfilment of life for eternity. Such a thing, such a valuable thing, you have, so make no discrimination about the distribution: whenever the chance to distribute it comes, give it out and go on.
Spoken 8 August 1983.