WASHING AND VEDANTA – STORY:
(by H.H. Sacinandana Swami)
(adapted from ISKCON leadership journal)
The vice-chancellor of Benares Hindu University, a popular man of his time named Madan Mohan Malaviya, went to the Gaudiya Math with some intricate, philosophical questions to present to Sri Bakthi Siddhantha Sarasvati Thakura, guru of Srila Prabhupada.
Sri Bakthi Siddhantha Sarasvati said: “I won’t answer you, but you should ask the devotees who are washing the arati paraphernalia.”
The scholar then said: “No, I am asking very difficult questions about Vedanta. They won’t be able to answer!”
Sri Bakthi Siddhantha Sarasvati, however, insisted that he go and ask the pujaris who were cleaning the deity paraphernalia.
So, being submissive to the will of Sri Bakthi Siddhantha Sarasvati, he went to ask them.
When he approached them, they said, “Well, now we are busy washing these plates, but please help us, and when we have finished your question will be answered.”
Even though he was such a famous, respectable man, he agreed to join in and help do this humble service.
After all the brass was cleaned, he returned to Sri Bakthi Siddhantha Sarasvati, without saying anything more to the pujaris.
Sri Bakthi Siddhantha Sarasvati then asked him, “Did you get the answer to your questions?”
Madan Mohan Malaviya replied, “Yes, even without discussion. When I was helping clean the arati paraphernalia the answers automatically came to my mind.”
Sri Bakthi Siddhantha Sarasvati replied, “Yes, the philosophy of Krishna consciousness can be understood by an attitude of service, not by any amount of intellectualism.
Sevonmukhe hi jihvado.” Just reading books and reciting slokas—that won’t help you. Serving God will give us all the answers to the questions in the sastras.
My guru, Gaura Kishore Das Babaji, was not literate, not a pundit, but all the
slokas and siddhantas came to his mouth because he was sevonmukha, inclined to
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah
” ‘Therefore material senses cannot appreciate Krsna’s holy name, form, qualities and pastimes. When a conditioned soul is awakened to Krsna consciousness and renders service by using his tongue to chant the Lord’s holy name and taste the remnants of the Lord’s food, the tongue is purified, and one gradually comes to understand who Krsna really is.’