22 A neophyte devotee should not retire to a secluded place to chant
Sitting in a solitary place to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra is not recommended for neophytes: [Lord Caitanya to Kasi Misra]:
"Please give that room to Me, for I have need for it. Indeed, I shall remember the lotus feet of the Lord sitting in that solitary place."
This statement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is significant. Nibhrte vasiya tahan kariba smarana: "I shall sit down there in that solitary place and remember the lotus feet of the Lord." Neophyte students are not to imitate sitting in a solitary place and remembering the lotus feet of the Lord by chanting the Hare Krsna maha mantra. We should always remember that it was Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself who wanted such a place, either for Himself or Haridasa thakura. No one can suddenly attain the level of Haridasa thakura and sit down in a solitary place to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra and remember the lotus feet of the Lord. Only an exalted person like Haridasa thakura or Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is personally exhibiting the proper behavior for an acarya, can engage in such a practice.
At the present moment we see that some of the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are tending to leave their preaching activities in order to sit in a solitary place. This is not a very good sign. It is a fact that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura has condemned this process for neophytes. He has even stated in a song: pratisthara tare, nirjanera ghare, tava hari nama kevala kaitava. Sitting in a solitary place intending to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra is considered a cheating process. This practice is not possible for neophytes at all. The neophyte devotee must act and work very laboriously under the direction of the spiritual master, and he must thus preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Only after maturing in devotion can he sit down in a solitary place to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself did. Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He nonetheless traveled all over India continuously for six years and then retired at Jagannatha Puri to teach us a lesson. Even at Jagannatha Puri the Lord chanted the Hare Krsna maha mantra in a great meeting at the Jagannatha temple. The point is that one should not try to imitate Haridasa thakura at the beginning of one's transcendental life. One must first become very mature in devotion and thus receive the approval of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Only at such a time may one actually sit down peacefully in a solitary place to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra and remember the lotus feet of the Lord. The senses are very strong, and if a neophyte devotee imitates Haridasa thakura, his enemies (kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya) will disturb and fatigue him. Instead of chanting the Hare Krsna maha mantra, the neophyte will simply sleep soundly. Preaching work is meant for advanced devotees, and when an advanced devotee is further elevated on the devotional scale, he may retire to chant the Hare Krsna mantra in a solitary place. However, if one simply imitates advanced spiritual life, he will fall down, just like the sahajiyas in Vrndavana.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Madhya lila 11.176
The neophyte devotee must not give up preaching to chant Hare Krsna in solitude:
When disciples are grown up and are able to preach, the spiritual master should retire and sit down in a solitary place to write and execute nirjana−bhajana. This means sitting silently in a solitary place and executing devotional service. This nirjana−bhajana, which is the silent worship of the Supreme Lord, is not possible for a neophyte devotee. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura never advised a neophyte devotee to go to a solitary place to engage in devotional service. Indeed, he has written a song in this connection:
dusta mana, tumi kisera vaisnava?
pratisthara tare, nirjanera ghare,
tava hari nama kevala kaitava
"My dear mind, what kind of devotee are you? Simply for cheap adoration you sit in a solitary place and pretend to chant the Hare Krsna maha mantra, but this is all cheating." Thus Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura advocated that every devotee, under the guidance of an expert spiritual master, preach the bhakti cult, Krsna consciousness, all over the world.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 4.28.44
One should not merely chant in a secluded place (and fall down) but should preach:
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura sings,
dusta mana, tumi kisera vaisnava?
pratisthara tare, nirjanera ghare,
tava hari nama kevala kaitava
"My dear mind, what kind of Vaisnava are you? Simply for false prestige and a material reputation you are chanting the Hare Krsna mantra in a solitary place."
In this way people who do not preach are criticized. There are many Vaisnavas in Vrndavana who do not like preaching; they chiefly try to imitate Haridasa thakura. The actual result of their so called chanting in a secluded place, however, is that they sleep and think of women and money.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 4.29.1b
One should not retire prematurely to Vrndavana for pretentious solitary chanting of the holy name:
Srila Sukadeva Gosvami has advised Maharaja Pariksit in the beginning of the Second Canto that every conditioned soul should engage himself in hearing and chanting the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami also informed King Pariksit that previously many other kings and emperors went to the jungle to prosecute severe austerities and penances in order to go back home, back to Godhead. In India, it is still a practice that many advanced transcendentalists give up their family lives and go to Vrndavana to live there alone and completely engage in hearing and chanting of the holy pastimes of the Lord. This system is recommended in the Srimad−Bhagavatam, and the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana followed it, but at the present moment many karmis and pseudodevotees have overcrowded the holy place of Vrndavana just to imitate this process recommended by Sukadeva Gosvami. It is said that many kings and emperors formerly went to the forest for this purpose, but Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura Gosvami Maharaja does not recommend that one take up this solitary life in Vrndavana prematurely.
One who goes prematurely to Vrndavana to live in pursuance of the instructions of Sukadeva Gosvami again falls victim of maya, even while residing in Vrndavana. To check such unauthorized residence in Vrndavana, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura has sung a nice song in this connection, the purport of which is as follows: "My dear mind, why are you so proud of being a Vaisnava? Your solitary worship and chanting of the holy name of the Lord are based on a desire for cheap popularity, and therefore your chanting of the holy name is only a pretension. Such an ambition for a cheap reputation can be compared to the stool of a hog because such popularity is another extension of the influence of maya."
– Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead
Unless one is extremely advanced in Krsna consciousness, one will be influenced by the modes of nature if one tries to chant in a solitary place:
There are many who like to chant the Hare Krsna mantra in a silent, solitary place, but if one is not interested in preaching, talking constantly to the nondevotees, the influence of the modes of nature is very difficult to surpass. Therefore unless one is extremely advanced in Krsna consciousness, one should not imitate Haridasa thakura, who had no other business than chanting the holy name always, twenty−four hours a day. Prahlada Maharaja does not condemn such a process; he accepts it, but without active service to the Lord, simply by such methods one generally cannot attain liberation. One cannot attain liberation simply by false pride.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.46
One should not try to imitate exalted personalities like Haridasa thakura by chanting in a solitary place:
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura explains in his Anubhasya, "A person who has attracted the attention of the spiritual master by his sincere service likes to dance and chant with similarly developed Krsna conscious devotees. The spiritual master authorizes such a devotee to deliver fallen souls in all parts of the world. Those who are not advanced prefer to chant the Hare Krsna mantra in a solitary place." Such activities constitute, in the language of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura, a type of cheating process in the sense that they imitate the activities of exalted personalities like Haridasa thakura. One should not attempt to imitate such exalted devotees. Rather, everyone should endeavor to preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in all parts of the world and thus become successful in spiritual life. One who is not very expert in preaching may chant in a secluded place, avoiding bad association, but for one who is actually advanced, preaching and meeting people who are not engaged in devotional service are not disadvantages. A devotee gives the nondevotees his association but is not affected by their misbehavior. Thus by the activities of a pure devotee even those who are bereft of love of Godhead get a chance to become devotees of the Lord one day. In this connection Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura advises that one discuss the verse in Srimad−Bhagavatam, naitat samacarej jatu manasapi hy anisvarah (10.33.30), and the following verse in Bhakti−rasamrta−sindhu (1.2.255):
anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna−sambandhe yuktam vairagyam ucyate
One should not imitate the activities of great personalities. One should be detached from material enjoyment and should accept everything in connection with Krsna's service.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Adi lila 7.92
Krsna consciousness does not mean to become inert and to chant the holy name in a secluded place:
Sometimes Krsna consciousness is misunderstood to be inertia, and one with such a misunderstanding often withdraws to a secluded place to become fully Krsna conscious by chanting the holy name of Lord Krsna. But without being trained in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, it is not advisable to chant the holy name of Krsna in a secluded place where one may acquire only cheap adoration from the innocent public.
– Bhagavad gita As It Is 3.1