Desa, kala, patra – Time, place, and circumstance.

January 29, 2014 in Yasoda nandana Dasa by KHD



By Yasoda nandana dasa and the Prabhupada anugas

Deśa-kāla-pātra. Deśa means situation, and kāla, time, and pātra, means the subject, the individual.
Deśa-kāla-pātra: according to time, according to circumstances, according to the subject, everything is scrutinizingly judged, not whimsically. We must understand everything by taking these three elements into consideration. (Lectures : Bhagavad-gita 7.1 — Fiji, May 24, 1975 : 750524BG.FIJ)

EXPLANATION These three elements have to be taken into consideration determining what is right and what is wrong action. What is true at one time may not necessarily be true at another time. Similarly, what is true in a place or situation may turn out to be wrong at another place or another state.
For an example: Singing for entertainment is true, but when singing next to those who are sick then it becomes transformed into a wrong action or bad behavior.
Serving ice cold drink at night in a cold place might be received by a person with a reluctant heart, but when the ice was served during the hot hours of sunny day it would be gladly welcomed.
From the examples above it is obvious that what is called the wrong action, when people do not know how to adjust to the place, time and circumstances of their behavior. So, the appropriate way is to adjust our actions to Deśa-kāla-pātra.
Srila Prabhupada: “It may be that the Hindus may be following the same principle in a different way or the Christian may be following the same principle in different way. That is called deśa-kāla-pātra. According to time, atmosphere, and the performer, there may be little difference. … But we are keeping our principles as it is, but making arrangement according to the circumstances. That is required.” (Lecture SB Class sb/1/2/10/delhi/november/16/1973)
Srila Prabhupada explains how  “The ācārya knows how to adjust things, at the same time keep pace with the spiritual interest.”
“It is the concern of the ācārya to show mercy to the fallen souls. In this connection, deśa-kāla-pātra (the place, the time and the object) should be taken into consideration. Since the European and American boys and girls in our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement preach together, less intelligent men criticize that they are mingling without restriction. In Europe and America boys and girls mingle unrestrictedly and have equal rights; therefore it is not possible to completely separate the men from the women. However, we are thoroughly instructing both men and women how to preach, and actually they are preaching wonderfully. Of course, we very strictly prohibit illicit sex. Boys and girls who are not married are not allowed to sleep together or live together, and there are separate arrangements for boys and girls in every temple. Gṛhasthas live outside the temple, for in the temple we do not allow even husband and wife to live together. The results of this are wonderful. Both men and women are preaching the gospel of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Lord Kṛṣṇa with redoubled strength. In this verse the words sabā nistārite kare cāturī apāra indicate that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted to deliver one and all. Therefore it is a principle that a preacher must strictly follow the rules and regulations laid down in the śāstras yet at the same time devise a means by which the preaching work to reclaim the fallen may go on with full force.” (
So a brahmacārī is strictly prohibited not to see even one young woman. But what can be done? In the Western countries, the boys and girls, they mix very freely. And if I say, “My dear boys, you cannot see even a young girl,” then finished. My business there is finished. Therefore I have to arrange according to the country, according to the circumstances, as far as possible. So gradually, they are coming to the perfectional stage. So we have to adopt deśa-kāla-pātra, according to time, according to… But we are keeping our principles as it is, but making arrangement according to the circumstances. That is required. (Lecture SB Class sb/1/2/10/delhi/november/16/1973)
Letter to: Sivananda — Los Angeles 23 January, 1969 : 69-01-23 : “It is important that we preach the message of Krishna Consciousness exactly as we have heard it from our Spiritual Master. The same philosophy and spirit must be there exactly. Just like we preach in this country exactly as we have heard from our Spiritual Master, but there are changes due to the time, circumstances, and the trainees. The spirit of the disciplic succession may not be changed, but there may be adjustments made to suit the special circumstances.”
Srila Prabhupāda: But the directions should be taken from scriptures. But there are many scriptures. So ācārya means, just like Gosvāmīs, they would read all the scriptures and take the essence of it and give it to his disciples that, “You act like this.” Because he knows what to give, how to manipulate, so that his ekāntatah śreyas will be achieved. Ultimate goal. That is ācārya. Therefore the ācārya knows how to adjust things, at the same time keep pace with the spiritual interest. It is not that the same thing to be applied everywhere. He is eager to engage actually the people in the real benefit of life, but the means may be different. Just like my Guru Mahārāja. He is the first time that he allowed the sannyāsīs to drive in a motorcar. A sannyāsī never drives in a motorcar, you see? But not for sense gratification. Suppose we are going by aeroplane. A sannyāsī should walk. The Jain sannyāsīs they never ride on a car, you know that. You know that. They will never ride on a car. But now they are also riding. But suppose we are preaching now. I came from India. If I were to say, “I am a sannyāsī, I will not ride in a car or aeroplane, I must walk.” Then what kind of preaching there would have been? You see? So therefore it depends on the ācārya how to adjust things.
So, my Guru Mahārāja, “Alright go on preaching on a motorcar, it doesn’t matter.” These Gosvāmīs, they went to Vṛndāvana, severest type of austerities. They used to life underneath a tree. Now if in this age I advise you that you also live underneath a tree, then it will be difficult to preach. You see? Nobody is accustomed in that way, such severe type of austerity. They must be given, as far as possible, comfortable accommodation otherwise they will not come. They will not take. Now this…. This is adjustment. The ācārya knows how to adjust things. The real purpose is how one will take to spiritual consciousness, or Krsna consciousness. Keeping one’s aim to that point some concession may be given. As far as possible, keeping pace with the time, circumstances. Then? “The sages, therefore, inquired…” [Lectures : Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1: Lectures : SB 1.1: Lectures : Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.9 — Auckland, February 20, 1973]
SB 9/4/63 TEXT 63 – Translation The Supreme Personality of Godhead said to the brahmana: I am completely under the control of My devotees. Indeed, I am not at all independent. Because My devotees are completely devoid of material desires, I sit only within the cores of their hearts. What to speak of My devotee, even those who are devotees of My devotee are very dear to Me.
PURPORT All the great stalwart personalities in the universe, including Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, are fully under the control of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead is fully under the control of His devotee. Why is this? Because the devotee is anyabhilasita-sunya; in other words, he has no material desires in his heart. His only desire is to think always of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and how to serve Him best. Because of this transcendental qualification, the Supreme Lord is extremely favorable to the devotees—indeed, not only the devotees, but also the devotees of the devotees. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says, chadiya vaisnava-seva nistara payeche keba: without being a devotee of a devotee, one cannot be released from material entanglement. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu identified Himself as gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah. Thus he instructed us to become not directly servants of Krsna but servants of the servant of Krsna. Devotees like Brahma, Narada, Vyasadeva and Sukadeva Gosvami are directly servants of Krsna, and one who becomes a servant of Narada, Vyasadeva and Sukadeva, like the six Gosvamis, is still more devoted. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura therefore says, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: ** if one very sincerely serves the spiritual master, Krsna certainly becomes favorable to such a devotee. Following the instructions of a devotee is more valuable than following the instructions of the supreme personality of godhead directly
“…So Prahlāda Mahārāja, he’s already purified. His head was touched by Nṛsiṁhadeva. He’s completely pure. Therefore, although he was only a child, five years old, he is speaking the, I mean to say, gist conclusion of the śāstra. Anuvarṇitena. He understood that “I am not born in a brāhmana family. I am born nīca, low-grade family, asura family. My father was a asura. So I am born of him. So I have no prestigious position. Still, Kṛṣṇa is satisfied simply by devotional service.” That has been already explained. “So let me offer my prayers to the Lord sincerely.” Yathā manīṣam: “As far as I have got my intelligence… I am not supposed to be very intelligent because I am lowborn. I am not born in a brāhmaṇa family, neither I am old enough, educated. Still, I have to offer my prayers. So let me try to offer my prayers by following the authorities, anuvarṇitena, without any,” what is called, “doubt.” Tasmād aham vigata-viklava: “without any doubt.” Why? That is the perfect way. If we follow the previous ācāryas, then there is no question of lamentation. Anuvarṇitena. Simply… This is very nice method. Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s philosophy is there, yāre dekha tāre kaha kṛṣṇa upa… You haven’t got to manufacture for preaching. You haven’t got to. This is nonsense. You simply follow what Kṛṣṇa has said. Yāre dekha tāre kaha krsna upadeśa [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. Then you become guru. So Prahlāda Mahārāja became guru. Out of the twelve mahājanas he is one of them. Srimad Bhagavatam [SB 6.3.20] states:
svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ / kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ prahlādo janako bhīṣmo / balir vaiyāsakir vayam
They are mahājanas. So we have to follow Prahlāda Mahārāja. He is our guru, pūrva-ācārya. Nārada is pūrva-ācārya. He is disciple of Nārada. Therefore he is ācārya, and his disciplic succession… There are sampradāyas: Brahma-sampradāya, Kaumāra-sampradāya… Anyone who is bona fide ācārya, he can create his own disciplic succession, but one disciplic succession and the other disciplic—they are not different. They are of the same conclusion. The Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, just like our Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, and Nimbārka, and who that? Rudra-sampradāya? Viṣṇu Svāmī. They are all of the same movement. Ārādhyo-bhagavān vrajeśa-tanayaḥ, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam [SB 1.3.28]. That is their conclusion. There is no different conclusion. Although they have got varieties of methods—śuddhādvaita, dvaitādvaita, vaśiṣṭādvaita, like that—they present the same philosophy in clear way. And Caitanya Mahāprabhu presented the same philosophy, that acintya-bhedābheda. That is ācārya. Ācārya gives some way for simple understanding. The same conclusion, but according to the time, circumstances, they give a very easy method to understand. That is ācārya. Ācārya is following strictly the previous ācārya, but according to the circumstances, he may make little changes. That is… That change is not change from the original idea. No…” Lectures : Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.12 — Mayapur, February 19, 1976
“… So the statements of Kuntī is recorded here, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, not that he’s (she’s) ordinary woman. Otherwise her statements should not have been mentioned in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. So we have to accept what Kuntī says [SB 1.8.28]
manye tvāṁ kālam īśānam / anādi-nidhanaṁ vibhum samaṁ carantaṁ sarvatra / bhūtānāṁ yan mithaḥ kaliḥ
So misunderstanding of God… There is no misunderstanding of the authorities. The misunderstanding, the common man… Just like in Australia, when I spoke, there was no misunderstanding. There was agreement by the priests and myself. There was complete agreement. (aside:) You were with me? Or… No. You were not. They, after hearing my lecture for one hour, they agreed and clapped for ten minutes. So there cannot be any misun… Those who are actually… They questioned, “What is your opinion of Lord Jesus Christ?” and I said, “He preached God consciousness. He’s our guru. Anyone who preaches the message of God, he is guru.” So they very much appreciated, and actually it is so. Vaiṣṇava who is preaching, it may be in a different way, according to time and place and the party—they have to change something, deśa-kāla-pātra—but we have to see the essence.
Wherever there is God consciousness, wherever is there understanding… Just like we sometime consult dictionary, a small dictionary, pocket dictionary, and a big international dictionary. Both of them are dictionaries. But according to time, deśa-kāla-pātra, for small child, that small dictionary is sufficient. Higher mathematics: higher mathematics and lower class ma… But the two plus two is always the same, in higher mathematics or lower mathematics. It is not that in the higher mathematics two plus two equal to five, no.
So the principle is the same. It is the distinction of deśa-kāla-pātra, things are… Just like the statement in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, they are meant for highly developed conscious persons. They are not for ordinary persons. Paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satāṁ vāstavaṁ vastu vedyam atra śrīmad-bhāgavatam, paramo nirmatsarāṇām [SB 1.1.2]. People are envious, envious: “Oh, he’s Christian,” “He’s Muhammadan,” “He is this,” “He is that.” No. A paramo nirmatsara, paramahaṁsa, he does not see, “He is Muhammadan,” “He is Christian,” “He is Jew.” Panditāh sama-darśinaḥ [Bg. 5.18]. He will see everyone equal, the part and parcel of God, Kṛṣṇa. Mamaivāṁśa. He says this… Kṛṣṇa says, mamaivāṁśo jīva-bhūtaḥ: [Bg. 15.7] “All living entities are My part and parcel.” Why he shall take the skin? Because the skin is made by Muhammadan or the skin is made by Christian or skin is made by Hindu… He’s not the skin-observer. He is observed the within. Dehino ‘smin yathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā [Bg. 2.13]. Within this body the spirit soul is there. This is the education of spiritual education in the beginning—just see inside, introspective, not outward seeing. Those who are seeing outwardly, yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātu…, they are asses…” (Lectures : Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.28 — Mayapura, October 8, 1974)
“If Hari is free to act as He likes, the empowered spiritual master is also free. As Hari is not subject to the criticism of mundane rules and regulations, the spiritual master empowered by Him is also not subjected.”
PURPORT In answer to this question, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied that His spiritual master, Isvara Puri, was so empowered that he was as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As such, Isvara Puri was the spiritual master of the whole world. He was not a servant of any mundane rule or regulation. An empowered spiritual master like Isvara Puri can bestow his mercy upon anyone, irrespective of caste or creed. The conclusion is that a spiritual master who is authorized and empowered by Krsna and his own guru should be considered as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. That is the verdict of Visvanatha Cakravarti: saksad-dharitvenasa. An authorized spiritual master is as good as Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Hari is free to act as He likes, the empowered spiritual master is also free. As Hari is not subject to mundane rules and regulations, the spiritual master empowered by Him is also not subject.
According to the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya-lila 7.11), kali-kālera dharma–kṛṣṇa-nāma-saṅkīrtana / kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana. An authorized spiritual master empowered by Krsna can spread the glories of the holy name of the Lord, for he has power of attorney from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the mundane world, anyone possessing his master’s power of attorney can act on behalf of his master. Similarly, a spiritual master empowered by Krsna through his own bona fide spiritual master should be considered as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. That is the meaning of saksad-dharitvena. …” [CC. Madhya 10.136]
“What are the Scriptures? They are nothing but the record by the pure devotees of the Divine Message appearing on the lips of the pure devotees. The Message conveyed by the devotees is the same in all ages. The words of the devotees are ever identical with the Scriptures. Any meaning of the Scriptures that belittles the function of the devotee who is the original communicant of the Divine Message contradicts its own claim to be heard.” [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, [“Thakur Bhaktivinode”] Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Tattva Sutra elaborates on the power of the great saints.
SUTRA 42: shastram akshameshu baliyo vivekinam naitat tan-mula-prapteh
TRANSLATION shastram—scripture; akshameshu—among they who are not able; baliyah—powerful; vivekinam—of they who are wise; na—not; etat—that; tat—of that; mula—of the root; prapteh—because of attainment.
For they who are not yet self-realized, scripture is very important. For they who are self-realized this is not so, for such great souls have already attained the perfect spiritual knowledge that is the root from which the scriptures have grown.
Commentary by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Here someone may protest: In Bhagavad-gita (16.23), the Supreme Personality of Godhead declares: “But he who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whim attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.”* After all, the very word “shastra” comes from the word “shasana”, which means “restriction”. Therefore the individual spirit souls are always obliged to follow the restrictions enunciated in the scriptures. How can any good result come from not following the scriptures’ rules?
Fearing that someone would voice this protest, the author has spoken this sutra. Here the word “akshameshu” means “they who are not yet self-realized”. Such persons cannot act independently. They are governed by the rules of scripture. However, for self-realized souls, who of their own desire do what is right and proper in spiritual life, this is not so. These great souls are not bound by the rules of scripture because they have already attained the perfect spiritual knowledge that is the root from which the scriptures have grown. This means that the self-realized souls have already attained the perfect spiritual knowledge that is the root from which the scriptures have grown. All the scriptures, as well as the Shariraka and Mimamsa commentaries, are meant for the souls who are not yet self-realized, who stall dwell in the world of ignorance. Therefore the words of the Lord in Bhagavad-gita (16.23) mean that for their own good the unenlightened souls, who if given independence would perform forbidden actions, the rules of scriptures are given. The rules in the scriptures are thus given to bring under control the uncontrolled, independent conditioned souls. For the liberated souls a different instruction is given.
Lord Krishna explains (Bhagavad-gita 2.52): “If someone does go and preach, taking all risks and allowing all considerations for time and place, it might be that there are changes in the manner of worship, but that is not at all faulty according to śāstra. Śrīmad Vīrarāghava Ācārya, an ācārya in the disciplic succession of the Rāmānuja-sampradāya, has remarked in his commentary that candalas, or conditioned souls who are born in lower than śūdra families, can also be initiated according to circumstances. The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them Vaiṣṇavas….” (Srimad-Bhagavatam : Canto 4: “The Creation of the Fourth Order” : Dhruva Maharaja Leaves Home for the Forest : SB 4.8.54)
“…Even the most learned or experienced person cannot understand the movements of a vaishnava, a pure devotee.  No one, therefore, should criticize a pure vaishnava.  Vaishnava knows his own business; whatever he does is precisely right because he is always guided by the Supreme Personality of Godhead…”  (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.4.68)