Sometime we have confusion on the position of demigods. We also observe that Vaishnavas, especially Gaudiya vaishnavas, do not worship demigods whereas the spiritual master and acharya are worshiped thrice a day! Is it mere sentimentalism or is there a solid philosophy behind it. Srimad Bhagavatam answers this question in the below verse, as to whose shelter devotees should seek, and it’s very instructive purport on the position of demigods.
sarvato manaso ’saṅgam ādau saṅgaṁ ca sādhuṣu
dayāṁ maitrīṁ praśrayaṁ ca bhūteṣv addhā yathocitam
A sincere disciple should learn to dissociate the mind from everything material and positively cultivate association with his spiritual master and other saintly devotees. He should be merciful to those in an inferior position to him, cultivate friendship with those on an equal level and meekly serve those in a higher spiritual position. Thus he should learn to deal properly with all living beings.
High position of demigods
Śrīla Madhvācārya has quoted from the Garuḍa Purāṇa to demonstrate that within this universe those who take birth as demigods, great ṛṣis or pious human beings are all considered santaḥ, or saintly persons. According to Bhagavad-gītā,traiguṇya-viṣayā vedāḥ: the varṇāśrama culture described in Vedic literature deals mostly with the living entities who are struggling within the three modes of nature. The Vedic literatures teach such conditioned souls that material happiness can be achieved only through pious works. In this sense, the demigods are to be considered the most pious living entities within the three modes of material nature. The ṛṣis, or the great saintly mystics of the universe, who are able to travel at will to various planets and who cultivate mystic powers, are to be considered somewhat below the demigods. And those human beings on earth who perfectly execute the Vedic rituals are to be considered in the third or lowest category of santaḥ, or saintly persons.
Pure devotees transcends the material modes
But a devotee of the Lord is beyond the three modes of material nature. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gītā (14.26):
māṁ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate
“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” Thus Lord Krishna clearly says that a Vaiṣṇava who does not fall down from the regulations of bhakti-yoga is beyond the three modes of nature. And Lord Krishna advised Arjuna, a Krishna-bhakta, to transcend the three material qualities of the illusory creation of māyā (nistraiguṇyo bhavārjuna).
What about demigods?
In the Eighteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā (18.40) the Lord says:
na tad asti pṛthivyāṁ vā divi deveṣu vā punaḥ
sattvaṁ prakṛti-jair muktaṁ yad ebhiḥ syāt tribhir guṇaiḥ
“There is no being existing, either here or among the demigods in the higher planetary systems, who is free from the three modes of material nature.” Thus the demigods are not exempt from the pollution of the three modes of material nature, whereas a pure devotee actually becomes guṇātīta, or transcendental to the influence of māyā.
Therefore, one should cultivate the association of the uttama-adhikārī, or pure devotee of the Lord, as stated previously (Bhāg. 11.3.21):
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam
“Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.”…
One cannot be liberated without association with a pure devotee of the Lord.
As aspiring devotees, many a times, we feel alone, sometimes even helpless. We, however, forget that Krishna as Supersoul is always with us. Due to our ignorance and dull consciousness we may not be able to see Krishna’s hand in our journey towards Him but He is very much with us. Similarly we may not be able to appreciate and value how Krishna as Supersoul is sitting in our heart and is inspiring us to progress towards Him at every stage in our Krishna consciousness journey. Supersoul plays a very important role in the journey of a devotee. Let us find out how we can connect with Supersoul, hear His voice and take guidance from Him.
Śrī Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the Supersoul and guide of all living entities who have accepted material bodies within this world. He is the supreme controller of all material activities in material nature. He is also our best friend, and everyone should take shelter at His lotus feet. In doing so, one’s life will be auspicious.
Krishna is very close!
In Bhagavad-gītā (18.61) it is said, īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati: “The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna.” The living entity is within the body, and the Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is also there. He is called antaryāmīand caitya-guru. As Lord Krishna states in Bhagavad-gītā (15.15), He is controlling everything:
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.”
Should I take directions from Supersoul?
Everything is being directed by the Supersoul within the body; therefore the better part of valor is to take His direction and be happy. To take His directions, one needs to be a devotee, and this is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (10.10):
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”
Paramatma is our ‘old’ friend
In His Paramatma feature, Krishna is the old friend of everyone. According to Vedic injunction, Krishna is sitting with the living entity side by side. According to the sruti-mantra (dvä suparëä sayujä sakhäyäù), the Lord is sitting within the heart of every living entity as suhrt, the best friend. The Lord is always eager to have the living entity come home, back to Godhead. Sitting with the living entity as witness, the Lord gives him all chances to enjoy himself materially, but whenever there is an opportunity, the Lord gives good counsel and advises the living entity to abandon trying to become happy through material adjustment and instead turn his face toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrender unto Him.
Can I start talking with Supersoul right now!
The Lord is the Supersoul seated in everyone’s heart, and He acts as the caitya-guru, the spiritual master within. However, He gives direct instructions only to the advanced, pure devotees.
I knew there would be some catch!
Unless you are a devotee, unless you are constantly engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, He will not speak to you. He speaks, but you cannot hear. You have no ears to hear Him. That is not possible. Krishna is speaking. Just like Krishna is speaking in the Bhagavad-gita, sarva-dharmän parityajya mäm ekaà çaraëaà vraja [Bg. 18.66]. It is open speaking, but who is hearing? Nobody is hearing. Nobody is hearing. They have got their own conception of life.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 6th Nov, 1973, Delhi)
So what chance I have?
When a living entity desires to serve the Lord in transcendental loving service, the Lord helps the devotee in so many ways as the caitya-guru, or the spiritual master within, and thus the devotee can perform many wonderful activities beyond material estimation. By the mercy of the Lord even a layman can compose prayers of the highest spiritual perfection. Such spiritual perfection is not limited by material qualifications but is developed by dint of one’s sincere endeavor to render transcendental service. Voluntary endeavor is the only qualification for spiritual perfection.
We begin by taking shelter of a bona fide guru
A person in full Krishna consciousness acts by the dictation of Krishna. In the beginning of Krishna consciousness, dictation is received through the transparent medium of the spiritual master. When one is sufficiently trained and acts in submissive faith and love for Krishna under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master, the dovetailing process becomes more firm and accurate. This stage of devotional service by the devotee in Krishna consciousness is the most perfect stage of the yoga system. At this stage, Krishna, or the Supersoul, dictates from within, while from without the devotee is helped by the spiritual master, who is the bona fide representative of Krishna. From within He helps the devotee as caitya, for He is seated within the heart of everyone. Understanding that God is seated within everyone’s heart is not, however, sufficient. One has to be acquainted with God from both within and without, and one must take dictation from within and without to act in Krishna consciousness.
(We all have experienced when we are sitting with a bona-fide spiritual master or a devotee coming in proper disciplic succession, how the questions within our heart are automatically answered or explained by the such speaker, there is a solid connection via supersoul)
It’s a gradual process, coinciding with our purification level
In the beginning, when a devotee is serious and sincere, the Lord gives him directions from within to approach a bona fide spiritual master. When one is trained by the spiritual master according to the regulative principles of devotional service and is situated on the platform of spontaneous attachment for the Lord (räga-bhakti), the Lord also gives instructions from within. teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam [Bg. 10.10]. This distinct advantage is obtained by a liberated soul.
Supersoul manifests outside to help us!
One who is sincere and pure gets an opportunity to consult with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His Paramatma feature sitting within everyone’s heart. The Paramatma is always the caitya-guru, the spiritual master within, and He comes before one externally as the instructor and initiator spiritual master. The Lord can reside within the heart, and He can also come out before a person and give him instructions. Thus the spiritual master is not different from the Supersoul sitting within the heart.
Why does Supersoul need to manifests outside?
jīve sākṣāt nāhi tāte guru caittya-rūpe
śikṣā-guru haya kṛṣṇa-mahānta-svarūpe
Since one cannot visually experience the presence of the Supersoul, He appears before us as a liberated devotee. Such a spiritual master is none other than Krishna Himself.
It is not possible for a conditioned soul to directly meet Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but if one becomes a sincere devotee and seriously engages in devotional service, Lord Krishna sends an instructing spiritualmaster to show him favor and invoke his dormant propensity for serving the Supreme. The preceptor appears before the external senses of the fortunate conditioned soul, and at the same time the devotee is guided from within by the caittya-guru, Krishna, who is seated as the spiritual master within the heart of the living entity.
(CC Adi 1.58+p)
(We should not only see our spiritual master as manifestation of Krishna but also our shiksha guru and senior counselors, from whom we are taking shiksha, as being direct representatives of Krishna. Krishna has personally sent them to help us.)
Wow! can we understand it via some example?
Just like we work in some big establishment, and if we can satisfy our immediate boss, that is the satisfaction of the whole company. You haven’t got to see whether all the members of the company have become satisfied. Simply the immediate boss under which you are working, if he is satisfied, then you know the company is satisfied because he will submit the report of his work.
Similarly, Krishna is very kind. He is helping you in different ways. He is within your heart. Krishna is within your heart. Antaryami, Caitya-guru. And is presenting Himself as spiritual master both ways, externally, internally. He is trying to help you. And when you are actually taking the advantage of that help, and if you are engaged with love and affection in the transcendental service of the Lord, then you can talk with God from within. God is within you. You haven’t got to find out God in so many places. Anywhere you can sit down. But if you are sincere, if you are actually wanting to offer your service to the Lord—teñäà satata-yuktänäà bhajatäà préti-pürvakam, dadämi buddhi-yogaà tam [Bg. 10.10]—He will give you intelligence. Simply we have to become sincere servitor.
So it doesn’t matter whether one is householder or a brahmacari or sannyasi. He has to become first of all sincere servitor of the Lord. Then everything is complete. The Lord is within you. He will give you all knowledge, all enlightenment, all dictation, and He will make your life progressive.
(Srila Prabhupada lecture, 14th May 1969, Columbus)
I hope and pray that by reading the above we all can develop more faith to understand how Krishna is sitting within us as Supersoul and more importantly, we can appreciate how He is actively thinking about each one of us. Krishna loves each one of us and for those who are sincere, Krishna directly facilitates all arrangements so that we can go back to Him. For showering such love and personal care, what should be our feelings towards Krishna? And then what should be our feelings and attitude towards those great souls, whom Krishna has made His instrument of compassion and sent them to guide us in our spiritual journey. They are His direct representatives. Krishna Himself is helping every one of us internally as well as externally. Srila Prabhupada explains that there is no difference between internal instructor and external instructor. Can I work on my consciousness to see them non-different from each other?
Simply by accepting and acknowledging our spiritual master, shiksha guru and senior counselor as an external manifestation of Krishna, by valuing their association and contribution in our life, by following their instructions, we can attract further mercy of Krishna and make very rapid progress in Krishna consciousness and one day soon it may be our turn to start receiving direct instructions from someone very special within us, the stealer of hearts, Sri Krishna Chandra.
P.S. – Please use this link to read Lord Kapila describing the specific form of Supersoul residing in our heart and how yogis meditate on that divine form SB 3.28.21
Few years back, I was preparing for a class by hearing a lecture given by HG Rukmini Krishna Prabhuji, from ISKCON Punjabi Bagh, repeatedly. Somehow, by Prabhuji’s mercy and potency, few lines from that lecture touched my heart and remain ingrained forever. Here are those lines-
‘Everyone in ISKCON should try to build a relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada is preeminent shiksha guru of everyone in ISKCON and it will be very beneficial for our spiritual life if we build a personal relationship with Srila Prabhupada. And it is possible for everyone in ISKCON to build a personal relationship with him, not just his immediate disciples. We simply need to make efforts in that direction and we will definitely receive his reciprocation ”.
We are well aware that position of an acharya is very unique. An acharya not only teaches us but he also practices everything himself. Hence an acharya teaches us with his own practical example, which is a far easier and practical way to grasp for the conditioned souls.
Let us now see how Srila Prabhupada ‘practiced’ his own relationship with his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, another exalted acharya in our line, and learn from him how we can we develop a permanent relationship with the lotus feet of our acharya- Srila Prabhupada.
An Acharya’s birth is not ordinary
So these äcäryas, they come and they go, that is not like ordinary birth and death. It is called prakaöa, aprakaöa; ävirbhäva, tirobhäva. So even ordinarily nobody takes birth and nobody dies, na jäyate na mréyate vä kadäcit [Bg. 2.20], so what to speak of the äcäryas or Bhagavän.
(Srila Prabhupada lecture — December 22, 1975, Bombay)
Who are these exalted Acharayas?
Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu has given considerable discussion about nitya-siddha and sädhana-siddha devotees. Nitya-siddha devotees come from Vaikuëöha to this material world to teach, by their personal example, how to become a devotee. The living entities in this material world can take lessons from such nitya-siddha devotees and thus become inclined to return home, back to Godhead. A nitya-siddha devotee comes from Vaikuëöha upon the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and shows by his example how to become a pure devotee (anyäbhiläñitä-çünyam [Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu 1.1.11]). In spite of coming to this material world, the nitya-siddha devotee is never attracted by the allurements of material enjoyment.
….When the Lord Himself appears as an incarnation within this material world, He is not allured by the material atmosphere, and He has nothing to do with material activity, yet by His example He teaches the common man how to become a devotee. Similarly, a devotee who comes here in accordance with the order of the Supreme Lord shows by his personal behavior how to become a pure devotee. A pure devotee, therefore, is a practical example for all living entities, including Lord Brahmä.
Without their practical guidance..
The bona fide spiritual master, by his personal activities, teaches the disciple the principles of devotional service. Without personal service, one would go on speculating like the impersonalists and dry speculators life after life and would be unable to reach the final conclusion.
He is not dead and gone!
So now, by the grace of Krishna and Caitanya Mahaprabhu and in the presence of my Guru Maharaja, you are so nice boys and girls. So in front of Caitanya Mahaprabhu you are chanting Hare Krishna mantra, and you are taking part in it very seriously. So my Guru Maharaja will be very, very much pleased upon you and bless you with all benefits. [break]
So he wanted this, and he is not… It is not that he is dead and gone. That is not spiritual understanding. Even ordinary living being, he does not die. Na hanyate hanyamäne çarére [Bg. 2.20]. And what to speak of such exalted, authorized personality like Bhaktisiddhanta. He is seeing. I never feel that I am alone. Of course, when I came to your country without any friend, without any means… Practically, just like a vagabond I came. But I had full faith that “My Guru Mahäräja is with me.” I never lost this faith. And that is fact. There are two words, väëé and vapuù. Väné means words, and vapuù means this physical body. So väëé is more important than the vapuù. Vapuù will be finished. This is material body. It will be finished. That is the nature. But if we keep to the väëé, to the words of spiritual master, then we remain very fixed up. It doesn’t matter.
(Srila Prabhupada lecture – Atlanta, March 2, 1975)
I won’t die!
Kértanänanda: Why can’t you give us your old age?
Prabhupada: When I see that things are going on nicely, I am happy. What is this with this body? Body is body. We are not body.
Kértanänanda: Wasn’t it Purudäsa that gave his father his youth?
Rämeçvara: Yayäti. King Yayäti traded his old age.
Kértanänanda: With his son. You can do that.
Prabhupada: [laughs] Who did?
Rämeçvara: King Yayäti.
Prabhupada: Ah. Yayäti. No, why? You are my body. So you live on. There is no difference. Just like I am working, so my Guru Mahäräja is there, Bhaktisiddhanta Goswami. Physically he may not be, but in every action he is there. I think actually I have written that.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yeah, it’s in the Bhägavatam, that “He who lives with him, he lives eternally. He who remembers his words lives eternally.”
Prabhupada: So I am not going to die. Kértir yasya sa jévati: “One who has done something substantial, he lives forever.” He doesn’t die. Even in our practical life… Of course, this is material, karma-phala. One has to accept another body according to his karma. But for devotee there is no such thing. He always accepts a body for serving Krishna. So there is no karma-phala
(Conversation Pieces- May 27, 1977, Vrindavana)
Mercy is forever available to everyone, it is up to us to take advantage of it.
Prabhupada: You have to associate with both. Guru-kåñëa-kåpäya päya bhakti-latä-béja [Cc. Madhya 19.151]. Both guru’s kåpä and Kåñëa’s kåpä, they must be joined. Then you will get.
Jayädvaita: We’re very eager to get that guru-kåpä.
Jayädvaita: We are. All of us.
Prabhupada: Yes. Yasya prasädäd bhagavat-prasädaù. If you get guru’s kåpä, then automatically you get Krishna.
Näräyaëa: Guru-kåpä only comes by pleasing the spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: Otherwise how?
Näräyaëa: Excuse me?
Prabhupada: Otherwise how it can come?
Näräyaëa: So those disciples who don’t have opportunity to see you or speak with you…
Prabhupada: That he was speaking, väëé and vapuù. Even if you don’t see his body, you take his word, väëé.
Näräyaëa: But how do they know they’re pleasing you, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: If you actually follow the words of guru, that means he is pleased. And if you do not follow, how he can be pleased?
Sudämä: Not only that,but your mercy is spread everywhere, and if we take advantage, you told us once, then we will feel the result.
Jayädvaita: And if we have faith in what the guru says, then automatically we’ll do that.
Prabhupada: Yes. My Guru Maharaja passed in 1936, and I started this movement in 1965, thirty years after. Then? I am getting the mercy of guru. This is väëé. Even the guru is not physically present, if you follow the väëé, then you are getting help.
Sudämä: So there’s no question of ever separation as long as the disciple follows the instruction of guru.
Prabhupada: No. Cakhu-dän dilo jei... What is that, next one?
Prabhupada: Janme janme prabhu sei. So where there is separation?Who has opened your eyes, he is birth after birth your prabhu.
(Morning Walk—July 21, 1975, San Francisco)
A peek into the heart of Srila Prabhupada
Let us now read a pastime from the book ‘Miracle on Second Avenue’, an amazing account of the early days of ISKCON by of HH Mukunda Goswami. It was mercy of HH Gunagrahi Maharaj, who recommended this book to me and having read it, I would request everyone to read it, specially those who would like to build a stronger relationship with Srila Prabhupada by reading about him, his early days in west and how he preached to the westerners and started this movement.
This particular pastime gives us a peek into the very heart of Srila Prabhupada, his spiritual feelings and firm faith in his spiritual master. The background of the below pastime is that Srila Prabhupada has suffered a massive heart attack in New York. Doctors had told devotees that he may not survive this attack but by Krishna’s mercy, and devotees prayers, ‘he made it through’. Prabhupada was still recovering when he decided to visit San Francisco as local devotees there were preparing for the first ever Rathayatra. Devotees had taken a beach front house on rent for Srila Prabhupada, where it was peaceful and quite for him to to rest and recover.
While reading the below pastime please do keep in my mind that these are very early days of ISKCON, its June 1967, devotees are new to Krishna consciousness, they are young and innocent, but their hearts are sold out to Srila Prabhupada. Here we go, as HH Mukunda maharaja recalls this particular pastime with his spiritual master –
On his second day there, I knocked on his door and sat down on the floor in front of the bed he was sitting on.
“How are you feeling, Swami?” I asked.
He continued to chant softly, gazing at the somewhat primitive painting of Radha and Krishna on the wall to his right painted by a devotee artist. I thought maybe he hadn’t heard me, but after a few minutes he put down his beads and stood up.
“What is this body?” he said, making a gesture with his palms open and his arms outstretched. He looked almost disgusted to inhabit an ephemeral body and incredulous that I would be concerned to inquire about the state of something so fleeting. I realized that although I had read about the temporary nature of the body and the eternality of the spirit soul, he was actually living that philosophy.
For him the material world was not as important as the spiritual world, and he didn’t really care about his body coming to an end.
I went back into the kitchen and told Hayagriva and Kirtanananda about what the swami had said and my impression of what he meant.
“He’s not concerned about leaving his body for himself, because he’ll go back to be with Krishna,” Hayagriva said. “But what would happen to the movement if he was to die?”
“What?” My mouth hung open.
“All I’m saying is that he’s going to leave his body some time,” Hayagriva said. “Maybe you should ask him if someone should take over when he dies.”
“Maybe you should ask him,” I said. I thought he was being a bit too pragmatic about such a sensitive issue.
“No, it should be you,” Hayagriva insisted. “You’re the one he talked to about it.”
“Well, actually, no, he didn’t,” I clarified. “I was the one who started thinking about this stuff because of his comment about his body.”
“Whatever the case, we need to know how we should continue our Krishna consciousness education if he’s not here, shouldn’t we? And how we’d keep his movement alive, right?”
I thought for a few seconds. As blunt as Hayagriva was being about the issue, I had to admit that deep down I wanted to know the answers to these questions for myself too.
“OK, I’ll ask him,” I said. “I guess somebody has to ask about it eventually, and I guess it may as well be me.”
I knocked on his door again.
“Yes?” the swami said from within.
“Swami, can I ask you a question?” I asked. “Yes.” He sat down on his bed again.
I took a deep breath.
“When you die, what will happen to the movement?” I asked. “Will you have a successor who will continue your work and look after our spiritual education?”
As I heard myself say the words, I realized it had been a mistake to ask this. I saw suddenly that I had been put forward to ask this delicate question on someone else’s behalf. The swami sat silently, looking out the window at the sand dunes and the mountains. It was high tide and I could hear the waves pounding the beach. Gulls shrieked. I could feel two sets of ears straining from the kitchen to hear his answer.
The swami muttered something quietly.
“I couldn’t hear what you said, Swami,” I said carefully. “Can you repeat it?”
“Actually, it is an insult to the spiritual master,” he said a little louder.
He turned away from the window and looked at me pensively, as if he was hurt by my question.
“I’m sorry, Swami,” I said. I felt like shrinking into the carpet. He closed his eyes. Outside a dog barked. A shallow stream of tears appeared below each of his eyes and flowed over his cheeks.
He slowly wiped them away. “My spiritual master …” he said, and his voice choked to gravel. I was stunned. What had I done?
“My spiritual master,” he said, “he was no ordinary spiritual master.” He paused again, and then whispered falteringly, “He saved me.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll go now.” I was too overcome myself to say more.
Hayagriva and Kirtanananda looked furtive when I came back into the kitchen. I pushed past them and went and sat out on the porch by myself. The swami’s answer was crystal clear to me. There was no question of replacing the spiritual master. His potency to teach would not end with his death but would continue even in his physical absence. What struck me the most was the way the swami taught me this. He didn’t just tell me with words; he showed me through his spiritual emotion toward his own spiritual master.
“The swami is no ordinary spiritual master,” I thought to myself. “I must learn to love and serve my spiritual master unconditionally with the fidelity and loyalty with which he serves his.”
I brushed a few grains of imaginary sand from my hands and went back into the house to talk to Kirtanananda and Hayagriva about the swami’s instruction to us all.
( Miracle on Second Avenue, by HH Mukunda Goswami, chapter 21)
Thank you very much for your sincere endeavor and faith in your Spiritual Master. The key to success in spiritual life is to always endeavor to please the Spiritual Master, and follow his instructions.One who is determined in this effort will advance very quickly in Krishna consciousness.
So far personal association with the Guru is concerned, I was only with my Guru Maharaja four or five times, but I have never left his association, not even for a moment. Because I am following his instructions, I have never felt any separation. There are some of my Godbrothers here in India who had constant personal association with Guru Maharaja, but who are neglecting his orders. This is just like the bug who is sitting on the lap of the king. He may be very puffed-up by his position, but all he can succeed in doing is biting the king. Personal association is not so important as association through service.
(Letter to Satadhanya—Calcutta, 20 February, 1972)
I hope and humbly pray that it touches your heart as it touched mine, that we all feel inspired to daily, and carefully, read Srila Prabhupada books and start following his instructions.
The last verse which Arjuna speaks in Bhagavad Gita, has many gems for us.
नष्टो मोहः स्मृतिर्लब्धा त्वत्प्रसादान्मयाच्युत।
स्थितोऽस्मि गतसन्देहः करिष्ये वचनं तव।।18.73।।
Arjuna said: My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now ﬁrm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.
Now let us try to churn this verse.
My dear Kṛṣṇa: Krishna is our dear friend , suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ , actually Krishna is our only real friend, and He never let’s His devotee down.
O infallible one:Krishna is known as Achytua .
He never fails in His affection for His devotees, and thus He is addressed herein as infallible…..In all circumstances, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Krishna is absolute and remains so under all conditions, Krishna is glorified in every single form or lila he manifests. Whether he takes birth inside a prison in Mathura and present Himself as a fully decorated newly born baby with four arms in front of his wonderstruck parents, or while playing games with his cowherd friends in Vrindavan or stealing butter from the homes of gopis, or running away from battle- ‘Ranchorh’, even when he manifest Himself as a stone, Shaligram, He is the same Krishna. Like an actor Krishna comes in various guises, sometimes as a bird (swan), as an animal (boar), as a fish or what’s more dramatic than bursting out of a pillar as half lion-half man! His supreme position is never challenged, He is the infallible master in all circumstances.
my illusion is now gone: What is my present consciousness? Am I still living under an illusion even after being in the movement for so long. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport – In illusion the living entity is serving in this material world. He is bound by his lust and desires, yet he thinks of himself as the master of the world. This is called illusion.
Am I living a life where I think that I am the controller, I am the master and I am the enjoyer? Am I gradually developing the consciousness of being a servant of Krishna, which should be my only identity, rest are simply the services Krishna has given me.
The best way to destroy illusion is by daily reading Srila prabhupada’s books. How much is my daily reading?
I have regained my memory: Have I regained me memory as an eternal servant of Krishna? What is my consciousness while interacting with my family, my colleagues at work, …
Srila Prabhupada gives us a very simple solution to revive our lost memory
One’s memory of Kṛṣṇa is revived by chanting the mahā-mantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa. By this practice of chanting and hearing the sound vibration of the Supreme Lord, one’s ear, tongue and mind are engaged. This mystic meditation is very easy to practice, and it helps one attain the Supreme Lord.
How sincerely am I trying to chant my 16 rounds?
by Your mercy: We should know by now that we cannot succeed by our own efforts alone. However if our efforts are sincere, and honest, then it will attract Krishna’s mercy. The two finger principle-
Thus although mother Yasoda, in her attempt to bind Krishna, added one rope after another, ultimately she was a failure. When Krishna agreed, however, she was successful. In other words, one must be in transcendental love with Krishna, but that does not mean that one can control Krishna . When Krishna is satisfied with one’s devotional service, He does everything Himself…He reveals more and more to the devotee as the devotee advances in service.
Krishna says in BG 15.15 mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca, from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.
Everything- remembrance, knowledge, forgetfulness is coming from Krishna, everything is in the lotus like hands of Sri Govindadev!
I am now ﬁrm: to make progress in bhakti we need to be firm in our enthusiasm, determination and patience! Without them it will be difficult to make progress. We have to be firm in following the process given by Srila Prabhupada, follow four regulative principles, try to chant 16 sincere rounds, everyday read Srila Prabhupada’s books and regularly associate with devotees who are senior than us.
and free from doubt: One way to become free from doubt is by asking questions. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence. We should clear our doubts without hesitation or feeling embarrassed in front of others. Arjuna asked so many questions from Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. Srimad Bhagavatam is all about questions and answers. This is the way to clear our doubts.
Guru Maharaj once told us that even if you do not have any question and may think I have understood everything, still we should ask question so that we can verify if I have understood correctly!
and am prepared: Our primary method to prepare ourselves is by regular Sravanam kirtanam but we should not forget the golden rule which Srila Prabhupada repeated multiple times sevonmukhe hi jihvādau.
To associate with the holy name and chant the holy name is to associate with the Personality of Godhead directly. In the Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu it is clearly said, sevonmukhe hi jihvädau svayam eva sphuraty adaù [Brs. 1.2.234]. The holy name becomes manifest when one engages in the service of the holy name. This service in a submissive attitude begins with one’s tongue. Sevonmukhe hi jihvädau: One must engage his tongue in the service of the holy name. Our Krishna consciousness movement is based on this principle. We try to engage all the members of the Krishna consciousness movement in the service of the holy name. Since the holy name and Krishna are nondifferent, the members of the Krishna consciousness movement not only chant the holy name of the Lord offenselessly, but also do not allow their tongues to eat anything that is not first offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
(CC Adi 8.16p)
to act: Bhakti means action, action in knowledge and with love. That is why Srila Prabhupada translated bhakti as devotional service not devotion. Love means reciprocation, which naturally culminates in loving service. My actions, coupled with the consciousness with which I am doing it, will attract Krishna’s mercy.
according to Your instructions: To advance in Krishna consciousness we should receive instructions from our diksha/shiksha guru. Generally we may not receive any direct instructions from our guru because we may not have the qualification to follow them. We can, however, prepare ourselves to receive direct instructions by following the primary instruction given at the time of initiation – chant 16 rounds offenselessly!
In the Bhagavad-gétä (18.66) Lord Krishna instructs His disciple Arjuna, “Just surrender unto Me, and I shall protect you from all sinful reactions.” And Arjuna accepts Krishna’s instruction with the words kariñye vacanaà tava: “I will do as You say.” (Bhagavad-gétä 18.73) If we follow Arjuna’s example, we will be in direct contact with Krishna, and we will be able to surmount all difficulties in both our spiritual and material life. We hear the instructions of Krishna via the unbroken chain of disciplic succession (guru-paramparä). Acceptance of these instructions is called çikñä, or voluntarily following the instruction of the spiritual master. The independent nature of the living entity is that he does not want to follow the instructions of another living being, however pure. But when one voluntarily agrees to obey the orders of the spiritual master, one is following the orders of Krishna, and thus one’s life becomes perfect.
Today is the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada.
Few weeks ago a senior Vaishnava shared a revolutionary article by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, which I am sharing with you below. It is deep and very insightful and can give us key(s) to make a very rapid progress in Krishna consciousness by changing our outlook towards the world and our selves.
“The world stands in no need of any reformer. The world has a very competent person for guiding its minutest happenings. The person who determines that there is scope for reform of the world, himself stands in need of reform. The world goes on in its own perfect way.
No person can deflect it even the breadth of a hair from the course chalked out for it by providence. When we perceive any change being actually effected in the course of events of this world by the agency of any particular individual, we must know very well that the agent possesses no real power at any stage. The agent finds himself driven forward by a force belonging to a different category from himself. The course of the world does not require to be changed by the agency of any person. What is necessary is to change our outlook on this world.
This was done for the contemporary generation by the mercy of Sri Caitanya. It can only be known to recipients of his mercy. The scriptures declare that it is only necessary to listen with an open mind to the name of Krishna from the lips of a bonafide devotee. As soon as Krishna enters the listening ear, he clears up the vision of the listener so that he no longer has any ambition of ever acting the part of a reformer of any other person, because he finds that nobody is left without the very highest guidance. It is therefore his own reform that he is increasingly able to realize, by the eternally continuing mercy of the Supreme Lord.”
(Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur in The Harmonist, May 1932, issue no. 11)
At first go it may look like going against the preaching spirit of the devotees, but the above golden lines are like the light from the spiritual lighthouse by which all of us, preachers included, can seek the right direction, remain grounded and persist on the right track. If we carefully read above lines repeatedly, and contemplate on them, then we can unlock many a closed doors that may be blocking our progress in Krishna consciousness and receive profound wisdom available via disciplic succession.
As I sat relishing the above lines, trying, unsuccessfully, to seek entry to the above, the famous verse from Sri Isopanisad came into my consciousness.
The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
(Sri Isopanisad, invocation)
Srila Prabhupada imbibed this very mood!
“Actually I am not worthy of any one of the words spoken by you but all of them are due to my Spiritual Master Who was so kind to me. In fact I am a worthless person because my Spiritual Master ordered me to take up this work in 1922 but I did not carry his order until 1958, when I was obliged to carry out His order by His arrangement only. This means although I was not very enthusiastic to carry out His order He forced me circumstantially to accept it. So this is His special mercy upon me and I always think about this with gratitude to this exalted personality coming directly from Vaikuntha World and we had the great fortune to meet Him. I think that is the only credit on our part that we happened to meet Him by some ‘ajnata sukriti’ or unknown auspicious activities. He is so kind upon me that when I came to your country, where I was completely unknown, He sent to me some good souls like you unsolicited. So I accept you all as assistants or representatives of my Guru Maharaja Who is still helping me because I am so feeble and unworthy. Anyway, the business which we have taken to work together is neither your business nor my business as far we are personally concerned, but it is the business of Lord Caitanya and His bona fide servants like my Guru Maharaja. Therefore it is the duty of all of us to execute it as nicely as far as possible within our capacity. In other words, we shall just try to discharge our responsible duties faithfully and seriously, then all facilities will come for our help.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva dasa, January 1, 1970)
“My Spiritual Master has given me the instruction to spread this movement all over the world and you are my good disciples, are helping me do this. Without your good help I could not have done anything, so practically you can take all the credit for spreading this Krishna Consciousness movement and fulfilling the prophecy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If there is some incident and I claim that no one is cooperating with me or no one will work with me, that is my defect, not theirs. The Vaisnava devotee must think like this. We should not find fault with others and criticize and go away, that is not the Vaisnava way. Better we should always be willing to offer all respects to others and consider them as our superiors always.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, August 26, 1972)
This is the ‘safest’ way to make real progress!
Devotee: You must be higher than the paramahamsa stage, Prabhupada.
Prabhupada: I am lower than you. I am lower than you.
Devotee: You are so beautiful. You are paramahamsa, but still, you are preaching to us.
Prabhupada: No, I am lower than you. I am the lowest of the all creatures. I am simply trying to execute the order of my spiritual master. That’s all. That should be the business of everyone. Try best. Try your best to execute the higher order. That is the safest way of progressing. One may be in the lowest stage, but if he tries to execute the duty entrusted upon him, he is perfect. He may be in lowest stage, but because he is trying to execute the duty entrusted to him, then he is perfect. That is the consideration.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Surat, December 19, 1970)
Srila Prabhupada’s secret- he knew who was actually doing it !
“Therefore sometimes, when people say in India, ‘Swamiji, you have done wonderful.’ And yes, I do not know. I’m not a magician. But, so far I am confident that I did not adulterate the words of Krishna. That’s all. That’s my credit. I did not like to take the position of Krishna. I remained a servant of Krishna, and I spoke what Krishna said. That’s all. This is my secret. So everyone can do that. There is nothing magic. The magic will act as soon as you become a pure devotee of Krishna. The magic will be done by Krishna, not by me or you. He will do it.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, May 19, 1972)
We, Gaudiya Vaishanavas, are supposed to follow the mood of Vrajavasis. Among the Vrajavasis the mood and service of gopis is considered the highest. During the day gopis were always busy in one main activity – churning butter. How can we follow this practice in the modern age of Kali-yuga?
We can very easily follow gopis by churning the verses of bhakti scriptures, especially Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. If we sincerely try to churn these verses with love and devotion then by the mercy of Supreme Lord we may be rewarded with very soft and delicious butter.
Let us pick a well-known verse from Bhagavad Gita,
Therefore get up. Prepare to ﬁght and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a ﬂourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasācī, can be but an instrument in the ﬁght.
Now let us pray to Srila Prabhupada and try churning every single line of the above translation and see what kind of butter comes out it.
Therefore get up : Krishna says, My bhakti means action. Bhakti-yoga doesn’t entail sitting idle but acting for Krishna. That’s why my eternal associate whom I have sent to guide you and whom you lovingly call Srila Prabhupada, translated bhakti as devotional service and NOT simply devotion.
Prepare to ﬁght and win glory: Krishna says, if you are My devotee then be prepared to serve my plan – to give a chance to all the conditioned souls to come back to Me, back to Godhead. Apply to join My army (associate with My devotees). Admission is very easy and with a little strength (faith) you can join in. All new recruits begin with training, which begins immediately- by starting to practice Krishna consciousness. Discipline is mandatory- follow all the rules and regulations of Krishna consciousness diligently.
Training is not just physical but also mental, intellectual and beyond it. All very useful in a war- chant sincerely, start reading the scriptures carefully and attentively which I, and My devotees, have left for you. Contemplate on them and apply them in your life.
There are scheduled and surprise tests- be ready to show your sincerity when you face challenges in life.
Having passed the tests (with some bruises and good lessons learnt), you will be invited to formally join one unit of My army- take shelter of a bonafide guru in a vaishnava sampradaya.
You are now a formal lieutenant in My army – become initiated. After being appointed formally in My prestigious Army you will receive additional facilities and perks – gradually the essence of all scriptures will start getting revealed in your heart.
In the meantime do not sit idle but start preaching, simply repeat whatever you have read, do not add or subtract anything, for a soldier to survive in army (or in a war) discipline is critical.
Gradually you shall acquire weapons (realisations) which will make you stronger day by day (increased faith). Being empowered with these unique weapons (realisations) and strength (faith) you will win glory.
Conquer your enemies: There are different sets of enemies- external as well as internal.
External enemy is maya – forgetfulness of my eternal relationship with Krishna.
Internal : Internal enemies are very dangerous. These are Kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada (pride) and matsarya (jealousy)
Final frontier: Win over five kind of material attachments : ignorance, false ego, attachment to the material world, envy and absorption in material consciousness.
And enjoy a flourishing kingdom: There is only one kingdom which flourishes eternally- Vaikuntha. It is eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss. In comparison the material world is temporary and full of miseries.
They are already put to death by My arrangement: Those who do not take shelter of My devotees remain forever in the cycle of birth and death. Their consciousness remains shrunk- to a level of 1/10,000 part of the tip of the top of a hair!
O Savyasācī, can be but an instrument in the ﬁght: Each and every one of My dear devotee can become an instrument in My hand and enjoy My association. For this you do not even have to wait to leave this body and enter Vaikuntha (or Goloka Vrindavan) but you will be able to see My presence in everything around you and you will be able to hear My instructions from within. With gradual promotion you will also get the privilege to drink Somarasa – feel nectar in the heart while reading bhakti scriptures.
The objective of life is not simply a subject of debate or speculation. The ultimate aim of life is to realize that supreme object, the Personality of Godhead. Buddhi-yoga, or Krishna consciousness, means to become absorbed in serving the Supreme Lord and His name, qualities, form, pastimes, etc. In other words, it means becoming an instrument for His satisfaction. We have to become infused with His spiritual potency; thus strengthened, we then have to make the propagation of His transcendental glories our prime duty in life. By means of such Potent missionary activities, innumerable jévas can experience endless spiritual joy.
(Renunciation through wisdom, chapter 5)
I hope and pray that you liked the taste of little butter we tried to churn. In case of any complaints or suggestions, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes this question gets popped up in discussions ‘why did Srila Prabhupada speak so much against mayavada and voidism?’ He went head on against both the philosophies. For many of us who were brought in a broad minded liberal mindset (read hodge-podge) such sharp criticism, coming specially from a highly evolved spiritual personality, may seem a bit out of place.
Srila Prabhupada’s pranama mantra itself boldly declares his intention, and scope, in no uncertain terms.
I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet. Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Chaitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.
HG Bhurijana Prabhu, in a recent class, shared an interesting pastime during a program in Japan, when Srila Prabhupada, did not let a mayavadi sanyasi speak for too long, starting a impromptu Kirtan in the middle of his speech, much to the bewilderment of the audience. Srila Prabhupada, later, shared with his disciples that he could tolerate the mayavadi sanyasi for some time but when he started speaking that Supreme Lord has no form, no senses, can not talk and so on, then Prabhupada could not tolerate it any more! HG Bhurijan Prabhu said that such is the love Srila Prabhupada has for Krishna that he could not tolerate anyone speaking that his beloved and most beautiful Lord does not possess any beauty, any form, any taste, etc. It simply showed his level of attachment to Krishna.
Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me — and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.
Krishna is saying that once one gets free from attachment, fear & anger, and being aware that He is the Supreme Lord and everyone is His part and parcel, surrendering unto Him, then one become fully absorbed in Him. And the result of such an absorption, based on knowledge (not just sentiments), is that one will attain transcendental love for Krishna, our final goal.
Srila Prabhupada begins his purport to the above verse : It is very difficult for a person who is too materially affected to understand the personal nature of the Supreme Absolute Truth.
Srila Prabhupada then goes into detail, in the same purport, and explains the three popular philosophies prevalent in western countries
Materialists: People who are attached to the bodily conception of life are so absorbed in materialism that it is almost impossible for them to understand how the Supreme can be a person. Such materialists cannot even imagine that there is a transcendental body which is imperishable, full of knowledge and eternally blissful. In the materialistic concept, the body is perishable, full of ignorance and completely miserable. Therefore, people in general keep this same bodily idea in mind when they are informed of the personal form of the Lord. For such materialistic men, the form of the gigantic material manifestation is supreme.
Mayavada : Consequently they consider the Supreme to be impersonal. Generally, because they are too materially absorbed, the conception of retaining the personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void. Generally, they compare the living entities to the bubbles of the ocean, which merge into the ocean. That is the highest perfection of spiritual existence attainable without individual personality. This is a kind of fearful stage of life, devoid of perfect knowledge of spiritual existence.
Voidism: Furthermore there are many persons who cannot understand spiritual existence at all. Being embarrassed by so many theories and by contradictions of various types of philosophical speculation, they become disgusted or angry and foolishly conclude that there is no supreme cause and that everything is ultimately void. Such people are in a diseased condition of life.
So, surprisingly, the rāga-bhaya-krodhā (attachment, fear and anger) Krishna is speaking about are not exactly how we understand these terms, in reality they mean
attachment to material life
fear of a spiritual personal identity
the conception of void that arises from frustration in life
How do I get free from them?
To get free from these three stages of the material concept of life, one has to take complete shelter of the Lord, guided by the bona ﬁde spiritual master, and follow the disciplines and regulative principles of devotional life.
Srila Prabhupada then writes the complete road map, from faith to Prema, via Krishna consciousness
“In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is matured in bhāva, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life.” In the prema stage there is constant engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
So this is the role Srila Prabhupada is playing in Krishna’s (actually Mahaprabhu’s) plan for mass liberation, to save the suffering souls in kali-yuga by
freeing us from material attachment, rāga (sense gratification)
freeing us from the fearfulness of one’s individual spiritual personality, bhaya (mayavada)
freeing us from the frustration that results in void philosophy, krodhā (voiodism)
Prabhupada through his books, instructions and lectures gave the suffering humanity a complete, and solid, path leading to the highest stage, Krishna Prema, Love of Godhead, ultimately leading to the abode of the Supreme Lord- Goloka Vrindavana. All his activities, all the resources which came by his side, were used by him in Krishna’s service, till his very last breath. Prabhupada walked the path Krishna planned for him, similar to how Arjuna followed Krishna’s instructions and fought the war in Kurukshetra, which Krishna had already planned. Both of them became an instrument in Krishna’s hands with no self interest or self desire. This movement is popularly known as ‘Hare Krishna’ all over the world, he did not name it after himself. So all over the world people became aware of Krishna’s name but who is Srila Prabhupada!
Therefore I do not find a greater person than he who has no interest outside of Mine and who therefore engages and dedicates all his activities and all his life — everything — unto Me without cessation.
Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport of above verse :
In this verse the word sama-darśanāt means that he no longer has any separate interest; the devotee’s interest and the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s interest are one. For example, Lord Caitanya, in the role of a devotee, also preached the same philosophy. He preached that Kṛṣṇa is the worshipful Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that the interest of His pure devotees is the same as His own.
Prabhupada again bashes up the mayavada theory!
Sometimes Māyāvādī philosophers, due to a poor fund of knowledge, define the word sama-darśanāt to mean that a devotee should see himself as one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is foolishness. When one thinks himself one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there is no question of serving Him. When there is service, there must be a master. Three things must be present for there to be service: the master, the servant and the service. Here it is clearly stated that he who has dedicated his life, all his activities, his mind and his soul — everything — for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, is considered to be the greatest person.
The word akartuḥ means “without any sense of proprietorship.” Everyone wants to act as the proprietor of his actions so that he can enjoy the result. A devotee, however, has no such desire; he acts because the Personality of Godhead wants him to act in a particular way. He has no personal motive. When Lord Caitanya preached Kṛṣṇa consciousness, it was not with the purpose that people would call Him Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; rather, He preached that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and should be worshiped as such. A devotee who is a most confidential servant of the Lord never does anything for his personal account, but does everything for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. Therefore it is clearly stated, mayi sannyasta-karmaṇaḥ: the devotee works, but he works for the Supreme. It is also stated, mayy arpitātmanaḥ: “He gives his mind unto Me.” These are the qualifications of a devotee, who, according to this verse, is accepted as the highest of all human beings.
So in a way Srila Prabhupada became the hand of Krishna. This hand went to the lowest depths on this planet. And to save us he had to smash the very foundation of senseless material gratification, mayavada & voidism, to free us from material attachment, fear and anger. Thereby delivering and uplifting millions of souls from the very bottom of the pit to the highest platform of Vaishnavism.
In a sense guru is like the hand attached to the body of God, Who is all existence, all intelligence, and all bliss (sac-cid-änanda-vigraha). With His hand, God rubs His own feet. The hand of God is His own limb. In this case God is serving Himself. God Himself appears as the guru in order to teach how to serve Himself. Our Gurudeva is also one with the body of God. There is God to be served, there is also God who serves; God as object and God as support. Mukunda is God to be served, He is the object God. The most beloved of Mukunda, Çré Gurudeva, is serving God, the support. There is no one so dearly loved by God as our Gurudeva. He alone is the best beloved of the Lord.
präkåta-rasera çikñä-bhikñä çiñye cäya nä rati binä jei rasa tähä guru deya nä
The true disciples never desire to ask their spiritual master for instructions regarding material mellows. The genuine spiritual master never gives his disciples any such material mellows, which are devoid of rati, transcendental loving attachment to the Lord. (2)
Selfish enjoyment of one’s own senses in mundane lust is never called prema (love of Godhead) by the genuine devotee. A bonafide spiritual master never tells his disciple, “You are absorbed in the mellows of divine rasa.” (8)
‘rase òagamaga ämi’ kabhu guru bole nä jaòéya rasera kathä çiñye guru bole nä
The genuine spiritual master never claims, “I am absorbed in the mellows of divine rasa.” The guru never talks idly with his disciples on subjects of gross worldly mellows. (9)
näme-rase bheda äche, guru çikñä deya nä rasa läbha kori’ çeñe sädhana to’ haya nä
The bonafide spiritual master never teaches that there is a difference between the Holy Name of Kåñëa and rasa. Even after attaining actual rasa, the regulative principles of devotional service are never concluded. (12)
rati yukta rasa chäòä çuddha-bhakta bole nä sädhanete rati rasa guru kabhu bole nä
The pure devotee of Kåñëa never speaks of anything other than rasa, transcendental mellow, that is endowed with rati, loving attachment. The guru never claims that rati and rasa are present within the practice of preliminary devotion (sädhanabhakti). (15)
rüpa hoite näma-sphürti, guru kabhu bole nä guëa hoite näma-sphürti, guru kabhu bole nä
The genuine spiritual master never asserts that the revelation of the Lord’s Holy Name is separate from His form. The genuine spiritual master never claims that the revelation of the Lord’s Holy Name is separate from His qualities. (32)
rasa äge, rati päche, rüpänugä bole nä rasa äge, çraddhä päche, guru kabhu bole nä
The true followers of Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé never say that the stage of realizing transcendental mellows (rasa) precedes the development of loving devotional attachment (rati). The bonafide spiritual master will never profess that the realization of such mellows precedes the development of pure faith (çraddhä). (34)
guru-mahäjana-väkye bheda kabhu haya nä sädhanera pathe käìöä sad-guru deya nä
There can never be any difference between the explanations of the bonafide spiritual master and the teachings of the great devotees (mahäjanas). The pure spiritual master never puts thorn-like deterrents on the path of one’s execution of practical devotional service (sädhana). (54)
Reporter: But the bad gurus… Çréla Prabhupäda: And what is a “bad” guru? Reporter: A bad guru just wants some money or some fame. Çréla Prabhupäda: Well, if he is bad, how can he become a guru? [Laughter.] How can iron become gold? Actually, a guru cannot be bad, for if someone is bad, he cannot be a guru. You cannot say “bad guru.” That is a contradiction. What you have to do is simply try to understand what a genuine guru is. The definition of a genuine guru is that he is simply talking about God—that’s all. If he’s talking about some other nonsense, then he is not a guru. A guru cannot be bad. There is no question of a bad guru, any more than a red guru or a white guru. Guru means “genuine guru.” All we have to know is that the genuine guru is simply talking about God and trying to get people to become God’s devotees. If he does this, he is genuine.
The founder-äcärya of the sampradäya is the principal çikñä-guru for that disciplic succession. Speculations that contradict his teachings are to be immediately rejected. Only a saintly devotee who has understood the teachings of the principal çikñä-guru is eligible to be a dékñä-guru for others. If one thinks that he can be initiated by an unauthorized guru or a Mäyävädé into these teachings, he errs severely. He will never attain Kåñëa consciousness.
All bona fide representatives of Çré Vyäsadeva in the chain of disciplic succession are to be understood to be gosvämés. These gosvämés restrain all their senses, and they stick to the path made by the previous äcäryas. The gosvämés do not deliver lectures on the Bhägavatam capriciously. Rather, they execute their services most carefully, following their predecessors who delivered the spiritual message unbroken to them.
A Vaiñëava never thinks that he has a direct relationship with Kåñëa. Lord Caitanya says, “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant—a hundred times the servant of the servant—of Kåñëa [Cc. Madhya 13.80].” We have to agree to become the servant of the servant of the servant. This is the process of disciplic succession, and if one wants real, transcendental love of God, then he has to adopt this process.
A spiritual master’s qualification is that he is brahma-niñöhä, which means that he has given up all other activities and has dedicated his life to working only for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa.
Some spiritual teachers say, “In my opinion you should do this,” but this is not a guru. Such so-called gurus are simply rascals. The genuine guru has only one opinion, and that is the opinion expressed by Kåñëa, Vyäsadeva, Närada, Arjuna, Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu, and the Gosvämés.
An actual guru is çrotriya, one who has heard or received perfect knowledge through paramparä, the disciplic succession.
Perfect knowledge is called paramparä, or deductive knowledge coming down from the authority to the submissive aural receiver who is bona fide by service and surrender.
The qualification of a spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and arguments and thus be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters.
A spiritually advanced person who is authorized to act as the spiritual master speaks as the Supreme Personality of Godhead dictates from within. Thus it is not he that is personally speaking. In other words, when a pure devotee or spiritual master speaks, what he says should be accepted as having been directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the paramparä system.
Whatever position one may have, if he is fully conversant with the science of Kåñëa, Kåñëa consciousness, he can become a bona fide spiritual master — an initiator or a teacher of the science.
One who is in the line of disciplic succession cannot manufacture his own way of behavior. There are many so-called followers of the Vaiñëava cult in the line of Caitanya Mahäprabhu who do not scrupulously follow the conclusions of the çästras, and therefore they are considered to be apa-sampradäya, which means “outside of the sampradäya.”
One who is now the disciple is the next spiritual master. And one cannot be a bona fide and authorized spiritual master unless one has been strictly obedient to his spiritual master.
If one is seriously interested in Kåñëa conscious activities, he must be ready to follow the rules and regulations laid down by the äcäryas, and he must understand their conclusions. The çästra says, dharmasya tattvaà nihitaà guhäyäà mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù (Mahäbhärata, Vana-parva 313.117). It is very difficult to understand the secret of Kåñëa consciousness, but one who advances by the instruction of the previous äcäryas and follows in the footsteps of his predecessors in the line of disciplic succession will have success. Others will not.
One who is not self-controlled, specifically in sex life, can become neither a disciple nor a spiritual master. One must have disciplinary training in controlling speaking, anger, the tongue, the mind, the belly and the genitals. One who has controlled the particular senses mentioned above is called a gosvämé. Without becoming a gosvämé one can become neither a disciple nor a spiritual master. The so-called spiritual master without sense control is certainly the cheater, and the disciple of such a so-called spiritual master is the cheated.
A person who has full control over the senses and mind is called a gosvämé or gosäïi. One who does not have such control is called a godäsa, or a servant of the senses, and cannot become a spiritual master.
The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class. The first-class devotee is the spiritual master for all kinds of people…… The guru is a qualified brähmaëa; therefore he knows Brahmanand Para-brahman. He thus devotes his life for the service of Para-brahman. The bona fide spiritual master who accepts disciples from all over the world is also worshiped all over the world because of his qualities. Lokänäm asau püjyo yathä hariù: the people of the world worship him just as they worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All these honors are offered to him because he strictly follows the brahminical principles and teaches these principles to his disciples. Such a person is called an äcärya because he knows the principles of devotional service, he behaves in that way himself, and he teaches his disciples to follow in his footsteps…… The mahä-bhägavata is one who decorates his body with tilaka and whose name indicates him to be a servant of Kåñëa by the word däsa. He is also initiated by a bona fide spiritual master and is expert in worshiping the Deity, chanting mantras correctly, performing sacrifices, offering prayers to the Lord and performing saìkértana. He knows how to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead and how to respect a Vaiñëava. When one has attained the topmost position of mahä-bhägavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru.
One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikäré. A neophyte Vaiñëava or a Vaiñëava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikäré as a spiritual master.
The uttama-adhikäré, or highest devotee, is one who is very advanced in devotional service. An uttama-adhikäré is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Kåñëa consciousness……Out of many such Vaiñëavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Kåñëa consciousness movement. Such a Vaiñëava should be accepted as an uttama-adhikäré, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought……When a person realizes himself to be an eternal servitor of Kåñëa, he loses interest in everything but Kåñëa’s service. Always thinking of Kåñëa, devising means by which to spread the Holy Name of Kåñëa, he understands that his only business is in spreading the Kåñëa consciousness movement all over the world. Such a person is to be recognized as an uttama-adhikäré.
Note :The above content is copied from AnOceanofGaura’spremämåta-kåpä – An elaboration on Srila Rupa Goswami’s Sri Upadesamrta by H.G. Srimati Mataji. We can download the book CLICK HERE
In the next blog I will quote a heavy check list on what is meant by a bonafide Guru by Srila Bhaktisdhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
The lotus feet of our spiritual master are the only way by which we can attain pure devotional service. I bow to his lotus feet with great awe and reverence. By his grace one can cross the ocean of material suffering and obtain the mercy of Krsna.
( Guru Puja, from Prema-bhakti-candrika, by Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura)
In one of my previous blog on Lotus feet of Krishna I had written that, Gaura willing, I will try to write another blog on Lotus feet of Guru. As I was looking for various scriptures for this topic I found a transcendental lecture given by Srila Gour Govinda Swami maharaja, simply divine. I am copying some parts from Maharaj’s lecture below.
Lotus feet of Guru
In this world, Sri Guru is the only beauty or asset, wealth. There is nothing else. Carana means feet. Sri-guru-carana-padma the feet of Sri Guru are compared to the lotus. This is also very significant. Why are his feet compared to the lotus and not to anything else? The lotus flower looks very nice and beautiful, and it also provides very sweet honey, madhu. The bumblebee collects honey from different flowers, but especially from the lotus flower. So what sort of special quality is there in the honey collected from the lotus flower that is not present in the honey collected from other flowers? It is a special type of honey known as padma-madhu. The disciple who is like a bumblebee, who is very hungry and greedy for that honey, relishes it.
This lotus grows in Bhakti-rasa
Although the lotus flower grows out of the water, it is not touched by it. One of the synonyms for water is rasa, mellow. The feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus, but this lotus grows in the transcendental water of bhakti-rasa, the mellow of bhakti. Such are the lotus feet of Sri Guru. His lotus feet are aprakrta, not material, but transcendental. They are bhakati-sadma, the abode of transcendental bhakti-rasa as well as all madhuri, beauty. The lotus looks beautiful to the eye and is very attractive to the heart.
Similarly, the shining lotus feet of Sri Guru are very beautiful in the eyes of the disciple and very attractive to his heart. All of the activities, form, qualities, and pastimes of Sri Guru are very beautiful in the eyes of the sadhaka-bhakta. Through the eye of meditation the sadhaka-bhakta sees the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Guru. Upon seeing those lotus feet he feels a soothing effect in his afflicted heart. His heart is afflicted with the three tapas, sufferings: adhyatmika, sufferings arising from one’s own mind and body; adhidaivika, sufferings arising from nature; and adhibhautika, sufferings arising from other living entities. When the disciple meditates on the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Guru he feels a soothing effect and his affliction is cooled down. At the same time he also smells the nice scent that is coming from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, like the scent that comes from the lotus.
Cooling shade of Lotus feet
The bumblebee wanders everywhere, going to various types of flowers. One type of flower is the ketaki flower. That flower is found in India, but not in the West. The tree on which the ketaki flower grows, like the rose plant, has thousands of thorns. The ketaki flower has a nice scent, and a bumblebee that becomes attracted by the scent from the ketaki flower goes there. But because of the many thorns on the tree his wings become torn and he feels so much pain and affliction.
The bumblebee thinks, “Where to go now? Can I get shelter in a place where there is no pain and affliction? Where can I get peace?” After wandering hither and thither, at last he comes to the lotus flower and experiences the cooling, soothing effect there. He takes shelter inside the lotus flower, sucks the sweet honey there, and thus gets nourishment.
Similarly, the jiva who is wandering and wandering through the innumerable universes and through the innumerable species of life of this material world brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva gets only more and more suffering, misery, and torture. There is no cooling effect in the material world, which is like a blazing forest fire samsara-davanala.
Nobody starts the forest fire, but automatically by the rubbing of two pieces of wood, the whole forest is burned and the animals that live in the forest are burned to ashes. They feel the burning heat, which is very painful. Similarly, the conditioned souls in this material world feel the burning sensation coming from the three tapas: adhyatmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika. After wandering through innumerable universes and innumerable species of life, at last the fortunate soul, bhagyavan jiva, comes to the lotus feet of Sri Guru and takes shelter in the cooling shade there. As the bumblebee sucks honey from the lotus flower, similarly, the guru-padma, the lotus feet of Sri Guru, allow that jiva, who is compared to the bumblebee, to suck the nice honey whereby he gets real nourishment and also premananda, loving happiness.
A Special Type of Honey
Padma-madhu, the honey collected from the lotus flower, is a special type of honey. The Ayurveda-sastra says that it is a good medicine for the eye. If someone has some eye disease due to impurities in the eye the kaviraj, ayurvedic doctor, will advise him to rub some padma-madhu in his eyes. Because of these impurities one cannot see clearly and feels pain. Applying some padma-madhu on the eyes will clean out all the impurities and then one will be able to see clearly. Similarly, the guru-padma-madhu, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, is so sweet and nectarean that if a fortunate disciple gets it and relishes it then the disciple’s eyes will be cleansed of the material conception.
This honey flows from Lotus feet of Guru
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
I was born in the dense darkness of ignorance, blind, without real vision. Sri Guru, by his causeless mercy, has opened my eyes with the torchlight of knowledge.
For a person who has some painful eye disease, who cannot see well, the kaviraj will advise him to apply some padma-madhu by which the drsti-sakti, the power to see clearly, will develop. Then not only will he get nice eyesight but also he will be able to see even very subtle things that he would otherwise never have been able to see. Similarly, when one takes shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru and gets the guru’s mercy, the guru allows the surrendered disciple to taste that sweet honey emanating from the guru’s lotus feet. That is the medicine whereby his material eyes will be cleansed of all material contamination. He develops transcendental vision.
He may have been blinded by the dense darkness of ignorance, ajnana-andhakara, but that will all be gone now. The darkness is dispelled and he receives the eyes of knowledge divya-jnana-caksu. Sri Guru imparts tattva-jnana, and by his mercy the disciple develops transcendental vision. With that vision he will be able to see the beautiful form of the Supreme Lord, Syamasundar. This is the honey, or madhu, emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru; it acts in such a wonderful way. Therefore the phrase, “sri-guru-carana-padma” is very significant the lotus feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus. Why is this comparison made and how to explain it?
Padma-madhu cures eye disease and clears out all the impurities from the eye, but it cannot clear the impurities from the heart. However, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, guru-padma-madhu, has such a special and wonderful characteristic that it cures both the eye and the heart. Sri-guru-carana-padma-madhu cleanses and purifies the heart so that it will become a suitable place for Govinda, Krishna, to reside.
tomara hrdoye sada govinda-visram
govinda kohena mora vaisnava paran
Narottam Das Thakur sings, “O Vaisnava-thakura! Govinda, Krishna, resides in your heart, which is like Vrindavan, the eternal abode of Govinda. He stays there very blissfully and peacefully. He never leaves your heart.”
The guru makes the heart of his surrendered disciple a suitable place for Krishna to reside. Because the guru gives the disciple shelter at his lotus feet and allows him to suck that special type of honey that has that wonderful characteristic, the heart of the surrendered disciple is cleansed.
Not just any honey!
The conditioned souls are like a diseased person suffering from various kinds of material ills bhava-rogi. Their disease is very chronic. They have already taken many medicines allopathic, homeopathic, and Ayurvedic but the disease is still not cured. The disease is incurable and has become chronic. They have already lost their vitality, jivana-sakti, and cannot digest any food. They have taken so many medicines, and that has also produced a bad effect.
These days you will find so many strong drugs, but what is their effect? They simply result in chronic incurable disease. People lose their vitality, and they cannot even eat anything because their digestive fire is very low. How can they survive? They are dying. They cannot eat or digest anything. The kaviraj will advise, “You should only eat one thing madhu. And especially padma-madhu, the special type of honey from the lotus flower.”
He prescribes padma-madhu, whereby they will regain their vitality. This honey will give them life. Any other type of food cannot be given; only padma-madhu is advised. Then they can regain their vitality. Such jivas, wandering through innumerable universes and experiencing the miseries of innumerable species of life, have become completely hopeless. They are only getting suffering, so many material ills bhava-roga.
If such persons are fortunate, they will come to the lotus feet of Sri Guru. That guru is like a physician, sadhu-vaidya. He knows the perfect and unfailing medicine to cure the material disease, bhava-roga. He knows the cause of the jiva’s suffering. There is only one medicine, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru guru-padma-madhu. So, as the lotus allows the bumblebee whose wings are torn by the thorns of the ketaki flower to take shelter inside the flower, similarly, the guru allows the disciple to take shelter at his lotus feet.
The guru-padma, the lotus feet of Sri Guru, gives such hopeless wandering souls shelter and allows them to suck honey, whereby they regain their vitality. The suffering jiva gets nourishment and life there. That is why we say, “sri-guru-carana-padma.” The lotus feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus, and not to anything else. This phrase has great significance.
uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya
vande guroh sri-caranaravindam
The spiritual master is honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and is followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master, who is a bona fide representative of Sri Hari.
Sri Guru is saksad-dharitvena, he is as good as Lord Hari. He does not belong to this material world. He belongs to the spiritual world, Krishna’s world. He comes down here out of his causeless mercy, either voluntarily to deliver the fallen souls or when the Lord sends him. Whether he comes here voluntarily or by the will of the Lord, that guru-padma descends here to shower his mercy on the suffering conditioned souls who have been drowning in the dreadful ocean of materialistic existence since time immemorial. That guru-padma descends and stays here in the material world.
Someone may raise the question, “This material world is illusory, mayika jagat. The three modes of material nature are here, sattva, raja, and tama goodness, passion, and ignorance. If the guru comes and stays in this material world, will he not be affected by those three modes? How can his transcendental nature remain unaffected in this dreadful ocean of material existence? How does he act here?”
This is very easy to understand from the example of the lotus flower. The lotus flower lives in the water, but it is not affected. It remains untouched. Similarly, although Sri Guru comes here to this material world, he remains untouched. He is never affected by the three modes of material nature. Therefore the feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus. The bumblebee that comes to the lotus that is in the water and takes shelter inside that lotus is also untouched by the water. Similarly, the fortunate soul who has taken shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru will never be afraid of this material world. Just as the bumblebee takes shelter of the lotus and is protected from being touched by the water, so the disciple who takes shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru will not be affected by the material nature. This is the lotus feet of Sri Guru.
Another point is there. When the sun rises, the lotus blossoms, and when the sun sets the petals of the lotus close. Similarly, the petals of the guru-padma will open when it sees the intense desire and crying in the heart of the suffering soul to go back to Godhead and get Krishna. This crying for bhakti is like the rising of the sun.
When the sun sets, the petals of the lotus close. Similarly, a disciple who has developed an intense and burning desire in his heart has come to the guru and received shelter. But many times we see that later on, that disciple loses his bhakti-vrtti, his devotional engagement. Because of committing some offense like nama-aparadha or vaisnava-aparadha he loses his bhakti-vrtti. His bhakti becomes shrunken and he does not carry out the orders of the guru or hear the guru’s message. He is avoiding or disobeying his guru. When the sun sets, the petals of the lotus close. Similarly, the guru disappears from the vision of that disciple.
(By Srila Gour Govinda Swami)
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī prays in CC Antya 20.147, sabāra caraṇa-kṛpā — ‘guru upādhyāyī’, The mercy of their lotus feet is my spiritual master.
I once heard that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that lotus feet of his guru are his spiritual master. Similarly in some circles of Gaudiya math there is a still a tradition that when devotee is asked who is your spiritual master, then the reply is that the lotus feet of HH ….. are my spiritual master.
Isn’t this a very gentle and submissive, yet a very personal, way of introducing our spiritual master to a vaishnava, a not so bad idea to practice.
Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet
Srila Sridhara Swami prays
“O transcendentally blissful guru, when my mind finally achieves a place at your lotus feet, all the tiresome labor of my spiritual practices will be finished, and by your mercy I will experience the greatest happiness.”