Unflinching Faith in Spiritual master

Hare Krishna

7th April, 2016, Gurgaon.

Srila Prabhupada

Last year there was an incident where I received a major chastisement because of not having properly understood the unique position of Srila Prabhupada. Well, I thought I understood his position but unknowingly and subtly I got led in way that would have meant exactly the opposite! The repercussion  for me was polite but very grave, something I had never experienced in my spiritual or even in my material life. It was something I would carry whole life as it taught me a little what is meant by Guru Nishtha (firm faith in spiritual master).

Few days back I stumbled on a very unique correspondence between Srila Prabhupada and one of his most sincere disciples, HH Tamal Krishna Goswami, which I had read almost one a half years back but for some reasons I had saved it. Here, Srila Prabhupada also shares his present and previous life and explains the position of a spiritual master. As I read it again and again I understood a little better why the reaction I received was so severe and why must I be thankful for it till eternity.

Reading it, I also realised the importance of taking a break from the ‘auto-mode’ in our spiritual life and contemplate on important issues surrounding us.

I am sharing the same correspondence below and I pray that the readers get the intended message. I am first sharing the letter which HH Tamal Krishna Maharaj received from Srila Prabhupada and then his thought process and contemplation.  This correspondence also shows the level of simplicity and openness which existed between Srila Prabhupada and his disciples. I have taken the liberty to highlight some portions, here it goes.

Prabhupada’s next letter arrived. Srila Prabhupada said:

Los Angeles, California, June 21st 1970

My Dear Tamal,

Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 18th June, 1970, sent by Special Delivery Air Mail.

Krishna philosophy is understood as it is stated in the Vedas:

            yasya deve para bhakti yathadeve tatha gurou

            tasya ete kathitha hi artha prakasante mahatmanah

“One who has got unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord and similar faith in his Spiritual Master to him only the imports of Vedic knowledge become revealed.”

A Spiritual Master is always liberated. In any condition of His life He should not be mistaken as ordinary human being. This position of a Spiritual Master is achieved by three processes. One is called sadhan siddha. That means one who is liberated by executing the regulative principles of devotional service. Another is kripa siddha, one who is liberated by the mercy of Krsna or His devotee. And another is nitya siddha who is never forgetful of Krsna throughout his whole life. These are the three features of the perfection of life.

So far Narada Muni is concerned, in His previous life He was a maidservant’s son, but by the mercy of the devotees He later on became siddha and next life He appeared as Narada with complete freedom to move anywhere by the grace of the Lord. So even though He was in His previous life a maidservant’s son there was no impediment in the achievement of His perfect spiritual life. Similarly any living entity who is conditioned can achieve the perfectional stage of life by the above mentioned processes and the vivid example is Narada Muni.

So I do not know why you have asked about my previous life. Whether I was subjected to the laws of material nature? So, even though accepting that I was subjected to the laws of material nature, does it hamper in my becoming Spiritual Master? What is your opinion? From the life of Narada Muni it is distinct that although He was a conditioned soul in His previous life, there was no impediment of His becoming the Spiritual Master. This law is applicable not only to the Spiritual Master, but to every living entity.

There are thousands of examples explained in our books that the conditioned soul is never affected with the material body. It is said in the Vedas asamga ayam purusa, which means the living entity is always unaffected with matter. Another example is given that the reflection of the moon on water appears to be moving, but actually the moon is not moving, it is fixed up. So any living entity is like that. His reflection on the material body appears to be changing, but the spirit soul is fixed up, therefore this movement is called illusion.

Liberation means liberation from this changing condition. So far I am concerned, I cannot say what I was in my previous life, but one great astrologer calculated that I was previously a physician and my life was sinless. Besides that, to corroborate the statement of Bhagavad Gita “sucinam srimatam gehe yogabhrasta samyayate” which means an unfinished yogi takes birth in rich family or born of a suci or pious father. By the grace of Krishna I got these two opportunities in the present life to be born of a pious father and brought up in one of the richest, aristocratic families of Calcutta (Kasinath Mullick). The Radha Krsna Deity in this family called me in 1966 to meet Him, and therefore last time when I was in Calcutta, I stayed in that temple along with my American disciples. Although I had immense opportunities to indulge in the four principles of sinful life because I was connected with a very aristocratic family, Krsna always saved me, and throughout my whole life I do not know what is illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating or gambling. So far my present life is concerned; I do not remember any part of my life when I was forgetful of Krsna.


Your ever well-wisher,

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Upon reading this letter I was stunned as if jolted by an electric current. Literally I lost strength and had to sit down. As I sat alone in the temple, my mind reeled. I had not at all been prepared for such a letter.

Again I reread it to be sure that I had understood Prabhupada’s mood rightly. He was firm and straightforward in his defence of the spiritual master’s absolute position. I had committed a great blunder, which Srila Prabhupada by his causeless mercy had not tolerated. When previously I had committed the indiscretion of asking permission to chant the names of the gopis, he had only mildly replied that there was no need. But there was no such indulgence in this letter. The matter was far too serious. I had raised a question about his previous life and whether he had been subjected to the laws of material nature. Prabhupada sensed a doubt inherent in my questioning. If such doubt existed and was not at once quelled, my spiritual life would be undermined at its very foundation. Considering the gravity of the subject, Srila Prabhupada’s mood was extremely tempered.

I tried to examine my motives. Why had I asked such a question? I had been studying the life of Narada Muni from the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. From my reading I had gotten the impression that at one time he was an ordinary, conditioned soul. That had led me to wonder about Srila Prabhupada’s previous life and whether he had also been conditioned at some previous time. But I felt no uncertainty about Narada Muni’s infallibility, nor of Srila Prabhupada’s. Narada Muni was traveling from planet to planet liberating the entire universe by spreading the glories of the Maha-Mantra, and Prabhupada was doing the same in this world on his behalf. Srila Prabhupada was actually my life and soul, and I meant exactly as I had written in a previous letter; everything I had, including myself, was his to do with as he wished. Surely Srila Prabhupada knew the depth of my sincerity. Then why such a strong letter?

I concluded that Prabhupada was taking no chances. If there was even a pinch of distrust for his transcendental position that unsealed flaw would one day crack my spiritual life. And like a fire, it had to be put out at once, thoroughly. Left to its own ways, doubt, like fire, could consume everything in its path. Unflinching faith in one’s spiritual master was the key to success in spiritual life. Lord Caitanya, though the Supreme Personality of Godhead, explained that total faith in His spiritual master’s words was the cause of His achieving success in the matter of chanting Hare Krsna. In contrast, a faithless disciple loses the thread of devotional service and eventually his lips cannot even form the shape of the holy names of the Lord.

My question had arisen in regard to Narada Muni’s previous life: Was it wrong to think of him as ordinary at the time? Prabhupada’s answer was clear: “In any condition of his life he should not be mistaken as ordinary human being.” Just as when we think of famous wealthy men of the world like Rockefeller or Ford, we may hear of their early struggles when they may even have been poor. But that does not cloud our vision of them as being fabulously wealthy. Rather, their early life is precursory as the fertile ground in which the seed of their good fortune was sown. Their present stature does not allow us to view them as ever having been ordinary poor men. How much more so in the case of great liberated souls, as evidenced by the wonderful activities of Narada Muni, who began as a maidservant’s son! His were not the activities of an ordinary low-class boy; otherwise why would the author of the Bhagavatam, Srila Vyasadeva, have bothered to include the incidents of his previous life? Such narrations are of the utmost interest because they ultimately resulted in his becoming the great transcendentalist Narada Muni. Therefore the spiritual master is always liberated, and none of his activities-present or previous-should ever be thought of as ordinary.

The Vedic literatures are full of examples of great personalities who took their birth in seemingly common circumstances. The great devotee Vidura, though born in the womb of a sudrani, enlightened the great king Maharaja Yudhisthira. Haridasa Thakura, a Muslim by birth, was elevated as the namacarya for the whole world. The prayers of Kunti devi, a woman, are revered by great liberated sages. And there are hundreds of other similar examples. If one’s birth in this lifetime is not a criterion for judgment, then what to speak of one’s previous life? I could answer Srila Prabhupada with certainty that one’s past in no way hampered one’s becoming a spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada, both in his lectures and his books, has made this very evident. In Teachings of Lord Caitanya he explains this point clearly:

Whatever position one may have, if he is fully conversant with the science of Krsna, Krsna consciousness, he can become a bona fide spiritual master, initiator, a teacher of this science. In other words one can become a bona fide spiritual master if he has sufficient knowledge of the science of Krsna, Krsna consciousness. The position does not depend on a particular position in society or on birth. This is the conclusion of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and it is in accordance with the Vedic injunctions….In ancient days there was even a hunter named Dharma, who became a spiritual master for many people.

My question had betrayed an even more basic misunderstanding about the identity of the soul in regard to the body. To demonstrate that the soul is unaffected by its material surroundings, Prabhupada cited the example that the moon appears to move in its reflection on water, despite its actual steady position in the firmament. That apparent movement is factually the rippling effect of the water, not the movement of the moon itself. The Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic literatures contain numerous statements confirming the soul’s transcendence over matter:

Those with the vision of eternity can see that the soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled.

The sky, due to its subtle nature, does not mix with anything, though it is all-pervading. Similarly, the soul, situated in Brahman vision, does not mix with the body, though it is situated in that body. (Bg. 13.32-33)

My question was most inappropriate, because the spiritual master, as the direct manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s mercy feature, is never considered within the category of ordinary conditioned souls. Lest any doubts linger after citing the conclusions of scripture, Srila Prabhupada put his personal life before me as evidence. Though, connected with a wealthy aristocratic family, he had had immense opportunity for sinful life, throughout his whole life he had never indulged in intoxication, meat-eating, nor engaged in gambling or illicit sex. Most strikingly, Srila Prabhupada stated that throughout his whole life he was never forgetful of Krsna. In fact, Krsna was personally protecting him and had saved him on numerous occasions. Srila Prabhupada said that the Radha-Krsna Deity in his family’s Calcutta home had personally called him back to Calcutta. These were unusual admissions for Srila Prabhupada to make. Due to his natural humility as Krsna’s pure devotee, he rarely spoke of his own purity and intimate relationship with Krsna. But his prodding disciple had now forced these statements out.

And the evidence was clear for all to see. As Narada Muni was krpa siddha, having been liberated by the mercy of Krsna and His devotees, Srila Prabhupada as much as admitted to his own exalted position as a nitya-siddha devotee of the Lord. By his own statements, he had never, ever forgotten Krsna, not even in his last life, as the calculations of one great astrologer revealed.

I felt ashamed that I had ever asked Srila Prabhupada such a question. What I did not know at the time was that Srila Prabhupada’s lengthy response was not prompted merely by my thoughtless query. In America some of his disciples had committed serious discrepancies in regard to this very same matter. Srila Prabhupada had reason to suspect that some of his Godbrothers in India, due to envy, were influencing his disciples to doubt in his bonafidity. I was completely unaware that such a thing was going on. I had thought Prabhupada’s letter to be an isolated issue, when in fact it had been written at a highly sensitive time when an actual attempt was being made to minimize his position as the founder-acarya of ISKCON.

Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, because they are based on Vedic conclusions, do not become irrelevant due to the passage of time. The transcendental stature of the spiritual master, irrespective of birth or other social considerations, will always be accepted by learned men. Srila Prabhupada’s life should be seen as the performance of a great transcendental personality who appeared on the stage of Kali-yuga. Though he himself is timeless and could have been equally well suited to any one of the ages, he never lost sight of the historical significance of his appearance. As sastra-caksus, he always rested his words and deeds upon the authority of the Vedas. Yet as the great preaching acarya for this age, he spoke and acted considering fully the needs of the generations yet to come. The legacy of his appearance in the form of his books, his disciples, and the worldwide institution of ISKCON will be able to nourish all spiritually minded men through the duration of this age.

Only the poor-hearted, the materialists, the envious, could fail to find sufficiency in ‘Srila Prabhupada’s magnanimous gifts. For such unfortunates, his books will remain a mystery, his disciples an enigma, his spiritual institution a material organization.

(Biographies and Glorifications of Srila Prabhupada-Servant of the Servant-The European Yatra-Le Sankirtana Parisien-Tamala Krsna Goswami)

So as his followers and grand children we must develop absolute faith in the mercy and potency of Srila Prabhupada, this alone is sustaining ISKCON and its ever increasing members. Srila Prabhupada is the primary shiksha Guru of all ISKCON devotees. Therefore, we must first carefully study all his books, not just merely read them, and we will find how he has given the essence of Mahaprabhu’s and previous acharayas teachings. Finally, we should daily beg and pray to receive association of those devotees whose pure heart have Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet in them. Only then we can make our life successful in this very lifetime.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Wish from a tree in Vrindavan

Hare Krishna.
16th March, 2015. Gurgaon

trees of Vrindavan

I had the good fortune to visit Sri Vrindavan Dhama the last Saturday. It was an impromptu visit, more to attend enlightening classes of Srimati Mataji than my attraction for Dhama.

As I paid obeisances to deities at home, I prayed to Srila Prabhupada in particular to please bless me with constant association of devotees on this trip. Let me share some beautiful realisations I had.

I shared in my previous blogs that I am hearing Brahma Samhita seminar by HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj. I can say this about the potency of the scripture and the pure devotees that just by hearing it I had such nice understandings and realisations. Few days back I heard the below famous verse from Brahma Samhita in the same seminar.

cintāmaṇi-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vṛkṣa-lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam
lakṣmī-sahasra-śata-sambhrama-sevyamānaṁ govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi (BS 5.29)

I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of lakṣmīs or gopīs.

The purport says The purpose tree yields only the fruits of piety, wealth, fulfillment of desire and liberation; but the purpose trees in the abode of Kṛṣṇa bestow innumerable fruits in the shape of checkered divine love.

As HH Tamal Krishna Goswami maharaj expanded this verse one thing that somehow penetrated my steel framed heart was glorification of each tree in Dhama and how each tree is a wish fulfilling tree. I realised that I have never wished from any tree in Dhama. I resolved that next time whenever I will go to Dhama I will surely seek wish from a tree there.

I left for Vrindavan with Radheshyam Prabhuji and his family,a very senior and well respected devotee from Gurgaon. Actually another greed to go with Prabhuji is that in his presence my chanting is much much better. I practically chanted the whole way and we reached Vrindavan around 12.30pm. I rushed to grab darshan and then read the BG verse 6.35 and 6.36 which was the topic for our class. I sat at the reception of MVT and read those wonderful verses and their purport. The class was from 3-5 pm, the class was remarkable by the virtue of topic and the teacher. After the class I came back to the temple and attended the Kirtan and Gaur Arti. It was first time that I heard kirtan by HH B.A. Janaradhan Maharaj and maharaj sang beautifully. I met maharaj next day and share d how much I relished it.

14th Mar_2015

I checked into a ashram near the temple, took early dinner prasadam, had a bath, read a little and was fast asleep by 10pm.

I woke up in time next day and managed to pull myself out of the bed and get ready in time to reach before the start of morning arti at Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi.


It is always a very purifying and humbling experience to sing Samsara davanala lidha loka… at Prabhupada samadhi early in the morning.

After the Arti it was time for Mangal Arti in the main Altar. Devotees were singing mahamantra and as clock came nearer to 4.30 am, the pitch of singing increased and almost at a crescendo darshan opened. What beautiful darshan!


I can say this full conviction that I have never ever seen anyone looking so handsome in a bright red dhoti and turban as both Krishna Balram did. Their skin was lustrous, smile was deep and beauty simply unparalleled. I am very sorry that I could not capture the picture well as I was standing quite back and later forgot as I was bust drinking Their sheer beauty. I also checked with temple and other devotees, somehow they didn’t click any pictures at mangal arti on this Sunday. I really wish I could somehow share Their beauty with you. (All other high resolution pictures are from temple’s website for that day)

After a soul satisfying, and all senses satisfying, mangal arti, I went to Srila Prabhupada quarters to do japa. This is my favourite place to do japa as being in the presence of Srila Prabhupada and so many senior vaishnavas some part rubs off on my chanting as well.


I started of well but after the 4th or 5th round of chanting I started getting tired and then more embarrassment followed as I started yawning…. regularly. I told myself because I had a hectic day yesterday and got up early today so it is better that I go back to my room and catch up with sleep, say for 30 minutes, then I will be fresh for the rest of the day. Still some part of me wanted to chant, knowing very well that my rounds will get delayed and their quality won’t be as good. My yawns increased further… I really felt sad. I felt guilty that Prabhupada is throwing me out of his room as I was yawning so regularly and he didn’t want others to get disturbed. I forced myself to sit but could not and feared that I may even fall asleep sitting like this. I got up with a heavy heart, paid my dandavat to Srila Prabhupada and said sorry for my behaviour. As I stepped out of Prabhupada’s quarter, I was hit by a chilled wind. It was if I was in hills. It had drizzled lightly, the sky was overcast and a lovely cool breeze was blowing. In less than a minute I was fresh as a daisy! I thanked Prabhupada, I was thinking Prabhupada was kicking me out whereas he was pushing me to go outside, get some fresh air and chant properly. I again thanked Prabhupada and chanted for next one hour in the corridor, pacing up and down. I was absolutely fresh when shringar darshan opened at 7.15am.

629115th Mar_2015 6

I was very fortunate to meet HH Janananda Maharaj while he was entering the main compound. Maharaj confirmed that he will be coming to Gurgaon this week, Hari Bol !

I attended the Guru Puja and then it was time for the Srimad Bhagavatam class. As I was about to sit I was very surprised to see Murari prabhu, along with his wife, from Jaipur. They had come a day before for Govardhan Parikarma, more association! I will write about the class in a separate blog as it was another revelation.

I was back in temple at 12.45 to say my good bye to most beautiful and reciprocative deities!

I bought some prasad for home and while exiting somehow remembered my resolve to seek some wish from a tree in Vrindavan. I was walking down the corridor, from Prabhupada Samdhi towards the guest house side exit gate, and I saw the familiar tree standing in front. I stopped and thought why not ask for a wish from a tree inside the temple compound, why go outside ? As I walked then another thought came to my mind. why don’t I go and seek the wish from the Tamal tree inside the temple compound as it is always taking darshan of the deities. I countered that this tree seems more merciful as he is serving devotees by standing outside. Mind made up, I walked towards this tree, paid my obeisances mentally (it was raining) and then I touched my forehead with it’s stem and begged for my wishes. While doing it I realised that Srimatai Mataji had instructed me just few minutes back that we should live in present and see what can I do now rather make plans for the future, following the same thought process I sought a personal favour, a near impossible wish, still I prayed for it as I had no other option in hand and it was something immediate help me in my spiritual life. I felt good just touching the tree.


It had started raining hard as I ran from temple to ashram, forgetting about my wishes almost instantly. I shared a cab with Amitabh Prabhuji on my return journey so I was fortunate to receive association of senior devotees throughout this trip.

Today morning as I was getting ready to leave for the office. I received a message, to my utter surprise what I had wished yesterday came true, delayed by a week but very much true! It is quite personal else I had would shared it. I simply could not believe my ears. I was so very happy and in my high spirits I even forgot to say thank you to deities but paid mental obeisances to my wish fulfilling tree while driving to work. I can say this much with confidence that as of early morning today the chances of my wish becoming true were as remote as a snowfall in Delhi and too in the month of June!!

As I look back and I can only appreciate the mercy of dhama. I also realise that I had been reading and hearing for last so many years that all trees in Dhama are wish fulfilling trees but not even a thought ever crossed my mind to seek something from them. Why ? What else then my lack of faith in scriptures and words of acharayas.

I realised during this trip that my spiritual bullock cart is aided by two wonderful, but unseen, wings. One of them is prayer and the second one is my faith in the words of acharayas and scriptures. On this trip I experienced the power of both.

I realised that whenever we try to build a relationship with Srila Prabhupada, based solely on our sincerity, then howsoever unqualified we may be, Prabhupada inspires us, guides us, in every possible way which is conducive for our devotional progress.

I love Srila Prabhupada.

All glories to Sri Vrindavan Dhama.
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.