Between them, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Prabhupada wrote more than a hundred books on devotional subjects, including translations and commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrita and Caitanya-bhagavata. By doing so, they performed a truth and good qualities in others, lament the absence of these two great acaryas, what to speak of their disciples and grand-disciples. Those who follow the teachings and example of these two great acaryas sense their absence sorely. Nevertheless, those who truly feel their separation are fairly rare, for it is beyond the capacity of those who wish to equate materialistic activities with the spiritual to understand the contribution they made—namely their propagation and bestowal of pure devotional serviceconsisting of the culture of those activities that are pleasing to Krishna, without any desire for liberation or sense gratification.
I never had the good fortune to personally see Bhaktivinoda Thakura, though I did have the opportunity to hear of his superhuman glories directly from Srila Prabhupada, both through his spoken word and his writings. On the other hand, it is far beyond my finite capacities to adequately describe all the wonderful things that I heard and witnessed of Srila Prabhupada’s glories during my personal association with him. Those who have deep love for their spiritual master in the most personal way. Now, however, in his absence, they are overwhelmed by most painful feelings of separation. The pain bursts out from their heart and tears flow from their eyes and onto their chest like the torrents of rain in the month of Sravana. Their minds are disturbed by the desire, never to be again fulfilled, of hearing their Guru speak the nectarean topics of Krishna. They repeatedly sing the verses written by Narottama dasa Thakura in which he reveals the depth of his loss at being separated from the company of the great Vaishnavas.
je anila prema-dhana karuna pracuraHow can any attachment or hatred for material objects find a place in the heart where attachment to the guru, the eternal associate of Srimati Radharani, has awakened? In such a heart, there is constant awareness of the absolute necessity of attaining the supreme goal of life, loving service to Sri Krishna. This alone is the ultimate purpose of life for every single living entity. Srila Prabhupada himself said: “The ultimate object of our desires is to become specks of dust at the lotus feet of the followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami. Remain united in following the asraya-vigraha in order to satisfy the transcendental senses of the one, non-dual Supreme Truth... May we never under any circumstances become indifferent to the seventongued sacrificial flame of the Holy Name. If our attraction to it remains ever-increasing, we will achieve all perfection.”
hena prabhu kotha gela vaishnava thakura
“My lord, the worshipable Vaishnava brought us the wealth of love for Krishna out of his unlimited compassion. Alas, where has he gone?”
We pray that our commitment to these last instructions of his manifest presence in this world may be unfailing. May we never interpret these words to elicit secondary meanings that allow us to engage in sense gratification, but rather, single-mindedly dedicating all our energies and working together, aim for the pleasure of “the senses of the one, non-dual Supreme Truth,” making it the one and only goal of our lives. If we wish to show our love and faith for our spiritual master, it will be by following these teachings. However, rather than giving full attention to the desires of the spiritual master, we may focus on serving his body or the extensions of his body represented by temples and asramas. If we do so, we will never be free of the pitfall of seeing the guru in purely human terms (martyasad-dhih). The Lord can only be seen through the path of transcendental sound (srutekshita-pathah) and the spiritual master, being his manifest representative, is also perceptible through divine sound vibration.
The words srutekshita-pantah (SB 3.9.11) are broken down as follows: sruta means “through hearing” or “revelation”; ikshita means “seen” or “perceived”; pathah means “the way” or “the path.” This compound word thus means, “He to whom the way is perceived through hearing revealed knowledge.” For this reason we offer our respects to the guru with the words:
tat-padam darsitam yenaSrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura interprets the words srutekshita-pathah in a slightly different manner in his Sarartha-darsini commentary:
tasmai sri-gurave namah
“I pay my humble obeisance to the spiritual master who has shown me that Supreme Truth.”
adau guru-mukhat srutah pascad ikshitah sakshat-kritas caRemember the words of the great authority Srila Narottama dasa Thakura:
pantha yasya sah / yena patha tvam hrit-sarojam ayato ‘si
tam / panthanah sadhana-bhakti-prakarah ta eva sushthu
paricinvantiti dhvanih / ato yasya tat-prapticcha vartate sa
tata eva panthanam paricinotv ity anudhvanih /
“‘O Lord, the way to reach You must first be heard from the guru; then it can be seen and directly realized. You then enter the lotus of our hearts by taking this path.’ The suggestion is that these devotees perfectly recognize the ways and means of the devotional path. The further suggestion is that if we wish to attain the Supreme Lord, then we too must try to gain knowledge of that path.”
guru-mukha-padma-vakya cittete kariya aikyaFrom faith in the words of the spiritual master, affection for his service increases. Someone who becomes a powerful preacher or learned writer but makes no effort to put the spiritual master’s words into practice shows no actual love for him. The spiritual master can see through those who only make a show of affection for him and will surely crown with success the sincere attempts of the disciple who genuinely follows his directions. The guru is the personification of Lord Gauranga’s magninimity, therefore he will mercifully transfer power or strength to his sincere disciple. With his blessings, the blessings of the Lord are not long to follow, for the mercy of the Lord comes through that of His intimate associates. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah.
ara na kariha mane asa
sri guru carane rati, ei se uttama gati
je prasade pure sarva asa
“Fix your mind on the words emanating from the lotus mouth of the spiritual master. Place your hopes in nothing else. Affection for the guru’s lotus feet is the ultimate goal, for by his mercy all of one’s aspirations are realized.” (Premabhakti-candrika)
If we make no effort to seek out the blessings of thespiritual master, we may worship the Lord for millions of lifetimes without His ever becoming satisfied with us. Krishna Himself distibutes His mercy to the living beings by taking the form of the spiritual master. For this reason, the Vedic scriptures have clearly stated that there is no means of attaining Krishna’s blessings other than by following the spiritual master. The Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.23) have stated:
yasya deve para bhaktirMy most worshipable Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada, did not see the faults in anyone; he was most compassionate. We who aspire to become the servants of his servants and to partake of the remnants of his plate, pray to him with all the sincerity at our command that by his causeless mercy he will give us the worthiness to serve him. We pray to him to please make our hearts simple and free from deception; may he forgive us of our offenses, and consider us the servants of his servants, birth after birth. May he free us from the attractions and aversions of this world and keep us fixed in service to his lotus feet.
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, who is His manifestation and not different from Him, are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.”
Raghunatha dasa lamented the disappearance of Srila Rupa Gosvami with such intensity that stones could have melted. In Rupa’s absence, he felt the entire land of Vraja to be completely empty: Govardhana was like a great python, Radha-kunda the wide open mouth of a tiger, and he felt his own self to be void of life. Can we, ordinary mortals, imitate the eternal associates of the Lord in their feelings of separation?
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura also cried and prayed fervently to his diksha-guru Srila Lokanatha dasa Gosvami to attain the lotus feet of Sri Rupa Gosvami, who had actualised Sriman Mahaprabhu’s heartfelt desires on this earth. Narottama dasa sang that Sri Rupa was the worshipable object of his devotion, the treasure of his life, his jewelled ornament, the very source of his life, the perfectionof his desire, the ocean of ecstatic feeling, his Vedic religion, his vow, his penance, his prayer and his duty. Srila Rupa Gosvami was everything to Narottama dasa Thakura, and therefore he almost went mad out of his feelings of separation, crying day and night in the hope of receiving his mercy. If we could even feel a millionth part of what he did, our lives would be perfect; we would attain the greatest fortune. I do not know how many more lifetimes I will have to wait for this good fortune to be mine. Devotion to the spiritual master is the only way to reach our Divine Lord. The spiritual master is the personal companion of Lord Krishna or Sri Gauranga; he is most dear to Him. Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja writes:
diksha-kale bhakta kare atma-samarpanaKrishna accepts us as a part of His own entourage to the extent that we surrender ourselves in body, mind and words to the spiritual master. He takes possession of us, transforms our bodies and makes them spiritual so that we will be able to serve Him directly. When asked how love for God develops, Prahlada Maharaja told the other boys in his school: guru-susrushaya bhaktya sarva-labdharpanena ca, “through serving the guru, being devoted to him and by offering him all of one’s gains.” (SB 7.730) Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comments on this verse as follows:
sei-kale krishna tare kare atma-sama
sei deha kare tara cid-ananda-maya
aprakrita-dehe tanra carana bhajaya
“At the time of initiation, when a devotee surrenders to the spiritual master, Krishna makes him equal to Himself. He transforms the devotee’s body into spiritual substance; the devotee then worships the Lord in that spiritualized body.” (CC Antya 4.192-193)
guroh susrushaya snapana-samvahanadikaya tathaIn the Bhagavatam, after telling Yudhishthira how to conquer over various character defects, Narada summarizes by saying:
sarvesham labdhanam vastunam arpanena ca tac carpanam
bhaktyaiva, na tu pratishthadina hetuna
“Service to the guru means serving him through such things as bathing and massaging him; offering the guru all of one’s gains should be done with devotion and not out of personal motivations, such as the desire for personal prestige, etc.”
etat sarvam gurau bhaktyaIn other words, the only way to conquer over lust, anger, greed, fear, lamentation, bewilderment, pride, envy, the three miseries and the three modes of material nature is by surrendering to the spiritual master. But if a disciple thinks the spiritual master to be nothing more than an ordinary mortal, then all his spiritual practices and worship of the Lord are simple a wasted effort. Therefore, in the following two verses from the Vishnusmriti quoted in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, we are advised:
purusho hy anjasa jayet
“We can conquer over all these defects by rendering devotional service to the spiritual master.” (SB 7.15.25)
na guror apriyam kuryatIt is never appropriate to criticize the words or deeds of the spiritual master by saying things like, “My spiritual master should not have said that, or it was improper for him to have done some particular thing.” By doing so, we reveal our mundane concept of the guru and ultimately we become offensive by showing disrespect to him. This is the offense known as gurv-avajna.
taditah pidito ’pi va
napriyam hi samacaret
“Never do anything unpleasant to your spiritual master, even if you are humiliated and beaten. Never disregard his words, and never act in a way that is displeasing to him.” (HBV 1.99, from Vishnu-smriti)
acaryasya priyam kuryat pranair api dhanair api karmana manasa vaca sa yati paramam gatim “Do things that are pleasing to your spiritual master with your life and your wealth, with your work, your thoughts and your speech, and you will go to the supreme destination.” (HBV 1.100, from Vishnu-smriti)
The orders of the spiritual master are to be obeyed dilligently without reserve or delay — ajna gurunam hy avicaraniya. If one is incapable of following his orders, then one should fall down at his feet and pray to him with urgency for the strength and ability to do so. If the spiritual master rebukes or condemns the disciple, the disciple should still not attempt to make his case heard, even though it may be painful to listen in silence. If the disciple argues with the spiritual master, it is counted as the offense of disrespecting the guru. The disciple thus becomes unteachable and, due to his independence, falls down into indiscipline and wantonness, inevitably resulting in suffering Six kinds of unsatisfactory disciple are described in the scriptures:
alir bano jyotishakahAll such unsatisfactory disciples (sevakadhamas) demonstrate an ignorance of the spiritual master’s divine nature by their lackadaisical attitude to service. They thus end up as offenders to the spiritual master and the Holy Name. Any disciple who wishes to attain perfection in the spiritual practices given him by his spiritual master must pay careful attention not to offend him in this way. The fact is that no one can be free of his debt to the spiritual master, even if he gives him everything he owns. A rich householder may make a show of giving opulent gifts, but this is not the real dakshina, for Krishna says to Uddhava in the Bhagavatam (SB 11.19.39): dakshina jnanasandesah— the real gift to the spiritual master is to teach others what one has received from him.
shad ete sevakadhamah
“These six are: the ‘bee’ (ali), because of his fickleness; the bana, who talks back, piercing his master like an arrow; the procrastinator (jyotishaka); the servant who is lazy and inactive (stabdhibhuta) the one who refuses to try to do anything on his own (kimekaka), and the one who passes the buck (preshita-preshaka).”
In his commentary to these words, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes the following: “Here the word jnana means that after experiencing the spiritual joy of kirtana, etc., one instructs one’s own friends and relatives about his realizations. This is the real gift to the spiritual master and not donations of wealth, clothing or whatever (utsavante yat kirtanadi- rasanubhavasya sandesah sveshta-mitreshu jnapanaiva dakshina na tu dhana-vastrady-arpanam).”Therefore, instructing one’s acquaintances and others in the knowledge of sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana, taught by the spiritual master, according to their capacities is the genuine guru-dakshina. This means that one must first strictly follow the appropriate spiritual practices, seriously engaging in bhajana.
Unless one has exemplary behavior, he cannot hope to acquire the qualifications to preach the spiritual master’s message effectively. This means that he will not be able to give the spiritual master the requisite gifts that follow initiation and instruction. The spiritual master is the manifest representation of Gauranga Mahaprabhu’s message. Mahaprabhu said:
jare dekha, tare kaha ‘krishna’-upadesaIf we take these instructions seriously and do everything we can to realize them, then we will one day become capable of giving the spiritual master the gift that he desires above all others. The spiritual master will be pleased and transmit unlimited power to the disciple with whom he is pleased. To the extent that we serve the spiritual master with sincerity and repeat his teachings, through the association with his words, our hearts will cry out with the desire for the good fortune to be associated with him by directly seeing, touching and serving him. Only then will we be able to understand the true spirit of separation. We will then know that he is Radharani’s personal associate who, in the form of Nayanamani Manjari has entered Radha and Govinda’s eternal pastimes and is there immersed in the ocean of service to the Divine Couple. When we feel this mood of separation, the desire to dedicate our lives for attaining this service will awaken. “The spiritual master, who has given me the eyes to see the true purpose of life, is my master birth after birth.” Cakshu-dana dila je, janme janme prabhu se. He is our lord and master lifetime after lifetime. We pray that he will be merciful and transform us, lowly creatures, by giving us the strength to put his message into practice and to preach that message, and then, when the time of death comes, he will take us back to his lotus feet, making us his own for eternity.
amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa
“Teach everyone you see this message of devotion to Krishna. On My command, become a guru and deliver this land.” (CC Madhya 7.128)
bharata-bhumite haila manushya-janma jara
janma sarthaka kari’ kara para-upakara
“Whoever has taken a human birth in the land of India should make his life successful and engage in welfare work for others.” (CC Adi 9.41)
Being distanced from the spiritual master is a source of great pain. We pray that Srila Prabhupada will give us a place at his lotus feet even though we are the most unworthy servants of his servants, so that we may be able to render service to the Divine Couple according to his direction and by following his example. Our only authority to make such an audacious prayer is that we have taken the remnants of his servants’ food. We know that we have no right to make such a request of you, but to whom can we turn other than you, our spiritual master? By your grace, everything that would ordinarily be impossible becomes possible in a moment. Though today all our efforts are nothing but a joke, like those of a dwarf who tries to touch the moon, are your blessings not capable of effecting any miracle? Will they not give us a love for chanting the Holy Names without offense? Has Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura not sung of the power of the Holy Name to give us the realization of our eternal spiritual identity?
ishat vikasi punah dekhaya nija-rupa-gunaThus, by the blessing of the spiritual master, we will be able to receive the mercy of the Holy Name and then, all perfections will come through the Holy Name as Sriman Mahaprabhu Himself promised: iha haite sarva-siddhi haibe sabara.
citta hari laya krishna pasa
purna vikasita hana vraje more jaya lana
dekhaya nija svarupa vilasa
“When the Name is even slightly revealed, it shows me my own spiritual form and characteristics. It steals my mind and takes it to Krishna’s side. When the Name is fully revealed, it takes me directly to Vraja, where it shows me my personal role in the eternal pastimes.”
(Krishna-nama dhare kata bala? Saranagati)
Service to the guru in affection and love is possible both in this world and the next. The spiritual master is always participating in the eternally pure realm and is never under the thrall of birth and death in this world. One should never think of him as an ordinary mortal. By serving his teachings when he is no longer visible to our mundane eyes, we can get a vision of his transcendental form. Just like the Supreme Lord, the guru knows what is to be known, including all of us, but he is not known to anyone (sa vetti vedyam na ca tasyasti vetta). We cannot know him through our own power; it is only when he mercifully decides to reveal himself to us that we will achieve the great fortune of being able to see him. Therefore, the famous saying, guru-kripa hi kevalam (“the spiritual master’s blessings are our only salvation”) is appropriate.
O Gurudeva, may my mind always repose in the shade of your lotus feet — mama matir astam tava pada-kamale.
[Courtesy: Meditations on My Divine Master]
Srila Bhakti Promode Puri
Goswami Maharaja Page