GLORIFYING THE SPIRITUAL MASTER
ACCORDING TO GURU, SHASTRA, AND SADHU
by Bhagavat Das (ACBSP)
“The appearance and disappearance of a nitya siddha pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada is not like the birth and death of an ordinary person in the materiel world. In a purport to the 10th Canto, 3rd Chapter, 31st verse of the Srimad Bhagavatam Srila Prabhupada writes: “Bhakti, Bhagavan, and Bhakta do not belong to this materiel world.” This sutra by Srila Prabhupada explains the significance of the appearance of the nitya siddha the eternally liberated soul. The Bhakta’s, like Bhagavan, descend from the spiritual world to perform their pastimes for the benefit of the fallen conditioned souls. The pastimes of the Bhakta who descends to this materiel world are arranged so that ultimately the Bhakta distributes Bhakti to the fallen conditioned souls. Bhakti like the Bhakta and Bhagavan is not the province of the tatastha shakti jiva’s under the influence of the materiel world. Bhakti is the Swarup Shakti of Srimati Radharani and exists only in the spiritual world; therefore it is beyond this materiel world and the tatastha shakti jiva’s. Bhakti can only be obtained by the jiva’s in this materiel world by receiving the mercy of a sadhu, a Bhakta, who descends with that Bhakti and distributes it. Therefore the appearance and disappearance of such a great Vaisnava is under the control of Swarup Shakti, Yoga Maya, the internal pleasure potency of the Lord. One should never consider the Bhakta’s appearance and disappearance to be like the birth and death of an ordinary person in the material world who is forced to come here under the influence of the laws of materiel nature or Maha Maya. The disappearance pastimes of such a great soul are also designed to instruct the conditioned living entity who is practicing devotional service how to leave this materiel world and enter into the spiritual world. In fact one should see both the appearance and disappearance pastimes as equally transcendental activities which are both a cause of celebration. However, because of our neophyte status we find it very difficult to feel the same kind of happiness in the departure of a great vaisnava sadhu as we do when we are in their presence. Still this is also the proper mood for a vaisnava to feel some unhappiness at the departure of their Spiritual Master as Srila Ramananda Raya says: “The greatest loss is when one loses the association of a visuddha vaisnava.” In this mood of separation from the guru the disciple gets the opportunity to taste in a very small way the mood of separation that the gopi’s feel in the absence of Krsna. This is also the mercy of the Guru.”
“It has been nearly 30 years since the divine departure of our beloved Srila Prabhupada. In the twelve years that he manifested his pastimes since he first arrived in the West to establish ISKCON, He traveled the world 14 times, established over 100 temples all over the world, and translated and wrote commentaries to more than 70 books on Krishna Consciousness. He made thousands of disciples and tens of thousands of followers all over the world, by distributing millions of his books in the world’s various languages. He established Ratha-yatra in most of the major cities of the western world. On His return to India His preaching inundated the subcontinent and raised the awareness of the people about the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya to unprecedented levels all over India. He had taken the order of his Guru Maharaja upon his head and was empowered by Lord Nityananda as a shaktyavesa-avatara, to fulfill the prediction of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: “In every town and village My name will be heard”.
Taking the order of His Guru Maharaja as His life and soul, even at the peril of His own life, Srila Prabhupada demonstrated how to get the blessings of the spiritual master by intense Guru Nishta. Those blessings of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada upon our Srila Prabhupada brought him to the forefront as the transcendental personality who was predicted by Sri Krishna in the Brahma Vivarta Purana when the Supreme Lord said “After 5000 years My Mantra Upasak (worshiper of the holy name) will come and spread the chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra all over the world”.
Srila Prabhupada took the mace from His Guru Maharaja and became the person Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted He would send as His senapati bhakta (commander and chief of his sankirtana army). He was predicted by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura as the one who would personally engage the English, French, Russian, German, and American people in taking up banners, mrdangas and kartalas, and in raising kirtana through their streets and towns in the west. It was He who fulfilled the vision of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura when his western disciples chanted in great numbers with thousands of Bengali Vaisnava devotees in Sridham Mayapura at Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s birthplace, shouting ‘Jaya sacinandana, jaya sacinandana, kijaya’”
If after reading this Rocana Das and the other devotees feel I have somehow diminished the position of Srila Prabhupada by my statements then please correct me. I am a most fallen person and I am prepared to stand corrected if I have dishonored my Guru Maharaja in any way.
Rocana Das is a very sincere disciple of Srila Prabhupada who has been seriously studying the books of His Divine Grace with great diligence over the years. His sincere search for the truth is expressed beautifully in the following statement from his sampradaya acarya paper: “The immaturity of the leaderless disciples is exposed as time passes, and the symptoms of Kali Yuga become manifest. Hypocrisy and quarrel paralyze the process. Getting disagreeable conditioned souls to cooperate together for the benefit of victims of Kali is hopelessly problematic. Regardless, the truehearted servants of Srila Prabhupada should consider it their lifelong duty to struggle against all odds to solve this dilemma. For many years, I have tried to understand the essence of this seemingly insurmountable predicament.” So Rocana Das reads the books of Srila Prabhupada and listens to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures and studies everything carefully and then comes up with the following conclusion which he offers as his solution to the problem: “I have concluded that there is great need for a philosophical definition that clearly distinguishes between a Guru (siksa/diksa) and the Sampradaya Acarya.” Unfortunately for Rocana Das Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur and Srila Prabhupada do not agree with his conclusion as I have already pointed out above in this article. If either Srila Saraswati Thakur or his father were sampradaya äcäryas why did he not mention it in the quote I used of His from my previous article describing who the sampradaya äcäryas were? If out of humility Srila Saraswati Thakur did not want to name himself why did he not name Srila Gaura Kishore das Babaji and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur? As I already pointed out when you read Srila Prabhupada’s quotes in relation to Srila Saraswati Thakur’s statement it becomes apparent that they are in complete agreement that the sampradaya äcäryas are Srila Madhvacarya, Srila Ramanujacarya, Sri Visnuswami, and Sri Nimbarkacarya. If Srila Prabhupada did not want to name Himself as a Sampradaya Acharya out of humility then why did he not name his immediate predecessors?
When we as Srila Prabhupada’s disciples make assertions about His position that are not in accordance with Guru, Shastra, and Sadhu, then we do our spiritual master a disservice because it appears that He has not trained us properly. For persons who know the siddhanta we become a laughing stock and we subject our spiritual master to ridicule by others who claim he has not trained us properly. Awarding Srila Prabhupada with an unauthorized position encourages others to deride Him. How is this enhancing the position of Srila Prabhupada? In fact it will ultimately diminish the position of Srila Prabhupada in the eyes of thousands and thousands of Gaudiya Vaishnavas who know the proper siddhanta. Everything I said about Srila Prabhupada in my address could be verified in scripture and argued logically based on the authority of Guru, Shastra, and Sadhu. However making Srila Prabhupada a Sampradaya Acharya when He and His Spiritual Master have given clear and unambiguous instructions in the matter that counter the concept is not just undermining His position it is defying His teachings and the teachings of the Sampradaya itself. This will only make Srila Prabhupada and His disciples who promote this concept an object of ridicule. Srila Prabhupada and a sincere and loyal disciple like Rocana Das should not be objects of ridicule.
Furthermore Rocana Das makes a distinction about diksha, siksha gurus, and Acharya’s in his statement above and later at the end of his paper which are dangerous for his spiritual life. Rocana Das and the readers of this article should remember what Srila Prabhupada says in his purport to Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila Ch 1, 47th verse, about siksha and diksha gurus: “Our only shelter is the Supreme Lord, and one who teaches how to approach Kåñëa is the functioning form of the Personality of Godhead. There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating and instructing spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service.” These discriminations are at the heart of Rocana Das’s unfortunate confusion when one studies the scriptures without the guidance of the manifest siksha or diksha guru’s then his studies will lead him to such misconceptions as stated in Caitanya Caritamrta: CC ADI 7.132
The self-evident Vedic scriptures are the highest evidence of all, but if these scriptures are interpreted, their self-evident nature is lost.
We quote Vedic evidence to support our statements, but if we interpret it according to our own judgment, the authority of the Vedic literature is rendered imperfect or useless.
Therefore Rocana Das has come up with his own idea, which he thinks is based on scripture, but as I have demonstrated from the quotes of the äcäryas is simply a sentimental misunderstanding. Srila Prabhupada explains the proper way to understand the teachings in his books very directly in a morning walk in Melbourne, Australia:
Madhudviña: ...one cannot become a medical practitioner by simply reading the books. He must study under a medical practitioner. So in the case of your books, is it possible to become a devotee without actually having personal association with you? Just by reading your books?
Prabhupäda: No, it is not that you have to associate with the author. But one who knows, if you cannot understand you have to take lesson from him. Not necessarily that you have to contact with the author always.
Devotee: Just like the textbooks are not written by the teachers; they’re written by other professors.
Devotee: Usually you don’t even meet the author.
Prabhupäda: Simply one who knows the subject matter, he can explain.
Madhudviña: But can your, would your purports, would that serve as explanation besides...
Prabhupäda: No, no, anyone who knows the subject matter, he will be able to explain. Not necessarily the author is required to be present there.
Morning Walk May 21, 1975 Melbourne
First Srila Prabhupada’s analogy is being repeated; you cannot become a medical practitioner by simply reading books you must study under a medical practitioner. Madhuvisa Prabhu does not know of any other spiritual master qualified to teach Srila Prabhupada’s books except Srila Prabhupada himself. So Madhuvisa Prabhu asks: If it is possible to become a devotee just by reading your books without contacting Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada makes it very clear “not that you have to associate with the author but one who knows” speaking in the imperative he says: “if you cannot understand you have to take lesson from him” meaning one who knows like Srila Prabhupada. Two devotees try to clarify the point saying the textbooks are not written by the teachers but other professors and that one does not get to meet the author. Srila Prabhupada reiterates: “Simply one who knows the subject matter, he can explain.” Madhuvisa Prabhu still does not understand that there are siksha gurus qualified to explain Srila Prabhupada’s books so he asks if Srila Prabhupada’s purports would serve as an explanation Srila Prabhupada’s response is emphatic: “No, no, who knows the subject matter, he will be able to explain.” So Srila Prabhupada makes it clear:
First you cannot get it by simply reading the books
Second you do not have to associate with the author of the books
Third you cannot get it by reading the purports explaining the books
Then how do you understand “one who knows, if you cannot understand you have to take lesson from him.” “Simply one who knows the subject matter, he can explain.”
If you apply Srila Prabhupada’s analogy of the medical practitioner by inserting the words pure devotee from the Bhagavata parampara then it will become clear. The author and the teacher of the book are both qualified medical practitioners. So the teacher of Srila Prabhupada’s books has to be qualified like Srila Prabhupada. He must be a pure unalloyed devotee of Brajendranandan Shyama in the Bhagavata Parampara. By the mere fact that Srila Prabhupada has restated the same point three times in less than five minutes means there must be someone else who is qualified like him and knows, otherwise Srila Prabhupada would be deceiving us and wasting his breath both of which we know Srila Prabhupada would not do.
When Rocana Das says in his Sampradaya Acharya paper: “The immaturity of the leaderless disciples is exposed as time passes, and the symptoms of Kali Yuga become manifest. Hypocrisy and quarrel paralyze the process. Getting disagreeable conditioned souls to cooperate together for the benefit of victims of Kali is hopelessly problematic.” It shows that he has properly recognized the real problem which is that kanishta and madhyam adhikaris need guidance and direction from a manifest diksha and or siksha Guru. So I appeal to Rocana Das and other sincere devotees like him who are trying to understand Srila Prabhupada’s books to please stop speculating and to listen to what Srila Prabhupada says here and in the 19th chapter of the Nectar of Devotion: There are many societies and associations of pure devotees, and if someone with just a little faith begins to associate with such societies, his advancement to pure devotional service is rapid. NOD CH. 19
Otherwise we will become like those persons that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur talks about in his article titled “Thakur Bhaktivinode” as follows: “The writings of Thakur Bhaktivinode… cannot and were never intended to give access to the Absolute without help from the pure devotee of Krishna. They direct the sincere enquirer of the Truth, as all the revealed scriptures do, to the pure devotee of Krishna to learn about Him by submitting to listen with an open mind to the Transcendental Sound appearing on His lips.”
“Those who want to understand the contents of the volumes penned by the piece-meal acquisitive method applicable to deluding knowledge available to the mind on the mundane plane are bound to be self-deceived.”
“If the pedant still chooses to carry his errors into the Realm of the Absolute Truth he only marches by a deceptive bye-path into the regions of darker ignorance by his arrogant study of the scriptures.”
When Srila Saraswati Thakur wrote this article Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur had already wound up his manifest pastimes. So Srila Saraswati Thakur was explaining how to understand the books that were written by the pure devotee in the Bhagavata parampara after the disappearance of the pure devotee from his manifest pastimes. Srila Saraswati Thakur makes it quite clear by these instructions that you should read them under the guidance of someone who knows the subject matter just like Srila Prabhupada does in his conversation in Melbourne, Australia. Otherwise we shall become self-deceived and march into darker ignorance by arrogantly studying the scriptures independently. Until we have achieved raga marga and bhava marga, spontaneous and ecstatic devotional service ourselves by hearing the transcendental sound vibration from the lotus lips of the manifest acarya in the Bhagavata parampara we must remain under the guidance and protection of an acarya who is qualified just like the previous äcäryas otherwise 2nd and 3rd class devotees will remain leaderless and misdirected.
This very point is made in the Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya Lila, 22nd chapter, 83rd verse:
kåñëa-bhakti-janma-müla haya ‘sädhu-saìga’
kåñëa-prema janme, teìho punaù mukhya aìga
kåñëa-bhakti—of devotional service to Kåñëa; janma-müla—the root cause; haya—is; sädhu-saìga—association with advanced devotees; kåñëa-prema—love of Kåñëa; janme—awakens; teìho—that same association with devotees; punaù—again; mukhya aìga—the chief principle.
“The root cause of devotional service to Lord Kåñëa is association with advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Kåñëa awakens, association with devotees is still most essential.
In the purport to the 71st verse of that same chapter Srila Prabhupada points out why it is imperative for devotees on the intermediate platform to associate with unalloyed pure devotees in order to make advancement:
“The second-class devotee, even though he cannot support his position with çästric reference, can gradually become a first-class devotee by studying the çästras and associating with a first-class devotee. However, if the second-class devotee does not advance himself by associating with a first-class devotee, he makes no progress.”
Just reading the books and hearing the tapes will not do one must have the association of a first class Vaishnava who is manifest on the planet and is more advanced than oneself other wise we make no advancement. We will end up like Rocana Das a lot of sincerity but a sentimental misunderstanding. Because if a second class devotee is not under the shelter and guidance of the manifest acarya in the Bhagavata parampara then how will he know if his conclusions are correct when he quotes Vedic evidence to support his statements? Without someone who knows to confirm that he has come to the correct understanding in his studies the second class devotee will interpret it according to his own judgment, thus rendering the authority of the Vedic literature imperfect or useless.
If I have offended anyone by my statements I apologize and beg forgiveness from all the devotees. If a sincere disciple of Srila Prabhupada is misunderstanding His books and His teachings then they should seek guidance from, as Srila Prabhupada says: “No, it is not that you have to associate with the author. But one who knows, if you cannot understand you have to take lesson from him.” “Simply one who knows the subject matter, he can explain.” “No, no, anyone who knows the subject matter, he will be able to explain. Not necessarily the author is required to be present there.” “There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating and instructing spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service.” My only desire is to see that all the loyal and sincere disciples of Srila Prabhupada glorify him in the proper way so that everyone in the world will surrender to following this process of Krishna Consciousness as it was given by the Sampradaya.
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