Living Presence

by Sriman Gokulananda Dasa

[A Reply to Dhira Govinda's "Sound and Presence"]

Dhira Govinda prabhu: Thank you for your recent essay. You of course cover a lot of ground with your succinct attempt to define these deep truths. To help us gain a clearer understanding of the nature of transcendental sound and its effects in this imperfect world, we require Jnana-saksu, the higher verdict of scripture and liberated souls.

How perfection manifests within imperfection is the glorious descent of divine grace. We are fortunately blessed with the perfect utterances of many empowered speakers of the truth to guide our own ascension towards transcendental reality. As you correctly stated: "Genuine disciplic succession is based on sound, and it is also based on presence...even if the spiritual master is ..."physically present" still he is screened from the view of conditioned souls. That is, his transcendental position is not seen, or understood".

To help dissipate any undue confusion about the co-relation between living sound and physical presence, and which one takes precedence in the spiritual connection, how all this applies towards initiation etc., we truly require the saving light of Jnana-caksu to clarify these truths. One such light is offered in Lord Sri Krishna's perfect statement in His Gita: "Naham prakasah sarvasya...I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent... the Lord does not reveal himself to the nondevotees and the common man" Bg.7.25.

So Lord Krishna chooses to allow His divinity to be appreciated only by the sincere and worthy souls. The same truth applies to His preshtas, His pure devotees. When eulogizing these great souls, or mahatmas, the Lord describes them as "daivim prakritim asritah...under the protection of the divine nature", having taken shelter of that supreme realm's governess, Srimati Radharani. So the liberated great souls are in this world yet actually not of it. And they have no material impediments, such as time or space, to confine their presence; they can affect us whether in physical presence or not. Thus their physical presence, or vapu, is also very powerful and beneficial, allowing all sincere aspirants to derive untold inspiration and upliftment towards taking to heart their living presence in vani. Whether in physical presence or through their vaca, pure sound, they offer their perfect realizations as a living presence to sustain the sincere soul's progress towards divinity.

This is why Srila Prabhupada gave himself so much trouble to travel continuously all around the world to compassionately give his darshan and vaca to as many souls as possible, starting with his beloved followers. He knew how important was his vapu to help inspire us to fortify our fledging desire to follow his vani. He thus hoped that we could become sufficiently immersed in and attached to his vani to thus maintain our perseverance on the Bhakti-marga, even in his physical absence. This has been a daunting challenge to test and also reward our determination.

Many of us have thus been blessed with some realization of his enduring presence, which has nourished our continued attraction to remain in his salutary association through submissive hearing and serving his vani in seeming physical separation. As in all such matters, Srila Prabhupada's own life offers us the living proof of unbroken determination to serve his own great master. Although he had very limited physical association with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur, he truly absorbed himself in hearing his perfect message of Godhead at all times. Thus he took all his words to heart with the deepest faith in his saviour and master. When he was later glorified for his miraculous results through his world preaching, he rather directed all merit to his Gurudev alone, claiming his unprecedented success was only due to his unflinching faith in him, his divinely empowered master, who alone was the real enactor of all these preaching miracles. Such inestimable purity and humility was the result of Srila Prabhupada's perfect guru-nistha.

In one memorable statement, he also boldly declared: "Because I was so serious in hearing my great teacher, now I'm also very serious about speaking all that I've heard from him". By his unflinching faith in his guru, he was thus empowered to most effectively and widely broadcast this perfect vani to countless souls. So much so that Srila Prabhupada has by now become the most widely read speaker-author of Vedic knowledge (in fact of any other author in history), only surpassed by Srila Vyasadev Himself. Such is the power of pure hearing and perfectly following the potent vaca coming through the parampara.

This is the beauty and glory of Vaisnavism: it is all so personal and dynamic. Hearing is the beginning; as the transcendental message of Godhead enacts a change of heart within the sincere listener, he responds with the increasing application of these truths in his own life. As he deepens his faith and devotion, he thus attracts the mercy of Radharani and Her many empowered servants. They are most eager to also empower all worthy souls to expand the glorification of their Supreme Beloved. And the Lord responds to their pure desire by His descent as sabda Brahman, the Lord's incarnation in sound within the hearts and on the lips of His true servants. This divine movement of descending grace eternally manifests as pure sound, the perfect vani embodied in His pure devotees. That living force can never be stopped, neither by time nor space. That Jnana-dipena, that enduring living conception, is the light that has lighted the world, forever manifest as the living presence flowing down through the pure disciplic succession.

Whoever is blessed with sufficient faith and purity of desire can also attract this manifestation of divinity and thus carry the living presence to all other aspiring servants of the Lord. Jai Sri Krishna!

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