For example, Sri Prahlad Maharaja’s worshipful Deity is Lord Nrsimhadeva, who is Sri Krsna’s plenary portion and the personification of Krsna’s disc weapon. Prahlada is a jnani-bhakta, a maha-bhagavata devotee who has knowledge of his Lord’s omniscience and omnipotence. The Lord arranged to show us Prahlada’s greatness by having Prahlada’s father poison him, throw him off a cliff, hurl him into a great fire, and place him in a pot of boiling oil – but Prahlada was not at all disturbed. He remembered Krsna, he was blissful, and he preached Krsna consciousness.
Srila Haridas Thakura, a combination of Prahlada Maharaja and Lord Brahma, was beaten in twenty-two marketplaces, so severely that his skin and muscles were practically ripped to shreds – but he was not disturbed. In fact, he told his prosecutors, “Even if you cut me into thousands of pieces, I’ll never give up my chanting the holy names.” The men who were given the charge of beating him by the Muslim Kazi became afraid, thinking, “If this man is not dead, then the Kazi will punish us.” They begged him, “If you do not die, we’ll be dead. Our life is in great danger.” Haridasa Thakura then ‘died’ and was brought before the Kazi, who became most pleased. Haridasa Thakura was then thrown into the river Ganges, and he came out on the opposite bank unharmed and very beautiful.
What to speak of great Vaisnavas, Srila Gurudeva told the history of Kumarila Bhatta [see footnote 1], a smarta brahmana who showed amazing power in the face of reverses. Kumarila Bhatta attended a Buddhist university, where, much to the annoyance of the other students, he defeated his Buddhist teacher in philosophical argument. The other students were angered by this insult to their teacher. “Kumarila Bhatta is not a Buddhist,” they said to each other.
“Perhaps he is a Vaisnava, or a member of some other sect,” and they conspired to kill him. They accosted and seized him, and took him to the top of a tall building. “We are going to hurl you to the ground,” they told him. “But if your God is really true and if the Vedas are also true, you will be protected. If not, you will simply die.” Kumarila Bhatta concurred, “If the Vedas speak the Absolute Truth and if my God is real, then surely no harm will come to me.” They threw him onto the ground below and then ran down, fully expecting to find him dead. Instead, they saw him walking, talking and uninjured, except for a broken finger. They firmly took hold of him and asked derisively, “You did not die, but if you were fully protected, why did your finger get broken?” Kumarila Bhatta replied, “I made the mistake of saying ‘if’ my God is real.” “Had I not said ‘if,’ I would not have been injured at all.”
More powerful than all such smarta-brahmanas, or even all other devotees, are the Vaisnavas whose worshipful Deity is Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. In his last days, Srila Madhavendra Puri, the grand-spiritual master of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, manifested a pastime of such illness that he could not move at all. Two of his prominent disciples saw him in two different ways.
Ramacandra Puri thought that Srila Madhavendra Puri was in material consciousness. Seeing his Gurudeva weeping and not knowing that he was weeping in ecstatic separation from Krsna, Ramacandra Puri thought that his lamentation was mundane. He would tell his Gurudeva, “O Gurudeva, do not lament. Just meditate on Brahman (the Lord’s impersonal feature).” Hearing this instruction, Sri Madhavendra Puri ordered him, “Immediately leave this place, you sinful rascal! Do not show your face to me. If I die seeing your face, I shall not achieve my life’s goal.”
Sri Isvara Puri, on the other hand, understood that his Gurudeva’s body was transcendental, full of knowledge and bliss. He never considered him to be an ordinary human being, who experiences physical or materially emotional pain. He lovingly served his Gurudeva with care and attention, sang kirtana to him and recited the pastimes of Radha and Krsna, and even cleaned up his stool and urine with his own hands. What was the result? Sri Mädhavendra Puré embraced him and blessed him that he would be enveloped with pure love of Krsna. As a result of this blessing, Sri Isvara Puri became the spiritual master of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Mahaprabhu appeared in the Brahma-Madhva Sampradaya, and by His contribution that line of parampara became our Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. The adi-guru, or first guru, of our sampradaya is Lord Brahma. Empowered by Lord Krsna Himself, Lord Brahma is not only the secondary creator of the universe, but he is personally manifest as a mountain in Varsana called Brahma-parvat. In the form of that mountain, Brahma is not only able to witness the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna there, but he is able to experience the happiness of having Their sportive pastimes enacted upon his heads.
Pure rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnavas are the most powerful of all devotees, because their worshipful Deity is Srimati Radhika. Srimati Radhika is the worshipful Deity of even Sri Krsna [see footnote 2], the source of all incarnations and worlds, and She is in fact the personification of Krsna’s power. Even Krsna is controlled by Her loving power. Srila Gurudeva has often recited the Gita-Govinda verse in which Krsna says to Radhika, “Please place Your lotus feet on My head.” And He says the same to the maidservants of Srimati Radhika. In Vrndavana, 1992, Srila Gurudeva told a few siksa disciples, “You are pursuing Krsna, but you don’t know that if you become a playa-dasi of Srimati Radhika, then Krsna will pursue you.”
Srila Rupa Gosvami is indeed the embodiment of rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnavism. In Goloka Vrndavana, he is Sri Rupa Manjari. To instruct us, he assumes the role of an ordinary sadhaka, praying for the time that he will be the maidservant of Radhika, guarding the doorway of Her kunja. He yearns for the day that Radhika orders him, “If any black person comes, do not allow Him entrance.” He says, “I will vigilantly guard the door, and when Krsna comes I will scornfully say, ‘Where have you been!? You are late. You can just go back to where You just came from, because no cheater will be allowed in to see my Svamini.” Then Krsna will have no choice but to How down before me and beg my mercy to allow Him in. At that time only will I take him to the lotus feet of my Svamini, my Mistress, Srimati Radhika.”
Besides sharing the above statement about Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Gurudeva said in a darsana in Vrndavana in the 1990’s that our Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja is also one of those ‘guards’ in Svananda Sukhada Kunja.
In the late 1960’s, the great rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnava acarya, our Srila Prabhupada, performed a pastime of having a heart attack. When he recovered, he wrote letters to two of his disciples about a third disciple, who had been massaging him, cooking for him, and rendering so many other services to him. He wrote that that disciple had been thinking that Prabhupada’s existence was dependent on him and that Prabhupada really needed him. As a result, that disciple was again allured by Maya. He had not appreciated the reality of the situation: it was Prabhupada who was giving him the mercy by allowing him to serve him; it was not the other way around. Srila Prabhupada did not have a body made of material blood and bones.
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, another great rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnava acarya, was initiating brahmanas, although he was not a brahmana himself, having been born the son of a king. His preaching was so powerful that many brahmana families became his disciples, which caused disturbance in caste brahmana sectors, for those who neither understood Vaisnava principles nor the glory of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. They alleged that his initiating brahmanas was against scriptural injunction, and they challenged him to a debate.
Srila Gurudeva explained that before the debate Srila Narottama dasa Thakura became paralyzed – he had made himself like that. All his disciples went to him and prayed, “O Thakuraji, O Gurudeva, if you die now, giving up your body and going to Lord Krsna, all the brahmanas will say it is because you are initiating brahmanas. They will say you have suffered and gone to hell. So we pray that you become completely cured.” Hearing this, Narottama dasa Thakura became like a young man and began to run here and there. This was observed by those very brahmanas who were declaring that he was destined for hell. Some of them became paralyzed, some became blind, some were bitten by snakes, etc. Eventually they approached his lotus feet and apologized. He excused them, and again enacted being paralyzed.
Sri Krsna has such great compassion for the souls of this world that He Himself comes in the form of the spiritual master. Krsna manifests two forms in this material world in order to deliver aspiring devotees. Internally He manifests as the Supersoul and externally as the topmost devotee. Even those pure devotees who are not Gaudiya Vaisnavas, who do not have the Srimati Radhika as their worshipful Deity, have so much mystic power as a small by-product of their devotion. One example: Referring to the history of King Citraketu in the sixth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Gurudeva said that to teach the King a lesson for the benefit of the King and the benefit of the world, Angira Rishi took the form of the king’s newborn son and lived with him for a few years. That ‘son’ then died, was ‘brought back to life’ by the words of Narada Rishi, and then spoke transcendental knowledge to ‘his father.’ The King was liberated and became a perfect devotee, and the world advances in bhakti by reading and hearing that narration under proper guidance.
A second example: Visvamitra Muni wanted to teach his disciple King Hariscandra a spiritual lesson and make him qualified to have Lord Ramacandra appear in his dynasty. He therefore appeared one night in the King’s dream, and later on manifested as a snake that bit and killed the king’s son, who was later brought back to life. [See footnote 3]
And what to speak of the powers of Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Once, in a January, 2001 darsana in New Zealand, Srila Gurudeva told his audience, “Even Krsna can never control me, because I am already under the control of Srimati Radhika. Radhika is so powerful. If Krsna will be angry upon me, I will say, “Why are You angry? You should not be angry. My Svamini is Radhika, You know.” Then Krsna will say, “Oh, your Svamini is Radhika? Then, namaskara to you.”
In Sri Radha-krpa-kataksa, an exquisite glorification of Srimati Radhika, it is stated: “Meditation on even one of Your toenails grants an infinite variety of perfections.” Although it may not be perceptible to us conditioned souls, the fact remains that our rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas have these perfections.
Knowing Srila Gurudeva’s divinity and being filled with a mood to care and serve him are not mutually exclusive, as we can see in the story of Sri Madhavendra Puripada and Sri Isvara Puri above. We give our one hundred percent attention to caring for Srila Gurudeva with love, as if we are actually needed by him, and at the same time we know that he is fully independent and that it is we who need him.
We can have full faith that if we take full shelter of such a bona fide guru as Srila Gurudeva, surrender to his instructions and serve his mission together – as if we are needed to assist, and at the same time knowing that the mission will be spread by his power and the power of his guru-parampara, not ours – we will certainly make our lives successful.
[Better late than never: I am offering my millions of thanks to Srimati Vaijayanti-mala didi. She edited and thus improved all the seven or eight articles I then submitted to backtobhakti.com and keepintouch.com on the subject of Srila Gurudeva’s identity and present pastime of apparent illness. It was also she who chose the two extracts of the writings of Parama-gurudeva, Srila Bhakti Prajana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, from the Rays of the Harmonist Magazine, which were the basis of two of the articles.]
[footnote 1: quoted in Srila Gurudeva’s English commentary of Gopi-gita ch. 3]
[footnote 2: Srila Gurudeva’s comment on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 4.83]
[footnote 3: Please see Srila Gurudeva’s booklet, Secrets of the Undiscovered Self for more details on this history]
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