Sri Guru-tattva and Seva
Excerpts from a lecture delivered by:
Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada
in the Sarasvata Assembly Hall, Sri Caitanya Matha, Mayapura
Saturday, 9.00 pm, on the 28th day of the month of Magha (January) 1931
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
A Golden Opportunity to Serve Collectively
Today I have an opportunity to worship my Sri Gurudeva. Last year, also, I had the good fortune of worshipping him, and today that auspicious occasion has come again. By the mercy of Bhagavan, I had the fortune of being able to serve Srila Gurudeva for another year. If Srila Gurudeva had wanted to deprive me of service to him, I would not have survived this past year. Since I have been granted this one year, I must again, today, contemplate whether I have properly taken advantage of that opportunity and served him accordingly.
Srila Gurudeva said that we shall collectively engage in the service of Bhagavan. He used the word “we” which means he was not referring to one person alone. Many persons egotistically profess, “I am Bhagavan’s exclusive servant” or “I have been selected to perform a particular service to Him because no one else is qualified to do it.” But Srila Gurudeva’s words issue from a heart melted with loving compassion: “Come! Let us forget our tendency to block each other’s spiritual progress; this is violence. Service to Bhagavan is superior to all else.”
By saying “superior to all else” he is not implying, “No one can do this service but me; I will not allow anyone else to do it.” My Srila Gurupadapadma’s nature contains no such violence.
Humbly Praying for Help
“Bahubhirmilitva yat kirtanam tadaiva sankirtanam ”sankirtana means congregational chanting.”
Glorification and prayers are included in sankirtana. From an external perspective, one who offers stuti (Vedic prayers) holds a lower position than the object of the prayers. A third party however, can best understand the glories of a person by hearing his prayers.
Sri Gaurasundara explained that to genuinely call out for Bhagavan, one has to more humble than a blade of grass (trnad api sunicena). We cannot cry out for someone until we have accepted our own insignificance in relation to that person. We beg for assistance when we are forced to acknowledge our helplessness. Whenever we find ourselves incapable of completing a task on our own, we are left with no choice but to seek another’s help. Alone I cannot complete a task that requires five people to accomplish.
Sri Gaurasundara has instructed us to genuinely cry out for Bhagavan, which means He has urged us to solicit Sri Bhagavan for help. This we have heard from Srila Gurudeva. However if I cry out to Him with the intention of involving Him in service to me, or if I petition Him for the purpose of accomplish ing any task, my cries lack the real humility of trnad api sunicena. Real humility is never found in an external show of humility, which is actually mere duplicity. Calling out to Bhagavan in the mood of being His master, expecting Him to obey like a servant, is ineffective. He does not hear such a call because He is supremely independent and fully conscious. Consequently, He is not controlled by anyone. Until a person’s egoism establishes roots in sincere, non-duplicitous humility, his prayers will not reach Bhagavan, who is fully independent.
A person who is more humble than a blade of grass may cry out to Bhagavan, but unless he is endowed with the qualities of patience and tolerance, his calling out will still not bare fruit. If we show impatience by hankering after our own interests, our behaviour is in direct opposition to the mood of trnad api sunicena. If we are fully confident that Bhagavan is the Complete Being, and that our calling out to Him will never result in scarcity, we will not experience any dearth of patience. But if I become greedy, intolerant and restless, and if I remain adamant that I will accomplish my task on the strength of my own ability and competence, I will not be able to call out to Bhagavan in the true sense.
If we are excessively vain, we cannot properly call out to Him. And also if we try to annihilate our real self-interest, then we will not be able to cry out to Bhagavan properly. Often, I think that I am obliging Him by my prayers, and therefore I engage in other activities in which I don’t need to ask for His help. This mentality also indicates the absence of tolerance.
We therefore require a guardian to save us from such tendencies until we become qualified to sincerely pray in the mood oftrnad api sunicena. His shelter and support are necessary to shield us from such unfavourable inclinations. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says: “asraya laiya bhaje, tanre krsna nahi tyaje, ara sabe mare akarana , one who performs bhajana under the shelter of personalities who are the abode of love for Krsna, is not neglected by Krsna; everyone else lives in vain.”
We are Incompetent to Proceed Without a Bona Fide Guru
Serving the lotus feet of Srila Gurudeva is our foremost necessity. In this world, we even need a guru to perform karma(material activities), to acquire jnana (knowledge) or to fulfill any anyabhilasa (desires not connected to serving Krsna). The guidance of such worldly gurus engenders insignificant results, which are the antithesis of the results bestowed by the lotus feet of a bona fide guru. Srila Gurudeva is the source of our genuine welfare. The very moment we become bereft of his mercy, diverse worldly desires manifest in our hearts. And if the vartma-pradarsaka guru, who is the first to tell us about spiritual life, does not tell us how we should take shelter of the lot us feet of Srila Gurudeva, we may end up losing the gem in hand.
Nama-bhajana (chanting Krsna’s names) is the sole method of performing bhajana, and it is the only method Srila Gurudeva confers upon us. Consequently, our responsibility is to worship his lotus feet at the beginning of each year, that is, every guru-puja. Srila Rupa Gosvami says:
visrambhena guroh seva
sadhu-vartmanuvartanam[The first four limbs of sadhana-bhakti are: to accept the shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide guru, to take diksa and receive instructions on service to Krsna from him, to serve him with intimacy and affection and to follow the path of the sadhus, under his guidance.”
In a realm that is concealed and mystifying, it is impossible to proceed by depending on one’s own multitude of competencies. Just as it is impossible to foresee the future or making plans for the future on the strength of one’s own ability, similarly, mundane conceptions cannot help one penetrate or attain the supra-mundane realm. My senses have experience something of the time that has already passed, and therefore I have knowledge of it, but I remain ignorant about the future. In the same way, our current senses are incapable of informing us about that realm that is complete and inconceivable. Our eyes can only see a few miles into the distance, and our ears can only hear words spoken nearby.
If we depend on our own competence to proceed in such a realm, we will never reach the far end, the Ultimate Reality. Such an attempt is likened to Ravana’s efforts to build a stairway to heaven. Construction may begin, but it will eventually crumble to the ground. It cannot exist in a void where no support is present. Similarly we desire to ascend to that unknown realm, and we try to do so on the strength of our own competence, but we always fail. Furthermore, if we consider an ordinary mortal who is laghu (spiritually impotent and not at all grave) to be guru (weighty with potency), we face failure.
We will have to recognize who is guru and who is laghu. A guru is engaged in service to that Complete Entity whom all real gurus honour as their sole object of worship. This does not refer to a guru (teacher) of sitar or physical exercises. Such a guru cannot save one from the clutches of death.
gurur na sa syat sva-jano na sa syat
pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat
daivam na tat syan na patis ca sa syan
na mocayed yah samupeta-mrtyum[“That guru is not a guru, that father is not a father, that mother is not a mother, that demigod is not a demigod and that relative is not a relative who cannot protect us from the clutches of death, cannot bestow eternal life upon us and cannot protect us from ignorance, because of which we are deeply engrossed in this material worl d.”
Ignorance is the sole reason a person falls into the clutches of death; a person with knowledge does not. All the education in the world is immediately dispensable for one who becomes mad or paralysed or who meets with death. Unless we are searching for the ultimate truth, we tend to become unconscious, or devoid of real consciousness.
When we are impelled to enjoy our senses, like the tongue, hands, legs, arms and genitals, we are enchanted and then deceived. It is therefore imperative upon us to remember Srila Gurupadapadma at the beginning of each year, each month, each day and at every moment, for he can protect us from all such deception.
Remember Sri Guru Every Day, Every Moment
Our Gurudeva’s forms are manifold. If he did not manifest himself in various ways, then who else would protect us? That person whom my Gurudeva has accepted as his own i s my saviour. I do not want to see the faces of vile persons who criticize my Gurudeva or who support those who criticize him. They are the cause of all inauspiciousness.
The very instant I deviate from or forget the lotus feet of Srila Gurudeva, who is continuously attracting me to his lotus feet, at that very moment I am unquestionably deprived of the Truth. Upon such deviation, I became engrossed in contemplating countless scarcities. I hurry to bathe in a holy place, and I become busy protecting myself from the cold. In this way I chase after activities other than service to Srila Gurudeva.
My Gurudeva constantly protects me from dvitiya-abhinivesa, becoming absorbed in activities separate from the interest of Bhagavan. If I do not remember my Gurudeva at the beginning of each year, each month, each day, and at every moment, I will surely fall further away from the path of bhakti. Consequently, I myself will wish to be recognized as guru, and the sinister contemplation of how others will worship me will invade my mind.
This alone is dvitiya-abhinivesa. We have not assembled here to perform guru-puja just for today, but to begin performance of it at every moment, forever.
Sri Gaurasundara is Krsna Himself who came to this Earth as jagad-guru, the spiritual master of the whole world, and spoke Siksastaka. May the mahanta-gurus (exalted, manifest gurus) and all great Vaisnavas who are surrendered to their lotus feet, impart all aspects of the teachings of Siksastaka to us. May they deliver us from our calamitous situation.
My Gurudeva Appears to Me Everywhere
Our spiritual masters (asraya-jatiya guru-varga) are the abodes of love. They appear to us in different forms to bestow their mercy upon us. They are reflected in all objects and in every entity. Indeed, they are the special manifestations of Srila Gurudeva, he who imparts divya-jnana, transcendental knowledge. The object of love, Krsna (visaya-jatiya), is one half of the equation, and the abode of love, Sri Guru (asraya-jatiya), is the other half. Their combination results in a complete whole through vilasa vaicitrya (wonderfully variegated pastimes). Sri Krsna is the complete manifestation of the object of love, and Srila Gurudeva is the complete perception of the abode of love. When the transcendental reflection of asraya-jatiya tattva falls upon any conscious being, he is to be understood as a manifestation of my Gurudeva. Gurudeva is that person whose behaviour at every moment instructs us that our entire life is meant for serving Bhagavan. That very Gurudeva is reflected in the heart of every living being and is situated in every entity as asraya-jatiya tattva.
ye ,nye parart ha-bhavaka yamunopakulah
samsantu krsna-padavim rahitatmanam nah[O mango, priyala, jackfruit, asana and kovidara trees! O trees of jambu, arka, bilva and bakula! O amra, kadamba and nipa trees, as well as all other plants and trees growing along Yamuna’s shores whose lives are devoted to benefiting others, we have lost our minds in the agony of separation from Sri Krsna, so please tell us where He has gone.’
Sri Krsna disappeared from the rasa-sthali (the place of the rasa-lila), and the gopis, who are eternally liberated souls, approached each and every living entity in search of Him. Did the gopis simply depend upon the knowledge acquired through their senses to find Him? We receive the opportunity to hear about these subjects from our Gurudeva. The variegated transcendental pastimes of Nanda-Govinda, Yasoda-Govinda, Sridama-Sudama-Govinda, Citraka-Patraka-Govinda, Vamsi-Govinda, Go-Govinda and Kad amba-Govinda are accounts of the rasa-laden pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda.
If a person is blessed with the darsana of Sri Guru in his heart, or if he makes a place in his mind where Sri Guru can wander, then such pastimes are revealed in his heart. The one and only way to attain service to the Complete Being is to worship that person who, by his every activity, encourages us to serve the Complete Being. Our Gurudeva’s image, reflected in many different ways, constantly manifests newer and newer lessons for us.
My Gurudeva manifests in various repositories and, upon seeing their attitude of service to Bhagavan, I pray that I may spend thousands and thousands of lifetimes serving Sri Hari in their association, and that my aversion to serving Him, which has prevailed for millions of lifetimes, is finally destroyed.
Everyone is Advancing Except Me
Once I went to Mangala-giri in South Ind ia to establish the sacred impressions of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s footprints. A devotee amongst us raised this doubt: ‘When I first came to the matha, I noted the character of the matha residents and their attachment o serving Bhagavan. This impressed and inspired me and I cherished a high aspiration to be like them. But now, the standard I once envisioned attaining has lessened considerably. I am engrossed in various mundane thoughts such as thinking about the many brahmacaris who have turned to their homes and entered household life.
In reply I said, ‘I cannot say that they have left hari-bhajana just because they have returned to their homes. In fact I see each and every one of those brahmacaris as amazing Vaisnavas and that their Vaisnava qualities and devotion for the Lord have increased manifold. What a wicked atheist I used to be, but my wickedness substantially abated in their association. I see that I am averse to Bhagavan, but they a ll are engaged in hari-bhajana. By the mercy of Srila Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami, I have come to know this verse:
vaisnavera nindyakarma na pade kane
sabe krsna bhaje tinha ai matra jane[‘Gossip about Vaisnavas indulging in abominable activities should never enter my ears. I should only see that all persons are serving Krsna.’]
From my perspective, everybody is advancing in hari-bhajana, and this universe, which was created by Bhagavan, is prospering in every respect. Everyone except me is receiving spiritual benefit. You have become restless without due reason, and because you are intensely eager to serve Bhagavan you want the devotees who left to also be increasingly keen to engage in hari-bhajana. They are, however, engaged in hari-bhajana. Still you are dissatisfied and want their exuberance to serve their beloved Lord to increase a million-fold. My heart, on the contrary, is meager and unable to accommodate the magnitude of their bhajana of Sri Hari. They exemplified living according to an astonishingly high ideal. The only person who is incapable of performing hari-bhajana is me, because I busy myself with finding faults in others. How, then, can I ever make progress?
Enthusiastic to Find Faults
Who finds faults in the Vaisnavas? Those who depend on their senses to acquire knowledge. Their senses the eyes, ears, nose and so forth are their sole support; hence external objects deceive them. In other words, those who are averse to hari-bhajana find faults with the Vaisnavas. When a person tells me that someone has stopped chanting his harinama, I think, He must have become highly elevated at heart as a result of so much chanting. This is why he has left the path of bhajana, which is the sole source of one’s welfare, and become engaged in other activities. Only a rich man is so content that he does not care to earn more.
In Srimad Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavan says: ‘na me bhaktah pranasyati ‘ My devotees never perish or face misfortune.
api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah[‘If even a man of abominable character worships Me with single-pointed focus, he is still to be considered a sadhu because he is rightly situated in bhakti.’
ksipram bhavati dharmatma
name bhaktah pranasyati[‘He quickly becomes virtuous and attains eternal peace. O Kaunteya, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.’
Can anyone who is one-pointed and unflinching in his performance of hari-bhajana ever become degraded? They have doubtlessly attained full auspiciousness. Our attitude, however, is defective, and this is why we do not attain our own auspiciousness.
na prasamsen na garhayet
visvam ekamakam pasyan
prakrtya purusena ca[‘Sri Bhagavan said: Do not criticise or praise the conditioned nature and activities of others. View this world as a combination of material nature and souls who have an enjoying propensity, both based on the one Ultimate Reality.’
If I depend on my sense-perception for information I will remain deprived of service to the Lord, who is beyond the perception of the senses (adhoksaja), and of Srila Gurudeva. I have not attained my own welfare, but still I meditate on the auspicious behaviour of others, and although I myself am full of shortcomings, I am enthusiastic to find faults in others. If I ever began to really focus on my own welfare, would I have time to observe another’s imperfections?
krsneti yasya giri tam manasadriyeta
diksasti cet pranatibhis ca bhajantam isam
susrusaya bhajana-vijnam ananyam anya-
nindadi sunya-hrdam ipsita-sanga-labdhya[‘One who chants Krsna’s name just once is a neophyte devotee (kanistha-adhikari). One should consider him to be his family member and silently respect him. One who, fully understanding the principle of diksa, has accepted initiation from a qualified guru and performs bhajana of Bhagavan in accordance with Vaisnava conventions is an intermediate devotee (madhyama-adhikari). One should respect such a devotee who is endowed with the correct understanding of reality and illusion by offering him pranama and so forth. One who is adept in the science of bhajana as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaisnava scriptures, and who performs exclusive bhajana of Sri Krsna, is a maha-bhagavata devotee. Due to his undeviating absorption in Krsna, the pure heart of such a devotee is free from faults such as the tendency to criticize others. He is expert in bhajana, meaning that he mentally renders service (manasa-seva) to Sri Radha-Krsna’s pastimes which take place during the eight segments of the day (asta-kaliya-lila). Knowing him to be a topmost devotee whose heart is established in the particular mood of service to Sri Radha-Krsna for which one aspires, and who is affectionately disposed towards oneself, one should honour him by offering dandavat-pranama, making relevant inquiry and rendering service with great love.
(Upadesamrta, verse 5)]
Our lives are short. Last year we gathered here to worship Srila Gurudeva. Since then, those who received the mercy of Bhagavan have departed from this world. However, for the purpose of finding faults in others and to show an example of the absence of trnad api sunicena, we are in this material world absorbed in sense gratification.
The slightest tendency to find faults in others is completely absent in Srila Gurudeva. At the same time, his sole function is to kindly point out our hundreds and thousands of faults, which are the cause of our misfortune. May we not lose sight of this quality of Srila Gurudeva.
If I live for one more year, then I will absorb myself in the service of Gurudeva at every moment from today onward and give up my tendency to criticize others. I will not say, I am valorous, scholarly and a gifted speaker; he is foolish, ignorant and cannot express anything. On the strength of exclusive absorption in hari-katha, I will not foster an attitude of aversion to Bhagavan, and thus I will become truly benefited.
Sadhaka and Siddha are Not the Same
kalo mayatigamitah kila sampratam hi
tamce krpam mayi vidhasyaci n aiva kim me;
pranairvrajena ca varoru vakarinapi[O Varoru (girl with beautiful thighs), I am passing my time with the sole hope of being able to serve You. If You withhold Your mercy, what value to me are this life, the land of Vraja, and Sri Krsna, the enemy of Baka?
(Vilapa-kusumanjali, verse 102)]
Some people ask me, ‘Why don’t you give siddha-pranali (the identity of one’s eternal relationship with Krsna)? However, I cannot understand how a sadhaka and a siddha can be on the same level. How can one in the stage of sadhana that is full of anarthas cultivate the activities of sadhana that is free from anarthas or that of siddhi (the stage of perfection)? If someone is siddha, self-realized, and he mercifully reveals his svarupa to me, then only can I come to know his eternal constitutional form.
In madhura-rasa Srila Gurudeva is Varsabhanavi (Sri Radha). According to a person’s eternal nature, he will see that same Sri Gurudeva as a certain absolute reality (vastu). One in the mood of a parent sees him as Nanda-Yasoda; one in the mood of a friend sees him as Sridama-Sudama and one in the mood of a servitor sees him as Citraka-Patraka.
The truth of who is visaya and who is asraya appears in the heart of one who remains engaged in service to Srila Gurudeva. This truth does not manifest in the heart by an artificial means. When the tendency to serve arises in a fortunate soul, this truth automatically appears in his heart. We are not obliged to serve anyone other than our Gurudeva. The nature of nitya-lila (Krsna’s eternal pastimes with His devotees), which even Sesa, Siva, Brahma and others cannot conceive of, will never be realized by one whose consciousness is polluted with mundane conceptions.
I offer my obeisances unto the lotus feet of you all, my guru-varga.
Translated from Srila Prabhupada’s Harikathamrta
by the Rays of The Harmonist team.
Published in English for the first time in Rays of The Harmonist No. 15 Karttika 2005