Srila Gurudeva Vyasa-Puja Homage 2018 (25th August 2018)
Dear Gurudev Srila Param Pujyapad Srila Bhakti Bibuddha Bodhayan Goswami Maharaj,
Before I begin please let me meditate upon your divine lotus feet. Next allow me to meditate upon all the illustrious members of our Sri Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, especially Srila Param-Gurudev Srila B.P. Puri Goswami Maharaj, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Goswami Maharaj, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and especially Sri Rupa and Sri Raghunatha Das Goswamis.
How can an insignificant individual such as myself write or speak about such an exalted personality as you? In reality you are completely beyond the realm of my comprehension. The depth of your realization and character completely defy me, therefore whatever I say about you is surely destined to be limited and only fall short. As your disciple though it is contingent upon me, to my best ability, to constantly behold you within my mind in a mood of admiration and adoration, and to subjugate myself before you. Especially upon the divine day of your appearance I must make great effort to at least attempt to praise you. Even though such an attempt may fail and be considered naïve in the eyes of the truly learned I must still press on, with the hope and expectation that by so doing I will maintain a certain prominence in your mind’s eye and by doing may hope to elicit an unending flow of the most coveted of all substances – the causeless mercy of Sri Guru.
In the past I have attempted to write about your direct person. This year I wish to glorify you indirectly by praising the principle of Sri Guru.
Recently I was delighting in Sri Hari-katha with a dear Guru-bhai. He paraphrased you, and instructed me by explaining “we do not aspire for knowledge, we aspire for realization”. Since then I’ve been meditating upon this instruction. There is certainly a mystical quality that inheres in the transmission of transcendental knowledge. There is a clear distinction between what is known and what is realized, what is learnt and what is wisdom, what is mundane intellectualization and what is deep, substantial and possessing all clarity. One may have memorized a topic by rote, memorized all the Vedas, but that doesn’t guarantee access into its mysteries. This then begs the question: how can one be granted access into the mysterious realms of realization? This is the theme of my homage, and I hope to reveal the glories of Sri Guru hereby.
The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna is the ultimate goal of all the Vedic scriptures (vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo); and one who teaches the path to attain Him is known as Sri Guru. Sri Guru manifests in many forms to uplift all living entities, redirecting the wayward souls back towards their original source, back to their original happiness. In the search for Divine Truth there are undoubtedly many opinions and methods, as much as they have power to reveal the Absolute Truth, or the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, that much I offer my wholehearted respects.
Sri Guru is the most indispensable component in our search for Sri Krishna. He is the most dear servant of the Lord, because he takes up the mission of the Lord in this world. He is described as the mercy potency of the Lord, and is characterized by his tireless efforts to assist and guide souls back to Sri Krishna. Just as Sri Krishna mercifully descends into this world to deliver His devotees the Guru’s nature is that of absolute harmony with this merciful aspect of the Lord. Therefore, Sri Krishna says:
ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān
One should know the ācārya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods. (SB 11.17.27)
From this verse we clearly understand that Sri Guru should never be considered an ordinary person, but instead we must consider him a manifestation of the Supreme Lord. Although the various Devatas are engaged, on behalf of the Supreme Lord, in the administrative functions in this material world largely their duties are divorced from the Lord’s inner intent. The Lord descends in His avatara form to deliver His devotees (paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ – BG 4.8) and Sri Guru is directly serving this innermost purpose of the Lord. For this reason Sri Guru takes pride of place even amongst the exalted Devatas. In this way we pray to Sri Guru by addressing him as Gurudev.
Sri Guru is sat-chit-ananda-chinmaya, he is existing on the spiritual platform, as such he is not subject to the cycle of birth and death like an ordinary mortal being. Thinking him ordinary and envying him surely leads to an offensive attitude. Such an offensive attitude effectively bars one from receiving the mercy of the Lord.
Conversely if Sri Guru is pleased with someone Sri Krishna will also be pleased with that person, and bestow His mercy upon that fortunate soul. Therefore Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura sings:
yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo
yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto ‘pi
By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Krsna.Without the grace of the spiritual master, one cannot make any advancement. (Gurvastakam 8)
Sri Guru’s happiness and Sri Krishna’s happiness are explicitly intertwined. In this way we call the Guru Krishnānandaya – which has a dual meaning: he who gives happiness to Sri Krishna; and that person who is always happily absorbed in Sri Krishna. Just as a dear friend knows intimately the desires and longings of his friend, Sri Guru knows the intimate desires and longings of Sri Krishna. If we accept this fact the verse from Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.23) makes perfect sense:
yasya deve parā bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
One who has utmost devotion towards both the Lord and the spiritual master, unto that great soul the imports of vedic knowledge as described are certainly revealed.
Here we begin to touch on our point. What use is knowledge if in fact we do not understand or comprehend its purpose. The Vedas are a locked book. In olden times only the higher orders were allowed to accept the sacred thread, and they were expected to take the disciplines of the Guru to heart. This is in fact the key to unlock the actual meaning of the Veda. In modern times many unscrupulous people are accepting the role of both guru and disciple and are making a mockery of this ancient tradition. As a result, the whole world is becoming confused as to what is Guru and what is disciple, and the actual path of Bhakti is being obscured. In its place one finds only cheap imitation.
If one genuinely desires to unlock the meaning of the Vedas they must sincerely seek out a genuine spiritual master and learn from him submissively. He can reveal the correct path:
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth. (BG 4.34)
Through all these verses we can appreciate the most indispensable position of Sri Guru. Although different in form Sri Guru and Bhagavan are one in principle; “ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān: know the Acharya as My expansion”. Sri Guru is Sri Krishna’s agent, none can approach Sri Krishna directly but must go through the agency of Sri Guru. One cannot even seek an audience with a dentist without approaching their secretary, so what to speak of Sri Krishna. Sri Guru’s job though is far greater than a secretary. He must make the disciple fit to accept the audience of the Supreme Lord; he must train the disciple to be a fit recipient of the Lord’s mercy. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains (CC M 8.128):
kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya
Whether one is a brāhmaṇa, a sannyāsī or a śūdra — regardless of what he is — he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa
The main principle, above all other considerations, is that such a Guru knows the science of how to approach and please Sri Krishna. He must be completely conversant in the science of Sri Krishna, and must be expert in applying those principles for the edification of his disciple. On the other hand, the disciple must progressively accept, from such a perfect spiritual master, the science of Bhakti in it’s completely pure and unadulterated form. He must progressively make himself a fit receptacle for the message of the Lord and sincerely serve the Guru’s instructions. He must gradually know his Guru’s heart, so that whether in his presence or not the disciple always endeavours to act in a way pleasing to his spiritual master.
As quoted earlier, one who has both the utmost faith in and who pleases both Sri Guru and Sri Krishna, all the mysteries of the Veda become manifest to him. This is further clarified by the Supreme Lord in the Bhagavad-Gita (10.11):
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.
When one is in complete darkness even a small lamp becomes a great and helpful guide. In the beginning stage practically speaking one has no knowledge of how to proceed, no knowledge of either the Supreme Lord or the path to attain Him. The only thing that can carry him forward is his sincerity. Sensing this sincerity, the Supreme Lord in the form of the paramatma (supersoul) assumes the responsibility of guru, the caitya-guru, from within the heart. In the form of one’s intuition He helps and guides the soul befitting its current need.
The jivatma (individual spirit soul) can only comprehend that which is within its current scope. Gradually as he progresses the Lord reveals the way and the means. He reveals the Vaisnavas, and from amidst the Vaisnavas a most effulgent individual will appear who will confer diksha, or initiate one into the esoteric aspects of Krishna-bhakti. These two entities are referred to as siksha (instructing) and diksha (initiating) gurus respectively. In such auspicious company one learns all the secrets of the path of bhakti, the more one progresses the more Sri Krishna will reveal Himself. In this way Sri Krishna reveals Himself both from within and from without.
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas. (BG 15.15)
Again Sri Krishna explains to us that He will guide us from within. Clearly He explains here that He is the ultimate object of all the Vedas. In all His infinite wisdom, He guides us unto Himself. To the degree we seek Him He will give us both knowledge and remembrance of Him; conversely, the more we desire independence from Him in proportion He will grant us forgetfulness, and a fascination with material knowledge and enjoyment will ensue. He stimulates our mental faculties, in the positive or the negative.
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te
To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. (BG 10.10)
This is a most mystical science, how to unveil that Lord Who is hidden in our hearts? This again is the role of Sri Guru. We know that it is only loving devotion that has the power to conquer the Supreme Lord (śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ BG 6.47). This we get a hint of from studying the Vedas, but the intricacies of that loving devotion will remain a mystery unless and until we approach and learn such intricacies from the Lord’s dear devotees. We must learn this science from them: how to become unflinchingly devoted. Sri Guru is a perfect emblem of such devotion, by studying his words and conduct, by acting in a way pleasing to him and seeking his constant blessing one can make progress on this path.
We should be very clear what is our ultimate goal. For a devotee all roads lead to Rome; all a devotee’s endeavours should be initiated and focused on the ultimate goal, or for the pleasure of Sri Krishna. What will be the result of such devotion? At the time of creation Lord Krishna directly instructed Brahma in this very regard:
yad upaśrutya rahasi
cakartha paramaṁ tapaḥ
The highest perfectional ingenuity is the personal perception of My abodes, and this has been possible because of your submissive attitude in the performance of severe penance according to My order. (SB 2.9.22)
We should know with complete conviction that this practice is the highest and most potent method to reveal the Lord. He further explains:
yāvān ahaṁ yathā-bhāvo
astu te mad-anugrahāt
All of Me, namely My actual eternal form and My transcendental existence, colour, qualities and activities — let all be awakened within you by factual realization, out of My causeless mercy. (SB 2.9.32)
This path, enunciated in beautiful and poetic language, garnered from amidst all the Vedas is thus delivered to us through Sri Guru Parampara. Sri Guru must be the very embodiment of that message. All the previous Acharyas and their instructions must inhere completely within the beautiful abode of Sri Guru, decorating his form as if like beautiful mountains, lakes, flowers, precious gems and fruit-bearing trees. Such is the form of a bona-fide Guru. From the beautiful lotus lips of Sri Guru one can attain the wisdom of the path of Bhakti, and by practicing it faithfully all perfection can be attained. What is that perfection? Complete revelation of the Lord and His divine abode. In the beginning Sri Guru gives us the Lord’s name (nama). Loving devotion to Sri Nama has the potency to gradually reveal the Lord’s very form (rupa), qualities (guna), pastimes (lila) and abode (dhama), and such realization constitutes the perfectional stage of life.
This is the very process of revelation, through this process one moves from a purely theoretical understanding to one of direct experience. The Truth is revealed through the agency of one’s own heart. One must construct a temple in one’s heart, and in that temple one must enthrone the happiness of Sri Guru and Sri Krishna, and no conflicting element should oppose that most noble of aspirations. Then by the mercy of these two divinities the spiritual world will open itself up to that fortunate soul. To the degree one is able to apply this process, to that degree one can gain insight into this path and its mysteries.
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. (BG 4.11)
Dear Srila Gurudev, by whatever good fortune I have amassed due to my previous activities I have made your acquaintance and you gracefully condescend treating me as if a friend. The reality is though that I know you not. Due to my current predicament the scope of my vision limits my perception of you. Just like the frog stuck in the well, I am attempting to speak of you and of things beyond my comprehension.
That being said I feel extremely fortunate because, even though limited, I have some appreciation for You, the Vaisnavas and for topics of the Supreme Lord. I simply constantly pray to You, the three divinities, that you will remove all my weaknesses and faults and very quickly reveal Yourselves to me:
tinera smaraṇe haya vighna-vināśana
anāyāse haya nija vāñchita-pūraṇa
Such remembrance (of Sri Guru, Vaisnavas and Bhagavan) destroys all difficulties and very easily enables one to fulfill his own desires. (CC A 1.21)
Please accept this as my humble offering,
Lakshman Das, Malini DD and Janaki Dasi