The Original Guru
The original Spiritual Master is Nityananda Prabhu. He is the general representation of Guru. In the spiritual world, He is the Guru-tattva principle in the four primary mellows of devotion, excluding the conjugal mellow. In madhura-rasa, Baladev's representation is Ananga Manjari, the sister of Radharani.
The position of Nityananda is greater than that of Baladev. Why? He is distributing prema, divine love. And what is prema? It is higher than all other achievements. If one can give divine love, then all others must be subordinate to him. If Krishna is subordinate to Mahaprabhu then, of course, Balaram is subordinate to Nityananda. They are similar, but when magnanimity is added, Balaram becomes Nityananda. That Balaram who can distribute divine love, who can perform that higher function, has come here as Nityananda. Our foundation must be solid and proper. Then the structure should be erected. Otherwise the whole thing will go down (heno Nitai vine bhai Radha Krishna paite nai). We can get a solid foundation from Nityananda Prabhu.
One day Nityananda Prabhu came to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's house in Mayapur. Mahaprabhu's mother, Sachi Devi, and Visnu Priya Devi, His wife, were also there, as well as other devotees. Suddenly Nityananda arrived, quite naked.
Mahaprabhu managed to give Him some cloth. And perhaps He was concerned that the devotees might have some misconception about Nityananda Prabhu. So, to prevent this He asked Nityananda Prabhu for His kaupin, His loincloth. He tore it up and distributed it amongst the householders that were present, instructing them, "Keep a piece of His loincloth as a kavacha, an amulet, and tie that with a thread to your arm or wear it around your neck. Please keep it with you. Then you will be able to achieve sense control very soon."
Nityananda Prabhu has control of His senses to the extreme degree; He does not know anything of this world. His vairagya, indifference to the world of mundane transaction, is of such a degree that He can appear naked amongst both male and female. So, the grace of Nityananda Prabhu will construct a firm foundation for us. If there is a firm foundation, then we may build a great structure over it. If we have faith in Nityananda, then that faith can bear any amount of weight. It won't betray us.
So, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad has laid stress amongst the Westerners on devotion to Nityananda. First, we must get His mercy. And then, afterwards, we can get the mercy of Radha-Krishna. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu means Radha-Krishna: Sri Krishna Chaitanya Radha-Krishna nahe anya. First achieve the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu, and then Gauranga Mahaprabhu, and then Sri Radha-Govinda. In these three stages, we must raise ourselves up.
Devotee: How does one attain the mercy of Lord Nityananda?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: One who finds more inclination to serve Gauranga and His Dham, His transcendental land, and His servants can get the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu. Nityananda is very much kind to one who has some special tendency towards Gaura-lila.
"Take the Name of Gauranga"
Nityananda Prabhu walked from door to door in Bengal, saying, "Take the Name of Gauranga! I'll become your servant. You can purchase Me if you only take the Name of Gauranga. I'll be sold to you without any price or condition." That was His temperament. When Mahaprabhu was in Puri, He sent Nityananda Prabhu to Bengal. At that time He said, "Without You I don't find anyone who can spread the Holy Name of Krishna, or devotional service to Krishna, in Bengal. They are more engaged in the tantric method and smrti. They make too much of these trifling things. They are puffed up, thinking that they have finished all knowledge. So, Bengal is a very hard field for preaching. Without You, no one will be able to awaken the masses. Separate Yourself from the higher castes and approach the masses with the Holy Name of Krishna. You are the fittest person for this work."
Nityananda Prabhu went to Bengal, but without trying to preach the glories of the Holy Name of Krishna, Nityananda began to preach the Name of Gauranga. Nityananda Prabhu found that there is some danger of thinking that Krishna's Pastimes are very much akin to the mundane debauchery, lying, and stealing of a degraded soul. Krishna's Pastimes are of a highly confidential nature. It is very difficult for the masses to understand the purity of Krishna-lila. The mass mind cannot accept Krishna-lila as the highest attainment. So, Nityananda Prabhu found it would be difficult to preach Krishna-lila, but He found it would be easy to preach Gaura-lila, where Krishna has come to distribute Himself to the public with so much capital in His mind. Gauranga means a dynamo which wants to distribute Krishna surcharged with the most magnanimous, intensified pity and kindness for the ordinary people, with the greatest affection even for the criminals. Nityananda Prabhu wanted to bring them in connection with Gauranga, for then Krishna-lila would automatically be within their fist. So, He began to preach about Gauranga, not Radha-Krishna, as commanded by Mahaprabhu. So, Nityananda Prabhu says, "Bhaja Gauranga kaha Gauranga, laha Gaurangera Nama: worship Gauranga, speak only of Gauranga, and chant the Name of Gauranga."
There is another instance of the relationship between Krishna and Balaram, and Gauranga and Nityananda, which is described in the Chaitanya-bhagavat. Sachi Devi had a dream that Krishna and Balaram were sitting on a throne, and Nityananda was fighting with Balaram, "Come down from the throne. It is no longer Dvapar-yuga. The Age of Kali has come, and My master Gauranga must occupy Your position on this throne. You come down!" Balaram began giving some opposition. "No, no, why should We come down? We have been sitting on this throne for such a long time." Nityananda Prabhu began forcibly taking Him down, and Balaram submitted slightly. Nityananda Prabhu said, "My master Gauranga wants to take the position now. The age for Him has come." So Nityananda is very partial to Gauranga. He says, "Krishna is far off. My Lord is Gauranga."
So, we must be very grateful to Nityananda Prabhu, for He is our Guru. And Guru's grace is so important that Raghunath Das Goswami says, "O, Radharani, I want Your grace. Without You, I don't want Krishna separately. I never want Krishna without You." That should be the healthy attitude of a devotee. This has been explained by Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur in his Gurvastakam:
yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado
"I bow down to the lotus feet of Sri Gurudev. By his grace, we achieve the grace of Krishna; without his grace, we are lost. Therefore, we should always meditate on Sri Gurudev, and pray for his mercy."
This is the position of Sri Guru, by whose grace we can get everything, we can get the grace of Krishna, and without whose grace, we have no other prospect. So, in this way, we must have reverence for he who has given us our first connection with Krishna consciousness.
Guru is not a doll
But at the same time, as we offer reverence to Gurudev, we must not conceive that the Guru is a doll, a lifeless figure. Because we are familiar with a particular figure and accept that as our Guru we should not become misled. The important thing is what he says, his instructions. That is attracting our inner hearts. I am not this body. I am the enquirer. That thing which is satisfying me, drawing the enquirer to the enquired—I must try to locate that thing in him. I must not rely on material calculation. I am not this body. Who am I, the disciple? Am I only this body, this figure, this colour, this caste? Or am I this temperament, this scholarship and intellectualism? No. I am he who has come to seek. Who is the party within me, and who is the party in Guru? We must be fully awake to that. What is the inner thing? I have come for that. We must be awake to our own interest.
There is the relative principle and the absolute principle. We shall have to eliminate the form, ignore the form; we shall always have to keep the spirit. Otherwise, we become form worshippers, idol worshippers.
Guru: more than meets the eye
It is said, of course, that the connection with the Spiritual Master is eternal (chaksu-dana dila yei, janme janme Prabhu sei). But we must not identify our Guru with the appearance we perceive with our physical senses. Our inner identification of him will be clarified according to the growth of our vision. When our vision increases and takes shape from material to transcendental, his look will also change accordingly.
A man is sometimes known, most externally, by his uniform, and then by his body, then by his mind, then by his intelligence. As much as our eye will develop to see things rightly, what we are seeing will also change its face. Krishna says, "Acharyam Mam vijaniyan: ultimately it is I who am the Acharya." It is the function of divinity, and in different stages there may be different forms. Different Acharyas may work at the same time.
The knowledge, the ideal, is growing from subtle to gross. And the depth of the vision of the eye will disclose the different figures of the different Acharyas. It will go in different rasas to the highest position, by a gradual process of realisation. Otherwise our knowledge will be based on the material conception. And to force the material conception onto divinity is a crime, it is ignorance, it is erroneous.
We have to free ourselves from the snare of identifying reality with the physical form presented to our senses. The eyes deceive us; they cannot give us the proper form or colour. The ears cannot give us the proper sound. The concrete reality is beyond the experience of our senses. So then, what is that thing? Because we are in such a low position, we can gradually go there to the inner world only with the help of our Guru.
But how can we recognise our Guru? Sometimes in the winter he wears a particular dress, and in the summer he wears another dress. If we attach so much importance to the external dress, then what should we do? Should we think that the dress is indispensable to the body? The Guru may come to us in a particular body. Suppose the Guru appears as a young man. When he has become an old man, and the young form has grown into another form, how are we to recognise him? How are we to differentiate? Again, in one birth he may have come in a particular body, and another time he may appear in a different body. The same Guru may appear differently at different times. How are we to recognise him? From the external consideration we must go to the internal.
If I am devoid of flesh and blood and I exist only in a subtle body, then I shall also find my Guru there, in a subtle body. The demigods, Gandharvas, and siddhas, the perfected beings in the heavenly planets, also have their gurus, but they do not have a material body, nor does their guru have a material body.
So, by eliminating the external conception we have to enter into the internal, and that will be all-important to a progressive disciple. That does not mean that one should disregard the physical form of our guru. But the real importance is within. We must worship the remnants of the Guru: his coat, his boot, his sandal. But that does not mean that his shoe is superior to his body; we must serve his person. In a similar way, if we are eager to do some physical service for him, if we want to massage his feet, but he does not desire that and says, "No, no, no", then should we do that? Our internal obedience to him will be higher. In this way we have to make progress from the gross to the subtle.
Who is Guru? Where is he to be located? What is his ideal? What does he really want me to do? These things must not be dismissed from our ears. We must not give only formal adherence. We want the spiritual way. The spiritual man is going to the spiritual world to have the spiritual realisation. It is all a spiritual transaction. And all conceptions of mundane, whether physical, mental, or intellectual, should be eliminated in our journey if we want to go to the inner world of substance.
Progress: elimination and acceptance
This attitude will decide our real progress, our real design of life. Our fulfilment comes always from the inner side. If one can catch up that thread, then he can go and get things of that higher, spiritual quality. We may appreciate the beautiful figure, style, movement, and intellectual delivery of the Spiritual Master, and so many other things may be appreciable. But what should be the highest focal point of our realisation? What should be our highest aim, for which we will eliminate everything else?
Progress means elimination and acceptance. And our spiritual life must always be a dynamic thing; otherwise we shall be dead. Progress means acceptance and elimination. The scientists also say this in their theory of natural selection, "survival of the fittest". Nature is selecting some and eliminating others. Life is dynamic; we are living in a dynamic world. Everywhere we find acceptance and elimination. That is progress. And our life must be progressive, not static.
To get the grace of Nityananda Prabhu, we should try as far as possible to study the character of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, to serve Him, to serve His Dham, and His devotees. That will easily help us attain the grace of Nityananda Prabhu. And there will always be so many practical dealings in our present stage, but we must always keep the highest ideal over our heads. With this ideal we shall be able to make progress. Our ideal, our highest model—that is our all-in-all in life. To be acquainted with the conception of the highest ideal and to be on the path of realisation of that goal is the greatest wealth in one's life.
Srila Raghunath Das Goswami prays, "I only aspire after one thing. I cherish the hope that one day I may be welcomed into the plane where Radhika and Madhava are in Their glory, sitting and playing." That should be our prospect. This is found in Raghunath Das Goswami's prayer to his Guru.
nama-srestham manum api sachi-putram atra svarupam
"I am fully indebted to Sri Gurudev. Why? He has given me so many things. He has given me the highest conception of the Holy Name of Krishna, the highest form of sound which contains the highest form of thought, aspiration, ideal, everything. And next he has given me the mantra." The Name is there within the mantra. Without the Name, the mantra is nothing. If the Name of Krishna is withdrawn and replaced with another name, the mantra will give the opposite result. The Name of Krishna is all-in-all. And within the mantra, the Name is couched in a particular way as a sort of prayer.
And then he says, "He has given me the service of that great saviour, the son of Mother Sachi, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is like a golden mountain standing to show the direction of Krishna-lila. And Gurudev has brought me to the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu's most favourite personal assistant, Svarup Damodar, who is the representation of Lalita Devi, the most favourite friend of Radhika.
"Then he has brought me in connection with Sri Rupa, who was ordered to distribute the highest kinds of devotional love, rasa." Vaidhi-bhakti, the worship of the Lord in awe and reverence, is of a lower order. But raganuga-bhakti, spontaneous love, the heart's innermost dealings, was distributed through Srila Rupa Goswami. Mahaprabhu considered Sri Rupa the best to deal with raganuga-bhakti.
Das Goswami says, "Then, by his grace, I have achieved the association of Srila Sanatan Goswami, who adjusts our position in relation to raganuga-bhakti. He explains the path of vaidhi-bhakti, and gives us sambandha-jnan: the knowledge of what is what, a proper acquaintance with the environment." Then he says, "Gurudev has given me Mathura Mandal, where Radha and Govinda have Their Pastimes; where the forest, the hills, every creeper, shrub, and grain of sand, everyone is bearing the acquaintance of Radha-Krishna-lila, and wherever I shall cast my glance, they will help me in my remembrance of Radha and Govinda. I have received all these things from my Gurudev: Vrndavan, where the cows and the milkmen have their village constructed. I am becoming acquainted with their association, their nature, and their feelings of love for Krishna.
"By the grace of Gurudev, I have become acquainted with Radha Kunda, the favourite place of Radhaand Govinda for Their Pastimes, and this great Govardhan. And lastly he has given me the hope that one day I can get the service of Sri Sri Radhika and Madhava. I have been given all these assurances by my Gurudev, so I bow my head with all my respects to his lotus feet."
So, if we are conscious of all these spiritual matters, then we can think that we have approached our Gurudev properly. What is our Guru? What is his Mission? It is filled with all these things. Devoid of that, what is our interest?
What is ISKCON?
Devotee: There are so many visions about the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). But what should the real vision of ISKCON be?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: In this verse, Raghunath Das Goswami gives the real acquaintance of what is ISKCON, Nama-sresthammanum api Sachi-putram atra Svarupam. ISKCON must not deviate from this line. We have not come here to deceive ourselves, but to fulfil ourselves. ISKCON will fulfil everyone's inner demand, even extending to the vegetables and stones, taking them to the feet of Mahaprabhu and the Goswamis. From village to village, everyone, in every place, should be hunted and approached, "Take the Name of Krishna! Come under the flag of Mahaprabhu!" This grand worldwide Mission will thrive like anything; it will touch the heavens and cover the earth, and other planets also. That was the aim of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, and we understand and appreciate that.
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