The Universal Teacher
By Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The following lecture was originally published in The Harmonist in 1936, on the advent day of His Divine Grace Om Vishnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.
uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya
vande guroh sri-caranaravindam
In the revealed scriptures it is declared that the spiritual master should be worshiped like the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and this injunction is obeyed by pure devotees. The spiritual master is the most confidential servant of the Lord, thus let us offer our respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of our spiritual master.
Gentlemen, on behalf of the members of the Bombay branch of the Gaudiya Math, let me welcome you all because you have so kindly joined us tonight in our congregational offerings of homage to the lotus feet of the world teacher, acaryadeva, who is the founder of this Gaudiya Mission and is the President Acarya of Sri Sri Visva Vaishnava Raja Sabha—I mean my eternal divine master, Om Visnupada Paramahansa Parivrajakacarya, Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja.
Sixty-two years ago, on this auspicious day, the acaryadeva made his appearance by the call of Thakura Bhaktivinoda at Sri Ksetra, Jagannatha Dhama at Puri. Gentlemen, the offering of such an homage as has been arranged this evening to the acaryadeva is not a sectarian concern, for when we speak of the fundamental principle of gurudeva or acaryadeva, we speak of something that is of universal application. There does not arise any question of discriminating my guru from your’s or anyone else’s. There is only one guru, who appears in an infinity of forms to teach you, me, and all others. In the Mundaka Upanisad (1.2.12) it is said:
tad-vijnartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham
In order to learn the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth.
Thus it has been enjoined herewith that in order to receive that transcendental knowledge, one must approach the guru. Therefore, if the Absolute Truth is one, about which we think there is no difference of opinion, the guru cannot be two. The acaryadeva to whom we have assembled tonight to offer our humble homage is not the guru of a sectarian institution or one out of many differing exponents of the truth. On the contrary, he is the jagad-guru, or the guru of all of us: the only difference is that some obey him wholeheartedly, while others do not obey him directly. In the Bhagavatam (11.17.27) it is said:
acaryam mam vijaniyan
One should understand the spiritual master to be as good as I am. Nobody should be jealous of the spiritual master or think of him as an ordinary man, because the spiritual master is the sum total of all demigods.
That is, the acarya has been identified with God Himself. He has nothing to do with the affairs of this mundane world. He appears before us to reveal the light of the Vedas and to bestow upon us the blessing of full-fledged freedom, after which we should hanker at every step of our life’s journey.
The transcendental knowledge of the Vedas was first uttered by God to Brahma, the creator of this particular universe. From Brahma the knowledge descended to Narada, from Narada to Vyasadeva, from Vyasadeva to Madhva, and in this process of disciplic succession the transcendental knowledge was transmitted by one disciple to another till it reached Lord Gauranga, Sri Krishna Caitanya, who posed as the disciple and successor of Sri Isvara Puri. The present acaryadeva is the tenth disciplic representative from Sri Rupa Goswami, the original representative of Sri Caitanya who preached this transcendental tradition in its fullness.
The knowledge that we receive from our gurudeva is not different from that imparted by God himself and the succession of the acaryas in the preceptorial line of Brahma. We adore this auspicious day as Sri Vyasapuja-tithi because the acarya is the living representative of Vyasadeva, the divine compiler of the Vedas, Puranas, Bhagavad-gita, Mahabharata, and Srimad-Bhagavatam. We cannot know anything of the transcendental region by our limited, perverted method of observation and experiment. But all of us can lend our eager ears for the aural reception of the transcendental sound transmitted from that region to this, through the unadulterated medium of gurudeva or Sri Vyasadeva. Therefore, gentlemen, we should surrender ourselves today at the feet of the representative of Sri Vyasadeva for the elimination of all our differences bred by our unsubmissive attitude. It is accordingly said in the Bhagavad-gita(4.34):
tad viddhi pranipatena
upadeksyanti te jnanam
Just approach the wise and bona fide spiritual master. Surrender unto him first and try to understand him by inquiries and service. Such a wise spiritual master will enlighten you with transcendental knowledge, for he has already known the Absolute Truth.
To receive transcendental knowledge, we must completely surrender ourselves to the real acarya in a spirit of ardent inquiry and service. Actual performance of service to the Absolute under the guidance of the acarya is the only vehicle by which we can assimilate transcendental knowledge. Today’s meeting for offering our humble services and homage to the feet of the acaryadeva will enable us to be favored with the capacity of assimilating the transcendental knowledge so kindly transmitted by him to all persons without distinction.
Gentlemen, although it is imperfectly that we have been enabled, by his grace, to understand the sublime messages of our acaryadeva, we must admit that we have realized definitely that the divine message from his holy lips is the congenial thing for suffering humanity. All of us should hear him patiently. If we listen to the transcendental sound without unnecessary opposition, he will surely have mercy upon us. The acarya’s message is to take us back to our original home, back to God. Let me repeat, therefore, that we should hear him patiently, follow him in the measure of our conviction and bow down at his lotus feet for releasing us from our present causeless unwillingness for serving the Absolute and all souls. Sitting at the feet of the acaryadeva, let us try to understand from this transcendental source of knowledge what we are, what is this universe, what is God, and what is our relationship with him. The message of Sri Caitanya is the message for the living entities and the message of the living world. He did not bother himself for the upliftment of this dead world, which is suitably named martyaloka, the world where everything is destined to die. He appeared before us four hundred and fifty years ago to tell us something of the transcendental universe, where everything is permanent and everything is for the service of the Absolute. But recently Caitanya Mahaprabhu has been misrepresented by some unscrupulous persons, and the highest philosophy of the Lord has been misinterpreted to be the cult of the lowest type of society. We are glad to announce tonight that our acaryadeva, with his usual kindness, saved us from this horrible type of degradation, and therefore we bow down at his lotus feet with all humility. We are happy that we have been relieved of this horrible type of malady by the mercy of His Divine Grace. He is our “eye-opener,” our eternal father, our eternal preceptor, and our eternal guide. Let us therefore bow down at his lotus feet on this auspicious day.
Gentlemen, although we are like ignorant children in the knowledge of transcendence, still my gurudeva has kindled a small fire within us to dissipate the invincible darkness of empirical knowledge. We are now so much on the safe side that no amount of philosophical argument by the empiric schools of thought can deviate us an inch from the position of our eternal dependence on the lotus feet of His Divine Grace.
Gentlemen, had he not appeared before us to deliver us from the thralldom of this gross, worldly delusion, surely we should have remained for lives and ages in the darkness of helpless captivity. Had he not appeared before us, we would not have been able to understand the eternal truth of the sublime teaching of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Personally, I have no hope for any direct service of the coming crores of births in the sojourn of my life, but I am confident that some day or other I shall be delivered from this mire of delusion in which I am at present so deeply sunk. Therefore let me with all my earnestness pray at the lotus feet of my divine master to allow me to suffer the lot for which I am destined due to my past misdoings, but to let me have this power of recollection: that I am nothing but a tiny servant of the Almighty Absolute Godhead, realized through the unflinching mercy of my divine master. Let me therefore bow down at his lotus feet with all the humility at my command.
Abhay Charan Das
For Members, Sri Gaudiya Math, Bombay