Proximity to Sri Guru

famiglia_di_prabhupada7By B. R. Sridhara Deva Goswami

We can get benefit only through sraddha (divine faith). The position of Sri Guru should not be considered as mundane, it should not be identified with any mundane appearance. Only through sraddha are we able to approach the guru, from any distance. Still of course, by physical vicinity we can get the chance of hearing from him, and of witnessing many practical dealings that may help us on our path with the knowledge of Vaishnava sadhachar, what should be the conduct of a Vaishnava.

In this way we can have some sort of conception about these things, but sraddha must be there. Sraddha, or respectable faith, must be there in either case—physical closeness or distance is not the question. In the lower stage, physical nearness has more efficacy. By his movements, his talks, and his instructions we are to learn the spiritual etiquette, and many spiritual ideals which may also become clear in his company. So physical vicinity will be useful in the lower stage, but sraddha must be there otherwise we may become offensive.

Physical nearness devoid of faith may be the cause of offenses against Gurudeva. Sometimes the senior Godbrothers may be very helpful in our dealings with Gurudeva when we are beginners. Sri Gurudeva’s conduct may not always be very clear or helpful for us, so in that case some senior Godbrother may come to help us and explain his movements and do away with any difference we may see in him.

isvaranam vachah satyam tathaivacharitam kvachit
tesam yat svavacho yuktam buddhimams tat samacharet

“The instructions of the great personages are always true, but their conduct and their practices may not always be useful to the beginners. So the sober person will accept those practices that are backed by his words, understanding that in his higher stage he may do something which may not be useful to those of a lower stage.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.33.31)

He has such spiritual power that what may be seen as a defect in the beginner, cannot harm him in any way. Therefore the fair minded beginners will accept those practices which are in consonance with his instructions, as being useful to their progress. We should not imitate—not anukaran (imitation), but rather anusaran (to follow in the footsteps). We must understand the difference.

So faith or sraddha is the first thing necessary for us; then whether we are near or far from our spiritual guide, we can have his connection. Connection in the proper line, that is the vital point; the proper plane which is independent of gross or subtle animation. The energizing plane that stimulates our inquiry about our inner welfare, that is part and parcel of the quest. Brahma-jijnasa, the quest for the plane of understanding.

This has been given in Vedanta, and when it has come to Sriman Mahaprabhu in the line of Srimad Bhagavatam, it is developed to krsnanusandhan, the search for Sri Krsna. Vedanta is the flower, and Srimad-Bhagavatam is the ripe fruit of spiritual knowledge. That which is somewhat mixed with activity, yajna, etc, in this plane, is found in the Veda. When that flowers in Vedanta it becomes purely conscious inquiry: “Who am I, where am I, what am I?”

When the fruit is ripe that develops into utility; that is krsnanusandhan. In Vedanta the inquiry is about the infinite environment, where I am a part only , and in Srimad Bhagavatam, the nature of inquiry is more developed—krsnanusandhan—“Who is my master, who is my guide, for whom I am existing?” This is the plane of Srimad Bhagavatam, madly seeking, “With whom may I have the fulfillment of life? Where is that master of my heart?”

“I can’t continue without my Lord.” Mahaprabhu came with that krsnanusandhan, the ripe fruit of the Veda tree, the plane of Srimad Bhavagatam. Everywhere we are searching for rasa, for satisfaction. We may undertake this work or that, but the common factor is the quest for satisfaction. Sriman Mahaprabhu has given the plane of Bhagavatam, “Who can satisfy all the thirsts within me? “Where is my Lord, the fulfilment of my heart?”

Real inquiry must be for this only, otherwise your inquiry will never stop. When inquiry comes to this stage and we can have proper guidance then gradually we will be taken to him, our master. Who are you searching for, that rasa, that happiness, that pleasure? That is your master, your guardian. That is not your servant. It is not to come and satisfy you, with you as the master. It is everything to you.

Everything for which you are moving, this way and that, the goal of your inquiry, or whatever you are doing—that is the center. You are searching for fulfillment, and fulfillment in the highest stage means Krishna. Real search begins only when you come across the sat-guru, the krishna-bhakta. Earnest inquiry begins there. Pranipat, pariprasna, sevaya. You must be conscious that you are to be utilized by him, for whom you are searching. Only by seva, service, can you be admitted back into that world. From the very beginners stage it is sraddha, faith that can lead you to the great plane, the noble plane.

When I left the mission of my Guru Maharaja, after his disappearance, I came here quite helpless. I had to find my shelter and so I began to search the books which I had. What I received from my Guru Maharaja, I began to research the references in the scriptures. I tried to dive deep in there, to collect the very basis of real devotional life. I found that it is saranagati; and wherever I found the verses recommending and relating to that, I tried my best to collect them and compile the nectar in the life of one who has fully surrendered himself to the feet of God.

That is Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam. In my study I found that it has been mentioned that saranagati, surrender is alone sufficient to produce all sorts of development in bhakti. Nothing else is necessary. So try your best to stick to saranagati, and automatically everything will come to you from the other side. Your business will only be to adhere to saranagati to the most intense degree possible. Saranagati is enough, surrender, and without that no devotion, no bhakti, can stand.

The greatness and the substance of saranagati has been sung, praised, and appreciated in such a way. The surrendering temperament is the very basis. “I am for you. You may utilize me, or you may neglect me, still I am yours. You may accept or reject me, but you are my master. You are independent and may deal with me in any way you like. You can put me in eternal hell, or you can take me on your lap. You have every right over me.” With such heart we must approach the divine and the divine guide.

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6 Responses to Proximity to Sri Guru

  1. This article has so much in it. We could discuss this article, derived from the sayings of Srila Sridhar Maharaja, for several weeks I am sure, but unfortunately it will only get ONE DAY in the spotlight until it moves to the back pages of the web site.

    There are several issues and topics that the article could spark, unfortunately, my days of haggling over detailed discrepancies in the ways different devotees interpret different statements of Guru and Shastra are over for the most part.

    But, as far as the issue of Saranagati is concerned — the how, when, where and why of it seems to have gotten a lot more blurry since the passing of the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON.

    I think it would be safe to say that the Hare Krishna movement is in a mess that many of us could never have imagined back in the years when Srila Prabhupada was still personally present in ISKCON.

    • Prabhu, perhaps you could clarify your statement regarding the blurring of saranagati after Srila Prabhupada’s departure. Do you mean confusion amongst his followers about how to carry out his instructions or a lack of understanding on what the principle of saranagati is? Thank you.

    • But, as far as the issue of Saranagati is concerned — the how, when, where and why of it seems to have gotten a lot more blurry since the passing of the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON.

      This issue is universal and applies to all sadhakas, not just the ones associated with the mission you speak of. The answer is guru-parampara. If we are unable to access Sri Guru in the absence of our Gurudeva then the clarifying influence of continued revelation in the association of a mature saranagata (i.e., siksa) is required.

      I think it would be safe to say that the Hare Krishna movement is in a mess that many of us could never have imagined back in the years when Srila Prabhupada was still personally present in ISKCON.

      Fortunately the mess in a specific mission is not representative of all of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. The guru-parampara is alive and well. It’s up to us to search it out.

  2. The principles of saranagati are as clear as they ever were, if not more so. If not, the cause lies not in the passing of our beloved spiritual master, but because of the weakness of our own endeavor. Even Srila Sridhara Maharaja admits that leaving the Gaudiya Math left him feeling helpless. It’s this helplessness that can actualize our surrender. If we study books such as Sri Prapanna Jivanamritam and Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s songs of saranagati and follow where they lead, we may see the details of saranagati coming more clearly into view once more. What it boils down to is immersion in responsible service, whether it’s something we conceive ourselves or something that arises from our taking the company of surrendered souls in whom we have confidence. We need a little faith. That will help bring the rest in to focus.

    • My point about the how, where and why of Saranagati being blurry after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada was meaning that during the days of Srila Prabhupada it was easy to go into any ISKCON temple and feel that performing any service there was service to Srila Prabhupada.
      After his passing the atmosphere has changed and many of the old ISKCON devotees stopped serving in ISKCON because they were not convinced that there service was going to Srila Prabhupada and not someone they had little to no faith in.

      After the passing of Srila Prabhupada many devotees felt very skeptical about giving their hearts, minds and lives to ISKCON.
      I am not the only person who left ISKCON and ISKCON service due due a lack of faith that my efforts were going towards the service of Srila Prabhupada.

  3. Pranams… I have a question to all the disciples of Srila Prabhupada ‘in the know’…

    Did SP specifically ask the 11 authorized initiating gurus to play his Gayatri tape to the new brahmana initiates after his passing, or did he authorize the 11 to give Gayatri mantra directly to those disciples?

    Please forgive me for bringing up this issue here, but I am looking for some historical perspective from those who were around when the Transition took place.

    Your help will be greatly appreciated.

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