Who is Guru?

Today Swami Tripurari turned 66. We asked him to reflect on the role of sri guru, Sri Caitanya Sangha, and his own service to the guru-parampara.

By Swami Tripurari

In all earnestness I have been asked to write a short autobiographical sketch of my life. However, the writing of an autobiography goes somewhat against the grain of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

The great Gaudiya preceptor and authorized biographer of the life and teachings of Sri Caitanyadeva, Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, has taught us a valuable lesson in humility in his words,

mora nama sune yei tar punya ksaya
mora nama laya yei tara papa haya

Anyone who hears my name loses the results of his pious activities. Anyone who utters my name becomes sinful.

This intense humility is characteristic of Gaudiya Vaishnavas who aspire to be more humble than a blade of grass.

Nonetheless something must be said in order that the Godhead may be glorified in his merciful appearance as sri gurudeva. Service to sri guru is real service to Godhead. There is no more direct route. We have charted a course of independence that finds us dependent on material nature, which is inferior to our own constitution. It is dependence on sri gurudeva alone that can change our course.

But who is guru? Certainly not one who thinks himself to have so many servants. It is only by casting our glance upward in search of grace that we can gather the energy to act in the capacity of guru; whereas looking downward on others as objects of our enjoyment is the norm in this world. Here everyone is in search of servants and comforts, but we must keep our head up in serving spirit to do the work of guru. “No one is my servant and I am servant of all”: sri guru must think in this way.

The highly learned Uddhava was sent to Vrindavana to deliver Krishna’s message to the inhabitants and especially to the gopis. But it was he himself who was enlightened by the devotion of those village girls. The relationship between guru and sisya is not one sided—bhodayantas parasparam, mutually enlightening one another. The nature of the subject that unites them renders everyone students forever, for although prema is full, it is always increasing. Those who seek the help that they feel in dire necessity of, from everyone and everything, who are in search of truth alone, become the bearers of that truth. They can serve in the capacity of sri gurudeva. And it is sri gurudeva, the inspired side of the Vaishnava, to whom we offer our highest regard on the occasion of Vyasa Puja—the venerable appearance day of sri guru. It is not the worship of a mere man but of the divine dispensation coming to us through that agent. We celebrate that in this human birth such a wonderful thing has happened to us, we have met our saving grace—sri gurudeva.

Concerning my own birth I can honestly say,

om ajnana timirandasya
jnananjana salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri gurave namah

“I was born in the darkness of ignorance” and if there is any reason to take note of my life it is because “With the torch light of transcendental knowledge my spiritual master has forced open my eyes.”

On this very day, the eve of the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahprabhu, in the year 1972, I formally joined the mission of my eternal preceptor Om Vishnupada paramahamsa parivrajakacharya asttotara sata Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. This was the beginning of my life. From his lotus mouth I heard Krishna nama, and shortly thereafter Krishna mantra and the song of the twice-born. In 1975, in sacred Vrindavana dhama, he futher bestowed upon me the renounced order of life, sannyasa, and with it the order to embrace as my life’s mission sri gauravani pracarine.

It was with great courage that many of us had to face the events that surrounded his disappearance and the years that followed. In this connection, it was my good fortune that by his grace I was able to perceive the moon amongst the stars after the setting of Srila Prabhupada’s illuminating, radiant sunlike campaign. His Divine Grace B.R. Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja, that effulgent moon of pure devotion, has kindly seen to this soul’s care. He attended to the nourishing and protection of my bhakti creeper from the many adversaries and imposters of pure devotion that dotted the spiritual landscape. Only by the force of his additional inspiration was it possible for me to be so bold as to form the Sri Caitanya Sangha. Its success is entirely dependent upon the grace of Sri Guru and the Vaishnavas.

By now several students have not only joined the mission but have taken to heart the responsibility of seeing to its maintenance and expansion. Their ardent desire to serve the cause of pure devotion is noteworthy and it has been an ongoing source of encouragement for me. I am indebted to them just as they feel themselves to be indebted to me. Be one teacher or student—and it is expected that the disciple will eventually take the post of guru—Krishna is in the center. He alone is the master of all of us, with no exception.

We have no other business in this world save and except the service of Sri Krishna. That alone will bring good fortune to whomever comes across its path. Sri Caitanya Sangha is not a philanthropic organization, of which there are so many in this world. It is not epicurean or abjuratory in design. It is serving and dedicating in nature. It holds that service is its own reward and that the serving, dedicating spirit finds its fullest expression in the Krishna conception of Godhead. The byproduct of that serving spirit affords liberation from the very world of anomalies, which the altruist, taking pride in himself, seeks to remedy in a piecemeal fashion. He wants to preserve the world for his subsequent enjoyment. This is not devotion in as much as the object of “service” is other than devotion itself. Similarly the act of acquiring a result, even though the fruit may be offered to Godhead, is not an act of devotion. It is the very spirit of surrender behind an act that constitutes devotion.

There are many religious conceptions in the world. Most of them are concerned with uplifting the moral standards of society. They will be surprised to know that the Vaishnavas, although basically morally stout, also perceive as their goal a plane where moral convictions become an impediment to the free flow of unalloyed love. The Gaudiyas’ is not an advocacy of immorality as we know it, but the mere pointing out that morality, after all, pertains only to this world. And every religion teaches that this world is not our real home.

The revealed scriptures of the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage provide us with a wealth of information concerning the nature of our homeland. It is my hope that the members of Sri Caitanya Sangha will take courage from these scriptures and the examples of those who have gone before them and march on to meet the death of their own false sense of identity. Each and every member should remain alert in their search for fulfillment, and not allow the false spirit of enjoyment to overtake them in the name of rendering more service. The capacity to serve rests only on our sincerity of purpose. The chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna is our life’s breath, service to sri guru our heart’s healthy beat, and faith in both sri guru and Gauranga is our very soul.

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8 Responses to Who is Guru?

  1. Happy Birthday, Maharaja! Please accept my dandavat pranams and puspanjali at your lotus feet. Your deep understanding and practical application of Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta is an inspiration to all!

  2. I was also thinking what a fortunate tree to be growing next to you and providing you with some shade and fruit! Jaya Sri Guru and Gauranga.

  3. Inspiring to read this! Thank you for writing and sharing this with us.

    This is a powerful statement:

    “Each and every member should remain alert in their search for fulfillment, and not allow the false spirit of enjoyment to overtake them in the name of rendering more service. The capacity to serve rests only on our sincerity of purpose.”

    May I always remember that all that is needed and asked for is sincerity. No excuses left, just some introspection to do…


    Please accept my most humble dandavats. I knew 33yrs ago when I first heard you speak that you rang that bell inside of me that told me you were the one who could help me and teach me the way. Now in these last few years those bells are chiming in my self. Thank you Maharaj for your enlightenment.

  5. Maharaj,
    I apologize for not having said this earlier, when the article first appeared, but better late than never. I feel that it is spoken like a true guru, and I consider you the only one of my godbrothers about whom I can confidently say this.
    Pranams, Anandamaya das

  6. The mood of BR Sridhara Maharaja shines through in this nice article: not renunciation or enjoyment, but dedication. Dedication beyond mundane morality, leading to the death of the false ego. It’s frightening and attractive at the same time.


  7. Seva Kunja dasi

    I love this article so very much as i do all of your writings and talks. You are a truly wonderful shining example for all. I am holding on so very tightly. I am never letting go. Really I can’t thank you enough.

  8. guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya,
    ar na koriho mane asa
    sri-guru-carane-rati, ei se uttama-gati,
    je prasade pure sarva asa

    Make the teachings from the lotus mouth of the spiritual master one with your heart, and do not desire anything else. Attachment to the lotus feet of the spiritual master is the best means of spiritual advancement. By his mercy all desires for spiritual perfection are fulfilled.

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