Sastriya Sadhu-sanga

paramgurudevaBy Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami

cintamanir jayati somagirir gurur me
siksa-gurus ca bhagavan sikhi-pincha-maulih yat-pada-kalpataru-pallava-sekharesu lila-svayamvara-rasam labhate jayasrih

“All glories to Cintamani, and my initiating spiritual master, Somagiri. All glories to my instructing spiritual master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who wears peacock feathers in his crown. Under the shade of his lotus feet, which are like desire trees, Jayasri enjoys the transcendental mellow of an eternal consort.” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.57)

All glories to he whom Sri Krishna, the beloved life and soul of Sri Radha, considers to be more dear than his own life. All glories to he who is nayantara, the star of the eye of Sri Radha, who is the all in all of Sri Krishna. All glories to that personality who is the eternal companion of Sri Gauranga and Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, and who is the only friend, shelter, and very life and existence of fallen souls like me. All glories to Sri Gurudeva, my eternal master, who is the eternally worshipable lord of my heart, the deliverer of the fallen, the most magnanimous, and an ocean of compassion. All glories to that wish-fulfilling jewel (cintamani svarupa) Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, the personal associate of Gaura and Radha (gaura-radhe nijajana), the dust of whose lotus feet alone is the object of my constant longing and is my supreme necessity. May that prabhu, who does not see the faults of others (adosa darsi), and who is the friend of the destitute and lowly (dina bandhu), cast his merciful glance upon me. By his own qualities may he forgive the offenses of a fallen offender like me, thus giving me the opportunity of his eternal service. This is my only prayer and submission at his lotus feet.

I am ignorant, blind and fallen. I do not know, nor have I tried to know, what is auspicious and what is inauspicious. However, my sri guru-pada-padma came from Goloka to this world only to help me. His heart was afflicted with the burden of distress upon seeing my averse nature, and after some time he returned to his eternal abode. He alone mercifully made people like me, who were blinded with ignorance, acquainted with the fact that there is no other means of welfare besides sadhu-sanga, and no way to attain the mercy and service of Bhagavan other than by obtaining sadhu-seva and sadhu-krpa.

Only those who are fully dedicated to Bhagavan (bhagavadanugat) and exclusively surrendered to Krishna (krsnaika-sarana) are sadhus. The association of such sadhus is the only desirable thing for us because it alone bestows the highest welfare. In one sense, only sadhus are the life of one’s very life. No one is my friend and supreme well-wisher besides the sadhus, or the bhaktas of Gaurasundara. By my gurudeva‘s grace I have received the opportunity to hear such an auspicious message. I have not only obtained the opportunity to hear from him but also to associate with him, which is rarely attained even by the demigods, as well as to associate with his nija-janas, personal associates. It is only because of this that a fallen and degraded person like me became successful. Thus, how can I find any shelter or support other than by praying for mercy at the lotus feet of my prabhu, the deliverer of the fallen and the friend of the world? I pray to him, folding my hands and bowing down my head.

adadanas trnam dantair idam yace punah punah
srimad-rupa-padambhoja-dhulih syam janma janmani

“This fallen soul stands with a straw in his teeth and ceaselessly begs to attain the dust of the lotus feet of Srimad Rupa Gosvami birth after birth.” (Sri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s Sri Dana-keli Cintamani 175)

There is no means for us to attain the highest welfare other than through sadhu-sanga, and therefore it is instructed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.26.26):

tato duhsangam utsrjya
satsu sajjeta buddhiman
santa evasya chindanti
mano-vyasangam uktibhih

“An intelligent person should therefore reject all bad association and instead take up the association of saintly devotees, whose words cut off the excessive attachment of one’s mind.”

One should take sat-sanga, giving up all types of asat-sanga. By the influence of, in other words, by the sharp words emanating from the pure devotees’ lotus mouths, the hidden fantasy of the mind in the form of desires for sense enjoyment, and also the covered desires for sense enjoyment in the form of desire for renunciation, are dispelled from the heart forever. There will be no path to attain auspiciousness and bhagavat-priti, if one becomes indifferent towards such sadhu-sanga and sadhu-seva. Although such sadhu-sanga is extremely rare, it is not completely unattainable for one who prays for it without duplicity, with sincerity, and with the knowledge that it is very difficult to receive the association of a sadhu in this world of asadhus (non-devotees). Bhagavan mercifully appears in this world to give his sanga, and sometimes he sends his dear associates. We see in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:

sadhu paiya kasta bada jivera janiya
sadhu-guru rupe krsna aila nadiya

“Knowing that it is very difficult for a jiva to come across a sadhu, Krishna Himself appeared, as a sadhu and guru in Nadiya.”

sri-krsna-caitanya ara prabhu nityananda
yanhara prakase sarva jagat ananda

“The appearance of Sri Krishna Caitanya and Prabhu Nityananda has surcharged the world with happiness.” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.87)

dui bhai hrdayera ksali’ andhakara
dui bhagavata-sange karana saksatkara

“These two brothers (Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda) dissipate the darkness of the inner core of the heart, and thus they help one meet the two kinds of bhagavatas (persons or things in relationship with the Personality of Godhead).” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.98)

eka bhagavata bada—bhagavata-sastra
ara bhagavata—bhakta bhakti-rasa-patra

“One of the bhagavatas is the great scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the other is the pure devotee absorbed in the mellows of loving devotion.” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.99)

dui bhagavata dvara diya bhakti-rasa tanhara hrdaye tanra preme haya vasa

“Through the actions of these two bhagavatas, the Lord instills the mellows of transcendental loving service into the heart of a living being, and thus the Lord, in the heart of his devotee, comes under the control of the devotee’s love.” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.100)

There are two types of sadhus: sastras (scriptures) and bhaktas (devotees). Both of these perform kirtana; that is, both can glorify the topics of Bhagavan and his bhaktas. Sastras and bhaktas are the only friends and well-wishers of the jivas, and therefore they are the very life of the jivas. Those who are intelligent, who always engage in the search for truth and the path of eternal well-being, cannot live without the association of sadhus and sastras. With firm vows, they follow sadacara, conduct leading to truth, in the form of steadfastly rejecting asat-sanga and eagerly taking sat-sanga. Therefore, they always endeavor to have the sanga of bhakta-bhagavata. In the absence of sadhu-sanga, they take the association of sastra.

The conscious entity, or jiva, cannot live without association throughout the twenty-four hours. If one does not always have sadhu-sanga both externally and internally, he will surely have to accept asat-sanga.

When at any time the sanga of the bhagavata (bhakta) is not available to us, what other means remains for our auspiciousness than accepting sastriya sadhu-sanga? Our intelligence cannot be firmly fixed in Krishna without sadhu-sanga. Therefore, what benefit will we derive through sense enjoyment performed on the pretense of service that is devoid of the guidance of sadhu and sastra? What benefit will there be by remaining indifferent to sadhu-sanga, wherein sat-siddhanta is discussed?

The sanga or anugatya of the sadhu is service indeed. The hari-katha emanating from the lotus mouth of the sadhu, his sastra-katha, alone attracts us towards the lotus feet of Hari, guru, and Vaisnavas. Therefore, those who are intelligent always keep their minds and life absorbed in the discussion and service of the katha of sadhu and sastra. We certainly invite inauspiciousness by showing indolence towards such discussion.

Our previous acarya Srila Kaviraja Gosvami Prabhu has said in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:

siddhanta baliya citte na kara alasa
iha ha-ite krsne lage sudrdha manasa

“A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one’s mind becomes attached to Sri Krishna.” Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 2.117)

Hari, guru, and Vaisnava – these are all adhoksaja, beyond the mundane realm, and are nitya-sevya vastu, eternally the objects of our service. Their conscious and spiritually enlivening words alone are sastra. Therefore, the sastras are also adhoksaja and nitya. Not knowing this, if we consider sastra, Sri Murti, Sri Nama and Sri Vaisnava as entities of the mundane realm composed of five elements, and thus neglect them, we will surely be drowned in the mud of offenses and will remain deprived of their service. If we fail to cultivate and discuss the topics of sadhu and sastra, then, being overpowered by the urge of speech, we will be unable to restrain ourselves from discussing the unreal topics of this world, either openly or secretly. Therefore, it is imperative for an intelligent person to endeavor to hear the glories of sastra from devotees who are well-versed in their imports, even if he himself has no desire to discuss sastra.

One gradually develops ruci for chanting Sri Nama by faithfully chanting with great respect and sraddha. Similarly, one develops firm faith and ruci in the statements of scriptures by regularly discussing scripture under the guidance of sadhu and guru. At that time, the jiva acquires the fortune of realizing sastras to be his shelter and very life. At that time he cannot live without the association of the book bhagavata and devotee bhagavata, and their association becomes the only object of his prayers and discussion.

We do not always get the association of living sadhus. Therefore, supremely compassionate Prabhupada, my Acaryadeva, mercifully wrote to his followers:

“Without performing hari-bhajana, a jiva will become a karmi, a jnani, and anyabhilasi, covetous for motives other than Krishna. One should therefore constantly call Bhagavan by chanting the maha-mantra. By loudly performing kirtana of krsna-nama, maintaining a fixed number of rounds, one becomes free from anarthas and his mundane propensities will be dispelled.

Sastriya sadhu-sanga is proper. In other words, in the beginning stage of one’s sadhana, a sadhaka must keep himself confined within the standards of vaidhi-bhakti set by sadhus in sastra. Afterwards, for the purpose of bhajana-siksa, one is at liberty for sadhu-sanga. When one reaches the higher stage of raganuga bhajana, then he can approach a svajatiya-asya-snigdha sadhu for bhajana-siksa and perform his bhajana under his guidance and instructions, which may be independent from the norms of any sastra.

“You should attentively study the spiritual magazines. As you get time you must study and discuss Kalyana kalpataru, Prarthana, Caitanya-caritamrta, and so on. You will be able to attain all perfection by offenselessly chanting. Sri Nama reveals himself when one hears, studies and discusses sastra. The anarthas that you have at present will not become intense if you intensely perform sravana and kirtana.”

Krishna-kirtana alone is the jivasdharma, constitutional occupation. This krishna-kirtana is of four kinds—nama-sankirtana, rupa-sankirtana, guna-sankirtana and kiparikara-vaisistamaya-lila kirtana (kirtana of pastimes saturated with the specialty of Krishna’s associates). We are ignorant about Krishna, and therefore to perform krishna-kirtana, which is the sole occupation of the jiva, is impossible for us. Therefore, Sri Vedavyasa, being overwhelmed with mercy towards foolish jivas like us, has composed Srimad-Bhagavatam for our welfare. By discussing this paramahamsi-samhita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, bhakti towards Purusottama Krishna at once appears and dispels lamentation, delusion and fear. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, the crest jewel of muktas, liberated persons, studied this Srimad-Bhagavatam from Srila Vedavyasa.

Bhagavan himself sends sastras in the form of sadhu and guru, because we are forgetful of Krishna. Is our path of auspiciousness then not obstructed if we do not respect or show eagerness to discuss such sastras, which are full of auspiciousness and which were written and composed only for our welfare? Being completely unaware of these facts, is it proper for us to make sarcastic remarks towards those who are following their lives according to sastra and sadhus, those who are well-versed in bhakti-siddhanta, and those who hold gurudeva more dear than their own self?

For the welfare of the jivas, the bhaktas have painstakingly and with great difficulties written sastras. If, however, we do not discuss and study them, are we not guilty of the fault of neglect? Those who have priti (love) for Hari, guru and vaisnavas cannot live without priti for sastras. In other words, they will surely have priti for sastras also. Srila Kaviraja Goswami Prabhu has given us specific instructions for discussing Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and other scriptures. A wise person should certainly discuss all these topics.

maya-mugdha jivera nahi svatah krsna-jnana
jivere krpaya kaila krsna veda-purana

“The conditioned soul cannot revive his Krishna consciousness by his own effort. Therefore, by his causeless mercy, Lord Krishna compiled the Vedic literature and its supplements, the Puranas.” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.122)

‘sastra-guru-atma’-rupe apanare janana
‘krsna mora prabhu, trata’—jivera haya jnana

“The forgetful conditioned soul is educated by Krishna through the Vedic literatures, the realized spiritual master and the Supersoul. Through these, he can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as he is, and he can understand that Lord Krishna is his eternal master and deliverer from the clutches of maya. In this way, one can acquire real knowledge of his conditioned life and can come to understand how to attain liberation.” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.123)

sadhu-sastra-krpaya yadi krsnonmukha haya
sei jiva nistare, maya tahare chadaya

“If the conditioned soul becomes Krishna conscious by the mercy of saintly persons who voluntarily preach scriptural injunctions and help him to become Krishna conscious, the conditioned soul is liberated from the clutches of maya, who gives him up.” (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.120)

In this world there is immense facility to hear mundane talks, but there is great scarcity of hari-katha. Therefore, everyone should become eager to hear hari-katha – in other words, to discuss sastra. This is my prayer to everyone.

Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 10, Issue 11 by the Rays of The Harmonist team. Published in English for the first time in Rays of The Harmonist No. 9 Winter 2001

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