Spiritual Progress

Q&A with Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj, originally published in the Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion, Volume 4.

Question: Can you explain further of what you mentioned recently, that in the devotee’s quest to become pure, he must go through numerous situations where he is accepting something higher and rejecting something lower: eliminating the lower conception and accepting the higher conception?

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: Those are different stages of that misunderstanding, different strata. Sādhana means progress, which means eliminating something and inviting something higher. In this way, the process is there, and that may be quick in a certain case and slow in another. It may be slow or rapid, but we are to pass through different stages according to the intensity of illusion.

Question: What is the determining factor as to whether we pass through such a stage slowly or quickly?

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: That will depend upon the sukṛti and the sat-saṅga. There will be some conscious help and some previous underground help. Ajñāta-sukṛti is when unconsciously, unknown benefit has come to me. Whereas, jñāta-sukṛti is when consciously some benefit comes through the association of the sādhu, the saint. And that sādhu also may be of different types.

Question: I don’t understand. The sādhu may be of different types?

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: There are different types of sādhus. We have freedom of cooperation and association with a particular section, and the outcome of that depends also on the quality of whom we associate with.

Question: So, spiritual life is one where we are accepting a new concept and eliminating old concepts?

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: There is classification of misconception: Bhū, Bhuva, Sva, Maha, Jana, Tapa, Satya. There is so much gradation within the plane of misconception. And within that, there are so many subdivisions, such as insects, trees, and animals. But at the same time, we shall think that a tree might have advanced in the nirguṇa, whereas a man might not. Misconception may be so hopelessly peculiar in a man that it will take time to cure him. At the same time, the mental system of a tree or an animal may be more advanced towards service, though its present situation is very lamentable.

Question: Does the acceptance and elimination of concepts include the sādhu-saṅga that we accept and eliminate there also?

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: Yes. In sādhu-saṅga, there are so many considerations: the type of sādhu, the cooperating tendency, also the backing of previous sukṛti. There are many things to be taken into calculation.

adhiṣṭānaṁ tathā kartā karaṇañ cha pṛthag-vidham
vividhāś cha pṛthak cheṣṭā daivañ chaivātra pañchamam

Bhagavad-gītā 18.14

With the help of these five factors, all actions are effected: “The body, ego (in the form of the knot of spirit and matter), the separate senses, the different endeavours, and destiny, or the intervention of the Supreme Universal Controller.”

It is not that just one incident is the cause, but there are so many circumstantial things coming together that cause a particular event. Any event is the combination of many things—his free will, his previous background, his present association, his nature—all these things have got their contribution for his progress. Circumstance can contribute much. It is not limited only to the free will of the man who wants progress.

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