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(The following discourse was spoken by Shrila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada in the Sarasvata Natya-mandira, Shri Gaudiya Matha, at 6:00 pm in the evening of Shri Radhastami, September 19th, 1931)
There is one personality whose name is not referred to in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, yet the readers of Shrimad Bhagavatam nuture the hope of becoming that person's devoted servant. May that personality, who is everything to Bhagavan, completely destroy our false-ego and grant us shelter at Her feet.
Today is Her appearance day. Having accrued all varieties of compassion from Bhagavan, she distributes that as gifts to all. May that personification of great mercy manifest within our hearts and make Her appearance there. May Her appearance day be the concern of our adoration.
Generally we hear that the whole world is maintained by Govinda. Many people discuss about Govinda in this way. Yet there is one whom Govinda Himself considers as His sarvasva – His all in all. Without taking shelter of that personality, we will not be able to comprehend what sarvasva actually means. The word sva means 'one's own', and sva also means 'treasure.' Sva means Govinda's own and also one who is Govinda's treasure. She is the complete wealth of Govinda – the wealth of the wealth of Govinda. She is Govinda's sarvasva-vastu. When we make Her our worshippable object, then we will understand the actual meaning of worship.
All the sastras loudly proclaim that those things in relation to Bhagavan are the objects of worship. Apart from Him, no one else can be worthy of the word aradhya (worship). At present we are bound by ignorance and we have forsaken our search, cheating ourselves out of attaining prema. At the time when anarthas arise, we mistake Him for something else. Our ultimate goal is artha (that which is necessary), the opposite of which is anartha. If we do not serve those innermost necessary ideals, or perfections that are available to us, and if we do not gain instructions on the matter of service, then we will be ruled by our own false-ego, rendering service unto something else other than that which is actually worthy of service.
Only divine love for God is worthy of worship. Understanding this point clearly, we live with the fervent hope that we will eventually be counted amongst Her retinue. Otherwise, it is better for us to die thousands of times.
asa-bharair amrta-sindhu-mayaih kathancit
kalo-mayatigamitah kila sampratam hi
tvan cet krpam mayi vidhasyasi naiva kim me
pranair-vrajena ca varoru bakarinapi
"O Varoru, my beautiful, most magnanimous Goddess, my heart is flooded with an ocean of nectarean hopes. I have somehow been passing my time until now eagerly longing for Your grace, which is an ocean of ever cherished nectar. If still you do not bestow Your mercy on me then of what use to me are my life, the land of Vraja or even Shri Krsna who without You, is simply a mighty hero the destroyer of demoniac forces like Baka." (Vilapa-kusumanjali 102)
ha natha gokula-sudhakara su-prasanna
vaktraravinda madhura-smita he krpardra
yatra tvaya viharate pranayaih priyarat
tatraiva mam api naya priya-sevanaya
"O Lord, O ambrosial moon of Gokula, O Lord whose beautiful face is like a lotus flower, O sweetly smiling one, O You who are soft and compassionate, so I may render service unto You, please take me to where Your beloved sports in loving pastimes with You." (Vilapa-kusumanjali 100)
This is the devotee's only desirable hope – when will that ocean of nectarean hope bear fruit? I believe it is imperative that I maintain my life because of that hope. But because our eagerness does not increase, that hope is not completely attained – that hope is not fruitful. If that hope is not fulfilled today, if today Govinda's sarvasva does not manifest in our hearts, then we have been deceived. You will not be able to find anyone more unfortunate than us in the history of the world. If we are cheated out of serving that personality whose mercy awards us everything we need, including residence in the Lord's holy dhama, and all things connected to Him, and if we cannot understand Her identity or discover Her within the 18,000 verses of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, then our study of the Shrimad Bhagavatam has been pointless.
Being intimately acquainted with Her identity, Shri Gaurasundara has spoken to us on the topic of unnata-ujjvala-rasa (the highest mellows of conjugal love) , explaining the various ways of serving the Lord and the process of pure service. It is only because He spoke to us about ujjvala-rasa that we may understand the topic, as well as the opposite – the meager splendor of material rasa.
In order to incite us to render service unto Him, Bhagavan has personally given us knowledge of Himself in so many ways. However it is necessary that we fully understand that personality who has rendered such perfect service to Bhagavan that He has made Her the object of His own service. Those who praise Her can award us the qualification to serve Her and they can manifest anuraga (attachment) for Her lotus feet within our innermost heart. The intelligence and strength to serve Her is attained by accepting the association of Her beloved friends who are under Her shelter – in this way we may realize that service to Her is our highest objective.
When we can understand, through the instructions of the mahajanas, that She is Bhagavan's sarvasva, we must proceed to serve Her, knowing that the prosperity of worship only exists in Her. From this day forward, Her appearance day, if we engage in Her service then we shall become qualified to reach the pinnacle of the highest type of auspiciousness.
All of us do not pray for that highest auspiciousness. But if by some ajnata-sukrti we obtain the association of one of the associates of Vrsabhanu-nandini, who is the personification and source of supreme auspiciousness, and if we are granted the actual good fortune of hearing genuine discussions about Her, then we can attain the inspiration to journey along the path of highest auspiciousness.
If we deprive ourselves of rendering service to and taking shelter of She who means everything to Nanda-nandana, the emporium of rasa (akhila-rasamrta-murti) as well as Her associates, then we will never attain the qualification to serve Govinda. Firstly, to understand Her identity, we believe that it is necessary to know Her name. But while studying the Bhagavata we cannot find any occurrence of Her name, we only find descriptions of Her form, qualities, the distinctive characteristics of Her companions and Her pastimes. In Bhagavatam, we find everything about Govinda's all in all, with the exception of Her name. But we discover this in the verses of Shrimad Bhagavatam:
jnanam me paramam-guhyam yad vijnana-samanvitam
sarahasyam tad-anganca grhana gaditam maya
"To be merciful upon you I will teach you the most esoteric knowledge of Me, including the realization of My nature and entourage, the inconceivable mystery of loving devotion or prema-bhakti, and its constituent part in the form of devotional practice or sadhana-bhakti. Now hear My message attentively, and accept what I impart to you." (Bhag.2.9.30)
kalena nasta pralaye vaniyam veda-samjnita
mayadau brahmane prokta dharmo yasyam mad-atmakah
tena prokta sva-putraya manave purva-jaya sa
tato bhrgv-adayo 'grhnan sapta brahma-maharsayah
"The message of the Vedas is eternal religion, non-different from Me. When in the course of time those eternal teachings disappeared from view with the universal cataclysm, I imparted them to Lord Brahma at the dawning of a new creation." (Bhag 11.14.3)
The Lord explained all these topics to Brahma, the original person, but after some time the people of this world forgot the Lord's words because the stream of their thoughts were subjected to the effects of old age and destruction.
jnanam parama-guhyam me yad vijnana-samanvitam
sarahasyam tad-anganca grhana gaditam maya
"As I speak, listen to Me and try to understand. Knowledge about Me is extremely confidential." That knowledge is endowed with realization, it is knowledge possessed with confidentiality – it is the supreme secret. Rahasya means rahasi sthitah – this means that those secrets cannot be assimilated by any external force, nor can any branch of those secrets be grasped. Due to the currents of thought that exist in the external world, we have forgotten the essential objective of taking shelter at the feet of those who have true knowledge of the atma. Bhagavan is ever ready to bestow this knowledge.
Bhagavan told Brahma: "As I speak, listen to Me and try to understand. Without My mercy no one is eligible to hear or assimilate this message. Only through My mercy can anyone obtain this confidential knowledge. What am I? What is My form? What is My svarupa? What are My qualities? What are the distinctive characteristics of My confidantes? What is My lila? My supramundane pastimes that are surcharged with rasa far exceed the path of mundane sentiments. There is no way to attain this without the potency of My mercy. I am the storehouse of all transcendental qualities – I am not speaking about those qualities that are contaminated with the modes of passion and ignorance, but of those that are the foundation for creating, maintaining and destroying the universe. I am distinguished by these attributes and I am the active cause of all effects, thus I am the essential original principle. This can only be realised by attaining My mercy." In this way the words mad-anugraha (My mercy) have been used. Information concerning Bhagavan's parts and parcels, information on confidential topics related to Him, information concerning realized knowledge – specifically that which is endowed with spiritual consciousness, and information concerning His opulence – these are all supremely confidential and non-dualistic. It can never be initiated at any period or for any reason without the express mercy of the Lord. This secret knowledge is thoroughly expressed in the beginning of the catuh-sloki verses of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. We are most fortunate that Shri Gaurasundara has revealed this to the world. A secret topic has been mentioned, but the name of that personality about whom this secret is concerned has not been uttered. Because it is a secret, it should not be revealed to those advocating foolish ideologies and thus it has not been openly disclosed. After hearing the pastimes of Nanda-nandana as narrated in the Bhagavata, such people do not gain strong faith, and rejecting all these topics they simply deliberate upon the impersonal non-dual nature of the Lord, which is favorable to their mundane realisations. Some of them consider it reasonable to merge into that. Without hearing from a proper source, their perceptions will be perverted. Due to their vehement hatred of service to the Lord, such persons can never understand topics concerning the intrinsic nature of bhakti. Due to the trajectory of the sun, the appearance day of the Supreme Goddess who is fully imbued with rasa, has arisen in our own radiantly pure hearts. The roaming sun is revealing that Supreme Goddess. Therefore, today the demigods are also showing us great favour by revealing this secret.
It is our duty to surrender unto one who is acquainted with that secret. A poet by the name of Manohara Dasa has said:
radha-pada-pankaja bhakata ki asa
dasa manohara kara ta 'piyasa
"The hope of the devotees is that they may serve the lotus feet of Shrimati Radharani. This is also Manohara Dasa's desire."
The exclusive aspiration of the greatest devotees of the Lord is service to the lotus feet of Radha:
Shri radha-pada-dasyam-eva paramabhistam hrda dharayan
karhi syam tad-anugrahena paramadbhutanuragotsavah
"When will I relish that most wonderful festival of attachment to the lotus feet of Shri Radha by holding that most supreme desire of serving the Divine Couple, within my heart?" (Radha-rasa-sudhanidhi 259)
In his asta-padis, Shri Jayadeva has said:
kamsarir-api samsara-vasana-bandha srnkhalam
radham adhaya hrdaye tatyaja vraja-sundarih
"The enemy of Kamsa (Shri Krsna) abandoned the other beautiful damsels of Vraja and took Radha within His heart, for she was like a chain that tied him tightly to his supreme and essential desire to enjoy the rasa dance." (Gita-govinda 3.1)
At the rasa-sthali all the gopis are present with Gopinatha, absorbed in playful pastimes of rasa. When Varsabhanavi (Shrimati Radharani) arrived at the rasa-sthali, She saw that unlimited gopis were dancing in a circle, all of them fully occupied in serving the Lord. Feeling sorrow within Her mind, the daughter of Vrsabhanu Maharaja thought, "Today My Krsna is in the hands of others! Today My own associates are busy enjoying pastimes with Him!" Thus, to nurture vipralambha-bhava – which actually nourishes sambhoga-rasa – rather than taking part, Varsabhanavi ran away from the rasa-sthali. At this point Jayadeva Prabhu has written, "Krsna, the enemy of Kamsa, suddenly broke away from the rasa-sthali." Samsara-vasana-bandha srnkhalam – with thoughts of Radha in His heart, Krsna abandoned all the other beautiful damsels of Vraja. When someone rejects the shelter of Radhika, any expertise they may have in pleasing the senses of Krsna can never conform with exclusive heartfelt service to Him. All the gopis are direct expansions of Radhika, and while they remain proudly under the shelter of Krsna's sarvasva, Shrimati Radhika, they can supply Krsna the topmost pleasure:
Shriman rasa-rasarambhi vamsi-vata-tata-sthitah
karsan venu-svanair gopir gopinathah Shriye 'stu nah
(Cc. Adi 1.17)
Shrimad Gopinatha nurtures the mellows that manifests during the rasa-lila. Standing at the shore near Vamsi-vata, He attracts all the gopis by the sound of His flute. May He grant us all auspiciousness.
We will never assent to enjoying Shri Krsna (sambhoga) without taking shelter of She who is His all in all. To shed light on this, the author of the asta-padi reveals something that supplements the description in the Bhagavata when he says, tatyaja-vraja-sundarih – as all the gopis danced in the rasa-lila, Krsna abandoned them in order to find Shri Radhika who resided in His heart. The fetters of the love of all the other gopis are powerless, weak and susceptible in comparison to the bonds of Varsabhanavi which are extremely strong and powerful. All the gopis took shelter of Vrsabhanu-nandini's adhirudha-mahabhava – overwhelmed by mohana, madana and other intense feelings of separation, they went to find Krsna. They all understood that without taking shelter at the lotus feet of Varsabhanavi, Govinda's sarvasva, madhura-rasa is never completely nourished. All the loving sentiments with which the various gopis perform their services, simultaneously exist in Varsabhanavi exclusively in their entirety. Deserting all the other gopis, who were immersed in feelings of prositabharttrka etc. Krsna was attracted by Varsabhanavi's captivating charms, since She possesses all these loving sentiments in full. Thus He set out to find that personality who even attracts the all-attractive One. The gopis are expansions of Radhika and are eternally a portion of She who is the original source – they could not bind Krsna, for He completely belonged to Radhika. Thus She enticed Krsna, who attracts everyone, from the rasa-sthali. One can only understand such topics if the functions of the soul have awakened to the taste of madhura-rati (divine love). But those whose hearts contain an intense mood of vatsalya-rasa can also completely appreciate the sweetness and beauty of such pastimes.
All the gopis came to participate at the rasa-sthali, attracted by Krsna and charmed by the sweet sound of His flute. Again, when Varsabhanavi, the complete embodiment of madhura-rati, desired to offer service, then the object of our service Nanda-nandana Gopinatha Radha-ramana discarded the general attraction of all the other gopis and was captivated by Shri Varsabhanavi's charm. He who is most attractive became attracted. Therefore, when liberated jivas attain the eligibility to fathom Radhika's identity, they consider the following:
karmibhyah parito hareh priyataya vyaktim yayur jnanina
stebhyo jnana-vimukta-bhakti-paramah premaika-nisthas tatah
tebhyas tah pasu-pala-pankajadrsas tabhyo 'pi sa radhika
prestha tadvad iyam tadiya-sarasi tam nasrayet kah krti
"The jnanis have attained the distinction of being dearer to Lord Hari than those who follow the path of karma. Even dearer to the Lord are those who have abandoned knowledge, understanding that the path of bhakti is higher. Even more superior are those who have attained love for Krsna. The gopis are most exalted of all, and amongst them Shri Radhika is certainly the dearmost of Shri Krsna. And Radha-kunda is as dear to Krsna as She is. Therefore, which fortunate soul will not take shelter of Radha-kunda?" (Shri Upadesamrta 10)
krsnasyoccaih pranaya-vasatih preyasibhyo 'pi radha
kundam casya munibhir abhitas tadrg eva vyadhayi
yat presthair apy alam asulabham kim punar bhakti-bhajam
tat premedam sakrd api sarah snatur aviskaroti
"It has been established by great sages that amongst all the beloved Vraja-Gopis, Shri Radha is Krsna's most treasured object of love. Similarly, Her kunda is just as dear to Him. One who bathes even once in the waters of Radha-kunda attains love for Krsna which is extremely difficult to achieve even for great devotees, what to speak of ordinary devotees." (Shri Upadesamrta 11)
Shri Radhika is the abode of Shri Krsna's intense love, and amongst all other dear associates, She is the most illustrious and the most beloved in all respects. Uddhava and other great devotees pray for the dust of the feet of the gopis, and all the gopis consider themselves most fortunate if they obtain Her shelter. The topmost devotees, who are drawn towards madhura-rasa and who have reached the topmost levels of devotion to Bhagavan, take refuge in the land of Varsabhanavi's pleasure pastimes and bathe in Her lake, Radha-kunda. With a sentient attitude they constantly bathe and reside there. Those who have loyalty towards Saibya and Candra do not even have the qualification to drink there. To constantly reside on the banks of that lake and to bathe there with a mindful attitude is not achieved by any common, fortunate person. So long as the divinity of Varsabhanavi's youth and nature does not become the subject of our reflection, we will never fully comprehend the glories of achieving Her shelter.
In order to perform bhajana, it is essential for the students of the Bhagavata to know Her Name. Bhajana begins with nama. One cannot begin bhajana starting with lila.
prathamam namnah sravanam-antah-karana-suddhyartham-apeksyam. Suddhye cantah-karane rupa-sravanena tad-udaya-yogyata bhavati. Samyag-udite ca rupe gunanam sphuranam sampadyate sampanne ca gunanam sphurane parikara-vaisistyena tad-vaisistyam sampadyate. Tatas tesu nama-rupa-guna-parikaresu samyak sphuritesu lilanam sphuranam susthu bhavatity-abhipretya sadhana-kramo likhitah.
"For the purification of the heart it is necessary first of all to listen to the chanting of the Holy Name. After the heart has been purified by listening to the Holy Name the fitness for the manifestation of the holy Form is attained on hearing the recital of scriptural accounts of the divine form. After the full appearance of the divine form, the divine qualities manifest themselves. After the appearance of the divine qualities, due to the characteristic traits of servitors, the knowledge of the distinctive and perfect identification of the devotee arises. Subsequent to this, after the full manifestation of the Name, form, quality and servitor has taken place, the transcendental activity of God manifests itself. For this reason this account of the successive stages of sadhana is written." (Krama-sandarbha commentary on Shrimad Bhagavatam 7.5.18)
Therefore, if our contemplation on rasa is not born from an attraction to the Holy Name, then we are not qualified to study Bhagavan's form, qualities and pastimes. Some may have attained external, mundane perfection in grammar, however, as long as their conduct conflicts with that of realized souls, the topic of the Lord's rasa-lila will never be grasped by them. For this reason, Shri Gaurasundara has explained nama-bhajana. Along with the taraka-brahma-nama (the Divine Name that grants deliverance) we find the word 'hare' and if one does not understand the primary meaning (vidvad-rudhi) of this word, there will be difficulty. Even when we consider the word 'rama,' many times we are compelled by historical concerns. Repeatedly, allegorical and metaphysical theories, as well as the fictitious notion of imposing human nature upon the Supreme Lord ruin our pure intelligence. Those who lack rahasya-jnana (knowledge of confidential truths) and try to be an intermediary for darsana of Radha-Govinda, will finds that knowledge concealed from them. In the maha-mantra, the word 'Hara' which denotes Varsabhanavi, becomes the word 'Hare' in sambodhanatmaka-pada (the vocative case). In the maha-mantra, the word 'Rama' refers to Radhika-ramana Rama in the vocative case. Those who have not achieved the qualification to enter into madhura-rati and have not obtained rahasya-jnana consider that 'Hare' is simply the vocative form of Hari. Some even say that the word 'rama' means atma-rama (one who is self-satisfied) and go no further than that.
To declare that Purusottama alone exists is to present only half of His true identity. Those words that do not express the other half only mislead us. When we are cheated of the conception of a Supreme Divine Couple, we will also reject the idea of the non-difference between saktimana and sakti (the Potent and the Potency) – then, whatever small understanding we may already have of Purusottama also degrades, and results in the theory of an impotent God.
The conception of Radha-Govinda is the most complete. Discussions on anugatya-dharma towards Purusottama who exists alone can only terminate in vatsalya, sakhya and dasya-rasa – the topic of unnata-ujjvala-rasa is not discussed. Direct words such as Radhanatha, Radha-ramana etc. describe His totality and completeness; words such as Brahman or Paramatma can never establish this. All those who traverse through the kingdom of sadhana-bhakti, and then the realm of bhava-bhakti in search of prema-bhakti must realise that the topmost pinnacle of prema-bhakti is only found in the divine love of Varsabhanavi and nowhere else. Without Her shelter, the jiva achieves very little eligibility.
When we pass over Devi-dhama, Viraja, Brahmaloka, and we cross beyond all the conceptions of opulence found in Paravyoma, as well as the informal moods of friendship and parental affection found in Goloka, situated in our eternally perfect spiritual identity and familiar with the topics of Radha-ramana, then our qualifications will be so great that we will consider ourselves extremely fortunate and our service shall rise to the zenith of perfection. This cannot simply be called 'realization,' or aparoksa-anubhuti. It is not the aparoksa-anubhuti described by the jnanis. This thing is an extraordinary affair called mohana and madana. These things are known as udghurna, citra-jalpa and maha-bhava. Presently we reside within our gross bodies, which present many obstacles for us – even the sensitivity of our subtle bodies causes us problems. If the pursuit of our soul is without the unhindered and incessant shelter of Varsabhanavi, then we will never find it. Thus, taking the dust from the feet of the best of rupanugas, Shrila Dasa Gosvami Prabhu, upon our heads, we earnestly pray:
ha devi! kaku-bhara-gadgadayadya vaca
yace nipatya bhuvi dandavad udbhatartih
asya prasadam abudhasya janasya krtva
gandharvike! nija-gane gananam vidhehi
"O Goddess Gandharvika! Feeling intense distress I fall on the ground like a stick and implore You with many words and in a faltering voice to be merciful to this fool and accept me as one of Your own associates." (Gandharva-prarthanastakam 2)
(First printed in The Gaudiya, Vol. 10, No. 11 in October 1931, and reprinted in Shri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha's periodical, Shri Gaudiya Darsana, Vol. 4, October 1958)
Swami B.G. Narasingha
(The following is an excerpt from a lecture by Shrila Narasingha Maharaja at Govindaji Gardens on 28th August 2009 on the occasion of Shri Radhastami and the Vyasa Puja celebration of Shrila Narasingha Maharaja)
The Upadesamrta with the illuminations of Shrila Shridhara Maharaja has been printed and this is a very befitting day for this book to come out. The front cover has a picture of Rupa Gosvami's samadhi, and on the back there is a picture of Radha-kunda. Rupa Gosvami and Radha-kunda – these things are deeply connected from the plane of Krsna consciousness in Goloka Vrndavana.
Mahaprabhu considered Radha-kunda to be non-different from Radharani. So the question may arise, how should we deal with Radha-kunda? The answer is – the same way we would deal with Radharani. How would you deal with Radharani in the temple? How are we dealing with Radharani? If you are a pujari you have some dealings with Radharani. Then, the rest of us – what dealings do we have with Radharani? The answer is pretty obvious – through Shri Guru and the Vaisnavas. These are paramount to our dealings with Radharani.
Radha and Krsna are present in the form of the Deity. There we have the opportunity to perform personal service – dressing, bathing, offering food, flower garlands, scented oils etc. But they stand very still and sometimes they do not change their look.
But we should not think that it is idol worship. Idol worship means where there is no life. Nowadays in modern Hinduism, even temple pujaris have become accustomed to call the Deity ‘the idol’. They'll happily tell you which ‘idol’ they are worshiping at the temple. The very definition of the word ‘idol’ means a form of a god, but it is lifeless. No life is there. The sri-murti, the Deity, is never lifeless. It is always full of life – Krsna life. Otherwise it is not a murti. It is only a statue. Then it might be considered to be an idol. When does a Deity become an idol? Can a Deity become an idol? Yes it can.
When those who worship the Deity fail to respect the devotees, then at that point Deity worship becomes idol worship. This means that Krsna is no longer present and that poor fellow is simply worshiping a lifeless statue.
Abhirama Thakura was an associate of Lord Nityananda. Sometimes he would go to a temple to take darsana and when he would prostrate himself before the deity, if Krsna was not there, then the deity would just explode into pieces and fall on the floor. It was a serious thing if Abhirama Thakura was coming to your temple for darsana!
Now why would that happen? Because people sometimes keep a statue of Krsna for the sake of collecting money from innocent people who have no discrimination about who is a Vaisnava, what is a proper Deity etc. They are simply roaming and searching for Krsna blindfolded. Why did the deity break? Was it Abhirama Thakura’s power? No – it was Krsna’s power! Krsna's potency could not tolerate a pure devotee bowing down before a lifeless statue, even of Krsna.
Once, Abhirama Thakura offered his obeisances to the sons of Nityananda Prabhu and they had all died except for Vircandra Gosvami. If Abhirama Thakura offered obeisance and that person was not actually a Vaisnava then they would die. Generally, false Vaisnavas avoided Abhirama Thakura. If the news came that Abhirama Thakura had come to the village for some purpose, all the false Vaisnavas would leave to visit their aunty in some other place!
One day Abhirama Thakura was coming to Puri to have darsana of Mahaprabhu. At that time there was also a young boy named Gopala-Guru. During Mahaprabhu’s time Gopala was a young boy, but later he grew up and was the leader of many Vaisnavas. On this occasion he found himself between Mahaprabhu, who was in His room and Abhirama Thakura who was coming down the hallway. Gopala was so frightened that he turned around, ran back and jumped onto Mahaprabhu's lap, wrapping his arms around Mahaprabhu's neck. He understood that he would be safe there, because if Abhirama Thakura offered obeisance in that direction, Mahaprabhu would protect him. He thought of himself as not being a real Vaisnava. That type of thinking is only found in a true Vaisnava.
To think of ones self as the least qualified is the actual qualification of the most qualified. But we can't artificially do that. The tendency is there that once we hear that the most qualified are the ones that feel the most unqualified then we start saying, “No, I'm not qualified prabhu!” But just get a hold of yourself! You are trying to imitate the highest devotee. You can't just say, "I'm not qualified!" Words without meaning and without feeling are best not spoken.
What is our path to become a real Vaisnava? Not in the sense of becoming the highest Vaisnava – no one should think like that. But we do aspire to become a real Vaisnava. Why did we join Krsna consciousness? It is not unfair or improper to aspire to become pure. Otherwise why are we here? We aspire not just to become devotees of Krsna, but we aspire to become pure devotees of Krsna. We do not aspire to become mixed devotees. What do we aspire for? We know that only pure devotion pleases Krsna, so we aspire for pure devotion.
At the beginning of his Upadesamrta, Rupa Gosvami sets down a simple path of self-control. The first thing that we have to control is our mouth. The mouth does two things: it eats and it speaks. Its habit is to eat dirty and nasty things, and to speak dirty and nasty things. What nasty things do people eat? That is pretty obvious if you go down to the market. We generally think that dirty things means dead animals. But, there is a big vegetable section at the market – that is also a dirty thing. Anything that is not offered to Krsna is considered to be a nasty or dirty thing. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that, “If you eat vegetables which are not offered to Me, then you are eating sin.”
Devotees are always cautious to offer their food to Krsna first in their house and especially in their temple or asrama. Sometimes, in the course of life's duties and journey a devotee may have to eat outside, in someone else's house or sometimes in a restaurant while traveling. But a devotee doesn't like to eat in a restaurant. If someone says there will be prasadam in a half an hour; then he doesn't say, "Hey, why don't we go to the Pizza Hut tonight instead!"
This is what happens amongst the non-devotees. It happens all over the world all the time. Restaurants are huge in big cities. People skip cooking and go to a restaurant. We never skip prasadam in a favour of eating in a restaurant! Of course, someone may go and eat in a Govinda's Restaurant, but even then, it is better you take prasadam in a temple and stay away from the Govinda's Restaurant also. In the beginning, Govinda's Restaurant was off limits to the devotees. Prabhupada never allowed devotees to go to Govinda's Restaurant. When there is a temple prasadam why you want to go to the restaurant?
Therefore it is said that devotees do not like to eat in restaurants, but sometimes they may have to. There lies the ultimate principle – always remember Krsna and never forget Him. In any circumstance outside of the ideal circumstance, we remember Krsna and mentally offer everything to Him. But in the temple we can bring that remembrance into shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. for Krsna. But outside, it takes a little bit more to keep that in focus.
The first thing that Rupa Gosvami outlines in Upadesamrta is self-control, and the first aspect of self-control is in relation to what you eat and what you speak. You must train yourself to take krsna-prasadam and train yourself to speak about Krsna, to chant Krsna's Names and that also mean to speak with Krsna's devotees. That generally means speaking about Krsna. So self-control begins with controlling our speech and our eating, then Rupa Gosvami explains about controlling the other senses. Through eleven simple verses he takes us all the way to the highest conceptions within the service of Radharani in Vraja. It is not that we will always be on level one, but we should definitely concern ourselves with level one if we want to get to level two. Once we are at level two it's only nine more stages till the eleventh stage and things become very sweet even before that. But if we do not follow that, then we won't even get to level two, nor to the third step, the fourth step and so on.
Why we are observing my appearance day today? Actually I came late from Mexico, so Giri Maharaja and Madhava Maharaja thought it was a good idea to observe it on Radhastami because ultimately our guru represents the service of Krsna, and the service of Krsna is the domain of Radharani. She is Bhakti-devi, therefore our guru represents Shrimati Radharani.
Although the ultimate representation of guru is that he represents Shrimati Radharani, still, we are not to deal with him in that exact way. Similarly we know that as Rupa-manjari, Rupa Gosvami is one of the closest associates of Radharani in the spiritual world. But we are not to deal with him as Rupa-manjari – we are to deal with him as Rupa Gosvami. The other side is there and that is waiting in eternity. If you can't deal with him properly on this side as a Gosvami, then how will you deal with him on that side as a manjari? That is not possible. You first have to deal with the saints here on this side properly – not skip over that and just try to imagine you have a connection far, far away in the land of Goloka Vrndavana.
Once, during the time before we had emails, somebody wrote me a long letter. It was handwritten on graph paper with all these little squares and I thought, "This is madness. Did this come from a lunatic asylum?" It didn't – it came from a godsister. The first few pages she was asking about meditation – “Can this meditation on Prabhupada be performed?” The first part of the meditation was that Prabhupada has come from his morning walk and into the temple. We hand him some flowers and he sits on a Vyasasana and we offer him garlands. Then, at a certain point, it changed. His dhoti shifted to another color and all of the sudden he was being meditated on as being a gopi or a manjari. It went on and on with all of these types of things. I wrote back and said, “Up to this page it is fine because you really used to offer Prabhupada a flower and you really did used to give him a flower garland and you really did wash his feet etc. All these things really happened and you can meditate on that if you want. That is called smaranam. But everything else after that is a total speculation. It never happened. You are taking this into a realm where you have no assurance whatsoever. You should simply understand that our gurudeva has an intimate connection with Radharani and is Her representative here. It's very similar with Krsna also. When Shrila Shridhara Maharaja was asked something about krsna-lila he laughed and said, “That is for the next life, that is rather a dreamy thing."
We are to concern ourselves with sankirtana and Mahaprabhu. Service to Mahaprabhu is more important and there is no service of Mahaprabhu without serving the devotees. It is said that rather than trying to approach Krsna and Radharani directly, you just approach the service of Mahaprabhu. Accept the service of Mahaprabhu and worship Mahaprabhu's lotus feet and one fine day you'll wake up and you will find that you are fully absorbed in the service of Radha-Govinda. You don't even have to make a separate endeavor. This is a great secret within Gaudiya Vaisavism. Everything comes to the devotee who fully surrenders at Mahaprabhu's lotus feet. But, if you simply try to surrender directly to Krsna, you will have problems.
That is the most difficult thing to do. Even if you succeed it is not complete. Then Krsna Himself says, “Now that you have done that, you have to go to this department.” He is not the ultimate department. But when you come to Mahaprabhu, you are dealing with the ultimate department - that is called audarya. Audarya is a notch above madhurya. Audarya means madhurya with magnanimity. Krsna-lila is called madhurya-lila – the sweetest. But Mahaprabhu's lila is called audarya-lila and audarya means the sweetest rasa with magnanimity. Magnanimity is something we all need. We need that magnanimity because we are very, very small. We do not have such a capacity to serve Krsna without magnanimity. Magnanimity means divine grace, with Krsna's divine grace. Can you go to the sun to warm yourself? No – the sun comes to us. We cannot go to the sun, but Krsna can come to us. This is given in physics – the possibility of the positive and the negative. Krsna is the positive and we are to act like the negative and the positive will be attracted towards us. Otherwise we cannot reach the positive.
The greatest negative it is said to be Radharani. She is the greatest negative and Krsna is totally attracted to Radharani. The reason that Krsna left the rasa-dance was to search for Radharani. There were millions of gopis dancing with Krsna and one of them was Radharani. Suddenly She disappeared and Krsna immediately lost interest in the rasa-dance. It was all dry. He had no more focus, millions of gopis were dancing there but Krsna lost His focus because Radharani was gone. We are always told that just as the hand serves the body and as a servant serves the master, we are a part of Krsna and we are meant to please Krsna. But after reading this pastime I suddenly realized, "If millions of gopis could not please Krsna, then what chance do any of us have? How can you, or I, or any of us directly please Krsna when millions of gopis together could not please Him? That is a fact. Therefore, we must please Krsna's dearmost, and the dearmost of Krsna is Radharani. Thus, in Gaudiya Vaisnavism, we are devotees of Radharani first, and second we are devotees of Krsna – but we don’t advertise this to the public.
One big Shri Vaisnava pandita came here once. During our discussion I said, "Buddha is also a part of dasavatara.” The six Shri Vaisnavas who were with him said, "No, no, no! Not Buddha, not Buddha." But the pandita said, "No, actually Svamiji is right. Buddha is actually in dasavatara. The other six Vaisnavas were deeply shocked. He explained that, "No, we say like that generally because we are fighting Buddhism, but actually Buddha is in the dasavatara." I told him that I saw Buddha carved on a wall with the other dasavatara in an ancient hoysala temple. Generally you will never see Buddha amongst the dasavatara in South India – they'll put Hayagriva instead. Then that pandita told those gentlemen, "These people are suddha Saktas.”
The six people that were with him were also shocked about this, "They are not Vaisnavas?" They were surprised because it is the Smartas who are Saktas – at least in Bengal. They worship Devi, Kali and various other saktis and they study their tantras etc
Then the pandita explained, “No, they are suddha Saktas because foremost they are devotees of Krsna's consort - Radha."
He was a man who had done a deep study of Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
Now we are Gaudiya Vaisnavas – should we be like the Shri Vaisnavas who didn’t know that Buddha is actually included in the dasavatara? In other words, should we be the kind of Gaudiya Vaisnava who doesn't understand the depth of Gaudiya Vaisnavism?
About ten years ago, one of our devotees went to some village for a special program on Sivaratri. When he came back and I asked him, “How was your program?"
He said: “They were worshiping Siva and I told them how in Vrndavana Siva becomes Gopesvara."
I told him that, “You don't go out and tell the common people how Siva became a gopi in Vrndavana. You don’t understand. Those are secrets and these things stay on this side. Once you go out our gate you need only one book in your hand – Bhagavad-gita. That's it.”
Look what Shrila Prabhupada did for the world with Bhagavad-gita. Scholars lined up during his time to give appreciation for the Bhagavad-gita. The world is suffering due to lack of knowledge of how to live in this world and why are we in this world? They are not suffering due to a lack of deep knowledge concerning the other world. That does not concern them - it doesn't concern most of us! We are to explain the knowledge that we are not this body, how all living entities are servants of Krsna, and how the Holy Name is non-different than Krsna. Actually we say that the Maha-mantra is non-different than Krsna, but half of the Maha-mantra is the name of Radharani also. We should know that we are dealing not only with Krsna, but with Radha-Krsna. But when we go into the world to preach, we leave Radharani in the background. We do not come to the front with Radharani.
When he narrated the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Sukadeva Gosvami wasn't just sitting with a bunch of village drunkards. He was sitting there with many rsis and sages and Maharaja Pariksit himself. He kept the Name of Radharani in the background. Even when it came to that part of the Bhagavatam when he could have introduced Radharani, he hesitated to tell these people about those secrets. He told it in a peculiar, hidden way. He never directly told the Name of Radha even once in Shrimad Bhagavatam. It’s not there. They were many great rsis there, but who were they? Many of them were Brahmavadis and yogis with mystic powers and all types of philosophers. But none of these things qualify one for vraja-bhakti. He did not want to do them any harm. If the highest thing goes to those who are not qualified, it will not do them more harm than good.
It is like bee-pollen. In western countries farmers harvest pollen from the bees and it's very high in vitamins. You can buy this and it is very tasty, but if you take too much of it, you will get diarrhea. It is a good thing, but too much of a good thing can make you sick. That is common with anything – milk is also good, but drink too much and it'll give you loose motion. So this high, high topic does not look good in the small ears of the common people. Or, as Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say: "This high topic does not look good in your small mouth."
Concern yourself with the necessity of your present status. Do not try to go beyond. You have to go step by step. Upadesamrta takes us step by step and Shrila Shridhara Maharaja’s illuminations are very wonderful and very assuring. We must go step by step and with much caution as we approach the ultimate goal.
Question: Is there a difference between the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception of the maha-mantra and the conception of the maha-mantra found in other sampradayas, such as the Ramanujas, Madhvas, Nimbarkas and Vallabhas?
Narasingha Maharaja: Yes. In fact the Gaudiya conception of the maha-mantra is exclusive and stands distinct from all other sampradayas. The Gaudiya conception is exclusive in that it surpasses even the greatest expectations of the Vedas (liberation) and affords one the highest fulfillment of the ultimate goal of life. This is not simply party spirit propaganda or sampradaya jingoism, but an ontological fact.
The conception of the maha-mantra as a whole, as well as each of its constituent parts (Hare, Krsna and Rama), are uniquely different in Gaudiya Vaisnavism than in any other spiritual tradition of India.
The maha-mantra appears in the Kali-santarana Upanisad of the Krsna Yajur Veda wherein Lord Brahma is answering a question by Narada Muni:
dvaparante narado brahmanam jagam katham
bhagavan gam paryatan-kalim santare-yamiti
sa hovaca brahma –
sadhu prsto’smi sarva sruti-rahasyam gopayam
tacchrnu yena kali-samsaram tarisyasi bhagavata
adi-purusasya narayanasya namoccarana-matrena nirdhuta-kalir bhavati
At the end of Dvapara-Yuga, Narada, who had traversed the whole world, went to Brahma and addressed him thus, ‘O Lord, how shall I be able to ward off the effects of Kali?’ Brahma thus replied, ‘You have asked an excellent question. Listen to that secret which all the Vedas keep hidden, through which one may cross over material existence during the age of Kali. One becomes free from the influence of Kali by merely uttering the Names of Lord Narayana, who is the original Supreme Person.
naradah punah papraccha tananam kimiti
sa hovaca hiranyagarbah –
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
iti sodasakam namnam
Thus again Narada asked Brahma, ‘What are those Names?’
Lord Brahma replied, ‘Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. These sixteen Holy Names will destroy the sinful influences of the age of Kali. I do not see any other method
The Kali-santarana Upanisad is one of the 108 Upanisads listed in the Muktika Upanisad, yet in some academic circles, scholars are of the opinion that the Kali-santarana Upanisad was written either by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu or one of His followers. Such scholars have no evidence for their claim other than their own opinion and that is generally not accepted amongst learned circles in India.
One enigma surrounding the maha-mantra is whether it begins with ‘Hare Krsna’ or ‘Hare Rama’. In the oldest surviving copy of the Kali-santarana Upanisad, dated circa 1740 CE with the commentary by the Advaitin scholar Brahmayogin Ramacandrendra Sarasvati of Kanchipuram, the maha-mantrais written as:
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare
However, in numerous other editions of the Kali-santarana Upanisad the maha-mantra is written:
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
Presented below is a statement by Srila Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja from which we might conclude that the 1740 edition of the Kali-santarana Upanisad quoted above was interpolated by Mayavadis. Since the Name of Krsna is superior to the Name of Rama, as stated by Srila Sridhara Maharaja, it stands to reason that the Vedas would present the sequence of the mantra ontologically, thus the Advaitin edition is suspect.
Commenting on this enigma, Srila Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja has stated as follows:
“The real importance of the Name is not to be found merely in the arrangement of its syllables, but in the deep meaning within that divine sound. Some scholars argue that in the Kali-santarana Upanisad, Lord Brahma says that the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is properly pronounced only when the Name of Rama precedes the Name of Krsna:
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare
“In the Kali-santarana Upanisad, the Hare Krsna maha-mantra is given in that way. But to say that the Name of Rama must precede the Name of Krsna in the mantra is a superficial understanding.
“It is said that because it comes from the Upanisads, the Hare Krsna mantra is a Vedic mantra, and therefore, because the ordinary people may not have any entrance into Vedic mantras, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu readjusted this mantra by reversing the order of the words. In that way, it is said, the concern that it is a Vedic mantra is thereby canceled, and so Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave it to all without breaching the injunctions of the Vedas. Some devotees in Uttar Pradesh who have great affection for Sri Caitanyadeva like to give this opinion. But our faith is that the mentioning of ‘Hare Rama’ first is only superficial. It concerns the idea that since the Rama avatara appeared first and the Krsna avataraafterwards, the Name of Rama, ‘Hare Rama,’ should come first in the maha-mantra.’
“A deeper reading will consider that when two similar things are connected together, the priority will be ordered not on the basis of historical precedent, but in consideration of the most highly developed conception. The Holy Name of Krsna is higher than the Holy Name of Rama. This is mentioned in the Puranas: three Names of Rama equal one Name of Krsna.’
"The Name of Krsna is superior to the Name of Rama. Where the two are connected together, the first position should be given to the one that is superior. Therefore, the Name of Krsna must come first in the maha-mantra. This is one point.’
“Another point is that within the eternal plane, everything is moving in a cyclic order. In an eternal cycle, which is first and which is next cannotbe ascertained, and so, in the eternal plane of lila, it cannot be determined whether Krsna is before Rama or Rama is before Krsna. So from that consideration also, since the Names of Krsna and Rama are eternal andunrelated to any historical event, we may begin the mantra from any place.’
“But above these considerations, our sampradaya has given another, higher consideration. A eeper understanding will reveal that the Hare Krsna mantrais not at all concerned with rama-lila.’
“In the Name of Rama within the Hare Krsna mantra, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas will find Radha-ramana Rama. That means, ‘Krsna, who gives pleasure (raman) to Srimati Radharani.’ In our conception, the Hare Krsna mantra is wholesale Krsna consciousness, not Rama consciousness.’
“Sri Caitanya's highest conception of things is always svayam bhagavan, krsna-lila, radha-govinda-lila. That is the real purpose of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's advent and teachings. In that consideration, the Hare Krsna mantra does not mention the rama-lila of Ayodhya at all. There is no connection with that in the highest conception of the Hare Krsna mantra.’
“And the inner conception of the mantra is responsible for our spiritual attainment. When one pronounces the Name of Rama, if he means Dasarathi Rama, his attraction will take him there, to Ayodhya; if he means Parasurama, he will be attracted to another place. And if Rama means Radha-ramana Rama, he will go to Goloka. The inner conception of the devotee will guide him to his destination." (Loving Search For The Lost Servant)
The Names in the maha-mantra are Hare, Krsna and Rama. The followers of the Sankaracarya school, as well as those of the Ramanuja and Madhva schools, conceive the Name of Hare to be the vocative case of Hari. Thus for them ‘Hare’ means Narayana, ‘Rama’ means Ramacandra and ‘Krsna’ means the avatar of Narayana [not Krsna the avatari, or source of Narayana].
The followers of Sankaracarya have adopted this version of the maha-mantra and the Vaisnava sampradayas of South India have also adopted the same. ‘Hare’ in all these sampradayas means Hari, or Narayana. In all circumstances their way of thinking is about liberation (mukti) and not actually about bhakti (devotion). Moreover, the followers of Sankaracarya are sometimes found to chant the maha-mantra and give more attention to the maha-mantra than the Ramanuja sampradaya or the Madhva sampradaya. The Kali-santarana Upanisad and the maha-mantra are accepted by all these sampradayas, yet the maha-mantra is of little importance to them. Only the Gaudiya Vaisnavas stake everything on the maha-mantra.
Actually, according to one Madhva website, it appears that at least a certain section of their sampradaya has ‘lost the plot’ so to speak. The following is a contemporary Madhva quote:
And it is known that the Hare Krsna mantra is recited without proper procedure, without dhyana, sankalpa, etc., in the approved Vedic fashion. It has been arbitrarily picked out of a book and practiced in mutilated form, and is thus a false initiation (as the originators of the tradition were themselves unqualified to recite the mantra). Worst of all, it is recited ‘as’ Krsna Himself, and not as a symbol or tool for his worship...as such, it stands to reason that the ‘Hare Krsna maha-mantra’ is best avoided by everybody.
The most obvious mistake in the above quote is that the Kali-santarana Upanisad clearly states ‘nasya vidhiriti’ – ‘there are no rules (vidhi) involved in chanting the maha-mantra.’ In fact the Upanisad guarantees liberation to anyone who chants the maha-mantra. Thus, one begins to wonder what’s been happening in the Madhva sampradaya over the past seven hundred years?
punar-naradah paprccha bhagavan ko’sya vidhiriti
tam hovaca – nasya vidhiriti
sarvada sucirasucirava pathan-brahmanah
salokatam samipatam sarupatam sayujyatameti
Again Narada enquired: ‘O Lord, what are the rules to be observed with reference to it (chanting the maha-mantra)?" Brahma replied, “There are no rules. Whoever, in a pure or an impure state, utters these always, attains the same world of the Lord (salokya), proximity with the Lord (samipya), the same form as the Lord (sarupya), or absorption into Brahman (sayujya). (Kali-santarana Upanisad 3)
For the followers of Sankaracarya, the Name ‘Hare’ means Hari – He who takes away one’s karma, material desire and illusion (maya). For Ramanujas and most Madhvas, Hari is He who takes away all inauspiciousness and bestows all good fortune. But for Gaudiya Vaisnavas the conception of Hare is altogether different.
For the Gaudiyas, Hare is the vocative case of Hara, the internal pleasure potency of Krsna. Thus Hare means Srimati Radharani.
It should not be misunderstood that we are arguing or fighting over the proper meaning of the names in the maha-mantra. There is certainly room for different bona fide conceptions within the maha-mantra. Each with his conception may attain that particular destination.
yei yei rupe jane, sei taha kahe
sakala sambhave krsne, kichu mithya nahe
In whatever form one knows the Lord, one speaks of Him in that way. In this there is no falsity, since everything is possible in Krsna. (Cc. Adi 5.132)
In this regard Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada writes in his purport to this verse:
If someone calls Lord Ramacandra by the vibration Hare Rama, understanding it to mean “O Lord Ramacandra!” he is quite right. Similarly, if one says that Hare Rama means “O Sri Balarama!” he is also right. Those who are aware of the visnu-tattva do not fight over all these details.
However, one must also remember that all realities are not the same, nor do all conceptions lead to the same destination.
It is often said as a reference that the maha-mantra first appears or manifests in the Kali-santarana Upanisad portion of the Vedas, but such a statement is not actually correct according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who has stated:
Lord Hari's Name is Lord Hari Himself. The maha-mantra was present before the scriptures manifested. The catuh-sloki of the Bhagavatam beginning with 'aham evasam evagre' is proof of this. The supremely independent Holy Name is not under the jurisdiction of scriptural control. Actually, the scriptures have appeared by the supreme will of the Holy Name. It is not a fact that the scriptures manifested first and then the Holy Name appeared after. The Brahma-samhita says that the Holy Name appeared first in Brahma's heart. (Sri Srila Prabhupader Upadesamrta)
The maha-mantra chanted by Gaudiyas is always chanted as:
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
Whereas other sampradayas might chant the maha-mantra for liberation, the Gaudiyas chant the maha-mantra out of devotion to please Krsna. Hari takes away material desires, maya, etc, but Hare, the internal potency (hladini-sakti/Radharani) captures or takes away the mind and heart of Krsna. Hara is the energy by which one can serve Krsna, and the only energy that can please Krsna. Krsna Himself is the reservoir of pleasure and Rama, or Radha-ramana, is the one who gives pleasure to Srimati Radharani.
The Gaudiya conception of Rama in the maha-mantra meaning Krsna, the giver of pleasure to Sri Radha, is also collaborated by Sri Bhaktisiddhanta as follows:
According to the mood of aisvarya, ‘Rama’ refers to Ramacandra, the son of Dasaratha. According to the mood of madhurya, ‘Rama’ refers to Krsna, the relisher of Sri Radha's association. Whenever the Name 'Rama' indicates service to Radha-ramana Krsna, then the word 'Hare' which is the vocative form of Hara, refers to Sri Radharani, who is the origin of all spiritual potencies. Sri Radha is known as Hara because She attracts the mind of Krsna. Hari means 'attracter'. Hare is the vocative form of the word 'Hara'. There are three Ramas – Rama, the husband of Sita-devi, Rama the husband of Revati and Rama, the lover of Radha. (Sri Srila Prabhupader Upadesamrta)
The Gaudiya conception of the maha-mantra is not something whimsical. It is authorized by bona fide acaryas and supported by guru, sadhu and sastra. It was also the preferred conception of chanting by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Furthermore, the Gaudiya conception of hearing and chanting of the maha-mantra transcends all types of liberation and ultimately reaches the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.
mali hana kare sei bija aropaṇa
sravana-kirtana-jale karaye secana
When one receives the seed of devotion, he should take care of it by becoming a gardener and sowing the seed in his heart. By watering the seed gradually by the process of sravana and kirtana (hearing and chanting), the seed will start to sprout.
upajiya bade lata ‘brahmanda’ bhedi’ yaya
‘viraja’, ‘brahma-loka’ bhedi’ ‘para-vyoma’ paya
The creeper of devotion is manifest and grows to pierce through the wall of the material universe. It crosses over the Viraja river and the plane of Brahman and then reaches to Vaikuntha.
tabe yaya tad-upari 'goloka vrndavana'
'krsna-carana'-kalpa-vrkse kare arohana
It continues to grow further up to Goloka Vrndavana, where it finally embraces the wish-fulfilling tree of Sri Krsna's lotus feet.
tahan vistarita hana phale prema-phala
ihan mali sece nitya sravanadi jala
There in Goloka, the creeper expands and produces the fruit of love for Krsna. Although remaining in the material plane, the gardener continuously sprinkles the creeper with the water of hearing and chanting. (Cc. Madhya 19.152-155)
Commenting on the maha-mantra in his Maha-mantrartha Dipika, Sri Jiva Gosvami reveals the meaning of each of the sixteen Names in the maha-mantra in consecutive order as follows:
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
sarva-ceta-harah krsnas tasya cittam haratyasau
vaidagdhi-sara-vistarair ato radha hara mata
Krsna steals the minds of everyone, yet Radha steals even His mind by Her divine expertise. Thus She is known as Hara.
sri radham mohana-gunalankrtah krsna iryate
He forcibly attracts Sri Radha with the sweet sound of His flute, therefore that Lord of all enchanting qualities is known as Krsna.
sruyate niyate rase harina harineksana
ekakini rahah-kunje hareyam tena kathyate
It has been heard that during the rasa-lila, doe-eyed Radha was stolen away by Krsna to be alone with Him in a secret forest bower. She is therefore known as Hara.
ramate radhaya sardham krsno nigadyate
When Krsna sports with Radha, Her golden hue takes on the dark complexion of Krsna's skin. He is thus known as Krsna.
krtvaranye sarah-srestham kantayanumatas-taya
akrsya sarva-tirthani taj-jnanat krsna iryate
In order to please Sri Radha, Krsna manifested the most wonderful lake (Syama-kunda) in Vrndavana. He then called all the holy rivers to fill it. He is thus known as Krsna.
krsyate radhaya premna yamuna-tata-kananam
lilaya lalitas-capi dhiraih krsna udahrtah
By Her unsurpassed love, Radha charms He who performs wonderful lilas on the banks of the Yamuna. Therefore, those who are sober know Him as Krsna.
hrtavan gokule tisthann-aristam pusta-pungavam
sri haris tam rasad uccai rayatiti hara mata
While in Gokula, Sri Hari (Krsna) killed the demon known as Aristasura. During that time, Radha cried out to Him with great feeling and by doing so, She stole His mind. She is thus known as Hara.
hyasphutam rayati priti-bharena hari-cestam
gayatiti mata dhirair hara rasa-vicaksanaih
Filled with ecstatic love, Radha sometimes sings the glories of Hari’s exploits quietly, and sometimes She sings them aloud. Those who are expert in the secrets of divine sentiments call Her Hara.
rasavesa-parisrastam jahara muralim hareh
hareti kirtita devi vipine keli-lampata
Due to the intense love of Sri Radha, Sri Hari becomes so captivated that His flute falls from His hand. With the desire to enjoy in the forest bowers with Krsna, Radha steals His flute. That goddess is thus famous as Hara.
sri radham ramayamasa ramastena mato harih
Krsna, who is expert at embracing, sports with Radha in the forest groves or in the caves of Govardhana. Thus He is known as Rama.
hanti duhkhani bhaktanam rati saukhyani canvaham
hara devi nigadita maha-karunya-salini
That most merciful Radha destroys the miseries of Her devotees and gives them great happiness every day. Therefore that goddess is known as Hara.
ramate bhajato cetah paramananda-varidhau
atreti kathito ramah syamasundara-vigrahah
The minds of the devotees are continuously drowned in an ocean of supreme joy by seeing the beautiful dark form of Krsna. Therefore He is known by
the Name Rama.
ramayaty-acyutam premna nikunja-vana-mandire
rama nigadita radha ramo yutas taya punah
Radharani is known as Rama because She enjoys loving pastimes with Acyuta (Krsna) in a secret forest pavilion. Since He is always by Her side, He is known as Rama.
rodanair gokule davanalam asayati hyasau
visosayati tenokto ramo bhakta-sukhavahah
When the residents of Gokula were crying due to fear of the forest fire, Krsna immediately swallowed it and gave His devotees great joy. In this way, He is known as Rama.
nihantum asuran yato mathura-puram ity-asau
tadagamad-rahah-kamo yasyah sa’sau hareti ca
Sri Krsna went to Mathurapuri in order to destroy the demons. However, due to being captivated by the love of Radha, He later returned. Therefore She is known as Hara.
agatya duhkha-harta yo sarvesam vraja-vasinam
sri radha-hari-carito harih sri nandanandanah
When the son of Maharaja Nanda returned to Vraja, He took away the suffering of all the Vrajavasis. By His wonderful exploits, He steals the heart of Sri Radha. Thus He is known as Hari.
Throughout his Maha-mantrartha Dipika, Sri Jiva Gosvami reveals the meaning of ‘Hare’ as Hara until the final verse wherein he says that ‘Hare’ means Hari – He who has stolen the heart of Srimati Radharani. In the first verse Radha steals the mind of Krsna, and in the last verse Krsna steals the heart of Radha. Indeed, Radha wears a locket with a picture of Krsna around Her neck, and Krsna wears a locket with a picture of Radha around His neck. These Two have stolen each other’s hearts and minds, thus one might suspect that Sri Jiva is alluding to the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in his Maha-mantrartha Dipika as the combined form of both Radha and Krsna. In any case, according to Jiva Gosvami, the divine pastimes of Radha and Krsna are written throughout the maha-mantra.
As for the other Vaisnava sampradayas, namely the Nimbarka sampradaya and the Vallabha sampradya, they too – like the Ramanujas and the Madhvas – do not follow the line of thinking of the Gaudiyas. Actually the Nimbarka sampradaya does not chant the maha-mantra of the Kali-santarana Upanisad at all. The Nimbarkas chant what they call the yugala-mantra:
radhe krsna radhe krsna krsna krsna radhe radhe
radhe syama radhe syama syama syama radhe radhe
In some learned circles it is thought that the Nimbarkas plagiarized Sri Caitanya and the Gaudiyas. Indeed, some scholars are even of the opinion that Kesava Kasmiri, who had been defeated by Sri Caitanya, fabricated the Nimbarka parampara and placed himself at its head.
According to verifiable sources, it appears that the yugala-mantra of the Nimbarkas was actually only introduced into their sampradaya in the 14th century by Harivyasa Devacarya (the third acaryain the Nimbarka line after Kesava Kasmiri) as it does not appear in any of their literature prior to that period.
The idea that the Nimbarka sampradaya is authorized to neglect the chanting of the maha-mantrain preference to the yugala-mantra is further suspect by the fact that Sanat-kumara, one of the original founders of that sampradaya, has said the following:
hare-krsnau dvir avrttau
krsna tadrk tatha hare
hare rama tatha rama
tatha tadrg ghare manuh
hare krsna hare krsna
krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama
rama rama hare hare
The words ‘Hare Krsna’ are to be repeated twice, then ‘Krsna’ and ‘Hare’ are to be repeated separately twice. Similarly, ‘Hare Rama’, ‘Rama’ and ‘Hare’ are also repeated twice. The mantra will thus be – Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. (Sanat-kumara Samhita, as quoted by Dhyanacandra Gosvami in his Gaura Govindarcana Smarana Paddhati, verses, 132-133)
As for the Vallabha-sampradaya, they too do not chant the maha-mantra as part of their tradition, which seems rather ironic, knowing that Vallabhacarya took diksa-mantras from Sri Gadadhara Pandita and that he was also associated for sometime with Sri Caitanya directly. One cannot help but think that something very serious has gone amiss in that sampradaya. Currently the Vallabha sampradaya neglects the maha-mantra in preference of the astaksara-mantra, namely ‘sri krsna saranam mama.’ This mantra, not being found in the Vedas or in any authorized sastra, was purportedly invented by Vallabhacarya.
Our conclusion is that there are indeed differences between the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception of the maha-mantra and the conception of the maha-mantra found in other sampradayas. With the exception of those sampradayas that have deviated from the path of previous acaryas, (Madhvas, Nimbarkas and Vallabhas), these differences are primarily based on higher and lower conceptions in rasa (referring to the Ramanuja sampradaya) and not simply on who is right and who is wrong. Nonetheless, it should go without saying that any intelligent and pious person regardless of their professed sampradaya affiliation should accept the direction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to chant the maha-mantra, if they want to make substantial spiritual advancement toward the ultimate goal of life.
Question: A sannyasi/guru/GBC of ISKCON, ________Goswami says in an interview on 24th June, 2017 that Shrila Prabhupada had invited all his godbrothers to join with him in his preaching in western countries, even offering to give them everything – free flights around the world to preach, a nice car – anything they wanted, but “they all refused, all the time.” __________Goswami says that their reply to Shrila Prabhupada was that:
“We don’t want to give up our positions. Like in my own matha, I am the acarya and I’d rather, basically be a ‘big fish in a little pond’ and not a ‘little fish in a big pond.’”
________Goswami says that Shrila Prabhupada told him like that many times. Is this really cent-per-cent true?
Swami Narasingha: Hearing this kind of bigoted statement towards Shrila Prabhupada’s godbrothers, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. There is, of course, some truth in __________Goswami’s statement, but it runs along the lines of a half-truth, a half-baked potato, rather than an accurate representation of the facts.
Make no mistake about it, Shrila Prabhupada did request some of his godbrothers to join him in his preaching mission in the west, even inviting them to be in charge of the temples, which would have become branches of the Shri Mayapura Caitanya (Gaudiya) Matha.
Shrila Prabhupada wrote to his godbrother, Shrila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja, offering respects at his lotus feet and offering him the charge of the future temples in America. Shrila Prabhupada wrote to Shrila Tirtha Maharaja on October 8th 1965, scarcely one month after his having arrived in the USA.
Shrila Prabhupada made it clear in his letter that he did not wish to be in charge. He wanted only to preach for the satisfaction of their spiritual master, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and to that end alone, he invited his godbrother. Here are some relevant excerpts from that letter as follows:
“Pujaniya Shrila Tirtha Maharaja, Kindly accept respectful obeisances at your lotus feet”
“But I think for establishing matha and temples here (America) you may take the charge and I shall be able to make them self-independent. “
“If you agree then take it for granted that I am one of the workers of the Shri Mayapura Caitanya Matha. I have no ambition for becoming the proprietor of any matha or mandira, but I want working facilities.”
It may also be noted that in that letter to Shrila Tirtha Maharaja, Shrila Prabhupada requested him to send ten lakhs of rupees via foreign exchange to start the New York temple – which was $150,000 in those days, or the equivalent of 1.5 million dollars by today’s standard.
“The Calcutta Marwaris are in your hand by the Grace of Shrila Prabhupada. If you like you can immediately raise a fund of Rs 10,00,000/- ten lacs to open a centre in New York. One centre started, I shall be able to start many others also. So here is a chance of cooperation between us and I shall be glad to know if you are ready for this cooperation.”
Now can you imagine what the response would be if I, Swami Narasingha, were to write such a letter to the GBC at Mayapura/Kolkata requesting co-operation, asking them to send me 1.5 million dollars so that I could open a preaching centre in Mexico City?
“The Calcutta Marwaris are in your hand by the Grace of Shrila Prabhupada. If you like you can immediately raise a fund of 1.5 million dollars to open a centre in Mexico City. One centre started, I shall be able to start many others also. So here is a chance of cooperation between us and I shall be glad to know if you are ready for this cooperation.”
I think the response to such a request is obvious – in fact, I doubt that I would even receive a reply. More likely than not, it would simply raise one hell-of-a-laugh! Factually, let us imagine if Shrila Tirtha Maharaja had actually accepted our Guru Maharaja’s request back in 1965, then there would be no ISKCON! There would simply be no ISKCON! Can you imagine? Yes, that is what would have happened. All the centres in America and around the world would all be branches of Shri Mayapura Caitanya (Gaudiya) Matha and we would all have become disciples of Shrila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja and not disciples of Shrila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
These generous offers that Shrila Prabhupada made to his godbrothers were indeed declined, but when ________Goswami says that the godbrothers responded by saying, “We don’t want to give up our positions. Like in my own matha, I am the acarya and I’d rather, basically be a ‘big fish in a little pond’ and not a ‘little fish in a big pond,” he is simply putting words in the mouths of Shrila Prabhupada’s godbrothers that they never said.
In fact, the phrase ‘big fish in a small pond and little fish in a big pond’ was not actually in the vocabulary of Shrila Prabhupada or his godbrothers. It is purely an American phrase that first came into use in the late 19th century. I doubt that even one of Shrila Prabhupada’s godbrothers, or anyone in Gaudiya Matha, ever used that phrase – especially in reply to Shrila Prabhupada’s offer of preaching in the west.
So rather than fault Shrila Tirtha Maharaja for not accepting our Guru Maharaja’s invitation, I think the proper understanding would be to see it as Krishna’s arrangement. Lord Krishna wanted all the glory of spreading Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement throughout the world in every town and village to go to His empowered devotee, our Guru Maharaja, Shrila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We should thank our lucky stars for that and not criticise the divine arrangement of Krishna.
Another example of Shrila Prabhupada requesting a godbrother is that of Shrila B.R. Shridhara Maharaja. On numerous occasions Shrila Prabhupada wanted to arrange for Shrila Shridhara Maharaja’s preaching.
Shrila Prabhupada: “He (Shridhara Maharaja) lived in my house as a sannyasi for a few years. So naturally we had very intimate talks and he was my good advisor. I took his advice and instruction very seriously because from the very beginning I know he is a pure Vaisnava devotee and I wanted to associate with him, and tried to help him. And he also tried to help me – so our relationship is very intimate. After the breakdown of the Gaudiya Matha, I wanted to organise another organisation making Shridhara Maharaja the head.”
(Opening Ceremony of ISKCON Mayapura Candrodaya Mandira, 17th March 1973, while Shrila Prabhupada and Shrila Shridhar Maharaja were sitting together on the vyasasana)
Shrila Prabhupada: “I very much want, Maharaja, that you come and stay at Mayapura. Because Prabhupada (Bhaktisiddhanta) always desired that you preach. He told me quite a few times, "Why don't you pull him out?" You know, I also tried to some extent before, but somehow or other it did not work out. Now, why don't you come and stay at Mayapura?”
Shrila Shridhara Maharaja: “At last Prabhupada told me that, ‘You are an ease lover.’ The qualifications that you have.”
Shrila Prabhupada: “Yes, that’s true. He (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura) told me also, ‘He is such a qualified person. Shridhara Maharaja is one of the finest preachers.’ I want to take you everywhere. At least at the place we have in Mayapura, people are coming from all over the world. Why don't you come and stay there? What is your objection to staying in Mayapura? If you just agree, then whatever kind of building you want, I will arrange it for you. They are trying to build a house for me, so both of us will stay there. And whenever you want, you can come here (to your matha).”
Shrila Shridhara Maharaja: “Yes, as long as I am alive to fulfill Prabhupada's (Bhaktisiddhanta’s) desire.”
Shrila Prabhupada: “This is my earnest desire. Since you could not go around the world and preach, at least stay there and people will come to you. I shall make that arrangement. If you stay, then it will be very helpful to me also. Sometimes I need to consult with someone but there is no one. There is no one that I can consult. I feel this deficiency very greatly.”
Devotee: “If he stays in Mayapura, then, all kinds of people will get to hear from him.”
Shrila Prabhupada: “Yes, that's right.”
Shrila Shridhara Maharaja: “Yes, people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds will come there.”
Shrila Prabhupada: “Yes, they are already coming. And in that house I will make arrangements for an elevator so that you won't have to go through the difficulty of walking up and down the stairs. You won't even have to move a step yourself. I'll make arrangements for a car and a lift. Jayapataka Maharaja is telling me that he will build a house for me. So, both of us will stay in that house. Most of the time I am just traveling around, so if you are there, then they can get some guidance. So, Maharaja, please, give me the order and I will make all the arrangements for you.”
(Room Conversation in Bengali, Navadvipa, Shri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha, 10th February 1977)
Only days after this room conversation between Shrila Prabhupada and Shrila Shridhara Maharaja in 1977, our Guru Maharaja began to manifest his illness and disappearance pastimes. Had Shrila Shridhara Maharaja come to stay on ISKCON property during those times and during the days of the ‘Magnificent Eleven’ who usurped the position of the acarya of ISKCON after the departure of Shrila Prabhupada, it is unimaginable to think what horrendous offenses the leaders of ISKCON would have made to Shrila Shridhara Maharaja. As it was, even while staying in his own matha, ISKCON leaders mortified Shrila Shridhara Maharaja by their uncivilised and un-Vaisnava like behavior –
Shrila Shridhara Maharaja: “I am an old man, I am tired, excited, I am very, very sorry, (crying) really I say with folded palms that you are ill-treating me. I am very sorry. Swami Maharaja (Shrila Prabhupada) was so affectionate, I also treated with such affection to him. And rudely you are behaving towards me. I am very much mortified for that, but what can I do? I am a small man…. If you give so much stress to his (Shrila Prabhupada) words, then he wanted to make me president. Of course, I remember that. Once, he came and proposed to me, requested me to become president of ISKCON. That he did. But it is very deplorable to me to think that the so-called ISKCON committee is so eager to go away from me. In other words, I see that they are digging their own grave.” (Conversation with ISKCON GBCs, Navadvipa, Shri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha, 5th March, 1982)
Again I will mention that if Shrila Prabhupada’s godbrothers had accepted his offer, beginning with Shrila Tirtha Maharaja in 1965 and Shrila Shridhara Maharaja in 1973 and 1977, or even before when Shrila Prabhupada wanted to start another organisation after the breakup of Gaudiya Matha, making Shrila Shridhara Maharaja the head, then there may have never been an ISKCON or even disciples of Shrila Prabhupada.
From my perspective, it appears that the statement of _______Goswami and others of a similar mentality echoes the Judeo-Christian way of thinking. It is ‘judeo’ in the sense that ISKCON leaders are, step by step, turning Shrila Prabhupada’s ISKCON into a messianic personality cult. Christians accept that Jesus was crucified to die for their sins, resurrected on the third day and ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of God, but they reveal their hypocrisy by condemning the Jews for the death of Jesus – without who's death there could never have been salvation for Christians. Similarly, ISKCON’s present leaders like _________Goswami glorify Shrila Prabhupada as a pure devotee from birth who singlehandedly, by the desire of Krishna, spread Krishna consciousness around the world, yet at the same time condemn Shrila Prabhupada’s godbrothers for not accepting his offer to be the acarya or president, for not accepting the preaching to be done under Shri Mayapura Caitanya (Gaudiya) Matha, and for not cooperating with Shrila Prabhupada.
The fact is that some godbrothers did cooperate with Shrila Prabhupada – especially Shrila Shridhara Maharaja. A small, but significant example of the cooperation between Shrila Prabhupada and Shrila Shridhara Maharaja, and the high esteem in which Shrila Prabhupada held Shrila Shridhara Maharaja, can be shown in the following incident.
During the foundation laying at Mayapura Candrodaya Mandira in 1972, Shrila Prabhupada invited Shrila Shridhara Maharaja to attend. When Shrila Shridhara Maharaja arrived, Shrila Prabhupada came out to greet him and holding Shrila Shridhara Maharaja’s hand, took him to his room and sat him down on his bed. Prabhupada then arranged for some tender coconuts and the two talked briefly. Then, leaving Shrila Shridhara Maharaja sitting on the bed, Shrila Prabhupada went down to the field to attend the function. Having completed the bhumi-puja, Shrila Prabhupada returned to his room. At that time, Govinda Maharaja, a disciple of Shrila Shridhara Maharaja, asked, “You invited Shridhara Maharaja to the function, but you left him in your room and went to the field to do everything yourself? What is the meaning?”
Shrila Prabhupada replied, “Shridhara Maharaja should not be bothered with such details. The fact is that simply by his presence here at our temple, everything is auspicious, by his grace! There is no need for him to walk down to the field.” After this, Shrila Prabhupada and Shrila Shridhara Maharaja sat together on Prabhupada’s verandah and honoured prasadam.
Shrila Prabhupada and Shrila Shridhara Maharaja taking prasadam together
It is a fact that Shrila Prabhupada went many times to see Shrila Shridhara Maharaja and Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples (such as Achyutananda Prabhu) were sent to Shrila Shridhara Maharaja’s asrama to learn from him. There they learned how to perform guru-puja and they also learned how to perform Vyasa-Puja when Shrila Prabhupada and his disciples attended the Vyasa-Puja of Shrila Shridhara Maharaja in 1967:
“Yesterday we have all come to Navadvipa. This place is another establishment of one of my godbrothers. It is very nice and extensive place and my godbrother, B.R. Shridhara Maharaja has spared one entire nice house for my stay. He has also agreed to cooperate with our society. We shall observe his birthday ceremony tomorrow and the brahmacaris shall learn how to celebrate the spiritual master's birthday.” (26th October, 1967 - Letter to Satsvarupa Dasa)
By faulting Shrila Prabhupada’s godbrothers in the way that ________Goswami has done, many of Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples fail to see the arrangement of Krishna. Thus, they reveal themselves to be hypocrites and remain kanistha devotees, or worse still, aparadhis.
Furthermore, a consideration that these devotees are self-condemned kanistha-adhikaris is the fact that anyone, after fifty years of devotional service, who continues to think that all the living entities in the material world, in countless numbers of universes, were once pure devotees of Krishna absorbed in love of God eternally in Goloka Vrndavana one day were overcome by lust and became envious of Krishna, and were thus cast down to the worlds of birth, death, old age and disease is clearly a kanistha, despite their having achieved a Phd in Sanskrit and risen to the heights of leadership in ISKCON.
Yes, you heard me correctly! They cannot understand, due to their Vaisnava aparadha and kanistha mentality, where the soul comes from. It is similar to what Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita regarding the nature of consciousness:
ascarya-vat pasyati kascid enam
ascarya-vad vadati tathaiva canyah
ascarya-vac cainam anyah srnoti
srutvapy enas veda na caiva kascit
“Some look at the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.29)
Swami Narasingha speaks about the unique personality of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the appearance of the SIksastakam. From a class give on January 25th, 200...<
Question: Is it correct to say that we shouldn’t necessarily take everything our acaryas say literally? We don't blindly follow as Srila Prabhupada has written in the purport to Bhagavad-gita 4.34, correct?
Answer: We should accept our previous acaryas(parama-guru etc.) in whatever way our own guru has accepted them. Having firm faith in our guru is the key to all success in Krsna consciousness. Of course, that pre-supposes our having accepted a bona-fide spiritual master, one who knows the science of Krsna.
tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah
“Just try to understand this knowledge by approaching a self-realised person who has seen the truth. Make submissive inquiry and render service unto him. The tattva-darsi, the seer of the truth, will instruct you and give you initiation into this sacred path.” (Gita 4.34)
Statements by our guru, or previous acaryas, that may be seen as relative are not the statements made regarding the Absolute Truth, but statements concerning relative topics like politics, weather, health, etc. Absolute statements about relative subjects are rare, but sometimes occur. Most statements, true or false, about relative subject matters are relative in any case.
Why ‘we don’t blindly follow’ as Srila Prabhupada has mentioned in the purport to Bhagavad-gita4.34 is in reference to not blindly accepting a spiritual master in the first place, as is the case in many instances in today’s Vaisnava world. It does not refer to how one should follow the guru afterhaving accepted initiation. If the guru is bona-fide (sad-guru) and knows the science of Krsna, then yes – one could follow blindly, as in the case of ‘the rope is a snake.’ However, if the guru one accepts has meagre knowledge of the science of Krsna, or has become envious of pure Vaisnavas, then the disciple has to be attentive and intelligent enough to save himself.
Although Gaudiya Vaisnavism has spread all over the world, it can be said that it is weaker now in proper siddhanta and proper behaviour than ever before. Quantity does not always guarantee quality. The 'big institution' can simply become a 'big mess', failing in its original purpose. In fact, it is usually the case when quantity increases, quality decreases, or when quality increases, quantity will decrease. This we can see practically – the big institutions become absorbed in expanding their properties and numbers, whereas smaller independent groups of devotees and preachers, though fewer in numbers, are more concerned with quality and proper conception.
We once heard that in the ________ Maharaja camp there were 200 devotees at a kirtana in Los Angeles and all were crying in ecstasy! I for one did not take it seriously because I know for certain that real ‘ecstasy’ is not that common – it is very, very rare, su-durlabha. That everyone was crying, I could believe because shedding tears comes easily for Sahajiyas and sentiment-mongers. But to say that they were all in ‘ecstasy’ is self-deception.
The key to everything is guru-nistha, firm faith in guru. Reading many sastras and hearing many opinions can, and oftentimes does, become a case for bewilderment. While reading sastra and listening to hari-katha one should always keep in mind the question, “Who am I serving? Under who's asraya (shelter) am I reading and hearing hari-katha?” Reading sastra without asraya of our guru is knowledge-seeking and does not produce bhakti. Here is a nice quote from Srila Sridhara Maharaja in that regard:
“Our Godbrother, Nisikant Sanyal said that when we are requested by a Vaisnava to write or read any book, then that constitutes devotion. But when of our own accord we read any devotional book, that won’t give us devotion. That will be karma or jnana. To surrender unconditionally to the instruction coming down to us, that is bhakti. All else is imitation. We find this warning everywhere. This we should understand. Even reading the scriptures is not devotion unless done on the order of the Vaisnava. Independent reading is only knowledge-seeking.” (Follow the Angels Ch.1)
All our reading, researching, listening to hari-katha, etc. is to one end and one end alone, and that is guru-padasraya and guru-nistha, to take shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru and His Grace with firm faith and conviction — without which, we are lost, a ship without a rudder or a captain.
yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mhatmana
“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports [truths] of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” (Svetasvatara Upanisad6.23)
Accepting the asraya of guru is actually the first step in bhakti-yoga. If this step is omitted, then all other practices are futile. In the following verse, Srila Rupa Gosvami gives us the first four steps in the practice of sadhana-bhakti.
guru-padasrayas tasmat krsna-diksadi-siksanam
visrambhena guroh seva sadhu-vartmanu-vartanam
(1) Submission to the feet of the guru (spiritual master); (2) Receiving training from him in spiritual initiation and practices regarding Sri Krsna; (3) serving the spiritual master with affectionate zeal; (4) Following in the path of saints. (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.74)
If one has lost faith in his diksa-guru due to the guru having meagre knowledge of the science of Krsna, having abandoned the principles of bhakti-yoga or having become envious of the pure Vaisnavas, then one may be left with little recourse but to take shelter of the holy name and the sastra. However, the example of being cast into the ocean without a boat or a captain is appropriate here. In the ocean a life-jacket, or even a lifeboat, may keep one afloat for some time, but not forever – one must reach land or board another ship sooner or later, otherwise death is certain. One cannot simply float around the ocean forever. Similarly, if one has lost faith in his guru for genuine reasons, then taking shelter of the holy name and the sastra will sustain one for some time, but not for all time. With the help of the holy name, sastra and sincerity within, we must again find the asraya of sad-guru. Otherwise, we remain in limbo. We may attain some karma-misra-bhakti or jnana-misra-bhakti, but we will never reach the goal of jnana-sunya-bhakti, pure devotional service. Guru-padasraya is the greatest of our necessities to be fulfilled.
Question: In one place, Srila Sridhara Maharaja has said –
“The position of acarya is a relative thing, and the position of the disciple is also relative, just like the relationship between mother and child, father and son, wife and husband. Although to his godbrothers a guru will be seen in a relative position, to his disciple, the guru is absolute. So to adjust between the relative and absolute is a difficult thing; it is an eternal problem.”
Yet in another place, Srila Sridhara Maharaja seems to make an opposite statement, saying that the disciple sees the guru as relative –
“Otherwise, as long as possible, the rank should be respected. Both the relative and absolute consideration- side by side. The disciples should be encouraged by the relative consideration mostly. And godbrothers will have more feel for the absolute consideration.”
Answer: Yes, in this last statement Srila Sridhara Maharaja is explaining how to maintain the balance in a triple relationship between the acarya, the acarya’s godbrother and the acarya’sdisciple – a difficult relationship indeed. Sridhara Maharaja says that the rank must be respected and so the godbrother gives respect to his acarya godbrother as in the absolute position in order to encourage the newcomer. The disciple on the other hand, though normally seeing his guru as absolute, in the triple relationship, sees the relative position of his guru in that his guru and his guru’s godbrother are in fact just that – godbrothers. Sridhara Maharaja explains in this way:
“In trying to understand the relationships between guru and godbrother and guru and disciple, we will find very subtle points of sentiment. Just as when Krsna entered into the arena of Kamsa, he appeared differently to different persons – the disciples will have one view of their guru and his godbrothers will have another view and disposition. The disciples of a genuine guru will see their guru as being with Krsna, but that may not be seen to his godbrothers. In madhurya-rasa, Krsna is seen in one way, and in vatsalya-rasa, Mother Yasoda sees Him in another way. The servants see Him in another way. The rsis like Garga Muni will see Him in another way. As Krsna likes to show Himself, He will be seen.”
I appreciate your questions because I think you are intelligent and sincere, but at this time, I think the Lord in your heart is your best friend and guide. Search with all earnestness and you will find what you are looking for.