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Guru-sevā is essential

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12.jpgŚrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja
July 20, 2006
Mathurā

yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23

[The conclusive essence of the scriptures is revealed only to those great souls who have transcendental devotion (parā-bhakti) unto Śrī Bhagavān and equal devotion for śrī gurudeva.]

Those who have parā-bhakti, prema-bhakti, towards Bhagavān and if they have the same bhakti towards the lotus feet of śrīla gurudeva, then the meanings of all the scriptures will be revealed in the heart of that devotee.
It is also said:

bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syād
īśād apetasya viparyayo ’smṛtiḥ
tan-māyayāto budha ābhajet taṁ
bhaktyaikayeśaṁ guru-devatātmā
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.37

[Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself as the material body because of absorption in māyā, the external, deluding potency of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the Supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. Therefore, an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a sad-guru, whom he should accept as his worshipable deity and as his very life and soul.]

Because we have forgotten Bhagavān, our buddhi (intelligence) has changed, has become reversed. That is, instead of having prema for the lotus feet of Bhagavān, the baddha-jīva has developed prema for the things of this world and he is travelling for crores of lifetimes in the material realm. Therefore, if one considers Gurudeva to be his priya bandhu and performs bhajana of Bhagavān, then very quickly he can cross the ocean of material existence.

It is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.21):

tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam

[Therefore (because we cannot attain real peace or happiness in this material world), a person who seriously desires the ultimate spiritual perfection must seek a bona fide guru and take shelter of him. The qualifications of śrī guru are: (1) he has fully realised the Vedic scriptures (śabda-brahma) and (2) the Supreme Absolute Truth (para-brahma), and (3) he is no longer charmed by the mundane world whatsoever.]

‘Tasmād’ means for this reason. For what reason? When one understands the temporary nature of this material world, then one accepts that there is no happiness here, because any little happiness we see in this world is also temporary. When one completely understands this, then he desires to know the topmost auspiciousness (uttama kalyāṇa), śreya uttamam.

‘Uttama kalyāṇa’ means [to know] what is our relationship with Kṛṣṇa, and through that relationship, to know in what form and by what process Kṛṣṇa is to be served. This can only be done by taking shelter of a bona fide guru. What are the qualities of a bona fide guru? He is niṣṇāta, meaning that he has realisation in the śabda-brahma and Parabrahma. Niṣṇāta in śabda-brahma means that he is fully realised in conclusions of all the scriptures, and he can remove all our doubts. Any doubts, he will be able to remove immediately. He has realisation of Parabrahma. Who is Parabrahma? Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa. He has realisation of Him and is very dedicated to nāma-bhajana [accepting nāma-bhajan as his only resort]. He is also totally detached from this material world. One should take shelter of such a guru and perform bhajana of Bhagavān.

We must accept the deliberations (vicāra) of the guru-paramparā. Who is the first guru? It is Himself Kṛṣṇa. He said to Arjuna thousands of years ago – ‘the knowledge I am giving to you now, I gave to Sūrya millions of years ago.’ From Sūrya it was given to Manu, Brahmā, Nārada and so on. From Brahmā it was given to Nārada and from Nārada it was given to Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Veda Vyāsa, who appeared on a small island in Mathurā near the Kṛṣṇa Gaṅgā Ghat in Yamunā. Parāśara Ṛṣi, knower of bhagavat-tattva, went to Mathurā for some reason. There was some delay in leaving and it became late in the evening. He called the boatman to cross the Yamunā but the boatman was tired so he sent his daughter Satyavatī. Satyavatī had appeared from the womb of an apsarā (celestial maiden) and the boatman had brought her up. Parāśara Ṛṣi’s āśrama was close to the āśrama of Durvāsā Ṛṣi. So the boatman asked Satyavatī to take Parāśara Ṛṣi across the Yamunā.

When they were coming close to the small island, the brahmacārī ṛṣi Parāśara, looked towards Satyavatī. By his glance, a baby appeared within her womb, and she immediately gave birth to a very beautiful sixteen-year-old blackish complexioned boy. So he is called Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana because he appeared on an island and was of blackish complexion.

Parāśara Ṛṣi told Satyavatī that “Your virginity is intact. Śāntanu Mahārāja will come and marry you and his dynasty will continue after that. So don’t fear.” And then he left.

From Vyāsadeva came Śukadeva Gosvāmī. One lineage was from Śukadeva Gosvāmī to Sūta Gosvāmī, etc. [In another lineage] Vyāsadeva gave direct darśanaalong with dīkṣā-śikṣā to Mādhavācārya in Badrikāśrama, and his paramparācontinued to Mādhavendra Purīpada, who is the first aṅkura of bhakti kalpa-taru, sprout of the creeper of bhakti. After Mādhavendra Purīpada came Īśvara Purīpadajī. He met Mahāprabhu in Gāya and gave him dīkṣā mantra – gopal mantra. One lineage from Mahāprabhu consisted of Svarūpa Dāmodara, Rāya Rāmānanda, Rūpa Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvāmī, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and from him Jaganātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī, Śrīla Bhaktisiddāntha Sarasvatī Thākura Prabhupāda and then to us and the line (dhara) is continuing in this way.

If we accept only guru and not guru-paramparā there will be problems [in our spiritual life] and divya-jñāna will not manifest. Therefore we also worship guru-paramparā on the day of Vyāsa-pūjā. Nityānanda Prabhu was waiting for Mahāprabhu. Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita was ready and at his house all paraphernalia was present to perform Vyāsa-pūjā – betel nut, betel leaves, etc. It was announced that Vyāsa-pūjā would be performed at his house the following day. Everyone, from Advaita Ācārya to everyone, was present at his house the following day. Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita asked Nityānanda Prabhu to commence the pūjā and he replied, “hu hu, yes yes.” When Mahāprabhu came, Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita said that Nityānanda Prabhu was not performing Vyāsa-pūjā. But when Mahāprabhu appeared, Nityānanda Prabhu immediately offered Him the garland and worshiped Him. In this way Vyāsa-pūjā was performed because Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa, the origin of Vyāsa. Then the Vyāsa-pūjā ceremony continued.

From ancient times we can see that guru-pūjā has been accepted as worship of Bhagavān. With firm faith, one should surrender unto the lotus feet of guru – that is worship of guru. If one doesn’t have faith in the lotus feet of guru ‘saṁśayātmā vinaśyati’, if one has doubt, he will be ruined’.

It is very easy to attain Bhagavān if one has a pure qualified guru. If one has a guruwho has the qualities as mentioned in the verse ‘tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta,’ then we should understand that it has come after accumulating sukṛtis over millions of lifetimes. If guru is qualified then it becomes very easy to cross over the ocean of material existence. Instead, if one is not qualified, one attains kali guru. There may be lakhas of gurus but a proper disciple is very rare. If by chance there is one bona fide disciple, at that time there may be no bona fide guru. It is very rare to get a qualified disciple and qualified guru. Understanding this we should take shelter of a [pure] guru. Whatever guru says, we should understand to be his mano ’bhīṣṭa, his heart-felt desire. Indeed, it is what he wants.

Śrī-caitanya-mano ’bhīṣṭaṁ – Rupa Gosvami knew the mano ’bhīṣṭa of his guruCaitanya Mahāprabhu and acted accordingly.

It is said that the human birth is very rare. Only after crores of births one attains this human birth. Don’t waste your time in material enjoyment (viṣaya) whether you are male or female. If you are gṛhasta – don’t be attached. Perform your activities being detached and be attached to the lotus feet of Bhagavān.

‘Tūrṇaṁ yateta na pated anu-mṛtyu yāvan’ [Note 1] Life is very short and can finish at any moment (kṣaṇa-bhaṅgura) but it can give the greatest wealth, paramārtha. We don’t know what will happen after this birth. We may get millions of births as dogs and hogs and we will not be able to perform bhajana. You have gotten this human birth, don’t waste even one second. Some brahmacārīs are thinking of getting married and entering material life. It is very appalling. After hearing so much hari-kathā and staying with vaiṣṇavas, I cannot understand how desires like these can appear in their heart. Renunciation from this material world will come if one performs bhajana properly. Tattva-jñāna will automatically come itself in a natural way and one will be fixed in that.

They are hearing and speaking hari-kathā all the time and chanting day and night, going here and there. But where is their mind? They are always thinking, “When can I get married in a beautiful way? When can I get wealth, house and wife?” But they don’t know all these are the fire of death. Even when we explain to them, still they don’t understand.

First we should understand that we have taken birth millions of times. We have also been devatas and gandharvas. We have enjoyed so much but still we have not become tired of that. Therefore whether you are male or female – become detached from material enjoyment even while staying amongst material facilities. You should engage in bhagavad-bhajan before death comes.

The fruit of guru-sevā is that even without performing sādhana-bhajana one can cross the ocean of material existence and will attain something substantial.

From the examples in the Upaniṣads, the story of Aruṇi is prominent. Also Upamanyu. During the time of Satya-yuga, when Aruṇi went to his gurudeva, his gurudeva told him, “You should be brahmacārīs (remain celibate) for 25 years and engage in the service of my cows and follow whatever orders are given by guru-mātā.” At the end of this 25 years, one evening it was raining very heavily. Seeing the heavy clouds, Gurudeva said, “Go to the field and stop the water from flowing away [reinforce the dam] otherwise there will be no paddy planting.” He went in the night to the field, it was winter-time and very cold. Using a spade he was putting soil to stop the water from flowing away but there was so much rain that the water couldn’t be stopped. In the end, being tired and not knowing what else to do, he himself laid down there to stop the water. Even though it was so cold and he was coming close to death, he laid there to follow the orders of his gurudeva.

In the morning when Gurudeva reached there, he called out, “Aruṇi! Aruṇi! Where are you?” In a shivering voice Aruṇi replied, “Gurujī, I am here.” Gurudeva asked, “What are you doing here?” Aruṇi replied, “I greatly endeavoured to stop the water from flowing away, but on seeing it wasn’t possible by the soil, I placed myself there.”

Gurudeva said, “Get up. Go. You have my blessings. All the knowledge you came to get from me will now manifest in your heart.” He became the knower of all the Upaniṣads in an instant. It didn’t take too much time. He engaged in the meditation of Upaniṣad-brahma and crossed the ocean of material existence.

Upaniṣad-brahma is nirviśeṣa, nirākāra.

Similarly, there was Upamanyu. His gurudeva said, “You will have to stay in my gurukula for twenty-five years and graze the cows.” After twenty-five years, his gurusaid, “You look fit. What do you eat? You don’t take anything here.”

Upamanyu answered, "When the calves drink milk and some remnant is left, I take that."

His gurudeva ordered, " Do not do that. Don’t give difficulty to the calves." But Gurudeva did not tell him how to maintain his life.

Upamanyu again went out with the cows, and after some days Gurudeva called him and asked, "Oh, you are still very strong. What you are eating? Are you drinking milk?"

"No, no!"

"Then what do you eat?"

"When the cows are resting, they chew their cud. Some foam comes outside their mouths and I take that.”

"Why you are doing that? Do not do that."

Upamanyu again went out with the cows, and one day he was feeling very hungry. There is ‘ekwan’ plant and milk comes from its leaves. It is very poisonous. The flower from that tree is offered to Śaṅkara. Feeling hungry, he drank the milk from those leaves and became blind, upon which he fell into a well. That evening the cows returned without him. Gurudeva came looking for him calling,"

Upamanyu! Upamanyu!"

When he was close, Upamanyu called out, “Gurudeva, I’m in a well."

"Why are you in a well?"

"I took the juice from the ‘ekwan’ plant and I became blind."

Gurudeva approached him, pulled him out, and told him, "First your eyesight shall be restored, and then all Vedas, Upaniṣad, etc will instantly appear in your heart.”

In the beginning of Kali-yuga, Śaṅkarācārya was present with many knowledgeable disciples. With dig-vijaya paṇḍits they went to Badrinārāyaṇa, where he was daily giving classes. He had one disciple who was illiterate. This disciple used to perform all sevā for his guru – washing his clothes, cooking for him and so on. One day he went to the other side of the Gaṅgā to wash Śaṅkarācārya’s clothes but he was late coming back. The class was scheduled to start at 4pm. His qualified disciples, big, big paṇḍits all well-renowned, said “Gurujī, start your class.” But he didn’t start. They asked who he was waiting for as everyone was present.

Śaṅkarācārya replied that his sevaka had not arrived. The students said that sevakawas illiterate and will not understand, so he should start.

Still Śaṅkarācārya didn’t start. That sevaka came back running, offered prāṇāṁs and started reciting difficult stotra and stutis that even the other renowned disciples couldn’t understand. Everyone was astonished. This is the result of guru-sevā. This is the ideal of guru-sevā.

You know that Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma went to their guru’s āśrama with a brāhmaṇa youth from Dvārakā, Sudāmā. To fulfil the order of their gurudeva, Kṛṣṇa and Sudāmā went to look for dry wood. It started raining so heavily that water was all around them and they couldn’t go anywhere. Even though Kṛṣṇa is Bhagavān, still they stood in the heavy waters somehow protecting the wood from getting wet. In the morning Sāndīpani Muni was looking for them. After finding them, he asked why they were late, and they replied that because of so much water it was difficult to walk.

He blessed them, saying, “All Your desires will be fulfilled. You will be expert in all the 64 arts (types of knowledge).” All this happened due to serving guru.

When I look at my life – I have not studied so much, very little. But because of serving Gurudeva, everywhere in the world – professors and deans of universities, doctors, engineers, all of them are listening to me. This is the fruit of guru-sevā, nothing else.

Our gurudeva is an ideal of sevā. Śrīla Prabhupāda had many disciples but when the need arose – when the smārta-brāhmaṇas of Navadvīpa and sahajiyā vaiṣṇavastried to kill Śrīla Prabhupāda, Gurujī exchanged his ordinary white clothes with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s sannyāsa dress and sent Śrīla Prabhupāda to Māyāpura. Gurujī kept his life in his hands (risked his own life). Therefore he is the ideal of guru-sevā. You should learn all these things.

Note 1:
labdhvā su-durlabham idaṁ bahu-sambhavānte
mānuṣyam artha-dam anityam apīha dhīraḥ
tūrṇaṁ yateta na pated anu-mṛtyu yāvan
niḥśreyasāya viṣayaḥ khalu sarvataḥ syāt
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.9.29)

This human birth is very rare, because it is only attained after many lifetimes. Although temporary, it can give the highest benefit and be a springboard leading to spiritual perfection. After all, sense gratification is available even in the most abominable species, whereas spiritual perfection is possible only for a human being. Therefore, an intelligent person should immediately, without wasting a single moment, begin to endeavour with one-pointed dedication to achieve the ultimate good fortune, before death comes. And what is this ultimate good fortune? Cultivation of kṛṣṇa-bhakti. (One cannot obtain this ultimate perfection without sādhu-saṅga, which is difficult to obtain in any species other than the human form).

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