Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaj
[Part 1 of a discourse given in Eugene, Oregon, on July 8, 1996]
I'm thinking that we are in ista-gosthi. We are all are devotees here; we are all friends, and we are expressing our ideas to each other. In this ista-gosthi, first I want to say that after the disappearance of Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, many of the senior Vaisnavas, and especially those who were sincere and very beloved to Shrila Prabhupada, left his mission . They came out of that mission, but they never left their Gurudeva or his teachings, or anything associated with Krishna consciousness.
Once, someone said to Gurudeva, Shrila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaj, "Those who have left the Gaudiya Mission have left Shrila Prabhupada's teachings." Gurudeva replied, "We have never left Shrila Prabhupada, we will never leave, and in the future we will continue to serve. Let us see what happens in the future."
It was actually the accusers themselves who had abandoned Krishna consciousness, and they even left Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami. So, don't think that. Let those who are barking like this bark. Pure disciples never abandon their Gurudeva. They never relinquish the service of Vaisnavas. They never leave the teachings of their Gurudeva. They never disavow Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, and all the Vaisnavas, like Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. They never stop serving the Divine Couple, Shri Shri Radha-Krishna.
They may give up one place and go to another place – they may change their place – but they will always have regard for the place where their Gurudeva has left his foot-dust.
So you should never think it is a problem if you are in a different place. Take it as the blessings of your Gurudeva that you are now fully absorbed in chanting and serving him and the Divine Couple Radha-Krishna, as well as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – Gaura-Nityananda Prabhu. They are giving this chance. We see that Narada Rsi and Vyasadeva were not together all the time, but their hearts were together. Sukadeva Gosvami went here and there. We see that Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Raghunatha dasa were not always in one place together.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada saw that Kali-yuga was present, and there was no mission to encourage and engage people in services according to their qualifications in various fields. He wanted to engage all people in Krishna's service according to their qualifications. So he created a mission during his time.
Then, after the time of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, many of his followers went here and there, but they maintained their great regard for Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's birthplace and for their Gurudeva. And some of those who remained living in their matha went to hell. I know them; you may also know who they are.
So you need not think that these are problems. There is only one problem: We do not feel the pangs of separation for Radha-Krishna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and our Gurudeva; this is the only problem. Otherwise, there is no problem at all.
Krishna sometimes arranges circumstances like this for the sincere Vaisnavas, though we may think that it is a problem. Actually, it is not a problem. Rather, Krishna has managed to inspire us to develop our Krishna consciousness. We were with all the disciples of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura. We are so fortunate to have learned all these truths.
Maharaj (who spoke before Shrila Gurudeva) just said something that was very good. He said that Vaisnavas are more bona fide than sastra and guru. But this is true in one sense only – not in every case. Krishna is Himself the Veda, Upanisad, Sastra, and Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
[I worship the Shrimad-Bhagavatam which is the auspicious sound incarnation of Shri Krishna, the abode of mercy and the origin of all demigods, whose transcendental form is black like the tamala tree. He has appeared in the beautiful form of this Bhagavatam just to make a bridge whereby materially conditioned souls can cross the otherwise insurmountable ocean of repeated birth and death.]
Vaisnavas cannot be like the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Shrimad-Bhagavatam is Krishna's heart. Sometimes there is confusion about who is actually a Vaisnava and who is not. But sastra cannot cheat us at any time, because He is Krishna and has emanated from the mouth of Krishna, or from the breathing of Krishna. If there is any doubt about guru or Vaisnavas, we will have to consult sastra. That is why Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told to Raya Ramananda, "Whatever You speak, speak with examples from sastra. Then I will consider that what you are speaking is bona fide; otherwise I will dismiss what you say."
So, what did Ramananda Raya tell? For each suggested perfectional goal (sadhya) or process to achieve that goal (sadhana), he quoted a sloka (verse) from the Veda, Purana, Upanisad, and especially from Gita and Bhagavatam – and especially from the Bhagavatam.
Shrimad-Bhagavatam is bona fide at all times, but the key to understanding and realizing it is in the hands of the bhakta-bhagavata. This is the thing. The pure Vaisnavas have the key. They are bhakta-bhagavata (the personalities in whose heart Shrimad-Bhagavatam is manifest), but Shrimad-Bhagavata is the heart of Krishna.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to recite slokas of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, such as:
barhapidam nata-vara-vapuh karnayoh karnikaram
bibhrad vasah kanaka-kapisam vaijayantim ca malam
randhran venor adhara-sudhayapurayan gopa-vrndair
vrndaranyam sva-pada-ramanam pravisad gita-kirtih
[Syamasundara entered the forest of Vrnda-devi, accompanied by His cowherd boyfriends. His head was decorated with a peacock feather; He wore yellow karnikara flowers over His ears, and a dazzling golden-yellow garment on His body. A fragrant vaijayanti garland made of five kinds of flowers hung around His neck and extended down to His knees. He was splendidly attired as an expert dancer, and He appeared just like a very fine actor on stage. He poured the nectar of His lips through the holes of His flute, and the cowherd boys followed behind Him, singing His glories. Shri Krishna made the land of Vrindavan even more charming than Vaikuntha, for He beautified it with prints of His lotus feet, which were marked with the conch, disk, and other symbols.]
Mahaprabhu would sometimes not be able to recite the entire sloka. He only started, and then became ecstatic and would call out, "Radhe Radhe, Krishna Krishna Krishna!" Then Gadadhara Prabhu would come and help Him.
There are so many slokas, such as:
aho baki yam stana-kala-kutam
jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato 'nyam
kam va dayalum saranam vrajema
[How astonishing! When Putana, the wicked sister of Bakasura, tried to kill child Krishna by offering Him deadly poison on her breast, He gave her the position of His nursemaid. Could I ever have as merciful a shelter as that of Lord Krishna?]
Sastra has no bhrama (tendency to commit mistakes), pramada (tendency to be illusioned), vipralipsa (cheating propensity), or karanapatava (imperfect senses); but a sadhu may do all these things. From the kanistha-adhikari to uttama maha-bhagavatas like Sukadeva Gosvami and Narada Gosvami, all are Vaisnavas, but we will have to recognize who is who. How? If they are following Shrimad-Bhagavatam, then they are true sadhu and guru, otherwise not. By following sastra, they have become sadhu. Otherwise they are not sadhu, not Vaisnavas – not actual Vaisnavas.
atmaramas ca munayo
nirgrantha apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukim bhaktim
[Suta Gosvami said: All different varieties of atmaramas (those who take pleasure in the atma, or spirit soul), especially those established on the path of self-realization, though freed from all kinds of material bondage, desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead. This means that the Lord possesses transcendental qualities and therefore can attract everyone, including liberated souls.]
At first, Sukadeva Gosvami was a brahma-jnani, and he went to the jungle . But later, when he returned and heard the entire Shrimad-Bhagavatam, then he became a rasika Vaisnava. And then he declared:
nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam
pibata bhagavatam rasam alayam
muhur aho rasika bhuvi bhavukah
[O expert and thoughtful men, relish Shrimad-Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literature. It emanated from the lips of Shri Sukadeva Gosvami. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.]
What is that Bhagavatam? It is rasamalayam, the endless ocean of rasa. If a person does not follow the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, he is not a sadhu.
srimad-bhagavatam puranam amalam prema pumartho mahan
sri-caitanya-mahaprabhor matam idam tatradaraù na para
The spotless authority is Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and this is accepted by Mahaprabhu himself. If a person is not following the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, although he may be considered a great philosopher and famous as a great bhakta, still, we don't recognize him as an authority. On the other hand, we recognize one as authority if he is absorbed in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam and knows the meaning of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's instructions to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya presented nine explanations to the verse beginning atmaramas ca of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu presented sixty-four explanations of the same verse. Hearing Mahaprabhu's explanations, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya fell flat, offering his prostrated obeisances at the Lord's lotus feet.
So, vidya bhagavata vadhih – Bhagavatam is the limit of education. If one understands Bhagavatam, he's finished his education.
It is true that Vaisnavas have said that Krishna and Yogamaya both came from the womb of Yasoda. But you should know that not only are these the words of Vaisnavas, this is stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam and also in the Hari-vamsa-Purana, written by Shrila Vyasa – that Krishna came from the womb of Yasoda. It has been clearly written there. It is not only that Visvanatha Cakravarti ?hakura and Shrila Sanatana Gosvami and Shrila Jiva Gosvami have explained this. Rather, their explanations are on the basis of the authority of bona fide sastra. Jiva Gosvami has presented all these topics in the first Sandarbha – Tattva-sandarbha – and Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhusana has presented these topics in his Siddhanti-darpana. We should know and honor all these truths.
At the same time, without bhakta-bhagavata (the bona fide guru and Vaisnavas), we cannot know the Shrimad-Bhagavatam; the key is in their hands. We should always honor them, not less than Krishna, but more than Krishna. We first do arcana of Gurudeva and then Radha-Krishna:
yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah
[All the confidential truths described in this Upanisadas will be revealed to that great soul who has the same exclusive, uninterrupted, transcendental devotion for his guru that he has for Bhagavan.]
Actually, guru should be honored more than Krishna Himself, because guru has taken us to the lotus feet of Krishna. He has given the relationship with Krishna, otherwise we could not have it. First worship Gurudeva, and then the Deities. Also in asta-kaliya-lila; first Gurudeva, then Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and then come to Krishna and Radha. This is the process.
We are indebted to Vaisnavas, because they have taken us to gurudeva. Otherwise we could not have realized who is guru and who is not guru. We are indeed indebted to the Vaisnavas, and gurudeva is also a Vaisnava. If a gurudeva is not honoring Vaisnavas, then he is not a bona fide guru – he should not be taken as a guru.
Sometimes diksa-guru is superior; sometimes siksa guru is superior. For example, we treat and understand Rupa Gosvami as our siksa-guru. Krishna is siksa-guru, Lalita is siksa-guru, Visakha is siksa-guru, and Svarupa Damodara and Raya Ramananda are siksa-gurus. They are not inferior to our gurudeva. They – Rupa Gosvami, Svarupa Damodara, Raya Ramananda – are worshipable for our gurudeva also.
Still, they are siksa-gurus for us; we should not consider who is inferior and who is superior among them. Truly, Krishna is our gurudeva, or Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and He is inspiring us. He is caitya-guru. He is not inferior to our diksa-guru.
Certainly we are indebted to all Vaisnavas, because they have given us all these truths. We should honor Vaisnavas, Gurudeva, siksa-guru, diksa-guru, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, all His associates, and also Radha and Krishna with all Their associates.
*Transcribed and edited by the Bhaktabandhav Team.