Is Bhagavān Subordinate to His Bhakta?



śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-3, Issue 3
Posted: 3 April 2010


Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja


Inspired by and under the guidance of

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja


Is Bhagavān Subordinate to His Bhakta?

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda


(Photograph of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda)


Question 1: Is the absence of complete faith in Śrī Bhagavān the cause of inauspiciousness?

Answer: Wherever there is an absence of complete, unflinching faith or confidence in the Supreme Lord, who is the embodiment of auspiciousness, inauspiciousness is inevitable. Therefore, in all respects, one must abandon the process of empiricism (ārohapanthā), or the path of hearing from inauthentic sources (aśrautapanthā), and instead accept the process of descending knowledge (avarohapanthā), or the path of hearing the divine message from the authentic source (śrautapanthā). If we desire spiritual welfare, then with utmost selflessness, we must surrender all the material possessions we have acquired to date unto the Lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, and we must long for His causeless mercy.

Unless one is blessed by a particle of His mercy, it will be completely impossible to comprehend His message or anything about Him. Moreover, unless we have complete faith that it is His nature to bestow all auspiciousness upon us, we may not be able to relinquish our accumulated material possessions, free from doubt. That is, if I plunge into doubt by some misfortune, I may think, “If I renounce all that I have, will I not sink thereafter into the depths of great difficulty? If He will have nothing to give me, will I not become the loser on both ends – the material and the spiritual?” But this variety of doubt is completely baseless. If such doubts manifest, they simply lead the living entities to their own ruin.


* * *

The Supreme Lord never sends His surrendered devotees away with unfulfilled desires. The living entity can become fearless, free from all anxieties and truly happy only when he develops firm faith that Śrī Bhagavān alone has the potency to fulfil all of his requirements and provide him shelter in every respect. When the living entity becomes the recipient of Bhagavān’s most propitious compassion (amandodayā dayā) the depth of his good-fortune cannot be expressed in words. Upon receiving His mercy, the living entity obtains an especially invaluable, transcendental treasure: he feels a constant lacking and discontent. In other words, despite serving Him at each and every moment, his desire to serve the Lord does not end, he feels as if he is unable to serve Him at all and that he has not developed even a drop of love for Him. At that time, there will be no reason to lament, “cultivating the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord is monotonous” or, “the future is full of the darkness of hopelessness” or, “I have been cheated by coming to Him”.

The Lord, who is grateful, competent and extremely benevolent, would never, ever immerse us in the ocean of despair. Although we possess the precious jewel called independence, our independence is, in fact, totally dependent upon the Lord. The moment I act in contradiction to this fact, the very moment I attempt to misuse my independence, I will be ruined.

If we beg the people of this world for help, none of them will be able to truly provide us with what we lack or offer solutions to our problems. For this reason, Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā instructs us with such a bold voice to completely surrender unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Being (bhagavad-vastu), the Lord of all lords. Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone is that bhagavad-vastu – Svayam Bhagavān Himself. To surrender unto Him is the one and only objective for the living being. Only when we surrender to Him completely shall we achieve perfection in all the goals of our life and perfectly comprehend everything concerning duty and non-duty. Therefore, the means by which one may attain such self-surrender, or complete śaraṇāgati, even while in the midst of many internal and external obstacles, is a topic of utmost importance that must be carefully deliberated upon.


Question 2: Is Bhagavān subordinate to His bhakta?

Answer: Verily, Śrī Govinda is subordinate to the devotees. Although the devotees of Bhagavān are His energy, or śakti, still, in relation to service, the bhaktas have much more power, or śakti, to serve than the Lord Himself. And why not? If that were not so, they would not be able to serve Śrī Bhagavān. Bhagavān is completely independent from any form of control or regulation, yet He becomes as if subservient and controlled by the beauty of the service of the devotees and says:

ahaṁ bhakta-parādhīno
hy asvatantra iva dvija
sādhubhir grasta-hṛdayo
bhaktair bhakta-jana-priyaḥ

Śrīmad-Bhagavatām (9.4.63)

O brāhmaṇa, I am subordinate to My devotees. In fact, it is as if I am not at all independent, for the sādhus are the true owners of My heart. And the devotees of My devotees are also extremely dear to Me.

In reality, it is impossible to serve effectively unless one is directly cognizant of the emotions deep within the heart of the person being served. Sometimes, the topmost servants may wait for the orders of their master, but other times, aware of the inner feelings of their worshipful lord, they may serve him without being ordered. As the soul of all souls, Bhagavān wanders in the hearts of His devotees, and in the same way, the devotees wander in the heart of Bhagavān; they are the soul of the Supreme soul.


Question 3: Who should one associate with?

Answer: Only he who preaches that one ought to serve Bhagavān with devotion is śrī guru. And none but the devotees are actually saintly personalities, or sādhus. The conceptions of karmīs, jñānīs and yogīs all stem from aversion to Bhagavān and to serving Him (bahirmukhatā). One must therefore renounce the association of karma-yogīs, brahma-jñānīs, māyāvādīs and ku-yogīs (imposter yogīs). One must only associate with bhakti-yogīs. Only then can one achieve spiritual welfare.


Question 4: Is Śrīla Gurudeva a mortal human being?

Answer: Śrīla Gurudeva is never a mortal human being. He is not merely a lump of flesh and blood that may perish in a moment. In Śrīmad-Bhagavatām it is said that Śrīla Gurudeva is Bhagavān Himself. He is an incarnation.

By his own sweet will, Śrīla Gurudeva mercifully descends from the world of divinity to this one. He is eternally present in both manifest and non-manifest pastimes. He always resides as our lord and arouses our faculty of intelligence (buddhi-vṛtti).

Śrī guru – the embodiment of sat, cit and ānanda – is a supra-mundane, exalted personality. One who considers him to be an ordinary human being will offend the holy name and find himself in hell. Śrī guru is the knower of the reality of the soul, he is the knower of the reality of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and He is the most beloved fellow of Śrī Caitanyadeva. He has descended just to deliver fallen souls like us. He is neither a karmī, nor jñānī nor yogī; He is the topmost devotee of Bhagavān – a companion in the pastimes of the Ocean of Pastimes Himself.

Just as deva is eternal, śrī guru is also eternal. Here the word deva refers to aprākṛta kāmadeva Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the God of transcendental love. Śrīla Gurudeva is the very svarūpa of that same Kṛṣṇa – that is, he is the non-different, intrinsic from of Kṛṣṇa; he is the direct manifestation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa (prakāśa-vigraha).

When we contemplate non-difference from the Lord, Śrīla Gurudeva holds the topmost position on the continuum of worshipful entities. Although he is Bhagavān Himself, he is very dear to the Lord. Śrīla Gurudeva manifests his pastimes as the embodiment (vigraha) of Viṣṇu’s āśraya-jātīya aspect – that is, as the Supreme abode of love of God. Śrī guru and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are simultaneously and inconceivably one and different (acintya-bedhābheda-tattva). Śrīla Gurudeva is the supreme shelter of love of God (āśraya-jātīya-tattva) and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Godhead (viṣaya-tattva). Śrīla Gurudeva is sevaka-bhagavān, the Lord as the abode of loving service, and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is sevya-bhagavān, the Lord in the mode of the object of loving service, or Svayam Bhagavān. In the vision of a disciple who has realized his own svarūpa while pursuing rāga-mārga, Śrīla Gurudeva, who is so dear to Śrī Mukunda, is perceived as non-different from Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s śakti – that is, he is a manifestation of Śrī Vārṣabhāṇavi, Rādhikā.

Śrīla Gurudeva, who is exremely dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is the internal potency (svarūpa-śakti) while Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the fountainhead of all potencies (śaktimān). Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the enjoyer (puruṣa), and our gurudeva is Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s nature (prakṛti) and His beloved (kānta).


Translated by the Rays of the Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation


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Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.


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