[This class is a continuation of the discussion
of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book, Sri Bhagavata Arka Maricimala]
Badger, California: June 18, 2005
Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta
Please accept our humble obeisances.
All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga. All glories to today, January 28,
2006, the Vyasa Puja day of Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja.
We are in Hawaii today, and we have been waiting for Srila Narayana Maharaja's
arrival to help us celebrate this event; but due to ill health, he did not come.
Of course he has come, just as he has come to hear the sincere offerings of
tens of thousands of devotees all over the world. We pray that one day we will
be able to see him without encumbrance of external conditions.
In honor of this holy event we present “Your Twenty-Four Gurus”,
a lecture on guru-tattva, given on June 18, 2005. During his visit
to Badger in that year, Srila Narayana Maharaja gave a course on Srila
Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book, Sri Bhagavat-arkamarici-mala,
wherein Bhaktivinoda Thakura groups various essential verses from
Srimad-Bhagavatam according to topic, and then explains them. You
have previously received several lectures from this course, and here
is another. You will be happy to know that although this lecture was
given last year, today is the first time it is going out on the internet:]
Yesterday I explained the following
tasmad gurum prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
sabde pare ca nisnatam
[“Therefore, any person
who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master
and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru
is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and
is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who
have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations,
should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam
tatra bhagavatan dharman
tusyed atmatma-do harih
[“Accepting the bona fide
spiritual master as one's life and soul and worshipable deity, the disciple
should learn from him the process of pure devotional service. The Supreme Personality
of Godhead, Hari, the soul of all souls, is inclined to give Himself to His
pure devotees. Therefore, the disciple should learn from the spiritual master
to serve the Lord without duplicity and in such a faithful and favorable way
that the Supreme Lord, being satisfied, will offer Himself to the faithful disciple.”
The root and backbone of bhajana
is guru-nistha (strong faith in guru). Without strong faith in the bona fide
guru, and unconditional surrender to him, you cannot begin your bhakti. You
will never be able to do so.
There are two kinds of guru:
diksa-guru and siksa-guru. If the diksa-guru has given all siksa (instructions)
from beginning to end – teaching bhajana, the aim and object of life,
and all other devotional topics – be satisfied. However, if the diksa-guru
could somehow not complete this work, then a siksa-guru is needed. The siksa-guru
should be of equal rank to Gurudeva, but this is very rare. At the time of Srila
Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja there was no one equal to him in ISKCON. For his
disciples, therefore, there were senior god-brothers.
Lord Sri Krsna instructed Uddhava
in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this regard He cited a historical
narration concerning the conversation between the great King Yadu and an avadhuta
[*see endnote 1] named Dattatreya. The avadhuta was questioned by the king,
who asked how he had attained such an advanced state of spiritual consciousness,
and he replied to the king's enquiry:
santi me guravo rajan
yato buddhim upadaya
mukto 'tamiha tan srnu
[“My dear King, with my
intelligence I have taken shelter of many spiritual masters. Having gained transcendental
understanding from them, I now wander about the Earth in a liberated condition.
Please listen as I describe them to you.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.7.32)]
Dattatreya is said to be a saktyavesa-avatara
(a living being empowered by the Lord to act for a specific purpose). He used
to travel naked without any belongings. No one knew where he was going, and
even he himself did not know. Sometimes he was laughing, and sometimes weeping
bitterly and rolling on the earth. His movements made him appear as though he
had been captured by a ghost.
As mentioned, one day Yadu Maharaja
met him and asked, “You appear extremely happy. I cannot understand your
moods. Why are you weeping, laughing and rolling on the ground?”
Yadu Maharaja is teaching us
to approach a spiritual master with a submissive mood.
tad viddhi pranipatena
upadeksyanti te jnanam
[“Just try to learn the
truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render
service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because
he has seen the truth.” (Bhagavad-gita 4.34)]
Go to a tattva-darsi (one who
has seen the Absolute Truth). He knows everything, he is self-realized, and
he can remove all your doubts. Offer him obeisances, surrender to him, serve
and please him. Then pray to him, “If I am qualified to hear and understand,
please answer my question.” Ask in this way, and not in a challenging
Yadu Maharaja did this; he asked,
“You are very happy, but I cannot understand your mood. Please tell me
why you are traveling, why you are happy and why you are laughing and weeping.”
Dattatreya replied, “I have many gurus. I have received so many instructions
from them, and I have followed those instructions. I have 24 siksa-gurus: Prthivi
(the Earth), air, water, fire, the Moon, the Sun, the pigeon, the python, the
ocean, the moth, the bumblebee, the elephant, the honey collector, the deer,
the fish, the prostitute named Pingala, the hawk, the baby, the young unmarried
girl, the arrow-maker, the snake, the spider and the wasp.
Instructions are of three kinds:
1) hearing the teachings of those who are actually sadhus; that is, guru and
maha-bhagavata Vaisnavas. 2) learning from their character. We should follow
the manner in which they do bhajana, conduct their daily routine and behave
towards others. 3) watching here and there, and thus learning by one’s
own intelligence. Dattatreya was telling about what he concluded by seeing nature.
By his intelligence he took something for his own bhajana, and we should also
You are very fortunate that you
have either taken birth in a devotee family, or somehow Krsna has given you
the intelligence to hear hari-katha. You will have to hear. What is the meaning
of the word 'hear'?
Once an avadhuta (not Dattatreya)
came to the assembly of King Vikramaditya and challenged the king's council
members. He had been carrying a human skull, and now he put it on the table
and asked, “Who can tell whether this person was very intelligent or foolish
during his lifetime?” No one could answer, so he said, “I have wasted
my time here. Everyone here is foolish, because nobody can answer.” King
Vikramaditya said, “One of my counselors, Kalidasa, is coming in a few
moments. He may answer you. Please don't be angry.” Kalidasa soon came,
and that man again asked the question. Kalidasa picked up a coconut leaf straw.
He put it in one ear of the skull and it came out the other. He then said, “Oh,
he was foolish. If the straw would have gone in one ear and then down towards
the heart, that would have indicated intelligence. ”
Don’t be foolish. Be intelligent.
Dattatreya told the king what
instruction he had received from each of his twenty-four gurus.
From the Earth – Prthivi
– he learned patience, tolerance, great determination and forgiveness.
You can dig anywhere on the Earth, pass stool and urine anywhere on the Earth,
or make houses and anything you like from the Earth; the Earth is always tolerant.
Can you be so tolerant? As I told you yesterday, even if someone is beating
you and doing nonsense to you, you should be tolerant and forgiving.
This is the extraordinary quality
of a pure Vaisnava. If one is doing any nonsense to a Vaisnava, the Vaisnava
will forgive that person. I have seen this in my guru-parampara, and we should
also be like this.
Mountains – on the Earth
there are many mountains. We should learn from those mountains how to work for
the benefit of others. A mountain gives so many trees, herbs and water, but
not for itself – for others. Your life should be for others. Also, mountains
live alone, in lonely places, and their only association is that of sadhus.
So many sadhus used to live in the Himalayas in India, and also at Govardhana,
because those places are very silent and favorable for bhajana.
Trees – we also learn from
the trees. You should be as tolerant as a tree. What are the qualities of a
tree? His bark, root, leaves, fruits, flowers, dry wood and everything else
is for others. Even if there is no summer rain and the tree is going to become
dry, still he does not say, “Oh, give me water.” In Caitanya-Caritamrta
it is said that one should be like a tree.
Air – what is the quality
of air? The air lives for others. If there is no air, we cannot survive for
even a moment. The air is always detached. It can take the bad fragrance from
here and there – bad and good – and yet it is detached. We should
be detached like the air. Don't be attached to anyone. Reserve your attachment
for guru, but not a bogus guru. A bogus guru will say, “You should marry.”
Nowadays this is going on. Do not have attachment to unqualified gurus. Be attached
only to qualified gurus, to those who can take your heart and give it to Sri
Sri Radha and Krsna.
Sky – the sky is everywhere,
even in our hearts and bodies. Empty space is called sky. The sky is everywhere,
and yet it is always detached. You should be like that.
Water – the qualities of water are purity, softness and refreshment.
When you take a bath, your body feels pure and refreshed. Be like the water.
Fire – fire can burn stool,
and still it maintains a good fragrance. After death one’s body is put
in fire, and yet that fire always remains pure. We should be like that –
always pure. Try to be pure to do bhajana. Purity can come by performance of
bhajana; otherwise it will not come. No one can be pure without doing bhajana.
One cannot become pure by performance of yoga or the execution of austerities;
it is only possible by remembering Lord Sri Krsna and His sweet pastimes.
The Moon – we say that
there is a first, second and third Moon, up to the full Moon; It seems there
are fifteen moons, but this is not true. There are not many Moons; the Moon
is one. If you go very high in space, you will see that the moon is always full.
It is sometimes covered by another planet, sometimes by Rahu and at other times
by Ketu. So it seems there are 15 moons, but it is not so. Similarly, there
is only one God, although He has many manifestations.
The Sun – the Sun has no
birth and no death, but it seems that it has taken birth. The Sun illuminates
everywhere, and it therefore seems that there are many various suns. But there
is only one. Similarly, Paramatma (the Lord as Supersoul) is seen in various
places, but He is one. Jivas (individual souls) are so many, but Paramatma is
The python – don't become
a python, but take instructions from him. The python remains in one place. By
his fruitive karma, some animal comes nearby without any effort on his part,
and he eats it. He will not go here and there in search for food. Similarly,
you will always get what you deserve due to your previous karma – not
more and not less than that.
The python may be very hungry
when nothing is there, and it may be that he can't get his food for some time,
but still he will not go here and there. If any creature comes nearby, he will
eat it and be satisfied. You should try to be like that. If anything is coming
without much effort – and it is bound to come – accept that. As
suffering comes without effort, good things also come in the same way.
Your maintenance of life will
come according to your previous karma. Thus, we should tolerate everything.
The ocean – the ocean is
always happy, and this is understood by his rolling tides. He is laughing, but
at the same time he is very grave. You should be like that. If an ant bites
you, don't be overwhelmed, repeatedly exclaiming, “OH, AN ANT HAS BITTEN
ME! An ant has BITTEN ME!”
The moth – in the rainy
season in India, if there is light or fire anywhere, moths at once fly into
it. You should be careful. Ladies should be careful regarding men, and men should
be careful regarding ladies. Don’t go to the fire; always be careful.
If you go, this means your intelligence is finished and you will die.
The big black honeybee –
a honeybee (madhukara) goes from flower to flower, but he only takes the essence.
He does not collect more than he needs. If he collects extra, this will go to
the honey collector. The honey collector is the one who comes
to empty the honey from the honey combs, and he is the one who also takes that
bee in his net.
The bee teaches us to take just a little from each flower. This is the advice
for a traveling mendicant. The bee also teaches us not to store extra in one
place. Otherwise, our property or money will be taken away by thieves and rogues.
You should not collect more than
you need, because nothing can be taken by you at the time of your death. If
you have a million dollars in India, so many dacoits will know and they will
come to kill you. Be like a bee. Collect very little, like those doing madhukari
(“madhukari” means collecting like the bee, or in other words begging
alms [*See Endnote 2].
The elephant – I have heard
that in India some female elephants are sent to the forest, where there is a
large well covered with long grasses and tree branches. The female elephant
lures the male elephant there; and the male, controlled by that lady, falls
in the well. Then, after many days of fasting from even water, the male elephant
becomes weak. At that time, the same lady elephant goes inside the well, places
a chain around his leg and takes him out. The humans then take charge of that
male elephant and train him, and he then becomes a trained elephant. So, men
should be careful about ladies and ladies should be careful about men. They
should be careful about each other. This is not a joke. If you are not careful,
you may become like a dog with no sense at all.
The deer – a hunter goes
to the forest and keeps a net hidden somewhere. Then, by his playing very sweet
music, so many deer become attracted. The net falls, and at once all the deer
are caught. Don’t hear mundane talk. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu once
heard the sweet voice of a lady singing ‘Gita-govinda’ and ran towards
her. Somehow His servant Govinda told Him, “O Prabhu, it is a lady singing.”
Mahaprabhu then said, “If you had not saved Me, I would have gone to the
ocean and drowned there.”
The fish – in catching fish, the fisherman attaches a thread (with a
worm on a hook at its end) to a stick, and then drops that thread in the river.
Thus, by the greed of the fish's tongue, he is at once caught. Try to control
your tongue. Don’t be attached to good tasting foods. Be like Srila Rupa
Gosvami and Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, who never cared even for salt, what
to speak of other things. So many people want rich foods – but especially
sannyasis shouldn't take such foodstuffs. Take only such things like simple
boiled vegetables, otherwise material desires will come. Be very careful. This
instruction is not only for males, but for females too.
The small baby – a small baby lives naked. Sometimes he laughs and sometimes
weeps, and only his mother takes care of him. He is like a paramahamsa, like
Nityananda Prabhu. Sometimes, Nityananda Prabhu would take off his clothes and
then go naked to the courtyard of Sacimaiya (the mother of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu),
and Mahaprabhu would give him His chaddar. Nityananda Prabhu is an avadhuta
(beyond social etiquette) and because of this, being married or not married
was inconsequential. We cannot imitate the character of transcendental personalities
Don’t criticize what others
are doing. A small boy is doing so many things, but after all, he is only a
small boy. Similarly, all living entities are different, and it is not for us
to criticize or find fault with what Lord Krsna has arranged for them.
A boy may sometimes put his toe
in his mouth, and sometimes take a toy. Be like a boy. Do not be worried about
what others are doing. Be carefree and oil your own machine.
An unmarried girl – there
was a young lady who was not yet married. One day she was in her home and there
was nothing to cook. There were a few vegetables, but no rice. Her mother and
father were not at home. In the meantime, a gentleman from another village came
to see if that girl would be a suitable bride for his son. Because her father
was not at home, she told him, “Wait a little while.” There was
no rice, so she went begging for rice. She was wearing many bangles and they
were making some sound. She began thinking, “If this sound is heard by
him, he will know I am very poor He will know that I am begging for rice when
he hears the sound of the bangles, and he will not select me for his
son.” She was very intelligent. She took off all the bangles but one, and
there was no longer any sound.
What do we learn here? Jana-sanga-tyaga
advaita-tyaga. Be far away from those who do not accept God as a person.
Jana-sanga means the association of anyone other than those engaged in krsna-bhakti.
Advaita means mayavadis. Don't associate with mayavadis or non-devotees, even
if they are your mother and father. You can serve by other means, but don’t
speak harikatha with them. Even if you have to mix with your family members,
do not create a disturbance by trying to speak harikatha to them, because they
have no faith in your ideals. They always think you are their child.
The unmarried girl took off most
of her bangles so that her future father-in law would not see what she was doing.
Similarly, do not disturb those who have no appreciation for what you are doing
– like your parents or friends who are not interested in bhakti.
The arrow-maker – There
was an arrow-maker, a blacksmith. He was so absorbed in making arrows that when
a marriage party playing drums, singing and dancing passed by, he was not aware
of it. Someone told him, “A very beautiful marriage party has just passed
by.” He replied, “When? I didn't see it.” Be absorbed like
this. Don't see what is going on here and there. Be absorbed in Krsna and not
in nonsense. Better to be absorbed in nama-sankirtana: “Hare Krsna Hare
Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.”
Then you will not hear anything else.
The snake – a snake lives
and travels alone, and he has no house. He lives in rat holes and is always
very careful. Even if you are at a far distance from him, he will know by “eye
vibration” that you are there. (He has no ears, so he notices everything
only by his eyes.) Similarly, always be very careful and alert for maya.
The spider – a spider produces
thread from his own saliva and thus makes a web. After he has created his web,
many flies or other insects become entangled in it, and he eats them. Then,
when there is no further need for the web, he takes it inside himself. Similarly,
God creates this world by Himself, through the agency of His maya, and later
on everything enters in Him. He expands His personal potency from within Himself,
displays the network of cosmic manifestation, utilizes it according to His purpose
and eventually withdraws it completely within Himself.
The wasp –
Srimad-Bhagavatam (seventh canto) states that a grass-worm confined in a hole
of a wall by a wasp always thinks of the wasp in fear and enmity. Later he becomes
a wasp, simply because of such remembrance. Similarly, if the conditioned souls
somehow or other think of Krsna, who is the form of eternity, knowledge and
bliss (sac-cid-ananda-vigraha) they will become free from their sins. Whether
thinking of Him as their worshipful Lord or an enemy, because of constantly
thinking of Him they will attain their spiritual bodies.” [*See Endnote
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura concludes
this part of Sri Bhagavat-arkamarici-mala with the following quote from Srimad-Bhagavatam:
samsara-sindhum ati-dustaram uttitirsor
nanyah plavo bhagavatah purusottamasya
pumso bhaved vividha-duhkha-davarditasya
[For a person who is suffering
in the fire of countless miseries and who desires to cross the insurmountable
ocean of material existence, there is no suitable boat except that of cultivating
devotion and transcendental taste for the narrations of the Supreme Personality
of Godhead's pastimes.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.4.40)]
All the living entities here
are suffering in many ways. To cross the unlimited, endless cycle of birth and
death is very difficult. Those who want to cross it very easily should hear
harikatha. There is no other way. We should hear all the sweet pastimes of Lord
Sri Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and the histories in Srimad-Bhagavatam
such as those of Prahlada Maharaja and others like him.
Today we have finished.
[The following endnotes are all
quotes from the translations and purports of Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta
[*Endnote 1 –
“The word avadhuta means
’most free.‘ A person is not under the rules and regulations of
any injunction when he has attained the stage of avadhuta. In other words, he
can act as he likes. This avadhuta stage is exactly like air, which does not
care for any obstruction.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.20.11 purport)]
“…a great saintly
person without material care…” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.29)
“…one who has surpassed
the rules and regulations of varnasrama-dharma is called avadhuta. Such a person
has already surpassed the clutches of maya, and he lives completely separate
and independent.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.29 purport)]
*Endnote 2 –
“A madhukari is a saintly
person or a mendicant who does not accept a full meal at one house but begs
from door to door, taking a little food from each householder’s place.
In this way he does not overeat or give householders unnecessary trouble.”
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 20.81, purport)
*Endnote 3 –
(9.30), where the Lord says:
api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah
“Even if one commits the
most abominable actions, if he engages in devotional service he is to be considered
saintly because he is properly situated.” A devotee undoubtedly worships
the Lord with rapt attention. Similarly, if an enemy (suduracarah) always thinks
of Krsna, he also becomes a purified devotee. The example given here concerns
the grass-worm that becomes beelike because of constantly thinking of the bee
that forces it to enter a hole. By always thinking of the bee in fear, the grass-worm
starts to become a bee. This is a practical example. Lord Krsna appears within
this material world for two purposes-paritranaya sadhunam, vinasaya ca duskrtam:
[Bg. 4.8] to protect the devotees and annihilate the demons. The sadhus and
devotees certainly think of the Lord always, but duskrtis, the demons like Kamsa
and Sisupala, also think of Krsna in terms of killing Him. By thinking of Krsna,
both the demons and devotees attain liberation from the clutches of material
maya. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.1.28-29 purport)]
Editorial Advisors: Sripad Madhava Maharaja and Sripad Brajanatha dasa
Transcriber: Vasanti dasi
Typist: Janaki dasi
Editor: Syamarani dasi
Proof-reader: Krsna-kamini dasi