[The Following are two excerpts from the lectures of Srila Gurudeva, Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja]
Treating the Books as Our Śiksā-gurus
If my heart has accepted Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī as my śikṣā-guru, and I am accepting all his teachings, no one can challenge this. My heart accepts this. If I am accepting as my śikṣā-guru Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, there are none to challenge. This is the relation between one's heart and Gurudeva.
We should treat all the books of the Gosvāmīs as our śikṣā-gurus. We should offer praṇāma to the books, and then read them. If we do this, we will realize that all siddhānta is coming automatically in our heart. This is the process of reading ‒ not reading, but serving ‒ the books.
Never try to 'eat' prasādam. Once someone asked me, "Will you eat anything?" I replied, "I have never eaten anything in my entire life." He then asked, "So, how are you alive?" I said, "I have served prasādam." Try to be like this. Don't 'chant' Hare Kṛṣṇa; try to serve Hare Kṛṣṇa. Don't 'eat' mahā-prasādam, always try to serve.
When you are reading these books, don't 'read.' Serve. Offer praṇāma, place the book on your forehead and heart, and pray, "O Prabhu, you are personally Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī. Please be merciful to me." This is the process of reading.
When you are reading the dialogue between Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Rāya Rāmānanda on the bank of the Godāvarī, you can think, "I am on the bank of Godāvarī. Rāya Rāmānanda and Mahāprabhu are sitting here. I am also peacefully sitting with them, and hearing all their topics. O Mahāprabhu, O Rāya Rāmānanda Prabhu, please be merciful to me. Please sprinkle your mercy upon me so that I can understand this high-class siddhānta." Without praying in this way, you will have doubts and you will not be able to realize anything.
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī never met personally with Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, or Śrīla Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī. He only met with Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. How, then, can he write in Caitanya-caritāmṛta that they are all his śikṣā-gurus? The answer is that everything Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī had in his heart was from Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, and then he explained his heart's realizations to Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja received rasa-tattva from Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and all siddhānta from Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī.
From where did that siddhānta come? Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī collected appropriate siddhānta from all the scriptures, such as Veda, Upaniṣads, and Vedānta. From that he made some notes, but the information was not organized. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī put that information in order; thus everything is coming from them.
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī wrote many books, one of which is Śrī Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī took the essence of all the topics therein and gave it to Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī.
They realized all the knowledge they received, not like us who think, "Kṛṣṇa is my śikṣā-guru, and Rūpa Gosvāmī is śikṣā-guru, but I am not taking any essence from them and I don't follow them." To follow a guru actually, by heart, is the acceptance of śikṣā-guru. That is why Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī was able to write [in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.36–37]:
śrī-rūpa, sanātana, bhaṭṭa-raghunātha
śrī-jīva, gopāla-bhaṭṭa, dāsa-raghunātha
[My instructing spiritual masters are Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Bhaṭṭa Raghunātha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī.*]
ei chaya guru—śikṣā-guru ye āmāra
tāṅ'-sabāra pāda-padme koṭi namaskāra
[These six are my instructing spiritual masters, and therefore I offer millions of respectful obeisances unto their lotus feet. *]
Los Angeles, California: June 4, 1998
Depending On Books
Nowadays I see that devotees have so many problems, and because of these problems, they cannot chant regularly. Sometimes they are restless and upset, and thus they give up worshiping Ṭhākurjī (the Deity), chanting, remembering, and reading books. I have come to remind you to not be like that; do not be weak. Your suffering will increase by whatever you are doing to decrease it. So, don't be upset; rather try to chant more and read more.
When reading the books of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, you should think, "He is instructing me." If you are reading a book of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, think that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is speaking to you; and if you are reading Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, think that Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Vyāsadeva are speaking to you. And, always pray to Lord Krsna and Śrī Gurudeva to sprinkle their mercy upon you.
Birmingham, U.K.: June 16, 2003