sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!
Year 1, Issue 1, Maunī Amāvasyā
On the occasion of his 98th appearance day
Posted: 4 February 2019
Dedicated to and Inspired by
nitya-lila pravista om visnupada
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Māhārāja
The glory & necessity of serving the ācārya
The glories of serving the ācārya are extolled all throughout the Śrutis, Smṛtis, and Purāṇas. Aside from rendering service to the bona fide guru (sad-guru), there is no other way for conditioned souls to eliminate their anarthas and attain the service of Bhagavān. The scriptures describe the ācārya as the manifestation of Bhagavān in other words, he is referred to as the āśraya-jātīya form of Bhagavān (the abode of love for Him).
Gurudeva is non-different from Bhagavān. He appears in this world in the form of a servant in order to teach the jīvas, or living entities, about eternal service to Bhagvān. By taking shelter of him, the jīvas can attain Bhagavān, the viṣaya, or ultimate object of love. Gradually, by rendering service to the bona fide guru, the bulk of ignorance in the heart of the conditioned souls is dispelled, the mirror of their heart becomes spotless, and then, by the mercy of guru, the , brahma-vidyā – knowledge of the Absolute Truth, which grants supreme eternal welfare, awakens in the purified hearts of the living entities. As long as the desire for the objects of the senses remains in the hearts of the living entities, they cannot truly approach the bona fide guru. The Muṇḍaka-śruti (1.2.12) states:
parīkṣya lokān karma-citān brāhmaṇo
nirveda-māyān-nāstya-kṛtaḥ kṛtena |
tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum-evābhigacchet
samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham ||
Understanding the attainment of the heavenly planets, as earned by the performance of pious and prescribed acts, to be insignificant, and understanding that the eternal abode of Bhagavān cannot be attained through such temporary activities, a brāhmaṇa should withdraw his mind from the fruits of action. A person who has gained such indifference to lust for worldly pleasures must humbly seek the shelter of a bona fide guru, who knows the meaning of the Vedas and who is engaged in Bhagavān’s service in order to attain bhagavad-vijñāna, or pure knowledge imbued with prema-bhakti.
The Śvetāśvatara-śruti (6.23) also says:
yasya deve parā-bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hyārthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
The secret purports of the Śrutis are revealed in the heart of the sādhaka, great soul, who possesses transcendental devotion (para-bhakti) to Bhagavān and maintains similar pure devotion for his Śrī Gurudeva.
In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.25, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī states:
tāte kṛṣṇa bhaje kare gurura sevana
māyā jāla chuṭe, pāya śrī kṛṣṇa caraṇa
There is no other way to gain deliverance from the clutches of the unsurpassable threefold illusory energy of māyā and attain the eternal service of Bhagavān than to serve guru and perform bhagavad-bhajana under his guidance.
The bona fide guru destroys the disciple’s desires for material enjoyment (bhukti) and liberation (mukti) and grants him teachings on causeless, selfless devotional service (ahaitukī-bhakti). Where the guru thinks of the disciple as an ingredient of his own happiness and the disciple also approaches the guru with intentions to satisfy his senses, there is no genuine service to guru. The relationship between such a guru and disciple is likened to the gates to hell. But service to the bona fide guru is likened to the gates of Vaikuntha. Sad-guru is eternally engaged in the service of Bhagavān, and therefore, he engages the disciple, also in service to Bhagavān. The bona fide guru has no engagement besides service to Bhagavān. Thus, by devoutly serving a bona fide guru, one accomplishes, simultaneously, the service of both guru and Bhagavān.
Vaiṣṇava Ācārya Śrī Rāmānuja
Everyone knows the name of the renowned Vaiṣṇava Acārya Śrī Rāmānuja. He delivered the souls of this world from the darkness of Māyāvāda and the whirlwind of karmi Smārtavāda and preached the sweetness of serving Bhagavān and His devotees throughout the world.
Śrī Rāmānujācārya’s wealthy disciple Yajñeśa–
Once he went to Śrī Śaila with his disciples. Everyone walked along, performing kīrtana of Śrī Hari’s holy names in loud voices. After two or three days, they arrived at one village. Two of Śrī Rāmānujācārya’s disciples lived in that village. One was very rich and the other quite poor. The wealthy disciple’s name was Yajñeśa and the other, Varadācārya. Śrī Rāmānujācārya sent two of his disciples ahead of the party, to inform the wealthy disciple that he would be arrivnig with an entourage of disciples. When Yajñeśa heard the news that his Śrī Gurudeva was coming, he become overwhelmed with excitement. Flustered, he rushed back into his home, about how to welcome his guru, forgetting that the two disciples of his gurudeva were waiting outside, by the door. Those two disciples of Śrī Rāmānujācārya were rather hurt by this behaviour of Yajñeśa, and returned they to their guru and informed him of everything. Śrī Rāmānujācārya, also, was displeased with this wealthy disciple’s behaviour and went to the home of the impoverished Varadācārya.
Śrī Rāmānujācārya’s impoverished disciple Varadācārya
Every day, in the morning, Varadācārya would go out to beg alms. Whatever he managed to collect throughout the day, he would bring home and first offer to guru and Nārāyaṇa, and then partake. He had a very chaste and beautiful wife named Lakṣmī, and she fully supported her husband in his religious lifestyle. When Śrī Rāmānujācārya arrived at Varadācārya’s hut with his retinue of disciples, Varadācārya was out begging. Lakṣmī was at home, because she only had one good outfit, which she had hung out to dry after her bath. Therefore, she was only partially dressed in an old, tattered cloth. Śrī Rāmānuja then threw his upper cloth into the house. With this, Lakṣmī covered herself and came before him, offering obeisances to him repeatedly and saying, “Master! Please come and sit. All of you please come and sit. My husband has gone out to collect alms. I will quickly prepare an offering for Viṣṇu and bring it to you.”
Lakṣmī-devī’s resolution to serve Śrī Guru at any cost
However, there was not a single grain of rice in the house. She had no idea what to do, but she knew that one should give even one’s life in order to serve Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.
Thinking this, she began to pray and remember Śrī Nārāyaṇa. Finally, a solution came to Lakṣmī-devī.
Close by there lived a wealthy merchant, a rather ignoble fellow, who was infatuated with Lakṣmī-devī’s beauty. He had begged her countless times to be his lover, saying that if she fulfilled his desire, he would immediately alleviate her and her husband’s impoverished condition and they would never want for anything. But the pious and chaste Lakṣmī-devī never paid attention to the merchant’s proposition. Today, however, as she looked at Śrī Gurudeva and the Vaiṣṇavas gathered, she considered that if by bidding adieu to the worldly and social obligations of her insignificant and perishable body, she could serve them, then her life itself would be a success. For so long, she had never even entertained the merchant’s shameful proposition, but today, for the service of Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, she did not hesitate, even if it meant that she would be sent to hell. At least Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas should be pleased, she thought.
Gratifying one’s own senses is called kāma, but the desire to please Kṛṣṇa’s senses is called prema. A mahā-bhāgavata devotee by the name of Kalighna became a thief in order to serve Bhagavān. The Alwar Tirumaṅgāi became a dacoit and stole money to construct a temple for his worshipful deity Śrī Raṅganātha. So I too will not abandon the opportunity to serve guru and Vaiṣṇavas, she thought, even it means I might have to go to hell. Thinking this, Lakṣmī-devī went to that wealthy merchant and told him she would fulfil his desires that night.
Varadācārya is pleased with his wife’s serving disposition
The merchant was overcome with delight when he saw that the very woman he had begged and tried to tempt in so many ways but had never submitted to his proposition had now come to him of her accord.
As soon as Lakṣmī-devī mentioned the matter of obtaining some goods to host her guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, bundles of rice, dahl, milk, yoghurt, ghee, sugar and all sorts of things began to arrive on the doorstep of Varadācārya’s hut. Lakṣmī-devī quickly cooked and offered the foodstuff to Bhagavān and lovingly served it to her guru and the Vaiṣṇavas. Everyone was very pleased to honour prasāda and, at the same time, amazed to see such a large arrangement of prasāda at a poor man’s house.
Later, Lakṣmī-devī’s husband returned from bhikṣā. He was delighted to see his guru and his godbrothers in his hut, but at the same time he was anxious how he could serve them properly. But the Vaiṣṇavas told him they had already taken prasāda to their heart’s content. Varadācārya was utterly bewildered when he heard this and went into the house to ask his wife about it. Lakṣmī-devī meekly and somewhat nervously told him about her promise to the merchant.
“Lakṣmī! You are truly [an honorable] wife!” Dancing in ecstasy, Varadācārya said, “Today I am blessed. All this time I was under the impression you considered this bag of bones and flesh to be your husband, but today I see that you have been fully inundated by the mercy of guru and your sambandha-jñāna has awakened. You have understood that Nārāyaṇa alone is husband, while everyone else is prakṛti, or female. I am repeatedly delighted when I am reminded that today you served the supreme husband in exchange for this body, which will become food for dogs and jackals.” Meanwhile, Śrī Rāmānujācārya and the Vaiṣṇavas, too, came to know how Lakṣmī-devī had managed to serve them and were very astonished.
The Medicant’s heart is purified by Śrī Rāmānujācārya
Śrī Rāmānujācārya told the couple to go together to the merchant’s house and give him some mahāprasāda, which they did. Varadācārya waited, standing, outside. Lakṣmī went to the merchant and gave him the mahāprasāda. At Lakṣmī-devī’s request, the merchant began to take Śrī Rāmānujācārya’s remnants. The remnants of Vaiṣṇavas are so mysteriously powerful that as the merchant ate, his heart changed. He repented that he had harassed her and very humbly said, “Goddess, you are a supremely exalted Vaiṣṇavī. I wanted to enjoy your body, which you have offered to Nārāyaṇa, and consequently, I have commited a huge offence. Please forgive me. I too want to take shelter of your gurudeva. Vaiṣṇavas do not see the faults of others. Will he not have mercy on me?”
That chaste woman went to her husband and told him everything. The two of them then returned to the house and presented all that had happened at their Śrī Gurudeva’s feet. Seeing the merchant so embarrassed, Śrī Rāmānujācārya, who is the merciful saviour of the fallen, granted him dīkṣā. While before his Śrī Gurudeva, the merchant expressed his desire to give that Vaiṣṇava couple some money. When he heard this, Varadācārya humbly petitioned his gurudeva: “Master! Please have mercy on me such that I, wretch that I am, may never deviate from the eligibility to serve Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas. Master, may wealth, followers and prestige never distract my heart from serving your lotus feet.”
The Vaisnava’s external suffering actually brings him happiness
Śrī Rāmānujācārya understood Varadācārya’s sentiments and said to the merchant: “The person you think is unhappy is a very dear devotee of Bhagavān. When people, with their ordinary preconceptions, see that devotees who are intent on performing bhajana are poor, sickly and destitute, they assume they are unhappy. But the devotees know that their sorrows have come to them by Bhagavān’s will, and so they regard them as supreme delights. Because of the arrogance of education, wealth, and high class birth, materialists cannot appreciate this fact. Thus they are also incapable of recognizing a Vaiṣṇava. The devotee is wealthy with devotion (bhakti). Worldly wealth cannot give him happiness.”
Yajñeśa accepted his offence
Case in point, Śrī Rāmānujācārya’s wealthy disciple Yajñeśa was very unhappy to have not been able to serve his śrī guru. He came to Varadācārya’s house and submitted his heart’s sorrows before his gurudeva. Śrī Rāmānujācārya said to Yajñeśa: “You committed an offence to the Vaiṣṇavas. That is why I was not a guest in your house. Without welcoming your godbrothers, you went into your house.”
Yajñeśa’s eyes filled with tears. “Master,” he said, “when I heard the news of your auspicious arrival, I became overwhelmed with joy and started to prepare to welcome you. As a result, I completely forget about my godbrothers sitting outside.”
Rāmānujācārya became very grave. “Becoming overwhelmed with ecstasy does not constitute service” he said. “Where there is even a slight desire for one’s own happiness, there is no service; it is just the lust for enjoyment. In service, all that remains is a desire for the happiness of one’s iṣṭa-deva. And one can never serve guru without serving the Vaiṣṇavas. The Vaiṣṇavas, or servants of guru, are like Śrī Gurudeva’s own limbs. You have subscribed to arddha-kukkuṭi-nyāya (the logic of wanting only half a chicken, the half that lays the eggs, and not the half you need to feed). You did not offer the Vaiṣṇavas respect and became overwhelmed with thought of me only. That is how you committed offence to the Vaiṣṇavas. And that is why I did not go to your house.”
Rāmānujācārya’s mercy upon Yajñeśa
Yajñeśa fell at the feet of Śrī Gurudeva and the Vaiṣṇavas and repeatedly confessed the offence he had committed, weeping and begging for their forgiveness. Śrī Rāmānujācārya then mercifully accepted an invitation to Yajñeśa’s house.
Such is the behaviour of a bona fide guru and a truly surrendered disciple. The bona fide guru does not look at wealth, class and erudition; he looks for a service attitude. The bona fide guru can tell the difference between service, enjoyment and liberation. The bona fide guru does not gain the name patita-pāvana by making the disciple patita (fallen); he truly makes the disciple pāvana (purified). The bona fide guru is indifferent to worldly possessions and impartial, and he does not focus on the transgressions of the disciple.
Translated from Śrī Bhāgavata-patrikā,
by the Rays of The Harmonist Team