śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year-2, Issue 7 & Year 15, Issue 7
Posted: 11 August 2009 & 16 August 2022
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
How Will We Attain Kṛṣṇa-prema?
by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
Question 1: How will we attain kṛṣṇa-prema?
Answer: The devotees of Bhagavān harbour the auspicious hope for the living beings to attain their eternal welfare and not just remain occupied with inauspicious matters. The only means to attain that eternal welfare is to accept shelter at the lotus feet of śrī gurudeva, who is very dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-preṣṭha). By taking shelter at the lotus feet of śrī gurudeva, who is non-different from Śrī Rūpa, one will attain the position of a servant of Nanda-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa. That śrī gurudeva must be served with determined conviction and love and one must hear about hari-bhajana from his lotus lips.
When the dust upon the lotus feet of Śrīla Gurudeva becomes our mainstay, we will be able to attain madhurya-seva to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, He who is the enchanter of the whole world (bhuvana-mohana). Hence we must always worship the lotus feet of Śrīla Gurudeva, without cessation.
Śrīla Gurudeva is transcendental (aprākṛta). He is not a transient entity of this world, merely a gross frame of flesh and blood. His form, like the form of Śrī Bhagavān, is composed of eternality, knowledge and bliss. Śrīla Gurudeva is nara-brahma – a transcendental human being – not nara, an ordinary, mortal man. Any service rendered to the transcendental beings guru and Gaurāṅga by those who consider them to be among the multitudes of this world, is simply pretentious since such people only serve them to fulfil their own selfish interests. Such service is not pure service; rather it simply reflects the mentality of a merchant, or padmā-nīti*.
* Padmā-nitī – the policy of Padmavātī, the mother of Kaṁsa, who audaciously wanted to settle the Yādava’s debt to the Vrajavāsīs by calculating back-payment for all the transcendental, loving services they performed for Kṛṣṇa while He lived with them
As long as the living soul does not come completely under the guidance of that most worshipful being, śrī gurudeva, Bhagavān will not become the object of his darśana (vision). Those who are not aware of the qualities of śrī gurudeva, such as his transcendence (aprākṛtatva), his position as the master (īśvaratva) and his exceptional intimacy with Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-preṣṭhatva), are totally unqualified to gain entrance into the transcendental realm of kṛṣṇa-sevā. Only by the mercy of śrī gurudeva shall we come within the close proximity of the Transcendental Entity.
In other words, by accepting shelter at the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanyadeva we will be able to attain His darsana with divine eyes, which will be made of pure consciousness and saturated with the beautiful proclivity to serve. Thus, by securing the fortune of coming close to the lotus feet of svayaṁ-rūpa Śrī Kṛṣṇa, we will become blessed and accomplish our purpose.
As long as we remain captivated by mundane, external appearances (prakṛta-rūpa), we will not attain darśana of śrī gurudeva, who is non-different from Śrī Rūpa (Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī or, literally, “that graceful beauty”). Only when we sincerely and honestly perform loving service (bhajana) to those worshipful entities, śrī guru and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, will we achieve auspiciousness, and only then will our present vision, vision by which we perceive every object as an object meant for our enjoyment, finally cease. Therefore, my prayer is:
idaṁ yāce punaḥ punaḥ
śrīmad guru padāmbhoja
dhuliḥ śyāṁ janma-janmani
Taking a blade of grass between my teeth, I fall down and pray again and again: “I do not wish for anything like the four goals of human life, namely dharma (religiosity), artha (economic development), kāma (sense gratification) and mokṣa (liberation). I only want to become a speck of dust at the lotus feet of Śrīla Gurudeva. That is, under my Śrīla Gurudeva’s guidance, I wish to constantly serve Bhagavān in the same way that my gurudeva does.”
“Kṛṣṇa is mine, and if I do not serve Him, He will undergo great trouble.”
We will only attain kṛṣṇa-prema, or service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, when a mood like this fully ripens. And such great fortune is only possible when we earn śrī gurudeva’s affection by rendering service to him.
Question 2: Is faith (śraddhā) in śrī gurudeva actually the root of bhakti?
Answer: Certainly. It is absolutely essential to have sambandha-jñāna (knowledge of existential relationships) before bhakti awakens. Śrī gurudeva alone bestows this sambandha-jñāna. Unflinching faith in śrī guru, who is completely transcendental, is the root of bhakti.
Adau śraddhā. The first stage is the attainment of transcendental faith. After relinquishing blind assurance that there are numerous different religions and abandoning the path of logic and argument, our first and foremost requirement is to develop śraddhā in the auspicious instructions of śrī gurudeva.
What does śraddhā mean? Śraddhā means to possess full confidence in the words of śrī gurudeva. It means we shall never rely on the words of any worldly person because everyone but śrī gurudeva is a pretender. Renouncing the words of every other person in this world, we shall establish the words of śrī gurudeva as the object of our full faith, for he has descended from Vaikuṇṭha just to deliver us. If we do not do this, then there will be no scope for our welfare. Only by the mercy of śrī gurudeva will all our anarthas (obstacles) be dispelled and all our hopes fulfilled. By his mercy alone we will definitely be granted the darśana of Bhagavān and attain His mercy.
By entering the vicinity of sādhu and guru and by associating with them, we shall be relieved of all of our difficulties and shall thereafter attain śuddha-bhakti. Therefore, we should implicitly rely upon śrī gurudeva in order to approach and serve the Absolute Person. Śrī guru will give us the highest good. If, perchance, we shall meet a real guru, then we shall surely be saved and shall verily reach our goal. Śrī guru will always supply and enrich us with transcendental knowledge and service.
To think that I will regulate gurudeva in any way is the outlook of an atheist. It is this conception alone that constitutes disobedience to the spiritual master (guru-avajña – the third of the ten offences to the holy name) and must be forsaken at all times.
By the mercy of śrī gurudeva, we, the atomic sparks of consciousness (aṇu-caitanya), will approach the Supreme, Infinite Consciousness (vibhu-caitanya). We will relinquish the association of other, ordinary fellows and approach our eternal Lord. Though śrī gurudeva considers himself to be an insignificant servant of Bhagavān, I consider him to be my eternal friend and well-wisher and the only one who can help me to approach Bhagavān. I consider śrī gurudeva to be both identical to Bhagavān and also the beloved of Bhagavān. I will surrender myself completely unto his lotus feet. Without any selfish interest, I will dovetail all my endeavours exclusively to serve him. Only then shall I achieve all perfection.
Question 3: How can we achieve happiness?
Answer: One can achieve freedom from fear and sorrow and can experience real happiness by remaining in the shelter of Śrīla Gurudeva’s lotus feet, and one can gain his association by serving him. One can receive the mercy of Śrīla Gurudeva very quickly by remaining engaged in serving him at every moment, through one’s body, mind and words. When Śrīla Gurudeva is pleased, the inclination to serve him increases more and more. This good fortune stands alone as the topmost good fortune and the only true reward.
Question 4: What is bhakti?
Answer: The quest to give happiness and satisfaction to Bhagavān constitutes bhakti. The meaning and purpose of bhakti is to increase the happiness and satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, not oneself. Bhakti is the inborn occupation of the living soul and she alone is the sole eternal and natural constitutional function (dharma) of the living entity. By constitution, the soul has no other function (dharma).
Any other tendency is not the soul’s true dharma since no other tendency constitutes the soul’s constitutional function as bhakti does. Rather, such other tendencies are distorted reflections of real dharma, and are thus temporary and transient.
Bhakti is the destroyer of fear, sorrow and delusion. It is nothing but absorption in that which we perceive as separate from Kṛṣṇa that gives rise to fear, sorrow, delusion and so on. Everything that is perceived as separate from Kṛṣṇa or His devotees constitutes dvitīya-abhiniveśa (absorption in secondary or petty matters). Bhakti is comprised of exclusive, full absorption in a single entity: Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and is full of steadfastness (niṣṭhā) in Him.
Question 5: Does Bhagavān ever interfere with the independence of the living entity?
Answer: The living entity is a miniscule fragment (aṇu-aṁśa) of Parameśvara, the Supreme Infinite Consciousness (vibhu-caitanya).
A drop of water has the same qualities as the ocean of water, though in minute quantity. Similarly, since vibhu-caitanya Bhagavān is supremely independent, the infinitesimal soul also has the quality of independence, but only to an infinitesimal degree.
The living entity is not created; rather he is an eternal entity. Nor is the living soul inert, rather he is conscious. The independence that a living entity possesses has not been granted by anyone. Independence is innate in his existence and he only experiences distress due to misusing his independence.
Bhagavān never interferes with anyone’s independence, for He is not the destroyer of cetana-dharma, the soul’s natural, innate state of cognizance. Bhagavān is an ocean of compassion, and so He simply acquaints the living being with the use and misuse of his faculty of cognizance. Only they who engage in bhajana of Bhagavān after listening to all these instructions of His or to the instructions of scriptures – in other words, those who exercise their independence appropriately – can attain their actual, topmost welfare.
Question 6: What is māyā (nescience)?
Answer: “Mīyate anayā iti māyā – that which can be used to measure or that which can be measured is māyā.” Combining mā (not) and yā (which) yields the word māyā, or, literally, “that which is not”.
Māya is comprised of all that is perishable and temporary. That which is not the Supreme Lord Bhagavān, is māyā. Bhagavān is the master of māyā; He cannot be measured.
Māyā, as described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is not a separate entity, as it appears in Christianity, where Godhead and Satan are deemed two separate entities. According to the school of the Bhāgavata, māyā resides behind the Supreme Personality, Bhagavān, as though His shadow, in a state of condemnation in order to chastise and correct the living beings who have become averse to Kṛṣṇa.
Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation
Śrīla Prabhupadera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.