śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year-3 & 16, Issue 5
Posted: 2 June 2010 & 7 June 2023
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
The Moment We Forget to Serve Śrī Guru
is the Moment We Forget Our True Self
by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
Question 1: Is it imperative to engage in the service of śrīla gurudeva daily?
Answer: Service to śrīla gurudeva is the pre-eminent objective. It is imperative to engage in the service of śrīla gurudeva at the beginning of every year, at the beginning of every month, at the beginning of every day and indeed at the beginning of every moment. If we do not engage in serving śrīla gurudeva at every moment, then surely we will end up in more trouble. The moment we forget to serve śrī guru, is the very moment we will forget our own true self.
The education imparted by the ordinary teachers and superiors of this world produces trivial results. The divine master, the parmārthika guru, does not bestow anything so insignificant. Śrī guru bestows upon us our true welfare. The moment a jīva becomes deprived of the grace of śrī guru, who is the Supreme Personality of Love of Godhead (āśraya-jātīya Bhagavān), several wayward desires appear in his heart. If the vartma-pradarśaka guru (one who initially guides us to the spiritual path) does not instruct us how to take shelter at the lotus feet of śrī guru and how to behave toward him, then we may even lose śrī guru the precious jewel we have just acquired. Nāma-bhajana is indeed the sole method of bhajana, and śrī guru solely instructs us on this method. If śrī guru is not pleased with us, how will we gain the strength to perform bhajana? Therefore, I say, those who wish to attain the lotus feet of Bhagavān, who want true peace and who want deliverance from material existence, will make serving śrī guru their life and soul; they will ceaselessly engage in that service and they will endeavour to please him even at the cost of their own life. Then no more troubles will remain, all welfare will be ensured and all their misfortune will be reduced to ashes.
Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead (viśaya-jātīya bhagavān) and Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Love of Godhead (āśraya-jātīya bhagavān) are the two moieties of the same whole, and Their infinitely variegated, blissful play (vilāsa-vaicitrya) is the form of perfect completeness itself. The complete manifestation of Supreme Personality of Godhead is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and the complete manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Love of Godhead is śrī guru. Only he who constantly demonstrates by his behaviour the importance of serving Śrī Bhagavān throughout one’s entire life is śrī guru. Such a guru is present in every entity and object. Indeed, we have no other purpose than to serve such a guru at every moment.
Question 2: Is varṇāśrama-dharma* the eternal dharma of the soul?
* The Vedic standard of civilization divides society into four classes based on work (varṇas) and four orders of life (āśramas). The four classes, or varṇas, are (1) learned priests, (2) warriors of royalty, (3) merchants and agriculturalists and (4) artisans (brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, and śūdras respectively); and the four orders of life, or varṇas, are (1) mendicant holy men, (2) men retired from the household for the pursuit of spiritual life, (3) family men and (4) celibate students (sannyāsīs, vānaprasthas, gṛhasthas and brahmacarīs respectively). So the term varṇāśrama-dharma refers to carrying out one’s specific duties in accordance with their particular social class and order of life.
Answer: The ṛṣis have instructed us to become steadfast in varṇāśrama-dharma. There is specific utility in following varṇāśrama-dharma. However, Śrī Gaurāṅgadeva has said, “For how long is it useful to follow varṇāśrama-dharma?” Varṇāśrama is not our eternal dharma. It is not the inherent engagement (svarūpa-vṛtti) of our soul. In other words, it is not our constitutional nature. It is simply an attempt to offer worship to Śrī Viṣṇu while situated in a particular order of life and in accordance with a particular, temporarily acquired disposition. In other words, while our nature is deformed by our conditioning, or while we are situated in some virūpa so as to move somewhat in the direction of the true, implicit nature of our soul, or our svarūpa. Varṇāśrama-dharma is not the same as unmotivated and uninterrupted pure devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. While situated in varṇāśrama-dharma, service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not possible, but there is some attempt to worship Śrī Viṣṇu. This is why Śrī Caitanyadeva has said:
“Who are you? First, you must ascertain this. Are you a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra? Are you a sannyāsī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha or brahmacarī? All of these are designations for your temporary, conditioned state; none of them signifies your eternal, true self (svarūpa). The real identity of the living entity’s constitutional position is that he is an eternal servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
The soul is the servant of the Supersoul, and only service to the Supersoul is his dharma.
Question 3: Is kīrtana the topmost limb of bhakti?
Answer: Among all the limbs of bhakti, śrī kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana stands alone as the most prominent and the supremely essential limb of bhakti. By engaging in śrī kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana, one attains the topmost qualification for living a spiritual life (pāramārthika jīvana). All power, all glory and beauty, the complete fulfilment of all desires and the topmost fruit and perfection of all practices (sādhana) are invested in the holy names of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
To whatever extent we are absorbed in our various activities, whatever tendencies, whatever thoughts and whatever conceptions we may have, śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma will govern them all. When Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s holy name appears on our tongue, we will be able to effortlessly renounce all of our activities in connection with this temporary material world and all of our sentiments of obligation therein. We will be able to effortlessly renounce the tendency to enjoy its perishable things and all the material comforts we have until now surrounded ourselves with. Only through śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma are all the obstacles on the path of bhakti easily dispersed. Chanting śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma is not only the practice (sādhana), but it is also, in fact, the final attainment (sādhya-vastu) – the fruit of sādhana. Śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma is to be constantly chanted under the guidance of śrī guru. All kinds of eternal welfare manifest through chanting śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma. Only by serving the holy name will the living beings attain all auspiciousness. Only śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma can submerge us in the ocean of eternal joy. And śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma itself contains the totality of all transcendent, ambrosial emotion (akhila-rasamaya).
Śrī Gaurasundara is the topmost worshipful entity for everyone in the world. He is situated at the ultimate zenith among all worshipful entities. Indeed, He is supremely worshipful even for all other worshipful deities in existence. Although Śrī Gaurasundara is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, He has personally practised bhagavad-dharma, and thus He has taught the whole world that śrī kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana alone is the pinnacle of bhagavad-dharma. Śrī kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana alone is the highest form of meditation (mahā-dhyāna), the highest form of sacrifice (mahā-yajña) and the highest form of deity worship (mahā-arcana). Meditation on Śrī Kṛṣṇa, sacrifice for His pleasure, and worship of His deity form are actually ordinary activities, but accomplishing mahā-dhyāna, mahā-yajña and mahā-arcana by engaging in śrī kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana constitutes the perfection and complete form of these three activities.
Question 4: What is the duty of a householder (gṛhastha)?
Answer: When a person endeavours for his own happiness, he inevitably becomes a gṛha-vrata (he whose vows are rooted in serving his family) bent on enjoying his senses. But directing all one’s efforts toward serving Śrī Kṛṣṇa leads to one’s spiritual welfare. The householder devotees should always endeavour by various means to assist or serve those devotees who have renounced their beloved relatives, wives, sons, homes and so on and who are constantly engaged in śrī kṛṣṇa-bhajana in every respect. Only service like this will lead them toward their true welfare and slacken their attachment to worldly life. The spiritually oriented householders (parmārthika gṛhastha), or Vaiṣṇava householders, extend themselves to serve Śrī Hari as profusely as they exert themselves for their own wives, sons and daughters. They nourish their wives, sons and daughters when they know that they are performing bhagavad-bhajana. Otherwise, they do not nourish serpents by giving them milk and bananas. In other words, they distance themselves from them, realizing that their association is unfavourable and an obstruction to their bhakti.
Question 5: What are the means by which one can be delivered from material existence (saṁsāra)?
Answer: Whenever I want to become the Lord, with the hope of dominating others as their master, then I am truly enslaved by material nature. The only way for the presently endangered human society to achieve true welfare is for its members to get deliverance from their mundane existences, centred around birth and death (jaḍa-saṁsāra), to be delivered from the clutches of foolishness and enter into their eternal existences, centred around Śrī Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-saṁsāra). Only by sincerely accepting shelter at the lotus feet of śrī guru, without any duplicity, can one attain deliverance from this material world. There is no other way. Can that guru, by whose mercy one can be delivered from this material existence, ever be a non-devotee? Can such a guru ever be full of extraneous desires, or a karmī, always engaged in seeking mundane rewards? Can he ever be an undercover atheist, or an impersonalist or yogī, who is only concerned with mystic powers? How can one become a genuine guru unless he is absorbed in bhakti for the Supreme Personality of Godhead in every respect?
Whether one is a householder or a renunciant, the prominent duty for everyone is to serve śrī guru. When the hari-kathā emanating from the lotus mouth of śrī guru enters ears that are eager to receive it, then the darkness of ignorance covering the eyes is eliminated and their clarity of vision is restored. It is through these immaculate eyes alone that one can see Śrī Kṛṣṇa, face to face.
Our desire to become the master is the sole cause of our ruin. If by one’s own will one moves along the path of worldly life, chasing after temporary pleasures and constantly occupied with worldly activities, then one is bound to be affected by the torturous heat of the three-fold miseries. Therefore, we must by all means heed the instructions of those who disregard the dictates of their own mind, as well as the advice of people who are controlled by their mental dictation, and who instead constantly engage in serving the Supreme Lord.
Translated by the Rays of the Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupader Upadeśāmṛta
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation
Śrīla Prabhupader Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.