There is a lot of history to our parampara. We cannot simply speak substantially on topics of Krsna Consciousness according to our whim, because it is always under lock and key. The keeper of the key is above us. According to His wish, a dumb man can eloquently speak the Vedas, or a blind person can see the beauty of the Himalayas, or a lame man can cross mountains. Actually it is in His hands. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura sent the first devotees to the west for preaching, he told them, "Go forth with this message of Sriman Mahaprabhu, and listen very closely to what you say."
Sarasvati Thakura used the words 'subjective reality,' 'subjective experience' and 'subjective plane' to describe various aspects of the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness. What they were after, what they were trying to get in touch with, was reality descending, coming down to the proper recipient. So his conception of preaching was that in the authorized speaker in front of a bona-fide audience, things that neither one has ever heard before may descend through the speaker. This is not the type of thing that we can easily understand, but as we go on and discuss, you will see that this is something that we have been a part of since the beginning. In another very simple way, Srila Prabhupada said, "I did not write these books, Krsna did." Vyaso-vetti na vetti va.
But what did he mean, "Krsna wrote these books?" In Caitanya-caritamrta, Ramananda Raya tells Mahaprabhu, "What I am saying is simply passing through me; I do not even know if it is correct or not." Everything was revealed in the heart of Brahma at the beginning of creation in the same manner. Tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye. Ramananda Raya tells Mahaprabhu, "You also are causing me to speak, and it is passing through me. It is wonderful, but I am not sure if it is even right, only You the listener, you will be able to say if it is right or not."
The subjective experience of Krsna Consciousness is coming down to us through the guru; it is coming to us through the agency of our guru. In the beginning, we do not generally have any qualification to draw down Krsna; we are like a dead battery that can not draw the radio message. With some force, the agent of Krsna turns up the volume and blasts out the message, almost to the point that even the deaf can hear it, and respond. But what must happen is that the hearer must become alive in that plane, and eager for that message. The message is infinite. When the first devotees were sent to the western world for preaching, in 1933, heading that group of devotees was Bhakti Hrdaya Bon Maharaja, who was the second or third sannyasi disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had only eighteen sannyasi disciples. Our Srila Prabhupada had fifty-seven, and some of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers had over one hundred. Srila Puri Maharaja had one hundred and twenty-seven sannyasi disciples.
Sripada Bon Maharaja was amongst Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's sannyasi disciples, and he headed the first group of devotees to the west; they went to England. This is pre-World War II, in 1933. Many of the prominent (and at that time respected) personalities in World War II were also there at that time. Bon Maharaja met Goebbels and Rommel, and distributed a book called Sree Krishna Chaitanya. I have a copy of that book; it has been out of print for a long time. Its about eight hundred pages, and it is in par-excellent English. Nishikant Sanyal, Prabhupada's Godbrother, wrote it, and there is an elaborate introduction by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta himself. When that book was ready, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta announced, "Now we are ready for preaching in the west."
When the devotees were sent to England, there was a very formal function in Calcutta, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta said to his disciples, "Go forth with this message of Mahaprabhu to all nations and all creeds of men and women in the world; carry forth this message, preach it boldly, and listen to what you say, for this will also purify you." With this he sent them out into the world for preaching.
Only so much knowledge of Godhead can be learned by any living entity. The message is broadcast vigorously and then a living entity has to turn his head with submission towards that message. Once the initial message finds its place in the heart, then we may draw more and more. It is actually our eagerness in the first place to know Who is God, which brings guru into our midst. It is said, that if you try to find a guru on you own, you will most likely accept someone who gives you a rasagula.
What the acaryas tell us is that the living entity cannot "find a guru," but rather, acceptance of guru is a descending process. We cannot ascend to the plane of the guru, but it is by his mercy that we may have contact with him. We may conduct our search, and that is how we exhibit our sincerity. Our search is there, but one can never find guru independently; he is only revealed. Therefore, even if someone has accepted a guru, but the guru goes away in devotional service, that person should not feel any hardness, any resentment towards that person. One should not feel cheated. One should rather feel that "I received what I deserved." If you examine without prejudice, you may find, although your guru may have gone away, that you gained something from that relationship. You may find that there is some little thing to help you, any small thing. Then you may say, "Yes, I received something," and be happy with it. Having made a step in the right direction, you may then go on with your earnestness, and pray to Krsna, and he will send you further guidance. If you blame even that fallen guru, you are blaming Krsna, saying, "There is nothing wrong with me, I deserve the best; why am I cheated?" That approach is very self-centered, and self-centeredness distances us from divinity.
Rather, we should understand that, "the only defect is in me." This will align us with divinity, and the clouds of so much confusion and misunderstanding will go away, and the sun of Krsna will shine bright in our life. No one is cheated in this world; every one is a self-deceiver, and a self-cheater. There is no one to blame; it is not healthy to blame the environment. It is more healthy to blame one's own self, for in doing so we leave room within ourselves for self-improvement. This is one of the keys on the ring of the secrets of how to progress: do not blame others, blame yourself!
Our sampradaya is a descending process, not an ascending process. This has to be kept in mind always. The more you keep this in mind, and try to put it into normal practice, the more it becomes a reality, rather than a dry theory. We are in control of nothing; Krsna controls every thing. Grace is coming to us; He is everywhere, and He is behind everything. For example, you can not actually serve yourself prasadam, unless you are just really hungry and must go do your service. Prasadam means mercy, and mercy is descending. You cannot conjure your own mercy. Of course, we know that in informal gatherings, we do practical things -- we have a way that devotees go and take prasadam, and that is not a problem. But you add all these things together, there are many little things, and suddenly that living conception of everything is descending, it is gone, it vanishes, and then it is only a theory.
In this connection, consider Arjuna, who could not put on his own armor. If he picked up his armor and put it on, and sheathed his own sword for battle, it was all useless, because these things were benedictions given to him. They required that he had to be dressed in his armor. So we are like Arjuna also, in that sense; many things are given to us, but we have to receive them in a proper way. You cannot receive gayatri mantra independently; you cannot give it to yourself. You cannot take sannyasa; it is something that is given. We receive initiation, we do not take it, we do not take prasadam, we must receive it and honor it. I have had a very pluralistic experience in Krsna Consciousness in the last fifteen years. I have spent many days, many months in the asramas of some of the senior Godbrothers of Srila Prabhupada; Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja. There I saw, heard, and learned many things; some things on a very practical, day to day level, and some things on a very high philosophical level. So one day many years ago, a devotee came to the asrama of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. He was a Prabhupada disciple from South America. He wanted to receive sannyasi, so there was some talk, then Srila Sridhara Maharaja told him, "You stay here for some time, and we will see. Try to do some menial service here in the matha."
Then with a happy heart, that devotee went to do some menial service. He went to the prasadam hall, grabbed a bucket and a spoon and started serving prasadam. One of the older devotees, who had been in the asrama for fifty years, came over and asked, "What are you doing?" He replied, "Oh, I am serving prasadam. Guru Maharaja told for me to serve prasadam," the man said, "What did he tell you?" "Guru Maharaja told me to do some menial service." The older devotee said, "This is not menial service; menial service means sweeping the cow barn. Serving prasadam is very high.
Who can give the mercy of Krsna. A new devotee can be engaged in serving prasadam, he is serving prasadam by carrying it to the devotees, but what will you value more, prasadam given by a new devotee, or prasadam given by your guru's hand? Same prasadam, same offering, same Krsna's plate, but you will value the prasadam given by your guru's hand more than the prasadam given by the new devotee. The giver of the prasadam is also in that line, that mercy line, and he is an important factor. Mercy is descending.
There are many subtle practices in our spiritual tradition. Sometimes one practice or another may be omitted or dealt with subconsciously due to some practical necessity, but this may eventually become a problem. Over the years, many simple practices in Krsna consciousness have been left aside in the name of practical necessity -- then gradually, the conception of what we are actually dealing with slips away. This should be checked and we should try to deepen our understanding about even the simplest of practices that we perform.
High devotion does not necessarily mean that it must always be the discussions of Krsna-lila. High devotion also means understanding what is prasadam and similar such things that we have come to take for granted. High devotion means to understand the inner meaning, or the substance of all the practices in Krsna consciousness. What is serving prasadam, what is serving the Deity, and so forth. All these seemingly simple ordinary daily practices are not really ordinary at all, they are divine activities with a deep connection in the spiritual world of eternal pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Therefore, we should endeavor to make our most sincere attempt to go deeper into even that which is seemingly the most insignificant thing in Krsna consciousness.