When Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu met Srila Rupa Goswami at Prayag, the Lord instructed him in the science of Krsna consciousness.
saba sikhaila prabhu bhagavata-siddhanta
"Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught Srila Rupa Goswami the ultimate limit of the truth about Lord Krsna, the truth about devotional service, and the truth about transcendental mellows consummating in conjugal love between Radha and Krsna. Finally, he told Rupa Goswami about the ultimate conclusions of Srimad-Bhagavatam."
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave confidential instructions to Srila Rupa Goswami and he also empowered him with the ability to distribute those instructions widely. Later on, Srila Rupa Goswami compiled the essence of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings in his book, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.
In the second wave (chapter two) of bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami has listed sixty-four items of the culture of Krsna consciousness, which are to be followed by all the devotees of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Sri Radha-Govinda. The first four instructions are as follows:
atha angani-gurupadasrayas tasmat krsna-diksadi-siksanamvisrambhena guroh seva sadhu-vartmanuvartanam
"The following are indispensable parts of sadhana-bhakti: (1) taking shelter of the lotus feet of the guru, (2) receiving initiation and training from the guru, (3) serving the guru with affectionate zeal, and (4) following in the footsteps of the great devotees." (BRS 2.74) (see bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu or Nectar of Devotion for a complete listing of the sixty-four angas.)
The foremost principle of practicing Krsna consciousness is stated first, guru-padasraya-take shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Gurudeva, the bona fide spiritual master. Asraya means shelter. Sri Gurudeva is the asraya-vigraha, or the shelter-giving principle of the Supreme Godhead. Under his care, his guidance, we can learn the actual process of becoming Krsna conscious.
Krsna's grace will surely descend to us when we have proper connection. Therefore our first business in cultering Krsna consciousness is to take shelter of Sri Gurudeva.
Without the shelter of Sri Gurudeva, the so-called practice of Krsna consciousness is a mental concoction or simply mundane. Actual Krsna consciousness is situated in the supramental, supramundane plane and cannot be attained simply through our mental speculations. One becomes Krsna conscious via Krsna's grace received through the descending process-guru to disciple. Krsna's grace will surely descend to us when we have proper connection. Therefore, our first business in culturing Krsna consciousness is to take shelter of Sri Gurudeva.
tasmad gurum prapadyeta jijnasuh sreya uttamamsabde pare ca nisnatam brahmany upasamasrayam
"My dear king, he who desires to know the ultimate goal of life must surrender completely to the guru. The guru is always an unalloyed devotee of the Supreme Godhead. The guru is always free from the duality of material existence, such as attraction and aversion to sense objects. The guru has fully realized the purport of sabda-brahman, the revealed bhakti scriptures, and he is always engaged in para-brahma, chanting the holy name and singing the glories of the Lord's transcendental pastimes." (SB 11.3.21)
In Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna is surrounded by his eternal associates, the nitya-parikara. These eternal associates, like Patraka, Sridama, Nanda, Yasoda, and Srimati Radharani, are the chief asraya-vigrahas. The nitya-parikara devotees are not in the category of jiva souls but are known as ragatmikas, eternal manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna's svarupa-sakti. All the nitya-parikara devotees in madhurya-rasa, like Lalita, Visakha, and even Candravali, are the expansions of the serving temperament of Srimati Radharani. In the remaining rasas, all the nitya-parikara devotees, like Nanda, Yasoda, and Sridama, are manifest from the serving mood of Sri Baladeva. These devotees are not jiva souls, or marginal entities, nor should they be confused with the visnu-tattva category. The jiva soul can never become a ragatmika. In the highest stage of perfection, the jiva soul can be an eternal servant of the servant of the servant of the ragatmikas.
Sri Gurudeva is known as the principle of asraya-vigraha, which has extended itself to the conditioned souls to meet their ultimate necessity of receiving the shelter of the ragatmikas. The guru, being the most merciful devotee of Srimati Radharani or Sri Baladeva, is always prepared to shelter the submissive and sincere disciples and guide them in matters concerning their spiritual upliftment.
Shelter requires surrender, saranagati. Without surrender to the guru, the transaction between guru and disciple never takes place. One should be careful not to approach the guru with an argumentative mentality. Submissive behavior to the guru is essential. We are suffering in the mundane world due to our rebellious attitude against the supreme authority of Krsna. Therefore, to oppose the words of Sri Gurudeva will not help us.
The guru is also not an inquiry office. Shall we go to the guru, put forward our inquiry, take some knowledge, and then go away? If so, we will not gain anything spiritual. The knowledge of Sri Gurudeva is not for our selfish purpose. We must surrender at the lotus feet of Sri Guru. His knowledge will defeat us, destroy all our doubts, and reveal to us the wealth that is within us. We should never try to make the knowledge of Sri Gurudeva an ornament of our false prestige. "See what I know. See how advanced I am." Such false pride will surely check our advancement in Krsna consciousness. We have been purchased by Sri Gurudeva and he has every right to dispense with us according to his wish. After surrendering to Sri Gurudeva, we should not withdraw our energy for our personal enjoyment or out of fear that we are being exploited. We must keep our faith, sraddha, in Sri Gurudeva. Such full surrender and faith is the only price to pay if we want to go forward in Krsna consciousness.
yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurautasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah
"Only unto those great souls who have faith in Sri Gurudeva and the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna are all the imports of Vedic knowledge revealed."
Diksa and Siksa
To support the necessity of the second anga (diksa and siksa), Srila Rupa Goswami has cited another verse from Srimad Bhagavatam:
tatra bhagavatan dharman siksed gurvatma-daivatahamayayanuvrtya yais tusyed atmatmado harih
"The guru should be served with all sincerity in the consciousness that he is as dear as one's very self. The disciple should consider the guru as God-in-person. With this conviction, the disciple should receive instructions from him in the esoteric meaning of Srimad-Bhagavatam and the related bhakti literature. Such meaningful behavior of the disciple greatly pleases the Supreme Lord." (SB 11.3.22)
Initiation, hari-nama and mantra-diksa, are offered to the disciple on the threshold of bhakti. Initiation means the beginning. One who has gotten properly initiated in the parampara system is in the position to receive the descent of Krsna's grace. If we cannot find a qualified devotee to whom we can surrender and from whom we can accept initiation, then with great earnestness we must continue our search. "Seek and ye shall find." If, however, even after continuing our search we cannot find a qualified person, we must accept that the defect is within us. If we cannot get the shelter of Sri Gurudeva, we are not actually sincere. Krsna will not neglect our sincere search. According to our earnestness we will receive the divine connection with Sri Gurudeva.
Guru is not a fashion. Once Srila Prabhupada asked a group of his disciples, "Who needs a guru?" Much to everyone's surprise, Srila Prabhupada said, "No! Not everyone needs a guru. Only one who wants to put an end to the miserable conditions of material existence-he needs a guru, not everyone. Guru is not a fashion."
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura has explained the process of initiation as panca-samskara, the fivefold process of tapa, pundra, nama, mantra, and yaga. First, Bhaktivinode Thakura says that the student must approach the guru with an attitude of tapa, repentance for his past sinful activities. Then the guru will instruct the student in pundra, marking the body as a temple of God on twelve places. Seeing the willingness of the student to reform, the guru will then offer nama, and the sincere student becomes an initiated disciple. By the strength of the holy name of Krsna, all one's sinful activities are destroyed and one realizes one's eternal nature as a servant of Krsna.
Next, the guru gives his disciple mantra. The mantra, usually the kama-gayatri-mantra, helps the disciple to refine his taste for rasam anandam, to develop a particular mellow sweetness (rasa) in the chanting of Krsna nama. Then, the guru gives instruction (siksa) to the disciple in Deity worship. Bhaktivinode Thakura comments that without Deity worship it is very difficult for the conditioned soul to make progress in Krsna consciousness. Actually, the holy name of Krsna alone can reveal the highest truth, but because the neophyte devotee cannot purely utter the name of Krsna, due to either anarthas or aparadha, he requires purification via the process of Deity worship, arcana.
All the items of panca-samskara have been included in the sixty-four angas of sadhana-bhakti established by Srila Rupa Goswami. To support the third anga of bhakti, service to the guru, he again cites a verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.17.27),
acaryam mam vijaniyan navamanyeta karhicitna martya-buddhyasuyeta sarva-devamayo guruh
"Know the acarya, or guru, to be my very self. Never think of him as an ordinary man. Never disrespect him. Never find fault with him. The guru is the embodiment of all the demigods."
Once when asked about the guru, Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja said, "The guru is not jiva-tattva." The devotees present were a little shocked to hear this because according to their understanding at the time, the guru was not God, or Visnu-tattva; therefore, he was jiva-tattva, or a spirit soul. This is true, but the correct understanding of the position of the guru is that he belongs to the guru-tattva category. The guru is not considered jiva-tattva and the disciple does not find any mundane qualities in his guru. Whatever the guru does or says will be seen as divine by the disciple because the disciple is seeing the descent of Krsna in Sri Gurudeva. Where Krsna comes down to embrace the devotee, that point is Sri Gurudeva. Because the guru is nondifferent than Krsna himself, he is most worthy to be served by the disciple.
Krsna is attracted by the service of his pure devotee. By his complete surrender and willingness to please Krsna by any and all means, the pure devotee is able to attract the Lord's affection-so much so that the Lord himself then desires to render service to his pure devotee. However, the pure devotee, serving as Sri
Gurudeva, is always cautious not to accept service from Krsna. Therefore, there remains an unfulfilled desire in Krsna's heart-to serve Sri Gurudeva. When the sincere disciple renders service to the guru with affectionate zeal, Krsna experiences great satisfaction because his innermost desire is being fulfilled.
Here, there is a particularly fine point about Sri Gurudeva to which we should pay special attention. Krsna is served by his dearmost confidential devotee, Sri Gurudeva.
saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya vande guroh sri-caranaravindam
"The guru is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and followed by all authorities. Therefore, I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Sri Gurudeva."
Sri Gurudeva is the most confidential servitor of Krsna. But who is that most confidential servitor? In the words of Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja, "If we raise our heads a little and search, then we shall find that it is Srimati Radharani." It is Srimati Radharani, the dearest servitor of Krsna, who is behind the function of Sri Gurudeva. If we search earnestly and give full attention to the teaching of our beloved guru, we shall find Srimati Radharani in Sri Gurudeva. That is the highest, most revered vision of our guru. We are told that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura saw Srimati Radharani in Bhaktivinode Thakura and that Raghunatha dasa Goswami saw Srimati Radharani in his beloved gurus, Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis. That is the ultimate vision of Sri Gurudeva, and that is the meaning of kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya.
The first three angas of devotional service specifically pertain to the guru: his shelter, his instruction, and his service. The fourth anga is to follow in the footsteps of the great devotees, sadhu-vartmanuvartanam. To support this anga, Srila Rupa Goswami quotes a verse from the Skanda Purana:
sa mrgyah sreyasam hetuh panthah santapa-varjitahanvaptasramam purve yena santha pratasthire
"The best way to search for the truth is to follow the path that has previously been gone over by saintly persons and devotees, and by which they have attained the supreme goal of life. Such a path is always free from all kinds of obstacles and hindrances to our progress, and by following it one very quickly attains the desired result."
The pure devotee is able to attract the Lord's affection -- so much so that the Lord himself then desires to render service to his pure devotee.
Actually, there are many avataras (incarnations), many saints and many prescribed methods of spiritual and material achievement mentioned in the Vedas, but we are not interested in them. In this connection, I once heard a story: Srila Rupa Goswami had written a very difficult sloka in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu that says, "I do not care for Baladeva, and I do not care for Rukmini or Satyabhama, but I must do my service. That type of ego I have." Here we find such neglect being expressed that a neophyte will imagine it to be offensive. How can one neglect Baladeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or Rukmini and Satyabhama, the eternal queens of Lord Krsna at Dwaraka? We cannot even think of such a thing, so how is it possible that Srila Rupa Goswami has written it?
Unable to understand the hidden meaning of this sloka, some very important scholars once came to Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja to ask his opinion, knowing him to be of superior internal understanding and not simply a scholar of the outward dress. Srila Guru Maharaja said that "Rupa Goswami composed this sloka with some purpose: to show what the target of the devotee is: O Baladeva, O Rukmini, O Satyabhama, you are all most worshippable to me, but please do not interfere with me now. I know that you are all superior servitors of Lord Krsna, but I am your servitor's servitor; I have my duty to perform. So please, do not interfere here, but go and be seated over there and I shall worship your lotus feet." After hearing Srila Guru Maharaja's explanation, all the scholars were very much satisfied and went away in a happy mood.
In this way we may also pray, "My dear Lord Krsna, you are the absolute king of love and you always sport in the groves of Sri Vrndavana with Srimati Radharani, your eternal companion. I have heard this from my guru and the Vaisnavas, and I have now become hopeful and enthusiastic. Therefore, please do not cheat me by attempting to capture my mind with your expansions of opulence and grandeur. I will not be satisfied with that. I want only to hear about your wonderful Vrndavana pastimes and to see your transcendental form standing by Srimati Radharani. I cannot accept anything less than this as the ultimate goal of my life."
As followers of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the line of Srila Rupa Goswami, we are called rupanugas, followers of Sri Rupa. We may neglect the teaching of so many saints, like Patanjali, Buddha, Jesus, Sankara, even Ramanujacarya and Madhvacarya, what to speak of neglecting so many social duties to family, country, etc. prescribed under the varnasrama-dharma system. All can be neglected to the extreme degree if one surrenders at the lotus feet of Vrndavana Krsna.
sarva-dharman parityaja mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah
"In the eternal land of Vraja, you will experience the whole conception of beauty. Dismiss all other engagements and prospects, and come to me alone. Your inner hankering will be fulfilled beyond your expectation. You will find such dignity in me that you will be beyond reaction and repentance." (Bg. 18.66)
We are first interested in the line of the Vrndavana saints, such as Ramananda Raya, Swarupa Damodara, the six Goswamis, and their disciples. We should not allow ourselves to become distracted even by Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, or Dwaraka. Nor should we be interested in reading many books from other sampradayas describing their conceptions of reality. Reality for us is Krsna the Beautiful. That is the actual standard of raganuga-bhakti, spontaneous loving devotion. Our sole interest should flow toward the Vrndavana section, excluding all other conceptions.
On the path previously tread by the great devotees of the Lord, there is surely success. The only thing that can mar our attempt is vaisnava-aparadha and nama-aparadha. All obstacles may easily be conquered by chanting the holy name of Krsna and sadhu-seva, service to the guru and the saints, but if we make offense to the holy name of Krsna or to the guru and the saints, we will surely fall from the path. Therefore, we must be careful to avoid any offense by always offering our most humble obeisances to Sri Gurudeva and the Vaisnavas and by constantly chanting hari-nama.
If we give thorough attention to these first four angas of sadhana bhakti, we will have built a strong foundation for the culture of Krsna consciousness.