Sri Guru Pranama Anuvyakya - An Explanation of Srila Guru Maharaja’s Pranama Mantra

Jan 6 2020 - Krishna Talk 223

(The following was a Vyasa Puja offering to Srila Narasingha Maharaja written by Swami B.V.Giri in 2018)

In 2012, when you were in Czech Republic, you instructed me to compose a simple pranama-mantra for the devotees, since the previous one was very long, hard to chant and equally difficult to memorise. The result was the following two verses:

namah om visnu-padaya krsna-krpa sri murtaye
srimate bhakti gaurava narasingheti namine


namah – I offer obeisance; om visnupadaya – unto he who is situated at the feet of Visnu; krsna-krpa – compassion of Lord Krsna; sri murtaye – unto the personification; srimate – who possesses divine qualities; bhakti gaurava narasingha – Swami Bhakti Gaurava Narasimha; iti –thus; namine – named.

"I offer my pranamas to Om Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhakti Gaurava Narasingha Maharaja who is the personification of Sri Krsna's mercy."

namo acarya-simhaya gaura-daya-svarupine
su-siddhanta-prakasaya ku-darshana-vinasine


nama – I offer obeisance; acarya-simhaya – unto that lion-like acarya; gaura-daya – the compassion of Lord Gauranga; svarupine – unto the embodiment; su-siddhanta – proper philosophical conclusions; prakasaya – reveals; ku-darsana – false philosophies; vinasine – eliminates.

"I offer my pranamas to that lion-like acarya who is the personification of Sri Caitanya's mercy; I offer respects to he who manifests the true Vaisnava siddhanta and eliminates all types of false philosophies."

 At first glance, I thought that these two mantras were very simple, but as with everything in Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta, when analysed, many important philosophical aspects may be found within them. According to my limited capacity, I will try to explain them according to what I have understood from your teachings and those of our previous acaryas.

 Namah – We generally understand namah to mean simply ‘I offer obeisance,’ but the literal meaning is, na me iti namah – ‘that which is not me is known as namah.’ In other words, when we offer obeisance, we must leave behind that which we think is the self – the false ego. This is further explained by Sri Jiva Gosvami, quoting the Padma Purana, in his Bhakti Sandarbha:

ahankrtir ma-karah syan na-karas tan nisedhakah
tasmat tu namasa ksetri svatantryam pratisidhyate

 "The syllable ma represents the false ego (ahankara) and the syllable na denotes the elimination of false ego. Thus, by chanting namah, one negates one’s independence." (Padma Purana 6.226.41)

Thus, when we address the guru with namah, we are surrendering the independent spirit that distances us from Sri Krsna. By surrendering to the guru, we hope to become established in sambandha-jnana and understand our true self (svarupa) and eternal nature as krsna-nitya-dasa.

Namah also signifies that the jiva has no independence, but is a subject of the Lord and His agents. Thus, namah denotes surrender (saranagati).

Om Visnupada – In the first chapter of Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Sanatana Gosvami Prabhu quotes the Narada-pancaratra as follows:

yatha tatha yatra tatra na grhniyac ca kevalam
abhaktya na guror nama grhniyac ca yatatmavan
pranavah sris tato nama visnu-sabdad anantaram
pada-sabda-sametam ca nata-murdhanjali-yutah

"One should never speak the sacred name of the guru casually. A self-controlled disciple will never utter the name of his guru without proper respect and devotion. When saying the guru’s name one should fold one’s hands, bow one’s head, and use om sri visnupada as the prefix." (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 1. 94-95)

Apart from being an honorific title, Visnupada is used because Sri Guru is firmly situated at the feet of the visnu-tattva (visnupada-visnuh-padyate labhyate yena sa visnu-padah). Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura elaborates on this in his Hari-nama Cintamani:

cid-vyapara samudaya visnu-tattva-sara
visnu-pada bali vede gaya bara bara

"Spiritual elements related to the Lord are essentially visnu-tattva. Again and again, the Vedas refer to them as Visnupada." (Hari-nama Cintamani 1.21)

Thus, because Sri Guru is intimately associated with the visnu-tattva through service, he is referred to as Visnupada.

Furthermore, the word pada means ‘the supreme destination of Visnu’ (param padam vaisnavam), and visnu is defined as ‘He who pervades’ (vevesti). If we apply the rule of Sanskrit grammar known as mukta-pragraha-vrtti (the ultimate meaning of a word), Visnu refers directly to Krsna, who is the original Visnu. Evidence for this is found in the sastra:

yatha radha priya visnoh

 "Radha is the beloved of Visnu." (Padma Purana)

 vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh

 "The sporting of Visnu with the young girls of Vraja." (Bhagavatam 10.33.40)

 Thus, visnupada also indicates ‘one situated at the feet of Krsna, who pervades the senses of His devotees.’ When visnupada is prefixed with pranava (om), it denotes that Sri Guru is situated in transcendence.  

Krsna-krpa Krpa stems from the root krp, meaning, ‘to be capable of doing something for someone.’ It is defined as papam karayati nirmulayatiiti krpa – ‘That which uproots papa (the pollution of the self) is called krpa.’ Krsna-krpa refers to the mercy of Sri Krsna, who removes all the anomalies of the jivas. Krsna’s mercy manifests in many forms. However, in this regard, Srila Kaviraja Gosvami writes:

guru krsna-rupa hana sastrera pramane,
guru-rupe krsna krpa karena bhakta-gane

 "According to the opinion of the sastras, the guru is the manifestation of Krsna. Krsna appears in the form of the guru to show His mercy to the devotees." (Cc. Madhya 22.47)

In the words of Srila Prabhupada, “There are many incarnations. So guru is also incarnation of God – the mercy incarnation of God.” Therefore, Sri Guru is the manifestation of Krsna’s mercy because he comes to remove the ignorance that has covered the jiva from time immemorial. Through his efforts, the suffering souls are rescued from the blazing fire of the material world. According to Hari-bhakti-vilasa, this merciful temperament is the first quality of a spiritual master:

 paricarya-yaso-labha-lipsuh sisyad gurur na hi
krpa-sindhuh susampurnah

"The guru is most compassionate (krpa-sindu), thus he should accept disciples only for the benefit of the fallen conditioned souls. Because the guru is fully satisfied in the self, he is the benefactor of all living entities." (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 1.45)

Sri murti – When the words krsna-krpa are followed by sri murti, the literal meaning is ‘one who is the embodiment of Krsna’s mercy.’ However, there is a deeper understanding of the words sri murti in connection to guru-tattva.

At the beginning stage of bhakti, we are told to consider Sri Guru as the representation of Krsna (saksad dharitvena samasta sastrair). Further on, we understand that Gurudeva is the delineation of Baladeva/Nityananda, the adi-guru. At the apex of understanding guru-tattva, Sri Guru is seen as the delegation of Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Sri Krsna and the highest attainment for all those in the line of Sri Rupa Gosvami. As Srila Sridhara Maharaja has said:

"If we raise our head a little higher and look up, then we shall find Radharani and Gurudeva. It is Radharani who is instrumental in accomplishing the function of Gurudeva from behind. The source of grace for the guru is coming from the original source of service and love. Saksad dharitvena samasta sastrair, we are asked to see Gurudeva not as opaque but as transparent, to such a degree that through him the highest conception of service, the first conception of service can be seen. It can be obtained there. If we are earnest, then we shall find the highest link from the original source. We are requested not to see guru as limited in his ordinary personification, but as the transparent mediator of the highest function in his line. If only our vision is deep, we can see that according to the depth of our sraddha, our vision, guru-tattva is very particular, very noble, very broad, wide and very deep." (Follow the Angels)

The word sri may be taken as referring to Sri Devi, or Srimati Radharani, thus sri murti also means ‘one who has manifest as the delegation of Srimati Radhika.’

Srimate – Srimate means ‘one who possesses beauty or divine qualities’ (sri+mat). However, a more esoteric meaning is found when one again considers sri to refer to Radharani – thus srimate means ‘one who is close to Srimati (Sri Radha).’

Bhakti Gaurava – It is of no small importance that Srila Sridhara Maharaja bestowed this title upon you. The direct meaning of bhakti-gaurava is ‘one who shows great reverence, or dignity, towards devotion.’ In your lectures, books, articles and in your own life of bhajana, you have shown the highest respect for the teachings of our guru-varga and presented them with great dignity.

In this regard, the word gaurava is of the utmost significance because of its presence in the verse composed by Srila Sarasvati Thakura:

matala hari-jana visaya range
pujala raga-patha gaurava bhange

"The servants of Lord Hari, who revel in satisfying His transcendental desires, worship the path of spontaneous devotional service in a mood of awe and reverence."

In the article, Raga Patha is Above All, written in 2008, you compared Srila Sridhara Maharaja to Sri Rupa Gosvami. During ratha-yatra, when Mahaprabhu sang a verse that seemed to extol mundane love, only Sri Rupa understood its full significance. Similarly, when Sarasvati Thakura composed the above verse, only Srila Sridhara Maharaja fully understood its deep purport.

If Srila Sridhara Maharaja is to be compared to Sri Rupa for understanding this sloka, then you are like Sri Jiva Gosvami (who propagated the philosophical conceptions of Sri Rupa) because of your dedicated service to this particular verse.

A secondary explanation of gaurava is, guroh bhavah sa iti gauravah – ‘one who is the property of his spiritual master is called gaurava.’ And when bhakti is added to the beginning of gaurava (bhakti guroh bhavah iti gauravah) it means, ‘One who is the property of the guru who spreads bhakti’ – in this case, Srila Prabhupada.

Furthermore, when gaurava is explained as gaurasya bhavah sa iti gauravah, it indicates, ‘he who belongs to Gaura.’

Narasingha– Narasingha is the Bengali pronunciation of the Sanskrit word ‘Narasimha’ which is one of the 108 sannyasa titles found in Gaudiya Kanthahara. The story of Prahlada and how he was protected from his demonic father by Lord Narasimha is well known. Sri Sanatana Gosvami explains in his Brhat-bhagavatamrta (1.3.81), that pure devotion starts with Prahlada, thus it can be said that Narasimha protects the cultivation of suddha-bhakti.

While anarthas remain within the heart, progressive spiritual advancement is not possible. Sri Narasimha removes those impediments to bhakti (bhakti-vighna-vinasana) and this is explained by Thakura Bhaktivinoda in Navadvipa-dhama Mahatmya. There, he states that by the mercy of Narasimha, one becomes eligible to worship Radha-Krsna:

kandiya nrsimha-pade magibo kakhana
nirapade navadvipe jugala-bhajana

"Weeping, I will beg at the feet of Narasimha for the benediction of becoming freed from all difficulties in order to worship the Divine Couple (Radha-Krsna) in Navadvipa."

Nara means ‘that which is related to humans.’ The element that is common to all conditioned human beings is ignorance, or lack of spiritual knowledge. Simha is an animal who is a killer. Thus, the word nara-simha means, ‘one who eliminates ignorance in humans and bestows true knowledge.’

Guru Maharaja, you are indeed the very personification of the name that was given to you by Srila Sridhara Maharaja – you maintain the dignity of the process of pure devotion (bhakti gaurava) and protect it, just as Narasimha protected Prahlada and eliminated all unwanted atheistic elements.

Acarya-simha – Because of his strong stance against apa-siddhanta, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was known as acarya-kesari, or the ‘lion-guru.’ Similarly, in this pranama-mantra, you have been given the appellation acarya-simha because of your fearless preaching against various types of philosophical misconceptions. The word acarya is explained in the Vayu Purana:

acinoti yah sastrartham acare sthapayaty api
svayam acarate yasmad acaryas tena kirttitah

"One who has realised the conclusions of the sastra and establishes proper conduct, and who himself behaves properly, is an acarya."

Since you understand, establish and teach pure Gaudiya siddhanta, and show a proper example in your bhajana life, you are certainly qualified to be called an acarya.

Although generally, the lion is considered the most ferocious of creatures, it is also most kind to its young. Sridhara Svami, the great commentator on the Bhagavatam, has written:

ugro’py anugra evayam sva-bhaktanam nr-kesari
kesariva sva-potanam anyenam ugra-vikramah

"Although He is certainly very ferocious, Narasimha is very kind to His devotees – just as a lioness is kind to her own cubs, but very savage with other creatures." (purport to Bhagavatam 7.9.1).

Similarly, like the aforementioned lioness, you are most compassionate to your loyal disciples and followers, but for those who oppose the teachings of our guru-varga, you manifest your ugra-rupam to them. Thus, acarya-simha means ‘the lion-like acarya who protects the true devotees and the path of pure bhakti.’

Gaura-daya-svarupa – In the first half of the pranama-mantra, the phrase krsna-krpa sri-murti was used. In the second half, you have been described as gaura-daya-svarupa – the embodiment of Sri Caitanya’s mercy. Whereas Sri Krsna is immersed in the sweetness of madhurya-lila, Sri Caitanya’s disposition is that of audaryata, or magnanimity. He desires the dispensation of prema to one and all. That is the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

saba nistarite prabhu krpa-avatara
saba nistarite kare caturi apara

"The Lord descended as the most merciful avatara in order to deliver everyone. He thus devised many methods in order to liberate them all." (Cc. Adi 7.38)

The word daya (compassion) has been defined in various ways. In his Bhagavad-gita commentary, Ramanujacarya describes daya as the inability to tolerate the sufferings of others. The Sandilya Upanisad (1.1) states, daya nama sarva-bhutesu sarvatranugrahah – ‘That which is called daya means showing mercy to all creatures at all places.’ The root of daya is day (to sympathise with) and da – ‘to give, or distribute.’ Because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the most magnanimous, the word daya is most applicable to Him. However, even more magnanimous are those who distribute the daya of Sri Caitanya’s teachings. With the desire to please your guardians, you constantly conceive of various ways to spread the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the form of the sankirtana movement.

There are many words in Sanskrit for ‘embodiment’ or ‘form’ – so why is the word svarupa used? Svarupa indicates that this is the intrinsic nature of Sri Guru (sva+rupa) – it is not a transitory temperament. In both the material and spiritual worlds, his very nature is that of a unit of dedication to the Supreme Lord and His entourage. He eternally possesses sevakabhimana (the pure ego of being a servant), while the Lord whom he serves is endowed with sevyabhimana (the mood of being served). Therefore, you are referred to here as gaura-daya-svarupa – ‘one whose eternal nature is to serve Sri Gaura by distributing His mercy to others.’

Su-siddhanta-prakasa – Siddhanta means ‘that which bestows the attainment of perfection’ (siddha+anta). There are many philosophies that make such high claims, yet under careful scrutiny they may not hold up. The prefix su in Sanskrit denotes that which is correct, beautiful and perfect. In India we find various siddhantas amongst the Vaisnava sampradayas that are correct according to sastra-pramana (scriptural evidence), but they generally lead to vaikuntha-prapti, or the achievement of Vaikuntha, where the Lord is worshipped as Narayana and His expansions in a mood of awe (aisvarya-pradhana). Su-siddhanta, or the philosophy of supreme beauty, is only found within the concepts given by Sri Caitanya and His followers. Their aim is the attainment of the sweetness of Yasodanandana Krsna in Goloka, and in particular, the attainment of radha-dasyam – service within the camp of Sri Radha, under the shelter of Sri Rupa-manjari. Sri Guru clearly reveals all this (pra+kasa) and he is thus known as su-siddhanta-prakasaka – ‘He who reveals the highest philosophy of beauty.’

Ku-darsana vinasa – Just as Sri Guru is the revealer of su-siddhanta, he is also the remover of ku-darsana, or false doctrines. For the positive to thrive, the negative must be eliminated. In Sanskrit, darsana literally means ‘to see,’ A philosophy is called a darsana because it is supposed to help us see the ultimate reality. However, when ku is applied as a prefix to darsana, it indicates a false philosophy. Ku implies a deficiency or hindrance, thus ku-darsana means ‘that which impedes the proper perception of reality’ – just as when a foreign object enters the eye and our sight is impaired. Sri Guru forces our eyes open and gives us sudarsana, the proper perception, which ultimately manifests as Krsna, Reality the Beautiful. Thus, sastra states:

ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri gurave namah

 "I offer obeisance unto Sri Guru, who has opened my eyes with the wand smeared with the salve of knowledge, when they were blinded by the cataracts of ignorance."

Spiritual cataracts (timira) manifest through the deceitful teachings of false philosophies. Sri Guru eliminates such doctrines originating from ignorance, thus he is ku-darsana vinasaka.


This is my humble attempt to explain the deeper understanding of the composition of your pranama-mantra. If anything I have written is philosophically correct, it is solely by your mercy only, because my meagre intelligence has been guided by you. If anything I have written is incorrect or against the conclusions of guru and sastra, then that is exclusively due to my own foolishness.

Sri narasingha pada-sevaka

Swami Bhakti Vijnana Giri