The Legacy

Oct 12 2021 - Krishna Talk 238

Śrīla Prabhupāda has written that, “Satisfaction of the self realized spiritual master is the secret of success in spiritual life.” In essence, this refers to service that is known to be what the spiritual master desires, wherever and whenever it is performed. The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam describes the material world as presenting danger with every step we take — padam padam yad vipadām na teṣām. It is further revealed that the only safe place is under the shelter of our guru — guru pādāśraya. This shelter comes along with our required guru seva.

Guru and Disciple Classifications

The third class disciple fails to execute his service to the satisfaction of his guru even after being told what to do, a second class devotee needs to be told but he will then perform this service successfully. But the 1st class devotee knows what pleases his guru and performs his service successfully without needing to be told to do so. Our goal is to become that first class disciple.

During our writing of “Our Affectionate Guardians” we found an Iskcon leaders’ essay, critical of Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja, basically stating that he was insignificant in comparison to Śrīla Prabhupāda because he didn’t spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world to every town and village, hadn’t published many millions of books, etc, etc. We found suitable answers to all these offensive attempts to minimize Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja — statements which are found in the unabridged version of Our Affectionate Guardians [cf. Our Affectionate Guardians]. Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja didn’t need to go to the world — the world came to him — for his substantially deep and profound realizations helped lost souls and devotees worldwide to gain new hope and inspiration in their quest for Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Significantly, in regards to such criticisms, Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda wrote in his Bhaktivedānta Purports: "One should not be envious, considering one preacher to be very great and another to be very lowly. This is a material distinction and has no place on the platform of spiritual activities. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Goswāmī therefore offers equal respect to all the preachers of the cult of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who are compared to the branches of the tree. Iskcon is one of these branches." (Caitanya-caritamṛta Adi-lila 10.7, purport)

Which Guru is Most Important?

When asked, “Who is our most important guru?” Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja responded that, “Whomever helps us the most is the most important guru to us.” How can one determine who is our most important guru without engaging in just what Śrīla Prabhupāda said not to do? 

We shouldn’t. We should recognize that whomever helps us is worthy of our recognition, whether such assistance is great or small. We don’t worship the tree for its extreme tolerance, nor place it on the altar of our gurus. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in His Sikṣāṣtakam, states the invaluable lesson of the trees’ tolerance as a criteria essential in our daily chanting. Let us not forget that we are also advised by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in the same verse to be more humble than a blade of grass. Dattātreya is stated in śāstra to have something like thirty-six gurus, learning something valuable from all.

Seeing Our Guru in Others

Śrīla Prabhupāda took the advice of the printer at Radha Press in New Delhi to print books instead of just his first Back to Godhead Magazines and Prabhupāda saw these words as coming from his guru, Śrīla BhaktiSiddhānta Sarasvati Thakur, through this gentleman. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja noted when visiting this same printer that he had a number of ślokas painted along the wall of his press in Sanskrit, yet only one was printed in English. The owner of Radha Press responded to Mahārāja’s inquiry, that your Swāmīji (Prabhupāda) was always quoting this verse and requested the printer to do this one in English. It was the tṛṇād api sunīcena verse.

Is it not the mad elephant offense of vaiṣṇava aparādha to neglect, minimize or speak ill of any vaiṣṇava? We do not put the tree on the altar of our gurus. Yet we recognize its strong example of tolerance and must follow this example from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

The lesson in these words is that the underlying principle basic to all Vaishnavism is that we must be humble. This is said to be the first quality of a vaiṣṇava (titikṣavaḥ kāruṇikāḥ), for it is most necessary for receiving the mercy of the Lord. One definition of Humility given by our ācāryas is to not encroach on the rights of others.

How to Ruin Your Life

Unnecessary and hateful criticism of any vaiṣṇava is self destructive and to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, some devotees are paying a heavy price, destroying their Kṛṣṇa Consciousness with their careless criticism in this overly facilitative age of electronic communication.

In our spiritual journey of almost fifty years, we have received invaluable and immeasurable guidance from many great devotees and of course lesser assistance from others, even non-devotees. In the words of Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja, it is “All for the good,” and we are profoundly grateful to them all for their kind assistance, whether direct or indirectly, in our spiritual journey. Somewhere it has also been said, “Each man is my better in some way, in that I learn from him.”

Guru Prasāda

Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us all Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Without him, almost all of us would not be devotees, even those who were never members of his society. Śrīpād Govinda Mahārāja, the successor of Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja once while walking in Vṛndāvana, told Narasiṅgha Mahārāja and I, “Everyone is getting Swāmī Mahārāja’s prasad,” meaning just that, we are all in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness directly or indirectly due to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching. Prabhupāda’s fervor for publishing and preaching, absorbed from his guru, Śrīla BhaktiSiddhānta Sarasvati Thakur, has been passed down to us and we find most every mission and organization worldwide following Prabhupāda’s focus on book sales, especially with book tables.

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching achieved such massive success as to be listed in major encyclopedias as, “stunning scholars worldwide with his unbelievable success.” He is my diksa guru and as such is most important for me by definition, yet much of what he left for us needs to be extracted, interpreted and understood from his books and talks.

Guru Gives Us Everything

Śrīla Prabhupāda stated that everything is in his books and a number of my godbrothers and other devotees espouse the ritvik conception that Śrīla Prabhupāda is the only qualified devotee for initiating us into Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, so we only need his books. Of course this deviates from all of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s own preaching and the sastric references and all previous examples of devotees. After his disappearance so many injustices were committed by his disciples that a significant number of devotees came to embrace this ideology; an ideology born out of trouble, in Narasiṅgha Mahārāja’s words, “like a tumor.”

Who is Guiding us Now?

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja made a long list of questions that none of our godbrothers could answer. But, “Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us everything,” they say. He did leave us with everything, only some of it was in seed form. In the few short years that Śrīla Prabhupāda spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world, there simply wasn’t enough time for more. So, he laid a solid foundation for us. In Australia he installed Radha Kṛṣṇa Deities and prayed to Them to please help his neophyte disciples to serve Them properly.

When Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja was asked, “What is the hope for a disciple of a Madhyama guru, one who cannot take his disciple the entire way to Kṛṣṇa consciousness?” Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja’s response is, “If we are sincere, Kṛṣṇa will send us another to guide us the rest of the way to Kṛṣṇa.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda left this world over forty years ago, so who is guiding us now? Our guru lives in his books, instructions, examples and especially within the hearts of his disciples — those who have taken his instructions to heart, after receiving his blessings by taking initiation — especially through our seva to him.

Pleasing Guru

If any disciple ever has doubts, doubts which a senior devotee, śāstra or their guru’s instructions cannot answer, then we must look within and contemplate, “What would Guru Mahārāja want me to do?” Imagine him in front of you watching and then do your best to please him.

Ours is a totally spiritual endeavor — most of it is internal. We must be certain in our hearts that we are pleasing our guru. That we are doing our utmost to develop the qualities and service attitude which he showed us by example and instruction. It is the opposite of Machiavelli’s philosophy of only appearing externally to have good qualities. I am amazed to see some devotees (especially in past years) show external physical proof of their service, while internally exhibiting all the undesirable qualities such as envy, pride, cheating and evaluating their service by mundane considerations such as size.

Vaisnava Seva

The recognition of any vaiṣṇava as dear to Kṛṣṇa is paramount. And service to the devotees is as important, no, it is more important than even our service to Kṛṣṇa. How? Kṛṣṇa says (to Uddhava) that no one is more dear to Him than his devotee — na me bhakta jana priyah. The bhakta is a living scripture, living the essence of Bhagavad Gītā, therefore dearmost. Real devotees do not like to accept benedictions from Kṛṣṇa, so when one devotee serves another, they are fulfilling Kṛṣṇa’s earnest desire to serve that devotee.

How to Find Your Guru

I have been asked by devotees on occasion, “I haven’t been able to find a qualified guru, what should I do?” The understanding is that when one is sincere, Kṛṣṇa will send you a qualified guru. So, does this mean, if we can’t find a qualified guru, then we are not sincere? A difficult position, no doubt. But if we are truly sincere we will pray for guidance and keep looking. In the introduction to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s “Nectar of Instruction,” it is written, “One who is serious about spiritual life is given the intelligence to come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master, and then by the grace of the spiritual master one becomes advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”

Kṛṣṇa has His own ways, sometimes not easily understandable. Our position is not to question Him nor lose faith in Him, but to serve Him along with praying to Him for proper guidance. Perhaps it is as simple as the necessity for us to prove ourselves worthy, for the other side of the equation all too often forgotten is that the guru must also choose us. Are we qualified to be a disciple? Most of us are indeed disciples, but we must engage in atma-niksepa, self inspection to keep us qualified over the years — to continue pleasing our guru. We must be our own worst critic to stay strong on the path given to us by Guru Mahārāja.

Pray For Mercy

Many years of distributing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, a direct engagement in Śrī Chaitanya’s Sankirtana movement, has proven to myself, nearly unlimited times, that if we simply pray to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu for His mercy to assist us in His service, that He never, ever, doesn’t help us. When we are proud of our seva or somehow insincere in our requests we can’t expect His assistance and will lose our sakti. A number of my godbrothers told me that they prayed to Śrīla Prabhupāda in this same manner.

Kṛṣṇa promises His devotees over and over again in so many ways that His devotees are the most dear to Him, they will never perish, that He will bring us to Him. We just need to keep ourselves engaged in seva proper, especially in regards to working hard to continue improving our devotion. If we do not push to improve and move forward we will go back and only maya is back there. Continuous enthusiastic seva is the key to advancement — to keep moving forward, ahead of maya

Stages of Devotion

As we progress from a beginner or kanistha, one who only sees the guru or Kṛṣṇa, to the madhyama position where we must work thru all our inadequacies and recognize the internalities of the devotional process, we will encounter the greatest difficulties in the anartha nivrtti stage. There, for many years we fight to conquer our rampant detrimental desires and achieve Purity. The pure devotee, who has surpassed this madhyama stage, is a window to Kṛṣṇa, reflecting only Kṛṣṇa’s desires. When we look into him we see only the will of Kṛṣṇa — saksad dharitvena. We must also become windows to our guru, reflecting his pure desires, for that is a true disciple.

In this regard Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja stated that our Śrīla Prabhupāda emptied himself of all desires other than the pure desires of his guru so completely, that Kṛṣṇa had no choice other than the help him fulfill those desires.

We Must Go Deeper

A godbrother I traveled with for months on sankirtana in Kentucky and Tennessee liked to repeat often how, “Śrīla Prabhupāda said that if I chant sixteen rounds a day, that I will go back to Godhead.” I never mentioned it to him, as it took some years for my understanding to mature, but, “Chanting sixteen rounds daily,” isn’t just about uttering the Maha Mantra 1,728 times. One must also chant the name purely with the proper conception, avoid offenses, follow the rules and regulations, do service and maintain a humble sincere mentality. The Holy Name is known from śāstra to be directly Kṛṣṇa Himself, but are you really chanting the the Maha Mantra, even though you are uttering the words? One must sincerely ask themselves this question. Are you paying attention to your japa?

Attaining Suddha-Nama

Another devotee I often traveled with, had a speech impediment due to childhood illness, so could not pronounce the Maha Mantra out loud clearly. He told me that in his mind he chanted clearly. What is the truth of this? The process is chanting and hearing the Maha Mantra. He is not inattentive, merely incapable of uttering the words clearly, yet hearing them properly in his own mind — the effect is achieved. The substance is there, even though the form is flawed.

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja shocked a senior member of Iskcon by stating that the quality of prasadam and also the Holy Name depends on many requirements. If the bhakti is not there nor the sincerity then the result is not 100% pure and results are limited by these imPurīties and slowly obtained.

Padma Purana states that even if nama is chanted offensively (namaparadha-yuktanam), one achieves benefit. But this may be compared to emptying the ocean with a cup, for progress is slow. In this regard Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja stated that one should not be guilty of firing blank mantras. Better to make our efforts count by chanting according to the advice of our acaryas and śāstra. There can be no mistake — for guru, sadhu and śāstra are in concordance without discrepancy. Our path is precisely delineated, we just have to follow it. The process is free of defects. We are flawed and our inability or lack of desire is holding up back. The solution is to dive deep into the instructions of our Guru Mahārāja and take refuge in his service.

When Spiritual Reality Conflicts with Material Reality

In physics there are paradoxes, unexplainable phenomena which contradict reality. Deeper study shows that all such paradoxes are merely unexplained situations. We just don’t have the proper information to explain them, so they are labeled as paradoxes. But when they are explained — then they are no longer paradoxical.

I came to devotional life because I could not find the answers to my basic life questions in my advanced study of physics nor in the faith instilled from my strong Christian upbringing. After finding so much inspiration, along with the answers to my questions, in the bhakti path, by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mercy, my faith was sufficient that I was not deterred by several apparent major conflicts of Kṛṣṇa consciousness with reality as I had long observed and accepted. Fortunately I recognized these paradoxical conflicts with apparent reality as just that, unexplained phenomena. Eventually, truth prevailed when explanations arose.

One of the most difficult paradoxes for myself was accepting Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statement that we never went to the moon. In graduate school I had worked in a laboratory under a NASA traineeship where we built spark chambers for sending into space to measure the effects of the sun’s radiation on astronauts and saw the small step of Neil Armstrong (I thought live) on TV, so this statement by my guru tested my faith greatly. Fortunately my faith survived this and other similar tests.

Many years later, Narasiṅgha Maharja told me he was on a morning walk with Śrīla Prabhupāda near the Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma tree in Vṛndāvana when Śrīla Prabhupāda stated, “Maybe they did go to the moon.” To which, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples were astonished at his about face on this. His explanation was that, “the scientists are all cheaters,” so this was his way of challenging them back.

The real truth, of course, is the Supreme Absolute Truth, Kṛṣṇa. This material world is sort of real but it is temporary and ultimately inconsequential in time, from a devotional perspective. Nothing we accomplish here nor accumulate matters, other than our devotional sukṛti. That is all we can take with us along with our karma. Only the Mormons believe you can take your family along with you.

In Search of The Ultimate Goal of Life

We all know well that must leave the world with only our devotion — that which Kṛṣṇa assures us in Bg. 2.40 — that we will not lose any of our devotional merits. Any material reality here is not relevant, except in relationship to facilitating our advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and ultimately the perfection of life, seva in Goloka. But to arrive at this conclusion is a long journey for some, perhaps requiring many lifetimes. This should inspire us to try very hard to become pure devotees so that we never have to come back to this crazy world, which seems to be deteriorating increasingly rapidly under the influence of Kali-Yuga.

Guru is One in Many Forms

Returning to the subject of my guru or I must say gurus, I was also very fortunate for the intimate absorption in the deep realizations of Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja. For Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja gave myself and many other devotees, penetrating insights into the instructions of Śrīla Prabhupāda along with all other ācāryas. The inspiration gained from such explanations was comparable to those achieved from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions, growing deeper with time.

Additionally we are extremely fortunate to receive valuable instructions and personal association, as well as service, from Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Goswāmī, godbrother of Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja.

Guru in Substance

The essence of each of these three great devotees was fed to myself, morsel by morsel, by my śikṣa and sannyāsa guru, our beloved Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja. Recently we have been detailing the many years spent in Narasiṅgha Mahārāja’s association, traveling and preaching together continuously for thirty-seven years. Every day was a new adventure, exciting yet filled with Kṛṣṇa consciousness always.

I stuck with Narasiṅgha Mahārāja thru thick and thin (and there were a few thin times) for so long, for as all of us know, he was always very rigorously focused on the devotional activities of a sannyāsi. He never compromised on the high standards demanded by this. Even when considerable gain was to be obtained, if compromising devotional standards was the only solution, he would walk away from the situation. Mahārāja exhibited such detachment from material acquisitions that it was often scary to see. His inner vision was that he was a detached sannyāsi and all he needed was his daṅḍa when he went anywhere. This is true fearlessness. His legendary preaching alone in many areas of Africa stands testament to this. Most of us have heard these stories and they are epic; an understatement.

You Will Always Be With Guru Mahārāja in His Service

Here in Govindaji Gardens, the heart of Narasiṅgha Mahārāja’s service to Śrīla Prabhupāda, I see the unbounded enthusiasm of his disciples. He was very pleased to see his local disciples efficiently managing, supporting and executing so many projects, huge festivals, all without external assistance.

Guru Mahārāja’s tireless, relentless drive to live the sannyāsa dharma to the full extent is known to all. I was fortunate to receive this from him. His words were that he wanted to give me that which was the most important to him, the order of sannyāsa. For this we are forever grateful.

His dedication as the Guardian of Devotion or the Protector against apa-siddhānta is unquestionable. Over 250 Kṛṣṇa Talk articles are dedicated to presenting the correct Vaiṣṇava Siddhānta, history, etiquette and training in all aspects of devotional life, to his disciples and followers while being the living example of this. Guru Mahārāja’s real legacy is all of you, his disciples, carrying on your seva as he trained you to do. Thereby, he will always live in your hearts.

All glories, all glories to Śrīla Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja.

All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda and all our divine masters.