All glories to Sri Guru & Sri Gauranga
yahara prasade bhāi e bhaba tariyā yāi
krishna prāpti hai yāhā haite
Srila Narattom Das Thakur Mahashaya, in one of his famous songs entitled “sri guru charana padma,” writes the above verse in his first stanza. The meanings of his words are integral to the followers of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Nowadays, due to misunderstanding of Guru-Tattva, most Gaudiya-Vaisnava followers are not adequately informed about the knowledge of Guru-Tattva and therefore an element of confusion exists. As a result of this lack of knowledge, they can feel cheated on their chosen path. The same can be said of pious people in various parts of the world following their respective religious faith. The above-referenced song was written in Bengali language and the quoted lines hold a deep meaning, which I will try to explain word by word and provide a detailed account of their inner meaning:
Yahara (whose); prasade (mercy); bhai (brother); e bhaba (this material world) tariyā yāi (able to deliver); krishna (Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is embodiment of bliss and all attractive); prāpti (get); hai (is); yāhā (that) haite (from).
According to the direct instruction of Lord Krishna, we understand that without the mercy of Krishna’s eternal consort, Srimati Radharani, no one is eligible to receive His mercy.
Srimad Bhagvatam informs us that Lord Krishna gives instructions to one of His most intimate devotees named Uddhava. Uddhava worshipped Lord Krishna since childhood with the mood of friendship (Sakhya-Rasa). Lord Krishna declares “achāryam mām vijāniyāt”. The meaning of the Sanskrit words is as follows:
Achāyam (whoever is teaching us to serve Sri Krishna by example); mām vijāniyāt (who is representing Me only).
My spiritual master, His Divine Grace, often cited Lord Krishna’s words to Uddhava to explain to us the value of the Acharya. He would explain that since an Acharya is the Lord’s agent, He is to be understood as non-different from the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna Himself, and therefore we should hold the utmost respect for the Acharya. In actual fact, the real Acharya is Srimati Radharani and She is non-different from Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna is potent (Shaktimān) and Srimati Radharani is His pleasure potency (Ānanda-dāyini Shakti). Srimati Radharani is serving Sri Krishna non-stop, 24-hours a day, in various ways. It is known to us that She cooks various items for Krishna and will arrange for the cooked items to be sent to Krishna through Her associates (Sakhis). Not only that, for Krishna’s happiness She is maintaining extreme tolerance by accepting all false blame and accusations thrown at Her by both Her mother-in-law, Jatilā and sister-in-law, Kutilā. However, we ourselves are not ready to tolerate any blame or criticism at all. Our present opinion is that since we are following a renounced order of life, we should therefore stay away from our parents, relatives, educational practices, business etc.. For the sake of following a “renounced” life, we are even ready to abandon our Spiritual Master and his services too. Srimati Radharani’s renunciation is of a different quality than our present understanding of a renounced life. Whatever criticism of Her chastity and purity Jatilā and Kutilā complained about, would spread around the neighbourhood. These accusations, however, did nothing to deter Srimati Radharani nor would She even entertain the thought of stopping Her service to Krishna. Thus, She is showing the example of tolerance in rendering Krishna’s service. Presently, where is our tolerance for serving the Acharya?
In our lineage, the word, Acharya is synonymous to the word “Guru” or “Gurudeva,” the universal teacher. Here, teacher refers to the individual who is teaching us spirituality by example. Srimati Radharani is the original Acharya and the source of all Acharyas. Also, we know that without Radharani’s mercy, no one can receive Krishna’s mercy. In the same way, we can say that without Gurudeva’s mercy one cannot be delivered from this miserable world. Furthermore, it can also be said that one can only get the opportunity to engage in Krishna’s service by the grace of Gurudeva.
The ultimate goal of human life is to become the eternal servant of Sri Krishna, which is reflected in the last line of the first stanza “krishna prāpti hay yāhā haite.” To shed further light on the subject matter of Guru-Tattva, I would like to discuss a verse from Chaitanya Charitamrita:
guru krishna rupa han shastrer pramaney
guru-rupe krishna kripa karen bhakta-gane
According to scriptural information, the condensed mercy of Lord Krishna is appearing before us in the form of Guru—Lord Krishna is bestowing His mercy through the form of a Guru. In conclusion, it can be stated that Guru is the most important aspect of our spiritual practice; eternally keeping in mind that Guru is non-different from Lord Krishna. It should also be well noted in our mind that Guru is an important Tattva (absolute truth) and not necessarily only an individual. As soon as we think that Guru is an individual, then we will start to discriminate amongst different Gurus in order to promote our own Guru. This tendency of promoting one’s individual Guru is consequently trapping us in committing offenses. The offense will take us away from developing realization of spiritual practice, leaving only chaos in our life. Our goal of spiritual practice is to first realize and then relish the taste of eternal bliss, peace, happiness, and love.
Due to the present activities of so-called Gurus, it has become difficult to define the qualification of a Guru. Actually, a Guru should be appointed by previous teachers, but nowadays almost all of the Gurus are appointed by either their followers or are self-appointed. Most preachers are taking the role of “Guru” as per the request of the audience for and the masses are feeling attracted by the preacher’s ability to orate their ideas coherently, perform sweet melodious singing, and by displaying a holy nature. As a result of such a show of charisma, the general public are approaching preachers to give them initiation. Consequently, most of the initiating Gurus who are appointed by the public are expanding the loving mission of Mahaprabhu without permission of the previous teachers.
If we look at the ancient history, we can see the procedure to appoint a Guru. We know that Lakshmi Devi appointed Srila Ramanuja Acharya. In brief, Lakshmi Devi can also be referred to as “Sri.” Therefore, whoever gets initiation from Ramanuja Acharya’s spiritual descendent, they are known to belong to the “Sri-Sampradya.” Similarly, Lord Brahma appointed Srila Madhva Acharya and whoever receives initiation from Madhva Acharya’s spiritual descendents are known to belong to the “Brahma-Sampradaya.” Furthermore, Lord Shiva appointed Vishnuswami and whoever follows Vishnuswami Acharya’s spiritual descendent belongs to the “Rudra-Sampradaya.” Conceived from Brahma’s mind, Brahma’s four sons Sanak, Sanatan, Sanandan, and Sanat Kumar (abbreviated to “Sanak”) also appointed Nimbaditya Brahmin (Nimbarka-Acharya). Those following the Nimbarka-Acharya’s spiritual descendent belong to the “Nimbarka-Sampradaya.”
Thus, my Grand Spiritual Master (Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Prabhupada) appointed all of his disciples to be Guru. Often he used to say that “I am not accepting any disciples. They are all my friends who are there to protect me from different types of dangers (Vipad-Uddharan-Bandhav) in this material world. Therefore, I appoint all of them as Guru to protect people from their material attachment and engage them in spiritual services.” After the physical departure of Srila B.S. Prabhupada’s disciples—with the exception of a few appointed acharyas—a selection of devotees were appointed by either a voting system amongst society members or selected by people because of their observation of how nicely they are giving discourses, singing with a melodious tune, and the display of holy behavior.
Hence, we can see all over the world the many so-called ‘Gurus’ who are accepting unqualified disciples. During the time of initiation, Guru is eligible to plant the loving seeds of the creeper of devotion in the heart of the disciple. Unfortunately, unqualified Gurus out of greed for name and fame, accept large numbers of disciples without preparing the heart of those followers to sow the loving seeds of devotion. We know seeds need to be planted on prepared land having properly dug and cleared all weeds from the land; only then can seeds be planted, otherwise the seeds will be unable to sprout and grow step by step. After sprouting, the creeper will give flowers and eventually bear fruits. For healthy growth, the seeds should undergo irrigation from time to time. Here, irrigation refers to the hearing of discourses by the individuals who are practicing the path of devotion. One should chant attentively in order to reach the ultimate spiritual abode and not because of any other mundane motivation. As a result of any secondary tendency of the preacher, the followers are unable to get any benefit. At the end they are feeling cheated and instead of accepting the process of chanting in a loving manner, most followers are rejecting chanting as well as switching from one Guru to another.
Usually we see on the day of the Guru or Vaisnava’s birthday ceremony that disciples and followers prepare a beautiful throne for their Guru to perform his worship with their best ability. But during Prabhupada’s (HDG Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur) time the Guru–Vaisnava’s birthday ceremony was known by the term ‘Vyasa-Puja’ day. During that period of time, along with preparing a beautiful throne, disciples and followers used to perform Vyasa-Puja as per the direction of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, which is described as follows:
There is a minimum of six panchakas, known as 1. Krishna-Panchaka, 2. Vyasa-Panchaka, 3. Acharya-Panchaka, 4. Sanakadi-Panchaka, 5. Gaura-Panchaka 6. Guru-Panchaka.
Here, Panchaka means five personifications in each group. The six Panchakas are laid out as Krishna-Panchaka in the middle position. On the right side of Krishna-Panchaka we should keep Vyasa-Panchaka and Gaura-Panchaka side by side. On the left side of Krishna-Panchaka we are to keep Acharya-Panchaka. On the west side of Krishna-Panchaka is kept Sanakadi-Panchak and on the east side of Krishna-Panchaka is Guru-Panchaka.
1. The five personification in Krishna-Panchaka: Krishna in the middle surrounded by His four expansion—at the east side, Vasudeva, at the south side, Sankarshan, at the west side, Pradyumna, and at the north side, Aniruddha.
2. The five personification in Vyasa-Panchaka: The energy incarnation of Lord Krishna, Vyasadeva, is in the middle and surrounded are his four main disciples. At the east side, Paila Muni, at the south side, Vaishampāyana Muni, at the west side, Jaimini Muni, and at the north side, Sumanta Muni.
3. The five personifications of Gaura-Panchak: In the middle is Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. During every day of Brahma’s entire life, Vrindavan Krishna appears during the seventh Manu’s period, the 28th number Chatur-Yuga’s in Dwapar-Yuga, and following this is the appearance of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu in the Kali -Yuga.1 On east side there is Advaita Prabhu (combination form of Mahavishnu and Lord Shiva), on the south side is Nityananda Prabhu (Balaram in Krishna’s pastime), on the west side, Srivas Thakur (Narada), and on the north side, Gadadhara Pandit (incarnation of Srimati Radharani).
4. The five personification of Acharya-Panchak: In the middle is Srila Sukadeva Goswami (Bhagawata-Ācharya) surrounded by the four Acharyas. On the east side, Srila Ramanuja-Ācharya, on the south side, Srila Madhva-Ācharya, on the west side, Vishnu Swami-Ācharya, and on the north side, Nimbaditya (Nimbarka-Ācharya).
5. The five personification of Sanakadi Panchak: In the middle is Vishaksen, surrounded by the four personalities; East side, Sanak, south side, Sanatan, west side, Sanandan and north side, Sanatkumar.
6. The five personification of Guru-Panchak: in the middle is our Diksha-Guru and surrounding on the east side are, Param-Guru, on the south side, Paramesthi-Guru, on the west side, Paratpara-Guru, and on the north side, Lord Brahma.
The above procedure is the actual method to conduct a Vyasa-Puja, which was established by Satchidānanda Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. This method of Vyasa-Puja allows us to give due respect to all members of the different Vaisnava-Parampara (lineage).
The Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition was established by Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. He highlighted the qualities of being humble like a blade of grass, being tolerant like a tree, being completely free from name, fame, distinction, and desires, and giving due respect to all living beings and chanting of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. These qualities will gradually appear in us through our relentless chanting of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra, at least 64-rounds a day.
The Vaisnava tradition is not a new tradition. When looking back at the history of this tradition, we can see that the first living entity in the universe, Lord Brahma, was a Vaisnava. His four sons, known as the four Kumaras, Narada and Lord Shiva are Vaisnavas too. Our lineage (sampradaya) started from Brahma. Since Brahma is the first authority in this sampradaya, we belong to the Brahma sampradaya. We know that Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna (Vrindavan Krishna), who is the source of all incarnation (Avatāri not Avatār) appeared in the form of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. After accepting the renounced order of life for spreading the devotional practice of chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra, His name became Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu showed us by example that without accepting an authentic lineage, our spiritual practice will not bear any fruit. Sampradaya, or parampara literally means “one after another.” The purpose of the parampara system is to preserve spiritual knowledge through successive links, or disciplic succession, that carries down over the years. The knowledge comes down from the Supreme Lord Himself and the bona fide Guru will preserve this knowledge by keeping it intact and complete. Not that new ideas and conclusions are manufactured: one cannot add to it or improve it, rather it is preserved and passed down as it is. For further understanding, let’s deliberate on this fact, that, although Gauranga Mahaprabhu is Avatāri He nonetheless accepted the Brahma sampradaya lineage and established the worship of the Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha Krishna in Goloka Vrindavan. Goloka Vrindavan is topmost abode of Supreme Lord where the sweetness mellow (Madhurya Rasa, the condensed form of all types of mellows) is relished. We are trying to follow in the footsteps of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and His associates.
I heard from my Spiritual Master that my Grand Spiritual Master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur Prabhupad (Srila B.S. Prabhupad), is a spiritual descendent of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu in that he came directly from the spiritual abode. In that spiritual abode his eternal form is Vimala Nayanamani Manjari. I also heard from our Guru-Varga that all the disciples of Srila B.S. Prabhupad are associates of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu as well. My previous teachers, His Divine Grace (HDG) Srila Bhakti Vinode Thakur, HDG Srila B.S. Prabhupad, HDG Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Goswami Thakur, and all my Guru-Varga’s, the essence of all their teachings is that one should nourish the soul through devotional practice and chanting of the Holy Name, which will gradually free one from all material attachment. Material attachment is constantly pulling us to remain in the cycle of bondage where endless suffering exists. Suffering comes to living entities in many forms, from taking the body of an aquatic, reptile, tree, plant, birds, animal, and human.
Although I am unworthy to be the servant of our previous teachers, my spiritual master, out of his causeless mercy has allowed me to be his servant and taught me how to follow in the footsteps of all members in this lineage. Today, my humble request to all the Vaisnavas is to please excuse all my previous offensive attitude and bestow your mercy on me so that I can qualify to be a real servant of the servants of our Guru-Varga and that I may gradually be allowed to enter the spiritual abode in order to become a servant of Ananga Manjari, Rupa Manjari, and Lalita Shakhi.
An insignificant aspiring servant of our Guru-Varga.
1 One day of Lord Brahma: Golden Age (Satya-Yuga), Silver Age (Treta-Yuga), Copper Age (Dwapara Yuga) and Iron Age (Kali-Yuga). These four Ages together is called one Chatur-Yuga. 71 Chatur-Yuga are called one Manmantar (Manu’s duration of life); 14 Manmantar are considered only one day of Brahma. In one day of Brahma, on the 28th number of Chatur-Yuga’s and the 7th Manmantar in copper Age, Sri Vrindavan Krishna appears and then in the Iron Age (Kali-Yuga) that same Vrindavan Krishna appears in the form of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. All other times of the cyclic appearance of the Lord, Vasudev Krishna (avatar) appears in each Dwapara Yuga with Kaliki Avatar incarnation taking place in every Kali Yuga following on from Vasudev Krishna’s descent. It is to be noted that Vrindavan Krishna and Gauranga Maharprabhu are avatari (source of all incarnations) whereas all other forms are avatars (incarnations) of the Supreme Lord.