By Kesava Krsna Dasa
How many of us wonder, “If I ever attain the level of raga-bhakti, who in Iskcon will be able to guide me? We are emphasising sadhana bhakti too much. Maybe I’ll have to seek someone elsewhere who can do so…” Will such doubt and uncertainty help us find someone capable, or does the answer lie somewhere much closer to home?
If these sorts of improbabilities arise after taking initiation, it is a dangerous position to be. We have to ask, “Where is that faith in the instructions of the spiritual master to lead us to spiritual success? Why weren’t these misgivings allayed, before taking initiation?
Would Srila Prabhupada be content to set up Iskcon for us, only to keep us wondering where something higher might be? Do we take initiation into the parampara to expect mediocre or less results? “Perhaps a rasika guru will help me reach the highest goal…” one may surmise.
If anyone has doubt and uncertainty then it is not a symptom of an assured devotional mentality. While going through the motions of anartha-nivritti (unwanted desires) and experiencing fluctuating ups and downs, and being frustrated at one’s lack of progress, one may think ahead with unclear vision. That murky vision can cause any number of mixed desires to sprout.
These desires will be forged with extra cloudiness caused by lack of faith in the spiritual master and his teachings. It is easy to ease our estimation, then try to rationalise our position – remaining unhappy and uninspired. Naturally, one will seek some form of relief while keeping one’s reputation intact. To act independently or whimsically is the usual result.
“A person who cannot keep his faith in the words of his spiritual master but acts independently never receives the authority to chant the holy name of the Lord.” (CC Adi 7. 95-96 purport)
Any number of situations can arise from losing faith in one’s spiritual master, or Srila Prabhupada. Dredging through the murky uncertainties, we feel as if the orders of the spiritual master are a unglamorous, monotonous drag. “Do I have to stay within Iskcon…?” While feeling like this, we minimise the importance of faith that our spiritual master can deliver everything. Then we wonder if we can be helped in more progressive stages of Bhakti.
All this speculation can at once be corrected by rediscovering precious sraddha. We can ask of ourselves, “Is there any record of Srila Prabhupada having taken guidance from a ‘rasika’ guru?” How many times did Srila Prabhupada personally meet his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta?
Aside from being connected to his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada had implicit faith in his orders, and in the power of chanting Hare Krishna. By reading Srila Prabhupada’s renditions of the “ yasya deve para bhaktir…” verse along with his explanations, we can understand how he attained perfection.
Why would Srila Prabhupada set up the same success formula that worked for him – by creating Iskcon for us – only to make us think, “There must be something more…?” If we can re-examine our stagnancy and restore it to pristine simplicity, by associating with faithful vaisnavas, there is no limit to our rejuvenation. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu when speaking to Prakasananda Sarasvati has shown such simple faith:
“I firmly believe in these words of My spiritual master, and therefore I always chant the holy name of the Lord, alone and in the association of devotees. That holy name of Lord Krishna sometimes causes Me to chant and dance, and therefore I chant and dance. Please do not think that I intentionally do it. I do it automatically.”
Will the sceptic conclude that, “Srila Prabhupada is a liberated soul… Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Lord. Who are we in comparison…?”
In answer to this, we can also ask, “Would Srila Prabhupada or Lord Chaitanya set something impossible for us?” Srila Prabhupada writes:
“It appears from the talks of Lord Chaitanya that a person who cannot keep his faith in the words of the spiritual master and who acts independently cannot attain the desired success in chanting Hare Krishna. In the Vedic literatures it is stated that the import of all transcendental literature is revealed to one who has unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord and his spiritual master. Lord Chaitanya firmly believed in the statements of His spiritual master, and He never neglected the instruction of His spiritual master by stopping His sankirtana movement. Thus the transcendental potency of the holy name encouraged Him more and more in chanting Hare Krishna, the maha-mantra.”
While reading this, one may still reason, “But we still need the guidance of rasika vaisnavas when we get to a certain stage of advancement. Nectar of Devotion says we must follow in the footsteps of Ragatmikas…”
Then our response must be, “Isn’t Srila Prabhupada a ragatmika, though we may not know his eternal identity yet?”
There is a problem with thinking ahead the incorrect way, based on uncertainty. If any devotee has that implicit faith, he or she would never think like this. A faithful follower will be assured and endeavour with confidence. With this certainty, one’s faith alone ensures sure guidance. This faith has such power to do so. Srila Prabhupada is evidence of this. “Therefore faith in the words of the spiritual master and in the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the secret of success.” (CC Adi 7.95-96)
Srila Prabhupada set up our success formula in the shape of Iskcon. With the difficulties facing us within, it may be hard to see where any success can triumph. But spiritual success is often earned through the most demanding and materially impossible situations. Do we have the faith to endure?
“Not true…” one may protest. “You must have either blind faith or be a fanatic to endure all this.”
This may be true if we endure just for the sake of it, or for some type of social security. But faith can appear to be an extreme commodity. Unflinching faith in the guru is extreme by any standard. But it is the same inner and outer assurance that guides us. If we lose track of this, we end up in limbo. How deep must this faith be? Srila Prabhupada explains:
“Even if there appears to be some discrepancy according to an imperfect devotee’s estimation, the devotee should be fixed in the conviction that even if his spiritual master goes to a liquor shop, he is not a drunkard; rather, he must have some purpose in going there. It is said in a Bengali poem: “Even if I see that Lord Nityananda has entered a liquor shop, I shall not be diverted from my conclusion that Nityananda Raya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (CC Antya 3.11)
We can apply the same reasoning to the fact that there might be problems within Iskcon, there might appear to be a dearth of ‘rasika’ devotees within, there might be emphasis on sadhana-bhakti and so on, but still – the success formula is here. Can our faith handle this truth?
We can apply the necessity of faith in the spiritual master as an extra dimension to the, “vyavasayatmika buddhir…” verse. (BG 2.41) The “ekena” or oneness of focus allowed Srila Prabhupada to always feel the immediate presence of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.
The same Srila Bhaktisiddhanta defined our guru parampara – “Krishna hoite catur mukhe…” Out of thousands of vaisnavas in history, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, through his own “ekena” loyalty, picked out the worthy vaisnavas who stood out as acaryas, in spite of time lapses and other apparent inconsistencies. So keen was his selection that he wanted to ensure “ekena” fidelity. Not everyone could recognise his intentions or agree with him.
That same loyalty is presented to us, and still, how many of us are ungrateful? How many of us think we deserve something special out of this, even though we are simple beggars of mercy?
“I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.”
“This gives the definition of the guru. Everyone is in the darkness of ignorance. Therefore everyone needs to be enlightened with transcendental knowledge. One who enlightens his disciple and saves him from rotting in the darkness of ignorance in this material world is a true guru.” (SB 6.15.16)
If our faith is not strong, our spiritual results will not manifest. A deep transcendental bond is created by sincere, simple faith. This bond bridges any material or spiritual distance – it is always immediate, guiding and assuring. This is rasika guidance in action. Can not the holy names award all success and also guide us as well? Who gave us the holy names? With this guidance, the teachings of the spiritual master will reveal themselves.
“Unless one is blessed by the spiritual master, or the acarya, such teachings cannot become fully manifest.” (TLC)
While some of us wonder about the ‘limitations’ of sadhana-bhakti, and of our fellow devotees to help guide us, and of the ability of the spiritual master, or Srila Prabhupada to deliver us – with unhappy half faith – there is the mood of deserving something we are not yet qualified to receive. When we are truly ready for higher raga bhakti, we’ll know about it, just as we can know if our chanting of Hare Krishna is proper or not.
This sense of knowing – coming from the guru situated in our hearts, and from without through many enlightened fellow vaisnavas, and from Sri Nama Prabhu – is different from the fickleness, uncertainty, doubt and ungratefulness besieging an undeserving attitude.
“This is called guru-krpa. It is Krishna-prasada, Krishna’s mercy, that He sends a bona fide spiritual master to the deserving disciple. By the mercy of Krishna, one meets the bona fide spiritual master, and by the mercy of the spiritual master, the disciple is fully trained in the devotional service of the Lord.” (CC Madhya 19.152)
It is undoubtedly the Lord’s mercy that we hear and associate with sincere vaisnavas, but not all will share or appreciate the same “ekena” fidelity to the success formula given by Srila Prabhupada, and our Sri Guru Parampara. Why is this important? Is it being narrow-minded to think like this?
Why in the past would Srila Prabhupada variously say, “Just one word different…then the whole thing is spoiled…?” We may hear from other vaisnavas speaking the same siddhanta, but still not realise that their words or appreciation might contain subtle criticisms, or be off tangent as to the “ekena” focus. Yet we may be willing to accept ‘raga’ guidance while having our faith in our spiritual master minimised. We’ll never achieve success this way.
“Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His Paramätmä feature, is always sitting with all His devotees and associates.” (CC concluding words)
In truth, only a relatively few disciples will understand the inner imports of the spiritual master. Those fortunate disciples can attain the highest desired goals because of their “ekena” faith. Anxieties about raga-requirements will not affect them. In addition, those sort of vaisnavas are in the know – assured, confident and convinced. Such is the home comfort of faith in Sri Guru.
This is sambandha-jnana in practice. Being nestled within the home of certainty, a faithful disciple will not be bewildered about the application of abhidheya-jnana, in which bhava-bhakti develops naturally in a deserving soul. Here lies the answer to the question, “Where is my higher guru?”
Our solid sambandha makes our chanting of Hare Krishna authorised. This authority is further encouragement in our service to the vaisnavas and our mission. All is meant to successfully help us home in to the highest prayojana reality. We should count ourselves very lucky to be living in such a home.
Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa – GRS