By Dusyanta Dasa
This is the second part of this article: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=12144
The importance of the Shiksa Guru is paramount to us as devotees. We can identify subjectively/objectively who is the Shiksa Guru by understanding important instructions from Srila Prabhupada and then we wont make the mistakes that our Iskcon history has illustrated. Some of Srila Prabhupada’s quotes emphasise the very first Spiritual Master we meet is the Shiksa Guru and how this happens.
“ Since one cannot visually experience the presence of the Supersoul, He appears before us as a liberated devotee. Such a Spiritual master is no one other than Krishna Himself.
Purport by Srila Prabhupada.
“ It is not possible for a conditioned soul to directly meet Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but if one becomes a sincere devotee and seriously engages in devotional service, Lord Krishna sends an Instructing Spiritual master to show him favour and invoke his dormant propensity for serving the Supreme. The Preceptor appears before the external senses of the fortunate conditioned soul, and at the same time the devotee is guided from within by the caittya-guru, Krishna, who is seated as the Spiritual master within the heart of the living entity.”
If we place this scenario during the time of Srila Prabhupada’s manifested lila in Iskcon the logical sense of this scripture quoted means that every devotee heard Srila Prabhupada’s instructions first as the liberated Instructing Spiritual Master that Krishna sent to the external senses of every devotee. Each and every devotee heard Srila Prabhupada. The importance of hearing in devotional service is of prime importance in the context of our eternal relationship with the Spiritual Master.
“ The eternal bond between the disciple and Spiritual Master begins from the first day he hears.” Letter to Jadurani, 23.09.72.
In the context of hearing the words of the Shiksa Guru the eternal relationship is based. The Vani is eternal and the Vapuh is temporary. And bringing this principle of hearing from the Shiksa Guru into Iskcon today means that the liberated Shiksa guru that the devotee first meets is Srila Prabhupada in the form of His books.
“ These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing.” Letter to Rupanuga, 19.10.74.
Some clear examples of instructing spiritual masters who were not physically present can be seen in the life of Narottama dasa Thakura, whose initiating spiritual master was Lokanath Goswami. Narottama dasa Thakura writes about Srila Rupa Goswami in the following terms. Rupa Goswami being his real wealth, the object of his bhajana and puja, the treasure of his heart, his ornaments, the life of his life, the goal of all his vows, the reservoir of all rasa for him, the fulfilment of all his desires and the goal of his austerities and the chanting of his mantra.
At this time Srila Rupa Goswami was not physically present yet his instructions and spiritual presence gave Narottama this ecstatic attachment to Rupa Goswami’s lotus feet.
Another example is that of Syamananda whose initiator was Hrdaya Chaitanya, who directed him to take the instruction of Srila Jiva Goswami. Srinivasa Acarya took initiation from Gopala Bhatta Goswami but his instructor spiritual master was also Srila Jiva Goswami.
In Cc Adi-lila chapter 2, page 307, we find this interesting statement,
“After the disappearance of Srila Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami in Vrndavana, Srila Jiva Goswami became the acarya of all Vaisnavas in Bengal, Orissa and the rest of the world and it is He who used to guide them in their devotional service.”
Thus Srila Jiva Goswami was the prominent acarya and instructor spiritual master for all the Vaisnavas, including other acharyas and their disciples. Is Srila Prabhupada’s position any different for us? Would not any great spiritual master who appears in Iskcon still guide their disciples to the lotus feet of such a spiritual master as Srila Prabhupada??? Otherwise how does the 10,000-year prediction of Srila Prabhupada’s Books actually work and why was Srila Prabhupada so empowered by Lord Chaitanya to write as the spiritual standard for Iskcon for generations. If His books are not His instructions as the instructing spiritual master for His disciple’s eternal relationship then what are they?
In our line of Disciplic Succession there are so many different examples of accepting spiritual masters. It’s almost a bewildering array of different examples especially since Madhavendra Puri. On a practical level of understanding these different examples one can note that in all cases the great Vaisnavas cited are all liberated devotees. Which then would make you question what is the point in all these different examples and precedents? How do we learn from them? And more importantly for Iskcon devotees how do we apply these examples that Srila Prabhupada has written about for our edification?
So rather than make a huge list of all the Acaryas that have accepted non-physically present spiritual masters, and there are many examples to write about, I thought it wise to just quote some direct presentations that Srila Prabhupada encouraged Iskcon devotees to follow and accept. Needless to say one of the most prominent of the Acharyas that we are encouraged to follow, accept and pray directly to is Srila Rupa Goswami. Srila Rupa Goswami is our spiritual master and He supervises the Krsna Conscious movement.
From the “mangalacarana” of Bhagavad-gita As It Is I quote directly the Authorized Version as it appears from Srila Prabhupada,
“When will Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfil the desire of Lord Chaitanya, give me shelter under His lotus feet?”
This is a clear example of how taking shelter under the lotus feet of a predecessor acarya is actually fully authorized by a direct presentation of evidence. And is universally applicable to all levels of devotees.
Another good example of a direct example is Tulasi Devi. Every morning we directly pray to Tulasi Devi to accept us as Her maidservants and all levels of devotees alike sing this daily, which is fully authorized by Srila Prabhupada. We sing these prayers by following in the footsteps of previous acaryas.
Taking shelter of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana is not only exemplified by previous Acharyas but also directly encouraged by Srila Prabhupada in Cc Antya Lila 1; 3-4.
“ If one wants to benefit the entire world, he will naturally find persons like hogs and pigs who will put forward impediments. That is natural. But if a devotee seeks shelter at the lotus feet of the six Goswamis, the merciful Goswamis will certainly give the Lords servitor protection. It is not astonishing that impediments are placed before those who are spreading the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. Nevertheless, if we adhere to the lotus feet of the six Goswamis and pray for Their mercy, all impediments will be annihilated, and the transcendental devotional desire to serve the Supreme Lord will be fulfilled.”
So aside from history showing us that we can accept the shelter of previous acaryas (and even gopis) it is also borne out again and again in the writings of Srila Prabhupada. These previous acharyas are our spiritual masters and we are able to obtain Their mercy and Their instruction.
As far as accepting the previous acharyas as our spiritual masters, that is clearly the whole mood of the disciplic succession and we are instructed to do this proactively. As listed before from Mangalacarana Antya-lila chapter 2, page 128.
Therein we are offering our obeisance’s to sri-guru, who may be either the initiating or instructing spiritual master, to sri-gurun, the spiritual masters in the parampara system beginning from Madhavendra Puri down to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, and to vaisnavan- unto all the Vaisnavas, beginning from Lord Brahma and others coming from the very start of creation. There is no interpretation required; these persons are our spiritual masters, our instructing spiritual masters.
In fact there is a vast quantity of Srila Prabhupada’s quotes and conversations to the effect that we must follow the previous acharyas, we must pray to Them, They have to be in our lives, Their instruction is needed by us and Srila Prabhupada has fully authorized this line of service through Their Vani.
When Srila Prabhupada dedicates the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, He writes,
“To Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana who presented so nicely the Govinda-bhasya commentary on Vedanta philosophy.”
If it were an absolute constant that we can only relate, serve and accept the physically present spiritual master then why would Srila Prabhupada dedicate His Bhagavad-gita As It Is to Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana and not Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada?
Srila Prabhupada wrote an immense literature and in His purport to S.Bhagavatam 3.32.38 He explains why this is done.
“ Therefore the Supreme Personality of Godhead comes Himself or sends His bona fide representative, and He leaves behind scriptures like Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, so that the living entities hovering in the darkness of nescience may take advantage of the instructions, the saintly persons and the spiritual masters and thus be freed. Unless the living entity receives the mercy of the saintly persons, the spiritual master or Krishna, it is not possible for him to get out of the darkness of material existence; by his own endeavour it is not possible.” 3.32.38. S. Bhagavatam.
In this verse we have all three principles; Guru, Sadhu and Sastra. It appears from this instruction the spiritual master is the instructing spiritual master after He leaves behind Him Sastra’s especially the ones mentioned herewith. The spiritual master leaves behind Him His Vani (words) so that the living entities in the mode of darkness (ignorance) can take advantage of the instructions. As the spiritual master has “left behind” these things therefore the living entities described herein will never be meeting this spiritual master physically. Therefore Srila Prabhupada is indicating from this verse it is quite possible to accept the instructing spiritual master after He is no longer with us. Are we not in the same situation with Srila Prabhupada in these times after He has “left behind” His Books?
To illustrate that the best process is to follow and accept the disciplic succession and that the disciplic succession are all of our instructing spiritual masters there are some good quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s purports.
“ The best process is to accept the instructions of the previous acaryas and follow them. Then God realization becomes extremely easy. By following this easy method, one is liberated from the contamination of the material modes of nature, and thus one can certainly cross the ocean of nescience, in which there are many miserable conditions…Indeed, by following the instructions of the acaryas one is always freed from all material contamination, and thus ones life becomes successful, for one reaches the goal of life.” S. Bhagavatam 7.9.18.
This statement contains some very strong language describing this easily followed process from the previous acharyas’ instructions.
“The Krishna Conscious movement is based on Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Because the Srimad-Bhagavatam was spoken by Sukadeva Goswami and Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Lord Krishna, there is no difference between them. If we strictly follow the principle of disciplic succession, we are certainly on the right path of spiritual liberation, or eternal engagement in devotional service.” S. Bhagavatam 7.11.4.
This is a fabulous statement from Srila Prabhupada, which illustrates that the instructing spiritual master(s), in this case Lord Krishna in His form of Bhagavad-gita and Srila Sukadeva Goswami in His Vani of Srimad Bhagavatam, are the basis of the whole Krishna Conscious movement. From Cc 1:47 Srila Prabhupada has already instructed us that Sri Krishna is the instructing spiritual master by teaching us from the Bhagavad-gita and because Srila Sukadeva Goswami is speaking the Srimad Bhagavatam He also is our instructing spiritual master.
“It is very difficult to understand the secret of Krishna consciousness, but one who advances by the instruction of the previous acaryas and follows in the footsteps of his predecessors in the line of disciplic succession will have success. Others will not.”
Srila Prabhupada’s enlightening instructions can’t really get any better. We are actually enjoined to simultaneously follow, accept and advance in our spiritual lives by the instructing spiritual masters in the disciplic succession, the previous acharyas. Now we may have physically present spiritual masters, but we still have to follow the disciplic succession acharyas, Srila Prabhupada is emphasising this activity to the point that if you don’t do this you will not have success.
What makes the balance of the physically present spiritual master authentic is that He follows the conclusion of the disciplic succession acharyas. Without that authenticity from the previous disciplic succession acharyas the physically present spiritual master is not empowered. The disciple is able to test the physically present spiritual masters whoever They may be by using the previous acharyas instructions bearing down on the present spiritual master, this is the test of a bona fide spiritual master, not just that He may be physically present, but that He is following the previous acharyas. And the same principle is imparted here for the disciples; that they too are following the instructions of the previous acharyas. Otherwise what is the point in the knowledge of the disciplic succession and the previous acharyas?
“One should take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master coming in disciplic succession, who is authorised by his predecessor spiritual master….” S.Bhag. 4.8.54.
If the physically present spiritual master is not authorised by the disciplic succession acharyas then there is no point in taking initiation from him. This is the authenticated process that is imparted knowledge, that the spiritual masters and the disciples are following the previous acharyas. What made Srila Prabhupada so empowered, amongst many other qualities, was because He was totally following the previous acharyas and when we read His books we are reading the whole disciplic succession in one go. These powerful spiritual masters are all our instructing spiritual masters and the best process as recommended by Srila Prabhupada is to follow Them.
One main point that has not been brought to bear in this presentation is exactly how the Supersoul and spiritual master interact with the disciple AFTER the spiritual master has departed. And to help complete this point there is a great presentation from S. Bhagavatam 4.28.52, which is extensive, but certainly worth our consideration in this topic, rather it is a crucial point.
“ One who is sincere and pure gets an opportunity to consult with the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His Paramatma feature sitting within everyone’s heart. The Paramatma is always the chaittya-guru, the spiritual master within, and He comes before one externally as the instructor and initiator spiritual master. The Lord can reside within the heart, and He can also come out before a person and give him instructions. Thus the spiritual master is not different from the Supersoul sitting within the heart. An uncontaminated soul or living entity can get a chance to meet the Paramatma face to face. Just as one gets a chance to consult with the Paramatma within his heart, he also gets a chance to see Him actually situated before him. Then one can take instruction from the Supersoul directly. This is the duty of the pure devotee: to see the bona fide spiritual master and consult with the Supersoul within the heart…(When the spiritual master physically departs) the Supersoul immediately appears, provided the devotee is purified in heart by following the directions of the spiritual master. A sincere devotee is always helped directly or indirectly by the spiritual master and the Supersoul. This is confirmed in the Cc; guru-krishna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija. If the devotee serves His spiritual master sincerely, Krishna automatically becomes pleased. By satisfying the spiritual master, one automatically satisfies Krishna. Thus the devotee becomes enriched by both the spiritual master and Krishna.” S. Bhagavatam 4.28.52.
From the previous statement concerning the Paramatma within and Krishna without, externally, as Bhagavad-gita, He is described as the instructing spiritual master from Cc 1: 47. The Paramatma is always chaitya-guru and in this form He is described as the instructing spiritual master, and when He teaches us Bhagavad-gita He is always the instructing spiritual master (1:47). But there is a caveat added in this purport by Srila Prabhupada. He also says “… and He comes before one externally as the instructor and initiator spiritual master.” And this makes sense of the word “Sri-guroh” to mean either the instructing spiritual master or initiating spiritual master. The instructing spiritual master and the initiating spiritual master both equally represent the Supreme Lord and as chaitya-guru, the Paramatma, the constant companion to all living entities, can be represented by both spiritual masters equally.
The only difference that I have found is that the relationships are different. Even though the same personality maybe the instructing spiritual master and initiating spiritual master for the same disciple, the relationships are different. But what determines the function of that spiritual master and disciple relationship and the differences thereto? Can it only be one difference that makes this huge differentiation in service and therefore relationship? That being; whether the spiritual master is physically present or not?
“A sincere devotee is always helped directly or indirectly by the spiritual master and the Supersoul.” Excerpt from above 4.28.52.
The Supersoul is always present as the constant companion with all living entities so His help is always “direct”. So who is the “indirect” help from? Is it not the absent spiritual master as the instructing spiritual master in the form of His words, His Vani? Does this not complete the conclusion satisfactorily pertaining to the time when the spiritual master is no longer physically present?
And to just throw in the “curved ball” principle, the quote from Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.32-33. is interesting.
“The conclusion is that a disciple or an offspring who is a very strong devotee can carry with Him to Vaikunthaloka either His father, mother or Shiksa Guru or Diksa guru. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura used to say, “ If I could perfectly deliver even one soul back home, back to Godhead, I think my mission—propagating Krishna Consciousness—to be successful.”
What would be that strong, or very strong, principle that a devotee could actually deliver His Diksa Guru or Shiksa Guru? It’s an easy answer; sincere earnestness. Yes the conclusion is that a disciple can and may deliver His Diksa Guru or Shiksa Guru, its possible no matter who the Diksa Guru or Shiksa Guru are. And is it not remarkable that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was praying in that way of delivering just one soul perfectly back to Godhead. He was such a powerful Acarya He could deliver the Universe by Himself. Perhaps this example that Srila Prabhupada has shared with us is a clear insight into the internal workings of great Vaisnava Acaryas.