By Jaganmohini devi dasi
Today July 7th 2009 is Guru Purnima.
Srila Prabhupada was little skeptical of celebrating Guru Purnima the way several other sects in India do, i.e. by quoting Vedic tradition. Whenever Srila Prabhupada was asked about celebrating Guru Purnima, he would reply, “We do gurupuja every day”, and that the idea behind doing Guru Purnima is to offer gratitude to the spiritual master by the disciple once in a year. But as per Gaudiya Vaisnavas, we offer all our gratefulness to the spiritual master on his ‘Appearance Day Ceremony’, which is called Vyasa Puja.
But spiritual practitioners who are part of other spiritual organizations, hold immense reverence for Guru Purnima. Sermons are made on scriptures such as Gita and many other puranas, which goes on past midnight, in most of the centres in India. Besides, even other categories of teachers from academics, or art and culture or parents are given sometimes veneration on this day.
How do they benefit through all this? To understand this we need an insight about who is a guru and what is the role of a guru in a disciple’s life?
Undoubtedly our Vedic tradition lays emphasis on the need of a guru in the life of a person to attain liberation from the material existence and also to go beyond liberation.
The tradition also accepts all those teachers who impart various guidance and education as one’s guru. That means every education we receive in our life since our birth from different sources must be directed towards releasing us from the consciousness of material existence.
Srila Prabhupada was clear about the fact that a guru is someone who imparts transcendental knowledge and that he must appear in the Parampara system or disciplic succession beginning with God or Sri Krishna Himself. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad Gita, chapter 4, text 2: “Evam parampara praptam imam rajarsayo viduh”.
Srila Prabhupada said, the word Guru means ‘heavy’, ‘heavy with knowledge’ called ‘tad-vijnana’ by which he becomes ‘brahma-nistha’, simultaneously cognizant and attached to all three phases of the Absolute Truth namely ‘Brahman’, ‘Parabrahman’ and ‘Bhagavan’. Thus convinced of his power, he is given the ‘power of attorney’ by the Lord to cultivate his disciple’s life. Therefore nobody can become a guru all of a sudden, self-made gurus cannot be called a guru, and hence, observing guru worship of self-made guru is ineffective.
Referring Srila Narada Muni as an ideal guru, Srila Prabhupada often glorified Srila Narada Muni and affirmed that Gaudiya-Madhava-sampradaya is in the disciplic succession from Narada Muni.
The pious king Yudhistra Maharaja also acknowledged Narada Muni as the supreme spiritual master of human society, who taught the path of spiritual liberation leading to the understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The great sage Parvata Muni called Narada Muni a touchstone because, by his touch even a hunter, who was the lowest among men, became an elevated and perfect saint. He had so many disciples like Dhurva Maharaja, Prahlada maharaja, Valmiki, Vyasadeva, hunter, King Chitraketu and so on, and each one became an exalted saint by perfectly following his instructions. He is described as a perfect man and a saint who is comparable to himself alone. His approach towards his disciples was extremely versatile based on their quest of a desired goal, but still he elevated everyone to pure devotion in the same life confirming the power of attorney vested over him by the Lord.
In the process of transforming them, he imparted several instructions which are universal by substance, above time and space and even applicable to contemporary mankind. He taught by his example, what it means to be a guru and why a disciple must approach a guru. He set a role-model as to how a guru focuses on transforming his student to a saint, or a perfect human being and subsequently adapts himself in a pluralistic society, without being influenced by the negative aspects of the society, and that the Guru is not a part of any missionary based religions, whose focus is conversion to a narrow ideology or faith.
In his approach to transform his disciples, the strategy adopted towards the great king Chitraketu, is something which can be connected with today’s world. This was more of an instruction supported by adequate test and experimentation.
When we study the life of king Chitraketu, we see how an ordinary mortal, a human being; the king was disturbed and was chasing happiness based on ‘Preya’. He didn’t have a son and felt the birth of a son would bring full joy in his life as well as his kingdom. He thought this happiness would give him complete satisfaction, and he would then become truly happy. He didn’t mind approaching an elevated sage like Angira Muni to fulfill this worldly desire. Angira Muni did his part very well. He realized that since the king’s mind was absorbed in material things, he was not yet eligible to receive transcendental knowledge. Hence, he didn’t introduce him to Narada Muni to awaken him on transcendental subject matter. Instead he blessed and guided him, to proceed with his pursuit of worldly happiness, but with a warning, about the consequence of such happiness. Since Chitraketu didn’t have higher goal beyond pursuing worldly happiness, the warning was also understood within this boundary. He was allowed to experiment with worldly pleasures. Consequently, sorrow followed in his life which he had not anticipated and his queen even blamed the providence for this sorrow.
This is a typical situation in today’s World where one believes, if God exists then there must be no suffering or sorrow, ditto with a guru too, that if a guru blesses, then one must not undergo any suffering and any contradictions to this objective of approaching God or guru leads to losing faith in God or guru. As a result in our country and around the globe so many Godmen have sprung up to facilitate the weak understanding of the purpose of a guru and to solemnize their own worship.
But realistically it is at this point, when a human being fails to understand the role of Guru, a real Guru by the mercy of the Lord, plays a significant role in transforming the consciousness of the conditioned human and makes him cognizant of ‘para vidya’.
That is what precisely Narada Muni did to King Chitraketu. He awakened the King and his queens by giving life to his dead son(prince) who had died soon after his birth, and made the child prince instruct them in a very simple way, the Science of transmigration of a living entity or self and various relationships it shares in the process of transmigration. As he was hearing them; Chitraketu got awakened and became cognizant about the nature of material existence. Soon after he surrendered fully and thus became eligible to accept Narada Muni as his spiritual master. It was only then, Narada Muni accepted him as his disciple and gave him the prayers or mantra which is called maha-vidya or higher knowledge about the Absolute Truth. By chanting this maha-vidya he could thus attain the shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Sankarsana.
Through his disciple Chitraketu, Narada Muni is also instructing mankind that as long as a human being is not convinced of the ultimate goal in human form, he cannot comprehend the purpose of a guru and cannot assimilate the raja vidya or superior knowledge, as imparted in the scriptures or by a Guru and vice versa, a guru can impart superior knowledge or para-vidya to his disciple only when he becomes eligible.
When enquired by Yudhistra maharaj on how those who cannot understand the goal of life, move towards the path of liberation.
In this regard one of the practical instructions which Narada Muni gave to mankind was,
“An intelligent man in human society should make his own program of activities very simple. If there are suggestions from his friends, children, parents, brothers or anyone else, he should externally agree, saying, “Yes, that is all right,” but internally he should be determined not to create a cumbersome life in which the purpose of life will not be fulfilled.”
Narada Muni has thus exemplified the role of an ideal guru in our Vedic tradition, hence, it would benefit all sects of the Indian tradition if they study Narada Muni’s role as a guru, as well as his instructions on eligibility of a disciple.