A recent email sent to Srila Giri Maharaja –
Dear Srila Bhakti Kanan Giri Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
Jai Srila Gurudeva!
Speaking of whom, did you intentionally avoid posting a notice of our observance today (now yesterday) of his disappearance?
Lilavati Devi reminded me I hadn’t posted it but by then the day was almost over.
I checked if I had posted last year’s observance but it seems I had not done that either.
I am thinking that as well as a bad memory I have a mental block as I do not find it a happy day to remember.
I remarked to Lilavati Devi that I remember it as the day the world went mad and when the good sense, reason and sobriety of prominent devotees who were ordered by the spiritual master to become acharyas was lost due to the influence of illusion caused by not following the order of the spiritual master.
Srila Govinda Maharaja is always with Your Divine Grace, so whatever you do must be most auspicious and whoever has the good fortune to come in contact with you must be so much spiritually benefited.
You always follow the order of your spiritual masters so you are always successful in spiritual life.
The conversation between Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Prakashananda Saraswati in C.C.Adi Lila 7.72 and Srila Prabhupada’s purport confirms without a doubt that one who exactly follows the order of the spiritual master is always successful.
mūrkha tumi, tomāra nāhika vedāntādhikāra
‘kṛṣṇa-mantra’ japa sadā, — ei mantra-sāra
mūrkha tumi — You are a fool; tomāra — Your; nāhika — there is not; vedānta — Vedānta philosophy; adhikāra — qualification to study; kṛṣṇa-mantra — the hymn of Kṛṣṇa(Hare Kṛṣṇa); japa — chant; sadā — always; ei — this; mantra — hymn; sāra — essence of all Vedic knowledge.
“‘You are a fool,’ he said. ‘You are not qualified to study Vedānta philosophy, and therefore You must always chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. This is the essence of all mantras, or Vedic hymns.
Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja comments in this connection, “One can become perfectly successful in the mission of his life if he acts exactly according to the words he hears from the mouth of his spiritual master.” This acceptance of the words of the spiritual master is called śrauta-vākya, which indicates that the disciple must carry out the spiritual master’s instructions without deviation. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura remarks in this connection that a disciple must accept the words of his spiritual master as his life and soul. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu here confirms this by saying that since His spiritual master ordered Him only to chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, He always chanted the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra according to this direction (‘kṛṣṇa-mantra’ japa sadā, — ei mantra-sāra).
Kṛṣṇa is the origin of everything. Therefore when a person is fully Kṛṣṇa conscious it is to be understood that his relationship with Kṛṣṇa has been fully confirmed. Lacking Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one is only partially related with Kṛṣṇa and is therefore not in his constitutional position. Although Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, the spiritual master of the entire universe, He nevertheless took the position of a disciple in order to teach by example how a devotee should strictly follow the orders of a spiritual master in executing the duty of always chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. One who is very much attracted to the study of Vedānta philosophy must take lessons from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In this age, no one is actually competent to study Vedānta, and therefore it is better that one chant the holy name of the Lord, which is the essence of all Vedic knowledge, as Kṛṣṇa Himself confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15):
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”
Only fools give up the service of the spiritual master and think themselves advanced in spiritual knowledge. In order to check such fools, Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself presented the perfect example of how to be a disciple. A spiritual master knows very well how to engage each disciple in a particular duty, but if a disciple, thinking himself more advanced than his spiritual master, gives up his orders and acts independently, he checks his own spiritual progress. Every disciple must consider himself completely unaware of the science of Kṛṣṇa and must always be ready to carry out the orders of the spiritual master to become competent in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A disciple should always remain a fool before his spiritual master. Therefore sometimes pseudo spiritualists accept a spiritual master who is not even fit to become a disciple because they want to keep him under their control. This is useless for spiritual realization.
One who imperfectly knows Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot know Vedānta philosophy. A showy display of Vedānta study without Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a feature of the external energy, māyā, and as long as one is attracted by the inebrieties of this ever-changing material energy, he deviates from devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. An actual follower of Vedānta philosophy is a devotee of Lord Viṣṇu, who is the greatest of the great and the maintainer of the entire universe. Unless one surpasses the field of activities in service to the limited, one cannot reach the unlimited. Knowledge of the unlimited is actual brahma-jñāna, or knowledge of the Supreme. Those who are addicted to fruitive activities and speculative knowledge cannot understand the value of the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, which is always completely pure, eternally liberated and full of spiritual bliss. One who has taken shelter of the holy name of the Lord, which is identical with the Lord, does not have to study Vedānta philosophy, for he has already completed all such study.
One who is unfit to chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa but thinks that the holy name is different from Kṛṣṇa and thus takes shelter of Vedānta study in order to understand Him must be considered a number one fool, as confirmed by Caitanya Mahāprabhu by His personal behavior, and philosophical speculators who want to make Vedānta philosophy an academic career are also considered to be within the material energy. A person who always chants the holy name of the Lord, however, is already beyond the ocean of nescience, and thus even a person born in a low family who engages in chanting the holy name of the Lord is considered to be beyond the study of Vedānta philosophy. In this connection Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.33.7) states:
aho bata śva-paco ‘to garīyān
yaj-jihvāgre vartate nāma tubhyam
tepus tapas te juhuvuḥ sasnur āryā
brahmānūcur nāma gṛṇanti ye te
“If a person born in a family of dog-eaters takes to the chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, it is to be understood that in his previous life he must have executed all kinds of austerities and penances and performed all the Vedic yajñas.” Another quotation states:
ṛg-vedo ‘tha yajur-vedaḥ sāma-vedo ‘py atharvaṇaḥ
adhītās tena yenoktaḿ harir ity akṣara-dvayam
“A person who chants the two syllables ha-ri has already studied the four Vedas — Sāma, Ṛg, Yajur and Atharva.”
Taking advantage of these verses, there are some sahajiyās who, taking everything very cheaply, consider themselves elevated Vaiṣṇavas but do not care even to touch the Vedānta-sūtra or Vedānta philosophy. A real Vaiṣṇava should, however, study Vedānta philosophy, but if after studying Vedānta one does not adopt the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, he is no better than a Māyāvādī. Therefore, one should not be a Māyāvādī, yet one should not be unaware of the subject matter of Vedānta philosophy. Indeed, Caitanya Mahāprabhu exhibited His knowledge of Vedānta in His discourses with Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī. Thus it is to be understood that a Vaiṣṇava should be completely conversant with Vedānta philosophy, yet he should not think that studying Vedānta is all in all and therefore be unattached to the chanting of the holy name. A devotee must know the importance of simultaneously understanding Vedānta philosophy and chanting the holy names. If by studying Vedānta one becomes an impersonalist, he has not been able to understand Vedānta. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15). Vedānta means “the end of knowledge.” The ultimate end of knowledge is knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, who is identical with His holy name. Cheap Vaiṣṇavas (sahajiyās) do not care to study the Vedānta philosophy as commented upon by the four ācāryas. In the Gauḍīya-sampradāya there is a Vedānta commentary called the Govinda-bhāṣya, but the sahajiyās consider such commentaries to be untouchable philosophical speculation, and they consider the ācāryas to be mixed devotees. Thus they clear their way to hell.
Srila Govinda Maharaja was always joyful when singing the glories of the Vaishnavas.
So maybe I will be forgiven for my lack of enthusiasm to remember His Divine Grace’s disappearance and instead he may be pleased with me for remembering the glories of his dear friend and devout follower, Sripada Bhakti Kanan Giri Maharaja.
I’m happy you have your new vehicle and it looks very auspicious in white. [Srila Gurudeva had a white Toyota, a Camry. We are simply trying to follow in his footsteps.—bkg]
It should give you many years of service.
Jai Srila Gurudeva,
Srila Giri Maharaja graciously replies –
Dear Sriman Uddharan dasa Adhikari,
Please accept my humble obeisances in remembrance of our Divine Masters.
I am thinking that as well as a bad memory I have a mental block as I do not find it a happy day to remember.
I remarked to Lilavati Devi that I remember it as the day the world went mad and when the good sense, reason and sobriety of prominent devotees who were ordered to become acharyas was lost due to the influence of illusion caused by not following the order of the spiritual master.
What you have written is quite understandable and true. There are times for mourning, and this is one of those times. At the same time, every action brings with it both a positive and a negative result.
smeram bhangi-traya-paricitam saci-vistirna-drstim
vamsi-nyastadhara-kisalayam ujjvalam candrakena
govindakhyam hari-tanum itah kesi-tirthopakanthe
ma preksisthas tava yadi sakhe bandhu-sange ‘sti rangah
“My dear friend, if you are indeed attached to your worldly friends, do not look at the smiling face of Lord Govinda as He stands on the bank of the Yamuna at Kesighata. Casting sidelong glances, He places His flute to His lips, which seem like newly blossomed twigs. His transcendental body, bending in three places, appears very bright in the moonlight.”
—Cc., Adi 5.224
For devotees, even the negative is positive. “If you are indeed attached to your worldly friends, do not look at the smiling face of Lord Govinda as He stands on the bank of the Yamuna at Kesighata.” This is a warning to the materialists. If you go there, to the bank of Keshighata, and see the smiling face of Lord Govinda, you will lose everything you have held dear up to that point. Being attracted by His beautiful smiling face and His irresistibly beautiful body standing in a three fold bending form on the bank of the Yamuna, playing His flute—who responds to the touch of His lips and breath with a sweet song that enlivens all the residents of Sri Vrndavana Dhama, melting their hearts with loving affection for the life of their life, the darling son of Nanda and Yashoda—His lotus feet lovingly embraced by the soft sands, presented by the Yamuna as her offering for the Lord’s pleasure, whose waves, lapping gently against the shore, create their own sweet sound of liquid ear beauty; thus, giving further joy to the ears: seeing these wonders and the capturing beauty of the Lord in His natural environment, you will forget all your worldly attachments and will be lost forever to the search for that Sweet Lord who captures the hearts of His devotees by means of attracting them to His vipralambha seva. You must be very careful not to go there, if you, in any way whatsoever, want to maintain your position in the material world, for you will lose your attraction for society, friendship and love according to the mundane conception of those things. In fact, all those who showed themselves as friends, lovers, etc., will shun you. You will become anathema to them, an outcaste.
So, for the materialist, the most severe and dire negative consequences will arise from seeing our Lord in the scenario described above. That is the negative outcome. But there is also a positive outcome. Finite loss will be superseded by infinite gain. For devotees, that which appears to be negative, is our most highly valued aspiration, the chance to serve the Lord in full awareness of His infinite beauty, sweetness, charm and affectionate dealings with His devotees.
I spoke briefly yesterday about the positive good that has come about following the disappearance of our most affectionate guardian. He is absent from our vision, but he is never absent from the hearts of his sincere followers, friends, disciples and associates. By the grace of Srila Gurudeva, I have been blessed to have the association of some of those sincere persons, who are constant reminders that he is still living and present among us. Through them, he is showing us the way we must go. He is teaching us, instructing us, guiding us and extending his helping hand to us at every turn through these sincere souls and, in this way we can feel the presence of His Divine Grace and easily believe that he is always with us.
He is going in front, and we are following him in the manner he described his own experience. He told me once, paraphrasing, “When Srila Guru Maharaja was present I felt he was always behind me pushing me forward, and I was out in front, going forward. But now I feel that Srila Guru Maharaja is out in front. He is leading the way, and I am following behind him.” I have some sense of that feeling Srila Gurudeva described with reference to his own life. Although the result is the same; oddly, it is a more secure feeling, being pulled ahead, rather than being pushed from behind. In either case Srila Gurudeva is our eternal guardian and we are his eternal servants. What more can be said than this? And what more is there than this?
Yes, Srila Gurudeva’s tirobhava is a reminder of many dark things. But through that darkness he is leading us to the light. It is very comforting. We can feel his protection and because he is offering his protection, his affection for us must also be there. Therefore, we feel a sense of security, believing his blessings are always with us, as he has assured us they would be.
I hope you will post your email. Your personal statements are noteworthy and the verse and purport you quote from Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta cover the whole subject matter from top to bottom of the necessity for strict adherence to the order of the spiritual master. They are very important instructions that we must remember.
I pray this finds you well in health and spirits,
Swami B.K. Giri