Srila Giri Maharaja “To Err is Human, to Forgive, Divine – The Impersonalist’s Conceit, the Preacher’s Dilemma”

Reflections on the second anniversary of the disappearance of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundara Govinda-deva Goswami Maharaja.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 6.59.38 AM

On this occasion there have, no doubt, been many demonstrative expressions of regard intended to provoke affectionate remembrance of His Divine Grace and to placate those who are prone to accept the soothing tune of the talented musicians practiced in the art of seduction by the means of playing intoxicating melodies on the strings of the hearts of naive souls whose samskara inclines them to be disposed towards conclusions derived from poor discriminatory faculties. I was reminded of this when I chanced to see a photo of many sannyasis titled as Sri Sannyasi-varga. They were clustered together in Navadwipa for a group photo taken near the time of Sri Gaura Purnima.

In past years I would have seen such a photo and felt great happiness to see those who I appreciated as important preachers of the precepts of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. It is still easy to recall Srila Gurudeva’s affectionate dealings with these men who, reciprocating his affection, served him in various ways.

Why then did I feel a disturbing shock at my recent viewing of those same faces?

Most of them could probably offer an easy explanation. They have adopted a philosophy which tells us “we should follow our hearts”. Accepting that philosophy made for an easy, although superficial, understanding of my disturbance, my heart was unsettled, disturbed and displeased by what I saw.

Following the “philosophy of the heart” I would need no further justification to decry these fellows in various ways as traitors, offenders or what have you. I could easily know they are those things because my “heart” told me so.

But that is not my samskara. My inherent view of the world, although admittedly flawed by influences of “the heart”, nevertheless tends to draw on other resources for the purpose of arriving at conclusions.

In my youth I appreciated the discipline of science. As I grew older my appreciation shifted towards philosophy and by the causeless grace of my gurus I was able to see something of their decision making process and the ontological basis for their conclusions and was influenced to follow as best I could the path they were showing.

All our acharyas gave clear instructions to their disciples, pointing us towards the truth that would clear away all illusion. Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami Maharaja provided this direction:

Regarding incorporation of our ISKCON centers, we want to run all our centers as nonprofit religious organizations; that is the main point. Keeping this point in view too much official control is not good in spiritual life. The centers should remain spiritually fit and independent. Some control must be there as is now. Too much control means so many vouchers. Gradually it will become a mundane institution. All our managers should be spiritually advanced simple and honest in carrying out the orders of the spiritual master and Krsna. That will be a nice standard. Democracy in spiritual affairs is not at all good but breeds power politics. We should be careful about power politics. Our only aim should be that each and every devotee is full dedicated to Krsna, then things will go on nicely. As stated in the Vedas:

yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy artha
prakasante mahat manah

“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” [SU 6.23]

Srila Govinda Maharaja, for our improvement, recalled this instruction of Srila Sridhara Maharaja:

One instruction Srila Guru Maharaja used to always give me when I first came to him was: “What I shall instruct, you will follow, and what your mind will say, you don’t follow.” But I thought; “My mind is not always giving me bad advice, sometimes it is giving good suggestions to me.” But Srila Guru Maharaja told me not to follow even what I thought was the good advice of my mind. “That means you must fully depend upon me. My need is that you must fully depend upon me.” Srila Guru Maharaja said in this way, “What does your mind tell you? You think it sometimes says good advice and it sometimes says bad. But you are not to follow even the apparently good advice. If you take the association of your mind, you must give some return to him; therefore it is not necessary to take association of your mind, instead take my instruction for yourself.” —Divine Guidance

Substituting the word “heart” for “mind” is a rhetorical device that allows the sentimental practitioner to continue his wayward behavior by justifying it to others as adherence to the “religion of the heart”, a beautiful practice for the liberated soul, or one who has at least attained the stage of ruci (spiritual taste), but a dangerous trap for the conditioned soul who embarks on the path of imitation of the exalted souls already ensconced as devotees in the plane of raga nuga bhakti.

As I recall, even Sri Gopa Kumara was not portrayed as one following his heart, but rather as one who was following the instructions of his guru. If Sri Gopa Kumara’s success could be attributed in some way to his “heart”, it was his heart’s dissatisfaction, not content, that propelled him forward to his final destination where he not only found Sri Krishna but first found his Gurudeva as one of the Lord’s resplendent associates.

While so-called revelations of “the heart” seem to be over-flooding our society, once founded on strict adherence to the precepts put forward by our acharyas intent on presenting rational conclusions formed on careful scientific analysis of scripture as a means to persuade the poor souls of this age of Kali to accept the self-healing and health promoting efficacy of the chanting of the holy names of the Lord dispensed via the injection of spiritual knowledge pursuant to the discipline derived from following the instructions of a sad guru, I have observed an antithetical construct of bhakti so much reliant upon feelings of the heart that even deviation from our gurus instruction is taken as Divine revelation.

These matters of “the heart”, which are only properly assayed for purity by a true spiritual cardiologist, are being dispensed with such a cavalier attitude as to remind one of fool’s gold being thrown from a parade float with the odd twist that those catching it seem to believe it can be traded for objects of real value.

Even if such affairs of the heart were substantial, the gaudy display of such treasures would bring a flush to the face of a true devotee ever shy to concede that such wealth may be held by him.

Sri Gopa Kumara illustrates the private nature of true Divine revelation and the difficulty a true devotee faces in expressing such intimate matters to others:

The special ecstasies one relishes in the shelter of the Personality of Godhead’s lotus feet are private. One should feel shy to reveal them, even to one’s own mind. And sometimes I entered special states of consciousness in which I could no longer recognize myself or others, nor distinguish one thing from the next, and so there were events I didn’t see. Yet Krsna, in your presence, has entered my heart and brought all these topics out, forcing them to come from my mouth.—BB 3.7.5-7

Here I remember Sriman Aravinda Lochan telling me he once made a remark to Srila Govinda Maharaja along the lines of “I realized …” Srila Govinda Maharaja was quick to tell him “In this lifetime you will never have any realization.”

Why would Srila Gurudeva say such a thing to one whose service was so much appreciated by him? To illustrate what I am attempting to convey, Divine revelation is not cheap and does not come easily or quickly in the life of a practitioner of Krishna Consciousness.

We should be very wary of those who insist their advice is correct because it is coming from their “heart”. Those whose heart’s are untainted by selfish motive tell us to follow guru, shastra and sadhu.