All glories to my spiritual masters, Srila B.K. Giri Maharaja, Srila Govinda Maharaja, Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Swami Maharaja.
Please accept my most humble obeisances.
We have all heard the popular saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I’m not certain of the roots of this cliche, but it is one that has been repeated many times and is so commonplace most of its original meaning is lost. However, this is a powerful statement.
In Elevation to Krsna Consciousness by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we find the following in chapter six entitled “Taking to Krsna Consciousness”:
“If we are sincere, we will get a sincere spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. If, however, we want to be cheated, Kṛṣṇa will send us a cheater, and we will be cheated throughout our lives.”
We who have taken shelter under a bonafide spiritual master realize the gravity of this statement. Like attracts like. It is a universal law. A guru will be sent to us according to what is in our heart. One must first prepare and then go forth with a positive, constructive, yet humble attitude towards finding the right spiritual master.
We cannot understand the Bhagavad-gita or any of the Vedic scriptures on our own. It would be similar to trying to learn to breathe underwater because a fish does it. We do not have gills, the fish does. We do not yet have the discipline or sincerity to understand the scriptures, the guru does.
But who is the guru? Who is the spiritual master? I believe it is summed up rather beautifully in the following paragraph from the same source stated above:
“The spiritual master is the representative of the Supreme Lord. How does he become the representative? If one says that such and such an object is a pair of spectacles, and if he teaches his disciple in that way, there is no mistake as to the identity of the object. The spiritual master is he who has captured the words of a particular disciplic succession. In the case given, the key word is “spectacles”—that’s all. The spiritual master does not have to say anything beyond that. This is the qualification. Kṛṣṇa says, “I am the Supreme,” and the spiritual master says, “Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme.” It is not that to be a representative of Kṛṣṇa or to be a spiritual master one has to have any extraordinary qualification. He simply has to carry the message from the authority as it is without any personal interpretation. As soon as there is some personal interpretation, the message is lost and the instructions become offensive. A person who interprets the scriptures according to his own whims should be immediately rejected”
That first line says it all: “The spiritual master is the representative of the Supreme Lord.”
Our guru is our direct connection to the spiritual plane. We must remember, our guru is carrying a pure message, untarnished by his own opinions, desires and ego. He has put aside any thoughts of his own interpretations and followed the instructions of his teacher, who followed his teacher, who followed his and so on. This is our disciplic succession.
In the Bhagavad-gita we find:
Bhagavad-gita: chapter 4 verse 2
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ paran-tapa
Word for word:
evam — thus; paramparā — by disciplic succession; prāptam — received; imam this science; rāja-ṛṣayaḥ — the saintly kings; viduḥ — understood; saḥ — that knowledge; kālena — in the course of time; iha — in this world; mahatā — great; yogaḥ — the science of one’s relationship with the Supreme; naṣṭaḥ — scattered; param-tapa — O Arjuna, subduer of the enemies.
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.”
Krishna passed this knowledge to Arjuna as his friend and devotee and Arjuna accepted it. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared and re-established this succession. It is from this line of masters that our guru has descended. He is our personal ambassador to the Supreme Lord here on earth; the Math where he resides is our embassy.
A while back, my guru, His Divine Grace Srila B.K. Giri Maharaja, wrote a powerful article entitled: “Thoughts On Christianity – A 1999 Letter to My Brother” Here is an excerpt I would like to share:
“…Christ taught his disciples and apparently told them to also go and make disciples, but whose disciple are you? I gather you consider yourself a disciple of Christ, but you cannot be a disciple of Christ for he has passed away some 2000 years ago. To make any kind of substantial progress in spiritual life you must have a connection with a living guru who can guide you and correct your misconceptions just as Christ did with his disciples.”
Our guru is here now, living with us. We stand on a thin line between Krishna’s internal and external potencies. We can choose to go either to the material or the spiritual. Our guru is here to show us the way, to give us the push, into the transcendental world.
Bhagavad-gita: chapter 4 verse 34
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
Word for word:
tat — that knowledge of different sacriﬁces; viddhi — try to understand; praṇipātena — by approaching a spiritual master; paripraśnena — by submissive inquiries; sevayā — by the rendering of service; upadekṣyanti — they will initiate; te — you; jñānam —into knowledge; jñāninaḥ — the self-realized; tattva — of the truth; darśinaḥ — seers.
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”
“Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona ﬁde spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.”
What stands out to me here is the line “when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.”
By rendering service we acknowledge the wisdom of our guru and become ready to serve Him and gurudeva’s mission. By serving our guru we are serving Krishna himself.
Bhagavad-gita: chapter 4 verse 35
yaj jñātvā na punar moham
evaṁ yāsyasi pāṇḍava
yena bhūtāny aśeṣāṇi
drakṣyasy ātmany atho mayi
Word for word:
yat — which; jñātvā — knowing; na — never; punaḥ — again; moham — to illusion; evam — like this; yāsyasi — you shall go; pāṇḍava — O son of Pāṇḍu; yena — by which; bhūtāni — living entities;aśeṣāṇi — all; drakṣyasi — you will see; ātmani — in the Supreme Soul; atha u — or in other words; mayi — in Me.
“Having obtained real knowledge from a self-realized soul, you will never fall again into such illusion, for by this knowledge you will see that all living beings are but part of the Supreme, or, in other words, that they are Mine.”
Fear and faith cannot exist together. If we have a pure faith in our guru with no reservation, then on this journey we will have nothing to fear. My guru, His Divine Grace Srila B.K. Giri Maharaja, lives a rather meager existence in a humble Math that He maintains with the help of a handful of devotees. In a personal letter to me, dated November 19th, 2015, as we were communicating about certain matters concerning my upcoming diksha He states:
“I have lived most of my adult life as a beggar, either as a brahmacari or sannyasi. I am accustomed to living on whatever is provided in this manner. Sometimes I receive large or lavish donations and sometimes very small, or nothing. Whatever comes, large or small, comes by the grace of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharvika Giridhari, and Their servitors, as Their mercy. We are happy to live in that way as Their dependents. Outside of this, happiness exists only in the form of illusion.”
His Grace has no fear so why should I? When I read that quote I thought to myself “He has something that I want!” and what he has is that divine knowledge of how to obtain liberation from this material existence.
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
“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.” (Śvetāśvatara Up. 6.23)
More often than not I see priests, pastors and other persons claim to have earned the right to be referred to as Reverend, yet do not live up to the standard which the title would suggest. They engage in meat eating, intoxication, smoking and other activities which would denote the opposite. These church leaders were not chosen for their attitude, knowledge and service, but merely hold a diploma from some school of supposed theology. One cannot progress spiritually through the study of books alone.
Our guru has been chosen for his divine qualities, service and knowledge, and was selected by his guru, who is also a representative of the Supreme Lord having been designated as such by his guru, and so on. Therefore, our guru was sent by none other than Krishna Himself, the original spiritual master, to represent Him here on earth.
I pray this finds you in good health and perfect harmony.