tad viddhi praëipätena
upadekñyanti te jïänaà
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.
The path of spiritual knowledge is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of the disciplic succession. The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple. No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders. The Bhagavatam (6.3.19) says, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord. Therefore, mental speculations or dry arguments cannot help lead one to the right path. Nor by independent study of books of knowledge can one progress in spiritual life. One has to approach a bona fide spiritual master to receive the knowledge. Such a spiritual master should be accepted in full surrender, and one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant, without false prestige. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of the advancement in spiritual life. Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding. In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. 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 become perfect.
BG: Chapter 4, text 34 is one of the most significant and important verses of all the scriptures of the world, because the basic principle by which spiritual knowledge can be understood, is herein explained. In the Bhagvata Gita we find Arjuna. He is a pure devotee of the Lord. He is a nitya sidha. He is not an ordinary living being. Otherwise how is it that throughout his life he was personal friend and associate of Bhagvan Sri Krishna. Together they joked, together they played, together they had so many intimate discussions in Hastinapur, in Dvarka. Went for many excursions together into the forest. But Arjuna as the eternal servant of the Lord, was always ready to take any position to fulfill the Lord’s desire. This is the quality of the pure servant. A servant is not concerned with his own position, with his own prestige, with his own enjoyment. He is only concerned for the satisfaction of his beloved Lord and master. Very interesting, if we consider that Krishna says in the Bhagvata Gita that for kstriya (warrior), who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death. But a devotee of the Lord is ready even to die, even to accept the position of worse than death through the service of his master. Therefore, for Arjuna’s own free will, he allowed Krishna to put him in a state of complete confusion, complete bewilderment and utter ignorance. Why? Just so Arjuna could exemplify the position of each and every one of us in this world today.
“yad yad acarati sresthas
tat tad evetari janah
sa yat pramanam kurute
lokas tad anuvartate”
Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. Therefore, out of his great love for the Lord, Arjuna allowed himself to be put in the most embarrassing condition of total ignorance and illusion. He began to instruct Krishna, he was in such illusion. He was telling Krishna what is to be done and what is not to be done, as he ordered Krishna ‘take my chariot between the two armies on this battlefield of Kuruksetra. He witnessed that on both sides of this great war there were friends, well-wishers, relatives and loved ones. This is always the greatest greatest conflict in one who likes to make spiritual advancement. It is a conflict that each one of you here today must accept in your life, if you truly want to take to the spiritual path. Let me put it in this way. If there is no conflict then you are not on the spiritual path. The conflict is that there are two sides. There are those in illusion, those in ignorance, who propagate the worldly way of life: be a normal person, enjoy your family life, go to the temple just have darshan but no more than that. That is all that is required in that. After all life is meant to enjoy. Do not become too much involved in spiritual life, because you may lose everything, and besides that it is not normal to be dedicated to God like that. And then there are those on the other side, who are saying “we are representing Krishna, we have come with this message:
mäm ekaà çaraëaà vraja
ahaà tväà sarva-päpebhyo
mokñayiñyämi mä çucaù
Abandon all verities of religion and just surrender to Me, I shall protect you from all sinful reactions, do not fear. And on both sides we have friends, and on both sides we have loved ones, and on both sides we have intimate family relations. It is said in the Bible “you cannot serve two masters”. You have to choose one. But Arjuna tried to serve two masters. He did not know what to do. He did not want to commit offenses to even one of his friends and relatives on either side. Therefore he decided “I will not fight this war at all, If I take one side I have to kill my grand-father, m y teacher and so many other relatives and loved one. And if I take the other side, I have to destroy my own brothers. Krishna I know one side is truth and one side is illusion, but it is too painful to disappoint those persons who think highly of me on either side. Therefore Arjuna wanted to run from the battle. Perhaps some of you have also met this same dilemma in your life. In this world we have a huge army of the Kurus. Actually the Kurus way outnumbered the Pandavas. The Kurus and the Pandavas were both the relations of Arjuna. The Kurus had 11 akshyoni divisions of the soldiers and the Pandavas only had 7. Those who are on the side of illusion always outnumber to those who are on the side of truth. That is the nature of this material world, especially in this age of Kali-yuga. Therefore, it is said that you cannot please all the people all the time. You can please some of the people some of the time. But you will never be satisfied pleasing some of the people some of the time. Therefore if you simply please God, your life is perfect. If you water the root of the tree your life will be prosperous in all respects. So you see Arjuna, so kindly with such compassion and mercy in his heart, he was willing to accept the position of an ordinary ignorant person like us, just to teach us the right path, because that was the will be Krishna. First of all Arjuna was arguing with Krishna: no I am not going to fight this war, I know philosophy, I know scriptures, I know family tradition, I was born in India, my father was a devotee, my mother is a devotee, we have Deity at our house, I know what is truth, relation, dharma of course. And Krishna just stood silently. He had nothing to say to such a false ego. He convinced against the will of His same opinion still. Until one comes to the point of being frustrated with his own egoistic ideas of what is truth, one cannot humble oneself submissively before the spiritual master. But in due course of time we all become frustrated simply by the nature of this world. So Arjuna, first he was speaking very boldly like a great pandit: Krishna I know. But all of his knowledge could not satisfy the emptiness in his heart. So alas!
prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah
yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me
sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam
Arjuna said to Krishna that now I am confused about my duty. I do not know what is to be done, what is not to be done. I have lost all composure due to weakness. My tongue is dry. My hair are standing on end, tears are swilling from my eyes, my limbs are trembling, I cannot even hold my Gandiva bow. In this condition I surrender to You, please instruct me. Then Krishna began His teachings of Bhagavad Gita by putting Arjuna in his place.
asocyan anvasocas tvam
prajna vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca
Arjuna you are speaking very learned words but in actuality you are a fool. You are lamenting which is not worthy of lamentation. Those who are wise, lament for neither living nor the dead. Beginning of real spiritual life, we are not speaking of shadow of religiosity, but we are speaking of the true path of dharma, it begins when we accept the position before our gurur that I am a fool. No one likes to be called a fool, but a devotee loves to be called a fool when his spiritual master speaks. Just like Srila Prabhupada when he first met his gurudev, he posed so many arguments: why Krishna consciousness is not practical when India was under the subordination of British? Let us join the political movement to free our country. And Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur explained to him, in so many ways you are a fool. That Krishna consciousness is the prime necessity of life. In fact Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur was such a great acarya, he went to such an extreme on philosophy that he said if your house is on fire, if the whole city is on fire, if the whole country is on fire, if the whole world is on fire, forget about putting the fire out just chant Hare Krishna, because the first is not really a problem at all. What is temporary is going to burn anyway, no problem. The only problem is that you have forgotten Krishna. So Srila Prabhupada explained, that after he met his gurudev, that I was very satisfied to be defeated by my spiritual master. If we want to know the truth, Krishna says, we much approach guru, inquire submissively and render service to him. In this regard how much the Lord loves those who love those who are dear to Him. That is really the true essence of the relationship between the guru and disciple. The father’s dearly beloved son has captured the father’s heart. And whatever is dear to the son, whatever loves the son, is most loved by the father. Therefore, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whenever He appears in the guise of an ordinary human being, He sets by his own example the necessity to accept a spiritual master with submissive humility. Lord Sri Krishna accepted Sandi Pani Muni, would humble collect wood for him in the forest, would massages his feet and legs at night, and would enquire submissively and would learn from him each day. Of course what does Krishna have to know. Krishna says in Gita
bhavisyani ca bhutani
mam tu veda na kascana
Krishna says “I know everything past, everything present and all things that are yet to come”. I know all living beings but Me no one knows in full. Krishna is all knowing- sarvagya. But just to show us by His own example, He accepts a guru, humbles Him selves and render service to him, learning the A, B, Cs of the scriptures.
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedanta krd veda vid eva caham
Krishna says “I am t the author of all the Vedas”. Yet Krishna is humbling Himself before His devotee, asking him please teach Me the Vedas. Lord Ramachandra accepted the same position before the great saint Visvamitra Muni.
I would like to narrate the beautiful story of how Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a yuga-avatar in this age of Kali-yuga, exhibited by His own pastimes the great necessity of accepting the dust from the lotus feet of the great sadhus. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was born in the very holy place of Sri Navadweep dhama, what is now West Bengal. When He was a little baby child, he would cry until all the young ladies in the neighborhood would clap their hands and chant the holy names of Krishna. In this way He inaugurated the chanting of the holy name from His very birth. But He wanted to impress upon people the necessity of accepting guru. Therefore, for the first 16 years of His life, Nimai Pandit was His name at that time, pretended to have no devotion to Krishna. He was a first class scholar – teacher of grammar. He was so tricky in His ability to manipulate the scriptures in grammatical composition that He could literally defeat anyone and everyone. Even the greatest of all Pandits – Kesava Kashmiri, who came all the way from Kashmir to defeat every scholar in all over Bharat Varsa, he had travelled through all corners of India defeating every great scholar there was, and he ended his journey in Navadweep. And of course Navadweep was a very high place of learning at that time, that is why he saved it to the end. And when he came to Navadweep, all the pundits were very much afraid: he is going to spoil the reputation of our whole city because how could we stand up before such a great scholar and pandit. Nimai at that time was just a small boy. They said “let us send him to Nimai”. If Nimai wins then we will say just see even a small child of Navadweep can defeat the greatest pundits in all the world. But if He loses we will say, we except because he is only a child. So Kesav Kashmiri came before the great Nimai Pandit. And it is a beautiful story which is described in Caitanya Caritamrita. He was utterly defeated. His pride was smashed to pieces. And all those children around who saw him speechless before this child, they all began to laugh at him. Kesav Kashmiri was so humiliated; how is it that this child who is not even supposed to be such a great learned scholar, He is only a grammar teacher; how is it that He has defeated me. He was ready to give up his body. He was ready to kill himself in anxiety. But then his worship able deity – Mother Sarasvati appeared to him and revealed this secret that although He is pretending to be a little scholar, He is actually my very Lord and worshipable Deity. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead – Narayan). And then even Kesav Kashmiri surrendered to Him.
You can imagine the brilliance of this young child Nimai. But He did not show any traces of devotion. He was simply showing His expertise and word jugglery. And the great bhakatas, the devotees at that time – Sri Advait Acarya, Srivasa Pandit, Mukunda, Gadadhar, Murari gupta, these were all pure devotees of the Lord whose only desire was to serve the Lord and glorify His holy name. They were so much charmed and attracted by the beauty of Nimai Pandit. They loved Him just as they would love Krishna Himself. They wanted so much to be with Him. But every time they would try to be with Him, Nimai would try preach on non-devotional philosophy. And whenever they would try to establish Krishna consciousness, He would defeat them. So they could not live with Him and they could not leave without Him. So they were in constant prayers to the Supreme Lord; please make Nimai a devotee. If He becomes a devotee the whole world will chant Your holy names. We love Him so much but He shows no inclination towards bhakti. He is simply a jnani, a scholar. Through scholarship and jnan one can never ever in billions, and millions and trillions of life times know Krishna. It is only through humble devotion. He is so arrogant, he shows no humble devotion. Why did Nimai take this position? This is very important to understand. After Nimai’s father left this mortal world, being a very faithful and dutiful son he decided to offer the shradha to his father at the holy city of Gaya. He went with several of His students to Gaya, and together they were joking, playing and they were discussing all sorts of scriptural grammatical details, like that. But when them came to the out skirts of the city of Gaya suddenly His position changed, He became very grave, very sincere. They visited several temples. Then they came to that very very famous temple where the Supreme Lord Visnu’s foot prints – prints of the Lord’s feet have been present since time immemorial. The name of that temple is the temple of Sri Gadhadhar. When Nimai saw the beautiful foot prints of Sri Krishna His heart began to flow with affection. When He heard the brahamans chanting prayers and offering garland after garland after garland to the Lord, tears began to come from His eyes. At this time Nimai showed the first traces of real of devotion and humility. And just then the great disciple of Madhevandra Puri in the disciplic line of Sri Madhavacarya, Sri Iswarpuri came before the Lord. Iswarpuri, that humble devotee of the Lord, who was so filled with devotion to Sri Krishna. When they saw each other they immediately embraced. And they both covered each other with the showers of tears from one anothers eyes. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Iswarpuri as His Spiritual Master. It was at that point that He accepted him as His Spiritual Master and humbled Himself before His guru, that the symptoms of love of God manifested in His life, not until. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabu saved and waited, He saved the ecstatic devotion to the lord for 16 years just to show us that no one, not even Me can learn to love God until we humble ourselves before our Spiritual Master. This is God’s instruction. Of course many people say, what is this guru? Guru means spiritual slavery, if we commit ourselves we have so much to lose in life. Better I just go on with my traditional form of religiosity. But this is a bogus tradition, because the true tradition of India’s spirituality is that you must accept guru. This is a false tradition. And not just a guru who just gives you some mantra, but a guru who you inquire submissively from and render service to him. This is the true tradition of the sastra.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He showed us by His example, how to properly reciprocate with your spiritual master. Please remember that this is God Himself showing by His example, His love for His own devotee. And then Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu fell at his feet and then He went to His own quarters and began to cook. Sri Iswarpuri, His guru, happen to come just when He was finishing His cooking. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said “O, I have just finished my cooking”. Iswarpuri said “O, that means I have come in time”. Lord Caitanya said “You please kindly accept this meal – prasada”. Iswarpuri said “but you have only prepared enough for one person, you must take”. He said “no, no, you please take”. He said “ no, no, You please take You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead”. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said “ no, no I am only your humble servant”. Iswarpuri Said “then divide in half we will both take”. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said “no, no how can I take in presence of my gurudev, you take, I will cook after again”. So then Nimai Pandit began with His own beautiful loving hands to serve His devotee each preparation one after another for his pleasure, for his satisfaction. And it is described that while He was serving His gurudev in this way, the Goddess of Fortune Laxmidevi, she could not tolerate seeing the Lord wait for His meal and cook again. So she secretly entered into the kitchen and she cooked again for Lord Caitanya. In this way the Lord showed that humble menial service is the way to approach the spiritual master. If we have any sense of false prestige before our guru, we are blocking ourselves from the opportunity to understand the truth.
Srila Prabhupada explains here In this purport; such a spiritual master should be accepted in full surrender, one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant without false prestige. Of course we may think that I am great, I am learned. But are you greater and more learned than Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is accepting the menial position of serving His guru without false prestige. What is our position, please tell me? Then Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu approached Srila Iswarpuri and He asked him, please, kindly initiate Me in the Mantra. Then Iswarpuri, in his heart he was feeling that You are the worship able Lord of my life. If it is Your desire to set this example for all humanity to follow, then as a service to You I will initiate You and be Your guru. Actually the spiritual master never ever considers himself to be the master. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught us that there is only one noble position in this world and that is to be the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant. Never to be the master but always to be the servant. In the vaisnava society we address one another as prabhu which means every devotee is our master. So when the spiritual master sees that a devotee comes, disciple comes, what is his motivation for coming, to serve Krishna. That disciple is the servant of Krishna. So the spiritual master must think that he is a servant of Krishna and I am the servant of the servant of the servant, then I am his servant. It is my service, my menial humble service to my disciple to lead him and guide him in spiritual life. So in this way in the vaisnava order everyone is servant, no one is master. And he who takes the lowliest position is in the highest position in the eyes of God. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took the lowliest position.
After being initiated by His gurumaharaja Iswarpuri, later on He made pilgrimate to the holy place of His gurudev’s birth. This place is known as Kumara Hatta. There He took the dirt from the ground and He ate it. As He was eating that dirt tears were flowing from His eyes. Then He took that dirt and raped it in His cloth so that He can take little every day. He said “this dirt which is the sacred soil of the birth place of that great devotee, my gurumaharaja; it is the most precious wealth of My heart. It is my greatest treasure, it is my very life and soul.
Similarly Jada Bharat explained to Maharaja Rahuguna that unless one rolls in the dust of the feet of the great sadhus, he can never know Krishna. Prahlada Maharaja also explained the same thing in his prayers to Lord Narasinghadev, that my dear Lord unless one takes the dust from the feet of Your devotee and regularly bathes in that dust, it is impossible to ever understand your transcendental glories. Now what does it means to bathe in the dust of the lotus feet of guru? You may think that my guru is 10 thousand miles away, how I find his dust. Or my gurudev, he left this world some 14 years back, where is the dust. When we speak of the dust of the lotus feet of the spiritual master, we are speaking of the humble approach to serve his instructions. Unless we humbly serve the instructions of the great souls, it is Krishna’s arrangement that He never reveals Himself. So therefore, this verse of Bhagavad Gita is the very foundation, the basic building block for our real and true spiritual advancement. Just try to learn the truth by approaching the spiritual master, inquire from him submissively and render service unto him, The self realized soul can import knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma su-durlabhah
After many births of cultivating knowledge, the culmination, the conclusion is to humbly surrender to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna with devotion. Until we come to that point of bhakti or devotion, all of our knowledge can bring us to the point of liberation, but it can never bring us to that most celebrated and glorious of all platforms of pure love of God, true knowledge of the Lord. Krishna reveals Himself in reciprocation to our devotion. He cannot simply be known by our intelligence. He can only be known by the heart. The brain is the seat of knowledge and the heart is the seat of love. Krishna reveals Himself from within the heart.