The Lotus Feet of the Spiritual Master
[An Explanation of the Song, “Sri Guru Carana Padma”]
August 3, 2000
Samadhi’s of Srila Lokanath dasa Gosvami (top) and Srila Narottama dasa Thakura (bottom)
[This year, 2012, the appearance day of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura is on November 4 (in India). In this lecture explaining Srila Narottama dasa’s famous prayer, Sri Guru Carana Padma, Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja discusses how to recognize and take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, and also how to recognize and reject one who is not bona fide. The transcription of this lecture is being published for the first time.
The song’s English translation is as follows:
The lotus feet of sri gurudeva are the treasure-house of unalloyed prema-bhakti for Krsna. I very carefully worship and serve those lotus feet. By his mercy, O brother, we can cross over material existence and attain Sri Krsna. (1)
Embrace within your heart the words emanating from sri gurudeva’s lotus mouth, desiring nothing else. Attachment for his lotus feet brings one to the highest goal. By his grace all desires for spiritual perfection are fulfilled. (2)
He who gives me the gift of transcendental vision and enlightens my heart with divine knowledge is my master birth after birth. From him emanates prema-bhakti, divine loving devotion, by which ignorance is destroyed. The Vedic scriptures sing of his character. (3)
Sri gurudeva is the ocean of mercy, the friend of the degraded, the life and soul of everyone! O master, be merciful! Alas, O Gurudeva, give me the shade of your lotus feet; at your feet I have surrendered. Now your fame shall be spread all over the three worlds. (4)]
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura is praying unto the lotus feet of his Gurudeva, Srila Lokanatha dasa Gosvami, who is an uttama-maha-bhagavata and an eternal associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Whatever Narada can give, Lokanatha dasa can give more, because he is Manjulali Manjari, a maidservant of Srimati Radhika. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu sprinkled the nectar of radha-dasya (service to the lotus feet of Srimati Radhika) and Lokanatha dasa Gosvami does the same thing. If he sprinkles his mercy upon someone, that person becomes qualified to realize the truths of Sri Radha’s service.
A guru who is really not a guru, but has the false ego that “I am guru,” cannot give what is prayed for in this song. He cannot help us, and after some time he may fall down. He has no realization and no bhajana at all. This song has no relation to such false gurus. It has been written only for maha-bhagavata gurus, like Lokanatha dasa Gosvami.
What is the significance of the phrase “ebe yasa ghusuka tribuvana” in this song? The meaning is “Your fame will be spread all over the three worlds.” Here, Srila Narottama dasa Thakura is praying. “I am not a qualified devotee. I have no bhakti. I am a very fallen person. I am more fallen than Jagai and Madhai. If you accept me and make me qualified to perform bhajana, the whole world will then proclaim, ‘Oh, how glorious is Lokanatha!’ If you do not bestow your mercy upon me, then no one will recognize you. It is better that you sprinkle your mercy upon me. You are patita-pavana, the deliverer of the most fallen, and there is no one more fallen than me. If you do not deliver me, how will you become famous as the deliverer of the most fallen?”
In this world, if guru has some opulence, if he is preaching throughout the world with vast wealth and a good position, then everyone will know of him. Lokanatha dasa Gosvami always desired to remain very far away from reputation, name, fame, and position. If he sprinkled mercy upon someone, he would always tell that person, “Don’t glorify me. Let me remain calm and quiet. This is my final order.” He told Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, “Don’t write my name in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Otherwise, all will know me and glorify me.” He feared glorification, while we desire it. This is our drawback.
Srila Lokanatha dasa Gosvami always lived in Vrndavana, in its secluded caves and kunjas. No one could go to him, because he was not giving darsana. He was chanting day and night, twenty-four hours a day, and remembering the pastimes of Krsna.
What is written about Srila Rupa Gosvami and the other Six Gosvamis also applies to Srila Lokanatha dasa Gosvami. He was not less than the Six Gosvamis.
nidrahara-viharakadi-vijitau catyanta-dinau cayau
radha-krsna-guna-smrter madhurima nandena sammohitau
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
(Sad Gosvamyastakam 6)
[“I worship the Six Gosvamis, who passed all their time in chanting the holy names, singing songs, and offering dandavat-pranama, thereby humbly fulfilling their vow to complete a fixed number daily. In this way they utilized their valuable lives and conquered over eating, sleeping, and other such pleasures. Always very meek and humble, they became enchanted in divine rapture from remembering Sri Radha-Krsna’s sweet qualities.”]
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura knew his Gurudeva’s heart. He knew that his Gurudeva rejected name and fame. If Narottama dasa Thakura was not there, no one else could have glorified him. His glories would not have been known. Narottama dasa therefore prayed, “I want your glorification to be spread throughout the entire world. If one can touch your glorification, that person will become a very pure and exalted devotee. People should know how to do bhajana.” Srila Narottama dasa Thakura was also thinking that if he did not show by his own glorification how to glorify Gurudeva, how would the people of the world know how to do so?
“Guru-mukha-padma-vakya, citte te koriya aikya, ara na koriho mane asa [embrace within your heart the words emanating from Sri Gurudeva’s lotus mouth, desiring nothing else].” If guru is really qualified – if his words and character are not different from the teachings of Krsna, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and all the Vedic literature, if he is quite detached from worldly sense gratification and has some realization – then he is really guru. If you know that all of your gurudeva’s words and character is supported by the Vedas, Upanisads, Bhagavatam, and Krsna’s words, then don’t maintain any hope for anything other than following him. All Vedas, Upanisads, and all the words of Krsna reside in him. We can have strong faith in guru and by serving that guru, krsna-prema will surely come. By following the process that gurudeva is giving, his mercy and prema-bhakti will come.
On the other hand, if you think that the words and character of your gurudeva are different from the teachings of Vedas, Upanisads, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta; that he is so much attached to ladies, to his pockets, to name, fame, and position; that he is not absorbed in chanting and remembering very much but still he has thousands upon thousands of disciples, then you cannot have any strong belief in him. You should reject him at once. [*See endnote 1]
There is no need to think, “He is my guru. If I give him up, that will be a big offense.” Rather, if you do not give him up, that will be a big offense. Give him up at once. Srimad-Bhagavatam and Krsna (sastra) tell us, “Give up this person, otherwise you are committing an offense.” Don’t believe his cheating words, saying “If you give me up, that is an offense.” [*See endnote 2]
You can consider one more thing: Hari, guru, and Vaisnava. If the words of Krsna (the Vedic scriptures) and guru are one, we can follow that guru. If the words of guru and Vaisnavas are the same, we can believe in that guru. However, if Krsna’s words and the words of the Vaisnavas are the same but our guru’s words are not the same, then we will have to consider. We cannot obey the orders of such a gurudeva. We should ask him, “Why is this?” If his answer satisfies us, then we can follow him; otherwise not.
For example, a guru may have thousands upon thousands of disciples, he may perform very sweet kirtana, he may be loving to all, and he may be very humble. But then, after some time he decides, “I should marry a lady. All my disciples are householders, so if I am not a householder, how will I understand their problems? To understand their problems and to know their position, I will have to marry. Otherwise, how can I help them?”
This is a big bluff. In this case he is marrying his own daughter; accepting her as his disciple and then marrying her. This is an offense. We should be very far away from such artificial gurus. If you believe such persons, then both you and your guru are destined for the darkest hell (narakam ghoram). First you will go to hell, and then your guru will go after you – head down, feet up. Try to understand all these things.
yo vyakti nyaya rahitam anyayena srnoti yah
tav ubhau narakam ghoram vrajatah kalam aksayam
[“One who assumes the dress and position of an acarya, who speaks against the conclusions of Srimad-Bhagavatam and other scriptures, or performs kirtana opposed to the proper glorification of Sri Krsna, certainly goes to hell for countless lifetimes along with his disciples and whoever else hears such non-devotional talks and kirtanas.” (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 1.101)]
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura continues, “Prema-bhakti jaha haite, avidya vinasa jate. Lokanatha lokera jivana.” If guru is very exalted, then all the symptoms of guru that are mentioned in sastra reside in him, as they reside in Srila Lokanatha dasa Gosvami.
Suppose you are serving and obeying such a guru and he tells something that is apparently not in sastra; this is only apparent. We should follow that pure, bona fide guru. An advanced guru may appear to tell something opposite to the sastric conclusion, but it is not actually opposite. You will have to reconcile his statements. He is telling a very deep meaning of sastra.
If you are serving and obeying a guru like that, like Lokanatha dasa Gosvami, then sadhana-bhakti will manifest in your heart, after which bhava-bhakti, and then prema-bhakti will manifest – and after that all kinds of avidya (the ignorance of forgetting Krsna) will be destroyed. At that time you will attain the service of Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana.
First prema-bhakti comes, and then ignorance goes. Guru first gives the seed of the desire to serve Krsna; this is called sraddha. That sraddha develops, and when anarthas somewhat leave, then nistha (steadiness), ruci (taste), asakti (spontaneous attachment), bhava or rati (spiritual sentiments), and then prema (pure love) comes. With the appearance of prema, this physical body will be totally gone. Thus, prema will come, and you will be free from all ignorance.
If there is no bhakti, or even a part of bhakti, ignorance cannot go. To the degree that bhakti manifests, in the same proportion, ignorance, unwanted desires, and anarthas disappear; otherwise they can never go. It is absurd to think, “First I should purify my heart, and then I will chant and remember Krsna.” First the sun should come, and then darkness will go. Without the appearance of the sun, how will the darkness dissipate? Narottama dasa Thakura is praying to his gurudeva, “Please be merciful. Sprinkle a drop of your mercy, and then I will be able to serve Radha-Krsna Conjugal.”
If guru is bona fide, it is essential to obey his orders. Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has said, “If I have to cut, with the sword of sastric knowledge, the arguments of everyone in the universe to obey my gurudeva, I will do so at once.”
Raghunatha dasa Gosvami has prayed (Manah-siksa, verse 2):
na dharmam nadharmam sruti-gana-niruktam kila kuru
vraje radha-krsna-pracura-paricaryam iha tanu
saci-sunum nandisvara-pati-sutatve guru-varam
mukunda-presthatve smara param ajasram nanu manah
[“O my dear mind, please do not perform either the dharma or adharma mentioned in the Srutis, or Vedas. Rather, render profuse loving service to Sri Sri Radha-Krsna here in Vraja, for the Srutis have ascertained Them to be the highest principle of supreme worship and the Supreme Absolute Truth. Always meditate on Sacinandana, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is richly endowed with the complexion and sentiments of Srimati Radhika, as non-different from Sri Nandanandana. And always remember sri gurudeva as most dear to Sri Mukunda.”]
He says to his mind, “I don’t want to follow the dharma or adharma that has been told in Vedas, Upanisads and other Vedic scriptures. I only want to serve Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana.” Lord Ramacandra came here, and Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu descended from Goloka Vrndavana and came here, only to establish dharma and to destroy adharma. Yet, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami is telling what appears to be exactly the opposite. No one has told previously what he is telling. What is the meaning of this? Oh, there is a very deep meaning.
The purport of all Vedas, Upanisads, and other Vedic scriptures is to serve Radha-Krsna Conjugal. We should not be entangled in varnasrama-dharma or lokika (material) dharma [A devotee is certainly situated in daivi-varnasrama dharma, but he is not entangled in it. While he executes the duties of his varna (occupation) and asrama, his mind is engaged in service to Radha-Krsna. Nectar of Instruction (Sri Upadesamrta) states that one of the obstacles to pure bhakti is either not following scriptural rules and regulations or being overly attached to them as all in all (niyamagraha). Material dharma is constituted of what is connected to the body: “This is my family, I am president of this country, so I must give my life for my country. I must fight other countries to protect my country.” – ed] General persons must do so, but this is not for elevated devotees. We will have to reconcile all these things. A real guru will never tell anything that is opposite to the words of the Vedic literature.
Today is our last day. I wanted to give you so many teachings, like Rupa-siksa (the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Srila Rupa Gosvami) and Sanatana-siksa (Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings to Srila Sanatana Gosvami). I wanted to explain the dialogue between Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Raya Ramananda, and the Ratha-yatra teachings, but I am worried because I could not give these to you. I wanted to give you the purport of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s instructions in Upadesamrta, and Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s teachings in Sri Manah-siksa, but I could not do so during this visit.
I hope that, if I come again, I can try and explain all these things. Here, Urukrama prabhu (now Padmanabha Maharaja, Aranya Maharaja (now Prema-prayojana dasa) Syamarani, and Madhava Maharaja have given classes about Upadesamrta and what I have told about bhakti. I wanted to give you a true conception of bhakti. If you have no conception of real bhakti, you cannot follow. There are three types of bhakti: svarupa-siddha bhakti, aropa-siddha-bhakti, and sanga-siddha bhakti. Try to know all these truths, and then you can understand the constitution of real bhakti.
[Endnote 1 (in chronological order, from the darsanas and lectures of Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)
June 23, 1999
A guru who can fall down so many times is actually not a guru. In order for one to be guru, so many qualifications must be in him. If he has the false ego that, “I am guru,” remembering some slokas and teachings but in his heart he has so many worldly desires, so much lust – but he has covered everything in his heart – then he is not qualified. He may have taken sannyasa, the renounced order, but he is fallen. Third class persons don’t realize that he is fallen. Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja gave some scope even to those who were fallen from the beginning. He told them, “You should preach and become a very high class devotee,” but they fell down.
In order to be guru, one must be in the stage of madhyama-madhyama or madhyama-uttama. He must be realizing something, knowing the Vedas, Upanisads and all sastra, and he must be able to wash away all kinds of doubts forever. He will have realization of the beauty and sweetness of Krsna and Radhika, he will know what is bhakti and what is prema, and he will be detached from all kinds of worldly, bogus things. Then he is guru.
If he does not have these qualities, then he is not qualified to make any disciple. He is not allowed to do so. It may be that someone unknowingly accepted an unqualified guru. It may be that at first he was not qualified to recognize a good guru and someone told him to take initiation, so he did so. Then, after some time he may think, “He cannot help me to be a good devotee.” In such circumstance we should give up that unqualified guru and take a new guru.
That person cannot help us because he cannot help himself. It is like a blind person trying to help another blind person to reach any goal, but there was a pit and both people fell in. How can a blind person help another blind person to find their destination? It is absurd.
The devotee must have a high caliber of guru. He can help.
December 3, 2002
[taken from the book, Guru-devatatma]
tasmad gurum prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
sabde pare ca nisnatam
[“Any person who is seriously desirous of achieving real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of a spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation and arguments and thus be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken complete shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters.”]
Suppose a person unfortunately took initiation from an unqualified guru who was not at the stage of a mahabhagavata. That guru was not realized in the established truths. The word sabde means sastras like the Vedas, Upanisads, and so on. It also means the holy name. Pare means Krsna. That guru had no realization of Krsna or His names or His glories as told in sastra, and he was only on the level of kansitha-adhikari – but still he thought that he was guru. He had many worldly desires, such as the desire for name, fame, and wealth, and someone unfortunately took harinama and diksa from him.
Do the verses that glorify the qualifications of guru apply to that guru or not? Should the disciple obey that guru with the attitude of surrender ordered by all the sastras? Should he follow that guru totally or not? Can a person acquire pure cow’s milk from a male donkey? Can a person get sweet mangoes from a thorn tree? What is the disciple’s duty towards that kind of guru?
We must consider that the presence of uttama-adhikari (mahabhagavata), madhyama-uttama-adhikari (those approaching the stage of bhava), and even madhyama-madhyama-adhikari (one at the stage of asakti) devotees are very rare in this world. It is very rare, therefore, to have a guru of this caliber. What should we do under these circumstances? We will have to take a guru.
If a guru is not “sabde pare ca nisnatam”, if he has not realized the established truths delineated in the Vedas, Upanisads and other sastras, but he has very strong faith in his pure guru and is sincerely following him, then, even if he is a madhyama-adhikari, or even kanistha-madhyama, do not reject that guru. If he is always serving his own mahabhagavat guru and is obedient both internally and externally to him, then do not reject him. We can give up our guru only with the consideration given by Srila Sanatana Gosvami in his Hari-bhakti-vilasa:
avaisnava-mukhodgirnam putam hari-kathamrtam
sravanam naiva kartavyam sarpocchistam yatha paya
[“One should not hear anything about Krsna from a non-Vaisnava. Milk touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous effects; similarly, talks about Krsna given by a non-Vaisnava are also poisonous.”]
If a guru is not serving his own gurudeva, and he has left the process given by him, and his guru is not satisfied by his behavior – only in that case can we reject him. However, if the guru is a madhyama-adhikari and sincere, if he is very obedient and following the footsteps of his guru, then he will gradually become uttama-adhikari; so we should not reject him.
At the same time, if he is not perfect and thus cannot remove all our doubts about Krsna Consciousness, what should we do? We should offer pranama to him and ask his permission to have the association of a mahabhagavata devotee: A disciple may ask, “May I go to Srila Jiva Gosvami”? or “May I go to Srila Rupa Gosvami?” or “May I go to a high class of Vaisnava?” If the guru says, “No, you cannot go,” then you should give him up. On the other hand, if he says, “Certainly you can go, and I will also come,” then he is a real guru. A guru who sends his disciple to a superior guru for instruction may also be an uttama-mahabhagavata, as there are various stages of mahabhagavata, and that guru is certainly not to be rejected.
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura was a disciple of Srila Lokanatha dasa Gosvami, but he took permission from him to take shelter of Srila Jiva Gosvami; and Srila Syamananda prabhu also took permission from Srila Hrdaya-caitanya dasa Gosvami for that same shelter of Srila Jiva Gosvami.
There are three levels of devotees who can act as sad-guru, and they are: 1) bhagavat-parsada-deha-prapt, 2) nirdhuta-kasaya, and 3) murcchita kasaya.* This human life is so rare, so do not waste your time.
labdhva sudurlabham idam bahu-sambhavante
manusyam arthadam anityam apiha dhirah
turnam yateta na pated anumrtyu yavan
nihsreyasaya visayah khalu sarvatah syat
[“After many, many births and deaths one achieves the rare human form of life, which, although temporary, affords one the opportunity to attain the highest perfection. Thus a sober human being should quickly endeavor for the ultimate perfection of life as long as his body, which is always subject to death, has not fallen down and died. After all, sense gratification is available even in the most abominable species of life, whereas Krsna consciousness is possible only for a human being” (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.9.29).
Try to follow all these principles, and gradually you will develop your Krsna consciousness.
April 17, 2007
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Brajanath dasa: He took harinama initiation from an ISKCON guru, and he wants to take diksa from you tomorrow.
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: It is best that he first hears my classes and examines whether or not I am a qualified guru. If I am not qualified, he should reject me as guru; and if I am qualified, then he may take initiation.
This examination period is required because a devotee has to give his entire life to his guru. If the guru is not qualified and thus falls down, the disciple becomes hopeless. It is therefore a rule and regulation in our guru-parampara to test the guru first. The guru should examine the disciple, and the disciple should also examine the guru in order to insure that he is accepting a guru who will never fall down.
April 30, 2008
Morning walk excerpt
Agnideva dasa: You were saying in your istagosthi on Tuesday morning that if one’s guru falls, that disciple should immediately give him up and take shelter of Sri Guru, a real guru. My question is this: In Sri Krsna-bhajanamrta, Sri Narahari Sarkara Thakura says that the disciple should wait one year. If the Guru does not give up his non-Vaisnava activities, then reject him; but if he does, then:
api cet su-duracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah
Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.
This means we should still consider him to be saintly.
You also said to have no relation with such a fallen guru. So, what relation should we have with a guru who reinstates himself in devotional service?
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Nowhere is that written that a bona fide guru will fall down and then re-instate himself, or that the disciple should wait. Can you show me where this is written?
Devotee: I have the book, but I don’t have it here.
Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Srila Jiva Gosvami has clearly explained all these truths. (Bhakti-sandarbha, Annucheda 238)
[Endnote 2 (from Gaudiya Kanthahara)
The Injunction to Abandon a Bogus Guru
guror apy avaliptasya karyakaryam ajanatah
utpatha-pratipannasya parityago vidhiyate
A guru addicted to sensual pleasure and polluted by vice, who is ignorant and has no power to discriminate between right and wrong, or who is not on the path of suddha-bhakti must be abandoned. (Mahabharata, Udyoga-parva, 179.25)
snehad va lobhato vapi yo grhniyad diksaya
tasmin gurau sa-sisye tat devata sapa apatet
If a guru, disregarding the standard for giving diksa, gives the mantra to his disciple out of greed or mundane affection, he is cursed by the gods along with that disciple. (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 2.7)
A guru who is envious of pure devotees, who blasphemes them, or behaves maliciously towards them should certainly be abandoned, remembering the verse “guror api avaliptasya” (See 1.49). Such an envious guru lacks the mood and character of a Vaisnava. The sastras enjoin that one should not accept initiation from a non-devotee (avaisnavopadistena… See 1.54). Knowing these injunctions of the scriptures, a sincere devotee abandons a false guru who is envious of devotees. After leaving one who lacks the true qualities of a guru, if a devotee is without a spiritual guide, his only hope is to seek out a mahabhagavata vaisnava and serve him. By constantly rendering service to such a pure devotee, one will certainly attain the highest goal of life. (Bhakti-sandarbha, Annucheda 238)