Devotee: Is there any spiritual difference when the disciple is in the physical presence of his Guru and when he is many miles apart?
Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj: We can get benefit only through sraddha (sublime faith). The position of Guru should not be considered as mundane, it should not be identified with his mundane appearance. Only through sraddha are we able to approach him, from any distance. Still of course, by physical vicinity we can get the chance of hearing from him, and of witnessing many practical dealings that may help us on our path with the knowledge of Vaisnava-sadhachar, what should be the conduct of a Vaisnava.
In this way we can have some sort of conception about these things, but sraddha must be there. Sraddha, or respectable faith must be there in either case – physical closeness or distance is not the question. In the lower stage, physical nearness has more efficacy. By his movements, his talks, and his instructions we are to learn the spiritual etiquette, and many spiritual ideals which may also become clear in his company. So physical vicinity will be useful in the lower stage, but sraddha must be there otherwise we may commit offence.
Physical nearness devoid of faith may be the cause of offences against Gurudev. Sometimes the senior Godbrothers may be very helpful in our dealings with Gurudev when we are beginners. Sri Gurudev’s conduct may not always be very clear or helpful for us, so in that case some senior Godbrother may come to help us and explain his movements and do away with any difference we may see in him.
īśvarāṇāṁ vacaḥ satyaṁ tathaivācaritaṁ kvacit
teṣāṁ yat sva-vaco-yuktaṁ buddhimāṁs tat samācaret
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.33.31)
“The instructions of the great personages are always true, but their conduct and their practices may not always be useful to the beginners. So the sober person will accept those practices that are backed by his words, understanding that in his higher stage he may do something which may not be useful to those of a lower stage.
He has such spiritual power that what may be seen as a defect in the beginner, cannot harm him in any way. Therefore the fair minded beginners will accept those practices which are in consonance with his instructions, as being useful to their progress.” We should not imitate but rather we should. Not anukaran (imitation) but anusaran (to follow in the footsteps). We must understand the difference.
So faith or sraddha is the first thing necessary for us; then whether we are near or far from our spiritual guide, we can have his connection. Connection in the proper line, that is the vital point; the proper plane which is independent of gross or subtle animation. The energizing plane that stimulates our enquiry about our won inner welfare, that is part and parcel of the quest. Brahma-jijnasa – the quest for the plane of understanding.
This has been given in Vedanta, and when it has come to Sriman Mahaprabhu in the line of Srimad-Bhagavatam, it is developed to krsnanusandhan, the search for Sri Krsna. Vedanta is the flower, and Srimad-Bhagavatam is the ripe fruit of spiritual knowledge. That which is somewhat mixed with activity, yajna, etc, in this plane, is found in the Veda. When that flowers in Vedanta it becomes purely conscious enquiry; “who am I, where am I, what am I?”
When the fruit is ripe that develops into utility; that is krsnanusandhan. In Vedanta the enquiry is about the infinite environment, where I am a part only , and in Srimad-Bhagavatam, the nature of enquiry is more developed – krsnanusandhan – “Who is my Master, who is my Guide, for Whom I am existing?” This is the plane of Srimad-Bhagavatam, madly seeking, “With whom may I have the fulfilment of life? Where is that Master of my heart?
I can’t continue without my Lord.” Mahaprabhu came with that – krsnanusandhan – the ripe fruit of the Veda tree, the plane of Srimad-Bhavagatam. Everywhere we are searching for Rasa, for satisfaction. We may undertake this work or that, but the common factor is the quest for satisfaction. Sriman Mahaprabhu has given the plane of Bhagavatam, “Who can satisfy all the thirsts within me?
Where is my Lord, the fulfilment of my heart?” Real enquiry must be for this only, otherwise your enquiry will never stop. When enquiry comes to this stage and we can have proper guidance then gradually we will be taken to Him, our master. Who are you searching for, that Rasa, that happiness, that pleasure? That is your Master, your Guardian. That is not your servant. It is not to come and satisfy you, with you as the master. It is everything to you.
Everything for which you are moving, this way and that, the goal of your enquiry, or whatever you are doing – that is the centre. You are searching for fulfilment, and fulfilment in the highest stage means this – Krsna. Real search begins only when you come across the Sat-Guru, the Krsna-bhakta. Earnest enquiry begins there. Pranipat, pariprasna, sevaya – you must be conscious that you are to be utilized by Him, for Whom you are searching. Only by seva, service, can you be admitted back into that World. From the very beginners stage it is sraddha, faith that can lead you to the great plane, the noble plane.
When I left the mission of my Guru Maharaj, after his disappearance, I came here quite helpless. I had to find my shelter and so I began to search the books which I had. What I received from my Guru Maharaj, I began to research the references in the Scriptures. I tried to dive deep in there, to collect the very basis of real devotional life. I found that it is saranagati; and wherever I found the verses recommending and relating to that, I tried my best to collect them and compile the nectar in the life of one who has fully surrendered himself to the feet of the Divine Lord.
That is Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam. In my study I found that it has been mentioned that saranagati, surrender is alone sufficient to produce all sorts of development in bhakti. Nothing else is necessary. So try your best to stick to saranagati, and automatically everything will come to you from the other side. Yoru business will only be to adhere to saranagati to the most intense degree possible. Saranagati is enough, surrender, and without that no devotion, no bhakti can stand.
The greatness and the substance of saranagati has been sung, praised and appreciated in such a way. The surrendering temperament is the very basis. “I am for you. You may utilize me, or you may neglect me, still I am yours. You may accept or reject me, but you are my Master. You are independent and may deal with me in any way you like. You can put me in eternal hell, or you can take me on your lap. You have every right over me.” With such heart we must approach our Lord.
That is noble, that is Divine. The highest degree of Divinity we can find there. Not only in our own effacement, but in our self-surrender. That is the real _expression of the negative towards the positive. The negative cannot exist without the positive, and so too the positive cannot exist without the negative. In the words of our Guru Maharaj, Predominating Moiety and Predominated Moiety. Two moieties, two halves of the One Whole.
One predominating and one predominated; but both have equal importance in their existence. One cannot stand without the other, and the fullest _expression of this principle is Radha-Govinda. Our mantram, our Guru-parampara, the Rupanuga-Sampradaya – all are leading towards that. In support of that we find the vatsalya-rasa, dasya-rasa, etc., but the direct lead is towards madhura-rasa.
They are leading us to the full Rasa. All others are partial, subordinate and subservient – supplemental to the main Rasa, madhura-rasa. But that supplemental service is also necessary. Madhura-rasa does not stand alone. It must have its paraphernalia; the friends, the parents, etc., must be around this Rasa. And so fortunate are those who have inner liking for such Rasa. Vasudev Datta has said,
(ĵadi) gaurāṅga nahitô, tabe ki hôitô, kemône dhôritô de?
rādhāra mahimā, prema-rasa-sīmā, jagate jānātô ke?
“If Mahaprabhu had not appeared then how could we sustain our lives? How could we live? What type of ecstatic Rasa has He imbibed that we have been able to have a little taste? Without this our lives would be impossible. Who else could take us to the acme of realisation of the position of Srimati Radharani.
She holds the highest position. She is the greatest victim to the consuming capacity of Sri Krsna. She stands as the greatest sacrifice before Krsna’s infinite consuming power. Rasaraj-Mahabhav – the Rasa is there, and She is the drawer of that Rasa from the storehouse. She has such negative capacity that she can draw out the Rasa from the storehouse. She has such negative capacity that she can draw out the Rasa to the highest degree both in quality and quantity.
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj said, “My Guru is Radharani. She will be very gracious to You Krsna if You help me in discharging the order of my Gurudev – if You help me in my propaganda work.”
kṛṣṇa taba puṇya habe bhāi!
e puṇya kôribe ĵabe, rādhārāṇī khuśī habe,
dhruba ati bôli tomā tāi
“If You seek anything, if You are in want of anything Krsna, then that is the good will of Radharani. And She will be pleased with You if You help me, because I am attempting to carry out the order of who is none but Srimati Radharani personified. So You must help me.” Krsna had no other alternative but to come down to him and help in his propaganda work. He had to come.
Devotee: Sometimes we feel like a stone. You speak such wonderful things but we can only sit like stone, like a rock.
Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj: Who?
Devotee: Myself especially.
Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj: You are like a rock?
Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj: Why?
Devotee: I don’t know. You speak so many wonderful things that perhaps we cannot dare to venture into that area.
Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj (laughing): My words could not soften you but rather they petrify you? (everyone laughs) Hare Krsna, Gaura Haribol, Nitai-Gaura Haribol.
(more lectures by Swami B.R. Sridhara are available at www.bvml.org)