“He who has given me transcendental vision is my master, life after life. By his mercy divine knowledge awakens within the heart. From him prema-bhakti emanates, destroying all ignorance. The Vedic scriptures sing of his life and character.”
All people are born with eyes. What is the meaning then of cakṣu-dāna, the gift of vision? When one is born from a mother and father, he can only perceive his blood relationships. He receives these eyes from his parents. Brahmā gives the body made of five elements, and with that body, he observes the five elements in many varied forms throughout the world. Guru-pāda-padma is not any person of this world. He is of the eternal world; hence, he says, “Anything you see with your eyes only cheats you. Don’t accept the objects of this world, the many forms, tastes, smells, sounds, and touches, with your working senses—the tongue, hands, nose, ears, stomach, genitals, and so forth. There are 26 elements which comprise so many mundane objects that are perceived with the eyes. All these things are māyā, which bewilder the living entity.”
Guru teaches his disciples not to look at these things. Mahāprabhu said:
grāmya-kathā nā śunibe, grāmya-vārtā nā kahibe
bhāla nā khāibe āra bhāla nā paribe
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 6.236
Do not talk about mundane topics or hear what the general people have to say. Do not eat rich food, nor dress opulently.
And Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu said:
atyāhāraḥ prayāsaś ca prajalpo niyamāgrahaḥ
jana-saṅgaś ca laulyaṁ ca ṣaḍbhir bhaktir vinaśyati
Six faults that destroy bhakti are: (1) over-eating or collecting more than needed; (2) over-endeavors or doing things opposed to bhakti; (3) speaking useless mundane talk; (4) not following essential rules and regulations, or fanatically adopting rules and regulations; (5) bad association; and (6) having greed or the restlessness of the mind to adopt worthless opinions.
Atyāhāraḥ means overeating. This doesn’t only refer to food. The eyes watch so many forms, taking pictures and keeping them as a permanent image within one’s mind. We hear many sounds in the air and smell so many things. We collect so many things with our senses. Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu instructed the sādhaka on the path of bhakti to be very careful
collecting things of this world with the eleven senses, for this destroys one’s tendency to perform devotional service to Kṛṣṇa—bhakti-vinaśyati.
Cakṣu-dāna—when one has no spiritual vision, he can only perceive the body, blood relatives, and objects of this world. He has no power to cross māyā. The soul is inside the body, along with the Supreme Soul. God is present inside all living entities. But the jīvas cannot perceive God, due to the covering of māyā. Therefore, the majority of all instructions given in this world are in regard to the body and its maintenance. If one doesn’t understand the soul, how can he explain these truths to others?
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura therefore explains: cakṣu-dāna dilā jei, janme janme prabhu sei divya-jñāna hṛde prakāśito—Śrī Guru bestows transcendental eyes to perceive spiritual reality and to understand scripture, Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas.
Without transcendental vision it is impossible to understand and have true darśana of śāstra, dhāma, guru, and vaiṣṇavas. With mundane eyes one will also see all of them as mundane. This is called jaḍa-darśana. This will cheat the sādhaka and deprive him of the actual transcendental vision of Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas. They will not able to see the true svarūpa of the dhāma, nor realize the imports of the śāstra. Therefore this gift of divine vision is very essential. Without this cakṣu-dāna, one will see that which is right as wrong and that which is wrong to be correct, and the unavoidable result will be aparādha.
This transcendental vision is comprised of nirguṇa-tattva and thus has complete independence from the three modes of material nature. This material reality is composed of eight basic elements.
bhūmir āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
My external prakṛti has eight categories: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego. Mundane vision can only see three of these eight elements; earth, fire, and water. Eyes cannot glimpse air or ether. These elements are beyond the capacity of material eyes. And more subtle still are the three elements—mind, intelligence, and ego—which cannot be experienced through any of the material senses. But by the grace of Śrī Guru one can see above and beyond all of these eight elements. Only by the grace of guru, who is the bestower of this divine sight, can one see all reality as it is—brahma-mayam-jagat, everything that exists comes from, and is meant to be engaged in the service of God.” Seeing with this vision, the futility and illusory nature of this mundane world will be easily understood. The true nature and identity of the soul will be revealed and as a result all lamentation, fear, anger, lust etc. will be dispelled.
Janme janme prabhu sei—that guru from whom this spiritual sight is received is my master, birth after birth. This deep mood can only be truly spoken by that disciple who has actually received these transcendental eyes. This divine vision will grant darśana of the true self, vision of one’s own soul, and the soul’s true attributes and characteristics. This is called svarūpa-siddhi. At this time, one also has pure darśana of Gurudeva’s svarūpa as akhaṇḍa-guru-tattva coming from Baladeva Prabhu, and one sees a glimpse of Gurudeva’s eternal form. At this time the disciple will sing like this: cakṣu dāna dila jei janme janme prabhu sei. A disciple who has not attained this stage may also have this sentiment, but it is not a realized emotion. Because he does not have cakṣu-dāna or sambhanda-jñāna, he has not seen or realized the spiritual form of Gurudeva. He may still be derailed and misguided by those who claim themselves to be guru but actually have no power to help the soul.
A disciple who has not yet received this gift of divine vision does not have sambhanda-jñāna, and therefore does not understand the true nature of guru. As a result he is unable to take full shelter and accept Śrī Guru. For such an aspiring disciple it is not guaranteed that the same Gurudeva will come as his guru birth after birth. Yet it may be, by the will of the Lord, that the same guru will come in future lives. Especially if that disciple is sincere at heart and serving without any deceit, then despite his disqualification and lack of divya-jñāna, sad-guru will accept him as a family member. If guru’s heart melts as a result of the śiṣya’s sincere service, then Śrī Guru will take responsibility for the deliverance of that disciple. How can guru leave this disciple? If the disciple is attached and refuses to leave the shelter of Śrī Guru, then that guru also cannot and will never leave that disciple. He will come again, life after life, to help him progress on this path until he is liberated. This is called svarūpa-siddhi, and when one finally attains his pure spiritual form within the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, it is called vastu-siddhi. Once present in the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, service will continue under the guidance of guru in his sakhī-svarūpa. Therefore, attachment and service to guru is eternal and continues and increases life after life, both while conditioned and upon perfection. Therefore Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmīpāda has explained in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.295):
siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
One who has an intense desire to attain rāgātmikā-bhakti follows in the footsteps of the Vrajavāsīs who are dedicated to the practices of the rāga-mārga. With his external body he should hear and chant according to the methods of rāgānuga-bhakti, and with his internally conceived body (siddha-rūpa) given to him by his guru, he should serve.
It should be understood that any bona fide guru is an expansion of Nityānanda Prabhu, and thus all bona fide gurus can give a true relationship with God to their disciples. For example, water always has the same basic qualities and nature, whether it is well water, river water, or ocean water. And as a spark of fire has the same quality as a large burning fire, although one may have more potency than the other.
In the same way, all sad-gurus are akhaṇḍa-nityānanda-tattva and should not be seen as separate. Some specialties may be present in each of them according to their individual relationships with God, but they should not be seen as different or separate from each other. The pure disciples of any ācārya are non-different from him: they have sevaka-abhimāna towards him, this is the only difference. All true gurus are under the direct guidance of Nityānanda Prabhu.
While living in darkness one does not understand the effect of the sun and its light. Once one comes out of darkness, he sees and feels the benefit of the sun and its rays. Then he will understand the superiority of the sun and never go back again to darkness. Similarly after receiving sambhanda-jñāna from sad-guru and witnessing Śrī Guru’s divine nature one will never again be derailed by or attracted to a guru who is not qualified. Ordinary persons who themselves are still absorbed in darkness and do not have this connection with God can never give spiritual sight. They may have many siddhis and be able to give many material assets, but because they cannot give cakṣu-dāna, they are not part of guru-tattva. They are in a separate category.
Once a bona fide disciple, by the grace of Śrī Guru, attains svarūpa-siddhi, then, with transcendental vision, he will have darśana of his own svarūpa, as well as the svarūpa of guru and God. But still the essential need of guru’s grace and guidance remains. Relationship with God and His associates must still be strengthened. During the pastimes of Mahāprabhu, many people had His darśana, but they could not understand His divinity. Two thieves had direct contact with Mahāprabhu, but they were not perfected. If these souls however, will continue to perform sādhana, then by Śrī Guru’s grace they will attain perfection. So once a true relationship is there with sad-guru, built upon the platform of sambhanda-jñāna, then that guru will come for his disciple life after life until he is perfected. And also in the perfected state that guru will continue to guide him.
The guru of Gopa-kumāra was always protecting and guiding him in each stage of his progression. This deep relationship with guru is true dīkṣā. Once this relationship is made, then he is a true disciple, and then: janme janme prabhu sei. If a disciple has true love for Śrī Guru, then he will always remember him and never forget him. That love will become so strong that guru will come life after life to deliver him. Because Bharata Mahārāja had been absorbed in the memory of a deer during his life and at the time if death, he took birth as a deer in his next life. Similarly, if a disciple is always remembering his Gurudeva, then that guru will come for that disciple in every birth until he achieves perfection. This is meaning of guru-dayitva, or responsibility.
Guru takes this responsibility to help his true disciple birth after birth. But before this strong relationship is present, all gurus who are guiding us on the bhakti-marga are our śikṣā-gurus. All the śikṣā-gurus in the life of a sādhaka will direct and train him to receive true dīkṣā from his eternal dīkṣā-guru. There can be many śikṣā-gurus, but dīkṣā-guru is one. True dīkṣā means svarūpa-siddhi, and that guru from whom a disciple receives this, he is his one and only worshipful dīkṣā Gurudeva, birth after birth.
Mundane people and transcendentalists are completely different in nature. Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī would speak the Bhāgavatam very sweetly in Vṛndāvana-dhāma, with a melodic voice, like a cuckoo. Anyone who heard him speak, would find his heart melting, because Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī had no relation with any language of this world.
He was related to the truths of the transcendental world.
The leader of one village would come daily for hari-kathā and he would become very happy. Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī’s heart would melt. He wept when describing the separation of the Vraja-devīs, and everyone in the audience wept as well. Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu was present in the audience. But he sat only with wide open eyes, completely motionless.
Someone said, “Rūpa Gosvāmī’s eyes are open without blinking.” Another said, “Go and check if he is breathing.”
A devotee went forward with a piece of cotton and held it under Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s nostrils, but there was no sign of any breath. Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu was in eternal samādhi. Although his eyes were open and appeared to be looking at this world, he was present in the spiritual world, witnessing the pastimes of Vraja-maṇḍala. After a long time, one breath came out and that cotton was immediately burnt to ash; the person’s hand was also burnt.
In an early stage of separation, one weeps and laments. But when separation is extremely intense, one’s condition becomes like that of Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu’s described here.
How can this be understood by ordinary people?
The village leader would hear hari-kathā daily. After many days, his wife became very disturbed because her husband was neglecting her and the household, spending most of his time absorbed in spiritual activities such as attending hari-kathā. She came once to Vṛndāvana and saw many widow ladies present there. She called one lady and said, “I will give you ten thousand rupees if you make some drama, so that my husband thinks that this sādhu is bogus and he will then return home. Say that you have been impregnated by this sādhu.”
When Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī’s class was finished, the old widow loudly wept in the back of the class. The sādhus left without paying her any heed, but the village leader came over and asked, “What is the problem for you? Why do you lament?”
She only wept more loudly, not saying anything.
“Do you have no house?” the village leader said. “Are you a beggar? I will rent you a room and maintain you.”
She continued to weep, and he asked again and again what the problem was. Finally, she said, “This sādhu who speaks hari-kathā has made me pregnant. What can I do? Now my life is destroyed.”
“Speak the truth!” the man shouted. “If you lie, I will kill you. This sādhu is completely pure. He is not present in this world. He is always engaged in hari-kathā and service of God. You are trying to cheat me. Tell the truth!”
The widow became very scared and said, “Oh, one lady from a village gave me a large sum of money to say that this sādhu made me pregnant.”
“From which village was the lady from?”
The widow told the name of the lady and her husband.
“I am the husband of that wicked woman.”
This village leader thought, “My so-called wife insulted and conspired against sādhus for her personal enjoyment.”
He then went home and set fire to his house. Once it was burnt down, he returned to Vṛndāvana. Gurudeva had given him spiritual eyes. He knew who was honest and who was a rascal. Rascals always try to cheat those with spiritual aspirations, with the hope they will fall down. With this in mind, they arrange many strategies. Those who have spiritual eyes will not be bewildered by such rascals.
Duplicity and cheating is the nature of mundane enjoyers. They don’t fear offending Vaiṣṇavas. Guru-pāda-padma gives transcendental eyes to his followers, so that they can perceive who is good and who is wicked, what is nectar and what is poison. The eyes given by one’s blood parents or Brahmā cheat one. They collect mundane pictures of objects which are tama, raja, or sattva. Spiritual eyes only perceive what is nirguṇa, transcendental. When Śrī Guru bestows divine vision, then
divya-jñāna hṛde prakāśito—transcendental knowledge manifests in the heart. Taste comes for scriptures, like the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and one will understand their real imports. When reading or hearing scripture, realization of the secret truths will come in the heart. When people read with mundane eyes, they will only understand mundane meanings.
Scripture is spiritual. Without Śrī Guru’s mercy and the spiritual vision he bestows, one cannot understand scripture. When Guru-pāda-padma gives transcendental eyes, a disciple can understand who his true friends are. Before this, he will have relation with many so-called material friends and will have no taste for spiritual life. After spiritual vision comes, one will understand, “A friend means fry-end; first there is friendship, then one gets fried, and friendship is ended.” But when one has transcendental eyes, he will understand who his near and dearest guardian and authority is. He will no longer run and beg for shelter from cheaters. He will be carefree and fearless. The mahā-bhāgavata has love for God, and he transmits prema-bhakti to those who submit to him. Upon the arising of divine knowledge, divya-jñāna, Śrī Guru bestows prema-bhakti, pure love and devotion, ‘prema-bhakti jāhā haite.’
Otherwise, one has devotion for one’s mother, father, wife, children, and so forth. This is not prema-bhakti. Mundane people don’t have bhakti; they have illusory attachment for this world. If you go to mundane people, you will see they are so attached to this world and its objects.
When prema-bhakti comes, then avidyā, ignorance, is destroyed. Prema-bhakti jāhā haite, avidyā vināśa jāte.
Avidyā, asmita, rāga, dveṣa, abhiniveṣa, and so forth will never go without the mercy of Śrī Guru, which comes in the form of the bestowal of prema-bhakti.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura is here indicating the sequence of effects caused by Śrī Guru’s grace. Clearly he has stated, that first prema-bhakti will be bestowed by guru and then all ignorance and contamination will be destroyed. A doubt may easily arise as to how completely pure prema-bhakti can enter a heart that is contaminated with avidyā. It seems more logical that contamination must first be cleansed before prema-bhakti enters one’s heart. This is true, yet the power of sad-guru breaks all rules of logic and reason. Only Śrī Guru-pāda-padma has this ability and eligibility to instill within heart of disciple prema-bhakti and by so doing cleaning it of all ignorance. Therefore the Vedic scriptures glorify Śrī Guru.
Vede gāya jāhāra carito—one will understand who has good character and who one should meet with. When one has prema-bhakti, he will not see the buildings and people of this world; he will see Vraja-bhūmi and be engaged there in service. If a premi-bhakta is on a mountain, in a desert, or any other place, that is a holy dhāma.
yathāya vaiṣṇava-gaṇa sei sthāna vṛndāvana,
sei sthāne ānanda aśeṣa
Kalyāna Kalpataru, Song 4
Vṛndāvana is that place where sādhus are present. If there are no sādhus, one should not go there. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says, tīrtha-yātrā-pariśrama, kevala-manera-bhrama going on pilgrimage is simply a useless labor. It is only another kind of satisfaction for the bewildered mind.
That place where no sādhus are present should be avoided. Tīrtha-yatra? Should one go for a tour of the holy places?
This is only hard labor without result if one doesn’t meet with sādhus. This is kevala-manera-bhrama, only mental speculation. People think, “Going there I will be pleased and satisfied,”
but nothing comes. Go anywhere sādhus are present, that place is Vṛndāvana and most auspicious.
There are five types of avidyā: tama, moha, mahā-moha, tamiśra, and andha-tamiśra. Tama means darkness and ignorance, one cannot comprehend truth.
This is only cheating. There, one will not understand, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Who are they?’ Many dacoits and cheaters have come in front of me. In this world, we see that a group of cheaters and thieves make unions, or what they call ‘sat-sangas,’ societies, trusts, and sevā-aśramas. They promise each other, “We won’t lie or cheat each other; and if one of us is caught, we won’t inform on the others.” They go and kill people, stealing all their wealth and putting it in one place where they divide it amongst themselves. Is this a sat-saṅga? They say, “We are truthful people and loyal, our committee is very strong.” But is their business very good? In this world, people open societies, trusts, and centers like this, but for what purpose? There are many cheaters, collecting from here and there by hook and crook and dividing it among their group of thieves, saying, “We have such a great society.”
Avidyā vināśa jāte–in ignorance, tama and moha, one has no intelligence to discern who is a cheater and who is an honest person concerned for one’s welfare.
Maha-moha is when people say, “Eat, drink, and be merry. Enjoy by any means possible! That is best way to live.”
Tamiśra is when one becomes very angry when there is any obstacle to his enjoyment. Anyhow, he will cheat others and endeavor his best to kill or destroy his enemies; only then will he be happy. He arranges others to insult, blaspheme, and destroy his enemies, like Hiraṇyakaśipu tried in so many ways to harm Prahlāda Mahārāja.
Andha-tamiśra is when one thinks, “Oh, why did this person come in my room?” “Where did this water come from?”
One will have doubt for everything. When wearing cloth, one will think, “Did anyone place a scorpion in my pocket?”
“Did anyone put poison in my water tank?” He will shake his bed sheets ten times, always having doubt. This is andha-tamiśra. When going outside, he will have many bodyguards who carry weapons. But they will think after sometime, “These weapons are not being used. We have held them uselessly for so long and should engage them in some work.” They consider, “We should use them against this person, this is a good purpose.” And then they attack the person they are protecting. Why? By staying with that person in andha-tamiśra, one’s intelligence will be lost. This is the affect of bad association. If one is full of doubt, those who are with him will become the same. This is not the fault of the bodyguards. Being with this bad and doubtful person—eating, sleeping, and staying always with him— their nature becomes like his. If one likes bhakti, bhajana and guru-sevā, those who come in contact with him will get this nature. Only tilaka, mālā, and a shaved head cannot cover one’s crooked nature. Why? One’s party or followers will all have the same nature as the leader.
How can you understand a man? You can judge a man by his company. If all your company is bad, how can you have any good sense? By the mercy of Śrī Guru, who bestows spiritual eyes, one will not be cheated by anyone.
After you receive spiritual eyes, divine knowledge comes, and avidyā, ignorance, is destroyed. Then prema-bhakti, loving devotion for God, awakens.
Vede gāya jāhāra carito—that person will then be very respected and renowned.
What is avidyā? Many problems come for bhajana. There are four kinds of anarthas: sukṛtotthā-anartha, duṣkṛtotthā-anartha, aparādhotthā-anartha, and bhakty-utthā-anartha. These are called kleśa. There are five types of these: avidyā, asmita, rāga, dveśa, and abhiniveśa. The first is avidyā.
Avidyā has four types of anarthas. Duṣkṛtotthā-anartha: In past lives, one disturbed many people or performed many sinful acts. Results come from those actions. When chanting harināma, one will get a headache; and when he is not chanting, he will be very happy. When one goes to serve God, he will have no taste. But he will work day and night doing mundane social service without becoming tired. Why? Ordinary people thank one for such help of the body; but when one serves God, nobody announces one’s glories. People desire their names to be printed on the front page of newspapers for being a humanitarian, and then many will worship them and give them thousands of garlands. Because of duṣkṛtotthā-anarthas, many bad people will surround one. They will say, “Harināma is useless, don’t chant. Work hard in this world.” One will not be able to perform bhajana.
Sukṛtotthā-anartha: In past lives, one did many pious activities. As a result, many people give one donations, such as cows, hospitals, and followers. Thus, day and night, one will be very busy in mundane activities and garnering fame, having no time for the soul and service of the Supreme Soul.
Aparādhotthā-anartha: Because one made many offenses, people dislike and abuse one, and one’s body will be ill. Even though one works hard, people always blame and insult him. Even though one never steals anything, people say, “You are a great thief and cheater.”
Bhakty-utthā-anartha: There are ten types of nāma-aparādha. When an aspirant crosses aparādha, many mystic powers come. His words will hold great power, and people will think he is perfect and a divine master. They will line up in front of him and present him with many gifts, but he will not offer this to Śrī Guru. Many fruits, flowers, sweets, and many things from the mundane world will come to him, but it will not be possible for him to offer to Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas. He will think, “This is my property,” and will never share it. This state of being is millions of times worse than a miser. People give many things, but he will not use any of it. He will have so much cloth, but it will be eaten by insects. It may burn or rot, but he will not give it to anyone.
Because of bhakty-utthā-anarthas, the sādhaka will have attachment to personal gain, adoration, and prestige, and all things will come easily. One should be very careful to stay away from any attachment to this world. Śrī Guru purifies the sincere disciple and bestows bhajana-sampatti, the wealth of divine rapture. Śrī Guru gives him spiritual eyes—cakṣu-dāna means Gurudeva gives his own eyes to his disciple.
If someone has lost his eyes and goes to an expert kavirāja,
he can give new eyes and enable one to see again. This is called cakṣu-dāna. Similarly, the conditioned soul has no spiritual eyes. Guru-pāda-padma therefore gives his own spiritual eyes and the eyes of scripture and sādhus.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura Mahāśaya ki Jaya! (excerpted from “Prema-Bhakti-Chandrika”, available from; [email protected] )