Śrīla Gurudeva instructed, “If you desire bhakti, you must follow the orders and advice of Śrī Guru. Guru-vāṇī and bhagavad-vāṇī are the same. The Rāmāyaṇa states (Ayodhyā-kāṇḍa 22.9):
ājñā gurūṇāṁ hy avicāraṇīyā
Guru’s order must be followed without any doubt or consideration.
Śrī Ramānujācārya gave 108 instructions before he departed from this world, and Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura regularly discussed these same instructions with his disciples. He would sometimes give classes on the Upadeśāvali of Rāmānujācārya for many days on end.”
Śrīla Gurudeva was fond of narrating the highly instructive pastimes of Ramānujācārya. He told us that Ramānujācārya used to speak hari-kathā to his disciples in the morning after they had performed kīrtana and stutis together. Our connection to transcendental sound will develop when we perform the activities of bhakti in the association of high-class of sādhus. Śrīla Svāmī Prabhupāda used to call his disciples to sit with him and chant harināma together after maṅgala-āratī for this very reason.
Śrīla Gurudeva would take devotees with him to chant during his morning walks. During these walks, he would hear and answer their questions and would sometimes test them by presenting questions of his own. By method such as these, our ācāryas attract devotees toward the Supreme Lord and His activities.
Once, when Ramānujācārya had finished speaking hari-kathā in the morning the newly married daughter of one of his disciples approached him weeping profusely.
“What is wrong my daughter?” Ramānujācārya asked.
The girl replied, “Guru Maharaja, I do not want to complain, but I cannot tolerate my situation any longer. My in-laws are treating me like a slave. I have been married into a far away village, and the whole day I am abused and forced to work without any rest. I have no time to chant my guru-mantras or do any bhajana. They say this is all useless activity. Please protect me Guru Mahārāja and give me a place at your lotus feet!”
Ramānujācārya called his personal servant who was very dear to him and told him, “Go with this girl and do all the work that is given to her by her in-laws. This will please me. Do not think that I have sent you for any ordinary work. If you follow my instructions you will please me. This is real service to me.”
The sevaka thus went with the girl, accepting the instructions of his Gurudeva as his life and soul. At her in-laws home, he became the menial servant of the household. The shy girl did not disclose that he was a senior disciple of Ramānujācārya.
The girl’s father-in-law thought that the she had brought a servant from her father’s home because he had said to her formerly, “If you cannot handle all the work here, then go to your father and have him send a servant to replace you.” Seeing the humble yet strong and healthy young man return with his daughter-in-law, he engaged him in all forms of work to maintain the household.
The family had no mercy; they were greedy and abusive. The sevaka was fed with half-rotten food or whatever was stale and left over, but he was humble and did all the service he was ordered to do without complaint, all the time remembering his Gurudeva.
Some months later, a large religious assembly was held in the area. The Śaṅkarācārya of that time was there giving a discourse. The girl’s in-laws went there to listen to the māyāvādī speak. The sevaka passed by this assembly several times as he collected water from the well to carry out his chores. Coming back and forth several times, he overheard some of the māyāvādī’s words. Unable to tolerate hearing the blaspheme of Bhagavān and especially his own Gurudeva, Ramānujācārya, he entered the assembly and asked if he could say something. Everyone there looked at him with contempt, like he was an ordinary low-caste servant. They ridiculed him, but the māyāvādī-guru said, “I encourage listeners to ask any questions they may have. If anyone has an inquiry or wishes to debate on any point let them do so.”
The sevaka, raised his hand and requested a chance to speak once again. Seeing this, the in-laws tried stop him, but the Śaṅkarācārya silenced them, and called him forward. The sevaka then spoke, in eloquent Sanskrit, the teachings of Ramānujācārya. He spoke for five minutes, but by that time everyone was so surprised and pleased with his speech that they cheered and urged him to continue. He then went on for hours more, stunning everyone present.
The māyāvādī-guru lowered his head in shame. His philosophy was completely smashed and defeated by a mere house-servant in tattered clothes. Humbled, and in awe of the sevaka’s knowledge and qualification, he said, “Salutations O Divya-sūri—O enlightened one.” He then departed with his followers.
The girl’s relatives asked their daughter-in-law, “From where did you collect this person? We engaged him as a menial servant and now he is being considered a Divya-surī by the Śaṅkarācārya. Even hell will have no room for us! This is all your fault Who is this person? Tell us.”
She replied, “I opened my heart and pain to my Guru Mahārāja and he sent his sevaka of his to serve you in this household.”
“What is guru-sevā,” Śrīla Gurudeva asked us after telling this story. “Sitting around guru all day long is not guru-sevā. To follow Gurudeva’s instructions is guru-sevā. Also to go to those who have lost faith in guru and to bring them back on the right path— that is real guru-sevā.
After the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, my Guru Mahārāja went to the disciples of Prabhupāda who had left sannyāsa or brahmacārī-veśa. He also went to the gṛhasthas who had gone astray from Prabhupāda’s teachings and started eating meat and fish, and instilled renewed faith and strength in them, bringing them back to the service of Śrīla Prabhupāda. If one has firm faith in guru then he can engage in guru-sevā wherever he is and can also instill faith in others as well.”
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: firstname.lastname@example.org )