“The rising and setting of the sun and moon decreases the lifespan of all beings. But the time spent in sat-saṅga, hearing topics of Kṛṣṇa, who is exalted with the highest praise of the scriptures, is never lost. The spiritual benefit from that time remains with you eternally. When you have the good fortune of staying with Vaiṣṇavas, your relationship with the Guru-varga gradually develops and you advance spiritually.”
Śrīla Gurudeva cautioned, “After you have been practicing sādhana for some years in the temple, people will start to praise and honor you. If you then become proud and, disconnecting yourself from Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, go independently to preach, you will soon fall down and lose all progress you have made. Also, when you become knowledgeable and start attracting followers, there is the grave danger that you begin to envy the position of your guru. To protect yourself from these pitfalls, you must remain in sādhu-saṅga at all times. Sādhu-saṅga means to have attachment for saintly devotees. Saubari Ṛṣi underwent austerities for 10,000 years in the Yamunā, but he was more attached to the fish inside the river then to the associates of God. He cursed Garuḍa, the carrier of Lord Viṣṇu, and as a result of his offense, he left his practice of bhajana and enjoyed sensual pleasures for thousands of years. When you become proud of your position and prestige, you are bound to make offenses to other Vaiṣṇavas who you perceive as a threat to your status, and then your downfall is inevitable. It is imperative that you cultivate deep respect and gratitude to your spiritual master and guardians, or else you cannot advance.
“Numerous brahmacārīs stay in the temple and try to follow bhakti,” Gurudeva said, “still, many seem not to progress, even after years of practice. In the purāṇas there are stories of how even animals achieved the highest perfection simply by a chance act of devotion. Once, there was a female mouse that tried to drink the oil from a burning lamp in a temple. The wick became stuck on s whiskers, and while trying to shake it off, the mouse performed ārati of the Deity before being engulfed in flames. The mouse took birth next as a princess and received the chance to daily perform ārati, and after having given up her human life she achieved God’s transcendental abode. Once, a pigeon was shot by a hunter, and before leaving his body it circumambulated a Viṣṇu temple four times.
This soul also gradually attained the highest destination.
“Why do so many fail to develop profound hari-bhakti, even though they reside in the temple and follow the practices of devotion? The mouse performed ārati and the pigeon did parikramā, and through this they both achieved perfection; but many in the temple do ārati and parikramā daily with seemingly no advancement. Why? Because of a lack of sincerity and spiritual greed. Some perform parikramā and ārati simply as a physical exercise or to attract materialists by their false sentiment. Real ārati is an endeavor to develop one’s rati, or attraction towards God. The mouse did not leave the Viṣṇu-mandira—offering ārati it gave up its life—but we do ārati for a few minutes, and then run to do the ārati of others. And we do parikramā in the temple, and then run to do parikramā of another. Our consciousness is contaminated and not centered on God, therefore we move here and there. We have no faith that these temple activities are devotional service. If you do anything with faith, then this is bhakti. If, even after fifty years of sādhana, one does not become spiritually advanced, it is a sure sign he commits numerous offenses—to Vaiṣṇavas, to the dhāma, during services, and to the holy names. This results in a hardening of his heart, which in turn leads him to fear no sin, such as lying, theft, embezzlement, illicit affairs, and violence. These negative results come from one possessing an independent mood and avoiding the guidance of a high-class Vaiṣṇava.
“A person may attempt to conceal his sinful activities and wicked intentions while maintaining Vaiṣṇava decorum, but one cannot hide from God’s eyes, and He will not allow such a man to enter His kingdom without atonement.
“Once, Śrīla Gurudeva asked the brahmacārīs what it means to become ātma-samarpaṇa (self-surrendered) at the time of dīkṣā. Many answered, but Gurudeva was not satisfied with anyone’s reply.
Śrīla Gurudeva then said, “Don’t think you will be liberated simply by accepting dīkṣā-mantras. You must surrender life and soul to Śrī Guru and also consider him to be your life and soul. If you harbor attraction for materialistic people and associate your heart with them, you will never realize spiritual knowledge and thus will have no dīkṣā. True dīkṣā means transcendental knowledge and sambandha-jñāna—an understanding of who your real family and friends are.
“Transcendental knowledge will awaken when you have sincerely offered yourself to Śrī Guru and developed a spiritual relation with him. And until realization dawns, means you have maintained a wall blocking your relation with guru. You can chant harināma and your dīkṣā-mantras in such a state for decades without progressing an inch in spiritual life. After many years of lifeless sādhana, some practioners begin to think, ‘Have I been cheated?’ They have cheated themselves! Daily reciting mantras without developing a personal relation with Śrī guru and Vaiṣṇavas through a service tendency will never lead to spiritual perfection. Your sādhana will be lifeless unless you connect yourself to the spiritual source of power through Her emissaries, Śrī Guru and Vaiṣṇavas—just like an appliance must be plugged in to the mains in order to receive electricity from the power station.”
Śrīla Gurudeva then said, “To have fully self-surrendered means that all your property has become that of Śrī Guru. But that does not mean you should expect the spiritual master to serve, feed, clothe, and shelter you. When you truly surrender you will naturally assume responsibilities to please your Gurudeva. And you will not serve as a required duty or an act of karma, like a company worker who does his job and then returns to wherever he has placed his love. Guru and Bhagavān are not pleased by actions performed through material motivations. You must serve as a natural expression of your love for Bhagavān and Gurudeva. Then it can be considered bhakti.
“To truly surrender to the spiritual master the disciple must abide by all the recommendations and prohibitions taught and exemplified by his guru. If a student neglects to follow the teacher’s lessons lacking encouragement to do so, then he will fail the class. So, you must adopt those activities that help sādhakas progress in bhakti and determinedly reject anything unfavorable, however attractive it may seem. You must adhere to a vow to stay away from anything adverse to your spiritual practice—then you will accept God’s ever-present mercy. Many obstacles will rise in your path, but if you are determined you can cross over them all.”
Śrīla Gurudeva further advised the brahmacārīs, “You must always be wary of forming mundane relations. Don’t spend too much time with materialists on the pretense of preaching. Your affection and attraction will gravitate towards those inimical to Kṛṣṇa, and you will gradually be pulled away from Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. This bad association is alluring, but you must be careful because it can easily steal away all your taste for bhajana and sādhu-saṅga.
“You can judge if your activities are favorable for bhakti or not according to how much your desire to practice bhajana increases or decreases. If you have no relation with Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, you will become entangled with she-donkeys who will regularly kick you in the face. They will say, ‘Worship me! What is this useless “Hari Hari” you chant? First worship me, then think about Hari.’”
“As long as you have two arms,” Gurudeva said, “you can independently move around without complications. But once you have four arms (i.e. once married) then you must arrange for room, board, and comfortable facilities for two. The spouse says: roṭī kapada makan ei tina bhagavān—nice food, clothing, a house, these three are God. When you have a child and become six-armed, then another child and become eight-armed, you will become completely trapped on all sides.”
Śrīla Gurudeva warned, “Don’t think, ‘Oh, this mātājī is an exalted Vaiṣṇavī absorbed in serious bhajana. I will serve her and learn the proper method of bhajana from her.’ If you do, for some days you will address her as mother—mātājī, mātājī—then some days later as your sister—dīdījī—and finally as your lover—priyajī. This is not the kind of association beneficial for bhagavad-bhajana.
“Always be connected with advanced Vaiṣṇavas—without them you are like an orphan who will always be attacked by the temptations of sense objects and the six internal enemies (beginning with lust and greed), which are like dacoits waiting to accost and drag you from the path of spiritual progress. Bhagavad-bhajana is not possible alone. To be successful in hari-bhajana, it is essential to closely follow an advanced Vaiṣṇava who is your dear friend. Such a Vaiṣṇava is called ṣiksh–guru.”
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from “Sri Guru Darshan”, discover all the intimate pastimes of Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, from his childhood on. Learn of his struggles and victories in his preaching work in India and abroad and how he was totally dependent on his spiritual master and the guruvarga for guidance and the ability to put pure bhakti into the hearts of all he met. Don’t delay order today – from [email protected])