Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Sridhar Maharaja, Nabadwip 1987.
Srila Govinda Maharaja: Everything depends on the mood of the devotee. Someone may go for collection, someone else may cook, another may clean, but everything depends on the individual’s mood whether it will be karma or bhakti. If someone will follow his Guru’s instructions in a surrendered mood, it will be bhakti, otherwise it will be pious karma. If anyone will follow the instructions of the Scriptures and Guru he will always receive a good result, but that is not necessarily bhakti. It is a big difficulty for everyone if they are not conscious of their purpose. Srila Guru Maharaja always emphasized the word ‘consciousness’-everything is living within consciousness.The result depends on the devotee’s mental position. So first he must try to cleanse his heart. Krsna said in Bhagavad-glta:
yat karosi yad asnasi, yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya, tat kurusva mad arpanam
Krsna has clarified everything for us and given us a very easy way: “Everything you do, and everything you want to do-whether eating, sacrificing, going anywhere, etc.-connect everything with Me, then that will be bhakti.” First it is necessary to finalize what our need is, and what is the process to achieve it. If we need bhakti-yoga to Krsna, and if we do not want to stay within the illusory environment, and if we feel the necessity to go to the transcendental world-our own home-then with full heart we must try to achieve that.
We shall try to search out that place where it is available and whole-heartedly try to follow the instructions we receive there. This is the main thing for everyone, but circumstances can take us in many ways and to many places. We must try to proceed steadily within our track and not allow ourselves to go out of the track. This is our necessity.
Devotee: Maharaja, I have a question. When Srila Prabhupada left the world, many of his disciples in the name of exclusive worship of him went on with their devotional service, but they made many mistakes and their service sometimes went in a wrong way. Later, many persons in the name of exclusive worship of Srila Guru Maharaja also made many mistakes and sometimes their actions went in a wrong way.
So, I want to know from you, what does it mean to serve the uttama-adhikari devotee? Why do those persons make such mistakes, and how can we properly understand the correct position?
Srila Govinda Maharaja: It is in some way coming from one’s fortune. One who has good fortune will not leave his track. What he received from his Gurudeva, he will try to follow, and his endeavor will always be within the proper track.
Your question is good for everyone: after Srila Swami Maharaja left, why have some of his devotees gone out from their track? Also after Srila Guru Maharaja, some are going out of track. But why?
It is necessary for the devotees to know very clearly what they want to practice
It depends upon their sukrti-their spiritual fortune. We see that they served Srila Swami Maharaja or they served Srila Guru Maharaja, but actually they did not get the proper way, the real service connection. At that time, however, by the influence of Srila Guru Maharaja and Srila Swami Maharaja that shortcoming was covered. The disciples did many activities enthusiastically but they actually did not know what devotional service is. When Gurudeva disappeared, his influence of covering the shortcoming in the disciples also withdrew with him. At that time some of the devotees got back their previous subtle position, and they became confused. Ultimately it depends upon their own karma, their good fortune, and also the quality of their practicing life-these three will contribute towards a good result.
It is necessary for the devotees to know very clearly what they want to practice, then they will not go off the track-and in that also their own good fortune and good activities are necessary, otherwise they will not reach their goal. We must be able to recognize what is what. It is a fact that even when Krsna was present, not everyone could understand Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sisupala and Dantavakra had the chance to be with Krsna but they could not understand who He was. Also many saw Krsna on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, but they did not understand that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So some fortune must work behind ‘seeing’.
After Srila Swami Maharaja left, the illusory environment came with more force. When Krsna left from this mundane world, at that time also the illusory environment again asserted itself strongly. Whenever a great soul disappears, some disturbance is caused by the illusory environment and it tries to catch and conquer the heart of the weak devotees-not only the weak devotees, but the good workers also. It will try to conquer them. But those who are fully surrendered to their Guru will not be captured by that illusion, and those who are good followers will also not fall into that illusion. Those who are not settled within their own track will easily leave their position, and to some degree this has happened.
We can live with a sadhu and take his association, but we may not get real sadhu-sanga merely by living with him. Bugs may live in the bed of a sadhu, lice may even be so close to him that they live in his hair and take his blood, but they are not engaged in sadhu-sanga! So, the unfortunate souls leave the track. Otherwise the true path is a very easy thing.
One instruction Srila Guru Maharaja used to always give me when I first came to him was: “What I shall instruct, you will follow, and what your mind will say, you don’t follow.” But I thought; “My mind is not always giving me bad advice, sometimes it is giving good suggestions to me.” But Srila Guru Maharaja told me not to follow even what I thought was the good advice of my mind. “That means you must fully depend upon me. My need is that you must fully depend upon me.” Srila Guru Maharaja said in this way, “What does your mind tell you? You think it sometimes says good advice and it sometimes says bad. But you are not to follow even the apparently good advice. If you take the association of your mind, you must give some return to him; therefore it is not necessary to take association of your mind, instead take my instruction for yourself.”
It is a very easy instruction but we cannot always follow it, therefore we receive some trouble. When we forget Srila Guru Maharaja’s order we receive much trouble. Behind this, two things are acting: one is fortune, and the other is our activity. Good fortune is necessary, and that comes through seva. Good fortune grows through seva. One who can do real seva will receive a good result. However, one who does ‘seva’ but is always thinking about his own interest must be ignored by bhakti, and bhakti will not go to him. He may live so long and stay for many years in the Gaudiya Mission, but he may not get that bhakti.
There are many examples not only in the Gaudiya Mission, but such disturbances can be seen everywhere in history. It is present in Christianity, in Mohammedanism, etc. And in Hinduism there are many channels: Sri Ramanuja, Sankaracharyya, etc.
There is a famous story of how one day Ramanujacharyya’s sannyasi disciples quarreled over something which appeared very big, but actually was very small. It was a very small matter, but they quarreled fiercely. Someone had moved around the clothes the sannyasis were to wear. One of them became very disturbed and a quarrel began. Ramanuja then showed through the example of a grhastha devotee how one should serve his Guru. In the Scriptures we can see this and many other examples. Sankaracharyya also showed a similar example.
Actually, our spiritual journey depends upon clear consciousness. One who has some clear consciousness from his Guru will not leave the track; otherwise everyone has some possibility of deviating.
It is necessary to stay within the proper line of knowledge. We must have the conviction “We shall follow our Guru blindly.” We hear from many places that, ‘What our Guru gave is sufficient; it is not necessary to take advice from others.’ And it is mainly very true. If I have no big idea, and no big, wide vision, then I must follow my Gurudeva in a very simple way. Sometimes that will work very nicely, but it is not always true-because if a Guru will say one thing, or give one advice, then there is no doubt that if there are five disciples, each will take it in a slightly different way. Each of their minds will play upon that idea in a slightly different manner, so they will understand it in five ways. Maybe in the beginning they were not very different from each other, but whatever small differences exist will become more prominent as it comes down through three or four generations. By that time it may even become completely separate from Sri Gurudeva’s conception. Srimad Bhagavatam has mentioned:
evam prakrti-vaicitryat bhidyante matayo-nrnam
paramparyyena kesancit pasanda-matayo pare
Srila Guru Maharaja has given a very good example of this: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. When Guru gives some knowledge, that is the thesis, but when that knowledge has come out from Gurudeva, an antithesis must also come out from some other quarter. With the thesis, the antithesis will also grow, side by side. And synthesis comes when both will come into harmony. The synthesis then becomes established as the thesis, and again an antithesis will grow to oppose it. In this way, if five disciples hear from one Guru, five kinds of ideas will grow. Their ideas also depend upon their sukrti. If they do not go off the track we can say they have good sukrti, and that sukrti comes through their service. Therefore Srila Guru Maharaja said, “What I shall instruct, you follow that, and what your mind will say, don’t follow it!”
It was for this reason that Srila Guru Maharaja did not recommend us to read many things. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur also discouraged much reading. Also, especially for those in the Math, there is no excess time for reading. Our time is all service time. There is no excess time in our hand, so how shall we try to earn ‘other knowledge’ and how can we spend our time for collecting that knowledge?
Someone is studying in Sanskrit, someone in Bengali, someone else is studying in English-and spending time. They are showing a post-dated check, that “After getting that knowledge I shall serve!” But before that it is possible you may die, so why don’t you think like that? Therefore Srila Guru Maharaja did not give us the chance to study.
At first Srila Guru Maharaja did give some chance to me because I was unqualified. Srila Guru Maharaja gave me some opportunity to study, but when some proper knowledge came to me, then Srila Guru Maharaja said it was sufficient: “It is not necessary to read more, now you do seva.”
We tried to do seva- as much as possible, heart and soul, and we have seen that gradually everything is revealing itself in our heart. We are not trying to collect knowledge from the Scriptures. I read Sri Brahma-samhita only a few years ago but I joined over forty-five years ago! It was just during the last days of Srila Guru Maharaja that I read Brahma-samhita.
One day I put the question to Srila Guru Maharaja: “Maharaja, in which way does the jiva-soul come out from the Tatastha-sakti?” I heard the reply many times, but I could not catch it, so I again questioned Srila Guru Maharaja: “The creation of the world, and the creation of the jivas -in which way does it happen, Maharaja? Again please explain this to me.”
Srila Guru Maharaja said, “Oh-oh, have you not read Brahma-samhita?” I replied, “No, Guru Maharaja, I have not read it.” I knew many slokas from Brahma-samhita, having heard them from Srila Guru Maharaja, but I had not read the book. Then Srila Guru Maharaja said, “Read it and you will see the answer to your question very clearly explained there in the first section.” He also gave a brief explanation.
That question was very difficult. The jiva-soul is transcendental, but the Maya-sakti produces material things. Her activity is always within the material world but the jiva is transcendental, and Krsna is transcendental. So in which way can the transcendental and material combine together to produce the creation? That was the question. But Srila Guru Maharaja replied with this sloka: tal-lingam bhagavan sambhuh. Krsna throws the vision, and prakrti is impregnated- mayadhaksena prakrtih, suyate sa-caracaram (Bg. 9.10). And in the middle position, that ‘throwing’ is done by Sambhu. That is his position.
Srila Guru Maharaja instructed, “Read Brahma-samhita, you will be able to see everything explained there.” And when I read Brahma-samhita I was surprised to see: “Oh, all knowledge is inside this book, but I did not read it before. The whole of the knowledge that Srila Guru Maharaja is giving us-everything is contained here.” Then the idea came to me that we must try to publish this Sri Brahma-samhita and we shall distribute it to everyone.
Actually, Srila Guru Maharaja emphasized service to Guru and the Vaishnavas, and by their mercy that knowledge will reveal itself in our heart. We can say that now we know something of the news of the transcendental world. ‘Know’ means ‘feel.’ We can say we have some feeling, and by following the process you must also get those feelings.
I believe that everyone has some feelings, otherwise they cannot come in this line, especially in the Math of Srila Guru Maharaja. The devotees have feelings, but perhaps they cannot always feel them clearly. Feelings must sometimes come to all of you, otherwise it is not possible to remain in this devotional track. But the main thing in the teachings of Srila Guru Maharaja is to serve the Vaishnavas, and to follow your Guru; in this way you will get everything.
Many disciples of Srila Swami Maharaja lived within his Mission. When they came in the line of Sriman Mahaprabhu they were very fortunate no doubt, but later their activities sometimes caused them much trouble. Sometimes they did not know what was what and sometimes they did not receive guidelines directly from their Guru. They had heard some things, but not others, so they lost the proper devotional temperament, and what they were doing began to go in the chamber of karma, but not in the chamber of seva. In that way they thought, “We are satisfied. This is transcendental knowledge!” Easily some of them were cheated by Maya.
One who always thinks: “There exists more than this, and I need that,” and who always tries to search for it and try to get it, such a person will not be cheated.
In the time of Srila Swami Maharaja, everything went on under his influence, and at that time very few could understand what their actual position was. He told: “I am ISKCON; you follow me,” and they tried to follow him but they did not know which part they should follow, this part or that part? As his mission became larger, the devotees’ mood of service was not always steady. It was a great difficulty for many of them. Sometimes they were very sad, sometimes very enthusiastic- many stages are there. The different stages a devotee goes through are given in the Scriptures: utsahamayi, ghanatarala, byurabikalpa, visayasangara, niyama-ksama, tarangarangini.
In the beginning the practitioners feel much enthusiasm and do many types of service, but later their service mood goes flat. Then some wave may come in their mind and by that wave some mood of Suspicion arises. After that comes some connection with the plane of mundane enjoyment, and, side by side with it, a connection with the transcendental world. They then become somewhat confused. Crossing that stage, first nistha, steadiness, and then ruci, taste, comes and they gain more strength. At that stage all hindrances go behind them and they can proceed steadily. These stages of devotion are explained in the Scriptures.
So, we may feel or see outwardly that someone may be doing seva, service, but it is not always actual service. Seva gives more seva, so why is more seva not coming? Seeing the symptoms, we can say that some were not doing actual seva, therefore after the disappearance of Srila Swami Maharaja and Srila Guru Maharaja they underwent some difficulty.
We must be conscious, therefore, about our position and about our service, then we will not be deviated from our position. But even if some deviation does come, if we are sincere we can emerge from that position also.
bhumau skhalita padanam bhumir evavalambanam
tvayi jataparadhanam, tvam eva saranam prabho
When a baby tries to walk, he sometimes falls down on the ground, but by taking help from the ground, again he tries, and after a few days he can walk very easily. Not only that, but after growing up more he will be able to run very fast. He gets everything; but first he must try, otherwise he will not gain anything.
When we live within this body, there is the possibility of deviation everywhere. Deviation will not come to attack us if we do not listen to the demands of our mental and physical bodies-otherwise, deviation is possible for everyone.