The guru tattva principle made simple by Srila Prabhupada
Adi 1.35 : PURPORT :
The service of the spiritual master is essential. If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual master’s instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple. If one thinks that he is above consulting anyone else, including a spiritual master, he is at once an offender at the lotus feet of the Lord. Such an offender can never go back to Godhead.
In the above quote Srila Prabhupada tells us that service to the guru is essential and if we don’t have a chance to serve him directly,physically, then we can still serve him by remembering his teachings or instructions. He also give us hints into the spiritual realm by saying there is no difference between the spiritual master and his instructions.
Not just a few, but many people may wonder how some words written on a piece of paper in a book , or a tape recording,can be the same thing as a “living, physical, spiritual master”? Herein lies the main problem facing grossly materialistic people. They cannot understand how a bona fide guru is the same as his words of instructions, just like they similarly cannot understand how Krsna is present in His Holy Names. If we can understand one, then we can understand the other, since both guru, his instructions, and Gods Holy Names are of the same Absolute substance. They both are not on the material plane but are coming from the spiritual strata and filter down to the material plane thru the material energies of false ego, intelligence, and mind to be grasped only by those who WANT to understand them. For those who are unfortunately polluted with too many material desires, this guru tattva principle to them, is like rocket science, or simply put, unobtainable to their intelligence. So they falsely conclude that one must have a “physically living guru”-a concept totally the opposite of what Srila Prabhupada teaches.
Letters : 68-05-28 :In the absolute world there is no distinction as me, or he, and I. Krishna and His representative is the same. Just like Krishna can be present simultaneously in millions of places. Similarly, the Spiritual Master also can be present wherever the disciple wants. A Spiritual Master is the principle, not the body. Just like a television can be seen in thousands of places by the principle of relay monitoring.
This quote above is one of my all time favorite sayings from Srila Prabhupada because he is explaining in clear English, not Hindi, Bengali or Sanskrit, that the guru is not his body, but is a principle. So for the vapuh vadis, or those accustomed to thinking in terms of matter only, they cannot adjust this truth in their minds. It just goes right on by them and wont even try to discuss it with others. I am reminded of an example Prahbupada once gave regarding animal intelligence. He told us that when a cow’s calf dies, the cowherd man will put the dead calf next to the mother and in this way she can “think” this is my calf, will lick its dead body, and in this way give some comfort to itself by feeling my calf is still here. In this way the dairy man gets the cow, who now feels some relief by seeing its dead calf, to let down its milk into the udder and he can then milk her.
Similarly in the same way, materialistic people only feel their “guru” is present when he has a physical body. Otherwise, he is also “dead and gone.” So because of this limited and perverted intelligence they falsely conclude-you need a “physically living guru”. This is the sad state of affairs now plaguing Iskcon , its leaders, and ending with its Sastric Advisory Committee (SAC)
SB 3.31: PURPORT : It is sometimes misunderstood that if one has to associate with persons engaged in devotional service, he will not be able to solve the economic problem. To answer this argument, it is described here that one has to associate with liberated persons not directly, physically, but by understanding, through philosophy and logic, the problems of life.
This is also a very nice purport where Srila Prabhupada explains that for some devotees who need to work at a job, raise a family, etc how will they associate with liberated persons when all their time is occupied with family matters? Prabhupada tells us that first of all association if very important, and that association with liberated persons can be easily had, not directly physically, but thru understanding, philosophy and logic., In other words by hearing the teachings of the liberated persons, one can by this method solve all the problems of his life.
EK 4: There are two conceptions of presence—the physical conception and the vibrational conception. The physical conception is temporary, whereas the vibrational conception is eternal. When we enjoy or relish the vibration of Kṛṣṇa’s teachings in Bhagavad-gītā, or when we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, we should know that by those vibrations He is immediately present. He is absolute, and because of this His vibration is just as important as His physical presence. When we feel separation from Kṛṣṇa or the spiritual master, we should just try to remember their words of instructions, and we will no longer feel that separation. Such association with Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master should be association by vibration, not physical presence. That is real association. We put so much stress on seeing, but when Kṛṣṇa was present on this earth, so many people saw Him and did not realize that He is God; so what is the advantage of seeing? By seeing Kṛṣṇa, we will not understand Him, but by listening carefully to His teachings, we can come to the platform of understanding. We can touch Kṛṣṇa immediately by sound vibration; therefore we should give more stress to the sound vibration of Kṛṣṇa and of the spiritual master—then we’ll feel happy and won’t feel separation.
How many times have we heard these two words-Vani and Vapuh? But how many understand what he is teaching? It seems clear to me and thousands of others, but for some when Prabhupada tells us that we should associate with spiritual persons by vibration and not thru the defective orbs we call our eyes, they just don’t get it.. He says this vibrational association is the real association and not the physical association, which is temporary at best.
I am reminded of another pastime where Srila Prabhupada told us a story about how in Vrndavana Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Maharja was opening a Sesa temple somewhere and almost all of his disciples went there to see the installation ceremony-except for our Srila Prabhupada and maybe one or two others. One would “normally” think that going to some transcendental affair such as calling the Lord of Everything to come into a deity form, accompanied with fire sacrifice and brahmanas chanting mantras would be a good thing, right? Srila Prabhupada told us that Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaj noted the fact that our Prabhupada didnt want to go to that ceremony but preferred to stay and hear his guru maharajas words instead. Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaj noted this fact in Srila Prabhupada and then said-what will they see when they go to install this deity? They will see stone only, better to hear the words of their spiritual master and in that way, eventually they will actually be able to “see”. So real seeing he said,is not thru the eyeballs, but thru the ears.
Letters: 77-03-12 :Personal service to the spiritual master means to follow his instructions. My request is the same for everyone: that they follow strictly the regulative principles and chant at least sixteen rounds daily. And as much time as they are able should be devoted for preaching according to our books. So you and your wife should try to follow this instruction.
If we say we are serving our spiritual master, this means, according to the above instruction that we follow his instructions, beginning with the 4 reg’s and 16 rounds, mongol arotik, etc. And that is just the beginning. We are also expected to hear daily from Srila Prabhupada thru his books. He said 1-2 hours minimum daily was required. So if we are missing Srila Prabhupada, this is how we again “find him”. And this order is for all his disciples and those who want to become his disciples. First, know what he wants us to do, then gradually do it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes…
Letters : 74-08-20 : Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated July 1974 hand delivered. You should understand that when you sat at the fire sacrifice upon your initiation, you made a vow to the Spiritual Master at that time. So, you should not break these vows. You say that you appreciate the association of devotees but how will you withstand the material attraction? If you are not chanting Hare Krishna offenselessly and regularly? Affection for the spiritual master and following the instructions of the Spiritual Master is the same. My instruction is that all of my disciples must attend the mangala arati and chant 16 rounds daily
The whole purpose of chanting Hare Krsna mantra is to revive our original dormant relationship with Krsna and beg for
some humble service. That service can only be given to one who is faithful to his bona fide spiritual master. If we are faithful to Srila Prabhupada then we should have some affection for him and that affection makes following the rules and regulations easier to follow. Everything is based upon love.
Cc. Adi-lila : Adi 7: Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu presented Himself as a fool because prior to accepting the shelter of a spiritual master He could not understand that simply by chanting one can be relieved from all material conditions. But as soon as He became a faithful servant of His spiritual master and followed his instructions, He very easily saw the path of liberation
This above quote is very important because it explains the necessity of accepting a bona fide guru.Without the guidance of a bona fide guru, one is like a ship without a rudder-simply spinning its propeller, but going nowhere. We may chant forever, but if we do not follow the instructions of the bona fide spiritual master, then like it says above about Lord Gaura, we wont be relieved of this material condition. So all the quotes assembled in this article are meant to show us who is the real deal when it comes to spiritual matters. Srila Prabhupada tells us in other places that only one who is either fortunate or well versed in Vedic knowledge can find a bona fide guru. All the rest are meant to flounder and flap hopelessly like a fish upon the shore .
Madhya 24.255 : PURPORT :
Gaurāṅgera bhakta-gaṇe jane jane śakti dhare. The purport of this song is that the devotees of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu are very powerful, and each and every one of them can deliver the whole world. What, then, to speak of Nārada Muni? If one follows the instructions of Nārada Muni, one can be delivered from any amount of sinful reactions. This is the process. One must follow the instructions of a spiritual master; then one will certainly be delivered from all sinful reaction. This is the secret of success. Yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau. If one has unflinching faith in Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, the result is tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ: all the conclusions of revealed scriptures will be open to such a person. A pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa can make the same demands that Nārada Muni is making. He says, “If you follow my instructions, I shall take responsibility for your liberation.” A pure devotee like Nārada can give assurance to any sinful man because by the grace of the Lord such a devotee is empowered to deliver any sinful person if that person follows the principles set forth.
These are the words of a liberated soul-Krsna das Kaviraj, one of the eternal associates of the Lord. One time, I was told,that Prabhupada said if we knew how powerful was this Hare Krsna mantra, we would be afraid to chant it. Similarly, all the bona fide eternal associates of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu are completely capable of liberating the entire universe because they are all very powerful due to being empowered by the Lord Himself. And our Srila Prabhupada is one of such empowered personalities. The Senapati Bhakta ,Saktiavesha avatar of the Lord sent here personally to reclaim all-all that
follow him that is.
Letter -Bombay 22 November, 1974 : Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated September 24th, 1974. I am pleased to hear that you are chanting 16 rounds daily and reading my books regularly and following the four rules. In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop. Krishna Consciousness is not a hackneyed thing but it is something which is our natural and original consciousness. Presently our consciousness is clouded just like a mirror becomes covered with dust So the cleansing process is this chanting and hearing and doing some service and trying to please the Spiritual Master. By this process our consciousness becomes clear and we are able to understand everything.
The above statement very clearly gives us the formula for purification. When we have questions, we read the books and all the answers will be shown to us. I cant count the times this has happened to me and many I know. If we have some devotees living around us, that is well and good because we can ask those who know these things, but if we don’t have access to local devotees, then all our spiritual inquiries can be answered by reading Prabhupadas books. He told us to do this and for those who make a habit of doing it, we know it is totally true.
NOD ch 10
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu also recommended this process of hearing as a means of self realization in the present age of Kali. In this age it is very difficult to follow thoroughly the regulative principles and studies of the Vedas which were formerly recommended. However, if one gives aural reception to the sound vibrated by great devotees and ācāryas, that alone will give him relief from all material contamination. Therefore it is the recommendation of Caitanya Mahāprabhu that one should simply hear from authorities who are actually devotees of the Lord. Hearing from professional men will not help.
This last statement is a summary of all the above—vani over vapuh,sound vibration over physical presence, and service with affection. If we do this, our success is guaranteed.