A lecture given by HH Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja, 21 March 2010, Durban, South Africa
So someone asked me a question via internet, and the question was that, ‘Well, isn’t it a fact that Bhagavad Gita was spoken by Sanjaya really and that Sanjaya was the one who saw the whole thing. He simply at a distance witnessed the entire conversation between Krsna and Arjuna. So how can we say that these are the words of Krsna and Arjuna? Are these not simply the words of Sanjaya?’ Well, good question I thought; an intelligent person. I mean science thief- not a practising devotee but somebody who thinks quite nice. Well there is an answer in the Bhagavad Gita to the question.
So we’re reading from the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, chapter 18, entitled “The Perfection of Renunciation,” text 75:
etad guhyam aham param
yogam yogesvarat krsnat
saksat kathayatah svayam
Translation: By the mercy of Vyasa, I have heard these most confidential talks directly from the master of all mysticism, Krsna, who was speaking personally to Arjuna.
Faithfully following the spiritual master
So it’s interesting how Sanjaya became so empowered, how he’s saying…he’s praying to Krsna as Yogesvara, the master of mysticism, because it was mystic what was happening, it was beyond any normal limitation. He was directly hearing what Krsna and Arjuna were discussing although he was at a great distance and he was able to inform Dhrtarastra what was going on, on the battlefield. So, vyasa-prasadac chrutavan, it was by the mercy of Vyasa because he had satisfied him, he had completely dedicated his life in service to his spiritual master and in that way he became extremely powerful.
So there are many other examples, examples of those who simply by faithfully following their spiritual master were able to- although they were not learned- were able to speak very complete knowledge of Vedic scripture and explain the conclusions of the Vedic scripture very expertly. Srila Gaurakisora das Babaji is one of the examples, as one who could not read or write. And yet, although he in that way was not able to study the scriptures at length, others would read the verses and he would explain the meaning of these verses. And in that way, he had fully understood the depth by being a faithful servant of his spiritual master.
Taking shelter of the instructions
And even, one can be very learned, one can be very learned in philosophy, one can intellectually explain it very expertly but within one’s heart one is not settled down, one is not peaceful. balavan indriya-gramo vidvamsam api karsati, the senses are so strong that even one who is learned is weak, he is really struggling also. So therefore only if one who is taking shelter of the instructions of the spiritual master then these instructions begin to flourish within one’s heart and then one is actually protected, then this knowledge becomes full of fruits. Just as it is said,
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukham kartum avyayam
In the 9th chapter it is said that this transcendental knowledge must be assimilated through realisation. It must be realised, it must be put into practice. It comes from following, then one can actually experience this knowledge. That is Krsna consciousness. So somehow or other we must not only follow the instructions of the spiritual master, but we must look also for his shelter, we must look for his direction. We cannot just expect that it will be always simply brought to us. We ourselves, when in doubt, we must immediately turn to our spiritual master for guidance. Just like in the example of Sri Caitanya Himself, it is described that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was chanting the holy name. And one day He came before His spiritual master and said, “What kind of mantra have you given Me? This chanting has made me mad!” The spiritual master began to jump in the air in great pleasure and said, “Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! You are very fortunate! You are very fortunate! This is very rare, very rare. This is actually the purpose of this chanting, that it will make you mad.” So the point was that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as a disciple, was taking shelter of the spiritual master and He was asking for direction; He was not waiting for the direction to come but He was asking.
Now to balance this part of the presentation, you cannot also just constantly ask with every step on the way. That would be a disservice to the spiritual master. And we kind of live in the information age and it sometimes looks like that- another e-mail on top of the unanswered e-mail and a third e-mail has just arrived! And they’re piling up and all are unanswered! What to do…an sms in between or Skype or if the spiritual master dares to venture out on Facebook and they’re waiting for him there as well! I have not yet set foot on Facebook, knowing well what’s waiting for me there! (Laughter)
So yes, we see in the Brhad Bhagavatamrta, we see how Gopa-kumara is taking direction or receiving directions from his spiritual master. And it’s very interesting because Gopa-kumara is not at all in constant communication with his spiritual master, he is not in regular e-mail contact or anything telepathic or anything of a constant guidance from his spiritual master- no, there are sporadic meetings every once in a while. And usually, his spiritual master gives kind of half instructions- half-not even very elaborate or very detailed- half instructions- and Gopa-kumara is trying to figure it out and then the spiritual master has already left and then, “what did that mean?” anyway, he has an idea and more or less tries to implement whatever the spiritual master told him, as good as he understood it. And most of time he gets it a bit wrong- well, maybe that’s a too strong statement- but at least part of the time. And in that way, he somehow or other follows, but what happens is, that by following sincerely, the results actually begin to manifest within him. Although he didn’t fully understand the instruction, but by his surrender to these instructions, somehow or other then from within, it becomes more clear what to do.
Krsna is present in the guru-disciple relationship
It is interesting how it is described in the Brhad Bhagavatamrta and that it’s really not an intellectual process and just about, ‘well, did I fully understand the instruction completely right? And let me clarify a little bit more and exactly how they mean it and if I really have it right from all angles and all perspectives and fully analysed correctly, then I can start following the instructions and then the result maybe there.’ No, it is like that in the material world. If a doctor is not careful about exactly, properly applying the medicine, he may do serious damage. It is like that- it has to be right, just right. But we see that in spiritual relationships, things are different because Krsna is the active agent, Krsna is always there! Krsna enters into the relationship between the spiritual master and his disciple.
It is also stated,
aham ajnana-jam tamah
In Bhagavad Gita, one of the catur sloki is describing jnana-dipena bhasvata, how Krsna from within reveals transcendental knowledge. And Prabhupada, in the purport to that verse clarifies it a little more and he says that, if a disciple receives all the god instructions of his spiritual master and still that disciple is not taking advantage of those instructions for some reason or other, then Krsna from within, Krsna from within will somehow or other make arrangements…or from within out- or a combination of the two! He will make an arrangement that that disciple comes to the understanding. If it’s from without then maybe suddenly a little calamity, which brings everything down to our perspective. So it could be not only from within. But the point is that Krsna makes the arrangement.
Therefore, it is said through Krsna one gets guru and through guru one gets Krsna, and these two are intimately connected. And within the relationship with the spiritual master Krsna is manifest. Therefore one should never take that relationship as casual; one should always see that whatever is transpiring is for our eternal benefit. Like that…
Surrender- a lifetime mission
And one must adjust to the will of the spiritual master- even the unspoken one. Now this is very difficult; I know all about it because after all I’m also a disciple and also a rebel! By nature I’m very rebellious, even taking birth in a rebellious country and it’s known as a rebellious country. It’s a very small country; how could such a small country be independent? It’s a mystery! The only reason is because it’s a country made of rebels! So it’s known for that and I’m even rebellious in that country. So rebel among rebels, I’m definitely…it’s not so easy to adjust to the will of the spiritual master because he is a different person than we are. He has a different nature, he has sometimes a different way of doing things and it can be very difficult to adjust to that. Instead of relying on one’s own intelligence, one’s own arrangements, one’s own plans, one’s own mode of working, to adjust. And someone says, ‘no! Do it like this…’
(Dramatic) Not easy, not easy, not easy at all…But still, somehow or other we try.
So the process of surrender is not just something, (dramatic), ‘and then I surrendered and then flowers rained from the sky and then it was just so wonderful, so blissful and from that day on everything had changed in my life! I was so happy! Every moment to be under the transcendental care of my spiritual master…’ and sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes he’s demanding. Just when you were deeply absorbed in a devotional offering to the smiling picture incarnation of Sri Guru, the real one came in between, (Laughter) in your devotional offering, and asked something practical that was outright difficult, difficult to do! (Dramatic) ‘Was this necessary? I just did such a nice offering!’ So spiritual life is a growing process and surrender is a lifetime mission. And within that lifetime mission, we are realising that we’re falling short. Some never begin the process, (dramatic), ‘oh! Too difficult!’
But we must, we must search out the spiritual master and we must actually take shelter. It’s not that, ‘well, I don’t know…’- what do you mean you don’t know? You don’t know if you want to get out of the material world? ‘Yeah, I don’t know who to choose…’ well, start working on it because life is so short and surrender takes so long. It is so much work, it is so difficult because we are really very rebellious. Even those who are externally very surrendered (folded palms) but internally are just going to do what they want. And somehow or other we are very creative, that within the boundary of the instructions, we find lots of ways to do what we want, you know what I mean…the instruction said, okay don’t go left or right, the instruction said don’t go right, the instruction said don’t go to the back, don’t go to the front…all right, but what if I jump up and just jump over the fence! So there’s always a creative way around an instruction or to fill it in, in such a way that we can still do what we want because somehow or other we want to do exactly what we want. And no matter how far you go, you put the tilak, you put the neck beads, you just promise four regulative principles, sixteen rounds and obedience to the spiritual master and avoiding the ten offences and everything else, still we find loop holes!
This is the business of the mind, that’s what the mind is all about- looking for loop holes, looking for ways to escape! ‘I don’t want to bother him now. No, he has so much on his mind, better I leave him some peace. After all, he’s also a human being…’ No, he is not- not for you! He is a human being but not for the disciple, he’s not at all a human being- no. For the disciple he is saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih, he is as good as God, for the disciple! So, you cannot just say, he’s also a human being, although he may sometimes say, ‘leave me alone, I’m also a human being!’ Sometimes it gets too much; too many flowers, too many people bowing down, too much worship- becoming deityfied! How do you think it is to be a Deity? It’s tough! It’s really tough when you are treated like a Deity! (Dramatic) ‘Stand here, sit like that…’ but it’s not easy. Sometimes I say, I don’t want flowers, I don’t want them, no! No, no flowers, please!
Just because all these flowers, it’s not always comfortable.
The spiritual master knows everything
So, the spiritual master may apparently display human features; he may make mistakes. This mistake issue was discussed with Srila Prabhupada. It was said, “Srila Prabhupada, it appears that sometimes the spiritual master makes mistakes. But how is that possible if he’s perfect?” Prabhupada said, “The spiritual master doesn’t make mistakes.”
“ But it seems that sometimes he does.”
“He doesn’t make mistakes.”
“No but sometimes it seems that he mistakes one person for another.”
“That, that is material, that is material. Even that’s not a mistake, that’s Krsna’s arrangement! But in the spiritual sense, he doesn’t make mistakes. He always gives the perfect answer, he knows the answer to all questions.”
And in that regards, there is the example of the journalist who said to Srila Prabhupada, “I heard that the spiritual master knows the answer to all questions…”
Prabhupada said, “yes…”
“Then how many windows in the Empire state building?” the journalist asked. And Prabhupada said, “how many drops of water in a mirage?” Perfect answer! Perfect answer to an imperfect question! One can think about such an answer and understand, immediately the correct answer. Maybe Prabhupada didn’t say seven thousand three hundred and fifty nine- and a half, counting the base of the window! But no, Prabhupada gave a better answer, an answer pointing towards Krsna!
I am Yours
So, we must take shelter of our spiritual master. That is important. We must take shelter again and again otherwise we have no strength, we have no strength. Without taking shelter we will not be able to succeed in spiritual life, we will struggle. We will not be able to maintain our vows, or we will not be able to take vows without taking shelter. It is like that; it is crucial, it is the cutting edge. If one wants to be on the cutting edge, that’s the only way that it will work. Otherwise Krsna consciousness cannot take us very far and then, then we become a social club (dramatic) ‘and it’s Sunday, again and it’s so nice to be here! And we had such a nice birthday party last week and guess what…we’re going to do it today, yes! There were three birthdays this week and therefore we are so happy, may you never take birth again!’ Okay and you can have your cake and eat it too but, ‘may you never take birth again’, it’s nice to sing the song but how to do it? It’s not so easy never to take birth again. And a slip in between the cup and the lip and before you know, another birth again! Hmmm…
So to never take birth again is more than eating cake! It is really a matter of making a commitment of being brave, being very brave and to go before someone and to say, ‘I am…yours!’ It’s a scary thing to do. Very scary to become someone’s property- completely whatever such person says one must do! That is the nature of this guru-disciple relationship.
Well, it’s a big topic and I’m supposed to be on sick leave but I was getting so bored! There’s nothing that is as boring as being a patient! And if you listen 100% to a doctor it’s very difficult- it’s one thing surrendering to a spiritual master and it’s another thing surrendering to a doctor! But we have to have some good sense in this regards so I don’t want to overdo it. So I’ll be back; I’m here just this week. I was here for a few days to solve some medical issues, that’s why you didn’t see me. Now I’m disappearing to the Gauteng side but I’ll be back next week, hopefully in top shape and building up to Ratha Yatra. So there will be plenty of opportunities to get deeper into these topics. And today it’s somehow or other what came my way. This topic, it was sort of thrown at me and then I listened to a lecture and it was all about guru nistha and in this way somehow or other this was the theme of the day in my day, and therefore I brought it back to you.
The secret of this movement
Let us somehow or other invest in a relationship with our spiritual master because that is the secret of this movement. Even within the entire Gaudiya vaisnava sampradaya, ISKCON stands out for one thing- it’s guru nistha, it’s great conviction. And Srila Prabhupada is the one who stands out for his guru nistha. And that is very much in the centre. If we study the history of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s Gaudiya Matha, they didn’t have a daily guru puja; they had one once a year! That was it! But Srila Prabhupada instituted it daily. So very central, very central in our entire spiritual life and the arrangements that Srila Prabhupada made is the guru-disciple relationship. So it’s interesting as a meditation.
So let me just give you that as a sort of…something to think about- food for thought. I’ll leave it up to you to bounce it around, to fill it in. Everybody knows where he stands. Nobody knows, as well as we do, where we stand. Of course our spiritual master knows better where we stand than we ourselves. Still, we know what we can do and what is lacking in us. That is important. And one last story is, Satsvarupa Maharaja who said to Srila Prabhupada, “Srila Prabhupada I am just really so unqualified, I’m just…I am nothing!” Prabhupada said, “No, you are not nothing, you are something but you are not what you think you are!” In that way the spiritual master will reveal to us who we actually are. And in that way, he will show us our potential, beyond what we could have ever imagined that we could have done. He will make us act beyond anything we could have ever thought that we had in our selves. That is the glory. But one must really give it everything. Not just make it a casual thing- pin-up guru and have a button on your bead bag. No it really goes beyond the bead bag buttons. All right to be continued…
Thank you so much. It’s nice that you all came back after you already had a full program. Let’s get ready…Ratha Yatra is coming! So, I won’t take any questions because I got to stop. But I will be back next week.
Srila Prabhupada ki, Jaya!