By Purushottam Nitai Das
Arjuna had never been defeated in any battle. But today standing between the armies of Kaurava and Pandavas he was not even able to hold his famous Gandiva bow with which he had conquered the mightiest of the warriors. He was in total panic, his body was quivering and he said to Krishna that it is better for me to beg and live than fight this war. In fact he was unable to decide what is righteous and unrighteous behavior. He understood that his expertise in archery and his valour is not taking him anywhere but is coming between him and Krishna. So he put aside all his material name, fame and glory and beseeched Krishna to quell all his doubts and rescue him from the precarious situation. Arjuna’s eagerness and most importantly humility delighted Krishna and he immediately accepted Arjuna his disciple. And we all know how Krishna’s glorious words changed Arjuna’s life and those words of wisdom is still guiding millions of souls like us to fight the battle of our lives. It should be noted that as long as Arjuna was presenting his philosophy and was not willing to accept Krishna’s guidance Krishna did not reveal transcendental knowledge to him. If we too want to solve the fundamental problems of our life, want to understand Krishna’s message then we also have to keep aside our material notion and prejudices before seeking spiritual guidance.
Arjuna through his example teaches us what should be our consciousness when we approach a bonafide guru for spiritual guidance. If we glance through the history then we would find that all great spiritual personalities have always carried the mood of humility while seeking shelter of their guru. Their modesty was not artificial but they genuinely felt that they are fool and are in ignorance and they can only be delivered by the mercy of their spiritual master.
Sanatana Goswami was a high ranking minister for Nawab Hussain Shah who was the king of Bengal in the 15th century. He had all the luxuries of life – big palaces to live, unlimited wealth to enjoy, scores of servants to serve. He was also an erudite scholar and was expert in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian language. But when he approached Lord Chaitanya for spiritual knowledge then he fell at Lord’s lotus feet with a straw in his mouth. He reverentially spoke, “I was born in a low family, and my associates are all low-class men. I myself am fallen and am the lowest of men. Indeed, I have passed my whole life fallen in the well of sinful materialism…Actually I do not know how to inquire about the goal of life and the process for obtaining it. Being merciful upon me, please explain all these truths.” Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 20.99, 20.103
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was a great scholar but when he approached his guru Srila Gaur Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj then he too put all his material achievements aside and surrendered to him. Srila Prabhupada would happily admit that all his arguments were intelligently refuted by his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, and he expertly guided him to the lotus feet of Krishna. These great souls teaches us that in front of our guru we should genuinely feel we are worthless, our understanding and our knowledge is not good enough to deliver us from the cycle of birth and death. Our guru may be materially less qualified than us but spiritually they are extremely qualified because they are representing the bonafide acharyas.
We too should approach our guru with the same spirit. Putting aside our material qualification and our conceived ideas we should respectfully seek guidance from the bonafide guru. Since the guru imparts knowledge in the disciplic succession so the knowledge is actually coming from Krishna without any adulteration.
We should never try to present ourselves as a learned scholar in front of our guru. Once two students came to a music teacher to learn guitar. One of the students said, “Sir, I know nothing about music. So I have come to learn from you.” The teacher happily accepted him and said that he will have to pay Rs 500 per month as the fee. The second student said, “Sir, I have good understanding about music and also can play guitar. I just want to fine tune my skills.” The guru said that I will teach you too and you will have to pay Rs 1000 as the fee. The second student was surprised, “I am well versed with the skill then why I have to pay twice as compared to the other student who knows nothing.” The teacher politely said, “It is because, first I will have to train you to unlearn the wrong skills and then I will have to teach you how to play guitar.” We should always approach a guru with an open mind willing to imbibe all his instructions as it is.
A guru knows how to best engage all his disciples so that their consciousness can be purified and they gradually develop genuine love for Krishna. HH Giriraj Swami Maharaj explains that Jagannath Dasa Babaji Maharaj knew what service would best transform a devotees’ heart and so he would engage them accordingly. He says, “When Jagannath Dasa Babaji Maharaj’s disciples would approach him so that they too can live like him, perform nirjana – bhajana (solitary worship) and practice asta – kaliya – lila – smarana (meditating on the Lord Krishna’s eightfold daily pastimes) then Babaji Maharaja would refuse them to instruct them in such esoteric pastimes and instead engage them in cultivating tulasi plants, flowers and vegetables to offer to the Lord.”
Humility and surrender does not mean blindly following any personality and any instructions. In case of any doubts we should immediately seek clarification from our spiritual master or his representative. But we should ask questions not in a challenging mood but should ask respectfully. Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 4.34 tells us, “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”
Our love for our initiating spiritual master is natural but we should never think that our guru is superior to other bonafide gurus. We should never try to belittle other spiritual masters and consider them less qualified. As the bonafide spiritual masters are representing Srila Prabhupada so all are worshipable. In our thoughts, words and actions we should respect all the gurus, if we are not doing so then we are committing a great offence. In fact any disrespect towards the god brothers of our spiritual masters will displease our spiritual master and will prevent us from getting mercy of Krishna.
The Bhagavatam says: dharmam hi saksad-bhagavat-pranitam—the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord. So the Lord is the original spiritual master and the spiritual masters in the disciplic succession are simply repeating the message of the Supreme Lord. So if we want to know Krishna and we want to return back to the kingdom of Krishna to be with Krishna then we should accept a spiritual master, humbly surrender to him and lead our life as per the his instructions and guidance. Our spiritual master is our spiritual father and he knows what is best for us.