Just the day after Kṛṣṇa’s janmāṣṭamī we have Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance. Things just can’t get any better for us as far as Lord’s personal appearances go. He came down Himself and then sent His trusted lieutenant to complete the mission.
While their actual appearances are separated by five thousand years, what matters to us is our annual celebrations, and from our perspective the difference is just one day. First Kṛṣṇa, then Prabhupāda.
Śrīla Prabhupāda is like our own Vyāsadeva. We still use words like vyāsapūja and vyāsāsana but in our everyday life those are reserved for Śrīla Prabhupāda. We don’t celebrate Vyāsadeva’s appearance, we celebrate Prabhupāda’s.
Of course we do not equate the two but as far as sacred literature is concerned – we do not recognize any not written by Prabhupāda. He is our sole access point to everything ever taught or written by Śrīla Vyāsadeva.
Vṛndāvana Dasa Ṭhākura was called “Vyāsadeva of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes”, Śrīla Prabhupāda plays the same role for us, except it’s even more comprehensive – he is our Vysādeva for ALL lord’s pastimes and for all Vedic knowledge. We do not read Vedic books not commented and elucidated by Prabhupāda at all. We acknowledge their existence but we also acknowledge our inability to comprehend them on our own, which is an important point.
We generally accept that our guru-sādhu-śāstra rule is stone cast but what we forget is that while guru is eternal, śāstra is not. Śrīla Vyāsadeva recorded Vedic literatures only a few thousand years ago as guru’s memory aid. Śāstra as we understand it now didn’t exist before then, it just wasn’t there.
There was no source of Vedic knowledge independent from one’s guru. Sādhu have always been there, of course, but not to double check guru’s teachings, as we use them in guru-sādhu-śastra principle now.
All Vedic knowledge that we ever need is contained within the words of our guru, there’s really nothing else for us to learn. That s the principle. The reality is somewhat different.
In Kali yuga there’s a clear shortage of qualified instructors. No one single person has the capacity to remember everything his disciple might require, hence the need for external resource, Vedas, or for crowdsourcing the knowledge – sādhus.
Hmm, it’s an interesting thought – sādhus are the original social network and the original crowdsourcing initiative. Whatever you don’t know or not sure of – ask the sādhus, someone will surely help.
Vyāsadeva did it the same way – give an idea to his disciples and let them work on it. It was the original open source project – everyone chips in and everything is free to expand upon by anyone who has the ability. There were no payments, no copyrights, no royalties to be collected, and no secrets. Whatever was developed by the Vedic sages was “uploaded” into the common repository of Vedic knowledge.
Then comes a guru and explains it to his disciples, not having to tax his own brains with all the quotes and references. It’s not that the guru is lazy, it’s just there’s too much information for Kali yuga humans to process and retain.
This doesn’t change the position of the guru, however. It opens up possibilities for misuse and unauthorized access but that is a known downside. Everything in Kali yuga is defective in one way or another, even the noblest of undertakings is open to abuse, we shouldn’t worry about that, we should worry about not abusing the system ourselves.
The knowledge is apparently out there to be used by anyone, we think. Guru draws on it, we can draw on it, too. Guru has Folio, we have Folio, and we can work the keyboard faster, and we are better with the Internet. Who needs guru when all the knowledge is just a click away?
That is an illusion. This public knowledge becomes transcendental and liberating only when we hear it from the guru, otherwise it’s a dead matter without any spiritual potency. It can increase our intelligence and fill our memory but it won’t make any difference to the state of our heart and to the state of our relationships with Kṛṣṇa. Only guru can affect that.
Similarly, the entire universe looks disconnected from the Lord until our eyes are opened by our guru. We can’t see its connection to Kṛṣṇa even if we theoretically understand it. Well, we don’t actually understand it but we imagine we do. This knowledge is not real, it becomes spiritual only when we hear it from our guru, there’s no other way. We can’t see Kṛṣṇa in every atom until guru makes us into genuine paramahaṃsas
We shouldn’t mistake infusing our material bodies with information with genuine spiritual progress. It’s not “what” we know that is important, it’s “how” we know it – if we heard it from guru, we are okay, if we heard it elsewhere, the method was wrong and spiritual results won’t be there.
There’s no substitution for submissive hearing, even if the guru says things we heard millions of times before and can recite in our sleep. That is not the right kind of knowledge.
I mean – what kind of “spiritual knowledge” it is if we think of it as boring? There’s nothing spiritual about it, it’s just a trivial fact that annoys our material senses, it does nothing for the soul.
Recognizing this material reaction in our minds and dismissing it as an unnecessary distraction is one thing and it’s relatively easy. Learning to hear properly is quite another and I don’t really know how to do it successfully.
Ideally, when the guru says, for the umpteenth time, that we are not our bodies but Kṛṣṇa’s eternal servants it should elicit deep spiritual realization of this fact every time we hear it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. Whose fault is it?
Obviously, ours, but after a while we start questioning our guru’s abilities, too. There are people out there who philosophically argue that our gurus have no spiritual powers. Can they be right? Of course they can’t. This whole premise is absurd.
Guru and spiritual power are inseparable, they do not exist without each other. Guru MEANS a person with spiritual power. The critics would retort that ours aren’t gurus but that is impossible, too – everybody is provided with a guru. Guru is a manifestation of Kṛṣṇa, he is sent to every living entity that requires guidance. No one is ever left without a guru, not for a single moment. We always have our guru, especially after coming in touch with ISKCON and Śrīla Prabhupāda.
The only difference is this particular guru’s function. Some give us dīkṣā, some give us śikṣā, some are “eternal”, in a sense that we will always remain connected to them, some are temporary, manifesting themselves just for one particular occasion. We just have to recognize our guru and surrender.
Once the connection is made and we are accepted, we are in Kṛṣṇa’s hands. People might say all kinds of offensive things and our minds can generate all kinds of offensive thoughts, but none of that can affect Kṛṣṇa’s power manifesting through our guru.
You can’t argue with Kṛṣṇa. People might find all kinds of faults in our guru and they might be objectively correct, but this world is not objective, there’s no such thing as objective reality – everything is subjected to Kṛṣṇa. He is the boss and He employs everything He creates in any way He wants. If He wants this particular person act as our guru, it will work despite all kinds of apparent faults.
When Kṛṣna comes to us in the form of a guru He fills our heart with transcendental knowledge. We can’t stop it, we can’t not notice it, we can’t refuse it. This process is completely independent of any material considerations of qualifications. It just works – you can’t argue with Kṛṣṇa.
We can also get bogged down in discussions about “universal gurus” or “zonal ācāryas” but those are non-issues – each person’s guru acts on that person’s heart. That’s all that matters. Other people might not get affected the same way but this has no bearing on our personal relationships with our guru. If it works for us, it works. Other people will get their own guru in due course of time.
That’s another question – do we always have a guru or do we have to wait? There are plenty of examples when devotees had to wait for their guru to come and pick them up. I think it warrants a separate discussion, though. This is enough for today.