The Spiritual Master and the Disciple
by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja
One should approach the spiritual Master for general guidance, to get the proper standpoint in life. That is the most important thing we can get from guru. The standpoint we get from our ordinary lives may come from anywhere and everywhere, but that may mislead us and misguide us. So we must be very particular about getting the proper direction. That direction is given in Bhagavad-Gita: tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya.
The Lord has given us this general guidance of where we should try to get the standpoint or measure through which we are to understand. The standard by which we come to measure truth, untruth or anything must come from a real plane, not a vitiated plane, an ordinary plane or vulnerable plane. It must come from that plane which has two qualifications: jnani and tattva darsi, the conception of the thing and also the practical benefit. The proper standard will allow me to measure what is right and what is wrong. Also the qualification of the seeker of truth is given. His attitude must be of this type pranipat, pariprasna and seva. Pranipat means surrender to such knowledge.
The knowledge we are approaching is not an ordinary class of knowledge. It is a subject which we cannot make an object to our subjective self. We must understand it to be a super-subjective thing, which is superior to me. So pranipat means I must surrender to that superior thing. I want Him, He is not an objective thing which I can make an object with myself as subject. This sort of attitude must be there. Pranipat also means that I have finished my interest in the outside world of experience. I have no charm for anything in the world where I have already travelled. I am offering myself exclusively at Your altar and I want to have Your grace. In such a mood we shall approach the higher knowledge.
Then pariprasna, honest inquiry is always allowed, but not with any tendency for discussion or in the way of argument. All efforts should be concentrated in a positive line, leaving aside the state of doubt and suspicion. With all attention we shall try to understand because it is coming from a higher plane with which I am unfamiliar and which is ever new.
Bottle And The Bee
But the most important thing is seva. Not that I am going to get knowledge, that I shall get the help of that plane and use it for the persons living here. Higher knowledge won’t come to serve the interests of the lower plane but I must pledge to serve that plane. With this attitude I shall approach that plane and that knowledge. I shall serve Him and I won’t try to make Him serve me or my lower plane. That idea won’t allow me to enter that domain. Rather, I shall have the fullest tendency that if I get that knowledge I must serve. I must offer myself to be utilized by Him, and I shall not try to utilize it in my way, to satisfy my lower animal purposes.
With seva vritti. I shall seek the plane of real knowledge, to have the standard from there of what is to be understood and to have a proper estimation of the environment we are in. Pranipatena, pariprasnena sevaya – this is Vedic culture. It is always imparted by this submissive process and never by intellectual approach. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada used to give this analogy. The honey is in a bottle and a bee is sitting on the glass and trying to lick the bottle. Some foolish person may say the bee is licking the honey. In the same way the intellect cannot approach spirit. I may think that I have got that by such approach. But is it possible?
A barrier is there, like a glass barrier. So intellectual understanding is not real achievement of the higher knowledge or higher plane. Only through faith, sincerity and dedication can we approach to be a member of that higher plane. Only if we are admitted, if we get the visa, then we can enter that country, the plane of higher, divine living. So the candidate shall approach with these three qualifications: pranipat, praiprasna and seva. Then he can approach the truth which is the higher plane of reality. It is always found in the Gita that we should approach with this sort of attitude of humility, sincerity and dedication.
No Other Way
In Bhagavatam a particular passage is given: sabde pare ca nisnatam brahmany upasamasrayam. In the Veda and Upanishad also we find strotriyum brahma nistham guru evabhigacchet. Guru eva means that we must certainly approach the spiritual master. Abhigacchet means that the approach should not be haphazard or hesitatingly. One should go with a clear and honest, full heart. Our Gurudeva used to say, “You have not come here cutting any return ticket.”
I have seen, I have got full experience of this mortal world. I have nothing to aspire after here. One must have this clear consciousness that there is no other way to live. No one can live in the mortal plane whereas the innate tendency everywhere is to live. There is no means to lie here, but I only want to live, to save myself. So I am running to take real shelter, and this is my earnest desire and utmost necessity. Samitpani means that the necessary materials will be taken by the disciple. He won’t go to trouble his own guru. With his own bed, baggage and everything he requires he will go to the spiritual master, not to show some kindness to him, that I have come to give you some name and fame, etc.
Qualification of Guru
And what will be the position of guru? Srotriyum brahmanistham. Srotriyum means that he will be well-versed in the sruti sastra. This is not ordinary knowledge but revealed truth. Revelation in many shades has been spread throughout the world from the higher plane. Guru must have some spacious, graphic and extensive knowledge about revealed truth. And he should already be practicing the real life. Sabde para ca nisnatam means that one should be well-versed in revealed truth, sabde sastra, or sruti sastra.
Not only the precepts of the revealed scriptures, but one should be in contact with and conversant with the very object of the scriptures. One should approach an experienced person who is established in that plane of consciousness if he wants to get relief and to understand what is the highest benefit in the world and how to attain it. His activities are all with Brahman, not with the material world. Brahman is the plane which can accommodate everything. It is the most fundamental, Vyoma or basis of everything. Guru is always leading his life in relation with that plane and not with any mortal mundane reference. He is always doing everything in connection with that plane. Whatever he does is only in that consciousness. That is brahmanistham.
Tasmad gurur prapadyeta jijnasa sreya uttamam. Everything around me is mortal. It will all vanish, and it is all a source of deception. We are living in the midst of misconception (maya). Whatever conception we have got about the environment is based on misconception of things in the absolute sense. All our conceptions are relative since it is only our provincial selfishness which has been imposed on the environment and we are living under that. Within such circumstances we shall feel the necessity of approaching guru, the guide or preceptor, with the purpose of inquiry (jijnasa). And what is our inquiry? Sreya uttamam. What is the highest good for us? We shall approach the guide with this inquiry.
These things are necessary. We are approaching something real. It is not imaginary only. It must be sought in a real way, and that may be difficult. But we must face that, otherwise we shall go in a wrong way and then we will say, “Oh, there is nothing.” That will not happen if we go according to the real process. Then we must come to have experience of the divinity. Scientists think that the subtle aspect of nature is coming from the gross. But their idea is upside down. We must realize that everything is coming from the higher to the lower, form up to down. It is not fossil fatherism but soul or God fatherism.
The scientists say everything is upward moving, but it is just the reverse. Everything is coming down. In Bhagavad-Gita it is mentioned urdhva mulam adhahsakham. One who knows the real purport of the Vedas is one who can understand that the material conception is upside down. One who can understand this has got some conception of the Vedic knowledge. Matter does not produce soul. It is rather that the soul contains within its negligent portion the conception of matter. This world exists like an eczema or a disease in a wholesome body. This is the Vedantic vicara (understanding). So we must observe everything with this attitude, that everything is coming from up to down. In this way we must approach knowledge with a submissive attitude and then we will understand everything in truth.
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