It is my great pleasure and fortune to be able to present this short talk by His Divine Grace Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj in written form.
For the sincere student of the teachings of Krishna consciousness as delivered by the Supreme Lord Himself, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj requires little introduction. Disciple of the great pioneer of the teachings of pure devotional theism in the present age, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad (1874-1937), Srila Sridhar Maharaj was named by his Gurudev as the ‘guardian of devotion’, and his life and teachings — his immense scriptural knowledge, oral and written contributions, and depth of realisation — have touched innumerable hearts of godbrothers and disciples alike.
Following the departure from the world of his beloved godbrother, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad (1896-1977), the great ambassador of Krishna consciousness to the Western world, Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s very presence in the world brought new life, light, and hope to many of Srila Swami Prabhupad’s disciples. Though Srila Sridhar Maharaj himself disappeared from mortal vision in 1988, after having appointed his most beloved disciple Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj as his successor, that presence continues to shine brightly both in the hearts of his disciples, grand-disciples, and followers all over the world, and at his place of bhajan (worship), the beautiful Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math at Nabadwip.
Awakening to the Absolute is an extract from a talk which was delivered in 1982 during the first months of that year when devotees, seeking guidance and nourishment for their spiritual lives amidst turbulent times, were visiting Srila Sridhar Maharaj at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Actually, we had known about this wonderful gem for a long time and had intended to publish it much earlier but were unable to locate the tape recording. During a visit to Norway in 1997, a video film of Srila Sridhar Maharaj was being shown in one devotees’ home, and lo! We were blessed. Subsequently, we were given an audio copy of the same from which the present offering was transcribed.
Previously, two booklets also containing excerpts from Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s talks, entitled Home Comfort and Inner Fulfilment, were published. Although intended as introductions to the spiritual life of devotion and suitable for public distribution, these also contained conceptions of much greater depth and were in fact of great value and much loved by practising devotees all over the world.
Awakening to the Absolute may perhaps be seen as completing this trilogy of booklets. Herein is shown how the Absolute Truth in its fully revealed aspect is Krishna, and therefore Krishna consciousness is the summum bonum of all spiritual search. Taking the basic theme of those previous books — the search innate in every living being for fulfilment which can be finally realised in the human form — the development of this search in a progressively specified form, blessing the soul with greater and greater fulfilment in the life of divine service, is shown.
Though it is certainly true that sincere faith (sraddha) is the first and foremost qualification — or pre-qualification — and necessity for the spiritual aspirant, it is incorrect to assume that spiritual life is somehow haphazard or unscientific. By authentic spiritual practice under expert guidance and with the help of divine grace, the goal is realised by stages; awakenment of the soul is such. The Lord Himself (Bg: 10.32) says, «Of all kinds of wisdom, of all sciences, I am the spiritual science of the self — the knowledge of the soul.»
However, with this science, the results are not, cannot be, verifiable in the empirical sense because here the work — the experiment if you will — is performed not on, or with, any external apparatus, but on and with the experimenter himself. The results, therefore, are necessarily subjectively (in the subject, self) realised. That is why, to the uninitiated, religious experience always seems an impenetrable mystery. Indeed, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna (Bg: 2.69):
«While spiritual awareness is like night for the living beings enchanted by the material phenomena, the self-realised soul remains awake, directly relishing the divine ecstasy of his uninterrupted spiritual intelligence. On the contrary, the wakefulness of materialistic persons addicted to sense enjoyment — infatuated by fleeting mundane fancies devoid of spiritual joy — is night for the self-realised person who is completely indifferent to such pursuits.»
The serious enquirer, if it is his fortune to appreciate this truth, would naturally wish to seek out the living representative of such as advised by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gita to His dear disciple Arjuna:
tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah
«You will be able to attain all this knowledge by satisfying the enlightened spiritual master with prostrate obeisances, relevant enquiry, and sincere service. Great souls who are most expert in scriptural knowledge and endowed with direct realisation of the Supreme Absolute Truth will teach you that divine knowledge.»
Characteristically, in this talk His Divine Grace takes as his basis a verse from scripture and then explains it line by line and word by word, revealing the inner meaning in its beautiful, living form. Here, we have a scientific, clear, and impartial exposition of the development of consciousness from self-realisation — brahma-bhutah prasannatma (Bg: 18.54) — up to the soul’s location in eternal divine service — muktir hitvanyatha rupam svarupena-vyavastitih — the gradual awakening of the soul, in stages, to its acme: a «life of love with Krishna» — hence the book’s title.
In transcribing the text, we have tried to be faithful to the spirit, the mood, and flow of Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s delivery as it was originally given. We have made adjustments only where unavoidably necessary to show the meanings in the text as clearly and accurately as possible, (especially) for the reader unfamiliar with Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s particular spiritually-charged, charming, and poetic manner of speech.
At the end of the book, we have also included some verses on chanting the Holy Name, the yuga-dharma or recommended means for spiritual realisation in the present age. The subject matter of Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s talk is so essential, in fact, that we were surprised that the talk had not been brought out earlier in the original excellent publications explaining the Krishna conception, as produced by Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s disciples in the early 1980’s. But then, there is such a wealth of material available (it has been estimated that the recorded informal discourses over nearly nine years (1979-1988) would fill 80 books!), and of course, it is a great fortune that by that arrangement, our humble self might be given the chance to do this service.
Without further ado then, we happily present His Divine Grace’s talk. May the kind reader forgive us for any mistakes appearing in the present offering despite our every effort to eradicate them.
pramanais tat sad-acharais tad abhyasair nirantaram
bodhayan atmanatmanam bhaktim apy uttamam labhet
«Supreme devotion is attained by gradually increasing perception of one’s intrinsic self through constant self-cultivation following authority, virtuous practices, and practising spiritual life.»