From a lecture by His Divine Grace
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj
You joined the Krishna consciousness movement in the last chapter of Srila Guru Maharaj’s Pastimes, therefore you did not hear actually three fourths, but what you heard was the last chapter, the final chapter. Before reading other lessons, if you read the final lesson, that can sometimes be very harmful to digest. After reading the first lesson, the second lesson, and the third lesson, then you can read the fourth lesson. But by the time the Western devotees came to Srila Guru Maharaj, he could not wait and therefore he expressed his fourth lesson. For example:
He expressed the explanation of the gayatri-mantram which previously no one had done widely.
I have been with Srila Guru Maharaj for many years and I know his nature. Therefore I queried humbly, «Why are you expressing the gayatri-mantram interpretation? We have not seen this distributed anywhere. The previous Acharyas have not given it. My thought is that it is not necessary to broadcast this. Why are you giving it?»
Srila Guru Maharaj smiled and said, «Firstly, it has come in my heart and I cannot check myself. Secondly, if I do not give it, then I am thinking that nobody will be effective in giving it in the future. In the past it has not been given, and if in the future it will not be given, then I must give what I have now. You may control how it is published, but I must express my heart.» In this way Srila Guru Maharaj gave the explanation of the gayatri-mantram to the world. But that is the last chapter of his manifest Pastimes, and all the devotees know it. Also you will not find that explanation given anywhere previously in any chapter of any of the other Acharyas including Rupa Goswami and Sanatan Goswami. I heard from Srila Guru Maharaj that maybe Jiva Goswami gave some essence of that gayatri explanation but Srila Guru Maharaj had not seen that. Recently I did find it given in Jiva Goswami’s writings, but there he gives only a hint of the meaning.
Srila Guru Maharaj’s conception is very high, and he gave that gayatri explanation in the last chapter of his life. But it is also necessary to know his previous presentation. We can receive that from his book Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam. We must take this scripture into our hearts and then we shall be able to understand the other things. The first stage for us has been given by Srila Guru Maharaj there. Everything is there, including the very highest things, but mainly there is one theme: surrender — saranagati. The first thing is saranagati.
The fully surrendered soul can understand everything, and this is shown in Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam with many examples. If we shall think in that way, and try to proceed in that way, then no problem will come to us. And in his last manifest Pastimes Srila Guru Maharaj gave, amongst other things, his Rg mantram explanation of gayatri.
In the middle stage is Srila Guru Maharaj’s Srimad Bhagavad-gita explanation. In Srimad Bhagavad-gita there are some sections in particular where Srila Guru Maharaj gave high explanations. There are many slokas in Srimad Bhagavad-gita, but some are especially worthy of mention, such as verses 9.30–31, 10.9, and 10.10. One time Srila Guru Maharaj was discussing at length verses such as these with Srila Swami Maharaj and Srila Jajavar Maharaj. At that time Achyutananda Prabhu and Ramanuja Prabhu were there and they heard their Bengali conversation going on very happily, and for hour after hour. Srila Guru Maharaj and Srila Swami Maharaj talked together for maybe two or three hours and then Swami Maharaj returned to his quarters. He was staying in our Math’s blue guesthouse at that time. Then Achyutananda Prabhu asked Srila Swami Maharaj, «Prabhupad, what were you all talking about so happily and for so long? What was that subject matter?»
Srila Swami Maharaj replied, «If you were to hear even the gist of that, you would faint, therefore it is not necessary for you to know!»
Hearing such subject matters Jajavar Maharaj wanted to stop Srila Guru Maharaj from speaking further.
Lastly Sri Ramananda Ray expressed his own high explanation that is not expressively found in the scriptures:
pahilehi raga nayana-bhange bhela
anudina badhala, avadhi na gela
While he was expressing that Bengali poetry, Mahaprabhu interrupted, «Hold your tongue, it is not necessary to express more.» And we also saw that Jajavar Maharaj wanted to hold Srila Guru Maharaj’s tongue: «Maharaj, don’t say any more. You please stop.» This we have seen, and it is part of the last lila of Srila Guru Maharaj.
Srila Guru Maharaj expressed to me, «Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad gave me the property and Nityananda Prabhu ordered me: ‘You must try to give this to others’, therefore lastly I am trying to do so. Also others including Chandi Das, Vidyapati, and Narottam Thakur expressed some high conceptions. Who is able to understand shall understand it in future, but what I have I want to express now.» That was Srila Guru Maharaj’s desire and in that way he gave such high conceptions. But if someone will try to read the fourth lesson without first reading from the beginning the first, second, and third lessons then that will be very hard and that also can be harmful.
When I tried, by the order of Srila Guru Maharaj, to read the Hari-namamrta-vyakarana in order to learn Sanskrit, there was one book, Amara-kosa, the meaning of which I could not understand. Nobody can understand its meaning at first because it is only a book of words — a selection of words. It lists the main names of Visnu, of Indra, and so many main alternative names of others. Everything in heaven has so many names, not just a single name, and Srila Guru Maharaj instructed me, «You must memorise it otherwise you will not be able to write or read Sanskrit as you will not be able to understand its meaning.» To only memorise names without any meanings is very hard for me, but those first lessons are necessary. Yesterday I saw that book and was reminded of this.
Therefore it is necessary to complete the first lesson, the second lesson, and the third lesson, then it is possible to understand the fourth lesson. Srila Guru Maharaj gave those first three lessons in Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam as well as the fourth. If you read this book carefully, you will get everything.
Srila Guru Maharaj has given there the meaning of saranagati, in particular in this following sloka:
bhagavad-bhaktitah sarvam ity utsrjya vidher api
kainkaryam krsna-padaikasrayatvam saranagatih
[«Being governed by the faith that all success is achieved by serving the Supreme Lord, to abandon servitude to even scriptural injunctions and take exclusive refuge in the lotus feet of Sri Krishna in every time, place, and circumstance, is known as saranagati, unconditional surrender.»]
What is saranagati? It is Bhagavad-bhaktitah sarvam: it is not even necessary to serve any other god or demigod; through only the service to Krishna we can get everything. Therefore we must take shelter at the lotus feet of Krishna. Service to Krishna can give us everything and this type of faith is called saranagati. If you can memorise one sloka and put that in your heart, then from this one sloka you will get everything given in any scripture.
I tried before to know in one sentence what is saranagati. We know that saranagati is surrender, but that is not sufficient. Therefore I asked Srila Guru Maharaj. He replied, «Have you not read Prapanna-jivanamrtam?»
I said, «Yes Maharaj, I have, but is the explanation there?» Then he quoted this same sloka, and this is the main thing.
Devotee: I heard that Srila Guru Maharaj explained the difference between saranagati and atma-nivedanam. Please explain to us what that difference is.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: There are six kinds of saranagati. In Prapanna-jivanamrtam this is explained and in each case there are examples and expressions of the feelings of other devotees. If you read this book you can understand. There Srila Guru Maharaj explains the subject very clearly and very nicely.
Devotee: What is the meaning of atma-nivedanam?
Srila Govinda Maharaj: The following verse describes the six kinds of symptoms of saranagati. Atma-niksepa means atma-nivedanam.
anukulyasya sankalpah pratikulya-vivarjanam
raksisyatiti visvaso goptrtve varanam tatha
atma-niksepa karpanye sad-vidha saranagatih
[The six limbs of surrender are:
1) To accept everything favourable for devotion to Krishna.
2) To reject everything unfavourable for devotion to Krishna.
3) To be confident that Krishna will grant His protection.
4) To embrace Krishna’s guardianship.
5) To offer one’s self unto Him.
6) To consider oneself lowly and bereft.]
Devotee: What about nava-vidha bhakti, the nine principle forms of devotion?
Srila Govinda Maharaj: There are nine kinds of devotional practices: sravanam, kirtanam, Visnoh smaranam, pada-sevanam, archanam, vandanam, dasyam, sakhyam, and atma-nivedanam [Hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord, constantly remembering the Lord, serving the Lord’s lotus feet, serving Him as a servant, worshipping Him, offering prayers, serving Him as a friend, and completely offering the Lord one’s very self.] They are also included in saranagati, unconditional self-surrender. But saranagati is the first thing — and saranagati is the last thing. If you want to enter into transcendental knowledge, you must first take shelter of saranagati. This is the first lesson and this is the last lesson.
Everything is covered in this book Prapanna-jivanamrtam, and if you read it minutely you must stand in the plane of dedication. Many examples are given there from the scriptures as well as from the devotees’ lives. It is divided into the six kinds of saranagati, part by part. It is a very valuable and nice book, no doubt, and everything is there including this verse spoken by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:
naham vipro na cha nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro
naham varni na cha grha-patir no vana-stho yatir va
gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah
[«I am not a priest, a king, a merchant, or labourer (brahman, ksatriya, vaisya, or sudra); nor am I a student, a householder, a retired householder, or a mendicant (brahmachari, grhastha, vanaprastha, or sannyasi). I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Sri Krishna, the Lord of the gopis, who is the personification of the fully expanded (eternally self-revealing) nectarean ocean that brims with the totality of divine ecstasy.»]
Devotee: Is it necessary to have gone through Srimad Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya-charitamrta before reading Prapanna-jivanamrtam?
Srila Govinda Maharaj: No, it is not necessary. This is the first book of reading — and this is the last book of reading. Srimad Bhagavad-gita is also no doubt the first book of reading and the last book of reading, but there are many things there mixed in with bhakti.
In Prapanna-jivanamrtam is found only bhakti, and nothing else. But in the Gita is some description about karma, yoga, jnan, and many other things; that is why everybody likes Srimad Bhagavad-gita. The karmis like it, the terrorists like Gita, the yogis like Gita, Mahatma Gandhi liked it, Jawaharlal liked it — everybody likes Bhagavad-gita. The reason is that they each receive something from it to fulfil their own purpose. But in Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam whatever is included is only for the purpose of devotion: the relationship between Krishna and the jiva. It is a very pure devotional book.
Srila Swami Maharaj said to his sister, «This Prapanna-jivanamrtam is a very important and nice book. You have money, so please you spend some money for the printing of this Prapanna-jivanamrtam.» Her name was Bhavini Didi. We called her Pishima or ‘Madan’s Mother’ and it was she who subsequently gave the money for the first printing.
Another of the very high type of slokas there, is the following verse by Sri Kulasekhar:
nastha dharme na vasu-nichaye naiva kamopabhoge
yad yad bhavyam bhavatu bhagavan purva-karmanurupam
etat prarthyam mama bahu-matam janma-janmantare ’pi
tvat padambhoruha-yuga-gata nischala bhaktir astu
[«O Lord, I have no faith in religion, economic development, or sense enjoyment. May all these come to pass as they are ordained according to my previous karma. My earnest prayer is that birth after birth I may have unflinching devotion to Your lotus feet.»]
It is not very difficult to understand what Krishna-bhakti is, but what is necessary is the mood of surrender. If you surrender then you can understand everything. But if you do not fully surrender, then many difficulties will come. There is no difficulty for the surrendered soul.