Devotee: We are often told regarding the Guru and the sisya (disciple) that if the sisya is not successful in becoming a completely pure devotee in this life, then the Guru will return by taking another birth. But does the Guru personally take another birth?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The relationship must continue. Whether that particular soul who was delegated as the Guru in the previous life will personally come — whether he will again be sent or not — there is no guarantee, but in any case the disciple will maintain his awareness of that higher connection. He will recognise it just as it was in former stages, although it may be in a different form. It will not be unknown to him. And he will also perceive that «I am not unknown to my master.» But the Guru’s external form may not be similar.
Suppose a disciple takes his next birth in a particular country or a particular sect. The Guru may also appear in a particular country or a particular sect, but that the disciple will again come exactly in the same position as before — that may not be. And that the Guru will also come as he did previously, in that fixed position — that also may not be. But they will be able to recognise one another. The Guru will know about the disciple’s previous life, and the disciple will also think, «He knows everything about me.» With such broadness of vision, we are to look at our Guru Maharaj. So Guru-tattva means it is saksad Dharitvena: not only the person, but the person plus something more. And that arrangement is made by the Lord or His svarup-sakti. But whatever the external circumstance, there will be no disturbance regarding the path for the disciple.
Devotee: I don’t know if this is correct, but I have heard it said that if the disciple is not spiritually successful, then the Guru may not return back to Godhead but may remain in this brahmanda (universe). He may not return to Krishna until the disciple can also go.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: If that is the case, then no Guru can ever return to Krishna at any time because the continuation of the disciples will go on, so he will have no final result at any time in his life. But we cannot think that it is so. Sometimes he may be deputed himself, or others also may be deputed in that case. But the inner instruction and inner feeling and paraphernalia will be such that in any case the disciples will have no trouble. The officer may change, but the function will go on smoothly. So, the Guru may return — the Nam-guru, mantra-guru, sannyas-guru — they are all Gurus, but we must recognise something similar in them, and hence we are given the statement about the ontological aspect of Guru saksad Dharitvena samasta: «I Myself appear as the Guru, who is simultaneously and inconceivably one with and different from Myself.»
Krishna says Acharyam Mam vijaniyan: «You should look there for Me. I am there. I am your Guru. With My different types of sakti, by the jivas’ recruitment or by any other way, it is My function to take you up to a different place. In every case, I am there. I am there in My madhura-rasa sakti, sakhya-rasa sakti, vatsalya-rasa sakti, or dasya-rasa sakti, and in a general way also.» Sometimes, one may be recruited by the Ramanuja sampradaya and then be converted to join the Krishna sampradaya, the Gaudiya sampradaya. That is also possible. We are to remember the eternal link.
Devotee: So, if someone says that the Guru himself will personally come back, that is a mundane conception, a wrong conception?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes. The main thread is there, but it will not always appear in the same form. Although to the beginners one may say that «he will come back», ultimately we find that a disciple may even be transferred into another section and then another section so that he may gradually reach his destination. According to the unfolding of his inner necessity, the departmental change may occur. And he will always perceive his own Guru in newer and newer ways. At first sight, he perceived his Guru to be of one type. Then again with progress, he will see the same Guru in another way, and thereafter another new characteristic will be found in his Gurudev. The disciple will feel, «I could not detect so much in my Guru in the beginning. I saw him in one particular way, but now I find that he is something more, and then he is still more.» In this way, there is divine unfoldment.
In this world, there is unfoldment, and in the higher domain also there is unfoldment. So aves, the Guru is something like saktyaves. There is the ‘chance contingency’ saktyaves who is deputed according to a particular time, place, or circumstance, and there is also the permanent saktyaves, but in all cases, according to the necessity of the situation and by the divine dispensation of the Lord, the disciple will be connected, and he won’t feel any distrust; it is the presence within. He will quench the thirst for the full progress of his heart, there will be divine unfoldment within his heart, and again he will begin a new thirst. And that new thirst will be quenched by whom? His Guru. It will be quenched by his Guru, and he won’t have any feeling of unscrupulousness or anything else. As his internal thirst is being satisfied, he will feel, «There is my Gurudev.»
Wherever there is unfoldment — gradual unfoldment and full attention given to that — then we can understand that from the upper side there is Guru. Gurudev is my guide, and as I progress, guidance of different types will be necessary for me. Always new guidance, and my progress will take me into different places, and there a new type of guidance, a new life, will again come. In this way, dynamic life is going on, and the main thread is there: raso vai Sah — the pure rasa, pure ecstasy. And my inner heart will approve, «Yes, I want this. This is my fate. This is my fortune.» Otherwise, if any madhyam-adhikari is appointed as Guru and has so many disciples, and if he is to come back again and again, then he could never enter into nitya-lila. But that cannot be so. In any case, whoever is connected with a genuine Guru will be satisfied because the Lord is present there.
So Acharyam Mam vijaniyan is not in name only; it has a very specific purpose:
acharyam mam vijaniyan navamanyeta karhichit
na martya-buddhyasuyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruh
Krishna says, «Don’t try to limit the Acharya! You may have come up to a high position, but will you then think that you have surpassed that Acharya through whom you received your initial instruction in spiritual life? No, navamanyeta: don’t think that there is less in him, don’t consider him to be of lower position. Navamanyeta: I Myself was there! I was there in your primary teacher, in your ‘college-level’ teacher, and I am there in your ‘post-graduate professor’ also! So, navamanyeta: don’t look at only the outside. I Myself am your guide in different forms. It is I.»
Sarva-deva-mayo Guruh: the Acharya has got more spacious characteristics than that of the ordinary, general Vaisnava. Krishna says, «For you, I am there. And mayanukulena nabhasvateritam: I am backing so many Acharyas. There are so many Acharyas, and I am working through them. The Acharyas are like helmsmen in so many different boats, and I am the favourable wind helping those boats to make progress. So, don’t limit the Acharya — try to see him on the same level as Me.»
Devotee: In his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.33, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad wrote something in connection with the story of Dhruva Maharaj. He said that Dhruva Maharaj was a very powerful devotee and could take his mother back to Godhead, and then he wrote, «If one of my disciples becomes as strong as Dhruva Maharaj, then he can take me back to Godhead.» This statement seems very mysterious.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Dhruva’s mother was his Guru, his vartma-pradarsaka-guru, his first guide, just as Chintamani was in the case of Bilvamangal Thakur. Through Chintamani, that Krishna-function as Acharya came as vartma-pradarsaka, and in a similar way Dhruva was initially inspired by his mother; his first spiritual instruction was from her. Next, he received guidance from Narad, and then by dint of his bhajan he attained the next stage, and then again he went further. But his vartma-pradarsaka-guru was his mother, and yet she was to be apparently left behind.
The vartma-pradarsaka-guru is the one who first gets the kanistha-adhikari bhakta started on the progressive spiritual path. But we have to consider the past lives of Dhruva and his mother. In his past life, Dhruva had made more progress, but then in that life it was arranged by the Lord that his mother would get him started in the proper direction, and thereafter he adopted the path of bhajan. Both of them had previous lives of progress in the proper direction, but sometimes a primary teacher may have a student who is an extraordinary scholar.
In my school days, I remember there was a case we had to read about in history class in connection with the famous statesman Edmund Burke and the taxation laws passed by Parliament at the time of the American Revolutionary War. It happened that his service was so much appreciated that he had the title of ‘lord’ conferred upon him, and to make him a lord, his father and then his grandfather were also awarded the title of ‘lord’. The title of ‘lord’ comes from up to down, but in that case, it went from down to up! The grandson was first given the recognition of lord, and then the father, and then the grandfather. The grandson received the title first by dint of his capacity. So, it may be that because of previous arrangements, a less qualified person may give a push to a more qualified person in the beginning, and in return the more qualified person may later help him. Thus, the Guru will instruct God-consciousness to different people in different places. From different directions one may receive help.
Devotee: And when Srila Narottam Das Thakur says chaksu-dana dila yei janme janme prabhu sei (he who has given me the gift of transcendental vision is my lord birth after birth)?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Whenever there is any difference in the spiritual advice we may receive from different directions, we are to see the common thread. However, the absolute position will warrant a higher consideration than the relative one. Both the absolute and relative considerations must continue, because without that, no progress is possible. Absolute and relative — both considerations must go side by side. But the absolute has the primary position, and the relative, the temporary, shall be evaluated according to what is suitable to the particular time, place, person, and purpose. So, in this, the longest journey of our lives, and for our greatest interest, we are given the truth, the connection of the Absolute, always, and there is unity.
Even in the case of an ordinary Guru of lower type, the sastra has also maintained that link: paroksa-vada vedo ’yam. If a certain standard of self-discipline such as no meat or fish-eating, etc. is demanded of those who are very much conditioned by lower propensities, then they won’t come into the fold, but the policy is that they must come. So, some allowances are given. For a particular type of disciple, there will be a corresponding Guru and a similar sastra, but it is with the hope that they will take up the path of progress. The sastras are so generous in going to the lowest section, and the corresponding Guru will also be there. Similar Guru, similar sastra, and similar sadhu — all are extended to the lowest plane to elevate the conditioned souls by a gradual process.
And the sastra has got in its mind that in this gradual process some provision must be given; otherwise, a great many will give it up. That universal mind is there, and that sort of consciousness is in the minds of the rsis who have prepared those sastras and in the corresponding Gurus as well. The sadhus and sastras are going to the extremity of the sinful area because otherwise there would be no chance for anyone to rise from that level. But generally the disciples, the sadhakas, will take up spiritual practices from their own plane — their own level of realisation or inner evolution. They’ll go up from there, and along the way also they will find the appropriate Guru and sastra.
It is just like this: our sight is within a particular spectrum. We can’t see very intense light or very meagre light either. The same with sound: we can’t hear very high frequency sound or very low. So, we are working in the relative position. But we are told to stick to the absolute thread continually in order to properly understand the whole. Therefore, don’t undermine the Acharya. Although you may be seeing some ordinary characteristics there — eating, sleeping — don’t undermine him! Otherwise, you’ll be the loser. Just as in the Ganges water, we are not to take notice of the stones, the wood, the foam. Ganges water can purify everything. What is it that can purify? Its water aspect? No. There is another aspect, and if that is analysed, ultimately we will see the order of the Lord. It is His order that Ganges water will purify. So, the purifying power comes from His will; His will is backing that. We shall try to find the absolute backing everywhere, and if we can’t sacrifice the relative position, then we’ll have to go to the plane of nirvises (the undifferentiated aspect of the Absolute in which service is absent).
There is a complete system which comprises Krishna and His associates of different types, and we want to have our connection with both Sakti (the potency) and Saktiman (the possessor of potency). We can never sacrifice either of Them, especially Sakti. For example, when Raghunath Das Goswami says, «I do not want Krishna if Radharani is not there; rather, I want Radharani», then who is Radharani? Who is She? She is the one who is full of Krishna to the greatest degree, so Das Goswami says, «I want Radharani.» Krishna is there, and in different relative positions He comes to each particular person as sweet, sweeter, sweetest. In this way, we find such relativity.
Devotee: It is said there are five principles for bhakti — associating with devotees, chanting Hari-nam, hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, worshipping Tulasi, and residing in the holy Dham. In regard to residing in the Dham, is that for the general devotees or just especially fortunate or more advanced devotees?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Generally, it means for madhyam-adhikari devotees, those who can discriminate. Kanistha-adhikaris cannot differentiate between the various positions of different personalities — who is advanced, who is neutral, or who is envious. But, «Religion means proper adjustment.» Our Guru Maharaj used to say this now and then, and that proper adjustment requires sambandha-jnan, knowing what is what. Then, one’s service will come accordingly, and one’s necessity, one’s destination, will be established from that. Sanatan Goswami is the Acharya of sambandha-jnan. «Who am I? Where am I? What am I?» All these questions — «Why am I troubled? What is the real purpose of my life?» — are answered when there is proper adjustment with the Absolute and the relative. Nothing can be sacrificed.
And one thing we must always keep in mind is that we can’t investigate all of the subtle, higher knowledge as a subjective researcher. Rather, according to the degree of our saranagati, our surrender, the Truth will come down to make Himself known to us. We must always remember this; otherwise, some spirit of imitation will be created in us. Knowledge of the higher domain is not under the jurisdiction of the intellect, and to think so is very dangerous. Intellectualism is dangerous. It will cause us to think that we have ‘caught the Infinite’. It will be negligence of the infinite characteristic, the infinite aspect, of the Lord. He is Adhoksaja, beyond the grasp of academic research.
One time, I asked Prabhupad (Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur), «Srila Rupa Goswami gives his explanation of Lord Balaram’s Rasa-lila in one way, and Srila Sanatan Goswami gives his explanation in another way, but both get their instruction from Mahaprabhu, so why is there this difference?» My Guru Maharaj said, «Why has Krishna been called Adhoksaja? Adhoksaja cannot be harmonised within our intellect. It is achintya-bhedabheda, inconceivably and simultaneously one and different. Both explanations may be true simultaneously. It is achintya, inconceivable. The Acharyas have explained that when Baladev is performing Rasa-lila, He is actually conducting Rasa for Krishna in His heart. Externally, Baladev is seen to be participating in Pastimes with the gopis directly, but internally He is making Krishna enjoy that Rasa. Baladev is not the enjoyer Himself.» These are the harmonising instructions of the upper house, and in this way we shall harmonise things.
Devotee: Maharaj, the different animals, insects, and trees in the Dham — how shall we view them?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: They are wholesale chinmaya. They are not under bondage but are posing in different ways. There are different types of service, and they have their fullest satisfaction in their own plane of service. They imbibe the most blissful internal feeling thereby and do not want any other. In their relative position, they are fully satisfied there. In other rasas also, sakhya or vatsalya — ya̐ra yei rasa, sei sarvottama — each person feels, «What I have is the best. I have got the best position, and I do not care to go to any other.» Santa-rasa is also like that. The trees and creepers, the sands, and so many animals and birds are there, but still there is a qualitative difference between them. Uddhava, the highest devotee in Dvaraka, aspires to take birth as a creeper in Vrndavan. So, there are qualitative differences within santa-rasa. In Dvaraka also, there is santa-rasa, but he who has the highest type of sakhya-rasa in Dvaraka aspires after the santa-rasa service in Vrndavan once he has gotten a little peep into the atmosphere of the type of service rendered there. This shows that even the highest thing in a particular place still has its relative position in the absolute consideration. Though the relative position is satisfied there, the absolute always surpasses it; otherwise, the unity, the connection with the whole, would ultimately be dislocated and disorganised.
So, the absolute consideration is possible from any position. Although all servitors are fully satisfied where they are in their own position, they realise the supremacy of Vrndavan. Tatastha-vichar (impartial consideration) is always there, and between the relative and the absolute, the absolute always takes the upper hand. Sarva-dharman parityajya: the absolute or ‘revolutionary’ consideration is firmly established above the relative or ‘constitutional’ one when Sri Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita (18.66), «Just abandon all dharmas, all considerations of social and religious duties — even the ones that I Myself have established in the various scriptures and described here in My previous instructions to you — and just surrender wholeheartedly to Me.»
Everywhere, the absolute consideration prevails. In connection with Guru, Narottam Das Thakur has his Gurudev Lokanath, but still he aspires, «When will the day come when Lokanath will take me by my hand and guide me to Srila Rupa Goswami? When will he surrender me to Srila Rupa Goswami and give me some engagement there in that camp?» In this high type of expression, the absolute consideration is also there underground.