Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, the post graduate study for Gaudiya Vaisnavas, begins with the invocation, vande Gurun: “I offer my respectful obeisances unto the spiritual masters.” Therein, Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami reveals that the fully blossoming spiritual conception comes to embrace a plurality of gurus.
The scriptures in general present a very broad and universal conception of Sri Guru, laying stress on the spiritual substance, the divine current of nectar that flows down to this plane from the highest domain through the inspiration that is found in the heart of a real Vaisnava. To deny divine revelation through another agent in the name of being chaste to one’s Guru can be offensive and even suicidal.
As Guru is the functioning principle of divinity revealing Himself in this world, according to our different stages of realisations, he may appear in different forms. The chastity of a disciple is demonstrated in recognising the divine presence of Sri Guru wherever it is found and bowing his head at the lotus feet of the agent through whom divinity is so kindly revealing Himself.
The true chastity of the Vraja-gopis was shown in their answering the flute-call of Sri Krishna in the dead of night although apparently abandoning their husbands to do so (ya nisa sarva-bhutanam tasyam jagarti samyami). So, while some are sleeping in the bodily conception of Sri Guru, others are awakening to the inner dimension of his divine personality. His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj writes in Sri Guru and His Grace: “We must not identify our Guru with the appearance we perceive with our physical senses. Our inner identification of him will be clarified according to the growth of our vision. When our vision increases and takes shape from material to transcendental, his look will also change accordingly. Otherwise, what we see will be based on a material conception. And to force the material conception onto divinity is a crime, it is ignorance, it is erroneous. We have to free ourselves from the snare of identifying reality with the physical form presented to our senses. By eliminating the external conception, we have to enter into the internal, and that will be all-important to a progressive disciple if we want to go to the inner world of substance.”
In proportion to the depth and intensity of our inner hankering for a connection with divinity, our conception of Guru will expand. In separation from Sri Krishna, the gopis began approaching even the trees and enquiring, “Where is Krishna?” Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur writes, “The reflected form of the lotus feet of Sri Guru in different receptacles constantly reveals many new matters for our instruction.” For those whose divine eye is awakened, they will find traces of divinity everywhere and in everything.
It is our hope that the readers of this small booklet will approach the contents with an attitude of humble submission and an open heart. And we pray that their attachment to the lotus feet of Sri Guru may be increased.
Bhakti Sudhir Goswami
Editor’s Note: His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj is affectionately addressed by his disciples as “Srila Prabhupad”, and His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Maharaj is known to his disciples as “Srila Guru Maharaj”. However, since they both refer to their spiritual master, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad, as “Guru Maharaj” and “Prabhupad” throughout the text, in order to avoid ambiguity we have referred to them by their sannyas names.