Guru, the Bridge Between Us and God

tad viddhi praṇipātena
paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth. – Bhagavad Gita, verse 4.34

A man once went searching the whole world to find a Perfect Guru. The gurus he met were either greedy, deceivers, fools, or they were madmen. As luck would have it, he did find one who fulfilled all his expectations. A friend asked him, “What made you decide that this guru is perfect?” He replied, “Oh, after talking to him, I came to that conclusion.” “And what did he say to you?” his friend asked. “Well, he told me that I was the most perfect disciple in the world!”

Krishna presents three qualities of a sincere disciple and an uncompromising quality of a genuine guru. A disciple should want to know the Truth, she/he should inquire from the guru about it in a submissive mood, and he or she should serve the guru. A guru is one who has seen the Truth; the Absolute Truth: Krishna. Indisputably, Krishna, the Supreme God, wants us to take refuge at the feet of a genuine guru.

The word praṇipātena (submissively) comes before paripraśnena (inquiring). The intellectual class and the ignorant class have many things in common. One of them is they both think they know it all. By collecting material knowledge, the intellectuals think they have access to the deepest truth. These intellectuals engage in discussions to find answers that resonate with their limited and biased understanding. An ignorant person thinks he was born learned, and therefore, he doesn’t think any teacher can teach him anything that he doesn’t know. A qualified disciple is a league apart. He understands that only the one who has seen the truth can show him the light. He knows that he can experience that truth by inquiring in a humble mood and by serving the guru in a way that guru would like the disciple to serve him. Knowledge is only a means to know God theoretically. The actual ability comes not from the knowledge but from the one who gifts this knowledge to us.

Ravana continues to be one of the most knowledgeable people the earth has ever seen. But, all the knowledge and power that he acquired made him internally blind that he could see everything but God. Ravana made the ultimate goal of knowledge his enemy. Krishna says vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedānta-kṛd veda-vid ca aham. “By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” “As Ganga purifies the three worlds it passes through, sincere questions about Krishna’s pastimes and qualities purify the three types of people: those who ask these questions, those who answer them, and those who listen to these conversations.” – Srimad Bhagavatam, verse 10.1.16.

As long as the cup of knowledge, our mind, is filled with hallucinogens of false ideas, speculations, and conceit, the nectar of Truth keeps spilling out, and we remain deprived of it. Krishna wants us to inquire submissively. Submissiveness comes from humility. A humble person doesn’t think that he knows it all. But it’s this humility that makes him eligible to serve. And, to only such a person a guru empowers with the knowledge about the absolute truth. H.H. Radhanath Swami says, only a good follower can be a good leader.

Inquiring about the Truth, the Supreme God, but not making efforts in translating this knowledge into practice is like going to the airport but not boarding the flight. It doesn’t lead us anywhere. Krishna as Paramatma guides those who sincerely search for God. Krishna is Chaitya guru who guides us from within to find a guru who guides from without.

Those who serve the guru sincerely bearing inconveniences as if they are blessings, Krishna gives them the knowledge from within. If we inquire from the guru with a clean consciousness, then we feel inspired to serve him, too.

Srila Prabhupada met his guru, Srila Bhakti Siddhant Saraswati Thakur, only 10 times. But he spent whole of his life in fulfilling the desire of his guru. Both Srila Prabhupada and one of his disciples H.H. Radhanath Swami strongly believe that when a guru instructs a disciple to do a task, he also empowers the disciple to accomplish it. Srila Prabhupada’s intensity to fulfill the desire of his guru of gifting Krishna Consciousness to the world empowered Srila Prabhupada to create ISKCON. Millions of lives have changed and are still changing since the birth of ISKCON.

How I Found My Guru? Here’s a Detailed Account. Well, actually, it’s Only a Summary!

Until September 2012, two contradictory thoughts dominated my mind. One was that there are no qualified gurus so we can become self-realized on our own. The other thought was humbling. It was that I wasn’t fortunate enough to find a guru in this lifetime.

In July 2012, a neighbor started taking me to Shiv Yog’s shivirs. On my first visit, I noticed that  babaji was singing lord Shiva’s and devi’s bhajans, and then he suddenly sang the Hare Krishna mahamantra. I used to like this mantra, so I found the whole thing amusing. While we were driving back home, my neighbor told me that the babaji sang the Hare Krishna mahamantra for me. I wondered how of all the 20000 people he sang it for me? He might have because mind reading is not a big deal for yogis. Later, an acquaintance, who I met at a friend’s place, told me how he had started going to these shivirs, too, and how babaji was fulfilling all his desires. I wondered if this babaji could rid me of my miseries, too. Maybe I should become his disciple. At night, while I was trying to sleep, I began to feel guilty of this thought. I asked myself, is my love for Krishna conditional? How easily I was motivated to become a disciple of a guru who may not be able to lead me to Krishna.

A synchronicity swept the ground beneath my feet next morning. I was still in bed when I opened my Facebook account on my mobile phone. A post titled “How to Find Your Guru?” looked right into my eyes. It was from an astrologer who, later I found out, is a vaishnava. One thing in his post washed away all the confusion that had dusted my mind. And, it was, if your guru can’t take you to the lotus feet of Krishna, then he is not a bonafide guru. The author had quoted verses to substantiate this point.

In September 2012, a random Facebook trip took me to Radhanath Swami’s Facebook page which chaperoned me to www.radhanathswami.com. I set out to reading his articles, and they (the articles) talked to my heart; to my soul. From his website I learned about his book “The Journey Home”. I ordered it in no time. The Journey Home book arrived within 48 hours. And, I spent a weekend journeying to Europe, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and various cities in India including the mystical and mythical lands in Himalayas. For those two days I was engrossed in the tales of Richard Slavin who later evolved into Radhanath Swami. In his autobiography, Radhanath Swami weaves a spellbinding tapestry of his adventures, insights, learning, and difficulties. His story kept me glued to the book. I ignored my weekend chores without any sense of guilt or worry. I believed every word. I absorbed all of it.

I was enjoying every bit of this journey. On some stopgaps I even fancied the possibility of Radhanath Swami formally initiating me into the Hare Krishna mahamantra. While still with him on his journey, I began a personal journey of my own. A journey within his journey: one to his past, the other to my future. Two journeys entwined by devotion to Krishna.

Richard’s was not the first spiritual journey and his won’t be the last. Many stories had resonated with me in the past before I read his. But, something happened which made me feel as if the book I was reading came to me for a purpose; the ultimate purpose of my life. I was reading about Radhanath Swami’s first meeting with Srila Prabhupada and how Srila Prabhupada invited Richard to sit next to him. This is the event which makes Richard learn that his Blue Boy is Lord Krishna and the Hare Krishna mantra that the Ganges river sang to him is actually Krishna’s maha mantra. So fairytale like, isn’t it? This is the first time Richard hears this mantra from a human being’s mouth; in Srila Prabhupada, a pure devotee’s divine voice. While I was reading this account and the Krishna maha mantra included in this text, my heart swelled with unexampled love and emotions. My eyes flooded and the love I was feeling for Krishna began to flow. I didn’t stop myself. I felt as if it’s not Richard but I who was introduced to the mantra by Srila Prabhupada. Why I revered Srila Prabhupada in that moment so much when I had always despised him for ‘organizing the truth’– as J.Krishnamurti would lament– and reducing it to just another sect? A friend had advised me to join ISKCON only recently. Oh, how I reacted! “No, I won’t do that. Never.”

My imagination soared even higher and took me into a future where Radhanath Swami might initiate me into the mantra. I had NEVER felt this way before. The foundation of my faith had been Krishna, and He is my goal. I used to think because Krishna guides me on my journey I didn’t need an agent. No modern guru had won my trust and veneration so much that I would let them draw the roadmap of my life.

In October 2012, I found out through a poster that an ISKCON temple would be built just 2 kilometers away from where I had shifted only 1.5 years ago. My spiritual journey began in the last week of October 2012.

In October 2012, the dirt on the mirror of my heart had begun to come off.  Krishna had made my desire to follow the real path of real love strongest ever! And two years later, on October 11, 2014, Krishna arranged for me to receive the first darshan of my guru. A devotee let me know that maharaj might deliver a discourse on a verse of Srimad Bhagavatam in the Girgaon Chowpatty temple in Mumbai on 11th or 12th of October 2014. So, I, empowered by Krishna grace, decided to make a trip to Bombay in anticipation of meeting H.H. Radhanath Swami maharaj.

Maharaj’s servants don’t allow for personal meetings with maharaj as his schedule is always packed. On the 11th noon while I was taking prasadam at Govinda, I prayed to Krishna to arrange for half a minute meeting with maharaj. I left Govinda around 12.30 noon to take a shower and returned to the temple at 1.30pm. I would have walked two or three steps on the temple Veranda when, to my joy, I saw maharaj coming from the opposite direction. I ran toward him and blurted, “Maharaj we were destined to meet …” He smiled and said something in his soft voice and entered the Laxmi Narayan hall. I thanked Krishna half heartedly. I became greedy for more darshan. I started chanting, praying, and noticing how maharaj’s disciples were offering danvats at the hall door which always remained ajar as if to let devotees glance at maharaj. When they left, I offered my pranaams at the doorstep, too and prayed to him for his attention.

Devotees broke for lunch after sometime, and I noticed them coming out from the other door. Guessing that maharaj would also exit from the same door, I stood near the pillar 90-degree opposite the same door. Maharaj appeared and with him appeared an army of those who wanted to talk to him. My silent prayer was on. In my heart, I kept pleading “Krishna, if he is my guru, please get me some attention from him…some attention, little attention, just a little attention. Please Krishna.”

While talking to other devotees, Maharaj threw his divine glance at me two-three times. My hopes soared high.  Hardly a minute would have passed when maharaj’s servant, whom I was in touch with, assured me that maharaj will take prasadam at Vrindavan Forest so I could wait outside and try my luck.

I marched in the direction of the Vrindavan Forest and began to wait near the showcase. My silent prayer was on. Maharaj and the temple president were coming toward the Vrindavan Forest and my hopes were rising. But, Krishna wants us to pray with even deeper intensity. Nothing less would do! Maharaj saw me standing there but instead of going for prasadam and he went upstairs to his quarter.

My desire to meet maharaj became intense. Krishna made it intense. I tried to chant the mahamantra but the intensity of my desire and Krishna made me chant “Krishna. Krishna. Krishna.”…. I took out my bead bag from my sling purse and began to chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra. I had been chanting this mantra for two years now that I was associated with the devotees.  A few minutes would have passed; few earthly minutes… I looked to my left and at a distance of 10-15 ft, and I saw that maharaj was going in the direction of the Vrindavan Forest’s gate. He was smiling at me. I went to him and said “Maharaj, please take prasadam. I’ll wait for you here.” With his divine smile, he asked me, “Who are you?” “Where have you come from?” At the speed of the tape recorder’s fast forward mode, I said what I could to him about how his book changed my anti-guru and J.Krishnamurtian attitude and put me on the path of bhakti. I told him that I was now sure that he was my guru. I told him Krishna was always my “favorite God” and the Hare Krishna mahamantra had been my “favorite mantra” until I read his book and decided to walk the path that lead to Krishna via him … now Krishna is THE God and the Hare Krishna mahamantra is THE only mantra that could give my soul what it has been yearning for. Very humbly maharaj said “I am grateful to you. I’m honored to serve you” and walked toward the Vrindavan Forest.

My heart was dancing in the transcendental joy of meeting my guru. How merciful Krishna is! How well connected my guru is with Krishna. It seemed like as if my prayers were being relayed to Krishna and from Krishna to the guru instantly. The time zone of the spiritual world and that of the material world seemed to be in agreement in those moments.

Krishna wished to offer me more. He wanted to fill my day with blessings of my guru. A senior disciple of H.H. Radhanath Swami asked me to attend maharaj’s lecture which was scheduled to happen in a few hours in WE School.  She put me in touch with another devotee who was already at the venue.

I was standing at the entrance of the WE School’s conference hall when maharaj entered the hall. He looked at me and smiled.  I thought I was imagining it. But later the other devotee asked me if I had met maharaj before. She said that maharaj looked at me and smiled a few times. My prayer about getting some attention from maharaj was still working! Krishna and guru are so kind!

After the lecture students queued up to get maharaj’s autographs on their copies of The Journey Home, and I joined them too! Maharaj signed my copy of The Journey Home and patiently heard what I had to say to him in that short time. I told him that once he visited me in a dream, but I wasn’t sure if my mind made that up or it was a “real dream.” He smiled and said “Krishna guides us through our dreams, too.”

On the 12th, after hearing maharaj’s wonderful Srimad Bhagavatam lecture and Damodar Ashtakam in his soulful voice, I was all set to return home. But, Krishna hadn’t forgotten my prayer. He had more in store for me. I went to the temple around 2.05 pm and learned that maharaj was leaving Mumbai for his next milestone. Devotees were queuing up to see him off, and I joined them, too. He acknowledged everyone’s love and devotion. I became eager for the last bit of attention: his divine smile. I was blessed accordingly to the intensity of my prayer.

Am I Serving My Guru? Am I Doing What Krishna Wants Each of us Do?

 Krishna fulfilled my desire and brought me at the lotus feet of my guru. But, what am I doing about Krishna’s desire? When will I fulfill it? In this verse, Krishna says serve the guru. Krishna will be pleased with me only when I serve my guru selflessly. To be able to do this, I need to rise above the inconveniences of the body and resistance of my mind. I’ve been praying to Krishna and guru to give me physical, mental, and spiritual strength to serve the mission of bhakti in a way that pleases my guru and all bhakti acharayas. Only then Krishna will become pleased with me. My prayers are not intense. My efforts are meager. But I should keep going … Someday, I’ll be transformed. Someday, I’ll serve my guru and the Hare Krishna movement. Someday, I’ll board the flight…

Please pray for me if you’ve stayed with my story up to this point. Pray that I become a sincere and able disciple of the guru to whose lotus feet Krishna sent me.

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