[During the 2nd Sreemad Bhaagavata Tattva Sameekshaa Satram, held in Naimishaaranyam, near Paralikkad, Thrissur, Poojya Ma Gurupriya was asked to give a talk on 'Guru-bhakti' on 25th December 2003. We present an abridged version of the talk below. -Ed]
kaarunyasindho patitam bhavaabdhau |
(Vivekachoodamani - 35)
Before I start, I prostrate at the Holy Lotus Feet of Sri Gurudev and seek his blessings. May I speak whatever he wants me to speak. I prostrate at Sri Krishna's Holy Feet who is manifest in my Sri Guru. I also offer pranaams to all the devotees who have assembled here in the name of Bhaagavatam and Bhakti. It is a wonderful sight to see so many of you here, listening attentively to the stories of Sri Krishna.
Some months back, our Vijaykumarji, who is also the general secretary of Sreemad Bhaagavata Tattva Sameeksha Satram, asked me in front of Poojya Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha Maharaj ji, my Guru, whether I would talk at this holy assembly. Why he felt like that, I didn't understand, because, neither I am a speaker, nor do I know Malayalam. But Poojya Swamiji also felt that I should.
It is a fact that in my spiritual life I have been greatly influenced by Sreemad Bhaagavatam. Long back, Poojya Swamiji had asked me to read Bhaagavatam in great depth. In fact, he had asked me to do research in Bhaagavatam. I still remember those days when I had taken up the reading of Sreemad Bhaagavatam. With what fondness I was reading, ruminating and contemplating ! Every day, every moment was svaadu svaadu pade pade.
I thought, if at all I have to speak, I will share my thoughts and experiences with you – how Sreemad Bhaagavatam can be brought into the daily life of a spiritual seeker, how this reading and contemplation led me to universal vision. But, when the program sheet was printed, I found that the topic given to me was 'Gurubhakti'. I don't know who chose it!
That moment I thought: “Why in this Bhaagavata Satram the topic of Gurubhakti?” But, soon I understood that there is a great relevance.
Shankaracharya has said that three things are very rare – manushyatvam (a human life), mumukshutvam (quest for liberation) and mahaapurusha-samsrayah (the unfailing refuge of a Mahaapurusha). These three are very rare. If one has human life, one may not have mumukshutva. Even if the two are together, one cannot grow spiritually and reach his goal, unless one is under the loving care of a Wise Teacher, the Guru. These three must be there together, and it happens by the grace of God.
In another verse Shankaracharya has written: When a devotee worships God for many hundreds of lives with devotion and sraddhaa and according to the Vedic prescriptions, God becomes pleased with the devotee and He appears before him as the Sadguru. The Guru becomes the living Lord for the devotee. And then what does the Guru do? He relieves the devotee from this tormenting ocean of worldliness by enlightening him with the knowledge of Truth.
All of us worship God. We go to the temples right from childhood. We worship God with flowers, incense sticks and many other items in the pooja-shrine of our house. We chant shlokas, sing bhajans. But, God doesn't talk to us. This goes on, year after year. But there are a few devotees who at one time feel, “What is this worship I am doing? Have I come closer to God by this? Is this all or is there something more? Is there a further stage for worship? Who will tell me the truth, show me the path?”
Some others enquire, “What is this world like? Who am I? What is my relationship with God? Why am I born in this world? When was this world created? When will I die? And after death, what?”
Still some others think, “This world is transitory. If I am happy today, tomorrow that happiness may not be there. Everything changes. Everything decays and disappears. Beneath all this, is there anything eternal? Is there anything permanent? In the midst of worldly interactions, we get affected. We feel helpless and fearful. Can we ever be free of all these, so that we remain unshaken in any situation of life?”
When a devotee becomes restless due to such thoughts, he eagerly looks for somebody who will reply these questions and guide him. There comes the role of the Sadguru. A Sadguru is well versed in the scriptural truths, sinless and free of desires. A knower of Brahman par excellence, he remains seated in the Truth, and therefore is calm like fire that has consumed its fuel. He is an ocean of mercy that knows no reason, and a friend to all good people who humbly seek refuge at his feet: “Ahetuka-dayaasindhuh bandhur-aanamataam sataam”. (Vivekachoodamani - 33)
The confused, helpless devotee goes to a Sadguru who has transcended this ocean of worldliness, who knows how to go across it. He goes to the Sadguru with humility, does pranaam and with fond yearning he says: “O Prabhu, tell me if there is a way; tell me whether I can cross this worldly ocean. Is there anything eternal? Can you show me the path to it?”
The Guru, who is a karunaasindhu (an ocean of mercy), says with a comforting smile: “Yes. There is. I have trekked this path. Similarly many others also have reached the eternal goal. I can definitely show you the way – Tameva maargam tava nirdishaami.
He says: “Maa bhaishtha – don't be fearful. You can remain unaffected in this world, in the midst of any unfavourable situation, any challenge of life. I will show you the way.”
Long back, my Gurudev, Baba (here is his photo), had also told me like this. Very strangely, at the age of 23, I was gripped with disinterestedness and dispassion towards the world. There was seemingly no reason for it. But, I started feeling that the world is transitory, unreal. I was thinking: “Is there anything permanent or eternal? Who will show me the path? Who will tell me about it?” These feelings made my heart heavy. I was weeping in my mind. Nobody knew about it; but may be God knew. My indweller knew. He brought Baba to my life.
Baba was old. I wrote to him about the torments of my mind and asked him, “Is it necessary to have a Guru in our life? Is deekshaa necessary for a person who wants to pursue the spiritual path?” He wrote, “Yes. Don't you go to a teacher to learn any subject? Then, why there is doubt in the case of the supreme vidyaa? You have to go to a Guru. You have to consider him to be superior to you, listen to him and practise as he directs you.” That is the time he told me, “Don't have fear. The Lord is within you.”
Baba passed away within a few years. But he handed me over to Poojya Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha ji, his own disciple, for my further spiritual growth. Baba and Swamiji became one in my heart. Ever since I am under the guidance of Poojya Swamiji.
When I was a young child, my mother had cultivated a very good habit in me. She used to tell me, “At least before sleeping at night, call God and ask Him to make you worthy in this life.” As a small child, I did not understand what she meant by “becoming worthy”. Later on I understood – it is to grow good values and virtues in life. I used to pray to all the gods and goddesses I knew. I used to do a pranaam in my mind. Whenever I missed any god or goddess, I used to feel frightened thinking that I would incur the displeasure of that deity.
But after I grew up, I began to think, “Why! God is one! Why should I have to remember so many names and forms?” So, I started concentrating on a pair of Holy Feet. I did not know then that those Feet would become the Lotus Feet of my Sri Guru.
When I had the great fortune of having a Guru in my life, I understood what this Guru-sishya relationship is – its supreme position. Then, when I got the great fortune of staying in his close association, I understood what Guru-bhakti means, what surrender means. I understood that Guru is one on whom you can rely most. He is the one who knows what is the best and most auspicious for you. He is the supreme well-wisher. He gives you fearlessness. Parents cannot give fearlessness. Relatives cannot give fearlessness. Your teachers, friends, nobody in this world can give fearlessness as Guru gives.
Guru always wants the disciple to grow and progress towards the goal of supreme felicity. With his looks, words and thoughts he helps the disciple grow in purity and expansion. He makes the disciple sublimate his ego. And he makes the disciple feel owned completely. That is what I felt.
We go to temples and worship. But we do not know what is the place of Guru in our life. The Guru can transform the disciple if the Guru-bhakti is supreme.
What does Guru-bhakti mean? Is it worshipping the Guru with flowers and garlands or items of offering? Guru-bhakti means following whatever the Guru says and advises – following them in life without any resistance, without any question.
A good disciple allows the Guru to mould him in any manner he likes. He has supreme reliance on his Guru: “My Guru knows what is best for me. So, I will follow his instructions unquestioningly.” If he fails to do that, he will ask his Guru, opening his mind completely: “These are my impurities, these are my difficulties. That is why I was not able to follow your instructions. Please tell me how can I remove these impurities from my mind, how can I become pure, how can I become completely surrendered.” That too the Guru will advise.
Pure bhakti does not have any expectation. When Guru-bhakti becomes pure, one does not want anything from the Guru. He is only happy to be a servant at the Feet of the Guru. He serves him, respects him and loves him. And by that alone, he becomes happy, blissful. The Guru takes him to that Universal dimension attaining which he feels there is nothing more to attain. He feels: “nirantar-aananda-rasena-trptah” – fulfilled with the relentless aananda-rasa.
Actually, the Guru's role is to make the disciple one like himself.
Dear listeners, I told you that I have been thinking why this topic was chosen and what relevance it has in the Bhaagavata Satram. All of us have assembled here to listen to Bhaagavatam for 12 days. These 12 days will pass. After some time, another 'saptaaham' (Bhaagavatam discourses for a week) will come. May be we will attend that too. But will we ever ask, “Will my life be spent only in listening?” Should we not ruminate and introspect, “How can my devotion towards the Lord be strengthened, deepened and made wholesome?”
The whole Satrashaala is full of divinity and devotion. When the Naamasankeertana goes on, so many people dance with devotional ecstasy. But all that fades very soon. It doesn't stay. How many of us are wondering as to how to make it stable, how to make the devotional enrichment remain with us forever?
Here comes the role of a Sadguru or a Knower. Bhaagavatam itself has said, “Go to the Holy men, prostrate before them, serve them with humility, seek their blessings and ask them to guide you.”
So, my dear listeners, the time has come for us to think seriously how to stabilize this devotion and divinity that we are feeling in this Satrashaala. We should go to the Mahatmas, seek their blessings and ask, “I have been reading and listening to Bhaagavatam for so many years. But, I do not know how far I have progressed on the devotional path. Why do I still feel gripped by worldliness? Why have I not been able to acquire the qualities of a devotee?”
We should go to the holy people, fall at their feet and pray, “Maam-uddhara-prabho – O Prabhu! Please take me across. Make me transcend this worldly ocean.”
Then alone the purpose of this listening will be fulfilled. It is at the Guru's feet that we learn. In my years of association with Poojya Swamiji, he has been revealing to me how to remain unaffected by the world, how to find God everywhere. He said: “Unaffectedness is liberation. There is a way to live in this world without getting bound.”
What is this bondage? Bondage of sense enjoyments, bondage from the constrictions of the mind and intelligence. Liberation is from all that. We may have good birth, good education, name, fame, riches and everything. But, we still feel something is to be attained. We suffer from lack of fulfillment. We feel a vacuum. The Guru takes care of the disciple and fills up that vacuum. He fills up that vacuum in a manner that in the midst of all kinds of situations, one feels unshakable like a mountain, one feels that he is taintless. There may be so many things happening around. But one will feel, “I am unshakable, I am not the body, I am the Soul and nothing can affect me”:
(Vivekachoodamani - 499)
We will be taintless like the sky, unshakable like the mountain. We will be like the sun that enlightens everything, like the ocean that has no boundary. Our Guru takes us to that goal, the supreme goal of human life.
So, dear listeners, let us pray that we get somebody in our life who will take us to that goal. Let us pray to God to come in human form and lead us to that goal, lead us to Immortality.
Praaptaa mayaa sreegurave mahaatmane
Namo namaste'stu punar-namo'stu ||
(Vivekachoodamani - 517)
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