I was very inspired by a verse from the first chapter of Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi Lila Text 44. This is the portion of Adi Lila where Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami is explaining the Pancatattva. Pancatattva literally means five truths – the absolute truth Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, svayam bhagavan, the original Personality of Godhead, and his various manifestations. The first of those manifestations is called svayam-prakasa. This detail is a little technical, but it is directly stated in the verse and is relevant to the topic overall. “Svayam-prakasa” means “direct expansion”, or a direct manifestation of the original supreme person. His name is Balarama. Our siddhanta teaches us that Balarama is the direct manifestation, or a direct expansion of Krsna– thus, “svayam-prakasa” or prakasa-tattva. As such Balarama is non-different than Krsna. He is the same as Krsna except His complexion. Krsna’s complexion is syama or blackish, and Balarama’s complexion is white like milk or snow. From Balarama comes the mood of service, which is the essential quality or the constitutional position of all living beings. jivera ‘svarupa’ haya—krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’. “The living entity is an eternal servant of Krsna, the Supreme God.” (Cc. Madhya 20.108) That’s our constitutional position. We derive our mood of service from Balarama who is not different than Krsna, except His mood is to serve Krsna. In text 43 of Cc Adi 1.43 Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami writes “Having offered obeisances unto the Lord and all His associates I shall now explain these six diversities in one.” And the first one he chooses to speak about is the spiritual master. Note that the five truths displayed by the Pancatattva has been increased by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in text 43 by one more category, namely the spiritual master.
The spiritual master of Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was who? Lord Nityananda! We can understand, then, that Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami is referring to his spiritual master Lord Nityananda. Note carefully that Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami is simultaneously referring to the spiritual masters who are direct manifestations or representatives of Lord Nityananda because the service of spiritual master is to represent Him, Lord Nityananda, and is thus an expansion of Lord Nityananda.
Now listen carefully to the next verse (Cc Adi 1.44):
yadyapi amara guru—caitanyera dasa
tathapi janiye ami tanhara prakasa
Tanhara prakasa means “the direct manifestation of the Lord”. Tanhara is a possessive pronoun – “his”. Who is being referred to as a direct manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna? Translation: “Although I know that my spiritual master is a servitor of Sri Caitanya” — Lord Nityananda saw Himself as a servitor of Sri Chaitanya – “I know Him also as a plenary manifestation of the Lord.” Please note carefully that tanhara prakasa has a double meaning. One meaning is referring to Lord Nityananda Himself as a direct manifestation of the Original Person, while the second meaning is explicitly expressed in the purport; Srila Prabhupada refers not only to Lord Nityananada as tanhara prakasa but also to the spiritual master! Why? Because the spiritual master directly represents Lord Nityananda. What is the conclusion? We are being instructed to understand guru as a direct manifestation, tanhara prakasa, of the Supreme Lord.
Purport:–“Every living entity is essentially a servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the spiritual master is also His servant. Still, the spiritual master is a direct manifestation of the Lord.”
Consider for a moment: To do any service, to walk across the room, we must receive the power to do so. To blink our eyelid, we must be empowered. It takes some sanction of the Supreme Lord, some gift of the Supreme Lord, some capacity invested by the Supreme Lord, to do anything we do. And this particular service of representing Lord Nityananda within the role of guru requires His direct empowerment. To function as guru, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has identified this service using the nomenclature tanhara prakasa, a direct manifestation of Lord Krsna.
Continued from Purport:–“With this conviction, a disciple can advance in Krsna consciousness. The spiritual master is nondifferent from Krsna because he is a manifestation of Krsna.”
Lord Nityananda, who is Balarama Himself, the first manifestation or expansion of Krsna, is the original spiritual master and anyone else who is performing that function is serving Lord Nityananda, just assisting Him. Just assisting, being the servant of one who is actually doing that service. Assisting Lord Nityananda in this way is very special. Being engaged as a servant of Krsna is likewise special. We are all servants of Krsna. To be a servant of Krsna, on one hand may sound demeaning – “Oh!! You are just a servant of Krsna?” But to be servant of Krsna is very exalted! To be able to serve Krsna – this is highly exalted!! We must always remember: to be able to serve Krsna in any capacity requires empowerment otherwise we can’t serve Krsna. We require the mercy of a servant of Krsna to be able to serve Krsna. One requires the mercy of Srimati Radharani to serve Krsna, or the mercy of those who are representatives of Radharani, in order to serve. Similarly this understanding of tanhara prakasa as applied to the service of spiritual master must be carefully considered.
Srila Prabhupada continues in his purport to Cc Adi 1.44:
“Every living entity is eternally a servant of Sri Krsna Caitanya; therefore the spiritual master cannot be other than a servant of Lord Caitanya. The spiritual master’s eternal occupation is to expand the service of the Lord by training disciples in a service attitude.”
We have just been taken in a full circle. Although the spiritual master is not Krsna, at the same time he is to be considered a representative of the Lord. As representative of the Lord, the spiritual master represents in a very specific way – as a direct manifestation. That’s heavy! I mean “direct manifestation”? How can one even possibly think of oneself as a direct manifestation of Krsna? How can one think like that? One can only think like that in a humble mood of service, supported by a fully spiritual conception of oneself. To repeat an earlier message: any servant of Krsna is serving Krsna because Krsna empowers their service. Being guru is a merely a type of service to Krsna, that is all. How is one to become His servant? In Adi Purana Krsna says to Arjuna “One who considers himself to be my servant, he is not my servant. One who considers himself to be a servant of my servant, he is my servant.” Being guru is simply a service.
While conducting a Yatra in South India, Mother Urmila happened to already be in Tirupati when we reached the Tirupati ISKCON Temple. She didn’t know that we were going to be there and we didn’t know that she was going to be there. Providence arranged that we were at the same place. She was doing some educational training service, giving seminars on —“How to develop Vaisnava qualities” amongst the temple members of the Tirupati temple. So she requested to join us as we continued on to Chennai. She asked me “Maharaja, is it okay with you?” I said “Sure! That would be wonderful! Please come if you feel comfortable”. She said “Well, I am glad you said that because I don’t like visiting holy dhamas with groups who go in the mood of a tourist. They will go to the same places, but primarily to see and to take pictures. You know that different mood.” I said “Well, you can associate with these devotees and see what their mood is, if it suits you.”
To that she replied “So far my experience has been very nice. While we travel, is there some service for me?” Because she is a devotee she is service minded. I said “Definitely there is some service! You can be an example so that devotees can learn how to respect a senior Vaisnava!” She responded “Oh no!!” [Laughter] I said “No no, consider this as a service; if you are present with us, it will help those attending the Yatra to grow in their KC. Because of their training…” — remember, the purport emphasizes the importance of training disciples to develop a humble service mood — “they will automatically want to serve you. That’s good. Don’t consider this as something meant for you, but you doing a service for them. What is that? They will offer service to you as a senior devotee, in turn they gain spiritual benefit. That’s our life as devotees. I serve you, you serve me.”
Prabhupada’s phrase is “KC is based upon love and trust, give and take.” Sometimes we are in the position where we are serving another prabhu; and if in return some service is offered we may object: “Oh prabhu, you can’t serve me because I am meant to serve you! I can’t accept any service!”, that is missing the point of service altogether. Being on the receiving end of a loving exchange, or an offering of service, also is a service. “Give and take, love and trust.” When we take ourselves out of the center, we experience vaisnava loving exchanges as that which lifts the spirits of the other person. That’s the consciousness of the servant—seeing to the well-being of the other person. Be a well-wisher of the other person with whom we are interacting. Gracefully and gratefully receiving is an essential part of loving exchange. Like Richard asked the very nice question yesterday –“When we offer service to Krsna, it’s a two way thing. What happens on the Krsna’s side?” Nice question. What does Krsna feel when we serve Him? What does Krsna do when we serve Him? Something is going on because it’s a relationship. Our simple understanding or teaching from Bhagavad Gita is (B.G 4.11)
ye yathā māḿ prapadyante
tāḿs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
As we approach Krsna, He reciprocates. When Kamsa wanted to kill Krsna, Krsna’s response was “Oh, you would like that kind of relationship with me? You wish to see me as enemy? Very well, then I will act as your enemy and I’ll kill you.” [Laughter] “You want to be my enemy; I’ll be your enemy. You want to be my friend; I’ll be your friend. You want to be my servant, I’ll accept your service and I’ll also serve you. You want to be my lover; I’ll be your beloved.” He is reciprocating.
Now how does this apply to what we are doing right now, conducting an initiation ceremony? Initiation is a matured stage of approaching the spiritual master, developing a relationship with him, being trained by him, finally being accepted formally through the process of initiation. Today’s event is connected directly to this verse. Krsna is making formal arrangements so that we can be accepted by Him. While there are instruments or representatives of Krsna involved in this event, Krsna is accepting the devotee’s submission! Someone accepts on His behalf, yes. However, Krsna is directly manifesting the entire arrangement, including ‘His direct manifested representative’ or tanhara prakasa. While the submission is the farthest thing possible from impersonalism, at the same time the submission does not stop at the ‘current link’ spiritual master. The connection goes all the way to Krsna.
Prabhupada gives the example of an ambassador. When the ambassador representing some country goes to another country, they are to be received by that other country as if the President himself or the representative of the whole country comes. However, it is not the president coming, it’s the ambassador; nonetheless, he is representing the government. His function is to serve like the Country Personified. As is the custom, some gifts are given to a country’s ambassador. In Vedic culture when some representative of the king visited another’s kingdom, gifts were profusely and generously given. If that representative of the king thinks “Oh great! I have a big pocket over here where many jewels can fit. I have additional big pockets over here for quantities of gold. Thanks a lot!” he is breaking the law. He will be arrested. He is risking his life, because the gifts were given to the person but the gifts are meant for the king. Gifts given to an ambassador belong to the government he is representing, not to the ambassador. Similarly, this position of receiving the submission of a disciple – it is meant for Krsna!
The whole process of spiritual life is one of submission. Submission is diametrically opposed to materialistic life. The entire paradigm or way of life we are brought up in is competition from the get go. Academics—compete! Sports–compete! Social interactions –compete! Dominate, be victorious. A while ago I saw somebody with a T-shirt which said “If you can’t win, don’t play.” And this was a young person, while going by train to see Balaji in Tirupati. [Laughter]
Spiritual life is submission. We are submitting our false ego and with the false ego the whole of everything else illusory which is resting upon false ego – our whole illusory conception whatever we think is mine. “I and mine” are submitted at the feet of the personality of Godhead, through the medium of the spiritual master. Krsna’s arrangement is beautiful! How is that? Because the spiritual master’s position is a direct manifestation of Krsna, so Krsna is accepting the submission, but He does so through…Prabhupada’s term is “the current link”.
Many of the places we went in South India were temples where Sri Vaisnava priests worship the deities. Because I am a sannyasi the local devotees arranged for me to be brought right before the deity so that the priest could perform a small personal puja. Invariably they would ask in their language to the person who with us –“What is his name?” The priest would offer flowers and other articles in the name of the person offering these items to the deity. The local devotee with me would then respond “Romapada Swami.” The priest would then ask “What is his Gotra?” By one standard it is “mlecca.” [Laughter] But by Prabhupada’s krpa, it is now “Acyuta gotra.”
And the pujari didn’t flinch. They did not respond with astonishment “What!??” Being initiated means being accepted as part of Krsna’s family, Acyuta-gotra. Regardless of which family this body appears in at the time of our initial birth, initiation is like becoming “a born-again Krsna!” [Laughter] Initiation is described as a second birth, wherein the mother is the Vedas, and the father is the spiritual master. At that time we are given a spiritual name. Just as when a baby is born, parents give a name. That’s one birth. At the time of initiation there is a second birth, or dvija. At that time a spiritual name is given–Krishna das, or Vishnu das, the servant of Krsna. Something in relation to Krsna or Krsna’s devotee or Krsna’s qualities or Krsna’s associates or Krsna’s pastimes. We become a servant of Krsna or servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna. And the spiritual master is to be respected as Krsna’s representative.
According to Vedic culture, when an unexpected guest comes to your door, what is the etiquette? They are to be treated as if they are Narayana Himself. Isn’t it so? That’s Vedic culture. Because…may it is Narayana! That is the training. Similarly, although the spiritual master isn’t Krsna, the spiritual master is to be respected in that way because of being a direct manifestation of Krsna. Submission to the spiritual master doesn’t go the person any more than the ambassador has many pockets and puts the gifts in his pockets and gets thrown in jail because he absconded with property that belong to the government he represented.
Submission offered to one’s guru immediately is transferred to that guru’s spiritual master, and his spiritual master, and so on. Submission goes like electricity down the length of a copper wire. It goes to the powerhouse, to Krsna, provided the spiritual master is transparent and factually representing and is free from that contamination of thinking “I am the enjoyer of all I survey.” No. Being a spiritual master is a service position.
On Friday evening we discussed the instruction given by Lord Chaitanya to Kurma brahamana, who wanted to leave his material situation his family, his duties, and just travel with Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Chaitanya immediately said “Never speak like this again.” That was his first instruction. Then Lord Chaitanya gave a positive instruction: “You should stay in your position, and as far as possible constantly chant the holy name of Krsna. Repeat to others the messages that you heard.” During their discussion many messages were shared. “Whatever you received, whatever you can remember and recall, speak that to others and in this way become spiritual master wherever you go whoever you see.” That was an instruction also.
This instruction wasn’t only imparted to Kurma brahmana; Lord Chaitanya spoke in this way wherever he traveled. Even people on the street who came and saw His ecstatic mood, they just wanted to be with Him. He then called out “Chant Hari! Hari!!” So they chanted “Hari! Hari!!” And as they were chanting and chanting and chanting in great joy, He embraced them. When Lord Chaitanya embraced them, their whole being erupted in ecstatic devotion. He invested in them love of God and told them same thing “Go and encourage others to chant the holy name in an ecstatic mood.” So they did. And they in turn transformed others, who in a similar way transformed others. This was Lord Caitanya’s method. Likewise, this was Lord Caitanya’s instruction to Kurma brahamana.
We have likewise been instructed by our Founder-acarya to widely disseminate his wonderful teachings, just as Lord Chaitanya taught. Chant the holy name. The assembled devotees who are being initiated made that instruction a very important foundational instruction in their lives and as a result here they are being accepted as disciples.
Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s teaching is that proportionate to the submission the experience of initiation will be different. Krsna is reciprocating. What He is reciprocating with is our submission, our love and our letting go of material consciousness, by instead accepting, receiving, embracing the spiritual position. Initiation is the formalization of that submission, whereas prior to initiation it’s informal. Acceptance becomes formalized at the time of initiation. Acyuta gotra, we become part of Lord Acyuta’s spiritual family. We have duties to our immediate family. They are not abandoned, they don’t become zero or impersonal; but all becomes service unto Acyuta or unto Krsna. That’s the significance of initiation. It’s wonderful.
In Hari Bhakti Vilas, Sanatan Goswami describes in the process of initiation there are two things that happen along with the submission: eradication of sins and the awakening of transcendental knowledge. Both are bestowed by Krsna because Krsna is the source of all knowledge and one who submits unto Krsna through His representatives, the capacity for knowledge awakens within. The soul has its constitutional position — sat, cit and ananda — inherit within. The soul already possesses knowledge, inherit within. In fact love of God is inherit within the soul, but is dormant. By submission unto Krsna and by His acceptance, transcendental knowledge gradually awakens. Likewise, by receiving Krsna’s instructions as delivered to us by the spiritual master, taking these instructions within our hearts as life and soul, including the instruction to accept Krsna – we are accepted by Krsna, and sins are eliminated. The slate is wiped clean. Therefore the recommendation is given: “Don’t commit further sins.” For this reason we take our vows.
The ten offences are to be very carefully guarded against, so that we don’t implicate ourselves further in the entanglement of material existence. Steadfastly continue the process of chanting, trying purposefully, attentively, to avoid the ten offences. This process is so powerful it can carry one all the way to Goloka Vrndaban, with full knowledge of our relationship with Krsna. Krsna’s presence and Krsna’s reciprocation is fully available to us through this very simple activity of chanting, gradually coming to this stage of initiation, acceptance, and beyond.
When you take vows to commit to chant holy name for the rest of your life, implicit is the commitment to overcome the ten offenses. There must be qualitative improvement otherwise how can one continue lifelong? Taste won’t be there; how long can we continue? Our opportunity to realize Krsna as fully as a living entity’s capacity allows requires carefully guarding against these ten offences.