Today is Vyāsa-pūjā. Why is it called Vyāsa-pūjā? Why are we performing the worship (pūjā) of Śrīla Vyāsadeva? It is because if Śrīla Vyāsadeva had not come to this world, we would never be able to become liberated from material bondage in this world. He is an incarnation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Original, Supreme Lord, and Kṛṣṇa sent him to save us.
All living entities in this world have been suffering since the beginning of creation. They have no taste to perform bhajana (devotional service) of Kṛṣṇa, and therefore Kṛṣṇa told Vyāsa, “Go and help them.” Vyāsa is the guru of all. The first guru is Brahmā, then Nārada, then Vyāsa, and then Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and then our entire guru-paramparā. We learn from them that we are not this mortal body; we are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. We are eternal servants of Kṛṣṇa, but we have forgotten this, and therefore we have been suffering from the beginning of creation. Even up until now, we are not liberated from that suffering.
We learn from the spiritual masters in our guru-paramparā that there is no medicine for old age or death; no doctor or scientist can cure us from this. The only cure is chanting the holy name and worshipping Śrī Kṛṣṇa, hearing about His sweet pastimes, and telling others about Him. Only this process can stop the cycle of birth and death. Those who are chanting the holy name and believe in the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa are happy. They will become ever-increasingly happy, and one day they will be liberated and definitely go to the Lord’s own transcendental abode, Goloka Vṛndāvana, and serve Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa there – especially in this line of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. If Vyāsa had not appeared in this world, there would be no chance of liberation and the attainment of kṛṣṇa-prema.
We performed arcanā of our guru-paramparā, to Vyāsa, to Madhvācārya and Rāmānujācārya, to Gaura-Nityānanda Prabhus, and to everyone in disciple succession.
My Gurudeva introduced this procedure for observing Vyāsa-pūjā – pañca-pañcakaṁs (five groups of five worshipful personalities), and then two more were added – upāsya-pañcaka and pañca-tattva – which makes seven*. This was discovered by Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, who found it in Śṛṅgeri-maṭha in South India. He introduced this system of worship, and my Guru Mahārāja used to practice it. Therefore today, on my birthday, I have worshipped all of them.
It is not the duty of the guru to take praṇāmās (offering of obeisances) and dakṣiṇā (donations) from his disciples on his birthday. Rather, it is his duty to worship his gurudeva, guru-paramparā, Vyāsadeva, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and all others in disciplic succession.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had discovered a process of Vyāsa-pūjā worship when he was staying in Puri, which he had collected from the Śaṅkara Sampradāya. Within this ceremony there is worship of guru-pañcaka, kṛṣṇa-pañcaka, vyāsa-pañcaka, ācārya-pañcaka, and pañca-tattva pañcaka.
There are seven pañcakaṁs (groups of five personalities), and the method for worshiping each group have been given. Within vyāsa-pañcaka we find Vyāsadeva and his four disciples – Paila, Vaiśamapāyana, Sumanta, and Jaiminī. In the upāsya-pañcaka there are Kṛṣṇacandrajī, Rādhikājī, Gaurajī, Gadādharajī, and Gurudeva – these five tattvas. In pañca-tattva pañcaka we find Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, Prabhu Nityānanda, Śrī Advaita, Gadādhara and Śrīvāsa. For guru-pañcaka there are five gurus in our lineage, and when Gurujī would do this worship; he would select Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī, and in the center would be Śukadeva Gosvāmī or any of the bhagavat-paramparā gurus coming from Brahmā. In this way, 5 x 7 = 35. My gurudeva worshiped thirty-five personalities on this day.
Why do our ācāryas worship all these gurus? If one only accepts one’s own guru and does not accept the guru-paramparā, he will not make tangible advancement in bhakti. It is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.3):
nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalaṁ
pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayaṁ
muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ
O expert and thoughtful men, relish Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.
Kṛṣṇa-prema is not a thing of this world. It is of Goloka Vṛndāvana. It comes from Kṛṣṇa to Brahmā, from Brahmā to Nārada to Vyāsadeva, and from Vyāsadeva to Śukadeva Gosvāmī. In this way, it comes like a current that is flowing even today.
If this current’s path is blocked at any one point, the flow will not come. Therefore we have to accept all our gurus. If you accept one but not another, that is like accepting the half-hen logic. “I will only accept what my gurudeva has spoken and written. I don’t believe in any other ācārya. I only depend on my gurudeva – on what he has written and on what he has done. I believe in him, not the guru-paramparā.” In this case, what will happen? Everything will be spoiled. There will be no link from Kṛṣṇa to this realm. Such a person will not have the real thing.
For example, in the material world there is a family lineage. Suppose we accept our father, but not our grandfather. Where did our father come from? Similarly, in the realm of bhajana, we have our guru and he is the link. But the link to what? My link is Bhakti Prajnāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and he connects me to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣana Prabhu, Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Śyāmānanda Prabhu, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrīnivasa Ācārya, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, Prabhu Nityānanda, Śrī Advaita, Gadādhara, Śrīvāsādi-gaura-bhakta-vṛnda, Īśvara Purīpāda, Mādhavendra Purīpāda, Lakṣmīpati, Madhvācārya and his disciples, and then Vyāsa, Nārada, Brahmā, and ultimately Kṛṣṇa.
This is how we reach the spiritual realm. Therefore guru, on his birthday, is not eager to have others perform worship to him. The ceremony is not called vyāsa-pūjā if it is performed for one’s own worship. Vyāsa-pūjā means ‘worship of Vyāsadeva and Vyāsadeva’s lineage.’ He who fails to do this has no knowledge of the guru-paramparā, and if he does not know the guru-paramparā he cannot do bhajana. The bhajana of those who do not accept this link is useless.
Ordinary people think, “We can be anywhere and just chant Hare Kṛṣṇa – or any mantra of Kṛṣṇa, like “Śrī Kṛṣṇa śaraṇaṁ mama.” Such persons live independently and think, “There is only my guru; beyond that there is nothing. What is the use of a guru-paramparā?” Such persons may think their bhajana will reach perfection, but it does not.
“Sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ – if one does not follow the four recognized disciplic successions, his mantra and initiation is useless (Padma Purāṇa).” Without sampradāyas and the paramparā, all mantras are useless. Why are they useless? They will be mundane, just as the money from your job is useless in the sense that you can attain only worldly things.
On the other hand, by doing real bhajana you will receive real results. You can get mundane things by business and other means, but you cannot have Kṛṣṇa or supra-mundane kṛṣṇa-prema. Anarthas will not leave you. Rather, they will remain prominent. Our bhajana itself will not remain if we do not come under the paramparā. We will simply quarrel and fight.
What did Śukadeva Gosvāmī, Rūpa-Sanātana, and others like them do? They completely left all worldly things; worldly things meant nothing to them. If we have attachment for these things, we will become antagonistic towards others and bhajana will be very far away. Therefore, real devotees never gave attention to that direction. Rather, they sent those attached people to the paramparā of Sukrācārya, the ācārya of śukra, or semen, from which come birth, death, etc. If you like, you can also go there and remain entangled in these things. No need to come here. Our path of guru-paramparā is completely straight.
“Śrī Vyāsadeva is worshipped properly in the Vaiṣṇava sampradāya. All tridaṇḍī-sannyāsīs should accept the example of the vyāsa-pūjā celebrated by Śrīpāda Janārdana Mahārāja. Nowadays, we see that, in the name of vyāsa-pūjā, so-called gurus everywhere accept puṣpāñjali and arcāñjali offered to their own feet and they hear and accept praise given to them by their own disciples. However, those who only accept puṣpāñjali and arcāñjali offered to their own feet and do not follow Śrī Vyāsa-pūjā-paddhati (which was collected by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda and edited and developed by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura) are not actually performing vyāsa-pūjā. On vyāsa-pūjā day, an ācārya will worship guru, guru-paramparā and upāsya (the object of worship). According to this pūjā-paddhati, on that day one should worship guru-pañcaka, ācārya-pañcaka, vyāsapañcaka, sanakādi-pañcaka, kṛṣṇa-pañcaka, upāsya-pañcaka and pañca-tattva-pañcaka*. It is the supreme duty of Śrī Gauḍīya Sārasvata Vaiṣṇavas to follow the Vyāsa-pūjā-paddhati used by Śrīla Prabhupāda.”
On this occasion, when the disciples of Śrīpāda Janārdana Mahārāja went to him to offer puṣpāñjali at his feet, he instructed them to offer puṣpāñjali first at the feet of their śikṣā-guru, Śrīla Keśava Mahārāja. When, on their guru’s order, all the disciples came to Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja to offer puṣpāñjali, he in turn explained that a disciple should first worship his own guru’s feet and then other gurus. For this he gave examples and proofs from śāstra. Śrīpāda Janārdana Mahārāja could not reject the instruction from his senior godbrother and śikṣāguru. Accordingly, his disciples worshipped their own gurudeva and then offered puṣpāñjali to Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja. Pūjyapāda Janārdana Mahārāja did not forget this event for his whole life. He used to say that he had watched all his godbrothers very closely, but had never seen anyone who was so generous, so learned in siddhānta, and such a fearless speaker of truth as Śrīla Keśava Mahārāja. When he spoke like this, tears would come to his eyes.
“Tridaṇḍī-sannyāsīs should perform śrī gurupūjā [of their own guru] on their appearance days. In conjunction with this guru-pūjā it is also necessary to worship the guru-paramparā, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Yugala and Śacīnandana Śrī Gaurahari and His associates. Vyāsa-pūjā, gurupūjā, ācārya-pūjā and upāsya-pūjā are different names for the same principle (tattva). The word kṛṣṇa-pañcaka does not mean five types of kṛṣṇa-pūjā; rather it is a pūjā whose objects are Kṛṣṇa’s five manifestations (prakāśas or vilāsas).
“Ācārya Śrī Śaṅkara’s vyāsa-pūjā is not a true vyāsa-pūjā; it is only for show. Vyāsa’s sampradāya is the foremost in India; India and the Indians are indebted to him. But at the present time the country’s educated community is not showing Vyāsa proper respect. This is a very painful matter. Therefore, the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti is celebrating śrī vyāsa-pūjā very enthusiastically in different places of India.”
Śrīla Sarasvatī Prabhupāda collected the book Vyāsa-pūjā-paddhati from [Śrī Śaṅkara’s] Śrī Govardhana Maṭha in Purī. Śrīla Guru Mahārāja also collected the same paddhati from Brahma Maṭha in Puṣkara and Śāradā Maṭha of Gomati Dvārakā. He published Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s revised and modified edition in the third issue of the fourth year of Śrī Gauḍīyapatrikā. To this day, all maṭhas of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti, and especially the original maṭha, Śrī Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha in Navadvīpa, celebrate śrī vyāsa-pūjā according to this paddhati.
―Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja (Ācārya Kesarī Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī, His Life and Teachings, 2nd Edition)
Gurudeva used to observe Vyāsa-pūjā according to the book discovered by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda and edited by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. In that book there is an explanation of the seven groups with five personalities in each group (the seven pañcakaṁs), to be worshiped by the ācārya on his birthday. These seven groups are guru-pañcaka, ācārya-pañcaka, kṛṣṇa-pañcaka, sanakādi-pañcaka, vyāsa-pañcaka, pañca-tattva pañcaka and upāsya-pañcaka. We should try to have regard for all ācāryas of the four sampradāyas, the four guru-paramparās: including Rāmanujya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇusvāmī, Nimbāditya and the four Kumāras (Sanaka, Sanātana, Sanat-kumāra and Sanandana). We should have regard for Śrī Pañca-tattva, and especially for Śrī Gaura-Gadādhara, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Gurudeva. Try to follow all the details of this worship.
Today is guru-pūjā. A disciple can observe this day in honour of any ācārya, but it is especially for those following the footsteps of Śrīla Vyāsadeva. It is especially for those who are preaching the glories of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and pure bhakti everywhere. On that guru’s birthday, he performs the pūjā of Śrīla Vyāsadeva, vyāsa-pañcaka, kṛṣṇa-pañcaka, pañca-tattva, ācārya-tattva, guru-paramparā-tattva, and so on. By worship of these seven pañcakaṁs, one worships his entire guru-paramparā from top to bottom. By serving and performing pūjā of Kṛṣṇa, everything is completed – tasmin tuṣṭe jagat tuṣṭa; yet, we will have to give proper respect to all the ācāryas, especially the rūpānuga-ācāryas.
This system is maintained in all the preaching centers and temples of Śrīla Gurudeva in India. For every pañcakaṁ, write each name on a separate piece of paper and assemble as shown in the diagram. It is also necessary to offer bhoga and do ārati to all the individual pañcakaṁs. Bhoga should be offered according to the rules and regulations of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition and thereafter ārati should be performed.
All names are to be written on separate pieces of paper, these are to be attached as flags to small sticks and next to be placed upon half a potato or within a small cup filled with sand, then place upon a clean surface not far distant from Śrīla Gurudeva’s Vyāsāsana all the name flags as shown within the diagrams, next offer ārati and bhoga and perform separate gurupūjā for Śrīla Gurudeva, then devotees may begin the glorification of Śrīla Gurudeva.
*(1) guru-pañcaka: śrī guru, parama-guru, parameṣṭhīguru, parātpara-guru and parama-parātpara-guru;
(2) ācārya-pañcaka: Śrī Śukadeva, Rāmānuja, Madhva, Viṣṇusvāmī and Nimbāditya;
(3) vyāsa-pañcaka: Śrī Vedavyāsa, Paila, Vaiśamapāyana, Jaiminī and Sumanta;
(4) sanakādi-pañcaka: Śrī Sanaka, Sanat-kumāra‚ Sanātana, Sanandana and Viṣvaksena;
(5) kṛṣṇa-pañcaka: Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha;
(6) upāsya-pañcaka: Śrī Rādhā, Kṛṣṇa, Gaura, Gadādhara and śrī gurudeva;
(7) pañca-tattva-pañcaka: Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, Nityānanda, Advaita Ācārya, Gadādhara and Śrīvāsa.