Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī told the story of Nārada. Without the help of a transcendental, elevated guru, no one can develop in bhakti. A guru who has not internally served his gurudeva, who is not inspired and strong, and who has no faith cannot help his disciples. Therefore Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī first related the life history of Nārada. Nārada was the son of Brahmā, being born from his throat. In the throat there are words; in this case, transcendental words. Nārada is therefore the manifestation of word. What word? Śabda-brahma. Śabda-brahma is Kṛṣṇa Himself. Nārada has therefore been called bhakti-avatāra, the incarnation of devotion. In a previous life Nārada was born in a low-class [poor] family; his mother used to clean here and there [to support them]. When he was only five years old, the four Kumāras – Sananda, Saṇaka, Sanātana, and Sanat-kumāra – along with many ṛṣis, came to the village where he lived with his mother. He used to serve them with great honour. They would order him, “Oh, bring my loṭā, bring my kaupīna and my kamaṇḍalu. You may come with me when I go to bathe in the river.”
By good fortune, one day Nārada took some remnants of the prasāda left on the leaf plates of those ṛṣis. What was the result?

bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa—tina mahā-bala

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 16.60)

The dust of the lotus feet of devotees, the water that washes their feet, and the remnants of their prasāda – these three are very powerful.

You should have strong faith in this. Even if you are chanting a great deal and reading Bhāgavatam a lot, it will not help you very much. If, however, you receive the remnants of any highclass Vaiṣṇava, you will be greatly benefited. Remnants are of two kinds: the nectar of hari-kathā and the nectar of prasāda. Other powerful substances are the dust of the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇava and the water that has washed his feet. One must serve these with honour. Do not try to forcibly take a Vaiṣṇava’s foot dust, jokingly quarrelling and wrestling with him and throwing him flat on the ground.
Try to be like Nārada. He had become very near and dear to saintly persons. When his mother, who was an attachment for him, quickly died after being bitten by a snake, he left home. In his trance [meditation], he easily saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord advised him, “You should continue hearing, chanting, remembering, and speaking hari-kathā to all. A day will come when death arrives, but you will not die. You will place your feet on the head of death.” This came to pass, and Nārada attained his siddha-deha (spiritual body), which is always present, even when one is within the gross and subtle body. He realized his transcendental form, and in that form he travelled everywhere, sometimes within this world, sometimes to Goloka Vṛndāvana, sometimes to the abode of Nārāyaṇa, and here and there.
Without guru we cannot progress. But that guru should not be like a Kali-yuga guru. We are the property of Kṛṣṇa, so guru should bring us to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. That is guru. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam states that bhakti should not be like the bhakti of Dhruva. There was some defect in him. You know that the exalted devotee Nārada initiated Dhruva. He initiated Prahlāda Mahārāja, and he also initiated Citraketu Mahārāja. But these three disciples were in different categories. Even if the guru wants to give the same thing to all – Goloka Vṛndāvana, service to Kṛṣṇa – if the disciple has no past impressions, that guru cannot give it. He wants to give it, but the disciple cannot take it. Dhruva Mahārāja had no past impressions. Although he performed severe austerities for six months, and although he was ultimately able to live without air and water, he did not have previous impressions from association with high-class devotees. Therefore, Nārada could not give him the purest bhakti.
Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura wanted to give all these things, and that is why Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura began nagara-saṅkīrtana and nāma-haṭṭa. Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja also began in this way, but he could not give his disciples the pure devotion to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted to give. Even Caitanya Mahāprabhu could not give this to Kālā Kṛṣṇadāsa. He was with Kālā Kṛṣṇadāsa in South India, but He could not give him this high-class of devotion. The recipient requires sufficient impressions from this birth and also from previous births. If you neglect to associate with high-class Vaiṣṇavas and neglect to realize all these truths, then gurudeva will not give it. Even though gurudeva wants to give this bhakti, and even though he can do anything, he will not deviate from the process. That is why Nārada could not give it to Dhruva. That is why Dhruva is still in Dhruva-loka and not in Goloka Vṛndāvana.
In the history of Devahūti and Kapiladeva, Kapiladeva told His mother:

satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.25.25)

In the assembly of pure devotees, powerful discussions illuminating My heroic deeds become a rejuvenating tonic for both the ears and the heart. By hearing these narrations, one quickly advances on the path of emancipation from ignorance. First he develops faith (śraddhā) in Me, then rati (the sprout of pure love), and finally he experiences the awakening of prema-bhakti, pure devotional service.
It is also stated in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.54):

‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’—sarva-śāstre kaya
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya

The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee one can attain all success.

If one is in sādhu-saṅga for even a moment, it will not go in vain. But this [association] should be taken with honour and very strong belief. Otherwise there will be no effect. No effect.
Bharata Mahārāja was a very advanced Vaiṣṇava and was just about to attain rati (the stage of bhāva). He had crossed niṣṭhā-bhakti and also the stage of ruci, relish for the holy name and hari-kathā. He had become very renounced and had entered the stage of āsakti. He left his home, wife, children – everything. He came to a very dense forest, and there he lived alone, chanting and remembering. But what happened? He became attached to a deer who was drowning in the river. He took pity on that baby deer. This is called mercy in the mode of goodness. Devotees should be merciful but not attached. Bharata Mahārāja was correct in being merciful, but he became attached, and thus his attachment to Kṛṣṇa diminished. Soon he died and [at the time of death], remembering only that deer, he became a deer. He was most careful in his second birth and also in his third.
Therefore you, also, should be careful about this. Even in a high stage there is a chance of falling down. You may be chanting and remembering, but because you are still full of anarthas you still have no taste (ruci), and there is so much chance of your falling. We should, therefore, always be in elevated association. If Bharata Mahārāja had been with Nārada, he would not have continued in this world for three lives. But he did not have such association. Try, therefore, even at the stage of niṣṭhā or ruci, to always be in the association of advanced devotees.
What is the essence of this story told by Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī to Parīkṣit Mahārāja when he was going to die? Śukadeva said, “You came here, having given up your son and all kinds of attachment, and therefore, I am telling you hari-kathā. You should not be like Bharata. You should not give a moment to other attachments.” At the time of death, Bharata remembered a deer and also became a deer. Similarly, if one has many dogs and is very attached to them, it is certain that he will be a dog in his next life. No one can avoid this. If one has any worldly attachment, he could become a serpent, tiger, deer, horse, and so on. A man may even become a very beautiful lady, although previously he was in a male form, and he will become very lusty. If a lady remembers a male person, she may become like that male, and she will be very lusty. It may be like that. One may also become a donkey, because donkeys are very lusty. One may become a donkey, monkey, dog, and so on. So do not be attached.
From the beginning, try to always chant and remember Kṛṣṇa, but not Kṛṣṇa alone. If you remember only Kṛṣṇa, you may merge into Him like the Māyāvādīs do. We should remember Kṛṣṇa with His devotees. If your gurudeva has given you a particular ideal, try to follow that. He wants to give so many things, and he does give them, but if the disciple has no association, he may not be able to fully understand and follow. Gurudeva gives him everything in the gopāla-mantra and kāma-gāyatrī, but the disciple is not qualified to know what he is being given. If, however, the disciple is always in the association of high-class, exalted Vaiṣṇavas, he will realize all these things.
Such Vaiṣṇavas can make you realize what is in the gopāla-mantra. It was given to Brahmā by Kṛṣṇa Himself. Kāma-gāyatrī was also given to him. By these mantras one can enter Goloka Vṛndāvana. More than remembering Kṛṣṇa, we should remember Yaśodā or gopīs like Rūpa Mañjārī and others; then we can serve Kṛṣṇa in that same way. There are so many things to say on this subject. It is our duty to follow Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, which is why we are called rūpānugas. We say in the Jaya-dhvani, “rūpānuga-guruvarga kī jaya,” but we do not know what rūpānuga is. We should try to know by questioning, “What is rūpānuga? What is rāgānuga? What is rāga? What is śraddhā? What is niṣṭhā? What is ruci? What is āskti, rati, prema, sneha, māna, praṇaya, rāga, and anurāga?” Then we will know about all these stages of bhakti. We may read Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, but if we do not have proper association, we cannot attain anything. Therefore, satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido.
We can learn so many things from Bharata-carita (the life history and character of Bharata Mahārāja). In his third birth, Bharata was very renounced. He became a brāhmaṇa, but at the same time, he seemed totally like a madman, although he was not actually mad. He always remembered Kṛṣṇa and never associated with worldly persons. It is doubtful, however, if he received the kind of bhakti that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to give:

anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau

(Śrī Caitanyacaritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.4).

You are so lucky, more than Bharata Mahārāja and others. You are so fortunate to have come at this time, just after Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. But we are so unfortunate that we do not want to follow the process. We want to take gold, worldly reputation or other things from Vaiṣṇavas, but not their high-class love and affection for Kṛṣṇa.
Bharata Mahārāja never attained this love. He received so much advanced knowledge, but did he receive a drop of love for Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa conjugal? He never even heard about it. He never had the chance. Citraketu Mahārāja was also an elevated Vaiṣṇava, as was Prahlāda Mahārāja. Prahlāda used to see Kṛṣṇa here, there, and everywhere, but did he have any ānugatya (guidance) from the gopīs? Did he have any taste or greed for attaining the mood of the gopīs love? Because he had no association of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His followers, he never had that greed.
Do not neglect or misuse this time, otherwise you will be like butchers – killers of your very self. Always be detached and try to utilize your time properly. In the absence of good association, if you are sincere and pray to Kṛṣṇa, who is so merciful, He will at once arrange everything. You can pray to Nityānanda Prabhu, who is more merciful than anyone, “Oh, please manage this. Give me the association of rasika devotees so that I can hear Śrī Caitanya caritāmṛta and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Be merciful. I depend on You. I am giving my whole heart to You.” If you have very strong belief in Nityānanda, He will surely manage everything.

―Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
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