The following is an excerpt from an evening lecture by Śrīla Gaura Govinda Svāmī Mahārāja in Amherst, the U.S.A. on 2 June 1995, published in “In the Association of Pure Devotees”, First Edition 2016 by Tattva Vicara Publications

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda Mahārāja gives the example of the wedding party story, to teach us.

One big zamindar, a landlord, and materially a very opulent person resided in Calcutta city. He had arranged the marriage of his son with a girl in Śāntipura. The bridegroom’s party was going to the bride’s house. This system is not observed in the West, but this is the Vedic system.

The bridegroom’s party, with the very nicely dressed bridegroom, the bridegroom’s father, uncle, aunt, grandfather, and other relatives and friends, was on its way in a big procession. Having arrived at the bank of the Ganges, they had to cross the river. The father called the boatman: “Boatman, bring your boat! We have to go to Śāntipura because our son is going to be married. The whole wedding party has to go. We need a nice big boat that can accommodate about fifty people to take us to Śāntipura. The auspicious time, for tying the hands together of the bride and the bridegroom during the wedding, is 4:00 a.m. We have to reach Śāntipura prior to that time.”

Tying the hands together of the bride and the bridegroom is part of the marriage ceremony, as at that time, the connection is made and the relationship will be established.

“We have to be there before 4:00 a.m. Can you do it?”

“O yes, I can do it.”

“You have to row the boat very quickly so that we will reach our destination, Śāntipura, in sufficient time.”

That boatman said, “Yes, I can do it, but I have to enlist the services of more men, then we can do it.”

“Alright and I will give you more money. I will give you a reward of some extra hundred rupees.”

The boatman happily agreed.

The bridegroom’s party went on the boat. It was evening, and they were all tired. The boatman said, “You all go and sleep! Don’t worry. We’ll take you there and make sure that you reach Śāntipura in time.”

They all lay down and went to sleep inside the boat. The boatman and his crew were rowing, and rowing the whole night, but when the day dawned and the sun was about to rise, they realised that the boat had not moved an inch! They were struck with wonder and quarrelling among themselves.

Hearing that quarrelling, the members of the bridegroom’s party woke up, “O, What happened? O, the boat is still here! It has not moved one inch! What happened? O, boatman! You told us to sleep, so we all slept. You said that we would reach Śāntipura in sufficient time, what happened? The boat has not moved at all, you have cheated us.”

The boatman said, “We have not cheated you. We have been rowing all night. Look, we are all perspiring, and the muscles in our arms are aching. We are not lazy fellows.”

“You may not be lazy fellows, and you may not have been sleeping, but what happened? The boat has not moved one inch!”

One old man in the party said: “Hey mājhī! O, boatman, did you lift the anchor? Look! Look!”

“O, the anchor has not been lifted!”

Then they all saw that the anchor had not been lifted, but was still stuck in the mud. It was a very heavy anchor and they had been rowing all night. “How can the boat move like that? You are a foolish boatman, you don’t even know how to row a boat, and how to take it to its destination!” They chastised him.

He admitted that it was his fault. Then they became very angry because everything was spoiled, and lakhs of rupees were wasted. The marriage could not take place because the auspicious moment was gone. What would the bride’s parents, friends, and relatives be thinking?

This is an allegorical story. The first lesson to be learned here is that if you have developed a very strong attachment towards this material world, with all these material objects of enjoyment, although you are performing sādhana and bhajana, your eternally perfect loving relationship with the Lord cannot be established. The endeavours of rowing the boat and pulling the ropes are compared with sādhana and bhajana.

The anchor resembles your material attachments. You have not lifted the anchor as yet, but you are rowing the boat! Therefore, how can the boat move? How can your boat ferry you across this dreadful ocean of materialistic existence, and go to the other shore, the spiritual world? It is impossible! Material attachments are the anchor and as yet, you have not lifted it. That is the second teaching.

The third teaching is that the foolish boatman – bokā mājhī, (the navigator on the boat) has not lifted the anchor, but he is rowing the boat. This foolish boatman, the foolish navigator resembles the ‘so-called’ guru, who is not a real guru. He is a guru in name only and surrounded by so many anarthas, a conditioned soul. How can he ferry you across this dreadful ocean of materialistic existence if he has not lifted the anchor himself?

The father of the bridegroom and the members of the bridegroom’s party are the ‘so-called’ students or disciples of that foolish boatman, who is a ‘so-called’ guru, a guru by name only. They believe in a conditioned soul who poses as a guru and is surrounded by so many anarthas.

The allegory behind the marriage – vivāha resembles the perfect eternal relationship with the Lord, which has to be established. The auspicious moment – śubha-lagna is attained by an astrological calculation, which ascertains that a particular moment is very favourable. The hands of the bridegroom and the bride should be tied at this auspicious moment.

What is the allegory behind that auspicious moment? That is this rarely achieved human birth – sudurlabha mānava janma. Although it is temporary, it is a rarely achieved human birth, because in this birth you can develop complete Kṛṣṇa consciousness – paramārthika labha.

The ‘so-called’ guru is greatly attached to this material world and has so many anarthas. Somehow or other he has become guru and he has a number of śiṣyas – disciples, who are also like their guru. ‘Like-guru, like-śiṣya’. His śiṣyas have strong attachments to their home and hearth, and to this material world. They have not given up their strong attachment and they have so many material desires, and some of them even have the desire for liberation. Therefore, although they are performing sādhana and bhajana, they are just posing, for them it is just like a theatrical performance, they are hypocrites.

What is the consequence of this? Will they be able to reach the destination, Śāntipura? The destination is the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, which in this case cannot be reached. They will never be able to reach it. In other words, they will not develop kṛṣṇa-prema, and therefore cannot render loving service unto the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. This is only a waste of their rarely achieved human birth because the goal of human life is not achieved.

Each and every one of these strong material attachments to this body, home and hearth, and hankerings after your own bodily comfort, your own sensual material enjoyments, are anchors. They are anchors that are deeply stuck in the mud, thus how can the boat move if these anchors are not lifted? Therefore, you must lift the anchors of this boat, the human body.

nṛ-deham ādyaṁ su-labhaṁ su-durlabhaṁ
plavaṁ su-kalpaṁ guru-karṇadhāram
mayānukūlena nabhasvateritaṁ
pumān bhavābdhiṁ na taret sa ātma-hā

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.20.17)

In the eleventh canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is written that this rarely achieved human body – nṛ-deham, is a most suitable boat to ferry one across this dreadful ocean of materialistic existence. This suitable boat (the human body) is a gift, therefore you should be intelligent enough to obtain an expert navigator, instead of a foolish boatman who is not able to lift the anchor and therefore is incapable to row the boat.

You have to lift that anchor, but how can you lift an anchor that is very deeply stuck in thick mud? It will be lifted by the mercy of sādhu-guru-vaiṣṇava! Unless you receive the mercy of sādhu-guru-vaiṣṇava this anchor cannot be lifted. Therefore you should approach a sādhu-guru and you must surrender at his lotus feet; you must listen to him speak bhāgavata-kathā, kṛṣṇa-kathā daily. It is essential that you perform sādhana and bhajana under his expert guidance and render service to him. Pleasing a sādhu-guru-vaiṣṇava and obtaining his mercy is very powerful.

In this way the anchor will be lifted, whereby this boat can very easily ferry you across the dreadful ocean of materialistic existence, and enable you to reach your destination, Śāntipura. The allegory of Śāntipura is: Śāntipura is a pura where only Kṛṣṇa’s loving service –kṛṣṇa-sevā rajya is. The kingdom of Kṛṣṇa’s loving service is Śāntipura, the destination.

Therefore if the anchor is not lifted, (but instead you are only hankering after, and desiring the comforts and pleasure of your body and senses), the boat will never reach its destination. The understanding of the vivāha – marriage, is to establish a loving relationship with the Lord. This is the story Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda Mahārāja gave to us.

“…There should be complete surrender. Not conditional, not artificial, not partial. That is guru-pādāśraya. To accept guru means unconditional surrender. In Bhagavad-gītā (2.7), Arjuna has said, “I become Your śisya, disciple – śisyas te ’ham śādhi mām tvām prapannam.” One who is under strict discipline, he is a disciple. And karṇa-dhāra, guru is the expert navigator.* You cannot go hither and thither. Karṇa also means ear. Guru can catch hold of your ear and slap you. You rascal! What are you doing? The guru has that right, and you have to accept it because he is guru. You cannot sue him in court. If someone catches hold of your ear and slaps you, you can sue him in court. But you cannot sue guru because you have voluntarily accepted him. Śisyas te ’ham śādhi mām tvām prapannam – “I become your śisya, I accept you as my guru. Please inflict very severe discipline on me.” Śādhi mām means ‘inflict very severe discipline on me’. Thereby your strong attachment will be cut off. Whatever severe discipline guru inflicts upon you, accept it gladly, without grumbling. Then this strong attachment will disappear. Thereby he is lifting your anchor which is now stuck very deep in the mud. Then he will row the boat. He is very expert and he knows how to ferry this boat amidst all sorts of obstacles and dangers. But you have to accept his discipline…”                                           

*                                                                  tvaṁ naḥ sandarśito dhātrā
                                                                       dustaraṁ nistitīrṣatām
                                                                   kaliṁ sattva-haraṁ puṁsāṁ
                                                                       karṇa-dhāra ivārṇavam

“We think that we have met Your Goodness by the will of providence, just so that we may accept you as captain of the ship for those who desire to cross the difficult ocean of Kali, which deteriorates all the good qualities of a human being.” (Śrīmad- Bhāgavatam 1.1.22)

karṇadhāra ivāpāre
bhagavān pāra-darśakaḥ
athābabhāṣe bhagavān
nārado muni-sattamaḥ

“You are like a captain of a ship in a great ocean and you can direct us to our destination. Thus addressed, the godly personality, Devarṣi Nārada, greatest of the philosopher devotees, began to speak.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.13.40)   

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