San Jose, California — Sunday, December 31st
The eye to see guru
In Chapter Two (The Eye to See Sri Guru) of The Golden Staircase, Srila Sridhar Maharaj answers the question: "Does the guru, personally, have to keep returning to take birth in this material world until all his disciples are liberated?"
I am sorry that I did not see/remember this chapter before I published my Who is guru? blog earlier this month, so that I could give the proper respect, honor, and credit to Srila Guru Maharaj...
Here is the entire chapter (slightly edited) from The Golden Staircase:
Devotee: We are often told, regarding the guru and the disciple, that if the disciple is not successful in becoming a completely pure devotee in this life, then the guru will return by taking another birth. But does the guru personally take another birth?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The relationship must continue. Whether that particular soul who was delegated as the guru in his previous life will personally come — whether he will again be sent or not — there is no guarantee: but in any case the disciple will maintain his awareness of that higher connection. He will recognize it just as it was in former stages, although it may be in a different form. It will not be unknown to him. And he will also perceive that, "I am not unknown to my master." But the guru's external form may not be similar.
Suppose a disciple takes his next birth in a particular country or a particular sect: the guru may also appear in a particular country or a particular sect, but that the disciple will again come in exactly the same position as before, that may not be. And that the guru will also come as he did previously — in that fixed position — that may also not be. But they will be able to recognize one another. The guru will know about the disciple's previous life, and the disciple will also think, "He knows everything about me." With such broadness of vision we are to look at our Guru Maharaj. So guru-tattva means that it is saksad-dharitvena: not only the person, but the person plus something more. And that arrangement is made by the Lord or His svarupa-sakti. But whatever the external circumstance, there will be no disturbance regarding the path for the disciple.
Devotee: I don't know if this is correct, but I have heard it said that if the disciple is not spiritually successful, then the guru may not return back to Godhead, but may remain in this brahmanda (universe)... He may not return to Krishna until the disciple can also go.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: If that is the case, then no guru can ever return to Krishna at any time, because the continuation of the disciples will go on — so he will have no final result at any time in his life! But we cannot think that it is so. Sometimes he may be deputed himself, or others also may be deputed in that case. But the inner instruction and inner feeling and paraphernalia will be such that, in any case, the disciples will have no trouble: the officer may change, but the function will go on smoothly. So the guru may return as the nama-guru, the mantra-guru, or the sannyas-guru. They are all gurus, but we must recognize something similar in them, thus we are given the statement about the ontological aspect of guru — saksad-dharitvena samasta: "I Myself appear as the guru, who is simultaneously and inconceivably one with and different from Myself."
Krishna says, acaryam mam vijaniyat: "You should look there for Me. I am there. I am your Guru. With My different types of sakti, by the jivas' recruitment, or by any other way, it is My function to take you up to a different place. In every case I am there: I am there in My madhura rasa sakti, sakhya rasa sakti, vatsalya rasa sakti, dasya rasa sakti, and in a general way also." Sometimes one may be recruited by the Ramanuja sampradaya and then be converted to join the Krishna sampradaya, the Gaudiya sampradaya. That is also possible. We are to remember the eternal link.
Devotee: So if someone says that the guru himself will personally come back, that is a mundane conception — a wrong conception?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes. The main thread is there, but it will not always appear in the same form. Although to the beginners one may say, "He will come back," ultimately we find that a disciple may even be transferred into another section, and then another section, so that he may gradually reach his destination. According to the unfolding of his inner necessity, this "departmental change" may occur. And he will always perceive his own guru in newer and newer ways: at first sight he perceived his guru to be of one type, then again, with progress, he will see the same guru in another way, and thereafter another new characteristic will be found in his gurudeva. The disciple will feel: "I could not detect so much in my guru in the beginning — I saw him in one particular way — but now I find that he is something more, and then he is still more." In this way there is divine unfoldment [evolution or development].
In this world there is [evolution], and in the higher domain also, there is [evolution]. So avesa: the guru is something like saktyavesa. There is the "chance contingency" saktyavesa — who is deputed according to a particular time, place, or circumstance — and there is also the permanent saktyavesa. But in all cases — according to the necessity of the situation and by the divine dispensation of the Lord — the disciple will be connected, and he won't feel any distrust: it is the presence within. He will quench the thirst for the full progress of his heart, there will be divine unfoldment [progress] within his heart, and again he will begin a new thirst. And that new thirst will be quenched by whom? By his guru. It will be quenched by his guru and he won't have any feeling of unscrupulousness or anything else. As his internal thirst is being satisfied, he will feel, "Here is my gurudeva."
Wherever there is unfoldment [development], gradual unfoldment [progress] — and full attention given to that — then we can understand that, from the upper side, there is guru. Gurudeva is my guide, and as I progress, guidance of different types will be necessary for me — always new guidance. My progress will take me into different places, and there a new type of guidance — a new life — will again come. In this way, dynamic life is going on, and the main thread is there: raso vai sah — the pure rasa, pure ecstasy. And my inner heart will approve: "Yes, I want this! This is my fate! This is my fortune!" Otherwise, if any madhyama-adhikari is appointed as guru and has so many disciples — and if he is to come back again and again — then he could never enter into nitya-lila! That cannot be so. In any case, whoever is connected with a genuine guru will be satisfied, because the Lord is present there.
So acaryam mam vijaniyat is not in name only — it has a very specific purpose:
acaryam mam vijaniyan / navamanyeta karhicit
na martya-buddhyasuyeta / sarva-deva-mayo guruh
Krishna says: "Don't try to limit the acarya! If you achieve a high position, will you then think that you have surpassed that acarya through whom you received your initial instruction in spiritual life? No. Don't think that there is less in him (navamanyeta). Don't consider him to be of lower position — I Myself am there! I was there in your primary teacher, I was there in your college-level teacher, and I am there in your postgraduate professor too. So navamanyeta: don't only judge the external appearance. I Myself am your guide in different forms. It is I!"
The acarya has more spacious characteristics than that of the ordinary, general Vaishnava (sarva-deva-mayo guruh). Krishna says: "For you, I am there. I am backing so many acaryas. There are so many acaryas, and I am working through them. The acaryas are like helmsmen in so many different boats, and I am the favorable wind helping those boats to make progress (mayanukulena nabhasvateritam). So don't limit the acarya. Try to see him on the same level as Me."
[Update — See the explanation of A chance contingency.]
Layout by iMonk — December 31st, 2006.