California, USA — September 28th, 2011
His Divine Grace
Today is the appearance day (Vyasa-Puja) of His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad Sri Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Dev-Goswami Maharaj.
His Divine Grace?
Yes. His Divine Grace. Divine Grace comes through Srila Gurudeva (yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado) and we know that Srila Gurudeva bestowed his grace on Srila Acharya Maharaj:
"Sripad Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj is highly qualified and I have chosen him as next Acharya of this Math. All of you should unitedly proceed under his guidance, serve under him faithfully, and love him."
A week or so after Srila Gurudeva left (perhaps when we were getting ready to install Srila Acharya Maharaj's picture on the altar in the temple in Navadwip) somebody said to me: "But Acharya Maharaj isn't really tattva-darsinah, is he?" This reminded me of two anecdotes.
My memory of the first is a little vague, but when I was a young boy in South Africa, I remember seeing a photograph (perhaps on the front page of the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror) of a young Prince Andrew (then second in the line of succession to the throne, behind his brother, Prince Charles) bending down to pick up something with one hand while holding onto the hand of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, with the other.
The caption beneath the picture said something like, "When Prince Andrew saw a penny laying in the street, he did what any other four-year-old boy would do: he picked it up!"
The second anecdote was from A Lifetime in Preparation (the first volume of Srila Prabhupad Lilamrita by Satsvarupa Das Goswami), which I read in 1982, shortly after reading Bhagavad Gita As It Is.
One day in the market, Abhay [Srila Prabhupad] saw a toy gun he wanted. His father said no, and Abhay started to cry. "Alright, alright," Gour Mohan said, and he bought the gun.
Then Abhay wanted another gun. "You already have one," his father said. "Why do you want another one?"
"One for each hand!" Abhay cried, and he lay down in the street, kicking his feet. When Gour Mohan agreed to get the second gun, Abhay was pacified.
The author was criticized for portraying his guru in an unflattering light, but the point is — whether one might be the future King of England or the future Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness — boys will be boys.
Even when Lord Krishna — God Himself, in Person — appeared in this world, He acted just as a little boy would: lying, stealing, and getting into all sorts of mischief. When the demoness, Putana, tried to kill baby Krishna by suckling Him with her poison-smeared breast, the Lord did not assume His awesome Vishnu form to smite her, but staying in character, sucked out her milk as well as her life.
Devotees and disciples always see the divine aspect of their Lord; non-devotees and the envious focus on their human characteristics and/or foibles. Therefore (in Bhagavad Gita 7:25) Krishna says:
naham prakasah sarvasya / yoga-maya-samavrtah
mudho 'yam nabhijanati / loko mam ajam avyayam
"By My sweet will, remaining concealed by My own potency, I am not manifest to anyone and everyone. Fools cannot know Me, the son of Vasudeva, unborn and ever-existent in My divine, beautiful Shyamasundara form, like a blackish rain cloud."
It is almost inconceivable now, but Srila Gurudeva also faced so much opposition after Srila Guru Maharaj chose him as the successor-acharya of our Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Then, as now, those who were mostly acquainted with Srila Gurudeva in his former role as the Math manager had difficulty accepting His Divine Grace as the new acharya. As I wrote in the Getting to know Srila Acharyadev blog,
...For those of us who have known Srila Acharya Maharaj for some time, especially in his capacity as the manager and maintainer of our Math in Navadwip, that familiarity will make it a little harder for us to change our perception of him: to begin to see him in his new role as the acharya of our mission.
We are fallen souls, living in illusion, so it is difficult for us to know who is a real devotee and who is not. But there is somebody that is not bound by illusion, who sees reality directly (tattva-darsinah), and that is our gurudeva, His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad Sri Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj — and he has expressed his appreciation for his "very dear friend, very dear disciple," like this:
"Sripad Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj, he is an impossible man! A miraculous man whose energy is over-flooded for the service of our society. He is my very dear friend, very dear disciple, very dear worker — everything. My blessings to him. He is doing all of my own attending-service duties, and I am so happy."
And thanks to Srila Acharya Maharaj's foremost disciple, Sripad Bhakti Kamal Tyagi Maharaj (who translated this extraordinary recommendation from the original Bengali), we see just how much love and affection Srila Gurudeva had for Srila Acharya Maharaj:
apnara sakale mile mise tara anugatye chalben,
tara anugatye thakben — ara take bhalobasben
"All of you should unitedly proceed under his guidance, serve under him faithfully — and love him."
Love is always the subject, never an object. It is independent; it cannot be coerced or demanded. Still, here we find Srila Gurudeva imploring us not just to follow, serve, and be loyal to Srila Acharya Maharaj, but to love him too! This unprecedented endorsement evokes Lord Shiva's instruction to Parvati:
aradhananam sarvesam / visnor aradhanam param
tasmat parataram devi / tadiyanam samarcanam
Worship of (service to) Srila Gurudeva is the highest; even better, is service to Srila Gurudeva's devotees. Who is Srila Gurudeva's devotee? Just as we look to Krishna to see whom He considers to be His favorite devotee and friend,
na tatha me priyatama... naivatma ca yatha bhavan
"You, Uddhava, are more dear to Me than My own life..."
we can turn to Srila Gurudeva to see whom His Divine Grace counts as his most dear disciple and friend:
"Sripad Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj... is my very dear friend, very dear disciple, very dear worker — everything."
Our chastity to Srila Gurudeva will be measured by our obedience to this instruction: to proceed under Srila Acharya Maharaj's guidance, to serve him faithfully, and to love him.
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj ki — jaya!
Tags: Gurus & Guardians
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