California, USA — March 10th, 2013

As we like it

One of the most heart-rending things that Srila Gurudeva could ever say to any of his disciples was, surprisingly, seldom taken seriously. More often than not, ironically, it was taken to be an endorsement!

Whenever I heard Srila Gurudeva utter this expression (usually when His Divine Grace was terminating a conversation), I used to cringe. Those dreaded words were: "As you like, you can do."

What does it mean to be a disciple?

After emphasizing the necessity of a guru in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes the qualifications of a disciple in the first half of this verse:

tad viddhi pranipatena / pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam / jnaninas tattva-darsinah

Bhagavad Gita (4:34)

Of these three requirements, service is most often stressed because it is the primary purpose of initiation, but without pariprasnena there can be no real seva — or pranipatena, for that matter.

Without pariprasnena — submissive inquiry devoid of skepticism or argument, and unquestioning obedience to the instructions that Srila Gurudeva gives — what is the point of becoming a disciple?

To be a disciple means to make a conscious decision (pranipatena) to no longer do as we please (pariprasnena), but to do what pleases Srila Gurudeva (sevaya). To surrender (pranipatena) means to obey (pariprasnena) and to serve (sevaya). Implicit in requesting initiation is this promise: "From now on, I shall trust and rely on you exclusively (pranipatena) to tell me (pariprasnena) what to do (sevaya)."

The first half of this Bhagavad Gita verse is echoed in the first line of this sloka from Srila Rupa Goswami's Nectar of Devotion:

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sango 'tha bhajana-kriya

Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1:4:15)

I now (adau) have full faith and confidence (sraddha) that only you can save me, so (tatah) I have come to humbly beg you to be my spiritual master and guide (sadhu). Please allow me to enter your confidential, inner circle of devotees (sangha) by accepting me as a disciple, so that I may begin (atha) the practice of devotional service under your direction and guidance (bhajana-kriya).

"As you like, you can do," is such a devastating retort because it means that Srila Gurudeva no longer cares enough about us to chastise us, to try to correct us. When Srila Gurudeva says, "As you like, you can do," His Divine Grace is essentially saying:

You say that you are searching for the truth (tad viddhi) and that you want me to be your guide (pranipatena), but you refuse to follow my directions (pariprasnena). Instead, you want me to sanction whatever you want to do; to in effect, serve you (sevaya).

I can reveal the truth (upadeksyanti te jnanam) because I have practical experience (jnaninas) of reality (tattva-darsinah), but if you have no respect for me (pranipatena), no faith in my counsel (pariprasnena), and no desire to serve me (sevaya), how can I help you? So do whatever you like; I don't care. I wash my hands of you.

And this, more than anything else, is what is so distressing. We want our guardians to chastise us, not to flatter us — or worse, to not care. As Srila Guru Maharaj says in The Golden Volcano of Divine Love,

Krishna may be indifferent. He may not care. And when He is punishing us, He is nearer, but when He is indifferent it is even more intolerable than punishment... We may accept punishment as a boon, but indifference is even more heart-rending.

But please don't take offense; I write for my own edification, not to criticize anybody. (Lord knows, I'm the worst offender when it comes to following Srila Gurudeva's instructions!)

One thing to remember — if you're feeling as hopeless as I am right now — is that these are the qualifications of an ideal disciple. If we try to live our lives in strict accordance with this absolute ideal, we shall inevitably fail (and leave Krishna consciousness disappointed) because from our perspective, the bar is set so incredibly high.

Still, it is important to understand just what is expected of us, to give us something to aspire to. If we are realistic about our shortcomings, we can make the proper adjustments: try to sincerely practice what we can do in our continual attempts to try to live up to this high ideal.

And even if we cannot, all is not lost. We are not atheists; we will have many more opportunities, in future lives, to try to attain this ideal. That is why we are confined to this material world, after all: to gradually correct ourselves as we evolve through progressively higher stages of consciousness, until we eventually achieve perfection.

prayatnad yatamanas tu / yogi samsuddha-kilbisah
aneka-janma-samsiddhas / tato yati param gatim

"Striving even harder than before, after many births of trying to make further progress, the practitioner's consciousness becomes free of all contamination and he attains the supreme destination."

Bhagavad Gita (6:45)

The primary requirement — the real necessity at this stage of our lives — is sincerity, because as Krishna assures us,

na hi kalyana-krt kascid / durgatim tata gacchati

"One who is sincere is never overcome by adversity."

Bhagavad Gita (6:40)

Needless to say, the obverse is also true. (Did you not catch Krishna's veiled warning earlier in Bhagavad Gita? :)

ye yatha mam prapadyante / tams tathaiva bhajamy aham

"I know the true reason, the real motive behind your (ye yatha) surrender to Me (mam prapadyante); you (tams) will get exactly (tathaiva) what you deserve (bhajamy), I assure you (aham)."

Bhagavad Gita (4:11)

So don't be insincere. That is to say: be honest, don't be unrealistic. But don't be discouraged either. Sincerity will help us to persevere in the face of adversity because sincerity is invincible.

Tags: Surrender · Hope · Slokas


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