How to Find Him … How to Honor Him … How to Follow Him
From the Vyasa-Puja addresses of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Garlanded with roses and gardenias, surrounded by devoted followers, Srila Prabhupada sits upon a magnificent throne. Disciple after disciple prostrates himself on the ground at Srila Prabhupada's feet. The disciples praise him. Srila Prabhupada sits gravely and says nothing. Finally he begins to speak.
"Vyasa-puja," he says, "means that one day in a year, on the birthday of the spiritual master, he is offered respect." Why? "Because he is the representative of Vyasa [here Srila Prabhupada refers to the ancient compiler of the Vedic wisdom] and is delivering without any change the same knowledge which has come down by disciplic succession." ** (New Vrndavana, September 2, 1972.)
Srila Prabhupada's birthday comes the day after Janmastami, the appearance festival of Lord Krsna. These days fall at the beginning of September this year.
Here we select from what Srila Prabhupada said about the meaning of the Vyasa-puja ceremony. Let us listen as he continues to speak.
The Original Guru
"Vyasa is the original guru because from his literature we understand spiritual knowledge. All these literatures, whatever we have produced, are originally from Vyasadeva." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"This asana [throne] where they have seated me is called the vyasasana. The guru is the representative of Vyasadeva…. So anyone who represents the great acarya [spiritual master] Vyasadeva is allowed to sit on thevyasasana."
As an orthodox representative of an ancient tradition, Srila Prabhupada follows the system of Vyasa-puja out of respect for the practices and philosophy of that tradition.
"This Vyasa-puja ceremony," he says, "means to offer our thanks to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because He is the original guru. We receive this message through the parampara system: from Krsna to Brahma, Brahma to Narada, Narada to Vyasadeva …"
Srila Prabhupada continues to name the illustrious teachers in the parampara, the disciplic chain: "Madhavendra Puri, then Isvara Puri, then Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then the six Gosvamis, then others Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Jagannatha dasa Babaji, Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati …" It is in this parampara, Srila Prabhupada says, that he himself comes next.
"So we come to Krsna conscious understanding through this long parampara. Similarly, in the Vyasa-puja ceremony, whatever respect, honor, and presentations you give go to Krsna through that parampara system."** (London, August 22, 1973.)
The Lord's Viceroy
"The spiritual master," Srila Prabhupada explains, "receives all honor, all contributions, on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not for himself. For example, in our country when there was British rule there was a viceroy, a king's representative. So naturally when the viceroy used to go to some meeting, many people used to present valuable jewels just to honor him. But the law was that the viceroy could not touch a single jewel or contribution. It was going to the royal treasury. On behalf of the king the viceroy could accept all contributions, but they went to the king.
"Similarly, on Vyasa-puja day whatever honor, contributions, and feelings are being offered to the spiritual master go to Krsna. As we have received the knowledge from upwards, this respect goes upwards." ** (New Vrndavana, September 2, 1972.)
"Don't jump over to God, crossing the spiritual master. Then it will be a failure. You must go through the spiritual master. We are observing the Vyasa-puja ceremony, the birth anniversary of our Guru Maharaja [spiritual master]. Why? We cannot understand Krsna without a spiritual master.
"If anyone wants to understand Krsna by jumping over the spiritual master, then immediately he becomes bogus. Nobody can understand Krsna without going through His most confidential servant.
"If you think that you have become very learned and very advanced and can now avoid the spiritual master and understand Krsna, that is bogus….
We should always pray, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah: only by the grace of the spiritual master can we achieve the grace or mercy of Krsna. This is the meaning of Vyasa-puja." ** (Atlanta, March 2, 1975.)
A Revolutionary Practice
Srila Prabhupada is very much aware that some people may misconstrue the Vyasa-puja ceremony.
"Of course," he says, "those who are my students know what is this ceremony. … But an outsider may ask, 'Why is a person being worshiped like God?' There may be some doubt." ** (New Vrndavana, September 2, 1972.)
"Now I must explain my position, because in these days a person's being worshiped as a most exalted personality is something revolutionary." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.) (8)
"It is not that I am training my disciples to worship me man worship or that I'm getting some honor from them for nothing. No. It is not that. Whatever honor, whatever respect, whatever presentation you are giving to your spiritual master, it will go to Krsna by the parampara system." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"An outsider may think, 'This man is being flattered, and he is hearing his own eulogy.' But this is not the fact. The disciples are receiving the message sincerely, and they are expressing their feeling. So that feeling is going to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And as the message has come through the channel of disciplic succession, all these praises will also reach Krsna through that disciplic succession." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
"If you offer prayers to the acarya, then Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is pleased. To please Him you have to please His representative.
'If you love me, love my dog.' And in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, acaryopasanam: we have to worship the acarya." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.)
"Krsna says, acaryam mam vijaniyan: 'You accept the acarya as Myself.' Why? I see that he is a man. His sons call him father, he looks like a man, so why should he be as good as God?
"Because he speaks as God speaks, that's all…. He says as the Supreme Personality of Godhead says; therefore he is guru. Even though you see that he is materially born, that his behavior is like that of other men, he says the same truth spoken in the Vedas or by the Personality of Godhead; therefore he is guru. He does not make any whimsical change; therefore he is guru. That is the definition. It is very simple." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.)
The Humility Of the Pure Devotee
Srila Prabhupada explains that he himself is but a servant of his spiritual master. "Of course, my students offer me so much respect, but all these respects are due to my spiritual master.
"I am nothing. I am just like a peon. When a peon delivers a letter, he is not responsible for what is written in that He simply delivers." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
Srila Prabhupada feels indebted, he says, not only to his spiritual master, from whom he received the message of Krsna, but also to his disciples, who are helping him spread it.
"Anyone who is coming to Krsna consciousness is not an ordinary living being.
Actually, he's a liberated soul. And I am very much hopeful that, even if I die, my disciples who are now participating today will continue my movement….
"Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted European and American people to understand the philosophy of the Caitanya cult and take part in it. That was his desire. My Guru Maharaja, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, also attempted to send his disciples to preach the Caitanya cult in the Western world….
"At our first meeting, perhaps you know, he asked me to preach. So at that time I was a young man, only twenty-five years old, and I was also a house-holder. I should have joined and executed his desire immediately, but due to my ill luck I could not immediately execute his order. But it was in my heart: 'It is to be done.'
"So anyway, although I began very late, at the age of seventy years, by the help of my disciples this movement is gaining ground and is spreading all over the world. Therefore I have to thank you. It is all due to you. It is not my credit. It is your credit that you are helping me execute the order of my Guru Maharaja." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
How Does One Meet A Spiritual Master?
"Krsna is within everyone…. So He is called caitya-guru, the guru within the heart. … And when Krsna sees that a living entity is very anxious to understand Him or to revive his Krsna consciousness, then Krsna gives him all opportunity, especially by manifesting Himself as the spiritual master. … The spiritual master is therefore Krsna's manifestation Krsna's mercy manifestation to help a person develop his Krsna consciousness." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"The whole world is in the blaze of the threefold miseries, and a person who is authorized to deliver people from those material pangs is called a spiritual master." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
Continuing the Disciplic Succession
Srila Prabhupada tells his disciples that they too should become spiritual masters.
"Spiritual master is not a new invention. So all my students present here who are feeling so much obliged … I am obliged to them because they are helping me in this missionary work. At the same time, I shall request them all to become spiritual masters. Every one of you should become spiritual masters next.
"And what is your duty? Whatever you are hearing from me, whatever you are learning from me, you have to distribute the same in toto, without any addition or alteration. Then all of you will become spiritual masters….
"To become a spiritual master is not a very wonderful thing. One simply has to become a sincere soul." ** (Hamburg, September 5, 1969.)
"It is not difficult. It is difficult when you manufacture something. But if you simply present whatever you have heard from your spiritual master, it is very easy.
"If you want to become overintelligent, to present something, to interpret something, over what you have heard from your spiritual master, then you'll spoil the whole thing. Don't make any addition or alteration. Simply present it as it is. … Remain always a servant of your spiritual master and present the thing as you have heard it. You will be a spiritual master. This is the secret." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"One should not think, 'I am not qualified to become a guru.' No, you are qualified if you follow strictly theparampara system." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
"If you simply preach this cult 'My dear friend, my dear brother, you surrender to Krsna' you become a spiritual master." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)
There Is a Need
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu has asked everyone to become a guru. Everyone. Because there is need of gurus.The world is full of rascals; therefore there is need of so many gurus to teach them….
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu says: amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa: Wherever you are living, become aguru and deliver them. Suppose you are living in a small neighborhood; you can become a guru of that neighborhood and deliver them.
"How is it possible? I have no education. I have no knowledge. How can I become guru and deliver them?
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu said: It is not at all difficult. Yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa. This is your qualification. If you simply deliver the message given by Krsna, you become guru.… "Krsna said, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. ["Give up all other engagements and surrender to Me."] You preach. You request everyone, 'Sir, you surrender to Krsna.' Then you become a guru. It is a very simple thing. Krsna said, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru. ["Think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer obeisances to Me."] You say, 'You become a devotee of Krsna. You offer obeisances. Here is a temple. Here is Krsna. Please come here….'
"So this is the guru's qualification. The guru does not show some magic or produce some wonderful things to become guru …
"People are giving me credit that I have done miracles. But my miracle is that I carried the message of Caitanya Mahaprabhu: yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa.
"So this is the secret. Any one of you can become a guru. It is not that I am an extraordinary man, an extraordinary god coming from some mysterious place. It is not that it is a very simple thing.
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu says: yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa. So I request you to follow Caitanya Mahaprabhu's instruction that you also be-come a guru at your home. It is not that you have to make a gigantic show of becoming a guru. The father has to become a guru; the mother has to become a guru. Actually, in thesastra it is said one should not become a father, one should not become mother, if he does not become a guruto his children." ** (Hyderabad, August 19, 1976.)
Become Krsna's Favorite
"So I hope that all of you men, women, boys, and girls become spiritual masters and follow this principle. Simply sincerely follow the principles and speak to the general public. Then you become Krsna's favorite. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: 'One who is doing this humble service of preaching work, Krsna consciousness nobody is dearer to Me than him.' So if you want to become recognized by Krsna very quickly, take up this process of becoming a spiritual master. Present theBhagavad-gita as it is. Then your life is perfect." ** (London, August 22, 1973.)