Bhagavat Gita: Chapter 4: Transcendental Knowledge: Text 34
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
tat — that knowledge of different sacrifices; viddhi — try to understand; praṇipātena — by approaching a spiritual master; paripraśnena — by submissive inquiries; sevayā — by the rendering of service; upadekṣyanti — they will initiate; te — you; jñānam — into knowledge; jñāninaḥ — the self-realized; tattva — of the truth; darśinaḥ — seers.
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.
In this world, if you look at the people in general, they are mostly busy with sense gratification. People are attached materially, and they are spending their time in improving the material conditions. They spend time in sleeping, sex, economic development, maintaining friends and relatives. The more one engages into this, the more he entangles in the laws of the karma which is very stringent (Very strict). One performs pious deeds; he will have to stay around to enjoy happiness. One who commits sinful activities also needs to hang around to suffer. So, under the laws of Karma, one enjoys and suffers as a result of past or present activities. Example like a roller coaster ride sometimes you are going up and then you are suddenly going down. When you think you are going straight, the direction changes abruptly and you are going elsewhere. At present , the corona situation which the whole world faces belongs to this category. No one wants it but still it is there.
Within the laws of karma, the living entity also must go through the 8.4 million life forms of the life. The aquatics, the vegetables, the reptiles, the birds, the beasts, the uncivilized man, and then again, the human form. The human form is the only form where there is a chance for getting out of the cycle of fruitive action. But we miss it out. Our activities take us back into this endless cycle of miseries in this world. How does one end up like this? What causes us to fall down in this material world, which is so called a place of misery( Dhukalayam Asasvatam) Srila Prabhupad explains that the spirit soul is different than the material conception. Originally, the Lord wishes the spirit soul to be in its original constitutional position of being engaged in loving devotional service of Lord. As long as the living entity remains in this position, he remains happy. Now per design, the living entity also has a choice, a free will, to enjoy separately from the Lord; To act like a lord and with Lord’s arrangement, they end up into material world to try to enjoy just like the Lord and come under the bodily conception of life and recognizing other bodily relations as their own . So, the state of existence of living entity to enjoy separate from Krishna, is called under Maya or illusion. Intelligent men try to find ways to get out of cycle of birth and death. They get the problem of repeated birth and death and don’t want to suffer. So, they speculate and try to come up with their own theories and conclusions about understanding of the Supreme Lord and this system and start following certain processes.
Here are few of the thought processes –
- Some think that Krishna is a historical personality.
- Big bang theory – Everything comes out of nothing!
- Some think Krishna is not a person. He is just an effulgence (impersonalism)
- Some think Krishna loses his identity after many expansions.
- Some think there is no god.
- Some think that things begin with void and they end with a void
- Some think that Krishna as only localized Paramatma form
Some of these are totally wrong conceptions and some have a partial understanding of the Supreme Lord or the absolute truth. So, the question is, why we cannot understand the absolute truth just by ourselves? According to Vedic scriptures, the conditioned souls suffer from 4 types of defects – 1). They commit mistakes 2). They are in illusion 3). They have tendency to cheat others and 4). Their senses are imperfect.
The Vedic knowledge comes from Krishna. Lord Krishna says in BG 15: 15 –I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.]
So, Krishna is perfect, and so is the Vedic knowledge. But, so called intelligent people read Vedic knowledge and try to interpret using their imperfect senses. So, undoubtably, they reach to wrong conclusions.
For example, a color-blind person cannot distinguish certain colors due to color deficiency. People with defective philosophies (color-blind) totally miss out on the true colors (the real rasas) of devotional service and loving relationship between and living entities and Krishna.
As you can see one can remain in the cycle of birth and death in the lack of proper knowledge. Further, even when one tries to elevate himself beyond this material existence, in lack of proper guidance and knowledge, there is great chance of him getting misdirected. Srila Prabhupada very clearly points out that the path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. So many obstacles to understand the true and proper knowledge. In CC Madhya 19.151, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu instructs Srila Rupa Gosvami –
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
Translation: According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service
So, lack of proper knowledge is compared to darkness. Since we cannot see in the darkness, it is not possible for us to find a right direction or path without light. We need light; we need knowledge. And in spiritual sense, this light of knowledge ( transcendental knowledge) comes from the Spiritual master. But this world is full of mundane knowledge, which is not useful for one to get out of the cycle of birth and death. Let’s say, if a person earns 4 PhD degrees in his life, can he show these certificates to Yamaraja at the time of death to claim liberation? No? He could still become a monkey in the next life! We are not saying that material knowledge is useless. Using material knowledge and possessions in the service of the supreme best serves their purpose.
When one sees the things in the light of proper knowledge, he sees the things the way they are.
om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah
Translation: I was born in the darkest of ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.
So, why do we approach a Spiritual Master? Because we cannot manufacture our own process, because we are conditioned and full of defects.
So, what Lord Krishna says, surrender to a Spiritual master who is bona fide and who comes in the line of a disciplic succession from the Lord himself.SB 1.2.7 says –By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world. So, Bhakti, or rendering devotional service to Radha and Krishna is considered the best form of worship. This process gives one both Jnana and Vairagya. This human life is meant for this. Animals cannot elevate to Jnana and Vairagya. Their consciousness is not ripe enough.
Therefore, Narottama Dasa Thakur sings –
hari hari bifale, janama goṅāinu,
manuṣya-janama pāiyā, rādhā-kṛṣṇa nā bhajiyā
jāniyā śuniyā biṣa khāinu
Translation: He regrets, my dear Lord, I got this very opportune moment to possess this human form of life, manuṣya-janama pāiyā, but my duty was to worship Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also recommended that there is no perfect worship than the worship which is invented by the Gopi’s for Radha and Krishna.
Lord Shiva says to Parvati –
viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param
Translation: Of all ārādhana, viṣṇu-ārādhanam is the best.
When we talk about the disciplic succession from Lord, there are 4 recognized sampradayas of Vaisnavas: One from Brahmā, one from Śrī or Lakṣmī, one from Śambhu or Lord Śiva, and one from Kumāra. To understand the absolute truth, one must come to one of these authorized paramparas. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings are a summary of all 4 sampradayas. Srila Prabhupada comes from Brahma-Madhava-Gaudia Sampradaya.
Srila Prabhupada refers to SB 6.3.19 the religious principles are clearly pronounced by the Lord himself. So, in a disciplic succession they come down as they are and a bona file spiritual master follows them as they are. So, a disciplic succession is an authorized system for dissipation of knowledge that comes from the Lord.
Someone may be very learned but, if they are not a part of an authorized parampara then there is always a possibility of adulteration of pure knowledge. That is why Srila Prabhupada and previous acharyas highly emphasized the need of a guru from parampara. Only a genuine spiritual master who is outside the clutches of maya, can help liberate his disciple from the material entanglement. Now-a-days there are many people who pose themselves as gurus. They are not bona fide. No relationship with a disciplic succession what-so-ever. They themselves are not free from the 3 modes of material nature. Such people misguide others and use them as targets to fulfill their own material desires. We must be beware of such bogus gurus to save ourselves. Because at the end of the day, the bogus guru and his faithful followers will remain stuck in the material world!
So, the process is quite simple and clear. Once you accept a bona fide spiritual master just fully surrender. In this material world we pay the price of things we try to acquire. What we get from the spiritual master which is the transcendental knowledge is a priceless thing and there is no way you can pay for it. So, always be cognizant of that and don’t make any excuses. Be a sold-out servant! Just serve. Serve and serve!
Recently, ISKCON’s most beloved Nrsimhadeva pujari, H.G. Pankajanghri prabhu, has departed from this world. For nearly forty years, he has been serving the Deities in Mayapur with steady dedication as instructed by Srila Prabhupada, his spiritual master. Pure devotees lead by example so that others can learn from them.
Other thing is, always be in a mood of helplessness. Surrender is not complete without this mood. A disciple faithfully and submissively follows the spiritual master. And the spiritual master is doing the same. He is faithfully surrendered to His spiritual master. We can try to understand the synergy of a disciplic succession from this example.
Remember, the Guru may not need your services. When he sees your mood of unconditional service, he becomes happy, and his heart opens. In the purport Srila Prabhupad talks about serving like a menial servant. What does it mean? Menial means lowly. In general, ANY service. Not a service of your choice. A service that you do without your preference. You just do it for Spiritual Master’s instruction or pleasure. In the initial days, Srila Prabupada cooked and cleaned up for his disciples or newcomers. He showed and taught them little things.
Narottam Das Thakur sings about pure vaishnavas:-
tomāra hṛdoye sadā govinda-viśrām
govinda kohena-mora vaiṣṇava parāṇ
Tanslation: Your heart is always the resting place of Lord Govinda. Lord Govinda says, “The Vaisnavas are in My heart.
So, the heart of pure devotee is full of Krishna’s love and when it opens the love flows to you in the form of mercy. Happiness of guru is happiness of Krishna.
Another Key thing is submissive inquiries. Be humble when approach a guru. Do not show off your intelligence. Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu was Krishna himself. In Chaitanya Lila, when Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī saw Caitanya Mahāprabhu chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra and dancing, he inquired that “You are a sannyāsī. Why don’t you engage Yourself in studying Vedānta-sūtra? Why this some sentimental thing with some foolish devotees? So, Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied – Guru more murkha dekhi’ karila śāsana (CC Adi 7.71). “My Guru Mahārāja saw Me a great fool”. “Therefore, He has chastised Me.” ‘You don’t read Vedānta-sūtra. You chant Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.’ He has ordered Me like that and gave Me this engagement to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. So, although Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, the spiritual master of the entire universe, He nevertheless took the position of a disciple in order to teach by example how a devotee should strictly follow the orders of a spiritual master in executing the duty of always chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.
In this verse, spiritual master is referred as tattva-darśinaḥ – He has experienced the Lord. He sees Lord within every living entity. He Sees Lord within the name, he experiences Lord’s mercy in His prasadam. And this is how he can fulfil disciple’s inquiries in a realized manner. Narottam Dasa Thakura explains in Guru Vandana what happens when disciple makes inquiries in the proper mood and serves –
cakṣu-dān dilo jei, janme janme prabhu sei,
divya jñān hṛde prokāśito
Tanslation: He opens my darkened eyes and fills my heart with transcendental knowledge. He is my Lord birth after birth.]
Not only the disciple gets the knowledge, all qualities of devotional service also start manifesting in his life. So, this is a very subtle process, and this is how the transcendental knowledge is transferred.
Position of guru is unique as he represents the truth. So, if we want to learn the truth then same respect is regarded as to the supreme person. Submissive attitude will inspire him to reciprocate. We cannot render service directly to the supreme as we don’t have eyes to see him. But we can render service to the spiritual master. Krishna himself followed this by accepting a guru and following all his instructions. He showed this by His own example.
How the transmission of knowledge happens?
Pure devotees constantly serve Krishna and Krishna would like to reciprocate too. So, if someone nicely serves Krishna’s pure devotee then Krishna automatically blesses them. Only people you reveal your heart is people you love and you completely trust. Complete trust is important for heart to open. Also complete submission is required. Complete submission is not for you to become great and overpower the source. It is in the mood of submission to know the truth. When the service is without any motive then the heart opens. The heart of pure devotee is full of Krishna’s love and when it opens it flows to you in the form of mercy. A special atmosphere is required for the transmission. Example: Teachers gives clue to sincere student not to ones that sleeps in the class or arrogant. Teacher sees that one is eager to learn and shows respect then he will reveal some secrets. Bonafide spiritual master from a disciplic succession himself has followed it. Prabhupada writes in his purport of Bhagavad-Gita 18.75, “Vyasa was the spiritual master of Sanjaya, and Sanjaya admits that it was by Vyasa’s mercy that he could understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the mystery of the disciplic succession.
When the spiritual master is bona fide, then one can hear Bhagavad-Gita directly, as Arjuna heard it. Narada is the direct disciple of Krsna and the spiritual master of Vyasa. Therefore Vyasa is as bona fide as Arjuna because he comes in the disciplic succession, and Sanjaya is the direct disciple of Vyasa. Therefore by the grace of Vyasa, Sanjaya’s senses were purified, and he could see and hear Krsna directly. One who directly hears Krsna can understand this confidential knowledge. If one does not come to the disciplic succession, he cannot hear Krsna.”
The Diksa-Guru is his disciple’s immediate link, the one who takes personal responsibility for delivering his disciples to Krsna. He may be able to do this only on the strength of those he represents, those who empower him, but still the personal responsibility is his. This is what makes Diksa something more than just a formal ceremony.
The more a devotee becomes servant of the servant of the servant, the more likely it is that the Parampara and Krsna will recognize him. We are supposed to follow mood of Vrajavasis. Among Vrajavasis, mood of Gopi’s is considered highest. Gopi’s were always busy with one primary activity – churning butter. Why because Krishna loves butter. Srila Prabhupad translated Bhakti as devotional service. There is action and service through which one can attain Krishna.