He Taught Me by Ignoring Me
My experience with Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada was that in the beginning of our relationship, and for the first few years, they would lavishly pour on me their attention and even glorification, being very personal. After that, the number of their disciples started increasing and then exploding, and I was supposed to be growing up in bhakti. But I began getting less and less external attention, even though my desire for attention remained the same, and I sometimes felt left out.
When I met Srila Bharati Maharaja, he started me out, right from the get-go, not giving me any special attention. I was just a living entity. Often he would reply my questions while looking at someone else. When I came to see him for a second time, which was in his Matha in Pahar Ganj, Delhi, again there were a lot of devotees from Gurudeva’s sanga in the room. I asked, “Our Srila Gurudeva has now entered nitya-lila, and the acarya of your Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Matha, Srila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Gosvami Maharaja, seems near to entering nitya-lila. How much do you think our Gurudeva’s sanga and your sanga (Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Matha, whose acarya is Srila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Maharaja) should work together to propagate the message of Mahaprabhu?”
Looking in another direction, he replied, “The mood is one. All the thinking and preaching is one. Diversity in unity, and unity in diversity. It is by the will of God that there are so many branches to preach the thoughts of Lord Caitanya. There is no difference in mood and preaching. But, the management is another.
“The Gosvamis were not all in one place. They were staying in different parts of Vraja-mandala, yet they were one-minded. They were not disciples of the same guru. Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was a disciple of Yadunandana Acarya. Sanatana Gosvami was a disciple of another guru, Vacaspati. Rupa Gosvami is a disciple of Sanatana Gosvami, and Jiva Govami is a disciple of Rupa Gosvami; yet they are one. Their preaching is one. They were all trying their best, according to their capacity.
“Rupa Gosvami spread the bhakti-cult. Sanatana Gosvami spread sambandha-jnana, knowledge of the jiva’s connection with God. The sambhanda Deity, Madana-Mohana, thus appeared to Sanatana Gosvami. Rupa Gosvami spread the service of God (abhidheya, the dealings of one’s relationship with God). Therefore, the abhidheya Deity, Govindadeva, appeared to him, and thus he taught the sixty-four kinds of bhakti.”
Then, showing me and Gurudeva’s other disciples present that even though he himself is one of the leaders of another institution, another sanga, his mood is the same as that of our Prabhupada and our Gurudeva and our previous acaryas, he continued, “Raghunath dasa Gosvami, in his meditation, served Radharani; not Krsna. He prayed, ‘O Radha, if You are not merciful to me, then my life and my bhajana and my living in Vrndavana are all spoiled. If You are not merciful to me, I even do not want any connection with Bakari.’ Who is Bakari?”
The devotees called out, “Krsna, the killer of Bakasura.” And Srila Maharaja proceeded to explain, “Krsna killed Agha, Baka, Putana, and all other demons. Because He is the enemy of the demon Baka, He is known as Bakari. ‘I have no connection with Him, if there is no Radharani.’ Radharani is hladini-sakti. When Radharani is with Krsna, He can attract all, otherwise not. This is because we get Krsna’s mercy through Radharani. If we leave Radharani, we cannot achieve Krsna.
“None of the gopis are ordinary devotees. They left their fathers, mothers, husbands, sons, daughters, and all other relatives for Lord Krsna, to dance with Him in the rasa-lila. Yet, Krsna left all of them for Radharani. The gopis were searching for Krsna, calling out, ‘Where is Krsna?’ When they reached near Krsna, Krsna took the form of Narayana. They bowed down to Him and left, thinking, ‘This is not our Krsna.’ However, for those who were searching for Krsna while following behind Radharani, the same Narayana again became Krsna.
“Laksmi tried to reach Krsna, but it was not possible for her. Why not? She left Vaikuntha and rushed to Vraja-mandala, but it was not possible for her to reach Krsna. Why not?
gopi-anugatya vina aisvarya-jnane
bhajileha nahi paya vrajendra-nandane
(Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.230)
[“Unless one follows in the footsteps of the gopis, he cannot attain the service of the lotus feet of Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja. If one is overcome by knowledge of the Lord’s opulence, he cannot attain the Lord’s lotus feet, even though he is engaged in devotional service.”]
“Do you understand? If one tries his or her utmost to reach Krsna, it is not possible without following a gopi – here, gopi means Radharani.
sukha-rupa krsna kare sukha asvadana
bhakta-gane sukha dite ‘hladini’—karana
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 8.158)
[“The potency that gives Bhagavan Sri Krsna transcendental pleasure is called hladini. By this pleasure potency, Sri Krsna personally tastes all spiritual pleasure, even though He is othe very embodiment of bliss. This potency also gives happiness to the devotees.”]
“Bhagavan Krsna distributes His devotion through Radharani. If you wish to serve Krsna, then you have to serve Radharani. By the grace of Radharani, you can achieve Lord Krsna. Lord Krsna left all the gopis for Radharani. This is the importance of Radharani. The Gaudiya Vaisnavas serve asraya-vigraha (the abode of devotion), not visaya-vigraha (Krsna, the object of devotion).
“In his kirtana, Narottama dasa Thakura prays for success through Rupa Gosvami:
prabhu lokanatha kabe sange lana yabe
sri-rupera pada-padme more samarpibe
[“O Gurudeva! When will you bestow upon me your mercy and offer me to the feet of Srila Rupa Gosvami?”]
“Guru-tattva is one. According to one’s development, a person accepts a guru. In your childhood you accept a teacher, and then another, and then another, and then another. Did you leave your guru? No. Guru-tattva is one. So, offering obeisances to the entirety of guru-tattva, through your gurudeva, you offer your obeisances and your very self, uttering the words, ‘guruve namah,’ not the name of your gurudeva.
He did look at me when he said, I honor you because you are a devotee of the Lord,” immediately after which he uttered the Bengali verse from our Gaudiya Giti-Guccha song book, “Hayacena hoibena prabhur jato dasa, sabara carana vondo dante kori ghasa.” He asked me if I knew what it meant, and I was embarrassed that I didn’t. I knew I should have, since I had been singing it for years in the Vaisnava vandana kirtana.
Srila Maharaja then gave the translation himself, “Holding a straw in my teeth, I submit my glorification at the feet of the servants of Mahaprabhu whoever were or will be.” I felt like he was saying, in effect, “I know you’re not a Vaisnava yet, but you will be one, maybe in some distant life.” He treated me like a living entity, telling me the basic philosophy that I’m not this body. I responded happily in my mind, “Wow, thanks.” From that moment I determined, “I’m never going to desire of expect any special attention. If he smiles, if he doesn’t smile, if he looks at me, if he doesn’t look at me, that will all be fine. The satisfaction of having the personal external attention and glorification does not give bhakti. It’s the internal surrender and subsequent internal relationship with guru that gives bhakti.”
I recalled that when I had first started asking Gurudeva questions in 1992, he was giving such amazing answers that I asked in astonishment, “When you give me an answer, should I understand that it’s coming from my Srila Prabhupada?” He had replied simply, “If you have got that faith.” Similarly, I was astounded by Srila Bharati Maharaja’s answers to every question, and I considered that Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva are manifesting through him. He was helping me understand them better. Whenever we followers of Gurudeva came out from a class or darsana with Srila Maharaja, we found that our desire to serve Gurudeva increased.