Hearing Çrémad Bhagvatam in proper spirit

At the auspicious arrival of Närada, ÇréVyäsadeva got up respectfully and worshiped him, giving him veneration equal to that given to Brahmäji, the creator. Çréla Vedavyäsa is sitting here at that great holy place of Badrikashram on the banks of the holy river Sarasvati. Where everything all around him, perfectly auspicious!

But if we are in proper spirit when we come to hear Çrémad Bhagvatam, we should actually come in the consciousness that we are putting ourselves on an operating table because the words of Çrémad Bhagvatam are to be accepted in the same way as a surgical operation to remove the disease of ignorance from our consciousness and the speaker of Çrémad Bhagvatam is like a surgeon and, as you know, a surgeon has no right to act whimsically according to his own speculative ideas of how operations should be performed. A surgeon should be properly trained by previous doctors according to the proper medical books and he should simply perform the surgery accordingly. So, in the same way, it is our duty to present Çrémad Bhagvatam as the previous äcäryas have taught and if we approach it as listeners in this spirit that today I will have a major surgery with no anesthesia and if I do not have this surgery than I will be in great jeopardy. So this we can learn from Ananda VrindavanPrabhu’s example.

Disturbance of Çréla Vedavyäsa

Here ÇrélaVedavyäsa, he is in the beautiful mountain ranges of the Himalayas,Adibadri. Such a beautiful place, some of you have been Badrikashrama. High in the Himalayas, no pollution, no unnecessary noises. There’s no passion, no ignorance. It is so holy of places.It has been sanctified by the tapasya of Çré Nara-narayana Rishis, sanctified by the tapasya of Uddhava, the dear beloved friend of Lord Çré Kåñëa.  So many wonderful, wonderful experiences can be assimilated by just breathing the air of such a holy place. It is one of the foremost holy places in all of creation.

So Vyäsadeva was sitting peacefully in such a calm and quiet place. Also he was a perfectly self-realized soul and had complete control of his mind and senses. So for what reason would he be so disturbed?  Generally disturbances are created either from within or without. In this case there were no disturbances the outside, most sanctified place, and he wasn’t being disturbed by his mind, he had controlled his mind; he was perfectly keeping it in harmony with Kåñëa, and his senses were fully engaged in the loving service of the Lord. But yet, Çréla Vedavyäsa was in deep distress and his distress was that he was feeling himself not successful in his service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because in the nature of a great devotee this is the type of humility. He was thinking himself incompetent because his mission as a Shaktiveshavatära was to delineate the absolute truth in so many wonderful ways, to give all humanity the chance to achieve the perfection of life. But yet, he felt his real work was undone and he did not know whyhe was in distress? He was also extremely receptive for the answer for the solution by which he can better serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And this, in fact, is what we all have to come to if we truly want to properly approach a proper spiritual master. One is, we have to be frustrated in our life, in our condition; we have to be frustrated in our material efforts, in our material pursuits. And we should also, even feel frustrated in our spiritual life because, after all, if we think we are doing everything very nicely, then what is the need of a spiritual master?  What is the need of learning anything?

Necessity of frustration in material and spiritual efforts

When westerners come to India, preaching Kåñëa consciousness, one of the great obstacles is mostly everybody you talk to; they say ‘Oh! Yes, Yes.  I know Kåñëa. I am a Hindu, I know Mahabharata, I know Ramayana, I know Gétä.’  Therefore you cannot say anything to such a person except ‘Haribol, take this Prasad. By eating this prasada you will become purified and realize that you know nothing about Kåñëa.’  So as long somebody is content in their particular spiritual position there is no need to inquire submissively to understand something more. So therefore materially we should be frustrated and spiritually we should have some sense of frustration. Frustration in the sense that we are hungry, we are greedy for something beyond what we have; and at the same time, we have to be receptive; we have to be anxious for the solution, we have to be open-up with our heart and our ears for proper direction and instruction. So this was Vedavyas’ position, he was perfectly representing a proper candidate to hear the truth from, a bona-fide spiritual master.





(Bhagvad Gita 4.34)

Just try to learn the truth from a proper Guru deva by inquiring submissively and rendering service to him. A self-realized soul can impart knowledge onto you because he has seen the truth.

Being anxious to learn to serve more

So of course we may be advanced to some extent in Kåñëa consciousness, but at every stage it is required that we maintain this type of relationship with our spiritual master that Vedavyäsa has with Närada. We may have been in the movement for ten or twenty or thirty years, but that does not mean we ever are not anxious to hear from our spiritual master and in anxiety feeling I need, I need your mercy Gurudeva! I am insufficient, materially and spiritually, without your mercy. And Vyäsadeva, what was his spiritual realization? And yet, he still in this consciousness. And if we can compare ourselves to Vedavyäsa and we are far superior to him then, perhaps, you can be content in your position and you don’t need further guidance or direction. But when ÇrélaPrabhupada was on ship Jaladuta he was praying to his guru BhaktisiddhantaSaraswatiThakura and praying to Kåñëa through his Guru, that “I am incompetent to do this service. If you give me the words to speak only then will they understand.”  And do not think he was only feeling like this on the Jaladuta, he was feeling like this where ever he was, where ever he was preaching. That is the nature of a Vaishnava. A Vaishnava never considers himself to be the doer, never considers himself to be competent. but always feels himself humble, depending on the mercy of the senior äcäryas and he is always receptive to receive that mercy and sometimes we find that devotees who are not properly cultured in what Vishnavism truly is, in these higher realms of consciousness sometimes they become proud and sometimes they think they really do not require to hear anything from anyone because they already know. ‘I’ve already read the books, I know so many slokas, I’m such a good preacher, I’m giving so much good guidance to others, I’m content, I’m very good.’  But, can you compile the four Vedas, the eighteen Puranas in perfect metric poetry, the Mahabharata, the Vedanta sutra, the Itihasas, the Çrémad Bhagvatam and some of these literatures.Not only he composed them, but he wasn’t sitting there with a computer deleting things and going over what he has already done with editors and proof readers like even the best authors today do.

He wasn’t scratching out.  He was just speaking and as he was speaking without stopping Ganapati was writing and they made a pact that if you stop writing, I will stop speaking; if you stop speaking, I will stop writing.  So I believe the whole Mahabharata was written in this way, no stoppings, perfect Sanskrit grammar, poetry, everything is there included within that is the Bhagavad-gétä representing the highest truths. Are you so competent to compile all the Vedic literatures?  Yet Vyäsadeva was still feeling himself in need depending on some higher power to fulfill his purpose. He was still longing for direction for guidance and actually even in the spiritual world, when you are in an absolutely perfect spiritual form, siddha deha, your Swarupa, BhaktaSwarupa, even at that time you are never thinking that “I’m very good, I have done enough.” In Vrindavan we find everyone is thinking, what more can I do for Kåñëa and everyone is under a higher authority. Everyone is anxious to do more service, anxious to learn more and receptive to hear ‘How can I do more service for the pleasure of Radha and Kåñëa?’ ÇrématiRadharani is the original supreme most spiritual master and from her Lalita,Vishaka, the sakhis, Citra sakhi, Indulekasakhi, Campalata, Rangadevi, Sudevi, these sakhis all have their manjari associates: Rupamanjari, Vilas manjari, like that. All of the most perfected beings in the forms of Brajagopis. They are always anxious to do more service, always feeling themselves that they haven’t done enough and therefore they are always eager to hear from their authorities, their gurus and receive direction of how they can best serve and please Radha and Kåñëa. So this is the eternal nature of the perfectly liberated soul.  In the path of Bhakti, we are never content.We are always depending and aspiring for the blessings and the mercy of our seniors to guide us, to direct us and to bless us.  So how much greater is to understand us here, in this world, in our conditioned state.

Mercy in distress and eagerness to hear

ÇrélaVyasdeva is representing the perfect consciousness in which to receive the spiritual master.  Sometimes we becomes complacent, everything is going very nice, our family life is going nice, our children are becoming nice devotees, all of our economic problems are not problems at all and everyone likes us and we are being very respected, when we come to the temple and our sadhana is very strong.  Even when all this is there, Maya is ready to trap you, by making you feel, that everything is all right, that’s giving you a sense of complacency in your own service and in your own position in society.  But, to advance in Kåñëa Consciousness, there must be greed and eagerness and anxiety for more and a receptive heart to receive the directions and the blessings by which we can receive that, that must always be there.  That’s why it is important to regularly hear Çrémad Bhagvatam.  You see, just like in surgery, sometimes you are stabbed, sometimes you are cut, but we don’t want anesthesia, we want to feel the pain, as the knife of the Sadhu’s words go into our heart, because it keeps us awake, it keeps us alive, it keeps us feeling a sense of discontent, in our present situation so we can strive and hanker and long for more.  So at this very time.Närada appeared, it’s wonderful!  Närada did not appear until Vedavyäsa was in distress.  But, we find this is the case wherever there is a proper transmission of proper transcendental knowledge.  Kåñëa didn’t speak to Arjuna until he was in distress, until he was longing for guidance until he felt himself incapable and Kåñëa waited for that moment, similarly SukadevaGoswami, he didn’t speak to MaharajParikshit until, he was cursed to die in seven days, he was eager, he was anxious as Arjuna was, as Vyasdeva is, so at this time Kåñëa sends Çré Närada Muni and when Närada Muni appears, we are reading today, how Çréla Vedavyäsa received him, even though, he was an incarnation of Godhead, even though he was the greatest of all learned scholars.

Vyasasana belongs to Vyasadeva only

Sometimes you know, RomaharshanaShuta, he was killed by Balarama because he didn’t rise from his Vyasasana to greet the personality of Godhead.  So, it’s called Vyasasana because it’s the seat of Vyasa, it’s actually no one’s seat except Vayasa.  Even though our Guru Maharaj, ÇrélaPrabhupada, would sit we wouldn’t call it ÇrélaPrabhupadasana, or Bhaktisiddhantasana, or Bhativinodasana or even Narottamdasasana or rupasana, its Vyasasana.  All the personalities are sitting on Vyasdeva’s seat as his representative, the seat does not belong to them, they are sitting on Vyasdeva’s seat to repeat Vyasdeva’s words as a service but here Vyasdeva, who is the true proprietor of that seat, even he is standing up  to receive a great saintly person.  So he is standing up respectfully, and worshipping, giving veneration equal to that given to the Bramhaji, the creator.

Here is the great beauty of the mystery of disciplic succession “parampara” that by being the servant of the servant of the servant, we actually become the most gracious servant of the master because of the Supreme Lord Çré Kåñëa, He is revealing himself through the disciplic succession and he is also simultaneously receiving our devotion through this process of disciplic succession. Kåñëa originally spoke to Brahmä, teneBrahmähådäyaädi-kavaye, when Brahmä was sitting on his asana of the lotus flower, padma-nabha, which came from the navel of Lord Garbodakshayi Vishnu.  He submissively performed tapasaya, seva, and he was anxious to hear.  So, the Lord spoke to him the knowledge of the Vedas, he then spoke the same knowledge to Närada, and  here Närada is being worshipped by Vyäsadeva  in such a way that he knows that although Närada is son of Brahmä and Brahmä is in supreme position in this universe.  Whatever I offer Närada, is Brahmä therefore I must respect him as if respecting Brahmä.

Disciple is representative of his spiritual master.

ÇrélaPrabhupada is the founder äcärya of this most munificent society of Kåñëa Consciousness and we should know that how we approach his representative is how we are approaching him.  Why?  Because it’s simply his words coming through his representatives.  It was not only one representative of ÇrélaPrabhupada, there are many representatives of ÇrélaPrabhupada and we must learn to honor each and every one of them in the same way as we would honor Prabhupada.  We should see ÇrélaPrabhupada in them and in this way ÇrélaPrabhupada, he is expecting us to see ÇrélaBhaktisiddhantaSaraswati through him and to respect him, worship him that way.  We find that the disciple always takes the most humble position before his spiritual master.However qualified they may be.  But the disciple of that spiritual master, although he may be taking a very humble position before his guru, he doesn’t try to jump over but he tries to take a humble position before that person that is Mahaprabhu’s philosophy, gopé-bhartuùpada-kamalayordäsa-däsänudäsaù to be the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant.  He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die, when thou art living still and sound, Vaishnavas die to live and live to spread the holy name around.  So none of the previous Äcäryas have died, they are all living in sound and wherever those faithful representatives are vibrating that sound, all the previous äcäryas are living within that person, they are bestowing Mahaprabhu’s mercy through that person and not only that, but they are collecting our offerings on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Honoring a person who is representing his spiritual master

It is explained that Brahmä is the father of all Vidhis and he is the embodiment of all transcendental knowledge and Vedavyashere, is worshipping, respecting and offering veneration to his guru on in equal level to that of Brahmäji. Because Vedavyaswas approaching in this spirit. It is very important to understand that he wasn’t approaching Närada because Närada was Närada, he was approaching Närada with such respect and submissiveness because Närada was the representative of Brahmä and Kåñëa. This is the difference between the personality cult and a proper religion based on truth.  However wonderful a person may speak, however handsome a person may move his body, however empowered one may be with siddhis or charismatic; if we actually want to learn the truth, we do not respect and venerate that person because of what he is but We respect and venerate that person because what that person represents and we have seen too often.  How often times disciples or followers, they lose that perception.They think that this is my guru and whatever he says doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter any guru, it doesn’t matter any sadhu or any Shashtra.  To me, he is God, God is speaking through him.  In this way, we are in the wrong consciousness.

we do not know how to approach a spiritual master.  Vedavyasa is teaching us, because he is representing Brahmä, therefore I will hear from him and I will offer him all respect and veneration. I will surrender to his lotus feet.  Similarly, in this movement, we should respect and adore someone because they are representing Prabhupada and Bhatkisiddhanta, Gaurakishora, Bhaktivinoda, Jagganatha Das babaji, Narottama Das Thakur, ÇrénivasaAcharaya, KåñëadasKavirajaGoswami, Raghunatha Das Goswami, Rupa and Sanatana, SwaropDamodarGoswami, NityanadaPrabhu, ÇréChaitanyaMahaprabhu, IshwaraPuri, MadhavendraPuri, Lakshmipati, Madhaväcärya, Vyasa, Närada and Kåñëa; and Kåñëa is the disciple of Radharani.  CaitanyaCaritamrita states this. Kåñëa says, ‘that Radharani, her Bhakti, her love is so much, so deep, so great, that, that love is my guru.  I am controlled by it, I am the servant of it, I dance according to her love.’  Radha and Kåñëa, their loving affairs is the supreme guru and we must know that this mercy, this grace, this knowledge must come down through proper disciplic succession.  And we must honor and venerate a person, those persons, not necessarily just one person, but those persons who are properly representing that truth.

Presenting the teachings of spiritual master

When we are preaching to others, we should know that we are taking position as a representative of the disciplic succession.  So, we should be very careful to only speak on behalf of the previous äcäryas, however little we know, we should present it nicely.  We may not bea very bigscholars but whatever we have learned; you just present it nicely as it is.  And you can bring those people in contact with that whole flow of transcendental mercy coming through parampara. That is the greatest service we can render.  On behalf of gurudeva and the Vaishnavas we simply want to induce everyone to chant the holy names.  (Audience: Hare Kåñëa Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama RamaRama Hare Hare)  Because that is the essential essence of ÇréCaitanyaMahaprabhu’s gift to the world, to perfect and purify our lives by properly taking shelter of holy name of Kåñëa and this could only take place in our lives when we learn to properly respect, venerate and serve those great representatives of the previous äcäryas, the Vaishnavas.

Written by

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.

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About Me

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.