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 One day's excerpt
from Sripad Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Maharaj's Daily Darshan website
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Sri Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha
Kolkata, India

First Become a Disciple
Self-Dissipation and Devotion
By Bhakti Sudhir Goswami

Ref: Sri Guru and His Grace "What ever happened to the conception of 'one diksha guru and many siksha gurus', vande gurun? Wasn't this your propaganda in the 1980's? Now the Math is making propaganda that makes ISKCON sectarianism look like a broad-minded approach. How is this?" [A response to the post, "One Master Dog."]

We should resist the rote recitation of formula as if it were profound revelation. Partially digested concepts are regurgitated by the faithful to enlighten others. Yesterday's shallow epiphany loses vitality and is vomited as cant. "One diksha guru and many siksha gurus" is not a slogan for a bumper sticker. Its profundity vanishes in indiscriminate application. Conceptually, without depth perception, collision is inevitable; the superficial vision of a neophyte collides with the higher. If we do not properly conceive of guru then analytical classifications of guru are irrelevant misnomers.

"Vande gurun" is not siddhantic prodding to remove sectarian blinders and embrace all things that flood the field of one's vision as divine. It is recognition of the principle of guru in diverse maifestation and tacitly those who personify a certain degree of excellence. Uncritical comparisons are odious. When Mahaprabhu heard Srivas comparing Advaita to Prahlad and Suka he was enraged. Indiscriminate acceptance is the confused companion of exclusionary fanaticism. Contrary to a popular misperception we were never promoting siksha gurus as the vogue. Our approach to Srila Sridhar Maharaja was cautious, measured and under the guidance and order of Srila Swami Maharaja Prabhupada ("the discerning eye of an expert"). He recognized, revealed and recommended Srila Sridhar Maharaja as his siksha guru.

Incidentally, his ISKCON is indisputably the most successful recruiting organization for the worldwide Krishna consciousness. All other missions have benefited by an influx of ISKCON members and are for the most part lead by former ISKCON members. To dismiss the efforts of ISKCON is to ignore heaps of reality. It is disingenuous, and an act of denial and ingratitude.

If we are unable to discern the difference between being dense and being dedicated, we will misread substance; reject the real and embrace the false. Mahaprabhu himself tried unsuccessfully to convert Murari Gupta to His Krishna conception. When he wouldn't budge, He could have accused him of sectarian fanaticism; being entrenched in a lower conception. Rather He placed his devotion on a pedestal for all to bow before as the standard: a "one master dog." Mahaprabhu happily signed off on his forehead, "Ramdas."

The gist of Sri Guru and His Grace lies in the capacity to recognize that highest substance whenever and wherever it appears and in diverse manifestation. But that is proportionate to one's qualification (adhikara). If one lacks the capacity and qualification to recognize substance, a "plurality" theme becomes suspect. Case in point: blatant sahajiyaism under the auspices of Srila Saraswati Thakur and Gaudiya Math and commercial marketing of spiritual concepts. The conception of a plurality of gurus has been misappropriated, adulterated, and perverted to the point of corruption. It fuels the guru trade as a lure for the naïve and inexperienced. The present landscape is bombarded by a bazaar of barkers, "C'mon, mañjari swarup; best quality — cheap price!"

Srila Govinda Maharaja once chided me for being indirectly responsible for the widespread abuse of the concepts revealed in Sri Guru and His Grace, "You should have included a chapter called "First Become a Disciple." He quoted the Katha Upanishad's observing that as rare as it is to find a qualified guru in this world, it is equally rare, even more miraculous, to find a qualified disciple (ascaryo jñata kusalanusistah). If we do not properly conceive of guru and what it means to offer ourselves in service to guru (disciple), extending that to include a plurality merely amplifies misconception.

diksha-kale bhakta kare atma-samarpana

At the time of initiation one offers oneself to the guru. Without self-giving, initiation is mere formality. Arjuna offers himself as a disciple, surrenders his autonomy and transfers judgment to Krishna. Accepting a guru is not an adornment but a life altering decision. The Western approach, to acquire knowledge that will serve one, is antithetical to the Eastern approach of offering oneself in the service of higher knowledge. We must examine our motives. Are we trying to make Divinity an object of our experience or offer ourselves as instruments for the flow of Divine will? As a perfect disciple Arjuna offers himself to be predominated by the will of Krishna. Admiring someone, who successfully offered his life in service, Srila Govinda Maharaja mused, "Saraswati Thakur's desire played over him very smoothly (vilasatu hrdi nityam bhaktisiddhanta-vani)."

It is by misjudgment (error in selection) that we find ourselves in the present predicament. We must admit that our estimation of the world before us, and our place in it, is an endless source of confusion and frustration. Afflicted and miserable the finite approaches the Infinite and invites help. The Absolute descends within relative circumstance and guides the soul toward self-fulfillment through dedication. By submitting to his agent she gradually rises out of the plane of misconception (anartha). She re-conceives herself as a unit of dedication (not exploitation) and seeks fulfillment through a life of devotion. Reality broadcasts itself into this plane via the medium of guru. The aspiring devotee must be surcharged with a serving current to be a fit receiver (sevonmukhata). Through self-dissipation the soul is transformed. The essence of sandalwood is expressed when it is pressed against a grindstone; its fragrance released. This is self-expression in its truest sense. By divine inspiration we are compelled to move against the current of the world toward the plane of dedication (prachodayat). The result is ego dissolution and the release of inner serving potential by which the soul overcomes the influence of karmic gravity.

As jarring as it is to the modern ear, Srila Sridhar Maharaja preferred the term, "slave" to convey the import of Krishna Das (Radha Dasi). It underscores the depth of servitude. "We are slaves of the truth…. I shall offer myself as a slave…" etc. What kind of faith is required to offer oneself as a slave? And to whom? Goaded by humanists to achieve autonomy, any concept of slavery appears anathema to the educated, Western mind.

The persistent lure for the intelligent is the prospect of achieving autonomy by distilling the relativistic mean of a cacophony of humanistic voices. Modern thinkers tell us smugly that literature will "replace religion and philosophy" as people opt for "adventures of the intelligence" to guide them. Factor in depreciation and read as: literature/movies/TV/internet/Gameboy.

Pragmatists dismiss Divine revelation as unverifiable, "nonhuman," irrelevant. They do not object to being under someone's influence, or imbibing the opinion of others, but it must be "whose opinion matters." Since we cannot verify divine revelation we should limit our concerns with the human. Spiritual life begins with the antithesis: belief in the possibility of divine revelation. Conceding that the finite cannot know the Infinite by finite means, but not dismissing the possibility that the Infinite can make itself known to the finite by Infinite means (revelation).

Bhaktivinode Thakur redirects our focus toward "revealed truth." Dismiss the opinions of the mass. The mass is ass. Their combined braying — pluralistic democracy — is merely the depreciating mean of misconception. In the language of Srila Sridhar Maharaja, "The sum total of the finite will never equal the Infinite." Divine revelation descends into this world via the agency of guru, we must attune ourselves and dance with that. Projecting the imaginative, adulterated aspirations of the lower upon the higher and declaring it "Divine" is delusion. To force our will upon the higher is self-deception; to mask the mundane as spiritual. In Bengal they joke of a "bogus Radharani." She is making a garland of bak phul, a flower that can also be cooked. When someone asks, "Radharani, why are you stringing bak phul?" She says movingly, "If Krishna comes, I will offer him a garland" then happily, "and if he doesn't come, I'll cook a subji!"

So before we discuss "many" let's be candid and examine our motives. Are we even willing to offer ourselves fully to one? Are we prepared for the total transfer of judgment to be given over to another and to take their instruction (siksha) as all in all? Without substantially offering ourselves, the transaction is superficial. It is through self-dissipation and self-forgetfulness that the finite captures the Infinite (sri krsna karsini ca sa). The finite will sacrifice itself in service to Sri Guru and draw the Infinite in exchange. This is the highest aspiration and noblest struggle ever taken up by anyone; what price, what sacrifice should we be prepared for? The famous Bengali freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose used to challenge his countrymen, "Give me your blood and I'll give you freedom!" Srila Govinda Maharaja summarizes the tenor of Srila Guru Maharaja's call, "Give me your blood and I'll give you devotion."

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