Siva, Krsna, Guru, and Sisya

By Giriraj Swami - 24.2 2020

Shiva, Krishna, Guru, and Sisya
Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.4.22

December 2, 2007

Juhu, Bombay

We read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Four, Chapter Four: “Sati Quits Her Body.”


naitena dehena hare krtagaso
dehodbhavenalam alam kujanmana
vrida mamabhut kujana-prasangatas
taj janma dhig yo mahatam avadya-krt


na—not; etena—by this; dehena—by the body; hare—to Lord Siva; krta-agasah—having committed offenses; deha-udbhavena—produced from your body; alam alam—enough, enough; ku-janmana—with a contemptible birth; vrida—shame; mama—my; abhut—was; ku-jana-prasangatah—from a relationship with a bad person; tat janma—that birth; dhik—shameful; yah—who; mahatam—of the great personalities; avadya-krt—an offender.


You are an offender at the lotus feet of Lord Siva, and unfortunately I have a body produced from yours. I am very much ashamed of our bodily relationship, and I condemn myself because my body is contaminated by a relationship with a person who is an offender at the lotus feet of the greatest personality.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Lord Siva is the greatest of all devotees of Lord Visnu. It is stated, vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh. Sambhu, Lord Siva, is the greatest of all devotees of Lord Visnu. In the previous verses, Sati has described that Lord Siva is always in a transcendental position because he is situated in pure vasudeva. Vasudeva is that state from which Krsna, Vasudeva, is born, so Lord Siva is the greatest devotee of Lord Krsna, and Sati’s behavior is exemplary because no one should tolerate blasphemy against Lord Visnu or His devotee. Sati is aggrieved not for her personal association with Lord Siva but because her body is related with that of Daksa, who is an offender at Lord Siva’s lotus feet. She feels herself to be condemned because of the body given by her father, Daksa.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

We have been reading the conversation between Sati and her father Daksa, who had blasphemed Lord Shiva in the sacrificial arena. Sati is the wife of Lord Shiva, and later, after hearing about the offense, she decided to approach her father to try to persuade him to give up his offensive mentality. But Daksa was unable to appreciate Sati’s good instructions. It is common that a parent considers him- or herself to be in a superior position to a child and therefore does not take the good advice of the child seriously. But a learned person or a noble person will take good instructions from anyone. He or she can take gold from a dirty place and can take good instructions from anyone.

After serving in India for three years, I became very sick. At the time, none of Prabhupada’s disciples would leave India, because they knew that Prabhupada wanted them to stay and serve there. So I never even considered leaving India an option, but I was unable to recover my health, and eventually Srila Prabhupada said that as long as I remained there I would not be able to recover. So I went to Los Angeles, and after some days Srila Prabhupada came there from India. At first I couldn’t even go to his room to hear him speak, because I was so weak, but gradually I did recover.

Once, I was in Srila Prabhupada’s room in the afternoon when he would make himself available to meet people, and Hridayananda dasa Goswami’s mother came to meet him. He began to tell her about Devahuti and Kapila—that Devahuti was Kapila’s mother but that because Kapila was an elevated spiritual personality, Devahuti took instruction from him. Thus Srila Prabhupada told Hridayananda Maharaja’s mother that she should be prepared to take instruction from her son, because he was spiritually advanced. Of course, she was seeing her son in her own way. One of the first things Srila Prabhupada said to her was, “Your son is very intelligent,” and she replied, “Yes, Howard always was a good student.” In any case, Srila Prabhupada spoke the truth, and she heard it.

Sati was trying to instruct her father, but because he was so polluted by envy and offensiveness toward Lord Shiva, he could not appreciate it. Therefore she felt condemned by her relationship with him and decided to give up her body, because her relationship with him brought her so much distress. In the next verse she explains that sometimes her husband, Lord Shiva, would refer to her as Daksayini, the daughter of Daksa, and that thinking of Daksa, all of her happiness would disappear because she would be reminded of his offensiveness toward Lord Shiva, who was not only her husband but also a great soul (mahatam). She repudiated her relationship with her father because he was mahatam avadya-krt, an offender against great personalities. All devotees are great personalities (mahats, or mahatmas). Anyone who surrenders to Krishna (Vasudeva) is a great personality (sa mahatma su-durlabhah). And, as Srila Prabhupada quotes in the purport, among all of them, Lord Shiva is the greatest (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh). So to be an offender against Lord Shiva is very serious, and thinking of Daksa’s offensiveness made Sati feel very bad.

Earlier, Sati had said that because she had heard blasphemy of Lord Shiva, she should give up her body. Actually, if one is able, when one hears blasphemy of a great soul, of a Vaishnava, one should cut out the tongue of the offender, kill him, and then give up one’s life. But because Daksa was Sati’s father, she thought it inappropriate to kill him. She considered, “Instead of killing him, I will kill that part of his body that belongs to me—that is, the body that I got from him.”

What is the body? The body is just a bag of chemicals. In and of itself, the body has no value. Sati knew the process of yoga. Great yogis can leave their bodies at will, and she had decided to give up her body, which was contaminated by her relationship with an offender against great souls, by the process of yoga.

Why is Lord Shiva considered the greatest Vaishnava? Because he is always absorbed in thoughts of Vasudeva (Krishna). The state in which one can always be absorbed in Krishna consciousness, in thought of Vasudeva, is called vasudeva, or suddha-sattva, a state transcendental to the material modes of nature. When one is completely freed from the influence of material nature, he or she comes to the stage of suddha-sattva, or vasudeva, in which Vasudeva, or Krishna, is revealed. Vasudeva is also the name of Krishna’s father, and in a very literal, transcendental way, Krishna (Vasudeva) appears from His father (Vasudeva). This fact is explained and elaborated on in a profound purport by Srila Prabhupada, in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods to Krsna in the Womb.”


tato jagan-mangalam acyutamsam
samahitam sura-sutena devi
dadhara sarvatmakam atma-bhutam
kastha yathananda-karam manastah


Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Krsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva’s mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart.

When Vasudeva was sustaining the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart, he appeared just like the glowing sun, whose shining rays are always unbearable and scorching to the common man. The form of the Lord situated in the pure, unalloyed heart of Vasudeva is not different from the original form of Krsna. The appearance of the form of Krsna anywhere, and specifically within the heart, is called dhama. Dhama refers not only to Krsna’s form, but to His name, His form, His quality, and His paraphernalia. Everything becomes manifest simultaneously. Thus the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with full potencies was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki, exactly as the setting sun’s rays are transferred to the full moon rising in the east.

Commenting upon this verse, Sri Viraraghava Acarya writes, vasudeva-devaki jatharayor hrdayayor bhagavatah sambandhah. The Supreme Lord’s entrance into the womb of Devaki from the heart of Vasudeva was a heart-to-heart relationship.


When a devotee comes to the stage of vasudeva, as was the case with Krishna’s father Vasudeva, he acquires the power to carry the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart. Not only the form of the Lord but His associates, His pastimes, His abode—everything—is manifest in the heart of the pure devotee. And when the pure devotee has the power to carry the Lord within his heart, he also has the power to transfer the Lord to the heart of another devotee who is qualified, and that transferring of Krishna from the heart of one pure devotee to the heart of another pure devotee is called diksa (initiation)—a very deep process.

Such statements naturally give rise to the question of how we know if someone is in the vasudeva status, if he has the power to carry Krishna in his heart and thus give Krishna to us? Now, that may be a difficult question to answer, because, as Srila Prabhupada writes in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, there are different ways of seeing the spiritual master. One is the objective way, and the other is the subjective way. “There are two kinds of instructing spiritual masters. One is the liberated person fully absorbed in meditation in devotional service, and the other is he who invokes the disciple’s spiritual consciousness by means of relevant instructions. Thus the instructions in the science of devotion are differentiated in terms of the objective and subjective ways of understanding. The acarya in the true sense of the term, who is authorized to deliver Krsna, enriches the disciple with full spiritual knowledge and thus awakens him to the activities of devotional service.” (Cc Adi 1.47 purport) The subjective way is a little difficult—because it is subjective. We are dealing with things we may be unable to see. The objective way is easier, because we are dealing with things that we can perceive directly with the senses, even senses that are not completely purified.

Srila Prabhupada has said in many places that we can recognize someone as a bona fide spiritual master if he repeats the message of Krishna; he gives relevant instructions which, if followed, can elevate the disciple to the level of Krishna consciousness, to the stage of vasudeva. Thus, Srila Prabhupada said that the spiritual master is like a peon. He just delivers the message of Krishna. A peon, personally, might be a poor man, but he can deliver you a parcel with a crore of rupees, with a million dollars. And if he delivers a crore of rupees to you, you will be very happy. You won’t criticize the peon—“Oh, you are just a poor man. You get a thousand rupees a month.” You will think, “Oh, you have brought me a crore of rupees. I am very grateful.” Similarly, whatever the preacher’s personal assets may be, if he delivers the message of Krishna purely, as it is, he is giving you the greatest gift, and if you follow the instructions of Krishna that he delivers, you will eventually be purified and come to the vasudeva platform.

nitya-siddha krsna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya
sravanadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya

“Pure love for Krsna is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, this love naturally awakens.” (Cc Madhya 22.107) Such pure love of Godhead is already there within the heart; it is not something to be gotten from someone else. It just has to be awakened. And the process by which it is awakened is hearing about Krishna from devotees.

Srila Prabhupada gives the example that fire is in a match, although it is not manifest. But if you strike the match, the fire will come out. In the same way, love of Godhead is already there within the heart. We just have to strike the heart, and that love of Godhead will come out. The process of striking the heart is hearing and chanting about Krishna in the association of pure devotees.

Anyone can deliver the message of Krishna purely—as it is—and anyone can receive the message and follow the process and thus come to the stage of vasudeva. That was Prabhupada’s mood—that each and every one of us should follow and preach and thus become guru.

yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa

amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa

He would tell us, as originally instructed by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “On My order, you become a guru.” “How do I become a guru? I don’t know anything.” “Yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa: whomever you meet, you just repeat the instructions of Krishna as they are found in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is a very simple business.”

Of course, one must practice as well as preach. One must at least chant sixteen rounds, follow the regulative principles, and repeat the message of Krishna as it is. If one does so, one’s preaching will be effective. In one purport (Cc Antya 4.103), Srila Prabhupada confirms the basic qualifications of guru. “Sanatana Gosvami clearly defines herein the bona fide spiritual master of the world. The qualifications expressed in this connection are that one must act according to the scriptural injunctions and at the same time preach. . . . The members of the Krsna consciousness movement chant a minimum of sixteen rounds a day, which can be done without difficulty, and at the same time they must preach the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu according to the gospel of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. One who does so is quite fit to become a spiritual master for the entire world.” These are the qualifications, and one can observe them objectively.

But in the verse and purport from the Tenth Canto, Srila Prabhupada is speaking in the subjective way, about the internal qualification of a person to carry Krishna within his heart. Such a person must have reached the exalted position of suddha-sattva, completely beyond the modes of material nature. He must be a completely liberated, pure devotee—a maha-bhagavata, uttama Vaishnava. To him, Krishna is revealed within the heart. Dhama. Everything about Krishna is fully revealed, and therefore we can get Krishna more easily, or more fully, from him. Still, the process is through transcendental sound, through instruction (upadesa) and through mantra.

When someone is on the platform of suddha-sattva, he is completely filled with suddha-sattva. He emanates it, and one can pick it up from him in any way—from his glance or from just being in his presence. Many devotees have remarked that the first time they saw Srila Prabhupada their hearts immediately melted and they began to cry. Often, they first saw Srila Prabhupada when he arrived at an airport, and many devotees have reported that upon seeing him, ordinary people—not devotees or disciples—would bow down. They would bow, and tears would flow from their eyes. They would have experiences like they had never had before. There are some devotees who hadn’t decided to surrender but because of some association with devotees, or maybe just out of curiosity, they went to the airport to receive Srila Prabhupada. And then they experienced such changes in their consciousness, such transcendental ecstasy—just by seeing or being close to him—that they decided to surrender to him.

That is the power of a pure devotee: can really carry Krishna within his heart. That suddha-sattva spiritual energy actually permeates the person’s whole being. As described in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, suddha-sattva-visesatma: one’s whole being is infused with suddha-sattva, beginning in the stage of bhava.

Srila Prabhupada has given the example of iron in fire. If you put an iron rod in fire, it will gradually become hotter and hotter until finally it becomes red-hot. And when it is red-hot, it no longer acts as iron but acts as fire; it glows with heat. It becomes as good as fire. In the same way, if we place ourselves in Krishna, in Krishna consciousness, through the process of hearing and chanting and remembering Krishna, we gradually become more and more Krishna-ized until finally we become fully Krishna-ized, fully spiritualized. Then, even though we are still in the physical body, the body no longer acts materially; it acts spiritually, only in service to Krishna, because it is completely infused with suddha-sattva.

Paraphrasing the suddha-sattva verse from the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which describes bhava-bhakti, Srila Prabhupada wrote in The Nectar of Devotion (Chapter 17): “At that time one’s heart becomes illuminated like the sun. The sun is far above the planetary systems, and there is no possibility of its being covered by any kind of cloud; similarly, when a devotee is purified like the sun, from his pure heart there is a diffusion of ecstatic love which is more glorious than the sunshine.”

When we associate with a devotee in the vasudeva state, we can catch the rays of the sun of ecstatic love that emanate from the devotee’s heart. The pure devotee, who carries Krishna in his heart, carries within him the sun of ecstatic love, and the rays of that sun emanate and can touch anyone—and when one is touched, one can be transformed.

There were people who got a glimpse of divine love in Prabhupada’s presence and were permanently transformed. They took up the process of bhakti-yoga, and they will eventually come to the stage of pure love for Krishna. But there were others who experienced the potency of the pure devotee but didn’t really take up the process, or who took it up briefly but didn’t stick to it. Why this difference? The answer is that not only must the guru be qualified; the disciple must be qualified, too. Not only was Vasudeva qualified to carry Krishna and transfer Him; Devaki was also qualified to receive Him and hold Him. Both the guru and the disciple must be qualified. Devaki was qualified to receive Krishna from her husband, Vasudeva, from his heart into her heart, and she was able to bear Krishna within herself until eventually He emerged in His manifest form, which everyone could see, and thus began krsna-lila.

Srila Prabhupada sometimes gave the example of conception. For conception to take place, the male must be potent and the female must be fertile. Similarly, for the transmission of transcendental knowledge to take place, the speaker must be bona fide and the audience must be sincere—eager. Both must be qualified.

It is very interesting, because here in the Tenth Canto we are dealing with something that resembles conception but is actually completely spiritual. To explain the spiritual process of the transmission of transcendental knowledge, Srila Prabhupada brought it down to the example of conception, which is something we can understand. If the preacher or spiritual master is potent—if he can present the message as it is—and if the audience or disciple is receptive—able to accept the message as it is within the heart and follow the instructions—then the genuine transferal of spiritual knowledge can take place.

We may think, “Who is qualified to give me transcendental knowledge?” But we should also ask, “Do I have the necessary qualifications to receive transcendental knowledge?” In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Madhya-lila of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu instructs Sanatana Gosvami to compile a book (which he did compose—Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa), and in it to describe the characteristics of the spiritual master (guru), the characteristics of the disciple (sisya), and the mutual testing (pariksana) between the spiritual master and the disciple, so that each can be assured of the position of the other. In his purport Srila Prabhupada quotes the qualifications for a disciple, and if you read them you will conclude that to be qualified as a disciple one has to be a pure devotee. The qualifications for the disciple are so high. To even be considered eligible to be a disciple, you have to be a pure devotee.

That is the highest level of spiritual master and disciple. The spiritual master is a pure devotee, maha-bhagavata, and the disciple is also a pure devotee. That is the bhagavata-parampara—the spiritual masters are pure devotees and the disciples are pure devotees. But especially now, as Kali-yuga is progressing, we don’t always find such qualified spiritual masters and disciples as Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, or Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, or Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, or Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Prabhupada. They were all maha-bhagavatas. But still, as Srila Prabhupada writes, also in the Madhya-lila, as long as a devotee, even a neophyte, has faith that the holy name of Krishna is Krishna, he can awaken Krishna consciousness in others—because ultimately we are talking about bhakti, different stages of bhakti. Sadhana-bhakti, bhava-bhakti, and prema-bhakti are ultimately but different stages of development of one entity: bhakti. And bhakti begins with faith (adau sraddha). So if someone has genuine faith (sraddha), he can give faith to, or awaken faith in, someone else. And that person whose genuine faith has been awakened by the association of a devotee who has genuine faith will nourish the seed of that creeper of devotion (bhakti-lata-bija) by hearing and chanting about Krishna, and the plant will grow and grow and eventually pierce the coverings of the universe, take shelter at the lotus feet of Krishna, and bear the fruits of love for Krishna (prema-phala).

So, even though we might not be so qualified as gurus and sisyas, as instructors and students, the process itself has sufficient potency, as long as it is kept pure, to awaken love of Godhead. As long as our sraddha is pure, we can preach, and we can hear the message of the preacher, accept the instructions in our hearts, and follow—and we can all go back home, back to Godhead, together. It really is a process. Nitya-siddha krsna-prema: love for Krishna is already there within the heart. Sravanadi-suddha-citte karaye udaya: it has only to be awakened by the process of hearing and chanting. Therefore Srila Prabhupada had faith that he could establish centers of Krishna consciousness all over the world and invite people to associate with devotees—associating with devotees means associating with the process of hearing and chanting about Krishna—and thus they would make spiritual advancement and ultimately go back to Godhead. As Srila Prabhupada said, he didn’t want ISKCON to become a personality cult. He wanted it to be a vehicle for presenting a message and a process that anyone can follow and anyone can repeat. And if we follow the process purely and present the message purely—if we don’t make changes, don’t allow compromises, don’t entertain mixed motives—if we do it purely even if we are not completely pure, if we present the message as it is and if we act in the mood of selfless service, then our efforts as preachers will have effect and our efforts as recipients of the message will also bear fruit. That was Prabhupada’s faith, his firm conviction. And we should have faith in him.

Sometimes disciples or others would raise the question of acharyawith Srila Prabhupada: “Who will be the acharya after you leave?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Anyone who follows can become leader.” And in the same mood he said, “We don’t require one acharya; we require thousands of acharyas.” So that is the legacy that Srila Prabhupada left us—every one of us: we should accept the instructions of Krishna, follow the process of Krishna consciousness, and repeat the message of Krishna—distribute it for the benefit of others.

That is what we are doing now, in the book marathon. We are giving the message of Krishna directly from Srila Prabhupada in the form of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and other books. We are giving people direct association with Prabhupada. What greater gift can we give? And the people who receive the books, by reading and following the instructions in the books can have their faith awakened. They can become devotees and make further progress. And the books themselves will guide them to associate with devotees. First people awaken faith (adau sraddha), and then they associate with devotees,sadhus(tatah sadhu-sango). So, we should be proper sadhus. A sadhu abides by the scriptures (sadhava) and acts as a perfect gentleman. And as followers of Srila Prabhupada, we should also preach. We should be merciful (karunika) and preach—follow the process as it is and repeat the message as it is. It is very easy, if we keep pure, without duplicity or ulterior motives. “It is simple for the simple, but very hard for the crooked.” Otherwise, anyone can do it. It is very easy. And the result will be that we will all go back home, back to Godhead. And as Prabhupada said, “There will be another ISKCON in the spiritual sky.”

Hare Krishna.

Are there any questions or comments?

Mahanidhi Swami: You said the spiritual master places Krishna in the heart. I thought that Krishna was already in the heart as Paramatma. But your presentation seems to indicate that the heart is empty, that there is no Krishna within the heart. Can you explain?

Giriraj Swami: In the purport, Srila Prabhupada said that a pure devotee has the power to carry Krishna in his heart and that he can transfer Krishna into the heart of a proper recipient. So someone could wonder, Does that mean that Krishna is not already in the heart?

Of course, Krishna is in the heart. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese ’rjuna tisthati: the Supreme Lord is in the hearts of all living entities. But for conditioned souls He is covered. In dealing with transcendence, the same subject can be described in different language, from different angles of vision, to help us understand a reality that is beyond our direct perception. In the verse nitya-siddha krsna-prema, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu uses the word udaya, which means “awakens.” Love for Krishna is there, dormant, and when we purify the heart by hearing and chanting, it awakens. So, Krishna is in the heart, but our consciousness of Him is dormant. And when we awaken to Krishna consciousness—when we come to the stage of suddha-sattva—Krishna is revealed without any covering.

sattvam visuddham vasudeva-sabditam
yad iyate tatra puman apavrtah
sattve ca tasmin bhagavan vasudevo
hy adhoksajo me namasa vidhiyate

[Lord Shiva said:] “The condition of pure goodness [suddha-sattva], in which the Supreme Personality of Godhead is revealed without any covering, is called vasudeva. In that pure state the Supreme Godhead, who is beyond the material senses and who is known as Vasudeva, is perceived by my mind.” (SB 4.3.23, as quoted in Cc Adi 4.66)

When we talk about transferring Krishna from the heart of the pure devotee, we are really talking about awakening consciousness of Krishna, who is everywhere. Srila Prabhupada said, “Just as Krishna is all-pervading, Goloka Vrindavan is all-pervading.” So Krishna—His form, His qualities, His pastimes, His associates, His abode (dhama), in other words the whole of Goloka Vrindavan—is all-pervading. It is in the heart. But we have to purify our consciousness to be able to perceive Krishna. And the purified devotee to whom Krishna has been revealed can give us instructions by which we too can come to the stage in which Krishna is revealed. In that sense, the devotee is giving us Krishna.

Amiyavilasa Swami: I would like to understand what you meant when you said that ISKCON is not a personality cult. Can you please explain?

Giriraj Swami: In a personality cult, one worships someone independent of Krishna and parampara. There are many figures, some of whom have institutions, who are worshipped, but they are not authorized by Krishna; they do not come in disciplic succession (parampara). By contrast, Srila Prabhupada is coming in a parampara, the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya line, and he has predecessors and successors. It is not just Prabhupada. Prabhupada followed his predecessors, and Prabhupada’s successors are following him. And thus the line continues. A personality cult is all about the person, as if he came out of nowhere. There is no line that descends from Krishna and continues on. But parampara means there is a process, there is a message, and the process and the message continue—eternally. They begin with Krishna, and they are passed from one to the next. Parampara means “one after the other.” The message and the process are passed from one to the next—from Krishna to Brahma to Narada to Vyasa to Madhvacharya, and so on—Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to Rupa Gosvami, and then Bhaktivinoda Thakura to Gaurakisora dasa Babaji to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to Srila Prabhupada and then to us. We all repeat the same message, and the people who hear it from us also repeat it, and it continues. It is eternal. That is parampara. A personality cult means that someone gets a flash, realizes the truth, and propounds some new method; he becomes the latest avatar, latest incarnation, latest savior. There is no proper line of predecessors and successors who ultimately derive their authority from Krishna. It is all concocted, based on a personality who is imperfect. It is not based on the supreme, perfect authority, God, or Krishna. Parampara means that ultimately the message comes from Krishna. Krsna-upadesa: we just follow and repeat Krishna’s instructions.

Amiyavilasa Swami: Isn’t the institution only as good as the people in it?

Giriraj Swami: True. An institution involves persons. Just walking through the gates of the temple doesn’t guarantee that you are going to become Krishna conscious. That was Srila Prabhupada’s point. He wanted the centers of Krishna consciousness to be places where people could associate with pure devotees and hear the message of Krishna. Although people benefit from seeing the Deity, the Deity worship should be accompanied by speaking about Krishna. Then, if people come and see the charming forms of the Lord and hear the discussions of Krishna in the temple, they can get the seed of devotional service, water it by more chanting and hearing with devotees, and grow in Krishna consciousness. Certainly ISKCON doesn’t mean a Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations. It means devotees who are following Srila Prabhupada’s orders and repeating his message. What you said is certainly true. Thank you.

Devakinandana dasa: Thank you, Maharaja, for a wonderful class. I have two questions. One is, you were talking about the subjective and objective ways of seeing. Now, is the subjective way of seeing on a higher level, raganuga-bhakti or something like that, and is the objective way of seeing like sadhana-bhakti? When Prabhupada came and they saw him and were crying tears—was that seeing in the subjective way or the objective way?

Giriraj Swami: In general, we hear about kanistha-bhaktas, madhyama-bhaktas, and uttama-bhaktas. But Srila Prabhupada was much more than even an uttama-bhakta, or maha-bhagavata. He was a saktyavesa-avatara. In other words, there may be maha-bhagavatas, completely pure devotees, who have come to the stage of bhava or prema but who don’t have the same potency as Prabhupada. What Srila Prabhupada exhibited was so extraordinary that it was practically unprecedented. I don’t know if any acharya in the history of the sampradaya has exhibited that kind of potency and that kind of mercy, to be able to affect such fallen souls in such a powerful way. So, in the case of Srila Prabhupada, we are not just talking about a maha-bhagavata; we are talking about a saktyavesa-avatara, an empowered personality who did things that no one before him had ever done.

kali-kalera dharma-krsna-nama-sankirtana
krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana

“The fundamental religious system in the Age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Krsna. Unless empowered by Krsna, one cannot propagate the sankirtana movement.” (Cc Antya 7.11)

What happened in Srila Prabhupada’s presence was so dramatic, so powerful, that almost anyone could see and feel it. But even then, one’s perception depends on one’s openness of heart. Even some of Prabhupada’s godbrothers attributed his success to the fact that he was a good businessman. They didn’t recognize the obvious fact that he was an empowered Vaishnava. With “ordinary” maha-bhagavatas—though maha-bhagavatas are not ordinary at all—the effects of their association will not necessarily be as dramatic as the effects of Srila Prabhupada’s. And so it could be easier to misunderstand the position of such a maha-bhagavata.

To give an example, there are many devotees who believe that Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja was a maha-bhagavata. They saw things in him that convinced them that he was a maha-bhagavata. But when he was present, there was controversy about him. To a large extent, the controversy may have been caused by some of his disciples, because of the way they conducted themselves. But still, he was not universally recognized as a maha-bhagavata when he was here. In a GBC meeting once, the members were considering the responsibilities of a spiritual leader. Different members were proposing different responsibilities, and someone was writing the list on the board. Srila Gour Govinda Swami raised his hand and said, “To give Krishna.” Now, that answer, “to give Krishna,” somehow didn’t fit in their conception of what they wanted for the list (maybe it was too subjective). So they didn’t write it down. But he insisted, “No, you must write it down. His responsibility is to give Krishna. You must write it down.” They didn’t want to write it, because it didn’t fit their conception. “You write it down,” he insisted. “He must give Krishna.” Eventually, they wrote it down.

The point is that in the case of Srila Prabhupada, his position was so clear that unless someone was really envious or covered, the person could appreciate his exalted Krishna consciousness. But in the case of an “ordinary” maha-bhagavata—and I cited Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja because so many advanced devotees believe he was a maha-bhagavata—it may not be that easy to see. He wasn’t that universally recognized, because the perception of his internal position was subjective. People saw him in different ways, and nobody could prove that he was a maha-bhagavata or wasn’t a maha-bhagavata—it was subjective. But if someone is repeating the message of Krishna as it is, you can observe it. Prabhupada often remarked, “Krishna says, ‘Surrender to Me,’ and the bona fide spiritual master says, ‘Surrender to Krishna,’ so there is no difference.” You can test the person. You can hear what he says. You can see what he does. Is he repeating the message as it is? Is he following the process as it is? Is he chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra? Is he following the regulative principles? Is he following the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita? Is he teaching others to do the same? Barring someone who is a cheater, a cunning rascal who is trying to fool people, we can see and judge. That is objective. You can see that he is getting up, going to mangala-arati, chanting his rounds, and preaching, and that what he says comes from Srila Prabhupada, from the parampara, and from shastra. It is objective.

But what you said first could also be true. The objective instructions may relate to one’s external activities performed with the present senses, in sadhana-bhakti. And the subjective instructions may relate to one’s internal relationship with Krishna, in raganuga-bhakti. But if we properly follow the regulative principles of devotional service in practice (sadhana), we will eventually come to the purified stage of perfection (siddha) and awaken to our eternal relationship with Krishna. Either way, we reach the ultimate goal, krsna-prema.

Devakinandana dasa: Second, it seems unfair that Sati had to give up her body.

Giriraj Swami: If you identify with the body, then it is a big thing to have to give it up. But from the spiritual point of view, hearing blasphemy is also blasphemy; it means that you are implicated in sadhu-ninda, vaisnava-aparadha, which has very serious consequences. Now, if you give up the body, which is just a dress that covers the soul, what is the big thing? Spiritually, you can continue in the next life from where you left off. You can make progress. But if you keep that offense with you—if you don’t deal with it—then your spiritual life will be disturbed, and the reactions may carry into the next life. So, from the spiritual point of view, the devotee may think, “Okay, this dress got soiled. I’ll just change my dress and carry on.” But if you keep wearing the same contaminated dress, it can affect your consciousness, and you can go down.

Thank you very much. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Hare Krishna.