Found in Sanga, Sanga 2004.

Q. Do we have to take shelter of a guru to make spiritual progress? Is it not possible to simply follow the instructions of previous acaryas?

A. Guru is required. One who actually takes shelter of purva acaryas will be clear on this point from reading their books. One who has found faith should associate with devotees. Within such sadhu sanga one will find one’s guru. At that time the candidate can receive the diksa mantra and tailored instructions on spiritual practice. To disregard the guru is gururavajna, an offense to the holy name of Krishna. One who does not take initiation from a guru and does not follow his or her guidance disregards the guru and Sri Krishna’s system of guru, sri guru-parampara (lit. one guru after another). Such a person can only chant namaparadha, chanting that is deemed offensive to Krishna nama.

Q. Provided that a sadguru’s only motivation is to serve Krishna, can he or she make a mistake when dealing with disciples? Can the guru be blamed for the improprieties of the disciples?

A. From the spiritual point of view, a sadguru cannot make a mistake. One living in the embrace of the Absolute has perfected one’s life. Perfection in this case means one is doing everything for Krishna with no ulterior motive and seeing everything in relation to him. Such a person cannot be blamed if some disciples fail to follow perfectly.

However, persons who are in material consciousness may deprecate a sadguru, thinking him or her to be the same as any other person. In their relative world, a sadguru may not appear perfect, but neither is their world perfect. In their world, all concepts of correctness are relative because they are based on time, circumstance, and imperfect information. Everything in the relative world is in constant flux, including one’s understanding of reality, truth, and perfection.

Bhagavad-gita defines reality and truth as that which does not change, and perfection as complete surrender to Krishna. A person whose only motivation is to serve Krishna is indeed situated in ultimate reality, beyond the relativity of time and circumstance.

Q. Throughout creation there appears to be male/female dyads such as Radha-Krishna, Laksmi-Narayana, and Siva-Parvati. Does Lord Balarama, catur-vyuha, Maha Visnu, Paramatma, and so on, each have their own consorts?

A. The Lord is always accompanied by his feminine counterpart. She assists Visnu as Laksmidevi and is typically depicted as massaging his lotus feet when he appears in the material world as Maha Visnu, Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and Ksirodaksayi Visnu (Paramatma). Similarly, she is with the catur-vyuha, or four forms of Visnu in Vaikuntha. In the catur-vyuha that expands for lila in Goloka, she is also present as Rukmini (with Vasudeva Krishna), Revati (with Sankarsana), and so on.

Q. I heard that the Visnu aspect of Krishna carried out the killing of demons in Vraja. How are we to understand this?

A. Krishna’s quality of lila madhurya refers to his sweet pastimes of love in Vraja. Krishna is God in love, and Vraja is the land of love. Krishna’s killing of demons involves dealing with an outside influence, the demons that Kamsa sent to Vraja in an effort to kill Krishna. Because Krishna is God in love, it is said that the Visnu aspect within him killed those demons. Visnu is God in management of universal affairs, thus he is involved with the administration of justice and the protection of dharma. However, it is also said that Krishna himself gave those demons liberation, which illustrates that mercy and love are above justice and dharma. The killing of demons are occasional pastimes that are only exhibited in Krishna’s prakata, or manifest, lila on Earth.

Q. It is said that Lord Brahma appeared as Haridasa Thakura in Caitanya-lila. I understand that Sri Krishna can appear simultaneously in many forms and expansions, but in Gaudiya Vaisnavism Lord Brahma is believed to be a jiva (individual soul) so how could he could appear as Haridasa and act as Brahma at the same time?

A. If Lord Brahma leaves his post to appear in Caitanya-lila as Thakura Haridasa, this would involve a very short leave of absence given that the sastras say that a lifetime on earth is less than a moment of Brahma’s time.

Jiva souls do sometimes appear in perfection in two forms, one suitable for Krishna-lila and one suitable for Caitanya-lila.

Q. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta there is a story of how the Brahmas from different universes visited Krishna in Dvaraka. In that story the Brahma representing our universe had only four heads while the Brahmas from other universes had up to a million heads. Those Brahmas addressed the Lord in plural as “we” even though it said in the story that none of the Brahmas could see one another. How are we to understand “a million heads” as well as this contradiction in the story?

A. The sentence you are concerned with, tara kahe,—’tomara prasade sarvatra-i jaya, can be translated “They (the Brahmas) said, ‘By your mercy there is victory everywhere.’ ” Technically there is no “we” in the sentence.

Regarding the many heads of the different Brahmas, don’t become negatively preoccupied with these kinds of unimaginable details. Everything in scripture need not be taken literally. In Latin the word centi means one hundred and mill means one thousand, yet the centipede does not have a hundred legs nor does the millipede have one thousand legs. These insects are named such simply because they each have an amazing amount of legs. Similarly, when the different Brahmas are said to have 100, 1,000, 10,000, or more heads, this is a way of saying that their individual universes were progressively larger and larger and more and more amazing. The idea being that the more heads they have the larger and more amazingly complex were their respective universes.

To most the idea of a million heads may be unimaginable, but this is no reason to conclude that such things are absolutely impossible. To do so would superimpose a limitation on the wonders of the universe. In our everyday experience of nature and life itself, there is so much mystery, so much that we cannot understand, and so much yet to experience. Why then should we think that we have already somehow come to know or conceive of every fascinating miracle that the material manifestation has to offer? Although the scripture sometimes speaks allegorically, the Vedic description of expanding material universes on multiple levels of existence, occupied by countless variegated species of plants, animals, human and supernatural beings, rings true to many even though the conception is indeed mind-boggling. More amazing than the temporary material manifestation is the eternal world of Krishna, which is described as adhoksaja—beyond the mind. Beyond the mind anything can happen.

The essential message of this story about the Brahmas is that Bhagavan Sri Krishna is beyond the mind of everyone, regardless of how intelligent or powerful someone may be. Also, no one, not even Lord Brahma, can fully comprehend the universe in which one lives, what to speak of the entire material manifestation, which is but the maya-sakti (illusory energy) of Sri Krishna. This Krishna, who is worshipped in millions of universes by millions of Brahmas and is a mystery to even the greatest Lord Brahma, appears in Vrindavana as a simple cowherd boy—the darling of Nanda and Yasoda. What could be more wonderful and mind-boggling than this?

Rather than trying to comprehend every unimaginable detail with the tiny conditioned mind, aspiring devotees should learn to experience the essence of these stories from Caitanya-caritamrta and the Bhagavatam through the association of advanced devotees. Such association breathes life into the unimaginable.

See also:
Scripture: Literal and Allegorical

Q. Because Sri Balarama participated in the rasa dance, does he have a primary expansion of his pleasure potency in the same way that Lord Krishna expands his pleasure potency as Sri Radha?

A. Balarama does not participate in the sarad purnima rasa lila of Radha-Krishna. His rasa dance takes place with his own gopis, at Rama ghat in the spring. Our sampradaya does not speak of his gopi lila in any depth, but prefers to depict him in light of his devotion to Krishna as guru (elder), friend, and servant, kabhu guru, kabhu sakha, kabhu bhrtya-lila. Indeed, it emphasizes his respectful encounter with Krishna’s gopis when he visited Vrindavana on Krishna’s behalf—rama-sandarsanadrtah—more than his dancing with his own gopis.

In Balarama’s encounter with Krishna’s gopis, it is stated, sankarsanas tah krishnasya sandesair hrdayam-gamaih: Sankarsana delivered a message that was confidential. He spoke to the hearts of Krishna’s gopis. Why is Balarama called Sankarsana in this verse? Because sankarsana means to draw together and here Sankarsana was drawing Krishna and the gopis together. Even though Krishna was in Dvaraka, Balarama’s confidential talks with Krishna’s gopis made Krishna fully manifest in the hearts and minds of the gopis. In this exchange, Balarama has the mood of a servitor of Krishna. He is fully representing Krishna with no desire to enjoy Radha’s group for himself in any way.

For the most part, when the Bhagavata speaks of Balarama’s affairs with his own gopis it does so covertly, as we find in 10.15.8 where Krishna says, gopyo ‘ntarena bhujayor. In this phrase, Krishna speaks overtly of Balarama embracing forest vines and covertly of his future lila in which he embraces his own gopis, as this phrase can be read to indicate that Balarama embraces either creepers or milkmaids.

As for his principal consort, from Bhagavatam we know of Revati in Balarama’s Dvaraka lila. From the literature of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana we also know that he manifests as sakti-tattva in the form of Ananga manjari, the younger sister of Radha. It is only in this form that he directly participates in Radha and Krishna’s romantic affairs.

Q. Should a devotee still contaminated by lust read the rasa lila pastimes of Krishna found in the tenth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam?

A. Pujyapada B. R. Sridhara Maharaja once spoke of how a sannyasi from another lineage confided in him that at times he experienced that his mind was tinged with lust. At that time Sridhara Maharaja suggested to him that he read the rasa pancadhyaya (five chapters of the Bhagavata’s rasa-lila).

The sober Sridhara Swami of antiquity, so highly regarded by Sri Caitanya, has called the rasa pancadhyaya “Kama-vijaya,” victory over lust. The text itself concludes with this weighty advice:

bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam hrd-rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah

“Hearing the rasa-lila with firm faith, one will attain bhakti, quickly become sober, and remedy the heart disease of lust.”

As we develop firm faith in the guru-parampara and engage in serious spiritual practice, we should try to absorb ourselves in the descriptions of Krishna-lila depicted in Srimad-Bhagavatam. They have great power, which attests to their veracity. Live in the poetic world of Srimad-Bhagavatam, nasta prayesu abhadresu nityam bhagavata sevaya. Study the book with your intellect. It is a commentary on the logic of Vedanta-sutra, artho ‘yam brahma sutranam. It brings out the hidden heart of the Sutras (the heart of Krishna) and leaves no room for lust in our hearts. Hearing the pastimes of Krishna in conjunction with following the instructions of Sri Guru will in time bring the heart to swell with love for Krishna and his pure-hearted devotees.


2 Responses

  • hp


    One must also be careful so as not to conjure limitations of the Lord’s options, which are unlimited.

  • What are you referring to? The statement that Balarama doesn’t participate in the Sarad Purnima rasa lila of Radha-Krishna but rather has his own rasa dance with his own gopis in the spring? That isn’t conjuring up a limitation. It is describing rasa-tattva: the parameters that the Lord chooses to function within.

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