Questions and Answers with
Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja
The following article appeared in issue number 15 of Sri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu, the free fortnightly email magazine from ISKCON Gopal Jiu Publications.
Question: How can we have unalloyed devotion to our guru and also see the godbrother of our spiritual master as our spiritual master?
Gour Govinda Swami: We will offer the same respect to him as we pay to our spiritual master. But as Hanuman says, “Rama has occupied my heart”:
tathapi mama sarvasvam
There is no difference between Sri-nath [Vishnu, the Lord of the goddess of fortune] and Janaki-nath [Rama, the Lord of Sita], since They are both the Supersoul. Still, lotus-eyed Rama is everything to me. (Prema-bhakti-candrika, text 29)
We should not deviate from our guru. That is unalloyedness. Don’t be affected by any differences between our guru and his godbrother. We should overlook them. Still, our attitude should be, “I am following the instruction of my guru. I am not following the instruction of the godbrother of my guru.”
Question: What should we do when we see that some superior Vaisnava needs correction?
Gour Govinda Swami: Keshava Bharati was the godbrother of Iswara Puri, who was the guru of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu corrected Keshava Bharati. But we should not imitate Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and we are not. We should not try to correct anyone who is superior to us. We must act in such a way that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will give us the intelligence what to do:
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te
To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me. (Bg 10.10)
Krishna says, “I’ll give you the intelligence.” So, if you are a true follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He will give you intelligence. You will be able to act in such a way that the Vaisnava becomes automatically corrected. You won’t need to correct him directly. You should not have this thought in your mind: “Let me correct him.” No, no, no, no, no, no! We are not qualified to correct them. Our attitude should be trnad api su-nicena taror iva sahisnuna — I am the lowest of the low (Siksastaka 3).
Question: How do you correct a Godbrother?
Gour Govinda Swami: With a Godbrother we have a friendly relationship. So we may talk to him in a friendly way. Sometimes we may even cut jokes with him. To correct him we may say something at some opportune moment when we know it will not hurt him. An intelligent man will do like this. You must speak in such a way that it will not hurt his feelings. Mahaprabhu said:
prani-matre mano-vakye udvega na diba
Neither by mind nor words should a devotee cause anxiety to any living entity, regardless how insignificant he may be. —Cc. madhya 22.120
Don’t speak or act in such a way that will hurt their feelings. Don’t agitate them. This is the devotee’s behavior.
yasman nodvijate loko
lokan nodvijate ca yah
mukto yah sa ca me priyah
He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me. — Bg. 12.15
Krishna says, “He who is not agitated in any circumstances is very dear to Me. If someone tries to agitate him he never agitates back or disturbs anyone. He is equal in both harsa and amarsa, favorable and unfavorable conditions. In all conditions he is equal, sama. Bhayodvegair, he has no fear, no anxiety. He is very dear to Me.”
As Mahaprabhu has instructed, one should speak very sweetly so the devotee may be corrected, but in such a way that he will not be disturbed. For one who is intelligent, who is a true devotee, Mahaprabhu will give him intelligence whereby you will know how to act and speak in such a way that you will not hurt the devotee and at the same time you will correct him. And you should never have this thought in your mind that, “I’ll correct him.”
You should think, “I am not a qualified person to correct him. I’m the lowest of the low. I am an ignorant fool, murkha. I have no qualification.” You should not cherish the thought in your mind to correct him. This thought is very bad and offensive. This is a very, very subtle point. It is very difficult for ordinary people to understand. But those who are devotees, who have made some advancement in spirituality, they can understand this point.
Question: We cannot approach Krishna without a spiritual master. What about approaching Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?
Gour Govinda Swami: Unless you approach a spiritual master you cannot approach Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Krishna. The spiritual master is the expansion of Nityananda Prabhu. You get the mercy of Nityananda through the spiritual master, not directly. Guru is rupanuga-dhara — a follower of the Goswamis in disciplic succession.
Question: Who will decide who is a spiritual master?
Gour Govinda Swami: Are baba! The decision comes from Krishna. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has ordered:
yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa
amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desa
“Whomever you meet, tell him about Krishna: ‘O brother, Krishna has said this thing.’ Don’t concoct. Just present it as it is. I order you to become a spiritual master and deliver the world.” If you just do this, if you just present things as they are, following the disciplic succession, you will become guru. Krishna will give you that position. Don’t hanker after it. Just do it. The decision comes from Krishna, from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There is no question that someone will decide (laughs). Apratihata — it will automatically come.
If Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wants, if Krishna wants, no one can check it. You should have full faith and patience. Don’t be pessimistic. There is no question of pessimism. We should be full of optimism. We don’t need to bother about these things. Those persons who are now blowing their own trumpet, beating their own drums — Krishna will finish them at any time. Don’t be disturbed. You should have patience and full faith in guru-sadhu-sastra. Because it is the material world some disturbances will come up. pade pade vipada — “At every step there is danger.”
And at the same time it is Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. This world is filled with hypocrites. So some hypocrites will come and say, “Oh, I am guru. I am sadhu. I am such a great man.” He may come and beat his own drum, blow his own trumpet, and make some politics. It is quite natural. These things should not disturb you. Be Dhira. Don’t be disturbed. Have full faith in guru-sadhu-sastra. Just do your duty as guru has instructed, as it is. Present Krishna consciousness as it is. Time will change things in the long run. You need not be worried. Have patience. Quote sastra and the acaryas. Our basis is guru-sadhu-sastra. I never say anything different. I always quote authority.
Although he was a householder, Srila Prabhupada got the full mercy of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He never spent any time in the matha, but he became acarya because he was very, very simple, not envious. You cannot put a stamp on someone, “You are acarya.” Or else the day may come to prove that he’s not an acarya.
I will tell you a nice story. Once a jackal fell into the blue dye-water of a washerman. The jackal became blue. Then he went to the forest and declared to everyone, “I am the king of the animals.”
All of the animals said, “Oh yes! He is strange looking. He might be king.” Thus they made the jackal king and he sat on the throne.
Then when evening came, all of the jackals began howling, “Youka hou! Youka hou!”
So the jackal king also started howling, and then everyone saw, “Oh! He’s a jackal! Beat him! He’s not king!” In this way, he was revealed. We know these things, so why we should be disturbed? Don’t be disturbed. The time will come. Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will reveal everything. Have patience.
Question: We can see that envy may be very subtle. What is our hope?
Gour Govinda Swami: We should have full faith in guru-sadhu-sastra and we must do our service. Some disturbance may come — and it will come. It is the nature of this material plane, and at the same time Kali-yuga is here. It is very, very horrible. But one should have firm determination and patience. You should not deviate in any circumstance. Always pray to guru and Lord Chaitanya. They will help you. We are very weak, but caitya-guru is in our heart. He will give inspiration. For a sincere soul who is very eager to have this, Krishna makes arrangements. He knows, “This soul wants this thing.” So He makes arrangements for it to happen. Is there anything impossible for Krishna? It is impossible for us, but nothing is impossible for Krishna.
Our business is to always pray to Krishna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and Guru Maharaja, “Just help me!” You’ll get help. Have full faith in this. Don’t be desperate. We should be very eager to get this mercy and to have association of pure devotees who are more advanced than ourselves. Then you’ll benefit. Sadhu-sanga means you will associate with a person who is more advanced than yourself. Then you will benefit. Otherwise, no benefit will come. It may seem impossible to get such association. Still, nothing is impossible for Krishna. Krishna will make arrangement. Vani, instructions, are there.
When nothing is available we should associate with instructions and books, and with our sincere prayers we will reach Krishna. The day will come when you will meet such a person. It’s impossible for us, but it’s not impossible for Krishna. But we should always be praying, “Krishna, please help me!” Chanting Hare Krsna means the soul is crying, Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare — “O Krishna’s sakti Radharani! O Krishna! Please engage me in Your service. I am fallen.”
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
patitam mam visame bhavambudhau
krpaya tava pada-pankaja-
“O Krishna! I am Your kinkara, Your servant! But somehow I’ve fallen into the depths of this ocean of nescience. Please shower Your mercy on me and accept me as a particle of dust at Your lotus feet.”(Siksastaka 5)
If the soul is crying and crying by uttering this Hari-nama, “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna,” if you chant in this way, then you’ll get the necessary association miraculously and unexpectedly. It is impossible for us, but nothing is impossible for Krishna. Krishna wants that thing. The only lacking is with us. Thank you very much.
— Paris 1987, at the home of Sripad Harivilas Prabhu