By Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja
This article appeared in issue number 40 of Sri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu, the free fortnightly email magazine from ISKCON Gopal Jiu Publications.
One should understand what is sri-guru-carana-padma. The words “sri-guru” are very significant. “Sri” means sobha, beauty; sampada, transcendental wealth, or asset; and srestha, the topmost. “Sri-guru” means that guru who is endowed with sri, with prema-bhakti. The word “sri” is used because there is no question of Sri Guru disappearing or not being manifest. It is only applicable to a guru who is eternally manifest. Otherwise such a word would not be used.
The Only Wealth
In this world, Sri Guru is the only beauty or asset, wealth. There is nothing else. Carana means feet. Sri-guru-carana-padma the feet of Sri Guru are compared to the lotus. This is also very significant. Why are his feet compared to the lotus and not to anything else? The lotus flower looks very nice and beautiful, and it also provides very sweet honey, madhu. The bumblebee collects honey from different flowers, but especially from the lotus flower. So what sort of special quality is there in the honey collected from the lotus flower that is not present in the honey collected from other flowers? It is a special type of honey known as padma-madhu. The disciple who is like a bumblebee, who is very hungry and greedy for that honey, relishes it.
Mellow of Bhakti
Although the lotus flower grows out of the water, it is not touched by it. One of the synonyms for water is rasa, mellow. The feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus, but this lotus grows in the transcendental water of bhakti-rasa, the mellow of bhakti. Such are the lotus feet of Sri Guru. His lotus feet are aprakrta, not material, but transcendental. They are bhakati-sadma, the abode of transcendental bhakti-rasa as well as all madhuri, beauty. The lotus looks beautiful to the eye and is very attractive to the heart.
Similarly, the shining lotus feet of Sri Guru are very beautiful in the eyes of the disciple and very attractive to his heart. All of the activities, form, qualities, and pastimes of Sri Guru are very beautiful in the eyes of the sadhaka-bhakta. Through the eye of meditation the sadhaka-bhakta sees the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Guru. Upon seeing those lotus feet he feels a soothing effect in his afflicted heart. His heart is afflicted with the three tapas, sufferings: adhyatmika, sufferings arising from one’s own mind and body; adhidaivika, sufferings arising from nature; and adhibhautika, sufferings arising from other living entities. When the disciple meditates on the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Guru he feels a soothing effect and his affliction is cooled down. At the same time he also smells the nice scent that is coming from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, like the scent that comes from the lotus.
The bumblebee wanders everywhere, going to various types of flowers. One type of flower is the ketaki flower. That flower is found in India, but not in the West. The tree on which the ketaki flower grows, like the rose plant, has thousands of thorns. The ketaki flower has a nice scent, and a bumblebee that becomes attracted by the scent from the ketaki flower goes there. But because of the many thorns on the tree his wings become torn and he feels so much pain and affliction.
The bumblebee thinks, “Where to go now? Can I get shelter in a place where there is no pain and affliction? Where can I get peace?” After wandering hither and thither, at last he comes to the lotus flower and experiences the cooling, soothing effect there. He takes shelter inside the lotus flower, sucks the sweet honey there, and thus gets nourishment.
Similarly, the jiva who is wandering and wandering through the innumerable universes and through the innumerable species of life of this material world — brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva* — gets only more and more suffering, misery, and torture. There is no cooling effect in the material world, which is like a blazing forest fire — samsara-davanala.
Nobody starts the forest fire, but automatically by the rubbing of two pieces of wood, the whole forest is burned and the animals that live in the forest are burned to ashes. They feel the burning heat, which is very painful. Similarly, the conditioned souls in this material world feel the burning sensation coming from the three tapas: adhyatmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika. After wandering through innumerable universes and innumerable species of life, at last the fortunate soul, bhagyavan jiva, comes to the lotus feet of Sri Guru and takes shelter in the cooling shade there. As the bumblebee sucks honey from the lotus flower, similarly, the guru-pada-padma, the lotus feet of Sri Guru, allow that jiva, who is compared to the bumblebee, to suck the nice honey whereby he gets real nourishment and also premananda, loving happiness.
Special Type of Honey
Padma-madhu, the honey collected from the lotus flower, is a special type of honey. The Ayurveda-sastra says that it is a good medicine for the eye. If someone has some eye disease due to impurities in the eye the kaviraj, ayurvedic doctor, will advise him to rub some padma-madhu in his eyes. Because of these impurities one cannot see clearly and feels pain. Applying some padma-madhu on the eyes will clean out all the impurities and then one will be able to see clearly. Similarly, the guru-pada-padma-madhu, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, is so sweet and nectarean that if a fortunate disciple gets it and relishes it then the disciple’s eyes will be cleansed of the material conception.
Eyes of Knowledge
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
I was born in the dense darkness of ignorance, blind, without real vision. Sri Guru, by his causeless mercy, has opened my eyes with the torchlight of knowledge.*
For a person who has some painful eye disease, who cannot see well, the kaviraj will advise him to apply some padma-madhu by which the drsti-sakti, the power to see clearly, will develop. Then not only will he get nice eyesight but also he will be able to see even very subtle things that he would otherwise never have been able to see. Similarly, when one takes shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru and gets the guru’s mercy, the guru allows the surrendered disciple to taste that sweet honey emanating from the guru’s lotus feet. That is the medicine whereby his material eyes will be cleansed of all material contamination. He develops transcendental vision.
He may have been blinded by the dense darkness of ignorance, ajnana-andhakara, but that will all be gone now. The darkness is dispelled and he receives the eyes of knowledge— divya-jnana-caksu. Sri Guru imparts tattva-jnana, and by his mercy the disciple develops transcendental vision. With that vision he will be able to see the beautiful form of the Supreme Lord, Syamasundar. This is the honey, or madhu, emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru; it acts in such a wonderful way. Therefore the phrase, “sri-guru-carana-padma” is very significant — the lotus feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus. Why is this comparison made and how to explain it?
Padma-madhu cures eye disease and clears out all the impurities from the eye, but it cannot clear the impurities from the heart. However, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, guru-pada-padma-madhu, has such a special and wonderful characteristic that it cures both the eye and the heart. Sri-guru-carana-padma-madhu cleanses and purifies the heart so that it will become a suitable place for Govinda, Krishna, to reside.
tomara hrdoye sada govinda-visram
govinda kohena — mora vaisnava paran*
Narottam Das Thakur sings, “O Vaisnava-thakura! Govinda, Krishna, resides in your heart, which is like Vrindavan, the eternal abode of Govinda. He stays there very blissfully and peacefully. He never leaves your heart.”
The guru makes the heart of his surrendered disciple a suitable place for Krishna to reside. Because the guru gives the disciple shelter at his lotus feet and allows him to suck that special type of honey that has that wonderful characteristic, the heart of the surrendered disciple is cleansed.
The conditioned souls are like a diseased person suffering from various kinds of material ills — bhava-rogi. Their disease is very chronic. They have already taken many medicines — allopathic, homeopathic, and Ayurvedic — but the disease is still not cured. The disease is incurable and has become chronic. They have already lost their vitality, jivana-sakti, and cannot digest any food. They have taken so many medicines, and that has also produced a bad effect.
These days you will find so many strong drugs, but what is their effect? They simply result in chronic incurable disease. People lose their vitality, and they cannot even eat anything because their digestive fire is very low. How can they survive? They are dying. They cannot eat or digest anything.
The kaviraj will advise, “You should only eat one thing — madhu. And especially padma-madhu, the special type of honey from the lotus flower.”
He prescribes padma-madhu, whereby they will regain their vitality. This honey will give them life. Any other type of food cannot be given; only padma-madhu is advised. Then they can regain their vitality. Such jivas, wandering through innumerable universes and experiencing the miseries of innumerable species of life, have become completely hopeless. They are only getting suffering, so many material ills — bhava-roga.
If such persons are fortunate, they will come to the lotus feet of Sri Guru. That guru is like a physician, sadhu-vaidya. He knows the perfect and unfailing medicine to cure the material disease, bhava-roga. He knows the cause of the jiva’s suffering. There is only one medicine, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru — guru-pada-padma-madhu. So, as the lotus allows the bumblebee whose wings are torn by the thorns of the ketaki flower to take shelter inside the flower, similarly, the guru allows the disciple to take shelter at his lotus feet.
The guru-pada-padma, the lotus feet of Sri Guru, gives such hopeless wandering souls shelter and allows them to suck honey, whereby they regain their vitality. The suffering jiva gets nourishment and life there. That is why we say, “sri-guru-carana-padma.” The lotus feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus, and not to anything else. This phrase has great significance.
— Originally From “The Worship of Sri Guru.”
Gopal Jiu Publications
Bhubaneswar, India. 2000.
Continued in part two.