Bhakti Sandarbha 237: Guru-sevā is the Key to Success
The immediate subsequent subject after surrender is service or surrender to the Guru.
Guru-sevā is the Key to Success
तदेवं शरणापत्तिर्विवृता। अस्याश्च पूर्वत्वं, तां विना तदीयत्वासिद्धेः।
We have thus described the path of surrender. One must first come to the point of surrender, for without it cannot attain the sense of belonging to Bhagavān.
तत्र यद्यपि शरणापत्त्यैव सर्वं सिध्यति,
शरणं तं प्रपन्ना ये ध्यानयोगविवर्जिताः।
ते वै मृत्युमतिक्रम्य यान्ति तद्वैष्णवं पदम्॥
(ग.पु. १.२२७.३६) इति गारुडात्,
It is true that all perfection comes simply through surrender, as stated in the Garuḍa Purāṇa:
Those who have forsaken the paths of meditation and yoga and taken refuge of You transcend death and attain the supreme abode. (GP 1.227.36)
तथापि वैशिष्ट्यलिप्सुः शक्तश्चेत् ततो भगवच्छास्त्रोपदेष्टॄणां भगवन्मन्त्रोपदेष्टॄणां वा श्रीगुरुचरणानां नित्यमेव विशेषतः सेवां कुर्यात्। तत्प्रसादो हि स्वस्वनानाप्रतीकारदुस्त्यजानर्थहानौ परमभगवत्प्रसादसिद्धौ च मूलम्।
Even so, if one longs to taste a specific flavor of love and has the ability to do so, one should constantly and single-mindedly render service to the lotus feet of a guru , who can instruct one in the confidential conclusions of scripture or who initiates one into the mystery of the mantras related to Bhagavān. Indeed, the grace of the guru is the cause of removing all insurmountable evils that cannot be overcome by any effort of one’s own, and of obtaining the supreme mercy of Bhagavān.
पूर्वत्र, यथा सप्तमे श्रीनारदवाक्यम् (भा. ७.१५.२२-२५)—
असङ्कल्पाज्जयेत् कामं क्रोधं कामविवर्जनात्।
अर्थानर्थेक्षया लोभं भयं तत्त्वावमर्शनात्॥
आन्वीक्षिक्या शोकमोहौ दम्भं महदुपासया।
योगान्तरायान् मौनेन हिंसां कामाद्यनीहया॥
कृपया भूतजं दुःखं दैवं जह्यात् समाधिना।
आत्मजं योगवीर्येण निद्रां सत्त्वनिषेवया॥
रजस्तमश्च सत्त्वेन सत्त्वं चोपशमेन च।
एतत् सर्वं गुरौ भक्त्या पुरुषो ह्यञ्जसा जयेत्॥ इति।
One should conquer desire by relinquishing the spirit of enjoyment, anger by abandoning desire, greed by understanding the defects of wealth, fear by contemplating the nature of truth, lamentation and delusion by discriminating between reality and appearance, deceit by serving the wise, the obstacles of yoga through silence, violence by indifference to desire, misery arising through contact with other beings through forgiveness, misery arising from the forces of nature by experiencing samādhi, miseries connected with one’s own body and mind through the power of yoga, sleep by living according to principles of goodness, passion and ignorance through goodness, and goodness through detachment. A person can easily conquer all these by devotion to the spiritual teacher. (SB 7.15.22-25)
उत्तरत्र वामनकल्पे ब्रह्मवाक्यम्—
यो मन्त्रः स गुरुः साक्षाद्यो गुरुः स हरिः स्वयम्।
गुरुर्यस्य भवेत् तुष्टस्तस्य तुष्टो हरिः स्वयम्॥ इति।
In the Vāmana-kalpa, there is a statement by Brahmā about attaining the mercy of Bhagavān through the grace of one’s mantra-guru:
The mantra is directly the guru, and the guru is Bhagavān Hari Himself. Bhagavān Hari is personally pleased with a person with whom the guru is pleased.
हरौ रुष्टे गुरुस्त्राता गुरौ रुष्टे न कश्चन।
तस्मात् सर्वप्रयत्नेन गुरुमेव प्रसादयेत्॥ इति।
Elsewhere it is said:
If Bhagavān Hari is displeased, one’s guru can offer protection, but if the guru is displeased, nobody can provide protection. Therefore, one should satisfy one’s guru through all one’s endeavors.
अत एव सेवामात्रं तु नित्यमेव। यथा चान्यत्र परमेश्वरवाक्यम्—
प्रथमं तु गुरुः पूज्यः ततश्चैव ममार्चनम्।
कुर्वन् सिद्धिमवाप्नोति ह्यन्यथा निष्फलं भवेत्॥ इति।
One should worship Me only after first worshiping one’s guru. By doing so, one attains perfection, otherwise one’s efforts end in futility.
अत एव नारदपञ्चरात्रे—
वैष्णवं ज्ञानवक्तारं यो विद्याद्विष्णुवद्गुरुम्।
पूजयेद्वाङ्मनःकायैः स शास्त्रज्ञः स वैष्णवः॥
श्लोकपादस्य वक्तापि यः पूज्यः स सदैव हि।
किं पुनर्भगवद्विष्णोः स्वरूपं वितनोति यः॥ इत्यादि।
One who accepts a Vaiṣṇava guru, who imparts transcendental knowledge, on the same level as Viṣṇu, and who worships him with body, mind and speech, understands the conclusions of scripture and is a Vaiṣṇava. One who explains even a quarter of a verse is certainly always worshipable, so what to speak of a guru who reveals the identity of Bhagavān Viṣṇu!
भक्तिर्यथा हरौ मेऽस्ति तद्वरिष्ठा गुरौ यदि।
ममास्ति तेन सत्येन स्वं दर्शयतु मे हरिः॥ इति।
In the prayers of Devadyuti from the Padma Purāṇa, we find this statement:
If my devotion to my guru surpasses my devotion to Bhagavān Hari, then by the strength of this fact, let Bhagavān Hari appear before me.
तस्मादन्यद्भगवद्भजनमपि नापेक्षते। यथोक्तमागमे पुरश्चरणफलप्रसङ्गे—
यथा सिद्धरसस्पर्शात् ताम्रं भवति काञ्चनम्।
सन्निधानाद्गुरोरेवं शिष्यो विष्णुमयो भवेत्॥ इति।
Just as by contact with processed mercury, copper turns into gold, a disciple is awakened to Viṣṇu's divine nature by association with his guru.
तदेतदाह (भा. १०.८०.३४)—
नाहमिज्याप्रजातिभ्यां तपसोपशमेन वा।
तुष्येयं सर्वभूतात्मा गुरुशुश्रूषया यथा॥
In his discussion with Śrīdāma, Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa confirmed the same point that other limbs of devotion are unnecessary for one devoted to his guru:
I, the Supreme Self within all living beings, am not as pleased by sacrifices, nor by superior birth, nor by penances, nor by tranquility of mind, as I am with the service rendered by a disciple to his teacher. (SB 10.80.34)
टीका च — "ज्ञानप्रदाद्गुरोरधिकः सेव्यो नास्तीत्युक्तम्। अत एव तद्भजनादधिको धर्मश्च नास्तीत्याह—नाहमिति। इज्या गृहस्थधर्मः। प्रजातिः प्रकृष्टं जन्म उपनयनं, तेन ब्रह्मचारिधर्म उपलक्ष्यते, ताभ्याम्। तथा तपसा वनस्थधर्मेण। उपशमेन यतिधर्मेण वा। अहं परमेश्वरस्तथा न तुष्येयं, यथा सर्वभूतात्मापि गुरुशुश्रूषया॥" इत्येषा।
Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “There is no one more worthy of service than a guru who bestows transcendental knowledge. This was stated already. Therefore, there is no higher duty than rendering service to him. The present verse is spoken to elucidate this point. The word ijyā, or Vedic sacrifice, refers to the duties of a householder. Superior birth (prajātiḥ) refers to the birth in which one is initiated into the study of the Vedas by acceptance of the sacred thread. This is a reference to the duties of a student. 'By penance’ (tapasā) refers to the duties of one who has retired to the forest, and 'by tranquility of mind' (upaśamena) refers to the duties of a renunciant. Bhagavān declares that although He is situated as the Supreme Self within all living beings, He is not as satisfied by all these practices as by service rendered to one’s teacher.”
अत्र ज्ञानं ब्रह्मनिष्ठं भगवन्निष्ठं चेति द्विविधम्। तत्र पूर्वत्र तथैव व्याख्या। उत्तरत्र त्वेवम्—इज्या पूजा। प्रजातिर्वैष्णवदीक्षा। तपः समाधिः। उपशमो भगवन्निष्ठेति॥
The knowledge bestowed by the guru, as referred to in Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary, can be of two types—that which relates to Brahman or that which relates to Bhagavān. In the case where knowledge relates to Brahman, the explanation of the words in this verse is as given above. In the second case, however, the words should be understood as follows: ijyā would refer to worship of Bhagavān, prajāti to initiation into the Viṣṇu mantra, tapaḥ to samādhi and upaśama to the state of fixity in Bhagavān.
॥१०.८०॥ श्रीभगवान् श्रीदामविप्रम्॥२३७॥
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
In this anuccheda Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī reveals the secret formula for success. That is service to guru from one’s heart without any deceptive mentality, not desiring anything in return. This formula is true for all paths but specifically so for bhakti and compulsory for rāgānugā bhakti. Millions of people take to spiritual practice but hardly one gets the proclaimed and desired goal. The reason lies in not using this secret formula. If one logically analyzes the spiritualists one may conclude that it is all a claim without any truth behind in it. It is like if a farmer who plants one million mango trees and only one tree yields any fruit. One would not call that successful farming, and one would seriously doubt repeating the process or recommending it to others. However, instead of thinking that something is wrong with the mango plants, one should seriously consider his farming methodology. Similarly, instead of thinking that spirituality is bogus, one should seriously think that the practitioners are doing something wrong. One cannot expect proper result by acting improperly. Proper action cannot be done without proper knowledge. Proper knowledge comes from a proper guru by studying properly. This is the missing link in the chain of success to bhakti.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī says that service to guru is so potent that one can get all perfection simply by that alone, even if one is not executing the other forms of bhakti. Earlier it was said that in bhakti the success can come merely by cultivating one of its limbs or by a combination of few of them. But among all these limbs, service to guru is not optional.
Whatever one does, this must be included with that. In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa it is said,
guru-mūlam idaṁ sarvaṁ tasmān nityaṁ guruṁ bhajet
puraścaraṇa-hīno’pi mantrī siddhyen na saṁśayaḥ
All this [perfection in the mantra] is rooted in guru, therefore, one must serve guru regularly. By guru-sevā one can attain such perfection even without going through the practice called puraścaraṇa. There is no doubt about this. (HBV 17.242)
The reason for the importance of having a guru was explained in the previous anuccheda. Here the importance of service to guru has been highlighted. In Vāmana-kalpa it is said that if Bhagavān becomes upset with someone then the guru can give protection, but if the guru is upset even Bhagavān cannot help because He himself has given this power to the guru. He does not want that an aspiring spiritualist should bypass the guru and approach Him directly. First one has prove himself or herself to the guru. Guru is the testing ground. It is like before an actor goes on the stage, he or she has to rehearse offstage. Similarly before one is allowed to enter into Kṛṣṇa’s play one has to rehearse with guru. Once the guru is satisfied then one has attained the visa to enter into the kingdom of Bhagavān. Guru is thus like an ambassador from Bhagavān’s kingdom. Therefore, in Indian scriptures so much stress has been given on the principle of guru-sevā.
Mahābhārata (Ādi-parva, third chapter) begins with the stories of four students, Āruṇi, Upamanyu, Veda, and Uttaṅka and their service to their gurus. These stories throw light on the prevalent culture of guru-bhakti in the olden times which can still be witnessed, although it has become very rare. Even Kṛṣṇa, who is called jagad-guru, the universal teacher, went and lived in the ashram of Sandipani Muni and did service to him. This was done to set an example for us.
Yet, for all that, there are many teachers who say that we do not need a guru, or that we are our own guru. This is like saying, “ I have no tongue in my mouth.” If that is true, how can I speak? If the guru is not required then why are they even teaching this and thus contradicting their own statement, because if we accept their words then they become our guru. If we do not accept, then we should take a guru. In either case, guru is unavoidable.
According to Nārada-pañcarātra one should respect every teacher from whom one has learnt something, not just the dīkṣā-guru. In this regard Cāṇakya writes:
ekākṣara-pradātāraṁ yo guruṁ nābhivandate
śvāna-yoni-śataṁ gatvā cāṇḍāleñv abhijāyate
One who does not respect a guru from whom one has learnt even one word will take birth as a dog for one hundred births and then as a cāṇḍāla, an outcaste. (Cāṇakya-nīti 13.18)
Bhakti Sandarbha 236 : Sharanagati or Surrender
Bhakti Sandarbha 235 : Vaidhī Nirguṇā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 234 : Svarūpa-siddhā Niṣkāmā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 231-233 : Svarūpa-siddhā Bhakti and the Three Gunas
Bhakti Sandarbha 228-230: Mixed Bhakti desiring only pure bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 226-227 : Kaivalya-kāmā Bhakti mixed with karma and jnana
Bhakti Sandarbha 225 : Three Divisions of Saṅga-siddhā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 224 : Three Motives Behind the Offering of Karma
Bhakti Sandarbha 222-223: The Result Of Karma is Under the Control of Bhagavān
Bhakti Sandarbha 218-221: Karma Offered To Bhagavān Destroys Karma