GURU TATVA By Shri Vinod Bihari Das Babaji Maharaj

Shri Guru charana padma, kevala bhakati sadma,
Bando mui savdhan mate.
Jahaar prasade bhai, ei bhava torita jayi,
Krishna prapti hoy jaha haite.

Meaning: I bow down respectfully to the lotus feet of Sri Gurudev which are abode of spiritual devotion. O brother, as a result of this, I will transcend this cycle of birth and death, and I will attain Krishna.

The Guru tatva is very deep and mystical. Krishna tatva, Bhagvat tatva, Prem tatva, Lila tatva, Ras tatva, Maya tatva - among all the tatvas included in Para tatva, the Guru tatva is the most secretive and mystical. Krishna showers his mercy on the sadhak through the medium Gurudev, and not directly. That is why, if a sadhak begins to doubt the necessity of initiation from a Guru or the eligibility of Guru after having accepting initiation, it is very unfortunate and harbinger of misfortune in the path of Bhakti.

Many scholars have written articles and books on Guru tatva. All have their own perspective on the importance of Guru tatva. Some describe Guru as equivalent to the Supreme Godhead, while others describe Guru as a servant or bhakta of God. While their ideologies are based on scriptures and are absolutely true, we need to find an ideology from the scriptures that makes peace with the seemingly different ideologies of scriptures. The ideologies of scriptures are not conflicted. But they seem so due to our lack of comprehension of scriptures, which leads to conflicts between followers of different sects.

In the path of Yoga and other sects, the Guru guides the disciple till he attains his spiritual goal and then Guru becomes one with the Ishta (in other words, the Guru's role exists only till the disciple reaches his goal.) But in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the Guru continues to guide the disciple in service of the Supreme Godhead eternally in Goloka. There are four swarupas of Guru tatva for followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism sect: Vaishti swarup, Samashti swarup, Sakhi swarup and Brahman kumar swarup. The Samashti swarup is eternal and omnipotent. He is non different from the Supreme Godhead, but manifests on Earth as the Guru of even God. When Rama, Krishna and other swarupas of God descend on Earth, the Guru tatva manifests as Vashishtha rishi, Sandipani muni, etc. He is the Guru of all. The Sakhi swarup is maidservant of Radharani, who guides the sadhak in service of Yugal Kishore. She is bhakta, and not God. The Brahman kumar swarup is also a servant of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who guides the disciple in service of Mahaprabhu. He is definitely bhakta, and not God. The different sects within Gaudiya Vaishnavism have no conflict of ideology regarding these three swarupas. Now let's talk about the Vaishthi Guru swarup, the one who gave you diksha (initiation) in this world. The conflict between different ideologies is regarding this Guru swarup only. Is he bhakta or God? Bhakta is a servant of God, and is controlled by God, while God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and the controller of the creation. Some say that he is bhakta but the disciple must think of him as God. How can that happen? If I tell you to eat a lemon, but while eating you must think it is a Gulab jamun? The disciple sees the Guru acting similar to any other person, eating, sleeping, talking, walking, etc. The Guru seems to get affected by diseases, has birth and death, and in no way matches the description of various forms of God. Then how can he consider him God, the controller of three worlds? The disciple is not a spiritually advanced soul who sees the omnipotent in all souls, but an ordinary materialistic person. Then how should such a person perceive the Vaishthi Guru swarup?

There are six types of Pramanas (proofs): Pratyaksha (evidently perceivable to eye or mind), Anuman (hypothesis), Upamana (comparitive analogy), Arthapatti (derivation from related facts), Anupalabdhi (non existance of something proves the opposite) and Shabda (time tested wisdom). There are four main shortcomings of human, namely: Bhram (illusion), Pramad (carelessness or prejudice), Vipra lipsa (manipulating the facts for the sake of winning a debate) and Karan apatak (defective sensory organs). Pratyaksha praman is not the best proof of truth, since we may have defective sensory organs, or prejudiced mind. For example, a man infected by Tuberculosis sees everything as yellow. But it is his eyes that have given that yellow tinge to everything he sees. Similarly, the spiritual advancement of the Guru is not easily perceivable by an ordinary person. While a sadhak must not accept initiation from anyone until he is able to trust and have full faith that this person has attained the Supreme Godhead, he must also be aware that such highly advanced bhaktas hide their state of Prem and act like ordinary, fallen or even mad people. Other than this, their perception might be distorted by prejudices that are psychologically triggered. That is why Pratyaksha praman is not evidently true. Anuman praman is also not always correct. Suppose you see a woman with a big stomach. You think (hypothesis) that she is pregnant. But it might also be a tumor. Such hypothesis cannot adequately prove the truth. Similarly, there are defects in Arthapatti, Upamana and Anupalabdhi praman, which can be affected by the four main shortcomings of human. But Shabda praman is time tested wisdom, which has been experienced by many people over and over again. This includes the scriptures, the Shruti and Smriti. The scriptures are divine and eternal, and many yogis and bhaktas have experienced the divine manifestation of scriptural slokas in bright golden letters while meditating and imbibing their meaning in their hearts. But such an experience needs highly pure heart, which the ordinary person doesn't have, and therefore, may not have faith in. Even then, the wisdom of scriptures have been recognized as true again and again by several bhaktas, irrespective of their place and time of birth in history. That is why Shabda or Shastra Praman has been considered as the best proof of Truth.

So what do the scriptures say about Vaishthi Guru swarup? The scriptures say that the importance of Vaishthi Guru is indispensable. Vaishthi Guru swarup is THE most important swarup among the four swarupas. If you think 'why entangle yourself in so much conflict? Let's just worship the Samashti Guru, the omnipotent?', then you are wrong. Because neither of the other three swarupas of Guru tatva will shower their mercy on the sadhak without the mercy of the Vaishthi Guru. If the Vaishthi Guru is happy and merciful on the sadhak, all the scriptures, the divine Bhaktas and Radha Krishna themselves will shower mercy on the sadhak. If the Vaishthi Guru is not happy (due to Guru aparadh or not following his instructions), then all the scriptures, divine Bhaktas and Radha Krishna will leave the sadhak. The spiritual progress and attainment of service of Radha Krishna depends upon the Vaishthi Guru. This is why one must choose a Guru very carefully. It is better to simply chant and pray to Krishna for sending Sadguru to him, than hastily get initiated and later, find faults with the Vaishthi Guru.

So who is this Vaishthi Guru? The tatva of Vaishthi Guru is the sum of all the other three Guru swarupas. The Samashti, the Sakhi swarup and the Brahman swarup - all manifest together in the Vaishthi Guru. He is the omnipotent, omnipresent, non different from Radha Krishna and also, the Bhakta in the divine pastimes. Now, one may ask that everyone has their respective Gurus, then how can there be so many omnipotent Gods? The answer is that the Guru is omnipotent Godhead for their respective disciples, but only a Bhakta for others. This does not mean that the disciple imagines the Guru to be omnipotent Godhead, but the omnipotent Godhead showers his mercy through the Vaishthi Guru of the disciple. Let me explain with an example. The sunlight is hot, bright and scorching. The moonlight is cool and soothing. On a full moon night, if you tell people that the sunlight is so cooling, people will laugh at you. Though scientifically, the moon doesn't have its own light, but reflects the light of sun, still there is a big difference between sunlight and moonlight. Similarly, Krishna's mercy is not easily attainable by an ordinary person, but the Guru showers his mercy on the most fallen and erratic people. His mercy is like the moonlight, soothing and gentle, which cools our hearts that have been scorching in the heat of Adhibhautik (bodily), Adhidaivik (natural) and Adhyatmik (spiritual) disasters. All kinds of spiritual powers, fortunes and bliss resides in the lotus feet of Guru. In Shrimad Bhagvatam Krishna says, "Acharya mam vijaniyam". Meaning, know the Acharya (Guru) as an embodiment of me. There is no if and but in this. The Guru is Krishna himself. Sanatan Goswami says in Guru Vandana:

"Jiver nistaar lagi Nand suta Hari,
Bhubane prakash han Guru rup dhari."
"Mahimaye Guru Krishna ek kari jano,
Guru agya hride sab satya kari mano."

Meaning: To save the jivatmas from cycle of birth and death, the son of Nand maharaj, Krishna, has manifested in the form of Guru. The importance of Guru is equivalent to that of Krishna. Always accept the orders and instructions of Guru as the Truth to heart.

Therefore, if someone says that your Guru has such and such faults, just join your hands and say "My Guru is Krishna himself for me. What he is or he is not for you doesn't matter to me." Be dedicated to this ideology of the scriptures. Do not let any doubt infest the mind about your Guru.

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