Compelled by intense compassion, this magnanimous self-realized soul,our most worshipful Srila Gurudeva, tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, appeared in this mortal world on February 7, 1921. Later, in order to further awaken the world to Srila Gurudeva’s glories, the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna caused him to disappear from our mortal view on December 29, 2010.
If one is in a room filled with musk, even though the musk does not speak, everyone present is affected by its lovely fragrance. Similarly, even if sri guru is not giving any instruction and rather remains silent, atoms of powerful hari-katha – atoms of prema – emanate from his transcendental body and enter the hearts of the devotees and non-devotees around him. Those persons become purified, they attain devotion to Sri Krsna, and their lives become successful.
This is what Srila Gurudeva did throughout his life, as he resided in India, as he traveled the globe thirty-one times, as he gave thousands of lectures and darsanas, as he answered with his impeccable wisdom the hundreds of thousands of spiritual inquiries, and as he gracefully went from topic on his thousands of morning walks.
Those of us who did not get the opportunity to have his association on his walks and in his darsanas do have that opportunity now, in Walking With A Saint. How? Because another quality of sri guru is that he is present in his words.
The great saint with whom you now have the fortune to walk, the personification of Lord Sri Krsna's divine mercy, is renowned throughout the world as Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. His followers honor him with the shorter title of Srila Gurudeva, the honorific appellation given to all saintly, self-realized spiritual masters.
The meaning of 'Srila Gurudeva' is very significant. The Sanskrit word Srila means 'one who brings us Sri, the embodiment of the Lord's personal opulences;' gu means 'darkness;' ru means 'light;' and deva means 'godlike.' Srila Gurudeva is he who takes us from a world that is a dungeon of darkness and ignorance, and carries us to a world of effulgent transcendental knowledge and spiritual opulence. Since Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja accomplishes this beautifully, we will hereafter refer to this supremely exalted saint as Srila Gurudeva.
The following true story from the ancient Vedic literatures was told by Srila Gurudeva in Badger, California, on May 19, 2004, during one of his world preaching tours. He narrated this history in order to emphasize the value of associating with saintly persons:
Once, the sages Visvamitra and Vasistha were quarrelling. Visvamitra told Vasistha, "You should address me as brahmarsi, because I have become an exalted, realized brahmana." Vasistha said, "I will address you as rajarsi, a saintly warrior, because you have come from a royal family." He refused to praise Visvamitra a a brahmarsi, because he considered that Visvamitra would become proud, which would not be beneficial for him.
Visvamitra then boasted that his performance of austerities was a great thing - greater than any other achievement. Vasistha disagreed. He insisted that sadhu-sanga, the association of saintly devotees of the Lord, was the greatest achievement.
They both approached Ananta Sesa, the serpent incarnation of the Lord on whose innumerable hoods millions of universes rest, and presented their case to him. Visvamitra asked him, "Please, you decide if it is Vasistha, or I, who is telling the truth. Am I greater than Vasistha or is Vasistha greater than me?"
Lord Ananta replied, "This topic is very deep and grave, but at present I am carrying the burden of all the universes upon my hoods. 0 Visvamitra, I am extremely tired. I want to rest one of my hoods. Please arrange that when I remove my hood, the universe will not even slightly move or fall from its position, and then I will answer you." Visvamitra responded, "Oh, that is a very insignificant task." To this end Visvamitra offered Lord Ananta the fruit of the entirety of his performances of yoga and austerities, but still he could not carry the burden of Ananta for even a moment. When Ananta began to remove his hood, there were severe earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.
Ananta then turned to Vasistha and asked, "Can you take my burden?" Vasistha replied, "I am offering you the result of only half a moment of my association with saintly persons. If I have ever had any elevated Vaisnava association, may the universe remain calm."
Again Ananta went to remove his hood from beneath the universe, this time successfully. The universe remained calmly in its place, hovering in space without moving. Ananta said, "Visvamitra, by this I have given my answer, which is for you to ascertain. Vasistha offered me the result of taking sadhu-sanga for a mere half a moment, and that in itself fully freed me of the burden. You were unable to arrange that for me."
So, talking sadhu-sanga for even a fraction of a second can change your entire life and make you happy forever. Sadhu-sanga is also called mahat-sanga. Mahat means 'great,' so mahat-sanga means 'association with great saints.' Mahat-sanga gives the highest of all kinds of benedictions, including material religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and, at the end, the attempt to become one with the Supreme. In fact, sadhu-sanga dances on the head of all these achievements.
In the same discourse, Srila Gurudeva shared with his audience another history, as follows:
There was once a murderer named Valmiki, who hunted and killed many brahmanas, rsis, and maharsis (elevated saints). By Valmiki's good fortune, one day he met Sri Narada Rsi, who was a transcendental touchstone. In other words, simply by Narada's touch, that murderer became a realized sage like Narada himself.
Narada Rsi had told him, "Chant the holy names of God: Rama, Rama, Rama," but because of his sinful life he could not do so. Narada then asked him, "Can you chant: mara, mara, mara?" Mara means 'death.' Valmiki replied, "Oh, yes," and he began, "Mara, mara, marama, rama, rama ...' The word mara gradually turned into the word 'Rama,' indicating Sri Krsna's incarnation, Lord Rama.
Valmiki did not need to study in gurukula to attain the fortune of becoming an empowered devotee of Lord Rama; nothing was required for him. By Sri Narada's association, he unknowingly began chanting the name of Rama, and later he knowingly chanted "Rama, Rama, Rama" and became self-realized.
If Narada approaches a murderer and tells him, "May you immediately have realization of Sri Rama and His abode and pastimes," that very thing transpires. If the great saint Srila Rupa Gosvami comes and blesses a person by placing his hand on his head, that person also becomes self-realized. When the Lord's associate, Sri Svarupa Damodara, placed his hands on the head of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami became like Sri Svarupa Damodara. The glory of that self-realized Sri Gurudeva is unlimited. We cannot glorify him adequately.
A few days later, on May 22, Srila Gurudeva told his listeners:
It is to be understood that those who have attended the hari-katha discourses of a great saintly person have already achieved the results of taking bath in the Ganges and at all the world's holy places. They have performed all kinds of austerities and given all varieties of pious donations. In fact, the fruits of all these pious acts can never be compared with a particle of saintly association. Mahat-sangama-mahatmyam evaitat paramadbhutam (Brhad-bhagavatamrta 2.7.14). This means that the glory of mahat-sanga, the association of great saints, is supremely astounding. The effects of mahat-sanga are beyond logic - logic cannot reach it - as there is nothing that cannot be accomplished by it. We cannot imagine the results of even one moment with such a saint.
In the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Devahuti states that if someone unknowingly engages in an activity or exchange with a self-realized soul, takes prasadam with him, or talks with him - even about worldly things - what will happen? That person's life will change imperceptibly; what to speak of one who performs these activities knowingly. The glory of this opportunity cannot be expressed.
There is a river here in Badger. If you have any doubts about this, then go to that river and throw all your doubts in there forever.
In Australia, on February I, 2000, Srila Gurudeva spoke the following to his eager audience:
Your coming here will not go in vain; it will never go in vain. There is no harm if you are overwhelmed by lust, if you have many worldly desires, or if you are besieged by impurities - as long as you have strong belief in the association of pure devotees. Sadhu-sanga sadhu-sanga sarva sastre kaya, lava matra sadhu sanga sarva siddhi haya. Sarva siddhi means 'all perfection.' If you want the opulence of this world, you can have it. If you want to attain the heavenly planets, you can have that. If you want Vaikuntha, or if you want love and affection for Ramacandra like that of Hanuman, very good; you can have that. If you want to be like the prominent queens of Dvaraka like Satyabhama and others, you can have that very quickly. Moreover, if you want to be a Vrajavasi, If you want the Vrajavasis' love and affection for Krsna, then Krsna will say to Srimati Radhika, "0, please let them have that love right away." If Srimati Radhika desires anything, Her desire is quickly fulfilled.
We would now like to share with you some excerpts from the foreword of the Morning Walks book that was published last year by Srila Gurudeva's mercy - Walking With A Saint 2008. We would love our respected readers to experience the wonder of being on morning walks with Srila Gurudeva, which can take place to a great extent simply by reading this book. To express what happens to those who are with him, we cannot think of more appropriate words than those found in that foreword:
After rising as early as 3 A.M., uttering mantras and prayers and chanting the various names and glories of Krsna, it is a part of Srila Gurudeva's morning practice to take a brisk walk for up to one hour. This is a time when those seeking his association can walk with him, and also hear from him, for sometimes he stops and spontaneously shares his realizations.
Although he is a sublime and elevated being, his relationships and interactions with people are intimate and sweet. Hundreds of thousands of people take his association, and yet he is always able to tailor his communication for the person who comes before him, even if that person has never met him before. To one inquirer he might express himself with irony, to another with gravity, to another playfully, to another sternly, to another sympathetically, to another speaking subtle philosophical intricacies, and to another with deliberate simplicity. Sometimes what he says is applicable for the moment, and sometimes for eternity. Sometimes his replies apply to a specific individual and sometimes to the entire audience, and in all cases his words enlighten all.
Most of the time he replies personally, and on occasion he calls on a sannyasi (renunciate) or other senior disciples to reply. Sometimes he expresses appreciation for his disciples' replies, and sometimes he corrects them. There is a saying in India that a mother teaches her daughter-in-law by teaching her daughter. In other words, the mother will most readily give corrective instruction to her own daughter, but that instruction will apply equally to the less accessible daughter-in-law. Similarly, on his morning walks, Srila Gurudeva trains his disciples/preachers to speak and understand with great precision and clarity the established truths of Vedic philosophy; and by this he also wants to inspire all the people of the world, all of whom he regards as his spiritual children. He wants to inspire them with the understanding that correct philosophical thought elevates one on the path to perfection, whereas incorrect comprehension can derail one from the path and keep one chained to the darkness of material and spiritual confusion.
One cannot help but be struck by Srila Gurudeva's warmth, ease, compassion and gravitas, and one is struck by even a slight sense of his unconditional, ever-fresh love and affection for all. We learn from spiritual masters that whenever a saint speaks, atoms of prema (transcendental love of God) emanate from his glance and from every pore of his divine body, and these atoms fall upon all those who are fortunate enough to be in his presence. Powerful saints come to this world with the sole purpose of alleviating the suffering of all souls by giving them the eternal solution. Everyone starts somewhere, and Srila Gurudeva accepts all with an inconceivable open heart.
He impregnates seeds of pure loving devotion into the hearts of all those who sit or stand before him; and, by his watering of those seeds, those hearts automatically blossom into fragrant flowers which he offers into the lotus-like hands of the Supreme Lord. In fact, even if Srila Gurudeva is not speaking about transcendental subject matters, his listeners are injected by his divine presence with the spiritual strength to overcome obstacles imposed by this world of birth and death.
Srila Gurudeva is an intimate friend and spiritual successor of Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, known throughout the world as Srila Prabhupada, the renowned preacher and founderacarya of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. As such, he accepted Srila Prabhupada's order to spiritually nurture Srila Prabhupada's disciples and followers and to continue his mission. Having been given by Srila Prabhupada the key that opens the locks on the vast treasure-chest of Srila Prabhupada's divine books, Srila Gurudeva explains, clarifies, and sheds light on SriIa Prabhupada's teachings during his own walks, darsanas, lectures, and books. Thus, within Walking With A Saint, Srila Gurudeva fulfills one of his most cherished services in this world.
His native language is Hindi. Because English is not his mother tongue, the editors have slightly edited his words under his guidance, for clarity of meaning and for flow of the English language. The language of Walking With A Saint is very straight forward and easy to understand. At the same time, Srila Gurudeva uses many Sanskrit terms, and we have retained them in the text in order to preserve the precision of meaning. For the benefit of the readers, these terms are always explained in English, either in the text itself or in the footnotes. If you find the explanation in the text or footnote insufficient, you are invited to turn to the glossary at the back of the book. Following the tradition of our spiritual preceptors, we use standard diacritical markings to indicate the pronunciation of the Sanskrit words. Pronounce a like a in father, i like ea in neat, it like oo in root, r like ri in rip, m and n like ng in hung, s and s like sh in shy, and c like ch in chap.
We wish we could put videos of these morning walks and darsanas on the pages of this book, so that you would be able to see Srila Gurudeva's sweet smiles and laughter, and hear his voice full of unending care and compassion for all souls.
On December 29, 2010, as Walking With A Saint, 2009 was entering its layout and proofreading stages, Srila Gurudeva disappeared from the vision of this mortal world and entered the eternal pastimes of the Divine Couple Sri Sri Radha-Krsna.
Still, he is forever present with us. As a manifestation of the mercy of the Supreme Lord and thus being in one sense non-different from Him, Srila Gurudeva is everywhere. He can easily hear our prayers and fulfil our hearts' deepest desires. We quote him in his Walking With a Saint, 2008 (Houston, May 30): "Vani (instructions) and vapu (physical presence) are the same. However if you follow sri guru's instructions you will be attracted to Krsna very easily. So try to follow his words. 'Association' means to follow him, not to be physically with him. It does not matter whether or not you are physically with him. If you follow his instructions, there will be an effect."
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