Arjuna Teaches Us How to Serve the Spiritual Master in His Absence

Krishna on battlefield

I ran across this interesting compilation of quotes this morning on the Prabhupada News website, by Vidura Prabhu. This is a nice reminder that Krsna is present today, through His spoken words on the battlefield of Kuruksetra, and by chanting his holy names. And that Srila Prabhupada is also present today, through his words and instructions. I have done some slight editing (highlighting), and have included the full text and purports to SB 1.15.27-31 at bottom of post. -Vyasasan das

Arjuna Teaches Us How to Serve the Spiritual Master in His Absence
by: Vidura dasa

Oct 23 2011, USA — “The Lord left behind Him the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita not for the benefit of Arjuna alone, but also for all time and in all lands(1). […]The problem which arose in the heart of Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra was solved by the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. […]The merciful Lord left behind Him the great teachings of the Bhagavad-gita so that one can take the instructions of the Lord even when He is not visible to material eyesight(2). […] Thus the Bhagavad-gita, or any authentic scriptural sound representation of the Lord, is also the incarnation of the Lord. There is no difference between the sound representation of the Lord and the Lord Himself. One can derive the same benefit from the Bhagavad-gita as Arjuna did in the personal presence of the Lord.” (SB 1.15.27)

“Arjuna began to think of the Lord’s instructions to him on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. Only those instructions began to eliminate the tinges of material contamination(3) in the mind of Arjuna.” (SB 1.15.28)

“As soon as Arjuna turned his attention towards the instructions of the Lord, as they are inculcated in the Bhagavad-gita, his true color of eternal association with the Lord became manifest, and thus he felt freed from all material contaminations.” (SB 1.15.29)

“As soon as Arjuna took up the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita, expert as he was, he could at once eradicate the material conception of Lord Krishna, his eternal friend. He could realize that the Lord was still present before him by His instruction(4), by His form, by His pastimes, by His qualities and everything else related to Him. […] One is not able to feel the presence of the Lord in all circumstances until one is endowed with the required transcendental vision made possible by devotional service prescribed in the revealed scriptures. Arjuna had attained this stage long before on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, and when he apparently felt the absence of the Lord, he at once took shelter of the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita(5), and thus again he was placed in his original position*.” (SB 1.15.31)

(1) Can everyone and anyone take shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions?

(2) Does this depend on any physical presence?

(3) What is the result of following the instructions?*

(4) Is Srila Prabhupada really present before us by His instructions?

(5) So in Srila Prabhupada’s absence we only need to take shelter of His instructions?

(6) Is it fair to draw these conclusions i.e. can they be applied to Srila Prabhupada? See quotes below:

“As soon as we chant Hare Krishna or chant Bhagavad-gita or Bhagavata,so He is present immediately by His vibration. He’s absolute. Therefore try to remember His words of instruction; you’ll not feel separation. You’ll feel that He is with you. Soweshould associate by thevibration, and not by the physical presence. That is real association. Sabdad anavritti. By sound. Just like we are touching Krishna immediately by sound. Soundvibration. So we should give more stress on the sound vibration, either of Krishna or of the spiritual master. Then we‘ll feel happy and no separation. When Krishna departed from this world, at that time Arjuna was overwhelmed with sorrow and he began to remember the instruction of Bhagavad-gita. You’ll find in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Then he was pacified. He immediately began to remember the teachings which was taught to him in the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, and he was pacified. He was his constant friend, so when Krishna went to His abode he was feeling overwhelmed, but he began to remember His teaching. So whenever we shall feel separation, the best thing is to remember the teachings. Then it will be very nice. Is that clear?” (Lecture | Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.12 | Montreal, August 18, 1968)

“Krishna and his representative are the same. Similarly, the spiritual master can be present wherever the disciple wants. A spiritual master is the principle, not the body. Just like a television can be seen in thousands of place by the principle of relay monitoring.” (SP – 28/5/68)

“When one receives the seed of devotional service by the mercy of the guru and Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one’s real life begins. If one abides by the orders of the spiritual master, by the grace of Krishna he is freed from service to the mind.” (SB 5.11.17 | Purport)

“One may argue that ‘Where is Krishna?’ No, you have got Krishna’s representative, guru. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado. The representative is there. If you act according to his instruction, if you want to please him, then Krishna is pleased.” (Lectures | Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.15 | Denver, June 28, 1975)

“So if you want to be anxiety-less, without any anxiety, then you must take shelter of the guru, or the spiritual master, and the test is that by the instruction of guru, by following the instruction of guru, you will be anxiety-less. This is the test.” (Lecture | Stockholm, September 9, 1973)

“If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual masters instructions and the spiritual master himself. In the absence therefore, his words of direction should be pride of the disciple.” (C.c. Adi 1.35, purport)

“The disciple and Spiritual Master are never separated because the Spiritual Master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the Spiritual Master. This is called the association of Vani. Physical presence is called Vapuh. As long as the Spiritual Master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the Spiritual Master, and when the Spiritual Master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the Spiritual Master.” (S.B. 4:28:47, purport)

“The Spiritual Master is present wherever his sincere disciple is trying to serve his instructions. This is possible by the Mercy of Krishna. In your attempts to serve me and in all your sincere devotional sentiments I am with you as My Guru Maharaja is with me. Remember this always.“ (Letter to Bhakta Don, Dec. 1, 1973)

Full Text and Purport

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Canto One, Chapter 15, Text 25-31

TEXTS 25–26

jalaukasāṁ jale yadvan
mahānto ’danty aṇīyasaḥ
durbalān balino rājan
mahānto balino mithaḥ

evaṁ baliṣṭhair yadubhir
mahadbhir itarān vibhuḥ
yadūn yadubhir anyonyaṁ
bhū-bhārān sañjahāra ha

jalaukasām—of the aquatics; jale—in the water; yadvat—as it is; mahāntaḥ—the larger one; adanti—swallows; aṇīyasaḥ—smaller ones; durbalān—the weak; balinaḥ—the stronger; rājan—O King; mahāntaḥ—the strongest; balinaḥ—less strong; mithaḥ—in a duel; evam—thus; baliṣṭhaiḥ—by the strongest; yadubhiḥ—by the descendants of Yadu; mahadbhiḥ—one who has greater strength; itarān—the common ones; vibhuḥ—the Supreme Personality of Godhead; yadūn—all the Yadus; yadubhiḥ—by the Yadus; anyonyam—among one another; bhū-bhārān—the burden of the world; sañjahāra—has unloaded; ha—in the past.

TRANSLATION

O King, as in the ocean the bigger and stronger aquatics swallow up the smaller and weaker ones, so also the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to lighten the burden of the earth, has engaged the stronger Yadu to kill the weaker, and the bigger Yadu to kill the smaller.

PURPORT

In the material world the struggle for existence and survival of the fittest are laws because in the material world there is disparity between conditioned souls due to everyone’s desire to lord it over the material resources. This very mentality of lording it over the material nature is the root cause of conditioned life. And to give facility to such imitation lords, the illusory energy of the Lord has created a disparity between conditioned living beings by creating the stronger and the weaker in every species of life. The mentality of lording it over the material nature and the creation has naturally created a disparity and therefore the law of struggle for existence. In the spiritual world there is no such disparity, nor is there such a struggle for existence. In the spiritual world there is no struggle for existence because everyone there exists eternally. There is no disparity because everyone wants to render service to the Supreme Lord, and no one wants to imitate the Lord in becoming the beneficiary. The Lord, being creator of everything, including the living beings, factually is the proprietor and enjoyer of everything that be, but in the material world, by the spell of māyā, or illusion, this eternal relation with the Supreme Personality of Godhead is forgotten, and so the living being is conditioned under the law of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest.

TEXT 27

deśa-kālārtha-yuktāni
hṛt-tāpopaśamāni ca
haranti smarataś cittaṁ
govindābhihitāni me

deśa—space; kāla—time; artha—importance; yuktāni—impregnated with; hṛt—the heart; tāpa—burning; upaśamāni—extinguishing; ca—and; haranti—are attracting; smarataḥ—by remembering; cittam—mind; govinda—the Supreme Personality of pleasure; abhihitāni—narrated by; me—unto me.

TRANSLATION

Now I am attracted to those instructions imparted to me by the Personality of Godhead [Govinda] because they are impregnated with instructions for relieving the burning heart in all circumstances of time and space.

PURPORT

Herein Arjuna refers to the instruction of the Bhagavad-gītā, which was imparted to him by the Lord on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. The Lord left behind Him the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā not for the benefit of Arjuna alone, but also for all time and in all lands. The Bhagavad-gītā, being spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the essence of all Vedic wisdom. It is nicely presented by the Lord Himself for all who have very little time to go through the vast Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Vedānta-sūtras. It is put within the study of the great historical epic Mahābhārata, which was especially prepared for the less intelligent class, namely the women, the laborers and those who are worthless descendants of the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and higher sections of the vaiśyas. The problem which arose in the heart of Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra was solved by the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā. Again, after the departure of the Lord from the vision of earthly people, when Arjuna was face to face with being vanquished in his acquired power and prominence, he wanted again to remember the great teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā just to teach all concerned that the Bhagavad-gītā can be consulted in all critical times, not only for solace from all kinds of mental agonies, but also for the way out of great entanglements which may embarrass one in some critical hour.

The merciful Lord left behind Him the great teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā so that one can take the instructions of the Lord even when He is not visible to material eyesight. Material senses cannot have any estimation of the Supreme Lord, but by His inconceivable power the Lord can incarnate Himself to the sense perception of the conditioned souls in a suitable manner through the agency of matter, which is also another form of the Lord’s manifested energy. Thus the Bhagavad-gītā, or any authentic scriptural sound representation of the Lord, is also the incarnation of the Lord. There is no difference between the sound representation of the Lord and the Lord Himself. One can derive the same benefit from the Bhagavad-gītā as Arjuna did in the personal presence of the Lord.

The faithful human being who is desirous of being liberated from the clutches of material existence can very easily take advantage of the Bhagavad-gītā, and with this in view, the Lord instructed Arjuna as if Arjuna were in need of it. In the Bhagavad-gītā, five important factors of knowledge have been delineated pertaining to (1) the Supreme Lord, (2) the living being, (3) nature, (4) time and space and (5) the process of activity. Out of these, the Supreme Lord and the living being are qualitatively one. The difference between the two has been analyzed as the difference between the whole and the part and parcel. Nature is inert matter displaying the interaction of three different modes, and eternal time and unlimited space are considered to be beyond the existence of the material nature. Activities of the living being are different varieties of aptitudes which can entrap or liberate the living being within and without material nature. All these subject matters are concisely discussed in the Bhagavad-gītā, and later the subject matters are elaborated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam for further enlightenment. Out of the five subjects, the Supreme Lord, the living entity, nature, and time and space are eternal, but the living entity, nature and time are under the direction of the Supreme Lord, who is absolute and completely independent of any other control. The Supreme Lord is the supreme controller. The material activity of the living being is beginningless, but it can be rectified by transferral into the spiritual quality. Thus it can cease its material qualitative reactions. Both the Lord and the living entity are cognizant, and both have the sense of identification, of being conscious as a living force. But the living being under the condition of material nature, called mahat-tattva, misidentifies himself as being different from the Lord. The whole scheme of Vedic wisdom is targeted to the aim of eradicating such a misconception and thus liberating the living being from the illusion of material identification. When such an illusion is eradicated by knowledge and renunciation, the living beings are responsible actors and enjoyers also. The sense of enjoyment in the Lord is real, but such a sense in the living being is a sort of wishful desire only. This difference in consciousness is the distinction of the two identities, namely the Lord and the living being. Otherwise there is no difference between the Lord and the living being. The living being is therefore eternally one and different simultaneously. The whole instruction of the Bhagavad-gītā stands on this principle.

In the Bhagavad-gītā the Lord and the living beings are both described as sanātana, or eternal, and the Lord’s abode, far beyond the material sky, is also described as sanātana. The living being is invited to live in the sanātana existence of the Lord, and the process which can help a living being to approach the Lord’s abode, where the liberated activity of the soul is exhibited, is called sanātana-dharma. One cannot, however, reach the eternal abode of the Lord without being free from the misconception of material identification, and the Bhagavad-gītā gives us the clue how to achieve this stage of perfection. The process of being liberated from the misconception of material identification is called, in different stages, fruitive activity, empiric philosophy and devotional service, up to transcendental realization. Such transcendental realization is made possible by dovetailing all the above items in relation with the Lord. Prescribed duties of the human being, as directed in the Vedas, can gradually purify the sinful mind of the conditioned soul and raise him to the stage of knowledge. The purified stage of acquiring knowledge becomes the basis of devotional service to the Lord. As long as one is engaged in researching the solution of the problems of life, his knowledge is called jñāna, or purified knowledge, but on realizing the actual solution of life, one becomes situated in the devotional service of the Lord. The Bhagavad-gītā begins with the problems of life by discriminating the soul from the elements of matter and proves by all reason and argument that the soul is indestructible in all circumstances and that the outer covering of matter, the body and the mind, change for another term of material existence which is full of miseries. The Bhagavad-gītā is therefore meant for terminating all different types of miseries, and Arjuna took shelter of this great knowledge, which had been imparted to him during the Kurukṣetra battle.

TEXT 28

sūta uvāca

evaṁ cintayato jiṣṇoḥ
kṛṣṇa-pāda-saroruham
sauhārdenātigāḍhena
śāntāsīd vimalā matiḥ

sūtaḥ uvāca—Sūta Gosvāmī said; evam—thus; cintayataḥ—while thinking of the instructions; jiṣṇoḥ—of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; kṛṣṇa-pāda—the feet of Kṛṣṇa; saroruham—resembling lotuses; sauhārdena—by deep friendship; ati-gāḍhena—in great intimacy; śāntā—pacified; āsīt—it so became; vimalā—without any tinge of material contamination; matiḥ—mind.

TRANSLATION

Sūta Gosvāmī said: Thus being deeply absorbed in thinking of the instructions of the Lord, which were imparted in the great intimacy of friendship, and in thinking of His lotus feet, Arjuna’s mind became pacified and free from all material contamination.

PURPORT

Since the Lord is absolute, deep meditation upon Him is as good as yogic trance. The Lord is nondifferent from His name, form, quality, pastimes, entourage and specific actions. Arjuna began to think of the Lord’s instructions to him on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. Only those instructions began to eliminate the tinges of material contamination in the mind of Arjuna. The Lord is like the sun; the sun’s appearance means immediate dissipation of darkness, or ignorance, and the Lord’s appearance within the mind of the devotee can at once drive away the miserable material effects. Lord Caitanya has therefore recommended constant chanting of the name of the Lord for protection from all contamination of the material world. The feeling of separation from the Lord is undoubtedly painful to the devotee, but because it is in connection with the Lord, it has a specific transcendental effect which pacifies the heart. Feelings of separation are also sources of transcendental bliss, and they are never comparable to contaminated material feelings of separation.

TEXT 29

vāsudevāṅghry-anudhyāna-
paribṛṁhita-raṁhasā
bhaktyā nirmathitāśeṣa-
kaṣāya-dhiṣaṇo ’rjunaḥ

vāsudeva-aṅghri—the lotus feet of the Lord; anudhyāna—by constant remembrance; paribṛṁhita—expanded; raṁhasā—with great velocity; bhaktyā—in devotion; nirmathita—subsided; aśeṣa—unlimited; kaṣāya—dint; dhiṣaṇaḥ—conception; arjunaḥ—Arjuna.

TRANSLATION

Arjuna’s constant remembrance of the lotus feet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa rapidly increased his devotion, and as a result all the trash in his thoughts subsided.

PURPORT

Material desires in the mind are the trash of material contamination. By such contamination, the living being is faced with so many compatible and incompatible things that discourage the very existence of spiritual identity. Birth after birth the conditioned soul is entrapped with so many pleasing and displeasing elements, which are all false and temporary. They accumulate due to our reactions to material desires, but when we get in touch with the transcendental Lord in His variegated energies by devotional service, the naked forms of all material desires become manifest, and the intelligence of the living being is pacified in its true color. As soon as Arjuna turned his attention towards the instructions of the Lord, as they are inculcated in the Bhagavad-gītā, his true color of eternal association with the Lord became manifest, and thus he felt freed from all material contaminations.

TEXT 30

gītaṁ bhagavatā jñānaṁ
yat tat saṅgrāma-mūrdhani
kāla-karma-tamo-ruddhaṁ
punar adhyagamat prabhuḥ

gītam—instructed; bhagavatā—by the Personality of Godhead; jñānam—transcendental knowledge; yat—which; tat—that; saṅgrāma-mūrdhani—in the midst of battle; kāla-karma—time and actions; tamaḥ-ruddham—enwrapped by such darkness; punaḥ adhyagamat—revived them again; prabhuḥ—the lord of his senses.

TRANSLATION

Because of the Lord’s pastimes and activities and because of His absence, it appeared that Arjuna forgot the instructions left by the Personality of Godhead. But factually this was not the case, and again he became lord of his senses.

PURPORT

A conditioned soul is enwrapped in his fruitive activities by the force of eternal time. But the Supreme Lord, when He incarnates on the earth, is not influenced by kāla, or the material conception of past, present and future. The activities of the Lord are eternal, and they are manifestations of His ātma-māyā, or internal potency. All pastimes or activities of the Lord are spiritual in nature, but to the laymen they appear to be on the same level with material activities. It so appeared that Arjuna and the Lord were engaged in the Battle of Kurukṣetra as the other party was also engaged, but factually the Lord was executing His mission of incarnation and association with His eternal friend Arjuna. Therefore such apparently material activities of Arjuna did not drive him away from his transcendental position, but on the contrary revived his consciousness of the songs of the Lord, as He sang them personally. This revival of consciousness is assured by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.65) as follows:

man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te
pratijāne priyo ’si me

One should think of the Lord always; the mind should not forget Him. One should become a devotee of the Lord and offer obeisances unto Him. One who lives in that fashion becomes undoubtedly endowed with the blessing of the Lord by achieving the shelter of His lotus feet. There is nothing to doubt about this eternal truth. Because Arjuna was His confidential friend, the secret was disclosed to him.

Arjuna had no desire to fight with his relatives, but he fought for the mission of the Lord. He was always engaged in the execution of His mission only, and therefore after the Lord’s departure he remained in the same transcendental position, even though it appeared that he forgot all the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā. One should, therefore, adjust the activities of life in pace with the mission of the Lord, and by doing this one is sure to return back home, back to Godhead. This is the highest perfection of life.

TEXT 31

viśoko brahma-sampattyā
sañchinna-dvaita-saṁśayaḥ
līna-prakṛti-nairguṇyād
aliṅgatvād asambhavaḥ

viśokaḥ—free from bereavement; brahma-sampattyā—by possession of spiritual assets; sañchinna—being completely cut off; dvaita-saṁśayaḥ—from the doubts of relativity; līna—merged in; prakṛti—material nature; nairguṇyāt—due to being in transcendence; aliṅgatvāt—because of being devoid of a material body; asambhavaḥ—free from birth and death.

TRANSLATION

Because of his possessing spiritual assets, the doubts of duality were completely cut off. Thus he was freed from the three modes of material nature and placed in transcendence. There was no longer any chance of his becoming entangled in birth and death, for he was freed from material form.

PURPORT

Doubts of duality begin from the misconception of the material body, which is accepted as the self by less intelligent persons. The most foolish part of our ignorance is our identifying this material body with the self. Everything in relation with the body is ignorantly accepted as our own. Doubts due to misconceptions of “myself” and “mine”—in other words, “my body,” “my relatives,” “my property,” “my wife,” “my children,” “my wealth,” “my country,” “my community,” and hundreds and thousands of similar illusory contemplations—cause bewilderment for the conditioned soul. By assimilating the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā, one is sure to be released from such bewilderment because real knowledge is knowledge that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is everything, including one’s self. Everything is a manifestation of His potency as part and parcel. The potency and the potent are nondifferent, so the conception of duality is at once mitigated by attainment of perfect knowledge. As soon as Arjuna took up the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā, expert as he was, he could at once eradicate the material conception of Lord Kṛṣṇa, his eternal friend. He could realize that the Lord was still present before him by His instruction, by His form, by His pastimes, by His qualities and everything else related to Him. He could realize that Lord Kṛṣṇa, his friend, was still present before him by His transcendental presence in different nondual energies, and there was no question of attainment of the association of the Lord by another change of body under the influence of time and space. By attainment of absolute knowledge, one can be in association with the Lord constantly, even in this present life, simply by hearing, chanting, thinking of and worshiping the Supreme Lord. One can see Him, one can feel His presence even in this present life simply by understanding the advaya-jñāna Lord, or the Absolute Lord, through the process of devotional service, which begins with hearing about Him. Lord Caitanya says that simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can at once wash off the dust on the mirror of pure consciousness, and as soon as the dust is removed, one is at once freed from all material conditions. To become free from material conditions means to liberate the soul. As soon as one is, therefore, situated in absolute knowledge, his material conception of life is removed, or he emerges from a false conception of life. Thus the function of the pure soul is revived in spiritual realization. This practical realization of the living being is made possible due to his becoming free from the reaction of the three modes of material nature, namely goodness, passion and ignorance. By the grace of the Lord, a pure devotee is at once raised to the place of the Absolute, and there is no chance of the devotee’s becoming materially entangled again in conditioned life. One is not able to feel the presence of the Lord in all circumstances until one is endowed with the required transcendental vision made possible by devotional service prescribed in the revealed scriptures. Arjuna had attained this stage long before on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, and when he apparently felt the absence of the Lord, he at once took shelter of the instructions of the Bhagavad-gītā, and thus again he was placed in his original position. This is the position of viśoka, or the stage of being freed from all grief and anxieties.

Some text pasted from Causeless Mercy

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