Live Q&A from Vrindavan
Shree Giridhar Dham Ashram, 3 April 2020
Today's Satsang features answers from Paramahamsa Vishwananda about serving devotees vs. serving God or guru, when to follow a new guru, when to fight or to surrender, and the difference between Lord Krishna and the Supreme Lord Narayana.
Jai Gurudev, everybody!
I’ve decided to go back to Germany and so this is the last Satsang here in Vrindavan for this time, and… what to say? The Satsangs will carry on, also in Germany. We will figure it out how to do it, and also the japa will carry on, because this is how I am in contact with you also. I will ask you, since tomorrow it will not be possible to do satsang and japa, wherever you are, please, at the same time that you have been doing, let’s connect again and do the japa together.
It is a very quick decision, actually, that I made to go back to Germany. Nobody really was prepared for that, and the people here were shocked. Some went into panic! And yes, some people outside also were shocked at how I’m going back to Germany. Not only me, but also with all the people that have come here from the ashram, Swami Revati and the others.
The funny thing is that Giridhariji has arranged everything. It’s funny how He arranges for everything. Maybe Swami Revati will share a little bit about that.
SVR: So, what happened was that we had been checking if there was any option with the German Embassy, just to keep tabs on it, and there was nothing. The German Embassy essentially said that they had already sent two rescue flights to India and there was no guarantee of a third one because they didn’t have enough people needing the service. And so then we were kind of open to the possibility that we might have to wait until this whole Corona thing ends and commercial flights start to go back again in a normal way.
In the meantime, we had a devotee here from the Austria who was checking with the Austrian Embassy, and they spoke of a flight that was going to pass through Holland, through Amsterdam, but that the flight was completely overbooked. And so, although there was a flight happening on Sunday, it was overbooked, and so there wasn’t really anything we could do about that either, except just wait. And then at night yesterday we got a message from a devotee who is in Delhi at the moment and she got in contact with the airline and she managed to grab a ticket and so she was asking Guruji, ‘Is it okay if I go home now?’ And Guruji said, ‘Yes.’ And then she said, ‘Maybe I can get another ticket.’ She was checking online and it said only one ticket more available. So she called Guruji and asked if He was interested, but He said, ‘No, I will only go back if everybody can go back, the whole group’, and there was about six of us here from Germany.
So, I asked her to send me the link. She sent me the link (a link that we couldn’t find, actually, in any other way). We had tried on the KLM website, the airline, and couldn’t find it. In any case, we took the link, went online, I requested six tickets, there were six tickets, and so we booked the six tickets, and everything went smooth. About five minutes later, a couple more people came who also wanted to get on the same flight. We went there to check for part of the video crew and to ask for two more flights, so I went back on the same link, asked for two more flights…and there were no more flights available until May! So, the tickets were just the six that we needed and they opened up just for a little bit. I think in the meantime they managed to find some other solutions today after a lot of complications and phone calls and this, that, and the other. But last night, just out of the nowhere six tickets opened up for us and then Guruji said, ‘Okay, then we do it.’ And, as He said, it seems to be arranged like that.
Guruji: So, the people here should not be scared about anything, it’s just that now it’s time to leave. It was time to be here in Vrindavan and now it’s time to move back to Germany. We will be in quarantine anyway, locked down for two weeks. And yeah, we keep locking down. And it’s nice, actually, to be here.
Locked down here is completely different from anywhere else, I guess. I’ve been seeing some videos that show some people in Mauritius were getting beaten up. They just went out to be with their friend, and…terrible. They take it very strictly, very strongly. Look, we don’t have to go into panic or anything. We can just sit and enjoy the moment. We ask ourselves, really when we did sit and enjoy such time? Very often with the devotees and other people you hear, ‘You know, I quickly do my sadhana, I don’t have much time. I don’t have time to do all the sadhana that I have been asked to do. Even for meditation I just do a little bit of meditation, my Atma Kriya, I do just a little bit of Atma Kriya, that’s it.’
Now it seems that the Divine has given you all time to connect with Him and to connect firstly with yourself. So, let’s enjoy that also.
Why is it said that serving the devotees of the Lord is greater than serving the Lord Himself?
Firstly, service to the devotee makes one humble. To serve somebody, you must be really humble. You can’t serve someone being in your egoistic self, or with your pride. Your pride will always stop you from serving others, because your pride always places you higher, ‘I am the master of everything. I am this, I am that.’ So, when Lord Krishna said, ‘Service to My devotee is dearest to Me, those who serve My devotees.’ That means that humble attitude. You have to humble yourself to be able to serve that devotee. Here we have to understand, He is not talking about, okay, you go around serving every kind of devotee who just call themselves a devotee. When Bhagavan calls somebody a devotee, that means that person had been elevated to the state where Bhagavan Himself is embracing him. That state of Realisation, that state of awareness. Bhagavan is saying that, ‘That is My devotee’, a devotee who is devoid of pride and ego. That devotee himself is humble.
Serving that image of humbleness, that image of devotion and surrender, that makes you the same because you are taking that devotee as an example of humility and humbleness. You are ready to fall down and be devoted to His own devotee as a service. That’s what the saints do, invisible to the eyes of the devotee, invisibly to the eyes of the disciple, but actually, that’s what the true gurus and the saints do. They are there uplifting. Actually, they are not above. Even if it seems that the devotees are serving them, actually, they are serving the devotees; they are pushing their devotees higher to the Lord, offering them as an offering to the Lord. If you have to offer something to the Lord, you take it from down and you lift it up to Him. So, that’s what a true devotee does.
In the Gita, Chapter 8, verse 8, Bhagavan Krishna said, ‘Those whose minds are free from moving left and right through the process of constant meditation and contemplation, O, Partha, they come to Me, they reach Me.’ So, this question refers very clearly to what a devotee is really. A mind that is not moving left and right, no? That mind is fully focused, that mind is without any ego, but how does that happen? ‘Through constant meditation upon Me, the Supreme Lord.’
That’s what Bhagavan Krishna said, ‘Those minds which are focused constantly upon Me as the Supreme Lord’, so that mind which is constantly focused and introverted within oneself and perceives the Divine, that mind has attained a state of single-pointedness. That mind is not wandering around. That mind is free from the ego. When that mind is free from the ego, one starts to reflect the Divine which is hidden within. That person becomes a devotee, they become Self-realised. The mind is fully absorbed within the Self, but not as in ego or pride; that mind is fully absorbed knowing that the Supreme Lord dwells within.
If one has that full awareness inside of one, that mind is not jumping left and right, and one is fully absorbed in devotion to the Supreme Lord Himself, a transformation must happen in that person. That transformation that happens within that person naturally humbles that person because they know automatically it is not about them, it’s about God. A devotee naturally is humbled.
There was once a devotee of Lord Krishna called Manu. (It’s not ‘the’ Manu.) Manu came to Vrindavan and he wanted to worship Lord Krishna here in this beautiful, serene place. He wanted to attain peace in his mind so he came to Vrindavan. As he was on the other side of the Yamuna river, as he was passing by a tree, he saw three scholars discussing among themselves. They were busy discussing, and he sat there and listened for a while. As they were discussing, from that tree there was a fruit that fell down. At the same time, a crow flew away.
So, the first scholar started to discuss it, said, ‘Wow, what a chance it is that that fruit fell down and that crow flew away.’
The second one said, ‘No, that crow went on the fruit and because of the weight of the crow, the fruit fell down.’
And the third one said, ‘No, no, no, you all don’t know anything. That fruit fell because of gravity, that’s why that bird flew away.’
They were all discussing about that fruit and the bird. That amused this Manu, seeing what a waste of time and discussion.
So, he went there and he said, ‘Please, can I clarify something for you.’ He went, took the fruits and asked them, ‘You know very well that it is said that not a single blade of grass moves that the Lord doesn’t will it. Do you agree that even a blade of grass moves through the will of God?’
They all nodded, ‘Yes.’
Then he took the fruit and he said, ‘You know it is also the will of God that this fruit fell and that the bird flew?’
They said, ‘Yes.’
He took the fruit, went to Yamuna, washed the fruit, and offered it to the Lord and said, ‘The Lord accepts a leaf, a flower, a fruit, and a few drops of water, when it is offered with love and devotion.’ He took the fruit, offered it to the Lord, broke it and gave it to everybody to eat, and everybody accepted it as prasad and ate it without any question.
Often there is so much discussion about things. We go constantly in discussing and discussing and discussing, and people pretend to know and to know and to know. They think that the more they hear, the more they become wise. But if you ask them what was discussed few days ago, they will not remember. In the most simple way, through service to the devotee, service to guru, that becomes the service which is dearest to the Lord. Because, at the beginning, when you start to serve, that makes you humble, and automatically in that humility, by serving a devotee who is humble that brings one closer to the Lord Himself. Because when you are humble, you can feel Him. When you are humble, you can respect His creation, you can respect everybody. And when you are humble, you can truly love how He loves.
That’s why service to His devotee is dearest to Him. And also, one thing is that by serving the devotee, you know that he is dearest to you: because you can serve the devotee, the devotee can interact with you. It creates a certain connection. But service to the deity – very often you hear people say, especially in the West, say, ‘Why should I worship a deity?’ It’s true, one has to be firstly in contact with humanity. If you are not in contact with your humanity, how would you be in contact with your divinity? That’s why Bhagavan Krishna said, ‘Those who serve My devotees are dearest to Me’, because He dwells eternally in that heart of that devotee who is an image, a moving image. A true devotee, a true guru, is a moving image of the Lord Himself. They have that love, they have that humility, they have that compassion.
When one’s living Master takes samadhi and if a devotee then meets another living Master, is it possible or should one continue to follow one’s old guru or follow the new living Master, and if so how does one know whether the new living guru is correct and right to follow or not?
When one’s Master passes away, one doesn’t have the same advice from that living Master. And because you are living, it’s easier to follow a living Master. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your previous Master who has departed from this world, because normally when Masters depart from this world, they become more alive and more in connection.
In certain traditions the people follow the parampara. Which means, when a master, one’s guru, passes away, the guru has already appointed the next successor, because that successor had been trained under the guru for years, normally since childhood. So, automatically the devotee of the previous guru automatically becomes the devotee of the present guru. This is the one who follows a certain parampara and when the guru has clearly given the successor, so then they carry on like that. You see Swami Narayan is the same and many other guru-parampara are like this.
But there are certain guru – I just mentioned Swami Narayan – where they can follow the guru, but the appointed acharya, the head guru, the founder, is still revered as the main guru. The others become just the successors. And yes, in that tradition they will follow the next guru who has been appointed according to the tradition. But for example in ours, in the Sri Sampradaya, we also had before Ramanujacharya many acharyas, but yet, Sri Ramanujacharya had such a personality. Why? Because he established the sampradaya and gave certain norms to follow, so he became an acharya. Of course under him there were many acharyas and many disciples, but yet, overall, firstly, we have to worship him. We don‘t give the same worship to the others because he is an incarnation of the Lord Himself. So, the devotee, whenever they are worshipping within that sampradaya, they worship him firstly. In that context, he becomes the head of the acharyas.
Like that, coming to the question now, is that if a guru has taken samadhi and then you meet another living Master, it all depends on how you connect with that Master. If you know that that Master can lead you from the darkness and bring you to the light, then take shelter of that Master and don’t see any difference between your previous guru and the guru you are following now. Know that the previous guru himself has brought you to where you have to be. But it’s not in many cases, you understand. It’s only how you feel and how you are pulled towards that, then it is possible to change, from one tradition to the other, from one guru to the other. And when you change, have respect for the previous one, but fully adopt the traditions and the path of your present guru.
It‘s like you are getting married, especially here in India. When a bride is getting married to the groom, the bride fully accepts the norms, the culture, the deity, and the worship of her husband. Like that, when you go on a different path, you are following your present guru: you fully adopt to your present guru and to what the present guru is teaching you and what is the present guru giving you.
The third part of your question you said: 'How will I know whether the Master is right?' If it is a real Master, you will never know whether the Master is right or not, because by judging the Master, this is the first offence you are making, which you should avoid actually! But you should self-analyse yourself during that time. How do you feel inside of you? I am not talking about your mind because, like I said yesterday at the beginning, people really like their fantasy and because they feel a different energy, they feel excited. No, take the time to feel inside of you. Then it is fine.
If your heart is pulling you, no matter what, you are trying to resist, but yet, that heart is pulling you toward that Master, then know that you have that blessing from your previous guru to move forward with your life, to move forward in a different path, to move forward with this new path which you are following.
The stories of Draupadi and Mirabai, for example, show us what surrender truly is. Besides there are also many things that devotees can learn. When do we know if there is a challenge in life in which we have to prove our strength and fight for something, and when do we know if it’s better to surrender and accept the situation instead of fighting? Ultimately my question is how to know when to accept and when to fight for something?
You see, if I would say fighting, we can spend our lifetime fighting for things that we want in a futile way. A true devotee is surrendered. You know, right now it’s a test of surrender: how much faith do you have in God, how much faith, how surrendered are you to the word of the guru and God? Because the minds of people always run like a dog after new ideas, new things. They can’t really say, ‘I surrender to Your will.’
For sure you have noticed how often dogs run when a car passes by; they run crazily, try to jump over the car, they are like racing with the car. When I was in Palani in February, one night we went to the temple. On the way back, there were lots of dogs trying to race with the car, trying to bark and all these things. I was thinking, these dogs are running, what would they do, if we stopped right now? They would jump and eat you.
There is a story: there were two farmers. One of the farmers had a dog, and every time there was a vehicle passing by, the dog would race, and try to overtake it.
One day, the neighbour asked the farmer, ‘Oh, what would happen if your dog wants to chase that car, do you think the car would overtake him?’
And then the farmer answered, ‘I am not bothered too much about whether the car will ever overtake the dog. What I’m bothered about is what if the dog catches the car. That’s what I’m bothered about.’ (Which means it would not be good, the dog biting the person and everything.)
So, it is the same with the human mind. One runs towards futile things, unwanted things, things that don’t make one really happy. If you keep running like that, it will not lead you anywhere.
With the example of the saints, they know clearly what they want. This is a difference. They don’t have a dilemma, ‘Oh, do I really want Krishna? Do I really want Sriman Narayana? Do I really want to surrender?’ No, they don’t have dilemma inside of them. For them it’s clear: whatever the Lord gives them they fully accept because their aim is clear, their aim, their focus, their goal is clear about what they want. Why would they be confused? They don’t have any confusion inside of them.
You get in a dilemma whether you have to fight or just accept because you are confused with yourself. When you are confused with yourself, that confusion also comes outside, and everything becomes a confusion. Then you keep asking, ‘Am I right? Am I wrong? I have to fight or I have not to fight?’
What is that word surrender? When you are surrendered to the will of God, do you go fighting? No, you don’t go fighting. You do your dharma, you do your duty, but you are not attached to the result of it. You see? That’s what makes these saints great, because they are doing their dharma with all their heart, with their whole mind focused on the Supreme Lord. They attain to that single-pointedness, where even whatever dharma they do, they know that they are serving the Lord with that. And they are not attached to that fruit of their action.
If you go fighting, meaning, ‘Yes, I want to be here, I want things to be the way I want it,’ how do you know it is right? You don’t know whether it is right or wrong. What is right for you can be wrong for somebody. What is wrong for somebody can be right for somebody else. So, how do you know that? But those who surrender don’t need to bother about knowing whether it is right or wrong. They know that whatever they do they are doing it for their Beloved Lord. If it is right, it is right; if is wrong, it is wrong. He will transform it, He will take it and He will make it the way He wants it. And this is the difference between the two, between surrendering and having to fight for it.
In nature, tattva, all the manifestations of Narayana are one. All are just Him. You said that Krishna is Narayana, and I know in tattva they are one and the same, but when we see the moods, the rasa, in these forms, is there a different kind of taste between them or is the rasa just like the tattva, even if there are many, ultimately there is no difference between Krishna and Narayana?
This is a question which, here, people often like. Actually, there is no difference between Krishna and Narayana, Krishna is Narayana. Of course, the mood of a bhakta that they are attached to, the lila they are attached to, is different. But you can see that even, for example, in South India, the people are mostly focused upon Sriman Narayana, and they have that same bhava towards Sriman Narayana. In the North here, they will say, ‘Yes, the gopis are excelled and great devotees.’ It’s true, Bhagavan Krishna Himself praises the gopis, but in South India there was Goda-devi which is also worshipped with the same mood as Sriman Narayana. So, you can’t really say that there is different and this is different.
Take, for example, in Mithila when Rama was there for the wedding, you know. There is the song ‘O Pahuna’ which lately they have been singing. It’s the same thing. The ‘O Pahuna’ is the song of the people of Mithila for Lord Rama, that longing to ask Rama, ‘Please, stay with us, extend Your stay and be with us’. It’s the same longing the gopis in Vrindavan had for Krishna. How can you say that they didn’t have that? They did! You see, the bhava is the same for Rama, the bhava is the same for Krishna, the bhava is the same for Sriman Narayana.
Here I just gave you three examples. So, is there any difference in the Supreme Lord? No, there isn’t. When Bhagavan Krishna had to show His Virat-swarupa, His cosmic form, He showed Sriman Narayana to Arjuna. He didn’t show somebody else. When Arjuna saw His cosmic Form, he said, ‘I can’t look at this, I can’t comprehend that form, I can’t, it’s too much for me.’ What did he ask the Lord? He asked the Lord, ‘Please, show me Your Chaturbhuja form.’ From Sriman Narayana, He showed him His Chaturbuja form which is with Shankha, Chakra, Gada and Padma. That form he could handle, because that form was more familiar to him. Then he asked, ‘Please, I want You more as a sakhi’, that sakhya-bhava inside of him.
According to wherever it is, according to the bhava that you have inside of you, that kind of rasa will also awake inside. But bhava and rasa is not a fantasy. This is one thing that is important. People like very much to confuse it very often; they read about it and then they fantasise about it. That, one should be very careful about, because the bhava when it awakens, it consumes oneself, then you are not yourself completely. You are fully surrendered, you are fully egoless, you are mindless, you are – I will not say breathless, right now it’s not good to say breathless. If you say breathless, they will think that you have the Coronavirus! No breathless right now, leave that only for the yogis.
So, understand that Krishna and Narayana are one and the same.