Friday, November 16, 2012

The Guru’s Influence

Shri Rama's lotus feet“This lady knows the resolve of Rama and the intelligent Lakshmana, so she is not very agitated, like Mother Ganga at the onset of the rainy season.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.4)

rāmasya vyavasāyajñā lakṣmaṇasya ca dhīmataḥ |
na atyartham kṣubhyate devī gangā iva jalada āgame ||

In the Bhagavad-gita it is recommended that one approach a spiritual master and learn the truth from him. The relationship is between a student and a teacher. In friendship there is equality, so it is difficult to accept wisdom from the other party. As a friend, the other person knows you pretty well, and they’ve seen you at your weakest moments. How then can you provide effective instruction to them? If they respect you so much, then you’re not really their friend, but more someone they admire. To approach a spiritual master is a serious business, and due to their influence not only do you gain sublime wisdom, but you remain steady even in the face of a terrible storm.

In the verse quoted above, the reference is made to the rainy season hitting the Ganges River, who is also known as Ganga Devi in the Vedic tradition. The monsoon is more than just a passing rainstorm. It is a steady downpour of rain accompanying wind, and it causes the water levels in the rivers to rise. Ganga Devi knows that the monsoon season comes every year, and yet she is not overly agitated. She remains steady, regardless of the temporary rise in her water level.

Sita Devi is said to be just as calm, as she relies on the intelligence of Lakshmana and the resolve of his elder brother Rama. Rama is Sita’s husband, and she is separated from Him in this instance, forced to live in a dangerous place filled with ogres. Rama’s servant Hanuman is inside of the enemy territory of Lanka looking at Sita from afar. He notices her resolve even though she is disturbed in mind over separation. If she didn’t have faith in Rama and Lakshmana, she would have quit her body already.

Lakshmana is the original spiritual master; illustrating the guru’s role with his behavior. The guru is the number one defender of the Supreme Lord. He acts only for the Lord’s interests; nothing else. He doesn’t take joy from punishing himself either; as God’s pleasure is his pleasure. We don’t ask the good parents why they spend so much time at work to support their family. We don’t ask parents of newborns why they get so little sleep because of waking up in the middle of the night to take care of their child. Rather, these behaviors are expected because the parents will derive pleasure from the child’s wellbeing.

In a similar manner, the spiritual master gets so much pleasure from serving God that they don’t need anything else in life. If there is any cause for fear, it is when the ability to serve is jeopardized. If our primary method of service is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, then only if we lose our ability to chant do we have something to worry about.

Sita’s service is as a wife. Separated from Rama she could not offer the service in the manner she preferred. But because of reliance on Rama, the all-powerful, and Lakshmana, the representative of the all-powerful, she had hope that she would one day offer that service again. In the process, as an added bonus, she had the ability to remain calm in a circumstance that warranted panic. Hanuman noticed this and appreciated it very much.

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

In our present circumstances, there is so much doubt that we don’t even know who God is, let alone how to worship Him. Without reliance on Lakshmana or one who follows in his line, how can there be any real intelligence? How can we take comfort in the resolve of the Supreme Lord to deliver us when we don’t know anything about Him? Thus the spiritual master is the only person who can give us protection from fear.

LakshmanaAnd why would Rama have resolve in saving us? Why save us and not someone else? Sita is devoted in thought, word and deed to her husband. She is just like Lakshmana in that she does not derive pleasure from any personal interest. The material land gives ample opportunity for both personal pleasure and pain. As such the Supreme Lord’s direct influence is not required; His energies do the work for Him. But the surrendered soul is different; Rama takes a direct interest in their welfare.

The guru teaches us how to surrender, sharanagati. There is tremendous bliss that results from full surrender, and through following bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, surrendering becomes a reality. Shravanam and kirtanam, hearing and chanting, are the beginning, and so by hearing about Hanuman’s exploits in Lanka, and listening to his glorification of Sita’s calmness through reliance on Rama and Lakshmana, devotion blossoms within the heart. And where there is Hanuman, there is Sita. And where there is Sita, there is Rama and Lakshmana, who give solace to the devotee who may be unfortunately placed in a distressful situation.

In Closing:

Monsoon season like never-ending storm,

Of its arrival Ganga Devi is warned.

 

Knows her level of water it will raise,

And yet calm in its face she stays.

 

In this world guru in service like a rock,

For in God’s words they take stock.

 

Lakshmana with Rama, like wind aiding a fire,

Intelligence coupled with resolve never to tire.

 

Hanuman from vision a lesson to take,

That circumstances never Sita to shake.

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