“The literal meaning of the word guru is ‘heavy’ - heavy with knowledge and authority, because his knowledge and authority come from Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Journey of Self-Discovery, Ch 2.2)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Sanskrit word “guru” has several meanings. The most common usage is for the spiritual master, a guide to take you across the ocean of birth and death. With him acting as the expert boatman, the destination is the promise land, the place that is free of anxieties, Vaikuntha.
Guru also refers to people who are generally respected. Our parents are the first guru. The position is established immediately based off lineage. We wouldn’t come to this place without their work. They had to do something to make the end result happen. Whether we prefer the circumstances of our birth or not, there is something owed to the parents for giving us the opportunity to go through life in the human species.
The guru is respected also for their wisdom. They are “heavy” in the sense that they have more knowledge than us. The parents have seen so much. They have experienced the heartache of loss. They know what it’s like to fail at something. They have felt the joy of being in the company of loved ones. They have valuable insights to offer; should we be humble enough to accept the guidance.
The spiritual guide has more valuable information to offer. They not only have their own life experiences to share, but they are tapped into the vast resources offered by parampara. The guru has their own guru, who had their own guru, and so on. We don’t have to wait until old age to become wise. From interviewing the spiritual master, we can find out what to expect in life. They and their predecessors learned so many things, which as a theoretical exercise can be combined into a single composite view.
1. There is too much emphasis on eating
Where am I going to eat? More importantly, what am I going to eat? What do I feel like? Me and the rest of my fellow men and women put so much importance on eating. The priority is misplaced, as in the end it doesn’t really matter. Studies show that eating this will kill you and eating that will save you. Actually, elevated yogis of the past have survived for thousands of years on air alone. It is not a rule that you need this particular food or that.
nāty-aśnatas 'tu yogo 'sti
na caikāntam anaśnataḥ
jāgrato naiva cārjuna
“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)
The high philosophy coming from the Bhagavad-gita confirms this. Shri Krishna says that the yogi, who is a real transcendentalist, neither eats too little nor eats too much. It’s difficult to put this rule into practice, though. Otherwise, no one would have problems with weight loss, obesity, overconsumption and the like.
2. There is too much emphasis on competition
I need to move up in the world. My apartment is fine now, but I need a house. That will only be a starter. After that, I will upgrade to a bigger and better one. I need to make sure that my house is larger in size than the ones my friends live in. Bigger and better is success in the material world. My children must become doctors. They must do well in school to make that happen. I want them to be better than the other kids.
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)
The Bhagavad-gita says that all living entities are struggling in this world. It makes sense if we think about it. There are finite resources. Karma dictates that not everyone will get the same result to an action. Moreover, lost in the fever of competition is the aftermath. If I’m doing better than my fellow man, will that make me feel good? They are struggling too, after all. Shouldn’t I wish the best for them?
3. There is great sadness over death
Even if I haven’t seen the person in ages, I feel saddened upon their passing. It is like a part of me is lost. I will no longer have their association, so I lament. I am not alone in this. Everyone else is just as affected upon the passing of another.
dehino 'smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
The Bhagavad-gita describes death to be nothing more than the final change of bodies within a particular range of time. The person who is dhira, or sober in mind, is not bewildered by this change. This is actually one of the first things the param guru, the highest spiritual master, Shri Krishna taught to Arjuna. If only I would have learned this truth sooner I would have been spared so much grief. Every human being needs to know this fundamental truth of the spiritual science.
4. Everybody hates everybody
This is a personal observation that I feel most confident in. Based on what I have seen, never was there a more axiomatic truth. The Sanskrit word aneka means “many.” It is simply a negation of the word eka, which means “one.” To qualify as many, you need just one more than one; at least two. I have many friends, and they don’t all get along. The dislike is so strong that I have to censor myself when telling stories and describing life experiences. If I spent time with one friend on a particular day, I may have to keep that information to myself when speaking to my other friend on the subsequent day.
If I like a particular candidate in politics, I don’t tell anyone else. Even if I prepare for the negative reaction beforehand, I’d rather not go through the trouble. It’s not worth it. Even within a family, one uncle dislikes another. The daughter prefers the mother over the father; the son is closer to the father. The one thing I have found in common in people is that each have so much dislike for others.
dhyāyato viṣayān puṁsaḥ
saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ
kāmāt krodho 'bhijāyate
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)
The Bhagavad-gita explains this as well. The root cause is kama, which is lust. Lust is basically any material desire, the hope to enjoy separately from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The problem with kama is that it is never fully satisfied. Moreover, frustration is guaranteed at some point. Frustration then leads to anger. Hatred is rooted in anger, which is rooted in frustration in desire. I dislike someone because they have hindered my sense gratification in some way.
5. Real happiness is found only in bhakti-yoga
This is the most important thing I have learned. Children get excited for new toys. After a while, they get bored of playing with them. They want another. Young adults get excited for video games, which again they will one day leave behind due to waning interest. Adults have their own variation of toys, such as expensive cars and technology gadgets.
I will readily admit that I have indulged many of these pleasures. The one thing they all had in common was that they failed to provide lasting happiness. Bhakti-yoga has been just the opposite experience. Though I was practically dragged into it, forcing myself to follow a routine that I was reluctant to adopt, I have found only increasing enthusiasm and happiness. I am more into it today than I was yesterday. I was more into it yesterday than the previous day. You get my point.
Above all other things mentioned thus far, this fact is the most important; the most worthy of being shared. Shri Krishna is Himself nava-yauvanam, which means “always fresh and new.” Bhakti-yoga is non-different from Him, so it inherits the same property. This journey of life has taught me that devotional service to God will not only do me the most good going forward, but without it I cannot find lasting happiness. To feel pleasure is the meaning to an existence, and that existence’s true destiny is fulfilled at the meeting place of the lotus feet of the all-attractive one.
Guru knowledge from experience brought,
Including also what parampara has taught.
People in stiff competition with one another,
Hatred everywhere, even family disliking each other.
By thought of food to go mad,
Over changing body becoming sad.
Only in bhakti-yoga happiness real,
With progress, more of Krishna to reveal.