“The Lord said, ‘Chant the holy name of Krishna!’ The tiger immediately got up and began to dance and chant,’Krishna! Krishna!’” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 17.29)Download this episode (right click and save)
“Make me happy. I don’t care how. It doesn’t have to be based in religion. I know you think certain politicians are the savior, but I don’t buy into that. I want real happiness, something that is not dependent on others. I’ve tried putting faith in them, but it doesn’t work. Just give me something. There has to be a way out of the misery and despair.”
Indeed, genuine spiritual life should have happiness as its ultimate goal. There is no other purpose to the austerity, renunciation, regulation, and knowledge passed down through the ages. A person can already torture themselves if they so desire. The afterlife is too uncertain an area to promise the elusive peace of mind. There should be a way to bring happiness today.
From the Vedic tradition, that way is through the spiritual master, who is also known as the guru. The Sanskrit word has several meanings, sometimes referring to respected personalities. The parents are automatically the first guru, due to their position. The guru who is the spiritual master can deliver happiness, and they do it through the amazing powers that they possess.
1. Harder than a thunderbolt
In spiritual life, three things run in parallel lines. Guru, sadhu and shastra. The guru is the teacher on spiritual subjects, the sadhu is the saint, and shastra is scripture. The three are always in accord. If something conflicts, then it is likely not genuine. The guru is just like a sadhu in the sense that they cut the binding ropes of ignorance. They are sometimes very swift in their delivery.
The guru can be harder than a thunderbolt in their judgment. If they see a pretender trying to deceive people about the real religion, they will use words like “rascal” and “cheater” to describe that person. The guru is not worried about offending others in this regard, as it is more important for the truth to be told. Whether people like them or hate them, the guru never compromises the genuine principles of religion.
2. Softer than a feather
While delivering cutting words to debunk false philosophies, the guru is also the most compassionate. Forgiveness is in their very nature. They understand the difficulty of following the genuine spiritual path while being embodied. This forgiving nature descends from the very person they represent.
“O mighty-armed Krishna, does not such a man, being deviated from the path of Transcendence, perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere?” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.38)
In the Bhagavad-gita, the distressed warrior Arjuna wonders about the fate of the unsuccessful yogi. Do they not perish like a riven cloud if they don’t succeed by the time of death. Arjuna is the ideal disciple, and his guru in that situation is Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna responds that the progress never gets erased. If there are accidental slipups along the way, the sadhu eventually corrects themselves.
Another meaning to the word guru is “heavy.” The spiritual master carries a lot of weight. In the philosophical world, they are anything but a lightweight. They can respond to any challenge based on logic, argument, or reasoning. They automatically understand every other philosophical conclusion. Therefore, explaining the highest wisdom from all angles of vision is not a problem for them.
The guru is symbolically heavy, and sometimes literally so as well. An example comes to us from the Ramayana. On the battlefield one time, Lakshmana was unconscious. This was the result of fighting with the enemy side, headed by the wicked Ravana. Lakshmana is the original guru, who serves the Supreme Lord Rama. Ravana tried to lift the unconscious Lakshmana, but was unable to do so. As a demoniac personality, he did not understand the guru. Shri Hanuman, on the other hand, was easily able to lift Lakshmana and bring him off the battlefield. Ravana’s physical strength was useless in that regard, and Hanuman’s devotional strength was all that was required.
4. Give birth
The first birth comes from the mother and father. This is important, as the human life is auspicious. The full potential of that life can only be reached when there is a second birth. That second birth is facilitated by the spiritual master. The symbolic entry into the second life occurs through initiation, or diksha, but the maturity in terms of consciousness is what really indicates that the second birth has occurred.
From diksha, the disciple agrees to follow the instructions, or vani, of the spiritual master. The person who is twice-born is known as dvija in Sanskrit. The dvija has the chance to understand the spiritual science. That understanding can take a long time to arrive, or it can manifest in a second. The determining factor is the level of surrender. Just how much trust is there in the words of the guru.
5. Carry the potency of the divine with them
The guru is not God, but they are identical to Him in terms of interest. Krishna, or Rama or Vishnu or whichever authorized name for the Supreme Lord a person has, is the worshiped God and the guru is the one providing the best worship. The guru never changes in consciousness; they are always thinking about how to please Krishna.
Because of this unbroken service, they carry the potency of the Divine with them. Though the guru may not be large in stature, they are tremendously powerful. Simply through a moment’s association with them, things can change. Lord Chaitanya, who is actually Krishna Himself in the role of a guru, could even get tigers to chant the holy names.
The happiness that previously eluded the living entity, who was struggling with the duality of the material world, suddenly arrives through the grace of the guru. It remains through dedicated effort in bhakti-yoga, guided by the expert hand of the spiritual master, who is so benevolent that they work tirelessly for reclaiming as many conditioned souls as possible.
Not satisfied with personal perfection attained,
Working tirelessly so that others also to gain.
Like a thunderbolt sometimes harsh speaking,
And compassion for disciples the truth seeking.
The second, more important birth can give,
For true destiny, linked with Divine to live.
Potency of Supreme Lord with them bringing,
Sometimes even tigers through them singing.