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11. DELIVERER OR INSTRUMENTAL GURU?
Devotee: We read an article where the author begins by establishing certain well-known scholars from the Ramanuja and Madhva sampraddyas (most notably Sri Rarigapriya SvamI Desikacarya and Vidyavacaspati Bannanje Govindacarya) as authoritative sources of transcendental knowledge regarding gurwtattva. In that article the author tries to establish that Srlla Prabhupada (A. C. Bhaktivedanta SvamI Prabhupada) is the deliverer guru for the duration of 10,000 years whereas the present day gurus and all gurus in the future are only instrumental gurus who assist the deliverer guru. Is this in any way correct?Narasingha Maharaja: We have personally had the pleasure to meet Sri Rarigapriya SvamI Desikacarya and Bannanje Govindacarya on several occasions, and we are happy to say that they are indeed scholars and sincere devotees of Sri Ramanujacarya and Sri Madhvacarya, respectively.We also agree that what the Madhva and Ramanuja scholars have stated with regard to gurU'tattva is indeed true to their creed and applicable to their sampraddya.However, the conception of guru-tattva in the Madhva tradition is quite different from the concept of guru-tattva accepted in the Gaudlya sampraddya. The fact that Madhva himself could not accept the pastime wherein Brahma (the original guru of both his and our sampraddya) became illusioned, is itself conclusive evidence for this statement.
While Madhva omitted the section of Bhdgavatam known as Brahmd-vimohana-lild from his version, the illusion of Brahma was accepted by Srldhara SvamI, the original commentator on the Bhdgavatam, and Srldhara Svaml's commentary was accepted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.That which is useful to Gaudlyas in Madhva's commentary is certainly negligible compared to that of Srldhara SvamI. Most notably, Madhva accepted Visnu as the diraya-tattva (ultimate shelter), whereas Srldhara SvamI accepted Sri Vrndavana-candra (krishna) as the diraya-tattva, and Saranagati (surrender) as the ultimate sddhana or means to the end.Bearing this in mind, it would be safe to say that guidance from the Madhva tradition in the matter of understanding guru-tattva among the Gaudlyas is indeed of limited value in the ultimate issue. Although it may appear to be helpful to some devotees at this present time, as there seems to be a glaring inability for many to understand our own tradition from within, it will nonetheless lead to difficulty in the future.The teachings of Ramanuja are much closer to Gaudlya siddhdnta than those of Madhva. In the conception of Ramanuja, iarandgati plays the essential role, as it does in the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Regarding topics like dxksd, arcana, and sannydsa, there are also more similarities between the Ramanujas and the Gaudlyas than there are between the Madhvas and the Gaudlyas. Our connection with the Madhvas is actually one of form, whereas our connection with the Ramanujas is based more on substance.
The similarity between the Ramanujas and Gaudlyas is certainly an interesting topic, but it is not the topic of this essay and can therefore be dealt with separately at another time.Overall, the numerous rudimentary points regarding the Founder-dcdrya and the gurus that succeed him were well addressed in the article under discussion. There is a need, however, for some clarification.It is true that Madhvacarya and Ramanujacarya each hold unique positions in their respective sampraddyas as uddhdraka-guru (deliverer-guru). Correctly speaking, however, the deliverer-guru of the Ramanuja sect is Nammalvar, one of the twelve Alvars from whose writings Ramanuja drew his doctrine of iarandgati (surrender).Although Ramanuja regarded himself to be an upakdraka-guru (instrumental-guru), he is nonetheless regarded as the head of the Sri sampraddya in modern times, the uddhdraka-guru.One might ask that since Ramanuja considered himself an instrumental-guru, how is it that his followers consider him the deliverer-guru! The answer can be traced to the fact that it was Sri Ramanuja who gave shape to the Visisthddvaita philosophy (not accomplished previously by Nammalvar) by writing a commentary on Veddnta-sutra. However, it can also be said that one who knows the answer to this question knows the secret of the guru-parampara.
The uddharaka'guru position held by Ramanuja and Madhva in their respective successions, has already been given to Srila Rupa GosvamI Prabhupada in our Gaudiya sampraddya by none other than Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, 500 years ago.Our Srila Prabhupada (A. C. Bhaktivedanta SvamI Maharaja) does not hold the same position as Madhva or Ramanuja, since he did not introduce a new philosophical system or establish a sampraddya based on such. That was accomplished by Srila Rupa GosvamI, and hence we (even Srila Prabhupada, SarasvatI Thakura and Bhaktivinoda Thakura) are all known as rupanugds, followers of Srila Rupa GosvamI.Without being a rupdnuga, one cannot be a prabhupaddnuga (as followers of Srila Prabhupada are sometimes called), and vice-versa. Srila Prabhupada established his mission within an existing sampraddya, for preaching purposes only. His mission was not intended to be a separate sampraddya from that which was already established in the 20th century by SarasvatI Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda. If it were a separate sampraddya, then a new tilaka would also be necessary for the mission, along with substantially more commentary including a new commentary on the Veddnta-sutra in Sanskrit, showing how Srila Prabhupada's conception differed from that of his predecessor deary as. Indeed no intelligent disciple would entertain such a thought for even a moment.
sri'caitanya'mano'bhistam sthdpitam yena bhu-tale
svayam rupah kada mahyam dadati sva'paddntikam
"When will Srila Rupa GosvamI Prabhupada, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Sri Caitanyadeva, give me shelter under his lotus feet.I do not think that either the institutionalized devotees or the rtvik proponents have understood this basic point. Srila Rupa GosvamI is the head (liddhdraka-guru) of our sampraddya in this world, and in the spiritual world also he is our supreme leader in the form of Sri Rupa Manjari. (The sampraddya of the Gaudlyas has descended from Goloka Vrndavana and its ontology is complete therein.)
It seems that both institutionalized devotees and the rtvik proponents, each in their own way, want to put Srila Prabhupada in the place of Rupa GosvamI. This appears to be the case largely because a vast majority of devotees have no proper ontological understanding of siddhdnta. The idea that Srila Prabhupada is the head of the sampraddya for the next 10,000 years has no basis in spiritual reality. It appears that many devotees are simply driven by mundane sentimentality, compounded with vaisnava-aparadha. The result of this is complete bewilderment!The position of Srila Rupa GosvamI has been conclusively established by SarasvatI Thakura in his last instructions before leaving the mortal world: "All of you please preach about Sri Rupa and Sri Raghunatha with great enthusiasm. The supreme goal of all our desires is to become specks of dust at the lotus feet of the followers of Sri Rupa GosvamI.Again, the supreme position of Srila Rupa GosvamI in the Gaudiya sampraddya is made clear by Narottama Dasa Thakura in his song, Sri Rupa Manjari Pada:
Tri-rupa-manjari-pada, sei mora sampada
sei mor bhajana'pujana
sei mora prana-dhana, sei mora dbharana,
sei mor jivanera jivana
"The feet of Sri Rupa Manjari (Rupa GosvamI's eternal form as a gopl of Vraja) are my real wealth. They are the object of my bhajana and puja. They are the treasure of my heart, and they are my ornaments and the life of my life.Actually, Srila Prabhupada (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja) was an upakaroka-guru (instrumental-guru), in that he delivered his disciples to the lotus feet of Srila Rupa GosvamI (the uddharaka-guru, the deliverer-guru).As for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He is our ista-deva or the most worshipable Deity of our sampradaya. But this too, many devotees do not understand. Actually anyone who does not accept these basic conclusions regarding the position of Srila Rupa GosvamI and that of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a kanistha disciple, at best.There is no indication by anyone from the Madhva or Ramanuja sampradayas that the instrumental-guru cannot be a liberated soul or pure devotee, as is the deliverer-guru. The fact that all the acaryas in our parampara since the time of Mahaprabhu were pure devotees does not alter the fact that they were instrumental-gurus, and Srila Rupa GosvamI was the deliverer-guru.
Therefore, our conclusion is that Srila Prabhupada does not become the head of a new sampradaya because he was a pure devotee, the Founder-deary a of an institution or even a iaktydveia-avatara (which we believe he was). In fact, to become a pure devotee of krishna is the necessary qualification to become guru of any kind, either uddharaka or upakdrakal There are no short cuts. This is also not understood by the institutionalized devotees or the rtvilcs.
If I'm not mistaken, the Madhvas and the Ramanujas understand this point to some degree, but the fact is that they have similar problems in their own sampradayas. For example, being a pure Vaisnava is not enough to initiate in their sampradayas; one has to be born a brdhmana, and this is often a contention in the Madhva and Ramanuja sampradayas.An interesting point to note here is that the proponents of Srila Prabhupada as the deliverer-guru are prepared to inquire from advanced scholars outside our sampradaya, who know nothing of the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the Six Gosvamls, for a solution to their problems. But they refuse to inquire from advanced scholars and devotees who are surrendered souls at the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some devotees are prepared to accept the advice of those who are in complete ignorance of the divinity of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but they are averse to accept the advice of Mahaprabhu's direct representatives. Such a mentality could easily get one classified as a fool and a rascal.It seems that the author of the article we are discussing does indeed understand the difference between the uddharaka-guru and the upakaraka-guru, save that he does not understand the position of Srila Prabhupada. It appears that the leaders of Srila Prabhupada's mission are trying to get out of a difficult situation with the rtviks, but without help from advanced Vaisnavas they cannot come to conclusive answers, at least answers that others will accept. Because they endure in their offenses to the senior members of our sampradaya, they have no opportunity to approach them (either personally or through books).
All these questions regarding the position of Srila Prabhupada, and those gurus who would succeed him were already answered 20 years ago (1978) by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Unfortunately, many of the devotees in leadership positions in the western Vaisnava communities have amnesia regarding this fact. But fortunately for all, the answers given by Srila Sridhara Maharaja regarding guru-tattva were recorded and published in a book called Sri Guru and His Grace. This book is recommended reading material for any and all devotees who would like clarification on guru-tattva.At the conclusion of the article we are discussing, the author summarizes that Srila Prabhupada is the deliverer'guru and that he takes everyone back to Godhead. Yet, such a statement is not found anywhere in the teachings of Srila Prabhupada (books, letters, room conversations, or lectures, etc.). The conception that the institution established by Srila Prabhupada is a sampradaya separate frorn the line of Srila Rupa Gosvami is possibly the biggest deviation from the principles of pure devotional service to have occurred in our sampradaya since the reject sons of Advaita Acarya began to preach impersonalism.