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Swans and Crows
(10) The goldsmith uses a tiny hammer to slowly form delicate golden jewelry. His hammer shapes golden rings and brace-jets with its incessant "tink, tink, links." On the other hand the railroad worker with his mighty sledge drives a large iron railroad spike into the earth with but a few blows. Similarly many millions of years ago, during the Golden Age or Satya Yuga, the meditation process was popular. As people then lived for thousands of years, they could easily adopt a process of gradual perfection, slowly and deliberately advancing toward spiritual perfection. Today, however, people do not live even 100 years. Required therefore, is a means of spiritual progress that's immediately effective. The "sledge" of bhakti-yoga, that of surrendering to Krishna and chanting His holy name, is the prescribed and easiest process to quick spiritual perfection for this Iron Age or Kali Yuga. Thus great sages wish all well for this otherwise evil age of quarrel and hypocrisy.
11) There is a story mentioned by Shukadev Goswami to King Parikshit, destined to die within seven days of its telling. It is found in the 13th verse of the 1st chapter of Shrimad Bhagavatam's 2nd canto. Once King Katvanga, who had just waged a victorious campaign against a demonic horde, was receiving benedictions from the demigods. The celestials had gathered to bless him with enjoyment, wealth, following, and fame. This noble king politely declined these offers and said, "Please bless me with only one thing. Tell me instead how long will I live?" Obligingly the demigods determined that he had just a few moments left to live. Immediately the king realized the uselessness of so-called material blessings. He then and there descended upon the earth planet and surrendered his life to Krishna. Then at the very end of his material existence he achieved life's perfection and went back to home, back to Godhead .
12) Shrila Vishwanath Chakravarty Thakur has written in his Gurvashtakam prayers: "The spiritual master is receiving benediction from the ocean of mercy. Just as a cloud pours water upon a forest fire to extinguish it, so the spiritual master delivers the world by extinguishing the blazing fire of material existence." By the action of the wind, sometimes bamboo shoots rub against each other and the resultant friction causes a forest fire. In the same way, material suffering occurs almost automatically and, before we know it, we are beset with a thousand cares. Through his causeless mercy, the pure devotee protects his disciples from the burning onslaughts of may a by showering them with the cooling rain of Krishna consciousness.
13) Just as it takes only one sun to illuminate the entire universe, so it has taken only one pure devotee to start a movement which is now brightening the hearts of hundreds of thousands of "Kali Yugans." As without the sun there is no vision so without the spiritual master to open our eyes, we are blind As the sun is the life-giver of the universe, so the spiritual master gives real, spiritual life freely to his disciples.
14) All appears blurry to a man of poor vision until he puts on his glasses. Similarly, our vision of the Absolute Truth is out of focus until the transparent via media of the pure devotee clearly reveals to us Shri Krishna's causeless mercy everywhere.
15) A blind man may be able to convince other sightless men that he has the gift of vision, but he cannot escape detection by those whose eyes can see.
16) In the 1920s there was a terrible typhoid epidemic during which many thousands of people fell ill. Finally, the root cause of the problem was traced to a single carrier, a waitress named Mary, later the infamous "Typhoid Mary." Similarly, the chanting of Hare Krishna is also contagious, but in a good sense. Thousands of souls have contracted a desire for chanting the holy name of the Lord by meeting the acharya of the holy name Shrila Prabhupada, perhaps for only a few moments.
17) What is the value of the host of twinkling stars? Their combined luster is defeated by the soothing rays of one moon. Similarly, there are millions of followers of Vedic principles, but Shrila Prabhupada alone has spread the glow of Krishna consciousness around the world. „
18) A dry tree if set ablaze may reduce an entire forest to aShes. Similarly, a man with no spiritual direction—such as a corrupt public leader—can cause the utter ruination of an entire society. But as a flowering tree makes all the woodlands fragrant, so the pure devotee is the source of all auspiciousness for mankind.
19) How kind the cow who gives milk in any pasture! In the same way, Lord Krishna's devotee delivers the spiritual nourishment of the Lord's message in any situation.
20) As a calf is intuitively drawn to its mother even in a herd of cows, so those who sincerely seek spiritual life come to the shelter of the bonafide spiritual master.
21) A rich man is never impressed by a gift of ten or even one hundred dollars, which is cherishable by those of lesser status. But if a bright new penny is presented to a millionaire's young son, the wealthy father becomes very pleased. Similarly, the Lord is in need of no material assets, for He is Bhagavan— the owner of everything. But if you make even a humble offering unto His pure devotee, the Lord is pleased to offer His blessings.
22) In the Adi Purana Shri Krishna says to Arjuna: "My dear Partha, one who claims to be My devotee is not so. Only a person who claims to be the devotee of My devotee is actually My devotee."
23) When a gentleman walking through the park meets his friend, he may first pat his friend's dog on the head. "Love me, love my dog" is an old and widely understood philosophy. Similarly, one who respects first the Lord's pure devotee thereby wins the favor of the Lord.
24) If you know the servant of the king, then you can become eligible to meet the king. If you become a disciple of the Lord's servant, then by the pure devotee's grace you can come face to fact with Shri Krishna.
25) All the blessings of the 33,000,000 demigods combined cannot equal the dust'of the lotus feet of the Lord's pure devotee. Not only are all demigods served by serving a pure devotee (SB 11.17.22), but pure devotees actually become worshipable by the demigods (Skanda Purana).
26) Jad Bharat says: "O King Rahugana, the perfectional stage of devotional service or the paramhamsa stage of life cannot be attained without being blessed by the dust of the feet of great devotees. It is never attained by tapasya (austerity), the Vedic worshipping process, acceptance of the renounced order of life, the discharge of duties of household life, the chanting of Vedic hymns, or the performance of penances in the hot sun, within cold water or before blazing fire." (SB 5.12.12)
27) "The person who has not at any time received the dust of the feet of a pure devotee upon his head is certainly a dead body." (SB 5.12.12)
28) Somewhere floating on the surface of the ocean is a piece of wood with a knothole in it. Somewhere submerged beneath the surface of the ocean is a great turtle that comes up for air but once a year, and whose head is the same size as the knot hole. What are the chances that when this turtle surfaces his head will penetrate that very hole? Answer: The same number of chances as one has of meeting a pure devotee of the Lord.
29) A boy peddling a bicycle travels very slowly, but if he catches onto a truck, he can move at great speed. However, should he let go of the truck, he risks being killed. Similarly, one should link up with a spiritual master to make maximum spiritual progress, but if he forsakes his guru, he is doomed.
30) There are two classes of men, demons and devotees— represented in the world of our feathered friends by the crow and the swan. You will never see swans in the junk heaps associating with the crows, nor do the crows fancy floating on a pond filled with lilies and lotuses among the swans. The suras, men who possess godly qualities, are compared to swans, and demons, or asuras, are just like crows.
31) Swans pass their hours dunking at the base of lotus flowers growing upon the blue waters. In the same way, pure devotees ever bow at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. The great devotee, King Kulashekhar prayed in his Mukunda-mala Stotra, "My Lord Krishna, I pray that the swan of my mind may immediately sink down to the stems of the lotus feet of your Lordship and be locked up in the network."
32) Just as swans can separate milk from water, in much the same way a pure devotee takes the essence, or nectar, of life leaving aside the rest as unpalatable. Lord Krishna's votaries are therefore called paramhamsas, or "supreme swans." As the graceful swan's feathers are spotlessly white, so paramhamsas are untainted in their pure devotional service to Krishna.
33) As the friend of the swan, the lotus, sits upon the pond without being touched by water, so the devotee abides in this material world, although he is never influenced by the modes of nature. The transcendentalist is protected by the spiritual energy of the Lord because he offers unto Krishna all his works. The Lord Himself gives this example in Bhagavad Gita, chapter 5, verse 10.
34) Water is everywhere, even in air. But mere breathing never satisfies a thirsty man. He must go to the place where water is concentrated, in lakes or streams. Similarly, simply understanding the omnipresence of God never helps one who desires essential spiritual life. One must go to the place where Krishna is personally present in His most confidential feature. One must resort to the transcendental swan-like devotee in whose heart the Ganges-like love for Krishna flows eternally.
35) The strutting, cawing crow epitomizes the puffed-up materialist who revels in the junk yard of sense gratification. As crows indignantly relish even the most abominable filth, so the sensualist seeks pleasure only in the body although this material shell is the seat of contamination.
36) But there is a class of men who are even lower than crows. A crow never tries to appear like a swan, but there are men who, though crow-like inwardly, don the garb of saints for the sake of cheating the innocent. To what form of life can such rascals be compared?
37) Did not Ravana disguise himself as a sadhu when he kidnapped Sita?
38) A barrage of dubious proverbs may serve as an attempt to conceal the ignorance of rascals who masquerade as saints, but to the true devotee empty passages spoken by rote are just so many "caw, caw, caws."
39) A serpent with a jewel on its head is many times more dangerous than a snake not so ornamented. Similarly, an envious man is certainly fearsome to others, but the pseudo-ascetic adorned with the faux jewel of pretentious wisdom is many, many times worse!
40) Worthless fool's gold as well as genuine gold are both found in the mine. The difference between them is perceived only after a close examination. Similarly, one must be very careful to choose a genuine spiritual master for there are many cheap pretenders who would waylay the pilgrim even upon the spiritual path.
41) Playing on the highway, sleeping on a railroad track, or flying with insufficient fuel over the Himalayas can cause nothing but death. But it is far worse to accept a fool in the guise of a spiritual peceptor for he can bring about one's spiritual doom as well.
42) Often Indian mothers keep a bowl of milk on the window sill. Sometimes a viper may crawl unobserved up to the milk to take a drink. Such milk becomes a death potion and anyone drinking it dies. Similarly, bonafide Vedic mantras meant for emancipating the conditioned soul must not be accepted from anyone but a genuine spiritual master. Chanting such a mantra may even have a reverse effect than the one the shastras intended for it.
43) As nipples hanging on the neck of a goat yield no milk, similarly those who merely imitate real sadhus for self-adoration give no spiritual nourishment to their unfortunate following. Their concocted processes are simply dry.
44) Does writing an advanced mathematical formula on the side of an elephant make the pachyderm a great mathematician? Does rubber-stamping an ordinary man "guru" make him a spiritual master? Does an ignoramus become a man of God by being dubbed "Hari-jana" or "daridra-Narayana?"
45) In the pharmacy window are seen many bottles of colored water which appear to be potent medicinal preparations. Similarly, one should not believe the "show bottle" meditators who assume gymnastic yogic asanas merely for the sake of cheating the public. Their hoax only serves to defeat the purpose of yoga.
46) The bead shop which sells cheap cut glass has many hundreds of customers each day. Yet the jeweler dealing in costly gems hardly boasts a handful of customers in a week. In just the same way, a cheap imitation of spiritual life attracts many cheap followers. But a far fewer number of sincere disciples will reside at the ashram of the bonafide spiritual master.
47) One who wishes to become a disciple should bear in mind that "disciple means discipline." One cannot keep a guru as one keeps a pet dog. A sincere devotee will go to any amount of deprivation and hardship to please his spiritual master.
48) If you put a dog upon a throne and crown him king, he may sit there in regal splendor until someone throws an old shoe before him. He will then betray his exalted post by jumping from the royal cushion to chew upon the shoe. Similarly, an ordinary man may dress up as a mystic or swami and be elected to the post of so-called guru, God or Bhagavan by the votes of his ignorant following. Yet in due course of time he is certain to expose his vanity and reveal his deep-rooted desire for sense gratification. Such lust for bodily pleasure is conspicuous only by its absence in the person of the Lord's genuine pure devotee, transcendental to this material world of sense gratification.
49) Once Freddy Frog returned to his well from a trip to the sea. Now he shared his well with an old bull frog named Dr. Frog, Ph.D. Freddy was eager to give old Dr. Frog a firsthand account of the beauty and grandeur of the ocean but the latter was far too puffed up to listen to the voice of true learning. Dr. Frog proudly declared, "My dear Freddy, I already know everything about the ocean. Why I can puff myself up to the size of the ocean simply by expanding the bubble on my chin!" V^ith that, Dr. Frog, Ph.D. began to huff and puff himself up despite Freddy's fruitless attempts to dissuade him. Soon it was all over for Dr. Frog. His puffing caused him to grow so large that he exploded with a loud bang!—and died on the spot. The scholarly old bull frog could easily have prevented his untimely demise if he had heeded the good counsel of his friend. Similarly, devotees of the Lord preach actual scriptural conclusions before "frog philosophers," men puffed up by their meager acquisition of empiric learning. The all-expansive transcendent Lord is never realized through mental speculation manufactured in the workshop of the brain. Realized knowledge of the Supreme Absolute Person is experienced only through pure devotional service. Empiricists who pretend to know God swiftly bring about their own doom and destruction as did Dr. Frog, Ph.D.
50) To the thief, the glorious full moon is an enemy; to the unchaste wife, the faithful husband is an enemy; to the devious student, the spiritual master is an enemy; and, alas, to the general masses, Shri Krishna's devotees bearing good counsel appear as enemies.
51) Real education means accepting the authority of the Supreme Lord, who is the well-wisher of all living entities. By virtue of transcendental knowledge, one rises above material dependency and becomes dependent upon Krishna only But the so-called institutions of higher learning, the universities and colleges, instill only a canine consciousness into the minds of their Ph.D.'s. Like dogs whining for scraps, the Ph.D.'s are forced from door to door begging for work without which they must starve.
52) Ravana, the great demon oiRamayana, tried to build a staircase to heaven but it collapsed for want of support. Similarly, speculative philosophers try to approach God by dint of their own minute mental strength rather than by the strength of revealed scriptures. However, a lack of shastric evidence to support the pretentious theories of such rascals only induces inevitable destruction.
53) Barriers surrounding a field sometimes break due to heavy monsoon rains. Similarly, torrents of unauthorized mayavadi propaganda in the Kali yuga break the boundary of Vedic injunctions.
54) As a father raises his son, so the bonafide spiritual master disciplines and encourages his disciples. But lewd silver-tongued pretenders simply puff up their disciples and theraeby clear their paths to hell. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati said, "If the sadhu turns to flatter me he becomes my enemy."
(55) Water stirred with powdered limestone appears much like milk. To drink the latter is to imbibe all qualities of religiosity, while drinking the former is death. Similarly, the "devil may also quote scripture" and appear wise. But the fresh milk of real knowledge can be obtained only from the, genuine guru,the Supreme Lord's pure devotee.