Sometimes it is necessary to have an ista-gosthi. An ista-gosthi is when devotees gather together and discuss various questions they may have. This is also an opportunity to harmonise difficulties between devotees.
After one or two years of my joining here at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, we would regularly hold an ista-gosthi. Lunch would be finished by 1 p.m., and then the ista-gosthi would last for the hour between 2 and 3 p.m. All the devotees staying in the Math would sit together and attend. Sometimes Srila Guru Maharaj would join the group, and he had a special way to manage us.
The general understanding is that a devotee is one who is fully devoted to the Lord. But in Vaisnavism, the real devotee of Krishna is considered to be he who is fully devoted to Sri Guru-Vaisnava. Krishna Himself said,
ye me bhakta-janah partha ne me bhaktas cha te janah
mad bhaktanam cha ye bhaktas te me bhakta-tama matah
«Who is devoted to Me is not My real devotee, but one who is devoted to My devotee is My real devotee.»
By means of the ista-gosthis, Srila Guru Maharaj gave much chance for the devotees to praise each other. Sometimes two devotees may clash with one another, each having a different opinion. One would want to go in one direction, the other in another direction, thus their minds would clash, and they may insult each other. Srila Guru Maharaj would harmonise them by calling them both and asking each to praise the other: «Describe the good qualities of this devotee.» In this way, Srila Guru Maharaj taught us how to praise Vaisnavas without looking at their faults.
Srila Guru Maharaj used the expression, «You are not a drain inspector.» He would explain, «You are a searcher, a searcher of Krishna consciousness. Your position is not that of a drain inspector. An ant searches for a hole to use for his own purpose. Without searching for any holes, see only the good qualities of the Vaisnavas and follow that.»
In this way, Srila Guru Maharaj organised the classes of ista-gosthi so that the devotees could come together and praise each other. It was also a chance for devotees to ask any questions they may have. Srila Guru Maharaj would encourage the devotees to answer each others’ questions. In this way, he managed our minds. We must be tolerant, we must be humble, and we must give honour to other devotees.
If we read Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, we can understand all the siddhanta. But in which way can we follow the line of Srila Rupa Goswami and the other goswamis? This we can easily understand through the books of Srila Guru Maharaj. There are many questions answered there.
I have not had a chance to read all the books of Srila Guru Maharaj, but I am very satisfied with their titles. When I hear the name of the book The Loving Search for the Lost Servant, I can immediately remember Krishna’s Pastimes as described in Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrtam. In The Loving Search for the Lost Servant, there is a very nice picture of Krishna embracing a lost servant, and this is the theme of its title.
Only love can give us all the wealth of transcendental happiness, but in the material conception, only its shadow is found, and it is bad. We cannot see everything of the origin in the shadow. In the negative world, all must be negative, and in the positive world, all are positive.
In this mundane world, paramour love is not praiseworthy, but the opposite is the case in the transcendental world. The only enjoyer there is Krishna. Everyone is engaged in supplying materials for His enjoyment, and therefore everything there is very joyful, auspicious, and transcendental.
Krishna engages in a loving search for His own satisfaction. In the positive world, the loving search is in a positive way. Krishna is the enjoyer, but He feels some deficiency in enjoyment because His servant is lost. He has everything, but He wants to give enjoyment to His lost servant.
He gave freedom to us, but we misused it and therefore came within the mundane world. We try to enjoy mundane things, and therefore we are also searching. We are searching for happiness, but happiness is not found here. So, we are unfulfilled. A person here feels, «If I have five rupees, I will be happy.» Then, having five rupees, «If I have ten rupees, I will be more happy.» Then, «A hundred rupees is necessary, then I’ll be happy.» Similarly, we try to collect for ourselves kanak, kamini, and pratistha (wealth, enjoyment, and fame), but always we become dissatisfied.
te tam bhuktva svarga-lokam visalam
ksine punye martya-lokam visanti
«After enjoying that great, extensive, heavenly happiness, the residents of heaven, with the depletion of their piety, then enter the human plane.»
abrahma-bhuvanal lokah punar avartino ’rjuna
«From the planet of Lord Brahma downwards, the residents of all planets are naturally subjected to repeated birth and death.»
We are moving in such a way throughout the mundane world, the brahmanda. But Krishna is searching for us: «Where is that soul who misused his freedom?» He sees everything, but He does not interfere. The only reason He does not interfere is that He wants that each one will willingly serve Him.
When someone crosses over illusion and enters the transcendental service world, particularly the super-service section which is under the guidance of madhura-rasa, Krishna immediately embraces that devotee, «Oh, after so long I am seeing you. I know service to Me is your life’s goal, and now after so long you have come back to your home. I have been always wondering when you will come.» Such is Krishna’s nature.
In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, it is related how Sri Gopalji hiddenly stayed on Giriraj Govardhan, and how, when Madhavendra Puri came nearby, He supplied him some milk and then gave a dream to him, saying, «I am waiting for you and the time that you will come here, take Me out, and arrange My seva. I have to undergo so much austerity here. In the winter, I have no clothes; in the summer, I have no fan. Every day, no one comes to feed Me. I am fasting, but every day I am waiting for the day you will come and take Me, and give Me nourishment.»
om purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate
purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasisyate
The Lord is full. He is full of everything, but His deficiency is found in love. It is not actually a deficiency, but it is His Pastime, His lila. He is feeling deficiency, and when His servitors serve Him, Krishna happily accepts and gives in return the opportunity of more and more service. But until that point when the servitor comes to willingly serve Him, Krishna waits for that lost servant.
Krishna is full of joy, ecstasy, and everything, but it is His Pastime that He wants to play. Therefore, there must be both positive and negative, otherwise He cannot play. In the positive world is also one kind of ‘negativeness’, otherwise He cannot play, and that is called separation. Srila Guru Maharaj is living and present here today, but we are unable to see his form. In this way, in a negative way, we feel Srila Guru Maharaj’s presence, but it is also positive. In the positive world, everything is positive, but when the play will take place, a type of negativity must come. That ‘negative’ is not like the negativity of this mundane plane. The negative of the higher plane is always helping the positive. To the degree of its necessity, ‘negativity’ will come, and that is called separation.
Union in separation is the topmost ideal of the transcendental world. For the play of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, separation gives more and more ecstasy.
krsna-mayi — krsna yara bhitare bahire
yaha yaha netra pade, taha krsna sphure
When Krishna hides, His form is always before Radharani. She can never be without Krishna. In this way, union in separation is the highest goal of life. When there is union, devotees are no doubt happy, but they need more happiness! And that comes through separation. That is shown in Krishna-lila, where His separation from the gopis lasted one hundred years. But this is all inconceivable. Such a position is unimaginable, and it is also not good to try to imagine it.
Sometimes to have direct association may be considered to be bad. One day, Rupa Goswami Prabhu invited Sanatan Goswami to take sweet rice, but when Sanatan Goswami understood that the ingredients had been supplied by Srimati Radharani, he was very unhappy: «We want to worship Her, and if we can do even a little service for Her, we consider that to be the fulfilment of our lives. But, seeing the wish of Rupa, She is trying to serve us.»
The higher souls do not want to see Krishna. Raghunath Das Goswami said, «What shall I do with Krishna? I need to serve You, Radharani, and if You give that chance, it will be the fulfilment of my life. But without Your service, I do not want to serve Krishna directly.»
The Gaudiya–Vaisnavas, especially the Rupanuga sampradaya, do not follow Mirabai because she shows herself to be directly connected with Krishna. Rather they think, «We are the servitors of the servitors of the servitors of Radharani.» This is our line, and in this way we will get the fulfilment of our transcendental life.
When the real Vaisnavas get some sight of Krishna, they think it is illusion, and they are not satisfied with it. Even Mahaprabhu Himself expressed,
na prema-gandho ’sti darapi me harau
krandami saubhagya-bharam prakasitum
He could not tolerate separation from Krishna, and therefore He cried. But while crying, He expressed, «Nothing I have is sufficient for Krishna. Actually, I have no love for Krishna. Why am I crying for Krishna? Simply as a show to others. But it is not real love, because if it is real love, then I would not be able to live. I would certainly die for Him. But I am not dead.»
When the Vaisnavas see Krishna, they think what they see is illusion: «I am too unqualified; it is not possible for me to see Him. It must be illusion. I do not want to see Him in this way.»
They want to see Krishna living with Radharani, and that is the real form of Krishna. That is where Krishna is supremely happy. And that is our goal.
Leaving aside that ideal, we can see Krishna in His Pastimes in many places: in Dvaraka, in Mathura, in Hastinapur, and so on. In each place of His Pastimes, He is present, but the Gaudiya–Vaisnavas have no specific connection there. They do not go to Dvaraka or Hastinapur, and they even do not go to Mathura. They do not like to see the appearance place of Krishna.
The mood of the Rupanuga sampradaya is that our line is very fine. Srila Guru Maharaj was very heavy and strict on this point.
For the service of this Math, we started running pilgrimage tours to different places around India to bring in funds and to attract good people. At first, we started Purusottam Dham — Puri Dham — parikrama. Each advertising pamphlet we made was composed under the very careful guidance of Srila Guru Maharaj to ensure it followed the line of the Rupanuga sampradaya.
Later, we went to Badarik Ashram, but it is the place of Nara-Narayan, so what relevance does it hold for the Gaudiya-Vaisnavas? Nothing directly. But we wanted to go because pilgrims would automatically want to join such a tour, thereby helping the Math. Therefore, I asked Srila Guru Maharaj, «Please indicate how we can go there and still keep its relevance to our line.» Then Srila Guru Maharaj gave the connection that a short distance after Badarik Ashram is the place of Vyasadev, his cave. «If you wish to go there for the service of this Math, you must not break the line of the Gaudiya–Vaisnavas. You must indicate Vyasadev’s cave in the pamphlet.» He instructed me to mention in the pamphlet the connection with Nityananda Prabhu’s pilgrimages and the ashram of Vedavyas and Sukadev Goswami as the motive.
When I planned a pilgrimage tour to Dvaraka, Srila Guru Maharaj said that if we go to Dvaraka, we must also go to Kuruksetra, otherwise it will not be able to be harmonised within our Gaudiya–Vaisnavas’ line.
Srila Guru Maharaj never gave permission to leave the track of the Rupanuga sampradaya to go along any other sampradaya’s track. We are running in the Rupanuga sampradaya, so we are not to leave our track to go to see with any other’s vision.
The gopis went to Kuruksetra, but we must remember why they went. The place where there is extreme separation from Krishna is Kuruksetra. Krishna as the head of the Yadavas was present there with many of His wives. They were all highly decorated. The gopis were very poor, and they thought, «Krishna is our Krishna, but they are enjoying with Him. We need this Krishna, but not in the way we see Him before us now.»
Srimati Radharani feels, «Krishna is present in front of us, and He has met with us. I am that same Radharani, and Our meeting is not false. It has actually happened, but it is not giving Me any actual satisfaction.»
The Rasa-lila also happened there, but She further mentions, «Here, we are meeting and dancing with Krishna, but I am very unsatisfied and unhappy. How will I be happy? If this Krishna will go to the banks of the Yamuna and play with us as we did before, then I shall be happy.»
In an extended way, this has been preached by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj also, but after Srila Saraswati Thakur, Srila Guru Maharaj became the helmsman and took firm control of the rudder. All the godbrothers of Srila Guru Maharaj came to have his association because of this. Because Srila Guru Maharaj was controlling the whole of the Rupanuga sampradaya, they all came to him. He was not only controlling, but he was guiding everyone. Srila Guru Maharaj tried to help everyone.
The holder of the rudder — the helmsman — was Srila Guru Maharaj, and he always was keeping the key of the iron-safe. Everyone respected him in this way. This was also the idea behind the design of his Samadhi Mandir. He is the treasurer, therefore his Samadhi Mandir must give some impression of a treasury. All the big, big personalities — everyone — respected Srila Guru Maharaj for that cause. He is accepted by all as holding the post of the leader of our sampradaya.
If you read the introduction pamphlet of any of the parikramas that we organised — to West India, South India, Purusottam Dham, Badarik Ashram, and other places — you will be able to understand how Srila Guru Maharaj harmonised each tour in accordance with the line of our sampradaya. We must harmonise everything to stay on the track. We must not leave the track, and Srila Guru Maharaj was careful to guard against that. It is very hard to guide in that line.
Gopa Kumar went onwards from one place to another, but only was he satisfied when he reached Vraja Dham and the embrace of Krishna. Krishna said, «And I have been waiting for you. For so long I have been waiting for you. Now I am satisfied.» Both of them fainted — Krishna and His devotee. That is the heart of Krishna; you can understand.
Sometimes Krishna’s wives in Dvaraka cannot get His association. They sleep with Him, talk with Him, and serve Him, but they sometimes say, «We do not have real Krishna. Whom we are worshipping, that is not really Krishna. We may serve His body, but His mind is absent. In this way, to whom we are rendering service is not full Krishna.» Such is their expression.
The mood of Krishna is that He is always searching for rare services. He is not eager to accept what comes easily to Him. That nature, in a negative way, is also found in the mundane plane.
Actually, I do not have time to read the scriptures. If we read the scriptures, we must be misguided through the books, but if we get the association of a good Vaisnava who is a master, then there is no chance to be misguided. Scriptures themselves give the advice of Krishna, Vyasadev, and so many others: «Try to get good Vaisnava association and render them service.»
If you try to read, you must be misguided, otherwise why did Mahaprabhu say, «You go and read Srimad Bhagavatam in front of a Vaisnava who knows its meaning.»
The good servitors of Srila Guru Maharaj are the wealth of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. The real wealth is the devotees, and I am trying to serve you all with whatever I have. I want your association really. I am receiving transcendental food from you. When I see you, I think, «I have service», but to be alone is not good for anyone, even myself. We are trying always to do service, no doubt, but sometimes we must be worried, and that is painful. But with the devotees, it becomes not painful but hopeful and happy. Everyone wants relaxation, and my relaxation is to be with the devotees.
Srila Guru Maharaj is very happy with this programme of daily English class on his Samadhi Mandir, the Temple of Union in Separation. This Samadhi Mandir is not here just for show, but it is to be used in the service of Srila Guru Maharaj. Real service is to glorify the Vaisnavas headed by Srila Guru Maharaj and his associates.
This programme of glorification of Srila Guru Maharaj through his associates and devotees must continue here every day. In that way, Srila Guru Maharaj will be even more happy.