“Only an empowered personality can distribute the holy name of the Lord and enjoin all fallen souls to worship Krishna. By distributing the holy name of the Lord, he cleanses the hearts of the most fallen people; therefore he extinguishes the blazing fire of the material world. Not only that, he broadcasts the shining brightness of Krishna’s effulgence throughout the world.” (Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura)
An entrepreneur takes their idea for a business and makes it a reality through risk, innovation, hard work and sacrifice. As most startup businesses don’t succeed, those that do tend to stand out. Just getting a local shop up and running and having it turn a regular profit is itself a grand achievement. But if the owner of the store, the person in whom the seed of desire sprouted into the full blown tree of a business, wants to increase their profits even more, or if they simply want their product or service to touch more people than just those in the local community, they will figure out a way to franchise their operation. With others around the country and world following the same business plan and selling the same product, the reach and scope of the business can attain new heights. Ironically enough, this very process explains the success of the celebrated acharyas, the spiritual masters of the Vedic tradition. Through their kind preaching efforts they have enabled a system of glorification of the holy name and the divine personality it addresses to continue on since the beginning of time. Because of this, their positive impact on society and the greatness of their stature can never be properly measured.
Franchising is easier said than done. The first issue is how to repeat the same roadmap for success followed during the initial startup. To run the business the same way, to have the same profit levels, those who operate the franchises must be able to understand the product, how to produce it, and what its value is to the customers. This requires training and good guidance from the original owner. In one sense, there shouldn’t be a need to franchise. The owner has what they want: a successful business. They already know how to operate it successfully, so why the need for expansion?
In the business community, the benefits of expanding obviously relate to increased profits. The original owner can charge franchise fees and thus make money with minimal effort. Teach others how to run the business and watch the profits come in every month. Yet, on an even higher level, if the product or service offered is beneficial to society, expanding helps out so many more people. It is one thing to use your keen knowledge to gain a profit for yourself, but increasing the scope of the operation keeps so many other people employed and ensures that others will have a place to go to get your product, wherever they may live. It is for these reasons that chain restaurants end up doing so well through expansion. If a person is travelling through a foreign city and not sure of where to go to eat, they know that the chain locations will have food and service they are accustomed to. They know what they are going to get. If the original owner had decided to keep the operation localized, the benefits would have remained isolated to a specific area.
In the Vedic tradition, the oldest of all the systems of spirituality in existence, the importance of the spiritual master is constantly emphasized. Just understanding the need for inquiring about God and the reason for the human being’s existence is difficult enough. The human mind is limited in its thinking abilities, as what may be contemplated on at this very second could be forgotten in the next minute. If we can’t even remember what we ate for breakfast yesterday, how are we going to come to the conclusion of who God is and what He looks like? Moreover, how are we going to deduce the purpose to our existence and what should guide our activities?
The need for teachers is not very difficult to understand, but for some reason when the same requirement is presented for understanding the highest truths of life, there is skepticism and trepidation. To practice medicine or law, to operate heavy machinery, or to do pretty much anything unknown to us, there must be training. Young children are sent to school to learn from adults who are wiser than they are. Without the teacher-student paradigm, no information would ever transfer properly. In general conversation, where two friends are talking about the topics of the day, typically there is not a definitive conclusion reached. We are friends with someone for a reason; we consider them our equal. If we didn’t, we couldn’t enjoy their association and feel free to act as we wish. The downside to this, of course, is that when our friends try to teach us anything, the natural response is to counter their arguments and make sure that we never fully accept what they tell us.
With teachers, the ground rules are established from the very beginning that they will instruct and that we will listen. Therefore when Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, recommends in the Bhagavad-gita that Arjuna, His cousin and dear friend, approach one who has seen the Truth to understand the higher concepts in life, the stipulation should not be very difficult to accept. Where did the guru learn their information? Obviously they got it from their own guru; otherwise the information they present is not authorized. Without proper authority, conclusions will be flawed, as the human mind cannot think beyond the bounds of time and space.
Under mental speculation or intense study of logic and reason, the highest conclusion that the mind can reach is that God is formless or without attributes. The Vedas reveal that the essence of identity is the spiritual spark residing within a particular life form. As this entity does not ever change in qualitative makeup, it is understood that all things we see are nothing but temporary manifestations of an inferior energy. The living spark is the superior entity; therefore it is beyond the dualities of the existence we witness with our senses.
Since the identity of the living entity transcends the variety witnessed in the present life, it is assumed that the higher spiritual entity, the being from whom everything emanates, must also be the same in quality. “The Absolute Truth must be without attributes, because as soon as a feature is defined, a limitation is introduced. If God has green eyes, He must be defective because He can’t then have blue eyes. If He is bluish in complexion, then He can’t have any other skin color; hence He becomes inferior.” Because of these apparent contradictions, the mind will be tempted to think that no entity can possess mutually contradictory attributes. Therefore the highest realization the mind can reach through pure study is that of Brahman, or the impersonal energy constituting all things spirit. Even gross matter is related to Brahman, but it is considered a subordinate energy.
Only through the authorized words coming from the guru can we learn that the Supreme Lord is actually full of form. Though He has no hands or legs, God can run faster than the wind and accept every offering made to Him with love and devotion. The idea of a spiritual attribute, one which is not limited in the same way that a material one is, cannot be understood mentally; it must be accepted as fact. The acceptance in this regard is meant for a purpose, for not arguing against the truth of the Supreme Lord’s form enables one to achieve the highest end, that of pure God consciousness, by the time the present life completes. The properly situated mindset leads the spiritual spark back to a land where full variegatedness is witnessed in a spiritual manifestation, where the Supreme Lord and His eternal well-wishers enjoy each other’s company endlessly, with time and space having no influence.
The spiritual master learned the highest truths of life from his own guru, who in turn learned it from their teacher, and so on. When this chain has the Supreme Lord as its founder, whose original form is that of Shyamasundara, the beautiful Shri Krishna, the teachings presented are bona fide and can be accepted without question. With the teachings come recommendations. The instructed student is advised to give up sinful activities which will be detrimental towards their development of consciousness. Meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex form the bedrock of sinful life, so if they are cut off at the nose, before they can do any further damage, the student has a much better chance of succeeding.
More important than the restrictions are the recommended assertive actions, positive behavior that keeps the active potency within the heart fully engaged. Nothing is worse for a person’s psyche than constant lethargy, laziness, and nothing to do. The dream for the fruitive worker is to one day retire and not have the pressures of daily life, but it is seen that the retired worker often has too much time on their hands, and nothing to do except sit around the house and watch television. The spiritual masters, by matching the active propensity to serve found within the heart with a corresponding beneficiary, keep the fire of devotion and action constantly lit within their disciples. Thus there is always something to do for the enthusiastic student.
What activity could there be that we can perform without stop? Chanting the holy names found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, can continue on and on, without interruption and without motivation. The holy name of the Lord is non-different from Him, a fact that can only be realized by steady practice of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. There are various disciplines of spirituality, with each one leading the student to a specific objective. As nothing can be better than attaining a pure love for God that never dies out and never fades away, the discipline of bhakti reigns supreme over all others. Indeed, every method of spiritual life is meant to eventually culminate in bhakti.
The guru is one who himself follows the prescriptions for action handed to him. He spends his time chanting and thinking about Krishna, or God. He reads the scriptures not necessarily for advancement in knowledge, but to remain connected to the spiritual world. We read autobiographies of famous people to get a further glimpse into their life and to better understand their nature. At the heart of this enjoyment is association, the ability to establish a personal relationship with the author. Similarly, by reading about Krishna from famous texts like the Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Mahabharata and so many other works, the lonely living entity gets to be in God’s company. The words found in these works, and also in the wonderful poems authored by famous saints, can be meditated upon for days on end; thereby allowing anyone to be with God for extended periods of time.
The guru, being in the Lord’s company through utilizing the many outlets for devotion, will always be happy. And why shouldn’t he be? If you’re reading about Krishna and basking in His transcendental sweetness all the time, wouldn’t you be constantly thrilled? Yet the guru goes beyond just keeping the happiness to himself. The acharyas, those who are capable of instructing others and withstanding the public scrutiny that comes with active preaching, kindly take to passing on Vedic wisdom to others. In this respect they can accumulate many disciples and become famous themselves, but when their true purpose for teaching is understood, their glories are enhanced even further.
“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)
Just as the ultimate benefit to franchising a store is that the product or service in question gets distributed to many more people, the ultimate aim of the teaching spiritual master is to ensure that Krishna and His names get glorified in as many places as possible, by as many sincere souls as possible. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that the devotees are always chanting His glories, and this is especially true of the guru. The spiritual master thinks, “My Lord is so wonderful. I will never tire of glorifying Him and appreciating His kind mercy, which is available for everyone to take advantage of. Now, let me think of ways to increase this glorification, to amplify its effect.”
One way to beat the drum of devotion even louder is to hold a concert or live showing, where the holy name can be chanted through electronic equipment. This will ensure that many more people get to hear the sweet melodies of the maha-mantra. Yet, as we see with franchising, the better way to expand your operation is to have others take up the cause. With many people following the same formula, the product in question can go “viral” very quickly. In a similar manner, if the guru can teach others about God and devotion to Him, the mrdanga glorifying Shri Krishna gets even more powerful.
Looking at some of the greatest reformers in history, we see that they followed this very formula. Narada Muni, a world traveller and staunch devotee of God, has taught so many people how to practice bhakti. By reforming a dacoit into a devotee of Lord Rama, Narada gave the world Maharishi Valmiki, who used his enlightenment to author the Ramayana, a poem which is still celebrated to this day because of its content. The poem glorifies the life and pastimes of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God. Therefore, through Narada’s kind efforts, a tradition of glorification was established. Valmiki himself taught two students, Lava and Kusha, Rama’s sons, how to sing the poem in public accompanied by music. Thus the tradition was passed on.
In more recent times, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada set up a worldwide institution to ensure that Krishna’s name would be glorified in every town and every village. A truly humble man himself, Shrila Prabhupada did not need any disciples or anyone to worship him daily for being such a wonderful spiritual master. Nevertheless, he accepted disciples, because he could teach them how to expand the wonderful sounds glorifying Krishna that emanate from the spiritual world. Because of this sacrifice, millions of people have benefitted. When his students subsequently help others to find their way in bhakti, Prabhupada’s glories and the stature of his teacher, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, are further increased.
With this franchising system, so many people become liberated and find true happiness in life. By watering the root, connecting with the fountainhead of all things matter and spirit in a loving mood, every disturbance and source of distress is automatically removed. Though the spiritual masters are celebrated as great welfare workers, the predominant desire that guides their activities does not change. They simply want Krishna to be glorified by as many people as possible, as often as possible. Since they are wonderful devotees, the Lord ensures that their desires are satisfied. Thanks to their benevolence, the world becomes supremely benefitted.
Categories: spiritual master