“Anarthas, unwanted things, come down from one bodily life to another. To get out of this entanglement, one has to take to the devotional service of Lord Vasudeva, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word guru is significant in this connection. The word guru may be translated as ‘heavy,’ or ‘the supreme.’ In other words, the guru is the spiritual master.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.29.36-37 Purport)
One of the meanings to the Sanskrit word guru is “heavy.” The respected personality carries weight. They have gravitas, which was a word used quite often during the 2000 Presidential election in the United States. The pick for running mate for one of the candidates was described as bringing gravitas. The meaning is essentially the same; they brought respect, gravity.
A guru can be the mother or father or the spiritual guide. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we pay honor to the guru who gives the second birth. In Vedic culture the brahmana is known as dvija, which means “twice-born.” The second birth is possible only for the human being. It occurs through agreeing to enter training under the guidance of a spiritual master. There is the formal entrance known as diksha, but the second birth happens for real when the instructions of the guru are accepted and carried out.
One of the ways the spiritual master brings gravitas is through instilling confidence. Not all people are the same. Since the root cause of birth in the material world is intentional forgetfulness of God, it makes sense that the majority of the people would be interested in activities of a certain nature. But deep down, past the thick knot of nescience covering up the spotless soul, there is a desire to be spiritual. That desire is more pronounced in some, which means that not everyone will be interested in the common activities of the material world.
The acharya is the guru who leads by example. One of the most famous acharyas of recent times is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Making the sacrifice for prachara, or popularizing, the sankirtana movement, Prabhupada showed the proper example for so many. Bringing his gravitas, he instilled confidence in those not wishing to follow the general path in material life, which would be the path of least resistance. The guru let me know that it was okay if I wasn’t interested in certain things.
1. Going out to clubs
What else are you going to do on a Saturday night? If you want to “have a life,” you go out with your peers to a place that is very loud, serves alcohol, and is dimly lit. Never mind that you don’t like it there. Never mind that you would rather engage the mind, contemplating the higher subject matters.
The guru gives me the confidence to follow my instincts and say “no” to this activity. He describes the setting as the mode of ignorance. The human being is meant for elevation to the mode of goodness. In that mode there is a desire to see things as they are, to understand the fundamental aspect of life, spirit. That spirit is separate from matter, and seeing the difference is not easy.
2. Chasing after women
I never understood why people broke up. If you’re together, why not stay that way? If you liked someone previously, why does that preference change at any point? Why go into another relationship that is destined to end up in the same place?
The guru gives me confidence to accept this inner belief. He explains that sense gratification in this connection is illicit. Better to get married at a young age and control desires. Kama, or lust, is the great devouring enemy of this world. The guru quotes the Bhagavad-gita in this regard, which has the highest authority figure as the speaker, the original guru, Shri Krishna.
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
3. Focusing entirely on money
Land a good job after college, but don’t stay there too long. Every three years or so, move to some other place. That is the way to get ahead. Buy your first home, but then make sure to get something better later on. If you start a business, keep an eye on its growth. If you have one store, make sure to expand.
I have little interest in acquiring more and more money, and the guru gives me the confidence to follow this belief. There is duality in the material world, so no single behavior is completely bad or completely good. Money can be used in the service of the Supreme Lord. That service is known as bhakti-yoga. Still, the unending chase for wealth is also kama. It turns a person into a miser as well, which is a hellish existence, both now and in the future.
“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)
4. Worrying about accumulating stuff
Before I came in contact with the spiritual master, I thought that collecting was the way to go. Purchase every movie ever made. Have the nicest suits to wear to work. Stock up on everything so that you never run out. What else was I going to do in life?
The guru instills in me the spirit of renunciation, vairagya. Simple living and high thinking. What’s interesting is that I don’t have to specifically try for renunciation. It comes automatically as a result of following the lead of the guru. He stresses chanting in devotion more than anything else. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
5. Putting down books about Shri Krishna and His avataras
When I first came across books like the Ramayana and Mahabharata I couldn’t put them down. How was it possible that there were these lengthy works featuring the direct words of the Supreme Lord and His incarnations? Why did no one tell me about this? Shouldn’t these books be promoted the most?
I loved reading them, but I found out that not everyone shared my enthusiasm. In fact, they took it as almost an affront. “What, you think you’re more religious than me? I’m familiar with what is in those books. There is no reason to read them in depth or to spend so much time thinking about them. Don’t be a fanatic.”
The guru gives me confidence to go with my desire. He teaches that such attachment is extremely beneficial. All in all, he shows the right way to live. Even though I am full of faults and material desires, at least I have a shining example to follow. Had he not made the sacrifice of leaving the comforts of Vrindavana-dhama to spread the message of Divine Love to the rest of the world, I shudder to think where I would be today. I certainly would be missing the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful occasion of Vyasa Puja, which is the worship of the guru who represents Vyasadeva, the compiler of Vedic literature.
Heavy with authority guru is known,
Acharya one who best example shown.
On Vyasa Puja Prabhupada celebrating,
Power of bhakti to world demonstrating.
To follow my instincts confidence gave,
From life in mode of ignorance to save.
Staying renounced beneficial to do,
No problem in reading Vedic books too.