“When Krishna was residing at the place of His spiritual master, He did not mind taking all troubles in rendering service to His guru, although His body was very soft and delicate. It is the duty of the disciple to execute all services unto the spiritual master, despite all kinds of difficulties.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 21)
Take the situation of a guardian and a dependent. In this example the dependent is a little mature; they are not an infant. They can do some things on their own. They can follow direction, if provided. The guardian here is much more mature in terms of both life experience and knowing how things work. They can see into the future, for the higher benefit of shreyas. The dependent is only focused on the immediate enjoyment, preyas. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we honor the spiritual master, who shields their dependents from the worst outcome to a lifetime: repeated birth and death.
The guardian has two options. One is to do everything for the dependent. If the child is in school, then help them with their homework. The extreme is to essentially finish the assignments for them. This way the dependent will avoid a failing grade. The idea is to avoid any kind of difficulty; fun and nothing but fun.
The second option is to assign tasks. Put the dependent to work. The tasks may be menial, like doing chores around the house, or they can be complex, like helping to build something. The dependent may not like this path. They may feel as if they are being tortured. The idea is that maturity will accelerate with this route.
The spiritual master leans mostly on the second option with the dependents that are known as disciples. The goal is to break free of the attachments found in a material existence, and so the recommendations may seem like torture. There is great benefit to tolerating the difficulties, but the disciple may have complaints.
Why do I have to chant so many rounds?
The jagat-guru for the present time period, which is within the Kali Yuga, or the age of darkness, is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Appearing in a line of exalted spiritual teachers that traces back to the original guru Himself, Shri Krishna, the swami puts great emphasis on chanting the holy names, especially those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
This chanting is part of an overall way of life known as bhakti-yoga, which can be translated as “devotional service.” Bhakti is love or devotion, and so in the highest form the behavior is spontaneous. Just as the mother doesn’t feel like she is working when she has to care for her beloved child, the pure devotee doesn’t consider any activity to be part of some routine meant for self-improvement. Bhakti essentially becomes them.
The recommendation to chant in a routine is a way to slowly build up to the platform of pure devotion. The disciple may complain. “Why do I have to chant so many rounds? Why does it take so much time? Shouldn’t I just chant the holy name one time, purely, instead of repeating like a robot?”
As is seen with children, so many excuses are made for avoiding difficult work. In this regard tolerance is most beneficial. In the case where progress grinds to a halt, at least the holy name is heard, and that sound vibration is non-different from the person it represents.
Why do I have to avoid the four pillars of sinful life?
“Is one drink really going to kill me? I can’t bet on the Super Bowl? Why are these restrictions so harsh? The guru doesn’t want me to have any fun.”
In fact, the spiritual master desires eternal bliss and pleasure, in an eternally existing body, for the disciple. That is the ultimate goal of spiritual life. In the beginning a person may be God-fearing, where they want to avoid the punishment slated to arrive from sinful life. They may want to avoid eternal damnation, something they’ve feared ever since being told by higher authorities.
The restrictions in bhakti-yoga are known as nivritti. To have detachment is vairagya, and it actually comes automatically the more one is attached to God. The four regulative principles help to speed the process along. Of all the recommendations avoiding meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex may require the most tolerance, but the reward is worth the effort.
Why do I have to speak on the science of self-realization?
Like a good father or teacher, the guru likely never will say that the work is complete. There is always something more to do. If following the four regulative principles and regularly chanting the holy names, the next step might be to prepare and offer food to the deity, which is the merciful, physical representation of God the person and His transcendental features; a way to visualize God in a place otherwise full of maya, or illusion.
The resultant food becomes known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. The guru still won’t be satisfied. The next advice is to distribute that prasadam to others, for the spiritual potency is unmatched. The same prasadam can be shared in the form of words of wisdom. The spiritual master will recommend speaking on the principles of bhakti-yoga found in works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam.
The disciple may be afraid. “What if I can’t speak that well? What if I don’t know what to say? What if I am not skilled in public speaking?” The guru will then say to write down the realizations. In some way or another share the experience in bhakti-yoga. Simply tell other people what Shri Krishna and the devotees mean to you. A few words can be purifying to both the audience and the speaker.
The system of guru-disciple descends from the Supreme Lord Himself. When He appeared in this world in His original form, as the all-attractive Shri Krishna, He also accepted a guru. No one needs to teach Him anything. He doesn’t need to develop vairagya, since He already possesses it in full. While lying down and exhaling He creates innumerable universes, so what is He going to learn from anyone?
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
Krishna showed great tolerance when serving the spiritual master. He accepted whatever difficulties were encountered. This was done to set the right example, for what a great man does others follow. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we honor the representative of Shri Krishna, who follows in a line of teachers descending from Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of the Supreme Lord whose body of work is beyond comprehension in both brilliance and volume.
Good teacher giving work to do,
So one day to be proficient too.
Not lazily sitting around just,
For outcomes in others to trust.
Disciple to spiritual master sure to complain,
Of such restriction what possibly the gain?
But Shri Krishna Himself example setting,
That most good from service to guru getting.