Excerpt from the book Sri Guru and His Grace by Srila Sridhar Maharaja.
Chapter 9, page 125 -135
Student: I have heard that one has an eternal connection with the spiritual master who first initiates one into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra (harinama guru ). Does he have a similar connection with the mantra guru ?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Yes. We may see it as similar, with a slight difference.
Student: Some devotees who took harinama initiation from Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada later took their gayatri mantra initiation from one of his disciples. Can you explain the distinction between the two initiations and how a disciple should view his relationship with two different spiritual masters?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: The first importance should be given to the nama guru, or the guru who initiates one into the chanting of the holy name of Krsna, and second to the guru who gives initiation into the gayatri mantra. The diksa guru, initiating spiritual master, must be shown respect, and then all the other disciples of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. First, honor must be shown to Prabhupada, who is the nama guru, the guru of guru, the second honor will go to the diksa guru and then to the rest, accommodating all They should all be recognized according to their status.
Mantra: Circle within a Circle
Jiva Goswami has written that the name of Krsna is the principle thing in the gayatri mantra. Within the mantra, there are also so many other words, but the name is the most important. If the name of Krsna is taken away, and replaced with some other name, the whole thing will be rotten. This is the decision of Jiva Goswami. The holy name of Krsna is all in all. The holy name of Krsna is there in the gayatri mantra, and so many other words are couched there. But if Krsna's name is taken away and replaced with the name of Siva, then the whole thing will go to Siva. The holy name is the all-important factor.
The holy name of Krsna is so important that even the gayatri mantra may not be necessary. It is said na ca sat kriya, na dikse na ca purascarya manadilate mantrayam rasana spri hanato sri krsna namatmaka : "One need not undergo all the purificatory processes, or follow the six ritualistic ceremonies mentioned in the Vedas for pious life; one need not even take initiation into the gayatri mantra. If one simply chants the holy name of Krsna without offense, everything will be successful." The holy name of Krsna is the most important consideration. The gayatri mantra may not even be necessary.
We accept the mantra only to help the nama-bhajana, the worship of the holy name. Otherwise, it may not be necessary at all. It has been judged in such a way. The name alone can do everything for a person. lt is full and complete. The mantra helps us to do away with the aparadhas, offenses, and the abhasa, or hazy conceptions in our bhajana. The mantra comes to help us only so far.
An example is given of larger and smaller circles. The holy name of Krsna is the larger circle. It extends from the highest to the lowest. The mantra circle is a smaller circle within the larger circle. The mantra cannot reach to the lowest point. The holy name can extend itself down to the lowest position. The mantra gives us entrance into liberation, and then the name carries us further. This is the nature of our connection with the mantra and the name.
The name extends to the lowest position, to the candalas and yavanas. Everyone can receive the name. But everyone is not eligible for the gayatri mantra. Only after one has reached a developed stage can the mantra be conferred upon him. And the mantra's jurisdiction will be finished when liberation is attained. In the Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi.7. 73):
krsna-mantra haite habe samsara mocana
krsna-nama haite pabe krsnera carana
"The Krsna gayatri mantra liberates one from repeated birth and death in this world; the holy name of Krsna gives one shelter at the lotus feet of Krsna." The gayatri mantra helps us achieve liberation, and then the mantra retires. After giving us liberation, the mantra is finished. But the name will continue all along, from the lowest to the highest. In chanting the name, there is no mention of any petition--it is an address only. We should not chant with the mentality that, "I want this." We must simply chant the name spontaneously. That will encourage good will in us. So, because the function of the mantra is limited, but the name is all-important, the nama guru will be honored first, and next, the mantra guru, and then the other Vaisnavas.
Student: How should a devotee who has taken second initiation from a godbrother, regard his godbrother--as godbrother or guru?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: It is inconceivably, simultaneously, one and different. Generally that godbrother will be seen as guru, according to the disciple's present stage, but if the disciple transcends, and goes to his previous history, then he will see him more as a godbrother. But generally, in his present stage, he will see him as guru, and in the background, godbrother.
Student: You said, the hari-nama continues after the liberated condition. So, does the gayatri mantra guru continue any activity with the devotee beyond the point of liberation?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: When he returns to the spiritual world, even the chanting of the holy name will be in the background, and the function of performing other services will come in the foreground.When one enters the Lord's domain, he will be given some function there in the service of Krsna, and that will be very conspicuous and prominent. At that time, the name will be in the background. When one goes to a particular group in a particular rasa, like sakhya rasa, then he will be given a specific duty under a group-leader like Subala, or Baladeva. His service will have the first importance, and the name will be in the background, helping, energizing. And there, all will be seen as guru, but still, there is a hierarchy. It is a family life. The guru's guru is there, but the disciple will work under his own boss who has his boss. He will receive direction from his immediate superior. In this way, the hierarchy is there, and the disciple will gradually be transformed by that sort of function. Everyone is under some servitor, and their immediate duty will be to attend that servitor and his orders.
Student: Many devotees cannot understand how it is that someone can have two gurus.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: That is because they are situated in a formal position, but when they enter into the substantial spiritual realization, they will not have such a grievance because they will see what is guru . Guru means one who has come to give Krsna consciousness. The formal difference will be reduced when one can catch the very substance of the teachings for which the guru is respected. When one is intimately connected with the thread of divine love which the guru comes to impart to us, he will accept it, wherever it comes from. He will see it as a friendly relation, not antagonistic, but cooperative.
Although separate in figure, at heart both of the gurus are the same because they have a common cause. They have not come to fight with one another; they have come to fight only with the agents of Satan. If we can recognize the real thing for which we are approaching the guru, then we will understand how to make the adjustment in our relationship with the siksa guru, diksa guru, and vartma-pradarsaka guru.
We are infinitely indebted to all our gurus. We are helpless. What can we do? They are benevolent, they are infinitely gracious, they are my guardians. I may have many guardians; they are to look after my welfare, they have not come to destroy me.
Student: Krsna descends with his associates, friends, and paraphernalia. Is this true of the guru also?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Yes, but his associates were mostly recruited; very few may be his eternal company.
Self-effulgent and Self-evident
Student: How will we recognize the guru if he appears before us in another form or in a different body?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya argued that Sri Caitanyadeva could not have been an incarnation. Gopinatha Acarya told him, "You do not know the sastra. " "No, no," Sarvabhauma said, "In the scriptures it is mentioned that the Lord does not appear in Kali-yuga, but only in three ages and is therefore known as Triyuga. " Gopinatha Acarya replied, "You think that vou know so much about sastra, but in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Mahabharata, there is direct mention of the avatara of Kali-yuga. Have you no knowledge, no recognition of that?" Then Sarvabhauma apparently defeated, said, "You go and take prasadam, and afterwards come and teach me." Then Gopinatha said, "Not by the dint of one's study or intelligence can one understand God, but only through his grace" (athapi te deva padambhuja-dvaya-prasada 1esanugrhita eva hi ).
Then Sarvabhauma said, "You say that you have that grace, and I do not? What is your reasoning behind this? You say that you have the grace of the Lord because you say that he is an incarnation. And because I can't give recognition to that, I have no grace? What is the proof of this?" Then Gopinatha Acarya replied, acarya kahe "vastu-visaye haya vastu-jnana vastu-tattva-jnana haya krpate pramana (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 6. 89). "It is evident that I have the grace of the Lord, because I know him, and that you have not, because you deny Him." The answer to your question is given here. Our own inner experience, our internal satisfaction, our connection or acquaintance with reality is the real evidence; nothing external can give any real proof.
Our guru maharaja gave the example that if one is born in the darkness of a dungeon, and someone proposes "Let us go see the sun," then the prisoner will carry a lantern in his hand saying "Oh, you will show me the sun?"
"Yes. Come with me. Leave your lantern behind. No light is necessary to see the sun."
"Are you trying to fool me? Nothing can be seen without the help of a light."
His friend will catch him and forcibly take the prisoner into the sunlight. "Do you see the sun?" And the prisoner will say, "Oh, this is the sun! By sunlight alone we can see the sun." One will have that sort of experience when he comes in connection with the truth. Neither calculation, nor evidence, nor witness, but only direct experience is proof that Krsna is there, like the sun.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said, atma parijnanamayo : what to speak of Krsna, even the conscious unit is self effulgent. A certain section says, "There is God. Surely He exists." Others say, "No, there is no God, He never existed." This quarrel is useless; still it will continue. In a particular section this argument will have no end. Those who have no eyes will be unable to see the sun. They will say there is no sun (mattah para-nistat amsa-lokam ). This misconception will continue for those who deny the existence of both the soul and the Supreme soul. For those who have direct experience, however, there is no question: it exists! But for the owl section who cannot admit the existence of the sun, the sun does not exist. It is something like that. Our own realization of a thing will be the greatest proof of its existence: vastu-tattva-jnana haya krpate.
One may be born blind, but if somehow or other his eyes are opened, he will be astonished to see the particular aspects of the environment. But if one has no vision, he can see no color or figure. Those who have vision will feel, "How can I deny the fact? I have seen it. I am feeling it, it is so magnanimous, so great and so benevolent, I can't deny all these things. You are unfortunate; you cannot see." Some see, some cannot see. In the same place, one can see, another cannot. Those to whom Krsna wishes to reveal himself can see him; others cannot.