Your Twenty-Four Gurus
Written by Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
Instructions are of three kinds: 1) hearing the teachings of those who are actually sadhus; that is, guru and maha-bhagavata Vaisnavas. 2) learning from their character. It will benefit us to follow the manner in which they do bhajana, conduct their daily routine and behave towards others. 3) watching here and there, and thus learning by one’s own intelligence. Dattatreya was telling about what he concluded by seeing nature. By his intelligence he took something for his own bhajana, and we should also do that.
You are very fortunate that you have either taken birth in a devotee family, or somehow Krsna has given you the intelligence to hear hari-katha. What is the meaning of the word 'hear'?
Once an avadhuta (not Dattatreya) came to the assembly of King Vikramaditya and challenged the king's council members. He had been carrying a human skull, and now he put it on the table and asked, “Who can tell whether this person was very intelligent or foolish during his lifetime?” No one could answer, so he said, “I have wasted my time here. Everyone here is foolish, because nobody can answer." King Vikramaditya said, "One of my counselors, Kalidasa, is coming in a few moments. He may answer you. Please don't be angry." Kalidasa soon came, and that man again asked the question. Kalidasa picked up a coconut leaf straw. He put it in one ear of the skull and it came out the other. He then said, "Oh, he was foolish. If the straw would have gone in one ear and then down towards the heart, that would have indicated intelligence. "
Dattatreya told the king what instruction he had received from each of his twenty-four gurus.
From the Earth, Prthivi, he learned patience, tolerance, great determination and forgiveness. You can dig anywhere on the Earth, pass stool and urine anywhere on the Earth, or make houses and anything you like from the Earth; the Earth is always tolerant. Can you be so tolerant? As I told you yesterday, even if someone is beating you and doing nonsense to you, be tolerant and forgiving.
This is the extraordinary quality of a pure Vaisnava. If one is doing any nonsense to a Vaisnava, the Vaisnava will forgive that person. I have seen this in my guru-parampara.
Mountains: On the Earth there are many mountains, and they all work for the benefit of others. A mountain gives so many trees, herbs and water; not for itself, for others. Our life should be for others.
Also, mountains live alone, in lonely places, and their only association is that of sadhus. So many sadhus used to live in the Himalayas in India, and also at Govardhana, because those places are very silent and favorable for bhajana.
Trees: we also learn from the trees. What are the qualities of a tree? His bark, root, leaves, fruits, flowers, dry wood and everything else is for others. Even if there is no summer rain and the tree is going to become dry, still he does not say, “Oh, give me water.” In Caitanya-Caritamrta it is said that one should be like a tree.
Air: What is the quality of air? The air lives for others. If there is no air, we cannot survive for even a moment. The air is always detached. It can take the bad fragrance from here and there – bad and good – and yet it is detached. Do not be attached to anyone. Reserve your attachment for guru, but not a bogus guru. A bogus guru will say, “You should marry.” Nowadays this is going on. Be attached only to qualified gurus, to those who can take your heart and give it to Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.
Sky: The sky is everywhere, even in our hearts and bodies. Empty space is called sky. The sky is everywhere, and yet it is always detached.
Water: The qualities of water are purity, softness and refreshment. When you take a bath, your body feels pure and refreshed. Be like the water.
Fire: Fire can burn stool, and still it maintains a good fragrance. After death one’s body is put in fire, and yet that fire always remains pure. Try to be pure to do bhajana. Purity can come by performance of bhajana, not otherwise. One cannot become pure by performance of yoga or the execution of austerities; it is only possible by remembering Lord Sri Krsna and His sweet pastimes.
The Moon: We say that there is a first, second, and third Moon, up to the full Moon; It seems there are fifteen moons, but this is not true. There are not many Moons; the Moon is one. If you go very high in space, you will see that the moon is always full. It is sometimes covered by another planet, sometimes by Rahu and at other times by Ketu. So it seems there are 15 moons, but it is not so. Similarly, there is only one God, although He has many manifestations.
The Sun: The Sun has no birth and no death, but it seems that it has taken birth. The Sun illuminates everywhere, and it therefore seems that there are many various suns. But there is only one. Similarly, Paramatma (the Lord as Supersoul) is seen in various places, but He is one. Jivas (individual souls) are so many, but Paramatma is one.
The python: Do not become a python, but take instructions from him. The python remains in one place. By his fruitive karma, some animal comes nearby without any effort on his part, and he eats it. He will not go here and there in search for food. Similarly, you will always get what you deserve due to your previous karma; not more and not less than that.
The python may be very hungry when nothing is there, and it may be that he can't get his food for some time, but still he will not go here and there. If any creature comes nearby, he will eat it and be satisfied. Similarly, if anything comes without much effort – and it is bound to come – accept that. As suffering comes without effort, good things also come in the same way. Our maintenance of life will come according to our previous karma. Thus, we should tolerate everything.
The ocean: The ocean is always happy, and this is understood by his rolling tides. He is laughing, but at the same time he is very grave. Be like that. If an ant bites you, do not be overwhelmed, repeatedly exclaiming, "OH, AN ANT HAS BITTEN ME! An ant has BITTEN ME!"
The moth: In the rainy season in India, if there is light or fire anywhere, moths at once fly into it. Ladies should be careful regarding men, and men should be careful regarding ladies. Do not go to the fire; always be careful. If you go, your intelligence will finished and you will die.
The big black honeybee: A honeybee (madhukara) goes from flower to flower, but he only takes the essence. He does not collect more than he needs. If he collects extra, this will go to the honey collector. The honey collector is the one who comes to empty the honey from the honey combs, and he is the one who also takes that bee in his net.
The bee teaches us to take just a little from each flower. This is the advice for a traveling mendicant. The bee also teaches us not to store extra in one place. Otherwise, our property or money will be taken away by thieves and rogues.
Do not collect more than you need, because nothing can be taken by you at the time of your death. If you have a million dollars in India, so many dacoits will know and they will come to kill you. Be like a bee. Collect very little, like those doing madhukari ("madhukari" means collecting like the bee, or in other words begging alms).
The elephant: I have heard that in India some female elephants are sent to the forest, where there is a large well covered with long grasses and tree branches. The female elephant lures the male elephant there; and the male, controlled by that lady, falls in the well. Then, after many days of fasting from even water, the male elephant becomes weak. At that time, the same lady elephant goes inside the well, places a chain around his leg and takes him out. The humans then take charge of that male elephant and train him, and he then becomes a trained elephant. So, men should be careful about ladies and ladies should be careful about men. This is not a joke. If you are not careful, you may become like a dog with no sense at all.
The deer: A hunter goes to the forest and keeps a net hidden somewhere. Then, by his playing very sweet music, so many deer become attracted. The net falls, and at once all the deer are caught. Don’t hear mundane talk. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu once heard the sweet voice of a lady singing ‘Gita-govinda’ and ran towards her. Somehow His servant Govinda told Him, “O Prabhu, it is a lady singing.” Mahaprabhu then said, “If you had not saved Me, I would have gone to the ocean and drowned there.”
The fish: In catching fish, the fisherman attaches a thread (with a worm on a hook at its end) to a stick, and then drops that thread in the river. Thus, by the greed of the fish's tongue, he is at once caught. Try to control your tongue. Do not be attached to good tasting foods. Be like Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, who never cared even for salt, what to speak of other things. So many people want rich foods, but especially sannyasis shouldn't take such foodstuffs. Take only such things like simple boiled vegetables, otherwise material desires will come. Be very careful. This instruction is not only for males, but for females too.
The small baby: A small baby lives naked. Sometimes he laughs and sometimes weeps, and only his mother takes care of him. He is like a paramahamsa, like Nityananda Prabhu. Sometimes, Nityananda Prabhu would take off his clothes and then go naked to the courtyard of Sacimaiya (the mother of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu), and Mahaprabhu would give him His chaddar. Nityananda Prabhu is an avadhuta (transcendental, beyond social etiquette) and because of this, being married or not married was inconsequential. We cannot imitate the character of transcendental personalities like him.
Do not criticize what others are doing. A small boy is doing so many things, but after all, he is only a small boy. Similarly, all living entities are different, and it is not for us to criticize or find fault with what Lord Krsna has arranged for them.
A boy may sometimes put his toe in his mouth, and sometimes take a toy. Be like a boy. Do not be worried about what others are doing. Be carefree and oil your own machine.
An unmarried girl: There was a young lady who was not yet married. One day she was in her home and there was nothing to cook. There were a few vegetables, but no rice. Her mother and father were not at home. In the meantime, a gentleman from another village came to see if that girl would be a suitable bride for his son. Because her father was not at home, she told him, “Wait a little while.” There was no rice, so she went begging for rice. She was wearing many bangles and they were making some sound. She began thinking, “If this sound is heard by him, he will know I am very poor He will know that I am begging for rice when he hears the sound of the bangles, and he will not select me for his son." She was very intelligent. She took off all the bangles but one, and there was no longer any sound.
What do we learn here? Jana-sanga-tyaga advaita-tyaga. Be far away from those who do not accept God as a person. Jana-sanga means the association of anyone other than those engaged in krsna-bhakti. Advaita means mayavadis. Do not associate with mayavadis or non-devotees, even if they are your mother and father. You can serve by other means, but do not speak harikatha with them. If you have to mix with your family members, do not create a disturbance by trying to speak harikatha to them, because they have no faith in your ideals. They always think you are their child.
The unmarried girl took off most of her bangles so that her future father-in law would not see what she was doing. Similarly, do not disturb those who have no appreciation for what you are doing – like your parents or friends who are not interested in bhakti.
The arrow-maker: There was an arrow-maker, a blacksmith. He was so absorbed in making arrows that when a marriage party playing drums, singing, and dancing passed by, he was not aware of it. Someone told him, “A very beautiful marriage party has just passed by.” He replied, “When? I didn't see it.”
Be absorbed like this. Don't see what is going on here and there. Be absorbed in Krsna and not in nonsense. Better to be absorbed in nama-sankirtana: “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,” and then you will not hear anything else.
The snake: a snake lives and travels alone, and he has no house. He lives in rat holes and is always very careful. Even if you are at a far distance from him, he will know by "eye vibration" that you are there. (He has no ears, so he notices everything only by his eyes.) Similarly, always be very careful and alert for maya.
The spider: a spider produces thread from his own saliva and thus makes a web. After he has created his web, many flies or other insects become entangled in it, and he eats them. Then, when there is no further need for the web, he takes it inside himself. Similarly, God creates this world by Himself, through the agency of His maya, and later on everything enters in Him. He expands His personal potency from within Himself, displays the network of cosmic manifestation, utilizes it according to His purpose, and eventually withdraws it completely within Himself.
The wasp: Srimad-Bhagavatam (seventh canto) states that a grass-worm confined in a hole of a wall by a wasp always thinks of the wasp in fear and enmity. Later, in his next life, he becomes a wasp, simply because of such remembrance. Similarly, if the conditioned souls somehow or other think of Krsna, who is the form of eternity, knowledge and bliss (sac-cid-ananda-vigraha), they will become free from their sins. Whether thinking of Him as their worshipful Lord or an enemy, because of constantly thinking of Him they will attain their spiritual bodies.”
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura concludes this part of Sri Bhagavat-arkamarici-mala with the following quote from Srimad-Bhagavatam:
samsara-sindhum ati-dustaram uttitirsor
nanyah plavo bhagavatah purusottamasya
pumso bhaved vividha-duhkha-davarditasya
[For a person who is suffering in the fire of countless miseries and who desires to cross the insurmountable ocean of material existence, there is no suitable boat except that of cultivating devotion and transcendental taste for the narrations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead's pastimes.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.4.40)]
All the living entities here are suffering in many ways. To cross the unlimited, endless cycle of birth and death is very difficult. Those who want to cross it very easily should hear harikatha. There is no other way. We should hear all the sweet pastimes of Lord Sri Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and the histories in Srimad-Bhagavatam such as those of Prahlada Maharaja and others like him.