Understanding the First Verse by Connecting to the Guru-varga
Mahāprabhu gave the order to Rūpa Gosvāmī to establish and expound upon the limbs of bhakti. But how can the jīvas follow these limbs of bhakti? In order to make this easier for the jīvas, Param Gurudeva and Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura started centers where harināma, śravana, and kīrtana to all of the Guru-varga would go on continuously, starting from the early morning.
kṛṣṇa haite caturmukha haya kṛṣṇa sevonmukha
brahmā haite nāradera mati
nārada haite vyāsa madhva kahe vyāsadāsa
pūrṇaprajña padmanābha gati
First of all, we offer praṇama to Kṛṣṇa, Brahmā, Vyāsa, Madhva, and the whole Guru-paramparā. We pray to all of them that they may excuse our faults and bestow their blessings upon us. Then, after glorifying the Guru-varga, we pray to the Vaiṣṇavas, to the Pañca-tattva, and finally to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. This gives real nourishment to the soul.
Without accepting the shelter of a mahā-bhāgavata guru, one will never be clean. The Vrajavāsīs have the power to clean. Practices like the chanting of vaikuṇṭhiya-mantras, or the performance of yajñas, austerities, charity, or parikramā are not as helpful. They result in sukṛti and rewards, but do not purify the heart.
During the dry season, one has to endeavor so much to grow something on a farm, but during the rainy season, without planting any seeds, automatically plants grow, even in stony areas and on roofs. The Vrajavāsīs can be compared to that rain. They have the power of śuddha-sattva.
śuddha-sattva-viśeṣātmā prema-suryāṁśa sāmyabhāk
rucibhiś cittamāsṛṇya kṛdāsau bhāva ucyate
Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva vibhāga 3.1
Bhāva-bhakti, which is the embodiment of śuddha-sattva, is compared to a ray of the sun of prema, and melts the heart by various tastes.
The Vrajavāsīs’ hearts are nirguṇa, śuddha-sattva. They plant the seed of loving devotion in the hearts of the jīvas and give nourishment to the bhakti creeper. In this way, one’s heart will become clean, ceto-darpaṇa-marjanaṁ, and then, bhāva-mahā-dāvāgni, the fire of material existence will be extinguished, and one will become completely cool.
There are many different things which can create obstacles in one’s performance of bhakti, but after one’s heart is cleansed, nothing can disturb one’s bhajana. Sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir. We should stay with the mahā-bhāgavata. Bhavadīya-vārtām, stay where the glories of Kṛṣṇa and the Vrajavāsīs are discussed by those who follow the footsteps of the Vraja-devīs. If we cannot stay with them physically, we should be with them by mind.
Mahāprabhu gave the instruction, “Vraje rādhā-kṛṣṇa-sevā mānase karibe. Always perform sevā of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana within your mind.”
Where is our mind taking us? One should go to Śrivāṣa-aṇgan and offer praṇamas to Mahāprabhu, Nityānanda Prabhu, and Śrivāṣa Paṇḍita. If that is not possible, then go to Śrī Guru-pāda-padma early in the morning. While chanting one’s mantras, one can offer puṣpañjali and perform mānasī-sevā to Guru, Gauraṅga and Gandharvika Giridhārī. In this way, they will be with you when you chant harināma. Then your harināma will become pure and auspicious. Alone, it is not possible to chant harināma. If we chant on our own, then our harināma will become polluted, then we will be defeated by māyā.
We should always stay in sādhu-saṅga, but how can we recognize a true sādhu? A person who recently joined the maṭha cannot actually be called a new devotee, because the soul is not new, it is very old. Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura would offer praṇāma to his followers and call them his patita-uddharaṇa-bandhu, his dear friends and helpers. He used to say that this world is a very dangerous place and therefore his Guru Mahārāja and Kṛṣṇa sent all these devotees, so that he could be engaged in hari-kathā. Performing nāma-kīrtana in sādhu-saṅga will cleanse the heart.
Kṛṣṇa gives everything to His devotees, but the devotee has no need for anything from the Lord. By chanting harināma, ānandām-budhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ, everything will come. Yet, paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam. Never forget kṛṣṇa-nāma. Many people will come to a genuine bhakta and offer respect, worship, garlands, and wealth. Enjoying such conditions, it is easy to give up chanting harināma.
nāma! gokula-mahotsavāya te, kṛṣṇa!
pūrṇa-vapuṣe namo namaḥ
O kṛṣṇa-nāma! You destroy the sufferings of those who take shelter of You. You are the playful embodiment of saccidānanda, the great festival of Gokula, and are all-pervading. I offer praṇāma unto You time and again.
Gokula Mahotsava means glorification of Kṛṣṇa’s holy name. If there is no nāma-saṅkīrtana, then that festival is useless. The Vraja-devīs always glorify Kṛṣṇa. If someone, rather than following their footsteps, independently takes anything for himself, or considers himself to be everyone’s guru, then that person will cultivate a mood of being the doer, which is opposed to bhakti.
Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was renowned all over the world. He was very qualified, yet he accepted the shelter of Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. Bābājī Mahārāja told him, “I don’t know anything, I will ask Gaura-Nitāi. If Nitāi tells me to accept you, I will do so.”
Nowadays people promote themselves as guru and convince people to accept dikṣa and harināma from them. Even if someone still smokes or eats meat, they say, “Oh, no problem, Garūḍa ate fish and snakes. By chanting harināma, you will soon give it up.” This is a sahajiyā mood and will destroy everything. Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura came to Bābājī Mahārāja begging for dikṣa, but even he was turned away, and it took a long time for him to be accepted.
One should deeply meditate on the holy name. This is very glorious and will conquer everyone’s heart. The performance of overly extravagant kīrtana, and doing different artistic postures, does not clean the heart. Rather, one should chant from one’s heart and sincerely call out to the Lord. Then the heart will become clean.
We should have deep faith in Śrī Guru-pāda-padma. We should not have general worldly faith, and with minimal understanding accept dikṣa after only a few days.