At Śrī Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha in Śrī Dhāma Navadvīpa, fresh construction work was in progress on the grand temple, replete with nine domes. In the altar room (garbha-mandira) a platform was being prepared for the deities. Paramārādhya Śrīla Gurudeva came into the garbha-mandira to decide on the shape of the altar and the number and colour of its steps. Śrīpāda Bhaktivedānta Muni Mahārāja and I [the author] were with him. Śrīla Gurudeva surveyed the area, decided on the length, width and height of the altar, and then became immersed in thought. After a while he turned to us and said, “There will be three steps below the altar. The highest step will be blue, the second step yellow and the bottom step will be aruṇa-varṇa, the reddish-pink at dawn.”
Śrīpāda Muni Mahārāja asked, “Why should it be so?”
Śrīla Gurudeva replied, “The highest step will symbolize the sapphire-like lustre of Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The second step will represent the golden radiance of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, the crest jewel of Kṛṣṇa’s sweethearts.” Then he remained silent for a few moments. Assuming an extremely grave countenance, he continued, “The third step will be the colour of a sakhī (here refers to a mañjarī) who brings all kinds of delight (vinoda) to Yugala-Kiśora, the divine Youthful Couple. She is depicted by aruṇa-varṇa.”
As he was speaking, his voice faltered, his throat choked, and he became completely motionless. Seeing his extraordinary bhāva, we were both struck with wonder.
At that time we could not understand anything, nor could we muster up the courage to ask him. But after he entered aprakaṭa-līlā, the unmanifest pastimes, we realized the meaning of that hint. The lowest step symbolizes Śrī Vinoda Mañjarī, Śrī Yugala-Kiśora’s eternally playful maidservant. Śrīla Gurudeva had given a hint of his own siddha-deha, his eternal spiritual form, in a very hidden way.
It was around that same time that I inquired from him in private, “Did your gurudeva reveal the identity of the siddha-deha of any of his disciples?”
Solemnly, Śrīla Gurudeva replied, “He has certainly done so. Śrīla Prabhupāda has given the identity of the siddha-deha and instructions in the method of bhajana (bhajana-praṇālī) to some of his qualified disciples; otherwise the śrī rūpānuga line would come to an end. He also mercifully gave this praṇālī to me.”
I again asked, “Will you bestow your mercy and reveal the name of your siddha-deha?”
Śrīla Gurudeva replied, “Not just now. At the appropriate time it will be disclosed.”
The inferiority of direct perception
Once paramārādhyatama Śrīla Gurudeva was returning to Śrī Dhāma Navadvīpa from Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha by train. Four or five brahmacārīs, including me [the author], were all sitting with him in a reserved compartment. When the train pulled out of Mathurā Junction, a railway magistrate accompanied by a few soldiers came to check our compartment. Having done so, he sat down in a vacant seat right next to Śrīla Gurudeva, and immediately asked him, “Mahātmājī, where are you coming from?”
Gurujī: We have just come from Mathurā. We have an āśrama called Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha opposite the district hospital.
Magistrate: And where are you going?
Gurujī: We are going to our headquarters in Śrī Dhāma Navadvīpa.
Magistrate: What is the aim of your organization?
Gurujī: We preach pure sanātana-dharma throughout the world. Specifically, following in the footsteps of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, we preach and practise harināma-saṅkīrtana and śuddha-bhakti as described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other scriptures. The only aim of our organization is to attract the living entities to this auspicious path.
Magistrate: What do you mean by bhakti?
Gurujī: The creator and conductor of the universe is the one supremely merciful, all-powerful Truth. This ultimate Truth is known as Īśvara, Paramātmā or Bhagavān. Although we are all His parts and servants, we have forgotten this, and we have thus been subjected to the threefold miseries in various species of life in this material world since time immemorial. Without the mercy of Bhagavān we cannot be released from the bondage of material existence. Bhakti means to observe the injunctions described in the scriptures for the sake of pleasing Bhagavān.
Magistrate: You people believe in God, but I do not believe in the existence of any God. I do not put any faith in anything which does not appear before these eyes. Is Bhagavān visible to the eyes?
Gurujī: Although you speak like this, you are obliged to accept the existence of many things that you cannot see.
Magistrate: You may say that. Nevertheless, the fact is that I have no faith in anything I cannot see directly with my eyes.
Gurujī: That is not true. Are your mother and father still alive?
Magistrate: Yes, they are still living.
Gurujī: Can you say for certain that the person you call ‘Father’ is actually your genuine father? If so, then what evidence is there? Is it visible to your own eyes that he is the man who impregnated your mother when she conceived you?
When the honourable magistrate heard this question, he became embarrassed and could not answer.
Gurujī: No. You did not witness this incident which occurred prior to your birth, so you do have faith in the unseen. You accept with confidence that he is your father just on the word of your mother and family members.
Magistrate: What you have said is absolutely correct. I have come to know the identity of my father by putting faith in the words of my mother and family members.
Gurujī: In the same way all the scriptures are like a mother in the sense that they are authoritative evidence. They include the Vedas, which are not of human origin, and literatures such as the Gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Rāmāyaṇa, which support the Vedic version. They say repeatedly that the creator and director of the universe is Īśvara, or God. He is referred to as brahma, Paramātmā and Bhagavān.
If you can put your faith in so many different fault-ridden textbooks or in your own defective and limited sense perception, then why not put faith in the Vedas and other authoritative scriptures, which are beyond human origin, devoid of all kinds of defects, and not subject to faults such as illusion and negligence. The Vedic scriptures are even more reliable and trustworthy than your mother.
In the Vedas it is stated:
yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante
yena jātāni jīvanti
yat prayanty abhisaṁviśanti
tad vijijñāsasva tad brahma
Taittirīya Upaniṣad (3.1)
One should inquire about that brahma from whom all living entities emanate, who maintains their existence and into whom they all ultimately enter.
Furthermore in Brahma-sūtra (1.1.2) it is said, “janmādy asya yataḥ – brahma is He from whom the creation, maintenance and destruction of the universe arises.” In Bhagavad-gītā (10.8), Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa has also said:
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
I am the source of both mundane and spiritual worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this well engage in bhajana of Me, with transcendental emotion in their hearts.
The Vedic scriptures are the unerring illuminator of the Supreme Truth. These literatures are not created by any human being of limited intelligence. From time immemorial, Manu and all the great sages headed by Nārada, Vyāsa and Vālmīki have tested and realized the validity of this fact. Highly intelligent people and ācāryas such as Śrī Śaṅkara Ācārya, Śrī Rāmānuja Ācārya and Śrī Madhva Ācārya have also acknowledged the evidence presented in the Vedic scriptures and accepted the existence of God. Therefore it is quite appropriate and in your own best interest to accept this conclusion.
Magistrate: You have opened my eyes. I understand that I have been quite wrong up till now.
In the meantime, the train reached Āgrā Cantonment. He touched Gurujī’s lotus feet with great faith, and said, “I have to get off here, but in the future I will visit Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha.”
Other passengers had sat down around us, eager to hear the magistrate’s conversation with Gurujī. They were truly impressed by the exchange and went on discussing the subject of dharma with Gurujī for the rest of the journey.