Once a year we observe the “birthday” celebration (or appearance day as we say, since there is no birth or death for the soul) of Shrila Prabhupada, the founder/acharya of ISKCON.
The appearance day of the Guru is called, Vyasa-puja, or the worship of the representative of Vyasadeva. Vyasa is considered an empowered incarnation of God, who compiled the Vedic literature for this current age of Kali.
Traditionally disciples write homages to their guru on the Vyasa-puja day to help them remember their debt of gratitude for their guru for giving them the gift of Krishna consciousness. I thought I would share my offering to Shrila Prabhupada, as I wrote it for another blog, with the idea of exploring some of the misconceptions about what having a guru means. In that sense it is not a traditional type offering.
I am just starting to practice writing in free verse, because it helps me to be briefer. The Chaitanya Charitamrita states:” Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence.” I am not claiming any eloquence here. It is an idea I am striving for.
In a small rural area in North Carolina,
an American born Gaudiya Vaishnava
prepares to observe the “birthday” anniversary
or “appearance” day of his Guru.
The meaning of guru is difficult to understand
even for those who have one; what to speak of
in the West, the place of the rugged individualist,
where having a guru is foreign idea.
Though having a teacher or mentor is acceptable,
honoring or giving homage to a guru is suspect.
At the time of the American Revolution, the rebelling
colonists said that they would not bow down to any man.
Many people falsely think that having a religion is a crutch
for people who can’t face the naked truth of life,
or having a guru is for people who are weak
and can’t think for themselves.
Actually having a guru is for people
who want to think more deeply about
subjects which most ignore, like death,
disease, old age, suffering, evil, and God.
Outsiders conjecture, accepting a guru’s blind conformity,
yet actually it’s a challenge to the status quo
of being an exploiter of the world, by reviving a natural life
of giving, fostering peace, love, lasting happiness.
It is not an outdated tradition
but a system of apprenticeship where
one hears realizations beyond spiritual theory
and sees it practiced, inspiring one to follow.
In any arena we tend to become like
the people we are with; and when
we spend time with those who are more
spiritually advanced, our hearts are changed.
In history we see that even great gurus have
their guru, as do incarnations of God. They
teach by example the importance of having
good guidance, and the power of saintly association.
It takes real humility and honesty
to realize the insignificant
nature of our existence in
this vast universe and tiny planet.
Accepting a guru is meant to help one
develop real humility by assisting him
and accepting service to Krishna
according to his guidance.
Whereas the scripture is considered
the “passive” agent of Divinity,
the guru is the “active” agent because
he gives us feedback, while the scripture does not.
The ultimate evidence for the value of
anything is one’s direct experience, so
you will only appreciate the value of having
a guru if you have an urgency for guidance.
My life has been so blessed by
accepting my Guru, Shrila Prabhupada
giving me a spiritual foundation for living,
a way of deep, yet practical thinking.
So I have this great experience,
being satisfied in the world,
endeavoring to be a balanced person,
while dedicating my life for God.