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Jumping Over a Goda to Eat Grass

Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur explains the folly of overstepping Śrī Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.

The following is translation of the parable Goḍā Ḍiṅgāiyā Ghās Khāoyā [‘Jumping Over a Goḍā to Eat Grass’] from a Bengali book by Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur entitled Upākhyāne Upadeś [‘Instructions Through Stories’].

In householders and farmers’ cowsheds in some regions of Bengal, oil cakes, straw, and other fodder are placed in a long, ditch-like earthen trough in a fixed, raised place. The place beside this trough in which cows and buffalos stand, eat hay from the trough, and lie down, is upraised (from the ground) somewhat when it is constructed. It is slightly sloped away from the cows and buffalos (at the trough) so that their dung and urine cannot accumulate where they stand and lie down but rather can only run down and flow away. This place for cows and buffalos to stand and eat hay is called a ‘goḍā’ in some regions.

As jumping over a goḍā to go and eat grass is extremely foolish and dangerous for cows and buffalos, so trying to attain the Lord while disregarding the service and grace of Śrī Gurudev and the Vaiṣṇavas is extremely foolish and impossible. Śrī Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas can teach us about the Lord. Who is the Lord? Who are we? What is our relationship with the Lord? What is our duty? Why is it necessary for us to serve the Lord? If Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas do not mercifully teach us all of these things, then there is no way to know them. Those who go to serve the Lord but reject subservience (ānugatya) to Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas cannot understand the Lord properly: their ‘Lord’ and ‘religious practice’ are completely imaginary. Thus, they can never attain true service to the Lord. The Lord reveals Himself through Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas exclusively. No one can overstep Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, and go to the Lord. As, when one goes to meet a king, one takes permission from a representative or subordinate of the king and then meets the king through the assistance of that assistant to the king, so too when one goes to meet the Lord, one must accept the assistance of, and submission to, Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas. Eternally being subservient to Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, and serving the Lord is true bhakti. Not being subservient to them and making a show of serving the Lord is ‘abhakti’ [‘non-devotion’] or wickedness.

Even when one attains vision of the Lord, one must continue to be subservient to Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, and serve the Lord in their association exclusively. If one abandons submission to, and the association of, Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, one’s devotion to the Lord does not last another day. The Lord does not grant one darśan or accept one’s service. Thus, being subservient to Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, and serving the Lord is our sole duty.

References

Foolish and dangerous: it is foolish to jump over a goḍā to eat grass because there is typically food right in front of the goḍā in a trough and thus no necessity of obtaining food elsewhere. It is dangerous to jump over a goḍā because it is sloped and typically very slippery as a result of the practice of daily washing away accumulated manure.

Ānugatya: to surrender oneself to Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, and proceed at all times under their guidance.

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