Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj discusses the importance of humility and good association.
Question: Śrīla Swāmī Mahārāj used to say that when we get a higher taste the lower taste will automatically be left behind. But we see that many devotees who we think are very senior and very advanced go back to the lower taste. How can we adjust that?
Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj: We may have been thinking that they got the highest taste, but they did not really get the highest taste. This is the first thing, and the second thing is that sometimes a heavy offence is made to a great and higher Vaiṣṇava. These are the two causes. The first cause is more general: to think that we are in a higher level. But that is not higher level thinking.
When we can see ourselves in a very, very low position, and see that clearly, then we can think that we may have some chance. Do you understand? That is Vaiṣṇavism. The Vaiṣṇava always thinks, “I am a servant, I am not a master”, and the servant’s servant’s servant actually holds a very high rank.
Kṛṣṇa Himself said in the scriptures,
na me ’bhaktas chatur-vedī mad-bhaktaḥ śva-pachaḥ priyaḥ
“He may be a brahmaṇ boy, but he may not be My devotee.”
“I am always worshipping My devotee, and if someone wants to become a devotee, they must worship My devotee, not Myself.” This is very clear. Bhaktair bhakta-jana-priyaḥ. If you love me, love my dog. This is a Western expression. If you love me, love my dog. How shall I know that you really love me? When I see that you are looking after my child’s convenience, or my dog’s convenience, and your mentality is loving towards them, then I will know that you love me. We can make our progress report in this way. Some ‘great’ devotee may think, “Oh yes, I served Śrīla Guru Mahārāj for forty-two years, and therefore I am very big devotee”, but if someone’s thinking goes in this way, that is not good.
I am saying this for the benefit of the devotees. I know something by the blessings of Śrīla Guru Mahārāj, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj, about the position of the devotees, disciples, and the Deities in this mundane world. This is my fortune, and in this way I am explaining things sometimes. I am not thinking that I myself am a good, very big Vaiṣṇava or anything like that. I know who I am, and that is the truth.
Guru Mahārāj wanted to give me this chair thirty years ago, and for thirty years I was waiting to take this chair. I know the position of the chair, I know the respect of the chair, and I know the glorification of the chair. That is my fortune. Guru Mahārāj was always telling me, “Govinda Mahārāj, you take this chair, you take this chair,” and I was always praying, “Mahārāj, please wait, I am not thinking myself fit for this chair.” But when he heavily told me, then I took. When Guru Mahārāj heavily told me, I could not ignore that, but when Guru Mahārāj was smiling and telling me, “Yes, now you are okay, you take this now”, I was afraid to take this chair. This consciousness guarded me and kept me safe.
If I do not leave this consciousness, then I can think I am in a safe position. Otherwise, I may fall down; I have seen so many fall down. Then I am afraid, and I am not going that way. When I am giving initiation to others, I first tell them my Guru Mahārāj’s name: “This is not my property; this is the property of my Gurudev. He kept it with me, and by his order I am distributing it to you. Keep it and try to cultivate it.” In this way there will not be any harm.
Question: What advice can you give for the Western devotees who haven’t yet got a higher taste, and in the background have their saṁskar [acquired material habits and tendencies], which has been tasting the lower taste. How can we keep them going forwards towards the higher taste and away from trying to again taste what they remember?
Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj: It is very easy if we can follow an established devotee. If we try to follow him, then we can ignore all our saṁskar and everything else. But we must try to follow him perfectly.
If I wake up at three o’clock, you must also wake up at three o’clock. You have no other option. If I wake up and I ring the bell, you must wake up. Whoever is living with me will get this chance. But if someone is sleeping up to nine o’clock, how will his associates get this chance? They cannot go to ārati. But whoever is living with me will join the ārati every day. We will get this chance from the devotee. Who is a devotee? Whose life is twenty-four hours a day devoted to Kṛṣṇa and Guru.
Question: And what about somebody who is in separate association, like in the West?
Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj: They may be in separate association physically, but they have heard many things from their Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, and they can also get association in the form of scripture. If any difficulty or any questions come, they can ask their master. There is no other way.
But we do not need so much. Our practice is very simple. What is that? Jīve doyā Nāme ruchi Vaiṣṇava-sevā [to be merciful to all souls, taste the Name, and serve the Vaiṣṇavas]. It is very simple. We must chant Hare Kṛṣṇa without offence, and we must give honour to others.
tṛṇād api sunīchena taror iva sahiṣṇunā
amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
We chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra, we read the books, and try to serve the Vaiṣṇavas, Guru, and Kṛṣṇa. If I get any opportunity to serve the devotees who are before me, I must serve them. I shall try in this way. It is very easy.
Spoken on 8 August 1989.