Question: Srila Swami Maharaj used to say that when we get a higher taste, then the lower taste is automatically left behind, but we see that many devotees go back to the lower taste, especially the Western devotees who we think of as being very senior and advanced. How can we adjust this?
Srila Govinda Maharaj: We think that they are in a higher stage, but they did not really go to a higher stage. This is the first thing, and the second thing is that sometimes a heavy offence is made to a great and higher Vaisnava. These are the two causes.
The first and general cause is 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 lower position, and we can clearly see that, then we can think we may have some chance.
Do you understand? The Vaisnava always thinks, “I am a servant; I am not master” and the servant’s servant’s servant holds a very high rank. In the scriptures, Krishna Himself says,
na me ’bhaktas chatur-vedī mad-bhaktaḥ śvapachaḥ priyaḥ
“He may be a brahman boy but he may not be My devotee. I am always worshipping My devotee and who wants to make himself a devotee must worship My devotee, not Myself.” It 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 your love for me? When I see that you are looking for my child’s convenience, or my dog’s convenience, and your mentality is going to distribute love to them, then I can understand that you have some love for myself. In this way our progress report comes to us.
Some ‘great’ devotee may think, “Oh yes, I am so old, I served Srila Guru Maharaj for forty-two years, so I am a very big devotee”, but if his thinking is going in this way, that is not good.
I am telling this, but I am not telling with that mood. I am telling this for the benefit of the devotees. By the blessings of Srila Guru Maharaj, I know something about the position of the devotees, disciples, and Deities in the mundane world, and this is my fortune I can say. In this way I am explaining this sometimes, but I do not think of myself as a good, very big Vaisnava. I know who I am, and that is the truth.
Srila Guru Maharaj wanted to give me this chair for thirty years, and for thirty years I waited to take that chair. I know the position of the chair, I know the respect of the chair, and I know the chair’s glorification. That is my fortune I can say. Guru Maharaj was always telling me, “Govinda Maharaj, you take this chair, you take this chair”, and I was always praying, “Maharaj, please wait, I am not thinking myself fit for this chair.” But when he heavily told me, then I took. That is another thing: I have some regard, or love, or anything you can say. I do not know anything without Guru Maharaj, that is very true, and so when Guru Maharaj heavily told me, then I could not ignore that. But when Guru Maharaj was smiling and telling me, “Yes, now you are okay, you take this …” I was afraid to take that chair.
This consciousness guarded me and gave me safety, and 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 who fell down, so I am afraid and I am not going that way. When I am giving initiation to others, I am first telling my Guru Maharaj’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 yourselves. You keep it and try to cultivate it.” Then no harm can come to me.
Question: What advice can you give for the Western devotees who haven’t yet got a higher taste perhaps, but in the background is that samskara [acquired mundane tendency] which has been tasting the lower taste? How to keep them going forwards towards the higher taste and away from again trying to taste what they remember?
Srila Gurudev: It is very easy if we can follow an established, confirmed devotee. If we try to follow him, then we can ignore all samskara and everything. But we must try to follow perfectly.
When I wake up at three o’clock, you must wake up three o’clock. You have no other way. I wake up and I am ringing the bell, and you must wake. 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 arati. But who is living with me can join arati every day. We get this chance from the devotee. A devotee is he whose life is twenty-four hours a day devoted to Krishna and Guru.
Question: What about for somebody who is in separate association from that, like in the West?
Srila Gurudev: They may be in separate association bodily, but they heard many things from their Guru and the higher Vaisnavas. From time to time, they will also try to follow instructions in the form of the books, the scripture. If any difficulty or any questions come, they will ask their master. There is no other way.
But we do not need so much. Our practice is very simple. What is that? Jive daya, Name ruchi, and Vaishnava-seva. It is very simple. We chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra without offence and we must give honour to others: trnad api sunichena taror iva sahisnuna amanina manadena. We read the books and try to serve the Vaisnavas, Guru, or Krishna; who is in front of me, if I shall get any opportunity, I must serve them. In this way, I shall try.
Spoken on 8 August 1989.
Listen to the original audio recording of this talk here.