The lotus feet of Śrī Guru

By Śrīla Narottam Dās Ṭhākur


The format of the verse translation below is as follows:

  1. The original text of the verse in Bengali script,
  2. Synonyms of rare Bengali words in Bengali script,
  3. The original text  of each verse in roman transliteration,
  4. Synonyms of rare Bengali words in Roman script,
  5. A verse-ordered word by word gloss of each verse,
  6. A prose-ordered word by word gloss of each verse,
  7. A prose translation of each verse.
  8. Explanatory notes.


শ্রীগুরুচরণ-পদ্ম   কেবল-ভকতি-সদ্ম
বন্দোঁ মুঞি সাবধান-মতে ।
যাঁহার প্রসাদে ভাই   এ ভব তরিয়া যাই
কৃষ্ণ-প্রাপ্তি হয় যাঁহা হৈতে ॥১॥

ভকতি: ভক্তি; বন্দোঁ: বন্দনা করি; মুঞি: আমি ।

śrī-guru-charaṇa-padma   kevala-bhakati-sadma
vando̐ muñi sāvadhāna-mate
yā̐hāra prasāde bhāi   e bhava tariyā yāi
kṛṣṇa-prāpti haya yā̐hā haite

bhakati–bhakti; vando̐–vandanā kari; muñi–āmi.

śrī-guru–Divine Master; charaṇa–feet; padma–lotus; kevala–pure; bhakati–devotion; sadma–abode; vando̐–offer obeisance; muñi–I; sāvadhāna mate–carefully; yā̐hāra–whose; prasāde–by grace; bhāi–brother; e–this; bhava–existence; tariyā yāi–we cross over; kṛṣṇa–Kṛṣṇa prāpti–attainment; haya–happens; yā̐hā–whom; haite–because. [1]

muñi–I sāvadhāna mate–carefully vando̐–offer obeisance [unto the] padma–lotus charaṇa–feet [of] śrī-guru–the Divine Master, [which are] sadma–the abode [of] kevala–pure bhakati–devotion, [by] yā̐hāra–whose prasāde–grace, bhāi–O brother, tariyā yāi–we cross over e–this bhava–existence [and] haite–because yā̐hā–of whom prāpti haya–we attain kṛṣṇa–Kṛṣṇa. [1]

I carefully offer obeisance unto the lotus feet of Śrī Guru, which are the abode of pure bhakti. By his grace, O brother, we cross over this existence, and because of him we attain Kṛṣṇa.

śrī-guru-charaṇa-padma: “The lotus feet of Śrī Guru.” Śrīla Narottam Dās Ṭhākur begins his Prema-bhakti-chandrikā with this composition in glorification of Śrī Guru following two Sanskrit verses in which he offers obeisances unto his Gurus Śrīla Lokanāth Goswāmī and Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī:

om ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā
chakṣur unmilitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ

“I offer obeisance unto Śrī Guru, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the collyrium of knowledge.”

śrī-chaitanya-mano-’bhīṣṭaṁ sthāpitaṁ yena bhū-tale
svayaṁ rūpaḥ kadā mahyaṁ dadāti svapadāntikam

“When will Śrī Rūpa himself, by whom the heartfelt desires of Śrī Chaitanya are fulfilled on the earth, give me shelter at his feet?”

Śrīla Narottam Ṭhākur begins his Prema-bhakti-chandrikā in this way with obeisances and glorification of Śrī Guru to imply that to enter the domain of prema-bhakti, one must first of all take shelter of Śrī Guru. Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself has said:

prathamaṁ tu guruḥ pūjyaḥ tataś chaiva mamārchanam
kurvan siddhim avāpnoti hy anyathā niṣphalaṁ bhavet
(Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa: 4.344)

“By first worshipping Guru and then worshipping Me, one attains perfection, and otherwise, one’s worship becomes fruitless.”

guru: “Master.” Terms of address for Guru in English such as ‘master’ or ‘teacher’ have come into customary usage, but no English word can convey the full sense of the word Guru. Etymologically, Guru is defined in the scriptures as the ‘dispeller of darkness’, and the word guru in common usage also means ‘heavy’. In relation to Śrī Guru, this meaning may be taken to refer Śrī Guru’s quality of being so firm in realisation of the Absolute that (1) he is the support of all who are ‘lighter’ (laghu), that is, less realised, (2) he can correct all forms of ‘lighter’ thought, that is, misconception and lesser understanding, and (3) nothing can move him from his position (he cannot be bewildered or deluded).

Although Śrī Guru has innumerable qualities, the scriptures state that Śrī Guru’s defining characteristics are expertise in the revealed scriptures and being endowed with direct perception of Divinity:

śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham
(Muṇḍaka-upaniṣad: 1.2.12)

“[Śrī Guru is:] learned [in the śāstra] and fixed in Brahma [Bhagavān].”

jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 4.34)

“[Śrī Guru is:] knowledgable [in the śāstra] and a seer of the truth.”

śābde pare cha niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.3.21)

“[Śrī Guru is:] adept in Śābda-brahma [the Vedas and other śāstras that convey the purport of the Vedas] and Parabrahma [direct experience of Bhagavān], and is thus an abode of tranquility [unaffected by lust, anger, greed, etc.].”

It is the duty of a sincere seeker to search for a Guru endowed with these primary characteristics, and anyone lacking these qualities, regardless of whatever other qualities they may possess, should not be accepted as a Guru:

yo vakti nyāya-rahitam anyāyena śṛṇoti yaḥ
tāv ubhau narakaṁ ghoraṁ vrajataḥ kālam akṣayam

“Both one who speaks without reference to scripture, and one who listens without reference to scripture, proceed to a dark hell for unlimited time.”

In essence, Śrī Guru is bhakta-śreṣṭha (Cc: Ādi, 1.47), the best of the devotees: one who is most expert in bhajan and most capable of training a sincere seeker in the same.

śrī-guru: “Divine Master.” While śrī in general means divine, lustrous, beautiful, auspicious, exalted, or otherwise, and may be used as an honoriffic for anyone, here śrī in compound with Guru is not meant to imply that Guru has the quality of śrī. Rather, the compound Śrī Guru is meant to imply that Guru is the very embodiment of śrī, and more specifically that he is the source of all śrī (divinity, lustre, beauty, auspiciousness, and so forth) experienced throughout the world. Considering further the exclusive focus of Śrīla Narottam Ṭhākur in composing Prema-bhakti-chandrikā (a set of prayers which are ‘Moonlight on the path of prema-bhakti’), śrī here refers specifically to the ultimate form of śrī: prema-bhakti itself. So, Śrī Guru in the sense of Guru as the embodiment of prema-bhakti is the object of Śrīla Narottam Ṭhākur‘s glorification.

charaṇa: “Feet.” In choosing his object of glorification, Śrīla Narottam Ṭhākur focuses not only on Śrī Guru in general but on Śrī Guru’s feet to (1) convey the deepest respect to Śrī Guru, (2) emphasise that Śrī Guru is worshippable in every respect, and (3) illustrate the humility and hankering in the heart of a disciple, whose highest aspiration is to render any sort desired service to even the least aspect of Śrī Guru.

padma: “Lotus.” Śrī Guru’s feet are compared to a lotus to convey that they are pure (free from any tinge of mundanity), beautiful (attractive to the purified heart and mind), delicate (to be treated wth the utmost care), and soothing (relieving to others of their troubles). Numerous applications of this metaphor are possible to illustrate Śrī Guru’s glory. Here a few will be offered.

As a lotus blooms with the sunrise and closes up with the sunset, so the lotus feet of Śrī Guru appear to the jīva by good fortune in the form of divine grace and withdrawal should the jīva engage in any disgraceful behaviour (aparādha) which is destructive to their good fortune.

As a lotus lives amidst water and sometimes plays, dives, and floats in the water yet does not become disfigured by the touch of water or hold any water within it, so the lotus feet of Śrī Guru appear within material existence and perform various Pastimes yet remain unaffected by and unattached to the mundane environment.

As a lotus is born from water, so the lotus feet of Śrī Guru arise from the ocean of eternal, spiritual rasa.

As a lotus with its beauty, softness, and fragrance attracts, soothes, and satisfies its admirers, so Śrī Guru’s lotus feet (as well as all his other features, qualities, and Pastimes) are a manifestation of Kṛṣṇa-prema which attracts the attention, soothes the minds, and satisfies the eyes and hearts of his disciples.

As the nectar of a lotus is very tasteful to a bee, so the nectar of the mercy of Śrī Guru’s lotus feet is very tasteful to a disciple.

As a bee whose wings have gotten cut in a Ketakī forest bumbles here and there until it finds shelter in the cooling whorl of a lotus, which gives it shelter, relieves its suffering, feeds it nectar, nourishes it, and ultimately intoxicates it, so the lotus feet of Śrī Guru give the jīva lost and suffering in saṁsāra shelter in their own cooling shade, relieve the jīva of the three miseries, feed the jīva their nectar, nourish the jīva’s inherent potential (svarūp), and ultimately immerse the jīva in the ecstasy of prema-bhakti.

As the nectar of a lotus is also said to be a medicine resorted to last when somone is suffering severely from a disease and is otherwise helpless and moribund, so the nectar of the lotus feet of Śrī Guru, after the inevitable failure of all other processes (karma, jñān, yoga, etc.) to uplift the jīva, is the only treatment for the jīva afflicted with the disease of mundanity (bhava-roga) as it vitalises the inherent potential of the jīva and enables the jīva to flourish in service to Bhagavān.

As the nectar of a lotus is a great medicine for cataracts, so the nectar of the lotus feet of Śrī Guru can cure the cataract of ignorance over the eye of the jīva and enable the jīva to see their true self as well as the true form of Śrī Guru and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa (see verse three). Unlike the nectar of a lotus which can only heal the eye, however, the nectar of Śrī Guru’s lotus feet heal the jīva in every respect and make the jīva qualified for prema-bhakti (again see verse three).

Throughout the above illustrations, references to the nectar within the lotus of Śrī Guru’s feet can be understood to refer to the service Śrī Guru mercifully makes available to the disciple just as a lotus makes its nectar available to bees.

To be continued …