visrambhena guroh seva

October 22nd, 2005

Note: I will occasionally write about Maha Nidhi Swami’s class on bhajan rahasya. Although the class is clearly referenced, on just a few occasions it was not obvious to me which points were directly from bhajan rahasya and which were references and realizations that Maharaja was bringing into the discussion. My own recollection of the different points from the class may thus occasionally reflect this apparent ambiguity.

September 21, 2005

Bhajan rahasya I
In my first Karttika journal entry I described how Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur discussed the concept of mamata, a sense of intimacy with Sri Krishna. In today’s class it was discussed how that sense of mamata begins with Sri Guru. In fact, the third principle of devotional service (according to Srila Rupa Gosvami) is visrambhena guroh seva, to serve the spiritual master with trust and confidence. Maha Nidhi Swami shared with us the etymological meaning of visrambha. “Vi” means “without” and “srambha” means “majesty”.

How can serving the spiritual master without majesty be a principle of devotional service when Srila Prabhupada taught us that the spiritual master is to be seen “as good as God”?

It was discussed in class how the mood of visrambhena guroh seva is very special and should not be mistaken for mundane intimacy and over familiarity. Here’s what I gathered:

When one has mature affection for the spiritual master, one is focused exclusively on the heart of the guru. The fulfillment of the guru’s desires thus takes precedence over anything else, even the etiquette in relating to his position. In other words, what naturally becomes prominent in any affectionate bond is not the nature of the relationship and the protocol involved, but the desires of ones beloved. Example:

In Srila Prabhupada’s last days in this world he expressed a desire to go to Govardhan by bullock cart. Srila Prabhupada’s Ayurvedic doctor, however, strongly advised that such a trip would be tantamount to suicide. I remember shortly afterwards hearing Bhakti Caru Maharaja and Tamal Krishna Maharaja affectionately tell Srila Prabhupada, “Srila Prabhupda, we can’t let you go”. Although to some their response may appear inappropriate, it was certainly not a sign of disrespect. Rather it was mature love at the level of intimacy, the realm of visrambhena guroh seva where service dictated by deep feelings of affection rule majesty and etiquette.

Maha Nidhi Swami gave his own example of visrambhena guroh seva:

Srila Prabhupada was arriving in Los Angeles at the domestic terminal. One devotee, instead of greeting him, made the deliberate decision to stay at the international terminal to distribute his books. A short time after Srila Prabhupada’s arrival, he asked for that devotee. When told where he was and what he was doing, Srila Prabhupada broadly smiled and said, “Yes, that is very good.” The devotee was so focused on the heart of Srila Prabhupada that he forwent the etiquette of formally greeting him. That’s visrambhena guroh seva.

Jiva Gosvami’s definition of visrambha sums up nicely the mood of mamata: “complete identity with the beloved such that the identity and feelings of one and their beloved are not separate.”

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