Why the Lotus Feet of Sri Guru?

BY SRI SRIMAD GOUR GOVINDA SWAMI MAHARAJ

The Only Wealth

In this world, Sri Guru is the only beauty or asset, wealth. There is nothing else. Carana means feet. Sri-guru-carana-padma the feet of Sri Guru are compared to the lotus. This is also very significant. Why are his feet compared to the lotus and not to anything else? The lotus flower looks very nice and beautiful, and it also provides very sweet honey, madhu. The bumblebee collects honey from different flowers, but especially from the lotus flower. So what sort of special quality is there in the honey collected from the lotus flower that is not present in the honey collected from other flowers? It is a special type of honey known as padma-madhu. The disciple who is like a bumblebee, who is very hungry and greedy for that honey, relishes it.

Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet at ISKCON Bombay

Mellow of Bhakti

Although the lotus flower grows out of the water, it is not touched by it. One of the synonyms for water is rasa, mellow. The feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus, but this lotus grows in the transcendental water of bhakti-rasa, the mellow of bhakti. Such are the lotus feet of Sri Guru. His lotus feet are aprakrta, not material, but transcendental. They are bhakati-sadma, the abode of transcendental bhakti-rasa as well as all madhuri, beauty. The lotus looks beautiful to the eye and is very attractive to the heart.

Similarly, the shining lotus feet of Sri Guru are very beautiful in the eyes of the disciple and very attractive to his heart. All of the activities, form, qualities, and pastimes of Sri Guru are very beautiful in the eyes of the sadhaka-bhakta. Through the eye of meditation thesadhaka-bhakta sees the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Guru. Upon seeing those lotus feet he feels a soothing effect in his afflicted heart. His heart is afflicted with the three tapas, sufferings: adhyatmika, sufferings arising from one’s own mind and body; adhidaivika, sufferings arising from nature; and adhibhautika, sufferings arising from other living entities. When the disciple meditates on the beautiful lotus feet of Sri Guru he feels a soothing effect and his affliction is cooled down. At the same time he also smells the nice scent that is coming from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, like the scent that comes from the lotus.

Cooling Shade

The bumblebee wanders everywhere, going to various types of flowers. One type of flower is the ketaki flower. That flower is found in India, but not in the West. The tree on which the ketaki flower grows, like the rose plant, has thousands of thorns. The ketaki flower has a nice scent, and a bumblebee that becomes attracted by the scent from the ketaki flower goes there. But because of the many thorns on the tree his wings become torn and he feels so much pain and affliction.

The bumblebee thinks, “Where to go now? Can I get shelter in a place where there is no pain and affliction? Where can I get peace?” After wandering hither and thither, at last he comes to the lotus flower and experiences the cooling, soothing effect there. He takes shelter inside the lotus flower, sucks the sweet honey there, and thus gets nourishment.

Similarly, the jiva who is wandering and wandering through the innumerable universes and through the innumerable species of life of this material world — brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva — gets only more and more suffering, misery, and torture. There is no cooling effect in the material world, which is like a blazing forest fire — samsara-davanala.

Nobody starts the forest fire, but automatically by the rubbing of two pieces of wood, the whole forest is burned and the animals that live in the forest are burned to ashes. They feel the burning heat, which is very painful. Similarly, the conditioned souls in this material world feel the burning sensation coming from the three tapas: adhyatmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika. After wandering through innumerable universes and innumerable species of life, at last the fortunate soul, bhagyavan jiva, comes to the lotus feet of Sri Guru and takes shelter in the cooling shade there. As the bumblebee sucks honey from the lotus flower, similarly, the guru-.padma, the lotus feet of Sri Guru, allow that jiva, who is compared to the bumblebee, to suck the nice honey whereby he gets real nourishment and also premananda, loving happiness.

Special Type of Honey

Padma-madhu, the honey collected from the lotus flower, is a special type of honey. The Ayurveda-sastra says that it is a good medicine for the eye. If someone has some eye disease due to impurities in the eye the kaviraj, ayurvedic doctor, will advise him to rub some padma-madhu in his eyes. Because of these impurities one cannot see clearly and feels pain. Applying some padma-madhu on the eyes will clean out all the impurities and then one will be able to see clearly. Similarly, the guru-padma-madhu, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, is so sweet and nectarean that if a fortunate disciple gets it and relishes it then the disciple’s eyes will be cleansed of the material conception.
Eyes of Knowledge

om ajnana-timirandhasya
jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah

I was born in the dense darkness of ignorance, blind, without real vision. Sri Guru, by his causeless mercy, has opened my eyes with the torchlight of knowledge.

For a person who has some painful eye disease, who cannot see well, the kaviraj will advise him to apply some padma-madhu by which the drsti-sakti, the power to see clearly, will develop. Then not only will he get nice eyesight but also he will be able to see even very subtle things that he would otherwise never have been able to see. Similarly, when one takes shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru and gets the guru’s mercy, the guru allows the surrendered disciple to taste that sweet honey emanating from the guru’s lotus feet. That is the medicine whereby his material eyes will be cleansed of all material contamination. He develops transcendental vision.

He may have been blinded by the dense darkness of ignorance, ajnana-andhakara, but that will all be gone now. The darkness is dispelled and he receives the eyes of knowledge— divya-jnana-caksu. Sri Guru imparts tattva-jnana, and by his mercy the disciple develops transcendental vision. With that vision he will be able to see the beautiful form of the Supreme Lord, Syamasundar. This is the honey, or madhu, emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru; it acts in such a wonderful way. Therefore the phrase, “sri-guru-carana-padma” is very significant — the lotus feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus. Why is this comparison made and how to explain it?

Wonderful Characteristic

Padma-madhu cures eye disease and clears out all the impurities from the eye, but it cannot clear the impurities from the heart. However, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, guru-padma-madhu, has such a special and wonderful characteristic that it cures both the eye and the heart. Sri-guru-carana-padma-madhu cleanses and purifies the heart so that it will become a suitable place for the Divine to reside.

The guru makes the heart of his surrendered disciple a suitable place for the Divine to reside. Because the guru gives the disciple shelter at his lotus feet and allows him to suck that special type of honey that has that wonderful characteristic, the heart of the surrendered disciple is cleansed.

Wandering Hopelessly

The conditioned souls are like a diseased person suffering from various kinds of material ills — bhava-rogi. Their disease is very chronic. They have already taken many medicines — allopathic, homeopathic, and Ayurvedic — but the disease is still not cured. The disease is incurable and has become chronic. They have already lost their vitality, jivana-sakti, and cannot digest any food. They have taken so many medicines, and that has also produced a bad effect.

These days you will find so many strong drugs, but what is their effect? They simply result in chronic incurable disease. People lose their vitality, and they cannot even eat anything because their digestive fire is very low. How can they survive? They are dying. They cannot eat or digest anything.

The kaviraj will advise, “You should only eat one thing — madhu. And especially padma-madhu, the special type of honey from the lotus flower.”

He prescribes padma-madhu, whereby they will regain their vitality. This honey will give them life. Any other type of food cannot be given; only padma-madhu is advised. Then they can regain their vitality. Such jivas, wandering through innumerable universes and experiencing the miseries of innumerable species of life, have become completely hopeless. They are only getting suffering, so many material ills — bhava-roga.

If such persons are fortunate, they will come to the lotus feet of Sri Guru. That guru is like a physician, sadhu-vaidya. He knows the perfect and unfailing medicine to cure the material disease, bhava-roga. He knows the cause of the jiva’s suffering. There is only one medicine, the honey emanating from the lotus feet of Sri Guru — guru-padma-madhu. So, as the lotus allows the bumblebee whose wings are torn by the thorns of the ketaki flower to take shelter inside the flower, similarly, the guru allows the disciple to take shelter at his lotus feet.

The guru-padma, the lotus feet of Sri Guru, gives such hopeless wandering souls shelter and allows them to suck honey, whereby they regain their vitality. The suffering jiva gets nourishment and life there. That is why we say, “sri-guru-carana-padma.” The lotus feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus, and not to anything else. This phrase has great significance.

saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair
uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya
vande guroh sri-caranaravindam

The spiritual master is honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and is followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master, who is a bona fide representative of Sri Hari. [Srila Viswanath Chakravarti Thakur,Gurv-astaka, verse 7]

Sri Guru is saksad-dharitvena, he is as good as Lord Hari. He does not belong to this material world. He belongs to the spiritual world. He comes down here out of his causeless mercy, either voluntarily to deliver the fallen souls or when the Lord sends him. Whether he comes here voluntarily or by the will of the Lord, that guru-padma descends here to shower his mercy on the suffering conditioned souls who have been drowning in the dreadful ocean of materialistic existence since time immemorial. That guru-padma descends and stays here in the material world.

Someone may raise the question, “This material world is illusory, mayika jagat. The three modes of material nature are here, sattva, raja, and tama—goodness, passion, and ignorance. If the guru comes and stays in this material world, will he not be affected by those three modes? How can his transcendental nature remain unaffected in this dreadful ocean of material existence? How does he act here?”

This is very easy to understand from the example of the lotus flower. The lotus flower lives in the water, but it is not affected. It remains untouched. Similarly, although Sri Guru comes here to this material world, he remains untouched. He is never affected by the three modes of material nature. Therefore the feet of Sri Guru are compared to a lotus. The bumblebee that comes to the lotus that is in the water and takes shelter inside that lotus is also untouched by the water. Similarly, the fortunate soul who has taken shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru will never be afraid of this material world. Just as the bumblebee takes shelter of the lotus and is protected from being touched by the water, so the disciple who takes shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru will not be affected by the material nature. This is the lotus feet of Sri Guru.

Intense Desire

Another point is there. When the sun rises, the lotus blossoms, and when the sun sets the petals of the lotus close. Similarly, the petals of the guru–padma will open when it sees the intense desire and crying in the heart of the suffering soul to go back to Godhead and get Krishna. This crying for bhakti is like the rising of the sun.When the sun sets, the petals of the lotus close. Similarly, a disciple who has developed an intense and burning desire in his heart has come to the guru and received shelter. But many times we see that later on, that disciple loses his bhakti-vrtti, his devotional engagement. Because of committing some offense like nama-aparadha or vaisnava-aparadha he loses his bhakti-vrtti. His bhakti becomes shrunken and he does not carry out the orders of the guru or hear the guru’s message. He is avoiding or disobeying his guru. When the sun sets, the petals of the lotus close. Similarly, the guru disappears from the vision of that disciple.

Always Manifest

Of course, for one who has made advancement and developed some taste for this transcendental mellow, this is not applicable. It is only applicable to neophytes who have not yet made much advancement and who have not developed any taste for this mellow. If such a devotee commits some aparadha and associates with offenders and materialistic persons, if he does not do real sadhu-sanga, then the sun will never rise. He will disobey the order of the guru and violate his instructions. The guru-.-padma will disappear from such a disciple who is acting according to his own whims.

This is not applicable for advanced devotees who have developed taste for this transcendental mellow. They cannot leave it because it has become their life and soul. They cannot survive without it. For such a disciple the guru-padma will never disappear. He is always with the guru and the guru is always with him. In all conditions he is engaged in the loving service of guru-padma. He is a nisthapara-bhakta, who has achieved at least the minimum stage of nistha.

For such a very advanced devotee who has developed a taste— meaning he has come to the minimum stage of nistha, or beyond that, like ruci, asakti, or bhava— for him there is no question of disappearance of the guru. He is with guru. The guru never disappears from him. He always sees and realizes the presence of his guru. For that bhakta, the guru is always manifest. The guru will never leave him. But for one who has not achieved the stage of nistha, the apprehension is there that if he commits some aparadha or violates the guru’s instructions, the guru may disappear from his vision. That means the sun will set and the petals of the lotus will close.

Crying Is Required

The sisya or sadhaka should always cry for guru-kripa, the causeless mercy of the guru. Unless you cry for it, you cannot get it. Nobody can get that mercy without crying. For example, when the child cries, the mother runs, thinking, “Oh, my child is crying.” The child cannot be pacified by anything without the mother’s presence. Because she is engaged in performing household duties the mother may give the child a toy or a doll to play with, but the child will throw down that toy or doll and cry and cry. So unless you cry, how can you get that mercy? This crying is required— karuna na hoile, kandiya kandiya, prana na rakhibo ara. Therefore we sing this song. We must cry and cry for the mercy of guru. Unless you cry how can you get it? Those who have cried have received the mercy.

gurudeva! krpa-bindu diya, koro’ ei dase, trnapekha ati hina
sakala-sahane, bolo diya koro nija mane sprha-hina

sakale samman, korite sakati, deho’ natha! Jathajatha
tabe to’ gaibo, harinama-sukhe, aparadha ha’be hata

kabe heno krpa, lobhiya e jana, krtartha hoibe, natha!
sakti-buddhi-hin, ami ati din, koro’ more atma-satha

jogyata-vicare, kichu nahi pai, tomara karuna sara
karuna na hoile, kandiya kandiya, prana na rakhibo ara

Gurudeva! By a drop of your mercy, make this servant of yours more humble than a blade of grass. Give me strength to bear all trials and troubles, and free me from all desires for personal honor.
O lord and master! Invest me with the power to properly honor all living beings. Only then will I sing the holy name in great ecstasy and will all my offenses cease.

O lord and master! When will this person be blessed by obtaining your mercy? I am low, fallen, and devoid of all strength and intelligence. Please make me your beloved servant.

When I examine myself, I find nothing of good value. Your mercy is therefore essential to me. If you are not merciful, I will constantly weep, and I will not maintain my life any longer.
[Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, Saranagati]

This is our prayer. This weeping or crying is required. Unless the child cries the mother will not run and the child cannot get the mother’s breast. Similarly, unless you cry, how can you get the darsana of Sri Guru? When the child cries, the mother runs to him. Similarly, although the guru may be in some other part of the world, when the disciple cries the guru runs there. Sri Guru is karuna-maya, he is causelessly merciful. Thus whether he is manifest or unmanifest he gives darsana to his disciple. He may also come in a dream to give his darsana.

This guru-tattva is nitya-tattva— an eternal transcendental tattva. It is eternally prakata, manifest. It is not aprakata, unmanifest. There is no question of guru-tattva becoming unmanifest. This sri-guru-carana is inconceivable. It cannot be understood through one’s material knowledge, intelligence, or merit.

Guru-Bhakti

If someone develops guru-bhakti he will get the Lord.

yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
prakasante mahatmanah

Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.
[Svetasvatara Upanisad, 6.23]

Body, Words and Mind

Bandon mui savadhana mate— one should offer prayers and worship, vandana, with the utmost care. There are three types of vandana: kaya, vakya, and mana— through our body, words, and mind. With our body we fall flat on the ground and offer our dandavat pranamas to gurudeva— kaya-vandana. Through our words we offer prayers and glorify the guru—vacika-vandana. And through our mind we always meditate on the beautiful and transcendentally blissful lotus feet of the guru— manasika-vandana.

If one has money or some material opulence then he should render service through that money. That is kayika, service through the body. If one has some followers or if he is a family man with a wife, son, daughter, friends, and servants, then with those followers or subordinates he should give everything and render loving service to the lotus feet of the guru. That is alsokayika. One should serve with all one’s capacity, which is why it says bandon mui savadhana mate— with the utmost care one should do vandana.

With one’s words one should offer prayers and glorification to the guru. One should also hear from the guru, sravana. Whatever one has heard from the guru, one will speak to others, and in that way others will also hear what he has heard. That is vacika. Pariprasna is also there: If one has some doubts then he should humbly ask questions and get them clarified. These are all types of seva.

In one’s mind, manasika, one should put firm and unflinching faith in the words of the guru. One should understand that the guru has manifested before me in various forms to help me and shower his mercy on me. This is how one serves the guru through one’s mind. That is the meaning of kayika, vacika, and manasika.

One should think, “Guru-kripa is my only asset, nothing else.” Therefore we say bandon mui savadhana mate— I do guru-vandana with the utmost care. Always be careful and never be careless.

Obstacles

Gaurasundar Mahaprabhu speaks and teaches through Sri Guru. So, dedicating everything, kaya, mana, vakya— one’s body, mind, and speech, one should serve Sri Guru. Then perfection is guaranteed. That is definite, no matter what obstacles or impediments may come. So many obstacles are there. In the material world there is danger at every step. Great stumbling blocks are there, but if you completely surrender through your body, mind, and speech then all impediments and stumbling blocks will be destroyed within a moment. In this very life you will attain perfection. There is no doubt about it. Without the mercy of Sri Guru, without service to Sri Guru, no one can approach the Lord, understand the Lord, or get the Lord. Therefore, everyday we offer this prayer and worship the lotus feet of Sri Guru.

sri-guru-carana-padma, kevala-bhakati-sadma,
bandon mui savadhana mate

— Originally From “The Worship of Sri Guru