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In the shelter of the spiritual master

One of my most vivid dreams of Srila Prabhupada was when I accompanied him with many other God-brothers on his morning walk on one of the many beaches of this world. I had a burning question in my mind and waited for an opportunity to ask it. When the place to his right was finally free, I immediately got close and took my chance to ask him the following:

“Srila Prabhupada, was it always easy for you to follow all the instructions of your spiritual master?”

Srila Prabhupada stopped, poked his walking cane into the sand and looked straight into my eyes: “ To follow the orders of the spiritual master is the life and soul of a disciple!”


Then he smiled and continued his walk. All had been said. Much later I came across a wonderful short narration where His Holiness Giriraja Swami remembers how Srila Prabhupada instructed him in a similar way – this time on a morning walk in waking reality:

“Almost every morning in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada used to walk on Juhu Beach. One morning I had been feeling especially wretched and miserable. Although so many other devotees were present, Srila Prabhupada began to speak as if he were addressing me personally. He quoted a Sanskrit verse and said there are two words – a-natha and sa-natha. Natha means “master,” so a-natha means “without master” and sa-natha means “with master.” The whole goal of life is to become sa-natha,”with master.”

Many gentlemen used to walk their dogs at Juhu beach in the mornings. Srila Prabhupada pointed to fat and fit gentleman walking with an equally fat and fit dog. The man was walking briskly and confidently with his dog on his leash, and the dog was walking equally briskly and confidently with his master by his side. Srila Prabhupada commented that every dog wants a good master. If the dog has a good master he is happy. He holds his head high, he wags his tail. He knows that his master will maintain and protect him, so he has no anxiety.

But the street dog... “The poor fellow has no master. Therefore he is always suffering.” Srila Prabhupada then pointed to some stray dogs: “They have no master. They do not know where they will sleep, how they will get food. Other dogs bark at them; children throw stones at them. They are always in anxiety.”

Srila Prabhupada then stopped walking. He planted his cane firmly in the sand of Juhu Beach. Although I stood behind many of the devotees who moved close around him, with his eyes laden with love and compassion he looked in my eyes. “So we should be sanatha, protected, and not anatha – orphaned. We should have our master and be exclusively devoted to him. Then we will feel confident in his protection and always be happy.”

This is the experience of all disciples at all times, everywhere: By being in the shelter of our spiritual master one becomes confident in his protection.

May I always love the two lotus feet of my spiritual master, for there is no greater friend than him in the whole world. His nature is to forgive our shortcomings. He is there to create – not to destroy(1), thus giving us a realistic chance of progressing on the path back home – where we truly belong.

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(1) Even if the spiritual master corrects a disciple, he does so in the mood of a builder who may deconstruct a dysfunctional house in order to replace it with a new and beautiful building.
 

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