svayaṁ samuttīrya sudustaraṁ dyuman
bhavārṇavaṁ bhīmam adabhra-sauhṛdāḥ
bhavat-padāmbhoruha-nāvam atra te
nidhāya yātāḥ sad-anugraho bhavān
svayam—personally; samuttīrya—perfectly crossing; su-dustaram—which is very difficult to cross; dyuman—O Lord, who appear exactly like the sun, illuminating the darkness of this world of ignorance; bhava-arṇavam—the ocean of nescience; bhīmam—which is extremely fierce; adabhra-sauhṛdāḥ—devotees who are incessantly friendly to the fallen souls; bhavat-pada-ambhoruha—Your lotus feet; nāvam—the boat for crossing; atra—in this world; te—they (the Vaiṣṇavas); nidhāya—leaving behind; yātāḥ—on to the ultimate destination, Vaikuṇṭha; sat-anugrahaḥ—who are always kind and merciful to the devotees; bhavān—You.
O Lord, who resemble the shining sun, You are always ready to fulfill the desire of Your devotee, and therefore You are known as a desire tree [vāñchā-kalpataru]. When ācāryas completely take shelter under Your lotus feet in order to cross the fierce ocean of nescience, they leave behind on earth the method by which they cross, and because You are very merciful to Your other devotees, You accept this method to help them.
This statement reveals how the merciful ācāryas and the merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead together help the serious devotee who wants to return home, back to Godhead. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in His teachings to Rūpa Gosvāmī, said:
One can achieve the seed of bhakti-latā, devotional service, by the mercy of guru and Kṛṣṇa. The duty of the guru is to find the means, according to the time, the circumstances and the candidate, by which one can be induced to render devotional service, which Kṛṣṇa accepts from a candidate who wants to be successful in going back home, back to Godhead. After wandering throughout the universe, a fortunate person within this material world seeks shelter of such a guru, or ācārya, who trains the devotee in the suitable ways to render service according to the circumstances so that the Supreme Personality of Godhead will accept the service. This makes it easier for the candidate to reach the ultimate destination. The ācārya’s duty, therefore, is to find the means by which devotees may render service according to references from śāstra. Rūpa Gosvāmī, for example, in order to help subsequent devotees, published such devotional books as Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Thus it is the duty of the ācārya to publish books that will help future candidates take up the method of service and become eligible to return home, back to Godhead, by the mercy of the Lord. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, this same path is being prescribed and followed. Thus the devotees have been advised to refrain from four sinful activities—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling—and to chant sixteen rounds a day. These are bona fide instructions. Because in the Western countries constant chanting is not possible, one should not artificially imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura, but should follow this method. Kṛṣṇa will accept a devotee who strictly follows the regulative principles and the method prescribed in the various books and literatures published by the authorities. The ācārya gives the suitable method for crossing the ocean of nescience by accepting the boat of the Lord’s lotus feet, and if this method is strictly followed, the followers will ultimately reach the destination, by the grace of the Lord. This method is called ācārya-sampradāya. It is therefore said, sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ (Padma Purāṇa). The ācārya-sampradāya is strictly bona fide. Therefore one must accept the ācārya-sampradāya; otherwise one’s endeavor will be futile. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura therefore sings:
One must worship the lotus feet of the ācārya and live within the society of devotees. Then one’s endeavor to cross over nescience will surely be successful.
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