Does the Spiritual Master Have A Material Body? Is He Omniscient?
Some devotees have said to me that Srila Prabhupada’s form is spiritual. Now with my physical senses I perceive that Srila Prabhupada has a physical body. So how can it be possible that I can perceive a spiritual body? One can notice that Srila Prabhupada’s body was changing from youth to old age as do material bodies…
Hare KRSNA Madhudvisa dasa
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I have had an issue disturbing me for some time now and wish that you could help. It mainly concerns Srila Prabhupadas form as we perceive it. I understand that to see Krishna’s body it would be impossible with material eyes. Though as I understand, it is possible to see Krishna with spiritual eyes annointed with pure love of God. Some devotees have said to me that Srila Prabhupada’s form is also spiritual. Now with my physical senses I perceive that Srila Prabhupada has a physical body. So how can it be possible that I can perceive a spirtual body? Or is this form Krishna’s and Lord Caitanya’s given grace for us(in material contamination,unable to perceive spiritual forms) to be able to worship as Guru? One can notice that Srila Prabhupada’s body was changing from youth to old age as do material bodies. What is your opinion or knowledge on the matter?
I don’t mean to spoil your devotion in anyway with what I am about to speak upon next. I noticed by reading the latter portion of converstions in the Folio that Srila Prabhupada was very weakened, ill in bed in the last few months of his life. And some of his devotees would be very close to him as to be checking his urine and stool for medical purposes, and bathing and cleansing him. I have read somewhere in Parbhupadas books that it is dangerous to get too close(i assume physically) to King,woman, fire and spiritual master. Would you if you had been part of the movement then have got that close to him?? I think one devotee I have spoken to went as far as to say that even the stool of Srila Prabhupada was fragrant. I have certainly read that in the spiritual activities of one of the inacarnations of Sri Krishna passed stool and rolled around in it. But this stool was spiritual and fragrant. What is your knowledge in this regard?
What I am asking is whether the body I perceive of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada physical but his purpose and instructions spiritual?
Dear Khan Prabhu
Haribol! Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Thank you very much for the wonderful questions. I appreciate it very much. It gives me a chance to think about these things and get them clearer in my mind also.
“One who rejects things without knowledge of their relationship to Krsna is incomplete in his renunciation.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.66) When the body is engaged in the service of the Lord, one should not consider the body material. Sometimes the spiritual body of the spiritual master is misunderstood. But Srila Rupa Gosvami instructs, prapancikataya buddhya hari-sambandhi-vastunah. The body fully engaged in Krsna’s service should not be neglected as material. One who does neglect it is false in his renunciation. If the body is not properly maintained, it falls down and dries up like an uprooted tree, from which flowers and fruit can no longer be obtained. (SB 8.19.40 P Lord Vamanadeva Begs Charity from Bali Maharaja)
Sometimes devotees sentimentally say so many things without any real realization of the actual situation. The real point is there is nothing material in this world at all. Everything is the energy of Krishna and everything is spiritual. Things only take on the material qualities if they are not engaged in the service of Krishna. So anything at all, including our bodies and what to speak of the spiritual master’s body is actually spiritual. The only reason they act materially is because they are not engaged in the service of Krishna.
Of course, ultimately nothing is material. Thinking something is material is simply an illusion. Actually, there is nothing but spirit. How can there be anything material? The Supreme Lord is the Supreme Spirit, and since everything is coming from Him, what we call the material energy is also coming from Him and is thus ultimately spiritual.
But the difficulty is that in this material world, Krsna’s inferior energy, there is the possibility of forgetting Krsna. People are engaged in so many activities–we can see this very clearly in the Western countries–and they are inventing so many modern facilities, but the result is that they are forgetting Krsna. That is material–this forgetfulness of Krsna. (JSD 3.3 Krsna, Enchanter of the Soul)
Regarding your question about items being used in Krishna’s service becoming spiritual, you should understand it that anything which will remind one of Krishna is spiritual, and anything which will make one forget Krishna is material. Actually, everything is of spiritual nature because everything is coming from the Ultimate Source, Krishna. But when something is offered to the Lord or when it is used in His service, then it resumes its spiritual quality because it will remind one of Krishna. Therefore, even though such object may not have consciousness, it will act as spiritual. It is just like when an iron rod is put into the fire: the rod has not actually become fire, but it will act in just the same way as fire. (69-12-04 Letter: Bhadra Bardhan)
“A person acting in the service of Krsna with his body, mind and words is a liberated person, even within the material world.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.187) Therefore, one is forbidden to regard the guru as an ordinary human being (gurusu nara-matir… naraki sah). The spiritual master, or acarya, is always situated in the spiritual status of life. Birth, death, old age and disease do not affect him. According to the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, therefore, after the disappearance of an acarya, his body is never burnt to ashes, for it is a spiritual body. The spiritual body is always unaffected by material conditions. (SB 10.4.20 P The Atrocities of King Kamsa)
The example Srila Prabhupada gives to illustrate this point is the iron rod in the association of fire. If you place an iron rod in a fire gradually, by the association of the fire, the rod becomes hotter and hotter and finally when it is red hot the iron rod actually acts as fire. One could say it has become fire because anything you touch with the red-hot iron rod immediately bursts into flames. So the iron rod is acting as fire, but it is also still an iron rod.
Hamsadutta: The next question: the body of a pure devotee is all spiritual and He is not different from His body. That is also a fact. The bodies of all living entities, even though they are not pure devotees, are not actually the bodies of the spirit soul. It is always separate from the spiritual body. The Vedic mantra confirm it by the sound vibration that this spirit soul is always nonattached with the material body. Therefore, we do not see the actual spiritual body of a pure devotee; but what we see, that is matter.
Just like the example is given of the shining moon covered by the cloud. When the cloud moves along with the peeping moonshine, it appears that the moon is moving. Anyone who has seen such movement of cloud in the sky must have this experience.
So, the moving of the cloud may appear to the layman’s eyes as moving of the moon, but that is not a fact. Similarly, the moving of the body of a pure devotee is not the moving of the pure devotee. After all these are facts for the process of realization, but we can try to understand them as far as possible from the statement of authorized Scriptures through the version of the Spiritual Master or saintly person. (70-01-23 Letter: Hamsaduta)
So, as we can not see the spiritual body of the spiritual master, the body we see is material. Therefore one cannot expect the stool of the spiritual master to be fragrant and so many other nonsense ideas devotees sometimes come up with. As Srila Prabhupada says these matters have to be realized to really understand them but we can discuss them to help in the realization process.
The spiritual master is not different from Krishna, but at the same time he is not Krishna. We cannot expect the spiritual master to exhibit all the qualities of Krishna. Krishna is omniscient and some so-called devotees try to attribute this omniscient quality to the spiritual master as well. But that is Mayavadi philosophy. That is claiming the jiva and Krishna can be on the same level. But it is not a fact at all.
Jayadvaita: …they know everything and they’re perfect in everything. But sometimes, from our material viewpoint, we see some discrepancies. Just like we think that…
Prabhupada: Because material viewpoint. The viewpoint is wrong; therefore you find discrepancies.
Jayadvaita: So we should think that we have the defect.
Prabhupada: Yes. Acarya is explained, bhakti-samsanah: “One who’s preaching the cult of devotional service, he’s acarya.” Then why should you find any discrepancy?
Jayadvaita: Because we see… For instance, sometimes the acarya may seem to forget something or not to know something, so from our point of view, if someone has forgotten, that is…
Prabhupada: No, no, no. Then…
Jayadvaita: …an imperfection.
Prabhupada: That is not the… Then you do not understand. Acarya is not God, omniscient. He is servant of God. His business is to preach bhakti cult. That is acarya.
Jayadvaita: And that is the perfection.
Prabhupada: That is the perfection. Hare Krsna.
Jayadvaita: So we have a misunderstanding about what perfection is?
Prabhupada: Yes. Perfection is here, how he is preaching bhakti cult. That’s all.
The devotees who claim the spiritual master is omniscient are so foolish that they cannot even see the best devotee, even according to Krishna’s own opinion in the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna, was not omniscient. So if the best devotee, Arjuna, was not omniscient, how can we expect the spiritual master to be omniscient?
We have no knowledge immediately what is beyond this wall. If you ask me what is beyond this wall, then I will have to ask some of my disciples, “What is there beyond this wall?” Therefore it is not cit, not full of knowledge. But Krsna knows, He says in the Bha…, vedaham samatitani: “I know everything past, present, and future.” When Arjuna enquired… Krsna, Arjuna, he is also playing just like Krsna’s friend. So he enquired for dissipation of the ignorance that “My dear Krsna, You are saying that You spoke this philosophy, Bhagavad-gita, formerly to the sun-god.” Without asking Him, “How did You go? How did You return?” he simply asked that “Krsna, I know that You are my contemporary. We are of the same age. And how can I believe that millions and trillions of years ago You spoke to sun-god?” So the answer was that “My dear Arjuna, at that time because you are My friend, you were also there, but you have forgotten. I have not forgotten.” Therefore He is full of knowledge. We cannot say what we did in our childhood. We have forgotten. This is one of our qualification, forgetfulness. But Krsna says that “You have forgotten. Because you are living being, your nature is to forget. But because I am the Supreme Lord, I have not forgotten.” Therefore His knowledge is perfect. (750309BG.LON Lectures)
Thus the body of God and the body of a living being are differently constituted. Because the Lord’s body is pure spirit, it never deteriorates, and therefore He is called avyayatma. His body is absolute, beginningless, unborn, and eternal, while the material body of the living being is relative and therefore temporary–it undergoes birth and death. The living being himself, of course, is eternal, and if He so desires he can realize his eternality by merging into the body of the Absolute Truth or being reinstated in his constitutional position as an eternal servant of the Lord. If he does not do so, then his eternality is still maintained, but he remains ignorant of it. (MM 2 PMukunda-mala-stotra)
So Krsna spoke. These are natural, as it is, conclusion. You cannot interpret. So therefore conclusion is: Krsna’s body is different from us. One who does not know, rascal, he thinks that Krsna is like ourself. Krsna, how He can be like ourself? If He entered the sun planet and spoke to the president of the sun planet, then His body is different. Therefore Krsna says, avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam: “Because I look just like a human being, the rascal think of Me, I am an ordinary man.” Therefore the conclusion is: one who thinks of Krsna as one of us, he is a fool, he is a rascal. Krsna’s body is explained in the sastra, Vedic. What is that body? Sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. Isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah. (750309BG.LON Lectures)
Of course we have a spiritual body which has the same qualities as Krishna’s body, but those qualities are present in a very minute quantity whereas Krishna possesses these qualities to an unlimited degree. We will never be equal to Krishna even in our liberated condition. Krishna will always be great and we will always be small. However, our material body can become spiritual by engaging it in service of Krishna in the association of Krishna and Krishna’s devotees as the iron rod can become fire in the association of file.
SB 4.22.26 P Prthu Maharaja’ s Meeting with the Four Kumaras
Agni, or fire, comes out of wood, and by it the wood is completely destroyed. Similarly, when a living entity increases his attachment for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is to be considered like fire. A blazing fire is visible by its exhibition of heat and light; similarly, when the living entity within the heart becomes enlightened with full spiritual knowledge and detached from the material world, he burns up his material covering of the five elements–earth, water, fire, air and sky–and becomes free from the five kinds of material attachments, namely ignorance, false egoism, attachment to the material world, envy and absorption in material consciousness. Therefore pancatmakam, as mentioned in this verse, refers to either the five elements or the five coverings of material contamination. When these are all burned into ashes by the blazing fire of knowledge and detachment, one is fixed firmly in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Unless one takes shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and advances one’s attraction for Krsna by the spiritual master’s instructions, the five coverings of the living entity cannot be uncovered from the material heart. The living entity is centered within the heart, and to take him away from the heart is to liberate him. This is the process. One must take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and by his instruction increase one’s knowledge in devotional service, become detached from the material world and thus become liberated. An advanced devotee, therefore, does not live within the material body but within his spiritual body, just as a dry coconut lives detached from the coconut husk, even though within the husk. The pure devotee’s body is therefore called cin-maya-sarira (“spiritualized body”). In other words, a devotee’s body is not connected with material activities, and as such, a devotee is always liberated (brahma-bhuyaya kalpate), as confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (14.26). Srila Rupa Gosvami also confirms this:
iha yasya harer dasye
karmana manasa gira
nikhilasv apy avasthasu
jivan-muktah sa ucyate
“Whatever his condition may be, one who is engaged fully with his body, mind and speech in the service of the Lord is liberated, even within this body.”
SB 4.23.11 P Maharaja Prthu’ s Going Back Home
At present we have contacted a material body, material mind and material intelligence, but when we become free from these material conditions, our spiritual body, spiritual mind and spiritual intelligence become manifest. In that transcendental state, a devotee attains all the benefits of karma, jnana and yoga. Although he never engages in fruitive activities or empiric speculation to attain mystic powers, automatically mystic powers appear in his service. A devotee does not want any kind of material opulence, but such opulence appears before him automatically. He does not have to endeavor for it. Because of his devotional service, he automatically becomes brahma-bhuta. As stated before, this is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (14.26):
SB 9.4.25 P Ambarisa Maharaja Offended by Durvasa Muni
vairagyam phalgu kathyate
That which is not engaged in the service of the Lord is material, and nothing thus engaged should be given up. In the construction of a high skyscraper and the construction of a temple, there may be the same enthusiasm, but the endeavors are different, for one is material and the other spiritual. Spiritual activities should not be confused with material activities and given up. Nothing connected with Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is material. A devotee who considers all this is always situated in spiritual activities, and therefore he is no longer attracted by material activities (param drstva nivartate).
As for myself, if I was in ISKCON at the time Srila Prabhupada was physically present I would have done whatever service he requested of me. If he wanted me to render service to his physical body I would have been very happy to do that but if he wanted me to preach I would be just as happy doing that also.
Prabhupada often mentioned it is more important to serve the spiritual master by following his instructions, vani, rather than to serve his physical body.
SB 4.28.47 P Puranjana Becomes a Woman in the Next Life
Figuratively the queen is supposed to be the disciple of the king; thus when the mortal body of the spiritual master expires, his disciples should cry exactly as the queen cries when the king leaves his body. However, the disciple and spiritual master are never separated because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani (words). Physical presence is called vapuh. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master.
67-12-30 Letter: Madhusudana
Whatever allocation of duty there may be, if we try to execute such specific duty sincerely, that alone can make us much more advanced in Krishna Consciousness. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is stated that for the fixed up devotee there is one duty. This duty is understood through the transparent medium via media of the Spiritual Master. It is better service to Krishna and Spiritual Master in a feeling of separation; sometimes there is risk in the matter of direct service. For example, Kirtanananda was giving me direct service by massaging, cooking for me, and so many other things; but later on by dictation of Maya, he became puffed up, so much so that he thought his Spiritual Master a common man, and was existing only on account of his service. This mentality at once pushed him down. Of course, those who are sincere devotee, they take direct service as an opportunity, but the illusory energy is so strong that it acts on this doctrine of familiarity breeds contempt. Kirtanananda was thinking I was existing on his service, instead of realizing I was giving him opportunity to do me some service.
68-01-13 Letter: Jadurani
Yes, the ecstasy of separation of Spiritual Master is even greater ecstasy than meeting with Him.
72-02-20 Letter: Satadhanya
So far personal association with the Guru is concerned, I was only with my Guru Maharaja four or five times, but I have never left his association, not even for a moment. Because I am following his instructions, I have never felt any separation. There are some of my Godbrothers here in India who had constant personal association with Guru Maharaja, but who are neglecting his orders. This is just like the bug who is sitting on the lap of the king. He may be very puffed-up by his position, but all he can succeed in doing is biting the king. Personal association is not so important as association through service.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada