Q. When one is not in the proximate physical presence of one’s guru, how does one take necessary help for eliminating the obstacles on the path of sadhana?
Ans 1. As Srila Prabhupada always emphasized, association of the guru or a saintly person through ‘vani’ (i.e. their instructions) is more important than association through ‘vapu’ (personal, physical association). Even in the proximate physical presence of the spiritual master, it is the vani, or his instruction that is the most important. Therefore, especially when one does not get much opportunity for physical association, one should make all endeavor to regularly associate with the instructions of the spiritual master, through hearing or reading, meditating, discussing and by continuing to apply those instructions in our day-to-day activities.
Hearing is a powerful method, and thanks to modern technology we have the opportunity to hear tapes virtually anywhere and at any time. By making a very conscientious effort to hear regularly and attentively the instructions of the spiritual master, one can keep oneself always connected to his instructions. Maintaining a deep mood of service to the spiritual master and trying to execute ALL of our activities in accordance with his instructions so as to please him, makes that connection very strong and deep on the spiritual platform.
Associating with one’s godbrothers/ godsisters in the same service mood when such opportunity is available, enthusiastically trying to serve the spiritual master together, discussing his teachings and his glories – all these greatly support, enhance and revitalize one’s constant connection with the spiritual master, allowing us to feel his presence always. If the instructions of the spiritual master remain always close to our heart, this is like being personally trained by the spiritual master as he resides within our hearts due to our love for him!
Ans 2. The spiritual master has two ways of being present. One is called vapuh, which means the physical presence of the spiritual master. The other is called vani, or the vibrational presence of the spiritual master. Vani means that the spiritual master is fully present in the form of the instructions that he has given us. If we faithfully follow his instructions we will be together with him at every minute. There will never be any separation.
We can be blessed both by vani and vapuh, but of the two vani is more important. Vapuh will sometimes be there and sometimes not be there, but one can take advantage to be blessed by vani at every second for all of eternity by being completely, totally dedicated to faithfully obeying whatever instructions we receive from the spiritual master. This faithfulness will make us immediately a liberated soul without having to undergo a gradual evolutionary process through many births and deaths.
The Supersoul, the inner teacher is always awake, but because we are covered by Maya we cannot hear Him. Therefore He mercifully appears externally in a form that we can hear, see, and thus easily serve. That form is the Spiritual Master.
The Spiritual Master carefully observes his disciples to make sure that their understanding and practical application of the science of bhakti is correct. Even if he is not physically with the disciple constantly, he can accurately discern the disciple’s spiritual progress with the help of the Supersoul, Krishna within the heart.
The sincere disciple can connect with the Spiritual Master at every second because the Spiritual Master is always present in the form of his instructions. If the disciple always meditates upon and faithfully executes the orders received from the Spiritual Master, he is not separated from him, even for a second. The disciple develops the ability to serve Krishna by the combined mercy of Guru and Krishna. That mercy is obtained by always pleasing the Spiritual Master by completely dedicating every thought, word, and deed in his and Krishna’s service in all times, places, and circumstances.