Guru – Vani and Vapu

Q. Is it necessary that Guru should be alive until you are in the process of devotion and what if Guru leaves the world in between? Does this affect our devotion?

Please explain elaborately if possible with any quotes as this is being asked by several people around me. It is their concern that Srila Prabhupad is not personally present.

A. The Guru is supposed to guide us and he does so both by vani and vapu. When the guru is present with us, he guides us by Vapu, or by physical presence in the form of direct instructions. When he is not physically present, we can learn from his instructions. For example, when Lord Krishna left the planet, Arjuna remembered the instructions given by the Lord and gained solace and direction. At the same time, we need the presence of Guru to receive spiritual initiation.

S.B 1.15.27 Purport: “The merciful Lord left behind Him the great teachings of the Bhagavad-gétä so that one can take the instructions of the Lord even when He is not visible to material eyesight.”

The spiritual master is always present with the disciple by his vani, his words:

Srila Prabhupada said, “Although according to material vision, His Divine Grace Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura Prabhupäda passed away from this material world on the last day of December, 1936, I still consider His Divine Grace to be always present with me by his väëé, his words. There are two ways of association-by väëé and by vapuù. Väëé means words, and vapuù means physical presence.”

Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, we must take advantage of the vani and not the physical presence. Bhagavad-gétä, for example, is the väëé of Lord Kåiñhëa. Although Kåiñhëa was personally present five thousand years ago and is no longer physically present from the materialistic point of view, Bhagavad-gétä continues.”

Çré Caitanya-caritämåta “Concluding Words”: The spiritual master and the disciple are eternally united through the association of väëé, i.e. by the disciple’s following the spiritual master’s instructions:

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 väëé (words). Physical presence is called vapuù. 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. (Çrémad-Bhägavatam 4.28.47)