GURU-SEVA IS NOT EASY
by Srila Gour Govinda Mahäräja
(as told in Oriya, translated by Bhakta Pradosh)
Once there was a guru living in an ashram on the bank of the Gangä with a few brahmacari, celibate students, disciples. He was engaging them in varieties of devotional service, like cooking, serving prasädam, gardening, cleaning pots, taking care of the cows, etc.
One disciple, named Govardhan, whose nickname was Govara, had a daily service to go to the river with a big water pot and collect Ganga water for the ashram. He did the service very sincerely for the pleasure of his guru. But after some time, he thought, “Why is it that although I have been doing this service for so long I am not feeling any happiness? Maybe I should leave this ashram, go to the city, get married, and enjoy the rest of my life.”
From his childhood he had lived in the ashram and performed sevä, service. He had no idea of anything else, no experience of any big cities—he didn’t even know where they were. Day by day he was thinking very deeply about this. Finally one day, while sitting on the bank of the Gangä, he decided, “Why should I continue to supply Gangä water to this ashram? I am not getting any benefit. I won’t do it anymore. Today somehow or other I will leave. I have heard that all big cities like Käsi and Prayag are on the bank of the Gangä. If I follow the river bank then eventually I must reach one of them.”
He filled up his water pot with Gangä water, put it down, and told the pot, “You remain here. I am going.”
He looked around to make sure that no one was watching, and then began to slowly make his way towards the south. He had only gone a few yards when he suddenly heard a voice, “Hey, where are you going?”
Startled and frightened, he looked back, but he couldn’t see where the voice had come from. He looked all around, and seeing no one, again started to walk. But suddenly the same voice called, “Hey, where are you going?”
He became more fearful, “Who is calling?”
He was surprised that he couldn’t see anyone. Looking at all directions, he crouched down close to the ground and tried to flee as fast as he could, dodging here and there. But again the voice came, “Hey, Govara, where are you going? It’s me calling. Your—your water pot. Come here!”
Govara became stunned. He was amazed to find his water pot calling him in a human voice.With great eagerness he rushed back to speak to it. The water pot started chastising him:“Do you really think that leaving your guru-seva will give you peace and pleasure? The chief result of your service will be the fulfilment of life’s ultimate goal. Although I am made of dull matter, I can speak like a human being because my life is successful due to my giving service to a pure devotee of the Lord.”
Govara’s guru was a very powerful and pure vaisnava, pure devotee of Lord Krishna. He was making the water pot speak.The water pot continued, “I originated from a muddy, contaminated place. One man collected me, took me to his house, and began to knead me by pressing heavily with his feet. He then formed me into this water pot shape, let me dry, and eventually burnt me in a fire. Finally, he picked me up and flicked me with his finger to see if I had the right sound — ‘ting.’
I passed the test, so he took me to the market to sell. Fortunately I was purchased by this sädhu and engaged in his service. The result is that my life became successful and I am able to speak with you directly. You shouldn’t think that your guru-sevä will be very easy, but if you engage in this sevä then your life will be a success like mine and you will get real pleasure and happiness. Otherwise, if you leave this service you will have to cry and cry. Instead of pleasure you will only get so much pain and anxiety.”
Hearing this story from the water pot, Govara started trembling. Somehow he managed to carry the pot filled with water back to the ashram, where he fell flat before his spiritual master. His guru knew everything because he was a divya-drsta — he could see the past, present and the future.
He asked Govara, “What happened to you?”
Govara spoke of his experience with the water pot and started crying when he revealed how he had planned to leave his guru’s service.
His guru pacified him, and said, “Äre bäbä! It was not the water pot speaking to you. It was I that spoke through it.”
That guru was a most powerful vaisnava; he could speak through anything. He advised Govara that staying in the guru’s ashram and engaging in pure devotional service would gradually purify him, and in a similar way to the water pot, he could make his human birth a success.
(Yes, guru-seva is not easy. But we must march forward, never giving up, to earn that mercy)