This is the last portion of the Service to Guru series, which is taken from a collection of articles by Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj, originally published in Chaitanya Vani, the magazine of the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math.
Sudama Vipra at the ashram of Sandipani Muni
The glories of service to the spiritual master have been sung in all the scriptures—in both the Upanishads and the Puranas. The disciple who is indifferent to service to the spiritual master will never get the mercy of Krishna. The Bhagavatam recounts that even Krishna himself set the example of how to serve the spiritual master.
We see in the Bhagavatam that the Supreme Lord Krishna himself set the example of service to the spiritual master. After Krishna had returned to Mathura and killed Kamsa, he was reunited with his parents, Vasudeva and Devaki. Since he and Balaram had spent their childhood in the cowherd community, they had not received an education befitting the princely life they were now to lead. Not only that, but they had not received the sacred thread, as was befitting young men of their caste. Vasudeva sent the two boys to Avantipur, where the renowned teacher Sandipani Muni lived. In a very short time the two brothers mastered all that Sandipani could teach them.
Later in the Bhagavatam, the story is told of Sudama Vipra, who had been a student with Krishna at the Avantipur school. Sudama was afflicted by poverty and his wife told him to take advantage of his childhood friendship with Krishna to get some material benefit. When Sudama came to Dwaraka and met with the Lord, the two spent some time reminiscing about their days at their guru’s ashram, or gurukula.
Krishna remembered one experience that the two of them had shared. Once Sandipani had asked Krishna and Sudama to fetch wood for fuel to be used in the sacrificial fire, which would be left burning constantly. The two boys had gathered large bundles of wood an were carrying them on their heads when a heavy thunderstorm broke, leaving them stranded in the forest. The two were forced to spend the entire night in the rain without shelter, setting an unparalleled example of service to the guru. In the Upanishads, it is said that the wind blows out of fear of the Lord, the sun shines, Indra sends the rains, and fire does its work of burning. Even time itself fears the Lord, and yet, here the Supreme Master of the fourteen spheres, the most worshipable Deity himself demonstrated how the path of religion is to be trod.
Krishna’s own words show the lesson that his own behavior was meant to demonstrate—
I, the soul of all beings, am not as pleased by the performance of the prescribed duties of the four ashrams, i.e., sacrifices, service to the family, austerities and renunciation, as I am by service to the guru. (SB 10.80.34)
When the morning came and the rain had stopped, Sandipani Muni and all his disciples went into the woods to look for Sudama and Krishna. When the two students were found, they were in a pitiable state. Sandipani showed his appreciation after finding them the following morning and his words stand as a testimonial to the value of selfless service to the spiritual master.
“My children! Every living creature takes care of its body as its most dear possession. Out of love for me, however, you two have ignored your desire for ease and comfort. Such behavior is verily the duty of a good disciple who seeks to repay his debt of gratitude to his guru. O best of the twice-born! You have pleased me, and so I bless you that all your desires will be fulfilled and that all you have learned will never be forgotten, in either this life or the next.” (SB 10.80.41-42)
This then is how a disciple who has taken the Bhagavata’s instruction to make the guru his personal worshipable deity (gurv-ātma-daivataḥ) attains all perfections through the mercy of the spiritual master.
sa vai sat-karmaṇāṁ sākṣād
dvijāter iha sambhavaḥ
yathāhaṁ jñānado guruḥ
The father who gives us birth is our first guru. The second guru is the one who gives second birth through initiation and instructs him in his specific duties in the Varnashram dharma. Such a guru is as worshippable as I. But the giver of knowledge to everyone in the world, in other words, the giver of universal and transcendental spiritual knowledge, is directly a manifestation of me. (10.80.32)
nanv artha-kovidā brahman
ye mayā guruṇā vācā
taranty añjo bhavārṇavam
O Brahmin! Assuredly, those persons are the most clever who even within the Varnashram system cross over the ocean of material suffering by hearing the guru’s words, for I am the Guru. (10.80.33)
Next are a few words from Srila Gaura Govinda Maharaja on Sudama Vipra:
When Krishna and Sudama were students in Sandipani Muni’s asrama, they set an example. Once there was no firewood for cooking. So Sandipani Muni’s wife, guru-mata, said to the boys, “There is no firewood. How can I cook? Go and fetch wood in the forest.” Both Krishna and Sudama took an axe in their hand and went out. Why? This is service, guru-seva. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His will is supreme. By the will of the Supreme Lord the creation and the annihilation takes place; by His mere willing. If He had wanted, immediately truckloads of firewood would have come there. What is the necessity of going to the forest with an axe in His hand on the part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? This is guru-seva We have to do it. This fire is needed. The order came. There was no fuel, no dry wood. Therefore, they went to the forest.
Then this wonderful incident took place; black clouds appeared in the sky, a very heavy storm came blowing torrential rain. The whole land became inundated. It was very dark nightwith roaring thunder and lightining. The two boys were in the forest and could not go back to the asrama. The Supreme Personality of Godhead could not come back to the asrama! Sandipani Muni could not sleep that night – Oh, these two boys went out, and it is such a bad night with torrential rain, such a heavy storm. No one can go out of the house or even open the door. The whole land is inundated. What has happened to them? He was just thinking, and thinking in this way, and had a sleepless night.
As soon as day dawned and the rain stopped, Sandipani Muni went out to see where they were. After some time he saw Krishna and Sudama standing beneath a tree. They were wet from the rain and were shivering. They contracted such bodily pain and distress in the service of guru. Sandipani Muni embraced them, “You are sat-sisya. This body is very dear to everyone. No one wants to give distress to the body, but you both took such bodily distress and unhappiness for me. “
Krishna has said that He becomes very pleased with that person who serves guru with a loving and pure heart, offering niskapata-seva with love and affection, not caring for his own discomfort, bodily pain, unhappiness or distress.