Srila Prabhupada on Vapu and Vani
Does the Guru have to be physically present?
Physical presence is immaterial. Presence of the transcendental sound received from the Spiritual Master should be the guidance of life. That will make our spiritual life successful. If you feel very strongly about my absence you may place my pictures on my sitting places and this will be source of inspiration for you.
(Letter to Brahmananda and other students, 19/1/67)
But always remember that I am always with you. As you are always thinking of me, I am always thinking of you also. Although physically we are not together, we are not separated spiritually. So we should be concerned only with this spiritual connection.
(Letter to Gaurasundara, 13/11/69)
So we should associate by vibration, and not by the physical presence. That is real association.(Lectures SB, 68/08/18)
There are two conceptions, the physical conception and the vibrational conception. The physical conception is temporary. The vibrational conception is eternal.[...] When we feel separation from Krsna or the Spirirual Master, we should just try to remember their words or instructions, and we will no longer feel that separation. Such association with Krsna and the Spiritual Master should be association by vibration not physical presence. That is real association.
(Elevation to Krsna Consciousness,(BBT 1973), Page 57)
Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarsavati Thakura Prabhupada 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 vani, his words. There are two ways of association - by vani and by vapuh. Vani means words and vapuh means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but Vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, one must take advantage of the Vani, not the physical presence.
(CC, Antya 5 Conclusion)
Therefore we should take advantage of the Vani, not the physical presence.
(Letter to Suci Devi Dasi, 4/11/75)
I shall remain your personal guidance, physically present or not physically present, as I am getting guidance from my Guru Maharaja.
(Room Conversation, Vrindavan, 14/7/77)
It is sometimes misunderstood that if one has to associate with persons engaged in devotional service, he will not be able to solve the economic problem. To answer this argument, it is described here that one has to associate with liberated persons not directly, physically, but by understanding, through philosophy and logic, the problems of life.
I am always with you. Never mind if I am physically absent.
(Letter to Jayananda, 16/9/67)
Paramananda: We're always feeling your presence very strongly, Srila Prabhupada, simply by your teachings and your instructions. We're always meditating on your instructions.
Srila Prabhupada: Thank you. That is the real presence. Physical presence is not important.
(Room Conversation, Vrndavana, 6/10/77)
You write that you have desire to avail of my association again, but why do you forget that you are always in association with me? When you are helping my missionary activities I am always thinking of you, and you are always thinking of me. That is real association. Just like I am always thinking of my Guru Maharaja at every moment, although he is not physically present, and because I am trying to serve him to my best capacity, I am sure he is helping me by his spiritual blessings. So there are two kinds of association: physical and preceptorial. Physical association is not so important as preceptorial association.
(Letter to Govinda Dasi, 18/8/69)
As far as my blessing is concerned, it does not require my physical presence. If you are chanting Hare Krsna there, and following my instructions, reading the books, taking only Krsna prasadam etc., then there is no question of your not receiving the blessings of Lord Caitanya, whose mission I am humbly trying to push on.
(Letter to Bala Krsna, 30/6/74)
'Anyone who has developed unflinching faith in the Lord and the Spiritual Master can understand the revealed scripture unfolding before him'. So continue your present aptitude and you will be successful in your spiritual progress. I am sure that even if I am not physically present before you, still you will be able to execute all spiritual duties in the matter of Krsna Consciousness, if you follow the above principles.
(Letter to Subala, 29/9/67)
So although a physical body is not present, the vibration should be accepted as the presence of the Spiritual Master, vibration. What we have heard from the Spiritual Master, that is living.
(General lectures, 69/01/13)
Devotee: ...so sometimes the Spiritual Master is far away. He may be in Los Angeles. Somebody is coming to Hamburg Temple. He thinks 'How will the Spiritual Master be pleased?'
Srila Prabhupada: Just follow his order, Spiritual Master is along with you by his words. Just like my Spiritual Master is not physically present, but I am associating with him by his words.
(SB Lectures, 71/08/18)
Just like I am working, so my Guru Maharaja is there, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Physically he may not be, but in every action he is there. To serve master's word is more important than to serve physically.
(Room Conversation, Vrindavan, 2/5/77)
So that is called prakata, physically present. And there is another phrase, which is called aprakata, not physically present. But that does not mean, Krsna is dead or God is dead. That does not mean, prakata or aprakata, physically present or not present, it does not matter.
(Lectures SB 73/12/11)
So, spiritually, there is no question of separation, even physically we may be in far distant place.
(Letter to Syama Dasi, 30/08/68)
I went to your country for spreading this information of Krsna Consciousness and you are helping me in my mission, although I am not physically present there but spiritually I am always with you.
(Letter to Nandarani, Krsna Devi and Subala, 3/10/67)
We are not separated actually. There are two - Vani or Vapuh - so Vapu is physical presence and Vani is presence by the vibration, but they are all the same.
(Letter to Hamsadutta, 22/6/70)
So in the absence of physical presentation of the spiritual master, the Vaniseva is more important. My Spiritual Master Sarsavati Goswami, may appear to be physically not present, but still because I try to serve his instruction, I never feel separated from him.
(Letter to Karandhara, 22/8/70)
I also do not feel separation from my Guru Maharaja. When I am engaged in his service, his pictures give me sufficient strength. To serve master's word is more important than to serve him physically.
(Letter to Syamasundara, 19/7/70)
So far as personal association with Guru is concerned, I was only with Guru Maharaj 4 or 5 times, but I have never left his association, not even for a moment. Because I am following his instruction, 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 serving.
(Letter to Satyadhana, 20/2/72)
So spiritually appearance and disappearance, there is no difference ... spiritually there is no such difference, appearance or disappearance. Although this is the disappearance day of Om Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, there is nothing to be lamented, although we feel separation.
(Lecture, Los Angeles 13/12/73)
So my Guru Maharaja will be very, very much pleased with you ... it is not that he is dead and gone. That is not spiritual understanding ... he is seeing. I never feel that I am alone.
Vani is more important than vapuh.
(Letter to Tusta Krishna Das, 14/12/72)
Yes I am glad that your centre is doing so well and all the devotees are now appreciating the presence of their spiritual master by following his instructions, although he is no longer present. This is the right spirit.
(Letter to Karandhara, 13/9/70)
The spiritual master by his words, can penetrate into the heart of the suffering person and inject knowledge transcendental which alone can extinguish the fire of material existence.
(SB(1987 Ed) 1.7.22)
There are two words, vani and vapuh. Vani means words, and vapuh means the physical body. Vapuh will be finished. This material body it will be finished, that is the nature. But if we keep to the vani, to the words of the spiritual master, then we remain very fixed up...if you always keep intact, in link with the words and instructions of the higher instructions, then you are always fresh. This is spiritual understanding.
(General lectures, 75/03/02)
So we should give more stress on the sound vibration, either of Krsna or Spiritual Master. Never think that I am absent from you, presence by message(or hearing) is the real touch.
(Letter to students, August 1967)
Reception of spiritual knowledge is never checked by any material condition.
(SB (1987)Ed) 7.7.1.)
The potency of transcendental sound is never minimised because the vibrator is apparently absent.
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. 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.
If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual masters instructions and the spiritual master himself. In the absence therefore, his words of direction should be pride of the disciple.
(CC(1975 Ed) Adi 1.35)
He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him.
(SB(1962 Ed) Preface)
He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die, when thou art still living in sound.
(Bhaktivinoda Thakur )
Yes, the ecstacy of separation of Spiritual Master is even greater ecstasy than meeting with him.
(Letter to Jadurani, 13/1/68)
Krsna and his representative are the same. Similarly, the spiritual master can be present wherever the disciple wants. A spiritual master is the principle, not the body. Just like a television can be seen in thousands of place by the principle of relay monitoring.
(Letter to Malati, 28/5/68)
It is better service to Krsna and Spiritual Master in a feeling of separation; sometimes there is a risk in the matter of direct service.
(Letter to Madhusudana, 31/12/67)
Srila Prabhupada is our Eternal Guru
Reporter: Who will succeed you when you die?
Srila Prabhupada: I will never die!
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!
Srila Prabhupada: I will live forever from my books and you will utilise.
(Interview, Berkley, 17/7/75)
Indian Lady: ... is that spiritual master still guiding after death?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, yes. Just like Krsna is guiding us, similarly spiritual master will guide us.
(General lectures, 69/09/23)
Eternal bond between disciple and Spiritual Master begins from the day he hears.
(Letter to Jadurani, 4/9/72)
The influence of the pure devotee is such that if someone comes to associate with him with a little faith, he gets the chance of hearing about the Lord from authoritative scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita. This is the first stage of association with the pure devotee.
(Nectar of Devotion, (1982 Ed.), p146)
These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing.
(Letter to Rupanuga Das, 19/10/74)
Regarding parampara system, there is nothing to wonder for big gaps. [...]We have to pick up the prominent acaryas and follow from him.
(Letter to Dayananda, 12/4/68)
These great souls (members of the disciplic succession) were not mere luminaries like comets appearing in the firmament for a while and disappearing as soon as their mission is done. They are like so many suns shining all along to give light and heat to succeeding generations. Long time yet to roll on when they will be succeeded by others of sublime mind, beauty and calibre.
You have asked if it is true that the spiritual master remains in the universe until all his disciples are transferred to the spiritual sky. The answer is yes, this is the rule.
Narayana: So those disciples who don't have the opportunity to see you or speak with you...
Srila Prabhupada: That he was speaking, vani and vapuh. Even if you don't see his body, you take his words, vani.
Narayana: But how do they know that they're pleasing you?
Srila Prabhupada: If you actually follow the words of Guru, that means he is pleased. And if you do not follow, how can he be pleased?
Sudama: Not only that, but your mercy is spread everywhere, and if we take advantage, you told us once, then we will feel the result.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Jayadvaita: And if we have faith in what the Guru says, then automatically we'll do that.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. My Guru Maharaja passed away in 1936, and I started this movement in 1965, 30 years after. Then? I am getting mercy of Guru. This is vani. Even if Guru is not physically present, if you follow the vani, then you are getting help.
Sudama: So there is no question of ever separation as long as the disciple follows the instructions of Guru.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Cakhu-dano-dilo-jei. What is the next one?
Sudama: Cakhu-dano-dilo-jei, janme janme prabhu sei.
Srila Prabhupada: Janme janme prabhu sei. So where there is separation? Who has opened your eyes, he is birth after birth your prabhu.
(Room conversation, 21/7/75)
Madhudvisa: Is there any way for a Christian to do without the help of a Spiritual Master. To reach the spiritual sky through believing the words of Jesus Christ and trying to follow his teachings?
Srila Prabhupada: I don't follow.
Tamala Krishna: Can a Christian in this age, without a Spiritual Master, but by reading the Bible, and following Jesus's words, reach the ...
Srila Prabhupada: When you read the Bible, you follow the Spiritual Master. How can you say without. As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. That means that you are following the Spiritual Master. So where is the opportunity of being without Spiritual Master.
Madhudvisa: I was referring to a living Spiritual Master.
Srila Prabhupada: Spiritual Master is not question of ... Spiritual Master is eternal...so your question is 'without Spiritual Master'. Without Spiritual Master you cannot be at any stage of your life. You may accept this Spiritual master or that Spiritual master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that "by reading Bible", when you read Bible that means you are following the Spiritual Master represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ.
(Lecture, Seattle, 2/10/68)
(Letter to Jayapataka, 11/7/69)