June 2019
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Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia) 

We continue our readings. We heard about the troubles of Prahlada in his school – that his dedication to Vishnu and his willingness to share his commitment brought him his troubles.

“The teachers of Prahlada were scolding him severely, but they did not have the courage to beat him, because he was the son of the king. After some time they again began to teach Prahlada with great care and attention about the principles of dharma, artha and kama and the three kinds of shastra that would inspire him to follow these paths. After few days they ascertained that Prahlada had learned everything about the science of politics, because he was able to answer all their questions properly. Feeling very happy, first they took the boy back to his mother. The queen was extremely happy to see her child and bathed him very nicely, smearing his body with perfume and decorating him with auspicious marks. She then dressed him with beautiful clothes and many valuable ornaments. After this the teachers took Prahlada to see the king Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada offered his respects as soon as he arrived in the presence of his father. Seeing his son prostrated at his feet, Hiranyakashipu blessed him and embraced him with both arms, taking great pleasure in this. He then took the child on his lap and quenching him in tears of joy he said with pleasure smile: “Ah Prahlada, my dear child, may you live long! Please tell me whatever good things you like best among the teachings you have learned from your gurus?” After being questioned in this way by his father, Prahlada thought: ‘These two sons of Shukrachariya are not bona fide teachers. The scriptures say that a sad-guru, a real guru, must have two qualities. The first is shrotriyam  – that is, he must know the scriptures very well. The second is brahma-nishtha – he must have full faith in God. It can be said that Shanda and Amarka, the two teachers, know the scriptures very well. But they have no faith in God. On the contrary, they are very attached to material objects and therefore they cannot be considered real gurus.”[1]

Many times you ask: “Who is a real guru?” Usually at that time my question is: “Who is a real disciple?” So we all have questions and topics to discuss. But here these two qualities are mentioned: shrotriyam brahma-nishtham. Shrotriyam – knowledgeable about the shastras; and brahma-nishtham – no other engagement, but commitment to God.[2] That means no private life anymore. There are many-many other qualities and requirements, formulated by ancient tradition or by the followers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. But if from these two qualities we have to choose, which is more important? The knowledge of the shastras or the deep faith in God? Deep faith is much more important. Because there is no end of the shastras. It’s unlimited! Of course there must be a certain level of information, but ultimately there must be this divine quality of commitment and realization.

Generally people think that ‘If I’m knowledgeable, I will achieve more respect.’ Therefore you collect some little knowledge here and there and you try to show it to others. But this type of knowledge is just like the butter – the less you have it the more you spread it. Later on, when you are a little bit in a more ripe stage of your spiritual path, you are not interested anymore in collecting too much knowledge, much less in spreading it. And this was very beautifully shown by Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaj. His young sannyas disciples were giving extremely proficient lectures – eloquent, shining, brilliant, full of stories and quotations, and this and that… While once I visited a temple, where he gave a lecture. And you know, devotes after the lecture usually discuss what they have heard. This time it also happened, they said: “Ah! Gurumaharaj said that if we enter the temple, we should try to offer our respects in a humble way to the deities.” And I thought: ‘No proficiency, no extra stories, no quotations; something very simple – try to offer loving respect to the Lord.’ But is that an essential message, beyond all the possible brilliant lectures? I think it’s very much essential. So, if we have to choose between these two – knowledge or faith – better we choose faith. Because if you have faith, knowledge will be given to you. If you have knowledge, even that little-little faith that you have you might lose it very easily.

(to be continued)


[1] From B.B.Tirtha Maharaj’s book The holy life of Prahlada

[2]  Referring to Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12


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