Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

Question of Paramananda: I have heard that Sadhu Maharaj had said that being thankful creates distance. Does it mean that when one achieves love, loving relationship with the Supreme Lord, his thankfulness transforms into something else?

Tirtha Maharaj: Very nice question, but let us analyze the first part a little bit more. Again this analysis! You see, the answer is very fallen, very insignificant. Analysis… But anyway we have to analyze. Because it is said that there are three types of devotees: the beginners, the intermediate and the great ones. And if we meet anyone, we can be on the same platform, he can be superior, or he can be more neophyte than us. In the material sphere if you meet people you lick upwards and you kick downwards. But we should not apply the same method in spiritual dealings – that we try to flatter those who are ahead of us and we try to kick  those who come behind us. Every connection should be based on appreciation, trust and love. And again in the material sphere if you start to glorify someone he will accept. “Yes. Yes, yes, you see my greatness. Correct.” But if you start to glorify a real pure-hearted devotee, he will say: “No, no, no, what do you speak… It’s not me.” And this is real humility, it is not a show. Nevertheless we shouldn’t forget that he is superior and I am coming later. And if a superior says “O my brother!” and embraces you, you should not say: “Yes, my dear!” Because still we are not on the same level. So whatever is extended to us, whatever is given to us from a higher authority, we should accept it nicely. If this is his gentle embrace, then we let ourselves be embraced. But do not pat him on the shoulder back. Still at least in the inner core of our heart we should maintain some knowledge of distance.

Once Gurudev was playing chess with one of his disciples. And the disciple won. So, it is a very interesting moment.

Yamuna: I thought Gurudev is unbeatable!

Tirtha Maharaj: Basically yes, yet sometimes he let the devotees win. But of course if a guru plays chess with you, this is not simply a game, this is a chance to instruct you. With this disciple he had such an intimate connection that the disciple could win over the guru. But then immediately Gurudev said: “Do not forget who taught you to play chess!” Is this a good instruction? It is a very good instruction! Because in one sense – and forget about the chess – the victory of the disciple, this is the glory of the master. Like the example of Lokanath Goswami and Narottam das Thakur. If Narottam das Thakur invited sixty thousand people under the banner of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, this is the glory of his master, who had only one or few disciples. So in one sense the disciple is greater than the master, right, because he has many followers. But of course a real disciple will never think like this. “Gurudev’s mercy. It’s not my achievement, it’s not my service, he is acting through me.” This is called dedication. “Whatever service and achievement comes to me – this is not mine but my authority’s.” So if any superior is very gentle, very open to us, I would not say be reserved” – no, accept what is given to you, but don’t forget about your position. It is better if we have natural atmosphere with decent mood – when the mood is relaxed and still it is surcharged with polite appreciation.

The second part of your question was if our feeling of gratitude transforms into something else connected with Krishna. Just read the “Bhagavatam”, you will see what kind of transformation is there. When the gopis are chastising Krishna I don’t really see any sign of gratitude, they are heavily chastising Him. And I think that the power of ladies to chastise men comes from that source. So dear brothers, husbands, this is our daily bread – just to remind you about Goloka Vrindavan. From any thing, from any kind of situation you can get spiritual benefit. So you can be very grateful to your wives to remind you.

But to be a little more serious: gratitude is there until a certain limit. Because anyway gratitude creates some distance. Until there is the knowledge about the majesty of the Lord, this aishvarya-gyata, we can be grateful. But the closer you go, the more you forget. Here buddhi-yoga is the basic approach, right? But if our priti, our affection will erase our intelligence, this is the real way to approach, to come closer. We cannot take part in an ecstatic dance with some feeling of gratitude. There is no calculation in ecstasy. Therefore it is said: “First use your brain, then lose your brain.” But when the dance is over we come back to the normal state. And the best transformation is if our gratitude grows into more affection. Yet gratitude is a natural response of a human being for the divine mercy. If Krishna is merciful then we are grateful. It is a natural transaction, it is good.

You try to think the opposite way, put yourself in the position of the respected person. You enter the room, because you want to enjoy the company of the others, you enter the room and everybody just stops and trembles. It is not very convenient. Or you want to ask the personal opinion of someone and he starts with some long list of glorifying prayers to you.  Sometimes you need simple human dealings. But the invitation comes from above. If we are invited to dance, we dance. If we are instructed to control ourselves, we control ourselves. This is dedication.

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