This verse is very instructive, since it indicates the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple. The disciple or conditioned soul is put into this darkest region of ignorance and therefore is entangled in the material existence of sense gratification. It is very difficult to get out of this entanglement and attain freedom, but if one is fortunate enough to get the association of a spiritual master like Kapila Muni or His representative, then by his grace one can be delivered from the mire of ignorance. The spiritual master is therefore worshiped as one who delivers the disciple from the mire of ignorance with the light of the torch of knowledge. The word pāragam is very significant. pāragam refers to one who can take the disciple to the other side. This side is conditioned life; the other side is the life of freedom. The spiritual master takes the disciple to the other side by opening his eyes with knowledge. We are suffering simply because of ignorance. By the instruction of the spiritual master, the darkness of ignorance is removed, and thus the disciple is enabled to go to the side of freedom. It is stated in Bhagavad-gītā that after many, many births one surrenders to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, if, after many, many births, one is able to find a bona fide spiritual master and surrender to such a bona fide representative of Kṛṣṇa, he can be taken to the side of light.
The bona fide spiritual master is a true Vedāntist, for he actually knows Vedānta and the Vedas and understands the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. The word veda means "knowledge," and anta means "last phase." There are different types of knowledge. We are interested in ordinary knowledge for economic benefit, but that is not actual knowledge. That is the art of livelihood. One may study to be an electrician and earn his livelihood by repairing electric lines. This kind of knowledge is called śilpa jñāna. Real knowledge, however, is Vedic knowledge, knowing oneself, what one is and what God is and understanding one's relationship with God, and one's duty.
One who is searching after knowledge is called jñānavān. Knowledge begins with the inquiry athāto brahma jijñāsā: "what is Brahman?" Knowledge also begins by understanding the threefold miseries of the material world - ādhyātmika, ādhibhautika and ādhidaivika. We are suffering from miseries caused by other living entities and acts of nature as well as from miseries arising from the body and mind themselves. The soul is aloof from the body and mind, but he suffers due to material contamination. We have no control over these threefold miseries. They are controlled by Kṛṣṇa's maidservant, Goddess Durgā, who is material nature. She is not independent of Kṛṣṇa. However, she is so powerful that she can create and maintain. Prakṛti, nature, can be very unkind. Mother Durgā is often portrayed as chastising demons by piercing them with a trident.
Those who are learned and intelligent look to the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead for relief from the threefold miseries of material existence. Although this material world is nothing but darkness, people are very proud of their eyes. They are always saying, "Can you show me God?" The answer to that is: "Have you the eyes to see God?" Why is the emphasis placed on seeing? Certainly, God can be seen, as stated in Brahma-saṁhitā (5.38), premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena: "Govinda (Kṛṣṇa) is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed by the pulp of love."
If we are devotees, lovers of God, the ointment of love will clear our eyes. In order to see God, we have to cleanse our eyes by wiping away the cataracts of material contamination. Although we may be eager to see God, we cannot see Him with these material eyes. Not only can we not see Him, but we cannot understand Him, although His name is there. Understanding God means first of all understanding His name. Therefore from the beginning we should chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. God is not different from His name. Kṛṣṇa's name and Kṛṣṇa's person are the same. "Absolute" means that Kṛṣṇa's name, form, place, dress, pastimes and everything are nondifferent from Him. Kṛṣṇa is present in His name, but because we have no love for Him, we cannot see Him.
Sanātana Gosvāmī was a great learned scholar, and he was called a paṇḍita, which indicates that he was a learned brāhmaṇa. When Sanātana Gosvāmī approached Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, he said, "The people in my neighborhood are calling me a paṇḍita, and I am very unhappy because of this." Caitanya Mahāprabhu asked, "Why are you dissatisfied?" Sanātana Gosvāmī replied, "I am such a poor paṇḍita that I do not even know the goal of life. I do not even know what is beneficial for me. I am simply being carried away by sense gratification." In this way, Sanātana Gosvāmī approached Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He did not approach Him to get some gold or some medicine. He went to find out his real self-interest. This is the real purpose for approaching a guru.
Devahūti approached Lord Kapiladeva in the same way. She said, "My dear Kapila, You have come as my son, but You are my guru because You can inform me how I can cross the ocean of nescience, which is the material world." Thus one who feels the need to cross the dark ocean of nescience, which is material existence, requires a guru. It is not the guru's task to supply gold and medicine. Now it has become a fashion to keep a guru as if he were a dog or a cat. This is of no use. We must inquire about that portion of God's creation which is beyond this darkness. The Upaniṣads and Bhagavad-gītā describe another world, beyond this material nature. According to Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (15.6):
- na tad bhāsayate sūryo
- na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
- yad gatvā na nivartante
- tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
"That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world."
It is not possible for us to go to that paravyoma by material means. It is impossible to penetrate the material universe unless one understands Kṛṣṇa. One can be enlightened by the mercy of God because Kṛṣṇa Himself comes to give us information. If He does not come personally, He sends His devotee, or He leaves behind Him Bhagavad-gītā. However, we are so foolish that we do not take advantage of them. We do not take advantage of His devotee, who hankers to give this knowledge, sacrificing everything. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said:
- brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
- guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
"The fallen, conditioned living entity, trapped by the external energy, loiters in the material world, but if by good fortune he meets a bona fide representative of the Lord, and if he takes advantage of such a guru, he receives the seed of devotional service." (CC Madhya 19.151)
The seed of devotional service is received by a most fortunate person. Those who are cultivating bhakti in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are the most fortunate people in the world. By Kṛṣṇa's mercy one can receive the bhakti-latā-bīja, the seed of devotional service. Unless one is free from the reactions of sin, one cannot understand bhakti or Bhagavān. Therefore we must act piously by giving up illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. If we lead a pious life, we can understand God. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is engaged in training people to this end so that their lives will be successful.