“Everything is covered in this book Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam, and if you read it minutely you must stand in the plane of dedication.”
It is necessary to complete the first lesson, the second lesson, and the third lesson, then it is possible to understand the fourth lesson. Śrīla Guru Mahārāj gave those first three lessons in Śrī Śrī Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam [Life-Nectar of the Surrendered Souls] as well as the fourth. If you read this book carefully, you will get everything.
Śrīla Guru Mahārāj has given there the meaning of śaraṇāgati, in particular in this following śloka:
bhagavad-bhaktitaḥ sarvam ity utsṛjya vidher api
kaiṅkaryaṁ kṛṣṇa-pādaikāśrayatvaṁ śaraṇāgatiḥ
[“Being governed by the faith that all success is achieved by serving the Supreme Lord, to abandon servitude to even scriptural injunctions and take exclusive refuge in the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in every time, place, and circumstance, is known as śaraṇāgati, unconditional surrender.”]
What is śaraṇāgati? It is Bhagavad-bhaktitaḥ sarvam: it is not even necessary to serve any other god or demigod; through only the service to Kṛṣṇa we can get everything. Therefore we must take shelter at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. Service to Kṛṣṇa can give us everything and this type of faith is called śaraṇāgati. If you can memorise one śloka and put that in your heart, then from this one śloka you will get everything given in any scripture.
I tried before to know in one sentence what is śaraṇāgati. We know that śaraṇāgati is surrender, but that is not sufficient. Therefore I asked Śrīla Guru Mahārāj. He replied, “Have you not read Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam?”
I said, “Yes Mahārāj, I have, but is the explanation there?” Then he quoted this same śloka, and this is the main thing.
Devotee: I heard that Śrīla Guru Mahārāj explained the difference between śaraṇāgati and ātma-nivedanam. Please explain to us what that difference is.
Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj: There are six kinds of śaraṇāgati. In Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam this is explained and in each case there are examples and expressions of the feelings of other devotees. If you read this book you can understand. There Śrīla Guru Mahārāj explains the subject very clearly and very nicely.
Devotee: What is the meaning of ātma-nivedanam?
Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj: The following verse describes the six kinds of symptoms of śaraṇāgati. Ātma-nikṣepa means ātma-nivedanam.
ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ prātikūlya-vivarjanam
rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāso goptṛtve varaṇaṁ tathā
ātma-nikṣepa kārpaṇye ṣaḍ-vidhā śaraṇāgatiḥ
[The six limbs of surrender are:
1) To accept everything favourable for devotion to Kṛṣṇa.
2) To reject everything unfavourable for devotion to Kṛṣṇa.
3) To be confident that Kṛṣṇa will grant His protection.
4) To embrace Kṛṣṇa’s guardianship.
5) To offer one’s self unto Him.
6) To consider oneself lowly and bereft.]
Devotee: What about nava-vidhā bhakti, the nine principal forms of devotion?
Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj: There are nine kinds of devotional practices: śravaṇam, kīrtanam, Viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam, pāda-sevanam, archanam, vandanam, dāsyam, sakhyam, and ātma-nivedanam [Hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord, constantly remembering the Lord, serving the Lord’s lotus feet, serving Him as a servant, worshipping Him, offering prayers, serving Him as a friend, and completely offering the Lord one’s very self.]. They are also included in śaraṇāgati, unconditional self-surrender. But śaraṇāgati is the first thing—and śaraṇāgati is the last thing. If you want to enter into transcendental knowledge, you must first take shelter of śaraṇāgati. This is the first lesson and this is the last lesson.
Everything is covered in this book Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam, and if you read it minutely you must stand in the plane of dedication. Many examples are given there from the scriptures as well as from the devotees’ lives. It is divided into the six kinds of śaraṇāgati, part by part. It is a very valuable and nice book, no doubt, and everything is there including this verse spoken by Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu:
nāhaṁ vipro na cha nara-patir nāpi vaiśyo na śūdro
nāhaṁ varṇī na cha gṛha-patir no vana-stho yatir vā
gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ
[“I am not a priest, a king, a merchant, or labourer (brāhmaṇ, kṣatriya, vaiśya, or śūdra); nor am I a student, a householder, a retired householder, or a mendicant (brahmachārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, or sannyāsī). I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Lord of the gopīs, who is the personification of the fully expanded (eternally self-revealing) nectarean ocean that brims with the totality of divine ecstasy.”]
Devotee: Is it necessary to have gone through Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and Chaitanya-charitāmṛta before reading Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam?
Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj: No, it is not necessary. This is the first book of reading—and this is the last book of reading. Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā is also no doubt the first book of reading and the last book of reading, but there are many things there mixed in with bhakti.
In Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam is found only bhakti, and nothing else. But in the Gītā is some description about karma, yoga, jñān, and many other things; that is why everybody likes Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā. The karmīs like it, the terrorists like Gītā, the yogīs like Gītā, Mahātmā Gandhi liked it, Jawaharlal liked it—everybody likes Bhagavad-gītā. The reason is that they each receive something from it to fulfil their own purpose. But in Śrī Śrī Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam whatever is included is only for the purpose of devotion: the relationship between Kṛṣṇa and the jīva. It is a very pure devotional book.
Śrīla Swāmī Mahārāj said to his sister, “This Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam is a very important and nice book. You have money, so please you spend some money for the printing of this Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam.” Her name was Bhāvinī Didi. We called her Pishima or ‘Madan’s Mother’ and it was she who subsequently gave the money for the first printing.
Another of the very high type of ślokas there, is the following verse by Śrī Kulaśekhar:
nāsthā dharme na vasu-nichaye naiva kāmopabhoge
yad yad bhavyaṁ bhavatu bhagavan pūrva-karmānurūpam
etat prārthyaṁ mama bahu-mataṁ janma-janmāntare ’pi
tvat pādāmbhoruha-yuga-gatā niśchalā bhaktir astu
[“O Lord, I have no faith in religion, economic development, or sense enjoyment. May all these come to pass as they are ordained according to my previous karma. My earnest prayer is that birth after birth I may have unflinching devotion to Your lotus feet.”]
It is not very difficult to understand what Kṛṣṇa-bhakti is, but what is necessary is the mood of surrender. If you surrender then you can understand everything. But if you do not fully surrender, then many difficulties will come. There is no difficulty for the surrendered soul.
Related reading: “New Year’s Resolution: Full Surrender”