His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada
"Personally, I have no hope for any direct service for the coming crores of births of the sojourn of my life, but I am confident that some day or other I shall be delivered from this mire of delusion in which I am at present so deeply sunk. Therefore let me with all my earnestness pray at the lotus feet of my divine master to allow me to suffer the lot for which I am destined due to my past misdoings, but to let me have this power of recollection: that I am nothing but a tiny servant of the Almighty Absolute Godhead, realized through the unflinching mercy of my divine master. Let me therefore bow down at his lotus feet with all the humility at my command."
Srila Prabhupada's Vyasa Puja Offering, 1936
Guru-puja is typically offered during the morning program just after the japa period. The scheduling of guru-puja reflects Srila Prabhupada's personal program, as he established it in ISKCON temples. After Mangala-arati, Srila Prabhupada would take his morning walk during the japa period. He would return to the temple afterwards, at which time the devotees would greet him with a big kirtana and guru-puja. Srila Prabhupada would often circumambulate the temple during guru-puja, after which he would give a class. After class, the altar would be opened, and he would greet the Deities. On some occasions, Srila Prabhupada would first greet the Deities, then guru-puja would be offered, followed by class. Preferably, however, guru-puja is not performed in front of the Deities when the altar is open.
The practice of performing daily guru-puja is a unique feature of Srila Prabhupada's morning program, and it is not practiced in other Gaudiya Matha temples. We know that Srila Prabhupada placed great emphasis on following and remembering one's guru, but the program of guru-puja he instituted is almost akin to a daily vyasa-puja. We must consider the possibility that Srila Prabhupada was not simply establishing a daily practice that was to be extended to 'regular' diksa gurus ever after. Rather, Srila Prabhupada may have been establishing this level of worship to the Sampradaya Acarya. Just as his Spiritual Master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, was a Sampradaya Acarya, not just a diksa or acarya, so Srila Prabhupada is not simply a diksa guru and Founder/Acarya of ISKCON. This level of daily worship should be considered in light of who Srila Prabhupada actually was. It may not be simply guru-puja, but may actually be puja to the Sampradaya Acarya.
Guru-puja is comprised of a full arati and kirtana. After arati items and a garland are offered to Srila Prabhupada's murti or picture, each individual offers flower petals and prostrated obeisances in front of Srila Prabhupada. Petals are usually placed at Srila Prabhupada's feet rather than tossed through the air to him, and the devotees may touch Srila Prabhupada's feet.
The same program of kirtana songs is followed as for Mangala-arati, except that the Sri Gurv-astaka is replaced with Sri Guru Vandana. In most temples, the guru-puja starts off with Sri Guru Vandana, and is followed by the traditional kirtana songs. As in the case of Sri Gurv-astaka, only the standard tune should be sung for Sri Guru Vandana, since this prayer is for the glorification of the Spiritual Master and Srila Prabhupada has given us the tune he preferred. Guru-puja should last for approximately 20 minutes total.
Guru Vandana sung by Prabhavishnu Swami
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SRI GURU VANDANA|
bando mui savadhana mate
jahara prasade bhai, e bhava toriya jai,
krsna-prapti hoy jaha ha'te
The lotus feet of our spiritual master are the only way by which we can attain pure devotional service. I bow to his lotus feet with great awe and reverence. By his grace one can cross the ocean of material suffering and obtain the mercy of Krsna.
guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya,
ar na koriho mane asa
sri-guru-carane rati, ei se uttama-gati,
je prasade pure sarva asa
My only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his lotus mouth. Attachment to his lotus feet is the perfection that fulfills all desires.
cakhu-dan dilo jei, janme janme prabhu sei,
divya-jnan hrde prokasito
prema-bhakti jaha hoite, avidya vinasa jate
vede gay jahara carito
He opens my darkened eyes and fills my heart with transcendental knowledge. He is my Lord birth after birth. From him ecstatic prema emanates; by him ignorance is destroyed. The Vedic scriptures sing of his character.
sri-guru karuna-sindhu, adhama janara bandhu,
lokanath lokera jivana
ha ha prabhu koro doya, deho more pada-chaya,
ebe jasa ghusuk tribhuvana
Our spiritual master is the ocean of mercy, the friend of the poor, and the lord and master of the devotees. O master! Be merciful unto me. Give me the shade of your lotus feet. Your fame is spread all over the three worlds.