Follow the Angels is indeed one of the most sought-after publications in the Vaiṣṇava world and has enthused many sincere souls who are in search of the highest plane of truth. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the most exalted scripture ever to see the light of day, assures us that if one wants to make advancement in spiritual life then it is necessary to follow in the footsteps of the devotees of the Supreme Lord.
bhāvanti puruṣa loke mad-bhaktas tvaṁ anuvrataḥ
bhāvan me khalu bhaktānāṁ sarveśāṁ pratirūpa-dhṛk
Those who follow your example will naturally become My pure devotees. You are the best example of My devotee, and others should follow in your footsteps. (Bhāg. 7.10.21)
In Follow the Angels the author Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, the illustrious Guardian of Devotion, guides the readers on the path of dedication shown by our predecessor ācāryas such as Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda. To follow the path of the previous ācāryas is indeed the way of success in spiritual life, whereas to obscure the path of the previous ācāryas or to create a method of spiritual practice of our own fancy certainly implies failure. In today’s Vaiṣṇava world there are certainties and there are doubts and confusions as well. One will find, when reading Follow the Angels, that Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is the proper voice of authority to confirm certainties, to clear all doubts and to remove confusion that arises from deviation and bad association.
In Part One of Follow the Angels Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja discusses the Kṛṣṇa Conception as the highest plane of truth attainable for a living entity. The basis of this conception is that Absolute beauty, affection, love and harmony are the highest goals ever discovered and that these exist in Kṛṣṇa to the fullest degree. It is Kṛṣṇa alone who can satisfy the innermost hankering of the soul. “Awake, arise! Search for your fortune!”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja explains that this requires a proper connection with a real agent or guru who has a direct connection with Kṛṣṇa. The guru assures our future in spiritual life. The guru and Vaiṣṇavas are the agents of the Supreme Lord and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja explains that such agents are higher than the scripture and that all success can be achieved by service to such higher agents. One must acquire an earnest desire to know the truth, which in due course will mature into pure spiritual attraction. Then a real taste for the truth will manifest-will be awakened in our heart. And all attraction for sense pleasure, fame, name, and money will vanish. When this spontaneous taste for the truth awakens within us, we are safe, but not prior to that. In Kali-yuga the service of the Holy Name has especially been recommended, but first the Name must be taken from a bona-fide guru, and it should be chanted in the association of the sādhu or saint. In the acme of dedication there is only love – vraja–bhāva, and there is preaching. Preaching is saṅkīrtana – the most effective way of chanting. Preaching is real service to the Holy Name, not just counting beads. These and many more illuminations on the Kṛṣṇa conception are revealed in part one of Follow the Angels.
From Part Two of Follow the Angels, the title of the book has been drawn. Here we find that we have come to the fulfillment of our innermost demand, but a measure of caution is given, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” In Part Two, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja advises that one should follow the angels and not make offenses by rushing ahead when one is not actually qualified.
One must go step by step. If we omit any step, we will be nowhere. We should be mindful of every step, and automatically that will take us in the right direction. Don’t ever try to run very hurriedly. Try to remain a little down and back. That will forcibly take you to the goal, naturally. The higher Vaiṣṇavas will take you there. You can’t go there on your own.
For the greatest success in our spiritual life a proper posing in the relativity of the Absolute Truth is required. Don’t try to rush ahead-do not become an offender. Stay a little distant and below. That will draw the greatest fortune for you. Pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge, try to keep at a respectful distance. Keep the highest goal always above your head. Don’t rush towards that position. It is not that cheap. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says:
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, has especially given this caution, Pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has distributed what He experienced in His deep trance, but we must be ready to pay for it. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura came for that purpose. Pūjala rāga-patha – don’t go hurriedly. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Don’t commit offenses. This is the highest prospect of your life after many lifetimes. We should always move expressly towards the goal of having the temperament of a servant. We should not venture to tread on the highest plane. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Don’t be a fool; become an angel. Try to follow the angels.
This is a fragment of the valuable advice given by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja in part two of Follow the Angels.
In Part Three, Higher Talks, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja reveals the highest ideal of guru-tattva: Gaura-Gadādhara in mādhurya-rasa, and Rādhārāṇī in kṛṣṇa-līlā. If we raise our head a little higher and look up, then we shall find Rādhārāṇī and Gurudeva. It is Rādhārāṇī who is instrumental in accomplishing the function of Gurudeva from behind. The source of grace for the guru is coming from the original source of service and love. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says:
We are requested not to see guru as limited in his ordinary personification, but as the transparent mediator of the highest function in his line. If only our vision is deep, we can see that according to the depth of our śraddhā, our vision, guru-tattva is very peculiar, very noble, very broad, wide and very deep.
As an example of the higher vision of guru, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja relates how Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura saw Gadādhara Paṇḍita and Svarūpa-dāmodara in Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Gaura-kiśora Dāsa Bābājī respectively. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja then carries his readers away with an unparalleled description of Gadādhara Paṇḍita as a shadow of Mahāprabhu running after Him as if his heart had been stolen. Like a shadow, he is moving after Mahāprabhu. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja compares Gadādhara Paṇḍita to Rukmini.
So when Mahāprabhu plunders the spirit of Rādhārāṇī, the rebellious vāma nature, what remains is comparable to Rukmiṇī – a passive seer, without any power to assert, only an onlooker. An onlooker, tolerating everything, a very pitiable condition that elicits kindness and sympathy from everyone.
This and other higher talks one will find in part three of Follow the Angels.
It is now twenty-two years on since Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja departed from this world. His flag flies high above Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha in Navadvīpa-dhāma attracting all sincere souls to embrace the lotus feet of Śrī Śrī Guru-Gaurāṅga-Gāndharva-Govinda-sundara, the predominating Deities of the maṭha, and the full-fledged Kṛṣṇa conception that was the life and soul of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The mantle of the sublime teachings of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has spread far and wide across the planet and many devout followers of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja worldwide have taken shelter of the transcendental rays of bliss emanating from his lotus feet.
It is with great happiness that Gosai Publishers presents this publication in its second edition and we trust that it will be well received by the devotional community for it contains the most valuable wisdom for progress in our spiritual lives.Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is renowned throughout the world as a saint and self-realized pure devotee of the Supreme Lord of the highest order – we therefore bow down to his lotus feet and humbly beg forgiveness for any mistake that we may have made in our attempt to serve him.
Svāmī B. G. Narasiṅgha
19th September 2010
Jardines Govinda, Mexico