The Captain of Our Ship
(Srila Prabhupada and disciples on a morning walk—click to enlarge)

"We think that we have met Your Goodness by the will of providence, just so that we may accept you as captain of the ship for those who desire to cross the difficult ocean of Kali, which deteriorates all the good qualities of a human being."

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.22)

"It is not possible to go back to Godhead in one life, but in the human form one should at least understand the goal of life and begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is said that the human form is a great boon because it is the most suitable boat for crossing over the nescience ocean. The spiritual master is considered to be the most able captain in that boat, and the information from the scriptures is the favorable wind for floating over the ocean of nescience. The human being who does not take advantage of all these facilities in this life is committing suicide. Therefore one who does not begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the human form of life loses his life to the influence of the illusory energy."

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 3.15.24, Purport)

"This human form of body is a most valuable boat, and the spiritual master is the captain, guru-karṇadhāram, to guide the boat in plying across the ocean of nescience. The instruction of Kṛṣṇa is a favorable breeze. One must use all these facilities to cross over the ocean of nescience. Since the spiritual master is the captain, one must serve the spiritual master very sincerely so that by his mercy one will be able to get the mercy of the Supreme Lord.

A significant word here is acyuta-balaḥ. The spiritual master is certainly very merciful to his disciples, and consequently by satisfying him a devotee gets strength from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore says, guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja: (CC Madhya 19.151) one must first please the spiritual master, and then one automatically pleases Kṛṣṇa and gets the strength with which to cross the ocean of nescience. If one seriously desires to return home, back to Godhead, one must therefore become strong enough by pleasing the spiritual master, for thus one gets the weapon with which to conquer the enemy, and one also gets the grace of Kṛṣṇa."

(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.15.45, Purport)

"Just it is very difficult to cross over the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, but if you have got a very good vehicle, ship or anything else, you can very nicely cross over, similarly, the example is given that this material life is a great ocean, and this human body is a good boat. This human body is a good boat for crossing this ocean. And the spiritual master is a good captain. You see? And the instruction of Lord Kṛṣṇa, or a similar instruction, Vedic instruction, are favorable wind. Just like if you want to cross the Atlantic Ocean from New York, if the wind is blowing westward, then your journey becomes very favorable. So the favorable wind is blowing by this instruction of the Vedas, and there are many stalwart ācāryas who are just like the captain, and this human body is just like a good ship.

Now, the living soul who is seated in such a favorable condition, if he does not cross over the material ocean, then he is making suicide. He is making suicide. Sa eva ātma-han. So we have to take advantage. We have to take advantage of this favorable condition to end this miserable material existence. And if anyone does not take the advantage, then he is committing suicide. That is the version of Bhāgavata. Or... Either he is personally committing suicide or any civilization which is checking this process, that is also violent, the most virulent type of violence, because people are misled. So this is the idea of the scriptures, that human life should be utilized only for spiritual self-realization."

(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, New York, May 30, 1966)

Prabhupada: If you are actually inquisitive to understand the highest truth, then you must surrender yourself to the guru. Not that by experience I go on, go on, go on, being baffled here, there, here, there, then automatically... No. You may not come even to the right path by such experience. Just like on an ocean, if you do not know direction, the path ship, how you will direct your ship this way, that way? You can go on this way, sometimes this way, that way, this way, that way, then you will be lost. You will be lost. All your endeavors will be simply baffled. You must have the direction; therefore the captain keeps that, what is called, compass: 'Just here I am going to the this side.' Actually, when I was coming...

Devotee: On the ship?

Prabhupada: Yes. They were calculating... immediately, 'Now we are here. Now we are in Mediterranean, Italy, this that.' I was asking. I was very inquisitive. By the compass and by the map, they are coming to the right direction. The captain's business is this. They have got different types of maps, and the compass. Everything is there. The captain ordered, 'Now turn the wheel this way. Stop the wheel this way... Just go on this way.' "

(Srila Prabhupada Philosophy Discussion on Soren Kierkegaard)

Devotee: So if we as devotees in Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement are transcendental to these modes, does that mean that we can...

Prabhupada: You are not transcendental. You are trying to be transcendental. You should always remember that 'We are trying to be transcendental.' When you are actually on transcendental state, you will not be affected by any modes of material nature. Therefore you should be very cautious and careful. Just like on the sea, you are in the boat. You are transcendental. But the boat may..., can merge into the water any moment unless you are very carefully plying it. At any moment. You are not in the water, you are safe on the boat, but if you do not carefully ply your boat, then you can fall down at any moment. The comparison is given, nṛ-deham ādyam sulabhaṁ sudurlabhaṁ (SB 11.20.17). Sulabhaṁ. This human form of body is just like a very nice boat to cross over this ocean of ignorance, and the guru is the pilot, or the captain. And the śāstras are favorable wind. Just like if you are going this direction, if the wind is blowing this..., then automatically your boat is pushed. And behind the boat, what is called, the boat, that thing? He takes the...

Devotee (2): The oar, rudder...

Devotee (3): The oarsman. Oarsmen.

Prabhupada: Oarsman, all of them are. Chief?

Devotee (2): The steersman or the pilot?

Prabhupada: Yes, the chief man. So the guru is there. He is the chief man, giving direction, or the captain. And others are plying, and the boat is also strong, and the wind is also favorable. In this circumstances, if you cannot cross, then you make suicide. The śāstras are there. That is favorable wind. You get the way. And the spiritual master is directing, 'Do like this.' And you have got a nice boat, and you are plying. Now cross over. Very big ocean in the material world. Just see the sky, how big it is. So we have to cross this material sky, penetrate the covering, then go to the spiritual sky. Then you are safe. Paras tasmāt tu bhāvaḥ anyaḥ 'vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ (BG 8.20). That place, even after destruction of this whole material world, that is safe. So we have to go there, plying the boat.

(Srila Prabhupada Morning Walk, Perth, May 11, 1975)

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