Ecclesiastical Guru! Reality or Illusion?
By Puru das adhikari
Paramartha-gurasrayo vyavaharika-gurvadiparityagenapi kartavyah
"One should not accept a spiritual master based on hereditary, social or ecclesiastical conventions. Such a professional guru should be rejected. One must accept a qualified spiritual master, who can help one advance toward the ultimate goal of life, krsna prema (Bhakti-sandharba, annucheda 210)
Ecclesiastical committees cannot and do not establish who is a real guru. The words of self-realized souls, the examples of self-effulgent acaryas, and the revealed scriptures establish such standards. We must try to understand what is actually in our spiritual self-interest, and what may be a deception. We should try to understand Vaisnava aparadha, and how to avoid it at all cost. To do this we must first understand who is a Vaishnava and who is not.
To distinguish a diamond from a broken piece of glass you must have some personal qualification to discriminate the difference, or you will be cheated. Therefore, to get a clearer understanding of guru tattva you should study the Sri Cc. Adi lila, Volume One, and The Nectar of Instruction carefully. If you are not properly equipped to discriminate in this matter you can be deceived. Krsna says to Arjuna "Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight." (Bg.4.42) Similarly, if we are armed with transcendental knowledge we can make clearer decisions concerning guru-tattva. . . ..
Religious Institutions do not necessarily generate real spiritual leadership. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has written:
The church that has the best chance of survival in this damned world is that of atheism under the convenient guise of theism. The churches have always proved the staunchest upholders of the grossest form of worldliness from which even the worst of non-ecclesiastical criminals are found to recoil.
It is not from any deliberate opposition to the ordained clergy that these observations are made. The original purpose of the established churches of the world may not always be objectionable. But no stable religious arrangement for instructing the masses has yet been successful. The Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in pursuance of the teachings of the scriptures enjoins all absence of conventionalism for the teachers of the eternal religion. It does not follow that the mechanical adoption of the unconventional life by any person will make him a fit teacher of religion. Regulation is necessary for controlling the inherent worldliness of conditional souls.
But no mechanical regulation has any value, even for such a purpose. The
bona-fide teacher of religion is neither any product of nor the favourer of,
any mechanical system. In his hands no system has likewise, the chance of
degenerating into a lifeless arrangement. The mere pursuit of fixed doctrines
and fixed liturgies cannot hold a person to the true spirit of doctrine or
.Srila Prabhupada's vision was not bound by institutional considerations. Even though he established temples and communities he did not "Institutionalize" Vaisnavism. First of all there cannot be any spiritual life without a bonafide understanding of guru tattva. While His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gave very clear explanations of guru-tattva during his lifetime. However since his departure some of his former secretaries and students (ISKCON GBC) have in their confusion and due to their lack of realization, flip-flopped on the issue (guru-tattva) several times. Since 1977 they have been twisting the Gaudiya siddhanta of guru-tattva like a pretzel. First they foisted zonal acarya, then in l988 misunderstood "re-initiation" and now have accepted a rubber stamp political appointment system for guru. Does such confusion indicate any real understanding of what Srila Prabhupada's vision actually was? Simply read Nectar of Instruction to understand what His Divine Grace's "personal vision" was. Srila Prabhupada shared the vision of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. We should not try to separate Srila Prabhupada from the rest of our guru parampara. ISKCON is not meant to be an entity separate and apart from the rest of the Gaudiya Sampradaya philosophically, even if it is managed by its GBC.
The Vaishnava world is not limited to ISKCON, especially as it is guided by GBC ecclesiastical resolutions. The end result of their resolutions have simply been to deviate ISKCON from our Gaudiya line with regard to guru-tattva,jiva-tattva and their tolerance and active participation in Vaisnava aparadhas, since l977 and even before.They are also not very clear on nama-tattva, on any tattva for that matter. . ISKCON certainly used to have Srila Prabhupada's personal stamp upon it, but his real mood of love and affection has long been erased by GBC bureaucracy and lack of anugatya (proper guidance) and higher association of self realized souls, since 1977.
. . . "The Supreme Lord Sri
Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in pursuance of the teachings of the scriptures enjoins
all absence of conventionalism for the teachers of the eternal religion. It
does not follow that the mechanical adoption of the unconventional life by any
person will make him a fit teacher of religion. Regulation is necessary for
controlling the inherent worldliness of conditional souls.
But no mechanical regulation has any value, even for such a purpose. The bona-fide teacher of religion is neither any product of nor the favorer of, any mechanical system. In his hands no system has likewise, the chance of degenerating into a lifeless arrangement. The mere pursuit of fixed doctrines and fixed liturgies cannot hold a person to the true spirit of doctrine or liturgy.
The idea of an organised church in an intelligible form, indeed, marks the close of the living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dikes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivances. They, indeed, indicate a desire on the part of the masses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. They also unmistakably indicate the end of the absolute and unconventional guidance of the bona-fide spiritual teacher."
Also in the purport to Cc. Adi lila Ch.12, Txt 73 we can read:
"In this connection, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in his
Amrta-pravaha-bhasya, gives this short note: "Sri Advaita Acarya is one of
the important trunks of the bhakti-kalpataru, or desire tree of devotional service.
Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as a gardener, poured water on the root of the
bhakti tree and thus nourished all its trunks and branches. But
nevertheless, under the spell of maya, the most unfortunate condition of a
living entity, some of the branches, not accepting the gardener who poured
water on them, considered the trunk the only cause of the great
bhakti-kalpataru. In other words, the branches or descendants of Advaita Acarya
who considered Advaita Acarya the original cause of the devotional creeper, and
who thus neglected or disobeyed the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu,
deprived themselves of the effect of being watered and thus dried up and died.
It is further to be understood that not only the misguided descendants of
Advaita Acarya but anyone who has no connection with Caitanya Mahaprabhu--even
if he is independently a great sannyasi, learned scholar or ascetic--is like a
dead branch of a tree."
Cc. Adi 12.73
In Moscow, on June 30, 2000, Srila B.V. Narayana Maharaja pointed out:
What is then the remedy for us? Who will help us? Only the madhyama adhikari. Sri Gurudeva should actually be acting in the stage of madhyama adhikari. "Prema maitri krpopeksa ya karoti sa madhyama." Madhyama adhikaris are of three categories: madhyama kanistha, madhyama madhyama, and madhyama uttama. The madhama kanistha cannot act as guru. The madhyama madhyama and madhyama uttama can, however, because they are in the line of their guru, always chanting and remembering the pastimes of Krsna, chanting Hare Krsna with rasa and taste, and their anarthas have practically disappear. There remains only a very little scent of anarthas, and there is no offense at all: no Vaisnava-aparadha, nama-aparadha, seva-aparadha, or dhama-aparadha. They are chanting and remembering, and always in the line of their own Gurudeva. Though they are not so realized, still they can help us. We have these kinds of devotees in this world, and they can help us. But you should know that a maha-bhagav! ata can descend in the madhyama adhikari stage, and then he can preach and accept disciples. In this way we can accept two kinds of gurus, and they can help us. The madhyama adhikari gurus will take us to the uttama adhikari, and thus the madhyama gurus and their disciples will develop their Krsna consciousness.
...In sastra it has been told very clearly and strongly what a disciple should do if he has accepted a guru who is not in the line of devotion, who is not a realized soul, and who is not even a madhyama adhikari, and afterwards that disciple realizes that his guru cannot help him in devotion, in the service of Krsna and Radhika Conjugal. If that guru is fallen, not actually chanting and remembering, and if he is not in the line of his Gurudeva, the disciple should give him up at once and accept a real guru. If anyone wants to serve Krsna, and has no other motive than to develop his Krsna consciousness, he should do pranama and say, "O Gurudeva, I want to associate with a high-class Vaisnava. Please allow me." If his gurudeva allows, as did the gurus of Sri Syamananda prabhu, Sri Narottama dasa Thakura and others, then that guru is a madhyama adhikari. However, if he says, "No, you cannot associate with high-class Vaisnavas. If you do, you will go to hell", then that class of guru!
He is not guru. He is like a kan-guru (kangaroo). He may say, "If you disobey me and go to another high-class Vaisnava, then you will go to hell." I think that such a false guru will go to hell first, and after him the disciple will go.
...if a guru does not know the meaning of the mantras, like
brahma-gayatri -- if he does not know who is the istadeva, deity, of this
mantra, if he does not know upon whom we should meditate, who should
pracodayat, come in our heart, if he doe not know the meaning of gopal-mantra,
kama-gayatri, gaura-mantra, and he does not practice it in the morning, at
midday, and in the evening, and if he is not realizing anything, how can he be
guru? He should realize all these things. If he has bhakti in his heart, he can
donate it to others. But if he is not really doing all these things, and there
is no bhakti in his heart, then how can he donate that bhakti to others? This
is the thing. That is why we are not developing. But for this, the current will
go further, further, further to Krsna.
---Srila B.V. Narayana Maharaja
As long as ecclesiastically appointed "gurus" remain inimical to the hari-katha that comes from the lotus lips of pure devotees; as long as they are inimical to sadhu sanga, and as long as they are willing to compromise our siddhanta on who is guru, we must come to the conclusion that they are guilty of apasiddhanta and should be rejected by any sincere seeker of the Absolute Truth. . One definition of a real sadhu is found in the 11th Canto of SB . We can be read it in the introduction of the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu,translated by Srila Hrydaya Bon Maharaj:
(II) SADHU SANGA: Company of Sadhus or Saints. This means an individuals eager desire to be in the company of a Sadhu in order to learn the methods of spiritual practices for God realization alone and for no other purpose. But who is a Sadhu?
According to Bhagavatam, Canto XI, Chap. 11, Slokas 29 to 31, the following are the qualities of a genuine Sadhu or Saint: A Sadhu is kind; he cherishes animosity toward none; he smilingly endures even the bitterest miseries; he loves Truth as the vein-blood of his life; he never allows any evil thought to pollute his mind; he looks upon all with equal love and compassion; he does not entertain any kind of mundane desires to darken his mental quantum; he is self-controlled, amiable and pure in character; he remains farthest from any attempt to accumulate for his future subsistence and does not beg anything form anybody; he is abstentious and peaceful; he is steady in his mind; he depends absolutely on the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, and remains in constant remembrance of the Lord; he is patient, solemn, magnanimous and undisturbed even by utmost provocations and turmoils; he has control over hunger, thirst, lamentations ,infatuation, birth and death; he does never aspire after respect for himself, but is always respectful to others; he is friendly to all; his heart is full of compassion for others; he is fully conversant with the real nature of God; and he is erudite. To keep company with such a one in person, thought and through discussions is Sadhu-sanga.
You must judge for yourself who is a real sadhu . . .
We can also discern who should accept disciples from the last paragraph of His Divine Grace’s purport to verse 5 of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Upadesamrta:
“. . . In this verse Srila Rupa Gosvami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari. The devotee should also know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaisnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaisnavism. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master.”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Nectar of Instruction
Purport Verse 5
If anyone feels that ecclesiastically appointed gurus are capable of delivering them from birth and death eternally, we have no argument with them, and nothing to say to them. Such persons should avoid our association in the same way they avoid a substantial understanding of guru-tattva. .
Anyone with sufficient discrimination and endowed by the grace of guru with sufficient paramartmikha sraddha, (faith in the revealed scriptures) can understand that no one can invent a new religion and call it Krsna consciousness. In Bg. 4.34 Lord Krsna gives a very clear direction to all jivas to seek out and approach a bona fide spiritual master. Srila Rupa Gosvami re-confirms the same principle in the first two angas (limbs) of bhakti in his book Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has elucidated on the same topic in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu-bindhu..
The depth of guru tattva is like the ocean and too vast to discuss completely in a short article. Suffice it to say, though, that a bona fide spiritual master is simply not established by the vote of a regional committee of conditioned souls This is a new idea that has nothing to do with the guru parampara coming from Lord Brahma and Srila Madhvacarya and even less to do with the actual instructions of ISKCON’s founder-acarya, His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
A bona fide spiritual master is self effulgent, otherwise not. He/She is fully versed in all the established truths of our shastra and has direct realization of Bhagavan Sri Krsna. His/Her qualities are firmly established in the gurvastakam of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and not by anyone’s vote or a nomination by other conditioned souls.. Srila Prabhupada has written in Cc. Adi lila 1.46 in his purport:
“Following in the footsteps of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and Srila Jiva Gosvami, later acaryas like Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura have confirmed the same truths. In his prayers to the spiritual master, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura confirms that all the revealed scriptures accept the spiritual master to be identical with the Personality of Godhead because he is a very dear and confidential servant of the Lord. Gaudiya Vaisnavas therefore worship Srila Gurudeva (the spiritual master) in the light of his being the servitor of the Personality of Godhead. In all the ancient scriptures of devotional service and in the more recent songs of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and other unalloyed Vaisnavas, the spiritual master is always considered either one of the confidential associates of Srimati Radharani or a manifested representation of Srila Nityananda Prabhu.
Cc. 1.46 purport
Krsna Consciousness without the vapuh (physical) association of ,and hearing Srimad Bhagavatam from, and receiving our sampradaya diksa mantras from a pure devotee, uttama adhikari Vaisnava of the highest level of sannyasa, paramahamsa, is simply a rtvk myth. You can read SB 1.1.5 & 6, Cc. Antya lila 5.131, Cc. Madhya lila 15.108 and so many other place in Srila Prabhupada’s books to appreciate these points. Gaudiya-siddhanta is not established by a gbc or any three letters of the alphabet.
Srila Prabhupada has written in Cc. Adi lila 1.47 as follows with regard to diksa and siksa gurus:
Srila Sanatana Gosvami is the ideal spiritual master, for he delivers one the shelter of the lotus feet of Madana-mohana. Even though one may be unable to travel on the field of Vrndavana due to forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he can get an adequate opportunity to stay in Vrndavana and derive all spiritual benefits by the mercy of Sanatana Gosvami. Sri Govindaji acts exactly like the siksa-guru (instructing spiritual master) by teaching Arjuna the Bhagavad-gita. He is the original preceptor, for He gives us instructions and an opportunity to serve Him. The initiating spiritual master is a personal manifestation of Srila Madana-mohana vigraha, whereas the instructing spiritual master is a personal representative of Srila Govindadeva vigraha. Both of these Deities are worshiped at Vrndavana. Srila Gopinatha is the ultimate attraction in spiritual realization.
Cc. Adi 1.47 purport
Who can be an acarya? What does initiation mean? That answer is found extensively throughout His Divine Grace's books and lectures and is actually too vast a topic to discuss here in full. We can refer you however to:
Nectar of Instruction Text 1 & Purport
Nectar of Instruction Text 5 & Purport
Cc. Adi Lila 1.46-48 ,Cc. Madhya lila Ch. 15.108
Cc. Madhya Ch. 24 Txt 330-331 (SEE APPENDIX) and
You can also read:
What is a Guru? London, August 22, 1973, by HDGACBSP
Guru Tattva: Real And Apparent, By Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, [http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET0011/ET16-6431.html] where you will find some basis for understanding the qualification of a guru or an acarya.
If anyone is saying not to hear about Lord Krsna‘s pastimes from a superior Vaisnava, not to associate with a pure Vaisnava because of political considerations, and that you should not think for yourself on the basis of guru, sadhu and shastra, then such a so called guru is a cheater. He has some material motive to keep his followers in ignorance so he can either control or exploit them
Accept shastra or ecclesiastics. It is your choice
Puru das, das anudas
Portions of this article were excerpted from:
To Hear or Not to Hear, That is the Question
by Puru Das Adhikari
guru-laksana, sisya-laksana, donhara pariksana
guru-laksana--the symptoms of a bona fide spiritual master; sisya-laksana--the symptoms of a bona fide disciple; donhara--of both; pariksana--the testing; sevya-bhagavan--the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshipable; sarva-mantra-vicarana--consideration of the different types of mantras.
"In your book there should be the characteristics of the bona fide guru and the bona fide disciple. Then, before accepting a spiritual master, one can be assured of the spiritual master's position. Similarly, the spiritual master can also be assured of the disciple's position. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, should be described as the worshipable object, and you should consider the bija-mantra for the worship of Krsna, Rama or any other expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Padma Purana, the characteristics of the guru, the bona fide spiritual master, have been described:
brahmano vai gurur nrnam
sarvesam eva lokanam
asau pujyo yatha harih
na guruh syad avaisnavah
The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class. The first-class devotee is the spiritual master for all kinds of people. It is said: gurur nrnam. The word nrnam means "of all human beings." The guru is not limited to a particular group. It is stated in the Upadesamrta of Rupa Gosvami that a guru is a gosvami, a controller of the senses and the mind. Such a guru can accept disciples from all over the world. Prthivim sa sisyat. This is the test of the guru.
In India there are many so-called gurus, and they are limited to a certain district or a province. They do not even travel about India, yet they declare themselves to be jagad-guru, gurus of the whole world. Such cheating gurus should not be accepted. Anyone can see how the bona fide spiritual master accepts disciples from all over the world. The guru is a qualified brahmana; therefore he knows Brahman and Parabrahman. He thus devotes his life for the service of Parabrahman. The bona fide spiritual master who accepts disciples from all over the world is also worshiped all over the world because of his qualities. Lokanam asau pujyo yatha harih: the people of the world worship him just as they worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All these honors are offered to him because he strictly follows the brahminical principles and teaches these principles to his disciples. Such a person is called an acarya because he knows the principles of devotional service, he behaves in that way himself, and he teaches his disciples to follow in his footsteps. Thus he is an acarya or jagad-guru. Even though a person is born in a brahminical family and is very expert in performing sacrifices, he cannot be accepted as a guru if he is not a strict Vaisnava. A guru is a brahmana by qualification, and he can turn others into brahmanas according to the sastric principles and brahminical qualifications. Brahmanism is not a question of heredity. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.35) Sri Narada Muni tells Maharaja Yudhisthira what a brahmana is. He states that if brahminical qualifications are observed in ksatriyas, vaisyas or even sudras, one should accept them as brahmanas. In this regard, Srila Sridhara Svami has commented: samadibhir eva brahmanadi-vyavaharo mukhyah, na jati-matradity aha-yasyeti. yad yadi anyatra varnantare 'pi drsyeta, tad-varnantaram tenaiva laksana-nimittenaiva varnena vinirdiset, na tu jati-nimittenety arthah.
There is a similar statement made by Nilakantha, the commentator on Mahabharata:
sudro 'pi samady-upeto brahmana eva
brahmano 'pi kamady-upetah sudra eva
"Although one may be born in a sudra family, if he is endowed with the brahminical qualities beginning with sama [control of the mind], he is to be accepted as a brahmana. Although one may be born in a brahmana family, if he is endowed with the qualities beginning with kama [lust], he is to be considered a sudra." No one should present himself as a brahmana simply on the basis of being born in a brahminical family. One must be qualified by the brahminical qualities mentioned in the sastras, particularly Bhagavad-gita:
samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge and religiousness-these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work." (Bg. 18.42)
Unless one is qualified with all these attributes, he cannot be accepted as a brahmana. It is not a question of simply taking birth in a brahmana family. In this regard, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura remarks that Narottama dasa Thakura and Syamananda Gosvami, although not born in brahmana families, are accepted as bona fide spiritual masters because they were brahmanas by qualification. Personalities like Sri Ganga-narayana, Ramakrsna and many others, who were actually born in brahmana families, accepted Narottama dasa Thakura and Syamananda Gosvami as their spiritual masters.
The maha-bhagavata is one who decorates his body with tilaka and whose name indicates him to be a servant of Krsna by the word dasa. He is also initiated by a bona fide spiritual master and is expert in worshiping the Deity, chanting mantras correctly, performing sacrifices, offering prayers to the Lord, and performing sankirtana. He knows how to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead and how to respect a Vaisnava. When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru. However, if one is highly qualified but is not a Vaisnava, he cannot be accepted as a guru. One cannot be a brahmana unless one is a Vaisnava. If one is a Vaisnava, he is already a brahmana. If a guru is completely qualified as a Vaisnava, he must be accepted as a brahmana even if he is not born in a brahmana family. The caste system method of distinguishing a brahmana by birth is not acceptable when applied to a bona fide spiritual master. A spiritual master is a qualified brahmana and acarya. If one is not a qualified brahmana, he is not expert in studying Vedic literatures. Nana-sastra-vicaranaika-nipunau. Every Vaisnava is a spiritual master, and a spiritual master is automatically expert in brahminical behavior. He also understands the Vedic sastras.
Similarly, a disciple's qualifications must be observed by the spiritual master before he is accepted as a disciple. In our Krsna consciousness movement, the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars of sinful life-illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling. In Western countries especially, we first observe whether a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles. Then he is given the name of a Vaisnava servant and initiated to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, at least sixteen rounds daily. In this way the disciple renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representative for at least six months to a year. He is then recommended for a second initiation, during which a sacred thread is offered and the disciple is accepted as a bona fide brahmana. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura introduced the system of giving the sacred thread to a bona fide Vaisnava, and we are also following in his footsteps. The qualifications of a bona fide disciple are described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.10.6) as follows:
The disciple must have the following qualifications. He must give up interest in the material bodily conception. He must give up material lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness and envy. He should be interested only in understanding the science of God, and he should be ready to consider all points in this matter. He should no longer think, "I am this body," or, "This thing belongs to me." One must love the spiritual master with unflinching faith, and one must be very steady and fixed. The bona fide disciple should be inquisitive to understand transcendental subject matter. He must not search out faults among good qualities, and he should no longer be interested in material topics. His only interest should be Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
As far as the mutual testing of the spiritual master and disciple is concerned, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that a bona fide disciple must be very inquisitive to understand the transcendental subject matter. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.21):
tasmad gurum prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
"One who is inquisitive to understand the highest goal and benefit of life must approach a bona fide spiritual master and surrender unto him." A serious disciple must be alert when selecting a bona fide spiritual master. He must be sure that the spiritual master can deliver all the transcendental necessities. The spiritual master must observe how inquisitive the disciple is and how eager he is to understand the transcendental subject matter. The spiritual master should study the disciple's inquisitiveness for no less than six months or a year. A spiritual master should not be very anxious to accept a disciple because of his material opulences. Sometimes a big businessman or landlord may approach a spiritual master for initiation. Those who are materially interested are called visayis (karmis), which indicates that they are very fond of sense gratification. Such visayis sometimes approach a famous guru and ask to become a disciple just as a matter of fashion. Sometimes visayis pose as disciples of a reputed spiritual master just to cover their activities and advertise themselves as advanced in spiritual knowledge. In other words, they want to attain material success. A spiritual master must be very careful in this regard. Such business is going on all over the world. The spiritual master does not accept a materially opulent disciple just to advertise the fact that he has such a big disciple. He knows that by associating with such visayi disciples, he may fall down. One who accepts a visayi disciple is not a bona fide spiritual master. Even if he is, his position may be damaged due to association with an unscrupulous visayi. If a so-called spiritual master accepts a disciple for his personal benefit or for material gain, the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple turns into a material affair, and the spiritual master becomes like a smarta-guru. There are many caste gosvamis who professionally create some disciples who do not care for them or their instructions. Such spiritual masters are satisfied simply to get some material benefits from their disciples. Such a relationship is condemned by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who calls such spiritual masters and disciples a society of cheaters and cheated. They are also called baulas or prakrta-sahajiyas. Their aim is to make the connection between the spiritual master and the disciple into a very cheap thing. They are not serious in wanting to understand spiritual life.
The words sevya bhagavan in this verse are important. Bhagavan indicates the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu. Lord Visnu alone is worshipable. There is no need to worship demigods. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita:
kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah
tam tam niyamam asthaya
prakrtya niyatah svaya
"Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures." (Bg. 7.20)
It is also stated in the Skanda Purana:
yo 'anya-devam upasate
sva-pacim vandate hi sah
"A person who worships the demigods and gives up Lord Vasudeva is like a man who gives up the protection of his mother for the shelter of a witch."
It is also stated in Bhagavad-gita (9.23):
ye 'py anya-devata-bhakta
te 'pi mam eva kaunteya
"Whatever a man may sacrifice to other gods, O son of Kunti, is really meant for Me alone, but it is offered without true understanding."
Demigods are also living entities and parts and parcels of Krsna. Therefore in one sense one worships Krsna when one worships the demigods, but not in the proper way. There is a proper method to water a tree. One should water the roots, but if one waters the leaves and branches instead, he is simply wasting his time. If one worships the demigods to the exclusion of Lord Visnu, his rewards will only be material. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita:
antavat tu phalam tesam
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam
devan deva-yajo yanti
mad-bhakta yanti mam api
"Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet." (Bg. 7.23)
Demigod worship is meant for unintelligent men because the benefits derived from demigod worship are all material, temporary and retractable. It is also stated in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa:
yas tu narayanam devam
sa pasandi bhaved dhruvam
"Whoever thinks Lord Visnu and the demigods are on the same level is to be immediately considered a rogue as far as spiritual understanding is concerned."
There are three modes of nature in the material world, but when one is situated spiritually, he is above the material modes, even though he lives in this material world. Lord Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita (14.26):
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma bhuyaya kalpate
"One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstances at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman." When one engages in the Supreme Lord's devotional service, he is in a transcendental position. Even though one may be situated in the mode of goodness in the material world, he is susceptible to pollution by the modes of passion and ignorance. When the mode of goodness is mixed with the mode of passion, one worships the sun-god, Vivasvan. When the mode of goodness is mixed with the mode of ignorance, he worships Ganapati, or Ganesa. When the mode of passion is mixed with the mode of ignorance, one worships Durga, or Kali, the external potency. When one is simply in the mode of ignorance, he becomes a devotee of Lord Siva because Lord Siva is the predominating deity of the mode of ignorance within this material world. However, when one is completely free from the influence of all the modes of material nature, he becomes a pure Vaisnava on the devotional platform. Srila Rupa Gosvami states in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:
silanam bhaktir uttama
The position of visuddha-sattva is the position of uncontaminated goodness. On that platform, one can then understand, aradhyo bhagavan vrajesa-tanayas tad-dhama vrndavanam: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the son of Nanda Maharaja, is to be worshiped along with His transcendental abode, Vrndavana."
The word sarva-mantra-vicarana means "considering all different types of mantras." There are different kinds of mantras for different kinds of devotees. There are the mantras known as the dvadasaksara, and these are composed of twelve syllables. Similarly, there are mantras composed of eighteen syllables-the Narasimha mantra, the Rama mantra, Gopala mantra and so on. Each and every mantra has its own spiritual significance. The spiritual master has to select a mantra for his disciple according to the disciple's ability to chant different mantras.
What If Guru Is Not Pure?
Murwillumbah, Australia: December 3, 2002 (Evening - Part 2)
Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
Suppose a person unfortunately took initiation from an unqualified guru who was not on the stage of a mahabhagavat. That guru was not realized in the established truths.
tasmad gurum prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
sabde pare ca nisnatam
["Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters." (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.3.21).]
The word sabde means sastras, like the Vedas, Upanisads, and so on. It also means the holy name. Pare means Krsna. Suppose that guru had no realization of Krsna or His names or His glories, as told in sastra, and he was only on the level of kanistha-adhikari – and still he thought he was guru. He had many worldly desires, such as the the desire for name, fame, and wealth, and someone unfortunately took harinama and diksa from him. *[See Endnote 1]
Do the verses that glorify the qualifications of guru apply to that guru or not? Should the disciple obey that guru with the attitude of surrender ordered by all the sastras? Should he follow that guru totally or not? Can a person acquire pure cow milk from a male donkey? Can a person get sweet mangos from a thorn tree? What is the disciple's duty towards that kind of guru?
[Syamarani dasi:] Srila Gurudeva has ordered me to reply this question: sastra speaks about the glories of guru and how one must surrender to guru. Should one surrender to a guru who is not pure and who does not have the qualities of a sad-guru?
The three main qualifications of the bona fide guru are given in the verse beginning tasmad gurum prapadyeta. The guru must have three qualities. He must have heard sabda-brahma, the transcendental sound, the holy names and the words of sastra, from his bona fide guru, and he must have realized it. He will be realizing, directly experiencing, the truths written in the sastra, and he will be realizing the holy name. He will not be chanting nama-aparadha or nama-abhasa. He will be chanting suddha-nama, and that means he will be a suddha-bhakta.
He will be learned in all the sastras. The three types of devotees are kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari, and uttama-adhikari. Even the madhyama-adhikari bhakta does not fully understand all the sastras. He knows something, but he does not know all the sastras thoroughly. Therefore, it is not he who is explained when that sad-guru is explained in this verse. One must be in full knowledge of the science of Krsna.
In the eleventh canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that the devotee who is one hundred percent fixed in the knowledge of sastra and can convince others is an uttama adhikari, and he is qualified to be sad-guru. * [See Endnote] It is also stated in Caitanya-caritamrta:
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya
["Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi or a sudra—regardless of what he is—he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krsna" (Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128)]
One who is bound cannot untie the ropes of someone else who is bound. He himself must be unbound. He must be fully liberated. He will not only know sastra, but he must be fully detached from material life. This is the third symptom of guru described in the verse. He will have no anxieties and no desire for material happiness. He is called a vimala Vaisnava. Guru means vimala, or suddha (pure) Vaisnava. Only by the mercy of a suddha Vaisnava is all perfection in bhakti possible, and therefore, in his own prayers to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura teaches us how to pray for that mercy. In his song "Vimala Vaisnava", he prays, "kandiya kandiya – Living in this Godruma forest I am simply weeping. O Bhagavan, O Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am only living to get this mercy from you." What mercy does he want?
hari hari kabe more ha'be hena dina, vimala vaisnave,
rati upajibe, vasana haibe ksina
["O Hari! O Mahaprabhu! When will the fortunate day come when rati, deep love and attachment, will come in my heart for the lotus feet of the pure-hearted Vaisnavas? At that time I will honor and serve them, and thus all my material desires and anarthas, especially lust and anger, will go." (Vimala Vaisnava, first verse).]
Please give me the mercy so that I will develop rati, strong love and attachment for vimala Vaisnava. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is praying to have love for that type of guru. Suppose one accepts a guru who is sincere but not self-realized, and then later on one meets a pure devotee and realizes that the guru from whom he took diksa is not pure and does not have all the qualities of sad guru. He will then go to his non self-realized guru and say, "I have found a pure devotee. Will you bless me that I can have his association?" If that guru replies, "Yes, go, and I will follow right behind you," then that disciple can honor him and at the same time go to that first class guru for complete shelter. On the other hand, if that guru says, "No, only follow me," then he should at once be rejected. In Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 238), Srila Jiva Gosvami has given the injunction that if one's guru is envious of an exalted Vaisnava one should immediately reject that guru and find a maha-bhagavat Vaisnava guru.
If the guru is a vimala Vaisnava, then "vasana haibe ksina" – by having affection for that suddha-bhakta, that vimala Vaisnava, all my material desires and all my anarthas will disappear. There are four kinds of anarthas – misconceptions, offences, thirst for material enjoyment, and weakness of heart in the form of envy, desire for name and fame, and evil-mindedness. This disappearance of anarthas occurs only by the mercy of that vimala Vaisnava, and only by having love and affection for him – by guru-devatatma – seeing him as more dear than our very atmas. Then what will take place?
antare-bahire, sama vyavahara amani manada ha'bo
krsna-sankirtane, sri-krsna-smarane, satata majiya ra'bo
["With a heart free from duplicity, my outer behavior will correspond to my inner feelings and thoughts. Seeing myself as completely insignificant, I will give all respect to others, seeking no honor in return. Always dancing and singing the holy names, I will remain constantly absorbed in remembering Sri Krsna's beautiful pastimes." (Vimala Vaisnava verse 2)]
When sastra orders one to be free of association of visayis, this does not only mean karmis or yogis. It also means devotees who are materialistic. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is instructing us to give up even that association and take shelter of the vimala Vaisnava. By that, we will be able to discriminate between different levels of devotees and respect them according to their capacity in bhakti. We will respect them without desiring any respect for ourselves. My bodily activities will then go on as a matter of habit and I will then be able to remember Krsna. While chanting Krsna's holy names, His pastimes will continuously come in my heart like a waterfall or a steady stream of honey poured from a jar.
In this verse, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is teaching us how to pray, and what to pray for. He says, "I am only living for that. By having love and affection for such a guru, I will automatically know what to give up and what to accept. I will automatically accept the right things and I will automatically give up that which is bad for me. Then at the time of death, I will leave this body very happily remembering Krsna." Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura concludes this song by saying, "O Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am living only so that you will give me this mercy – that I can have love for such a vimala Vaisnava."
bhakativinoda, ei asa kori, bosiya godruma-bane
prabhu-krpa lagi, vyakula antare, sada kande sangopane
["Residing alone in the forest of Godruma and continuously weeping, Bhaktivinoda anxiously prays, 'I am living only with the hope that Mahaprabhu will bestow his mercy on me.'" (Vimala Vaisnava, verse 5)]
[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] But we must consider that the presence of uttama-adhikari (mahabhagavata), madhyama-uttama-adhikari (those approaching the stage of bhava), and even madhyama-madhyama-adhikari (those at the stage of asakti) devotees are very rare in this world. It is very rare, therefore, to have a guru of this caliber. What should we do under these circumstances? We will have to take a guru. If a guru is not "sabde pare ca nisnatam", if he has not realized the established truths delineated in the Vedas, Upanisads and other sastras, but he has very strong faith in his pure guru and is sincerely following him, then, even if he is a madhyama-adhikari – or even kanistha-madhyama – do not reject that guru. If he is always serving his own mahabhagavat guru and is obedient both internally and externally to him, then do not reject him. We can give up our guru only with the consideration given by Srila Sanatana Gosvami in his Hari-bhakti-vilasa:
avaisnava-mukhodgirnam putam hari-kathamrtam
sravanam naiva kartavyam sarpocchistam yatha payah
["One should not hear anything about Krsna from a non-vaisnava. Milk touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous effects; similarly, talks about Krsna given by a non-vaisnava are also poisonous."]
If a guru is not serving his own gurudeva, he has left the process given by him, and his guru is not satisfied by his behavior – only in that case can we reject him. However, if the guru is a madhyama-adhikari and sincere, if he is very obedient and following the footsteps of his guru, then he will gradually become uttama-adhikari. So we should not reject him. At the same time, if he is not perfect and thus cannot remove all our doubts about Krsna Consciousness, what should we do?
We should offer pranama to him and ask his permission to have the association of a mahabhagavata devotee: A disciple may ask, "May I go to Srila Jiva Gosvami"? or "May I go to Srila Rupa Gosvami?" or, "May I go to a high class of Vaisnava?" If the guru says, "No, you cannot go," you should give him up. On the other hand, if he says, "Certainly you can go, and I will also come," then he is a real guru. In fact, a guru who sends his disciple to a superior guru for instruction may also be an uttama-mahabhagavata, as there are various stages of mahabhagavata, and that guru is certainly not to be rejected. For example, Srila Narottama dasa Thakura was a disciple of Srila Lokanatha dasa Gosvami, but he took permission from him to take shelter of Srila Jiva Gosvami; and Srila Syamananda prabhu also took permission from Srila Hrdaya-caitanya dasa Gosvami for that same shelter of Srila Jiva Gosvami.
There are three levels of devotees who can act as sad-guru, and they are: 1) bhagavat-parsada-deha-prapt, 2) nirdhuta-kasaya, and 3) murcchita kasaya.* [See Endnote 3] This human life is so rare, so do not waste your time in this regard.
labdhva sudurlabham idam bahu-sambhavante
manusyam arthadam anityam apiha dhirah
turnam yateta na pated anumrtyu yavan
nihsreyasaya visayah khalu sarvatah syat
["After many, many births and deaths one achieves the rare human form of life, which, although temporary, affords one the opportunity to attain the highest perfection. Thus a sober human being should quickly endeavor for the ultimate perfection of life as long as his body, which is always subject to death, has not fallen down and died. After all, sense gratification is available even in the most abominable species of life, whereas Krsna consciousness is possible only for a human being." (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.9.29)]
Try to follow all these principles, and gradually you will develop your Krsna consciousness.
Editorial advisors: Pujypad Madhava Maharaja and Sripad Brajanatha dasa
Editor: Syamarani dasi
Transcriber and typist: Basanti devi dasi
[* Endnote 1 – "That religious undertaking which bestows divya-jnana or transcendental knowledge and destroys papa (sin), papa-bija (the seed of sin), and avidya (ignorance) to the root is called diksa by learned authorities in the absolute truth." (Hari-bhakti-vilasa, 2.9) Di means transcendental realization of ones relationship with Krsna, and ksa means destruction of the abovementioned obstacles. Therefore, unless one gets initiated from a mahabhavat devotee, he is not receiving diksa in the real sense.]
[*Endnote 2 – "It should be understood that a madhyama-adhikari, a second-class devotee, is fully convinced of Krsna consciousness but cannot support his convictions with sastric reference. A neophyte may fall down by associating with non-devotees because he is not firmly convinced and strongly situated. The second-class devotee, even though he cannot support his position with sastric reference, can gradually become a first-class devotee by studying the sastras and associating with a first-class devotee. However, if the second-class devotee does not advance himself by associating with a first-class devotee, he makes no progress. There is no possibility that a first-class devotee will fall down, even though he may mix with non-devotees to preach. Conviction and faith gradually increase to make one an uttama-adhikari, a first-class devotee."(Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 22.71 purp.)]
[*Endnote 3 – "Bhagavat-parsada-deha-prapta – After giving up the gross material body, those who have perfected themselves through the practice of bhakti obtain sac-cit-ananda spiritual forms which are just suitable for the service of the Lord as associates (parsadas). Such persons are the best of all uttama-bhagavatas.
"Nirdhuta-kasaya – Those who, although still residing within the gross material body made of five elements, have no trace of material desire (vasana) nor any material impressions (samskaras) within their hearts are called nirdhuta-kasaya (who have thrown off all material impurities). They belong to the intermediate class of uttama-bhagavatas.
"Murcchita-kasaya – Those siddha-mahapurusas pursuing the path of bhakti in whose hearts there remains a trace of desire (vasana) and impressions (samskaras) based on the material mode of goodness are known as murcchita-kasaya. Due to influence of their bhakti-yoga, these vasanas and samskaras remain in a dormant or unconscious state. As soon as there is a favorable opportunity, their worshipful object, Sri Bhagavan, somehow causes their desire to be consumed and attracts them to His lotus feet. Such elevated souls belong to the preliminary stage (kanistha) of uttama-bhagavatas. (Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu)]
To order Srila Maharaja's audio lectures on MP3 CD please visit www.sbnmcd.org
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
sabde pare ca nisnatam
["Any person who is seriously desirous of achieving real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of a spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation and arguments and thus be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken complete shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters." (BBT)]