by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada
HOW WILL I BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE SOMEONE AS A BONA FIDE SPIRITUAL MASTER?
When you make judgments based on your own intelligence that someone is guru, you are in fact projecting the qualities of guru on him. Such a person is never truly the guru. In such cases, you are thinking that the guru is somehow under your control, or within the purview of your sensory knowledge. When Krishna Himself decides to send you someone to act as your spiritual master, that person will manifest before you as the Mahanta Guru.
WHO IS THE ACHARYA?
Only a devotee of the Lord who is fixed in the activities of devotional service and preaching the message of the Lord can be considered an acharya. The acharya is free and independent. He sets the perfect example of completely abandoning the company of the impious and always engaged in hearing and speaking about Krishna . One who preaches to others fearlessly and without any constraint, inducing them to similarly give up bad association, is the acharya.
HOW WILL I FIND A BONA FIDE SPIRITUAL MASTER?
The Supreme Lord acts as guru in two ways: within as Chaittya Guru in the heart and without as the Mahanta Guru, or the pure devotee. If I am sincere, then the Lord reveals the Mahanta Guru to me. We can go to a thousand different people with a petition in hand, but until the one person who can approve our application does so, we get nowhere. The Supreme Lord is that person. Why He does or does not approve our request is something we cannot fathom. He is not a field laborer working in our personal garden. We have to be patient and wait. In the meantime, we should prepare ourselves by cultivating a service attitude and trying to eliminate other extraneous desires. If we pray sincerely for the Lord’s blessing, then He will graciously bless us. Through His grace we will find a bona fide spiritual master.
Krsna jadi krpa Karen kono bhagyavane
Guru-antaryami-rupe sikhaya apane
When Krishna decides to be kind to some fortunate soul, then He personally directs that person from within as the Supersoul and from without as the spiritual master. (CC 2. 22.47)
HOW SHOULD WE UNDERSTAND THE GURU?
One has to be devoted to the spiritual master in the same way one is devoted to Krishna . One should think of the spiritual master in the same way that one thinks of Krishna , for he is in no way less than or inferior to Krishna . It is the duty of a pious person to recognize the spiritual master as equal to Krishna and to worship him and serve him in that way. If one does not do so, then one loses his status as a disciple.
Those who see the guru and Krishna as the same will be able to understand the essence of the scriptures. They alone will be able to chant the Holy Names and they alone will be able to speak of Krishna .
Sri Krishna Himself has descended in the form of the spiritual master in order to teach service to Himself. Those on whom fortune smiles will be able to understand this spotless scriptural truth. If not, their doubting minds will plunge them into the ocean of samsara.
The spiritual master is neither the ultimate object of devotion, visaya-vigraha, nor the original reservoir of devotion, asraya-vigraha. He is a manifestation or prakasa-vigraha of the original reservoir of devotion. Sri Krishna is the supreme object of all love, whereas the guru is the reservoir of divine love. Krishna is the predominating absolute, the bhokta bhagavan , while the guru is the predominated absolute, or sevaka-bhagavan ; he is God as worshiper or servant. Even though the spiritual master is the reservoir of love, he is Krishna himself; at the same time he is the most beloved of Krishna . This is the inconceivable paradox of guru tattva. Krishna is the complete omnipotent, and the spiritual master is His complete potency. The spiritual master is not an ordinary living entity, he is master of all living entities, He is the supreme consciousness, the plenary manifestation of the Lord’s potency. His internal potency. We ordinary jivas on the other hand are atomic particles of consciousness, Krishna ‘s marginal potency and separated parts
WHO IS THE GENUINE GURU AND HOW CAN WE FIND HIM?
The road to auspiciousness begins with taking shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. In accordance with God’s plan, everyone on this earth finds a teacher that meets his or her particular needs and qualifications. Thus the Christians have their Jesus and the Muslims their Mohammad. Less fortunate individuals think that some materialist with formal traditional ties to the family is their guru, with the result that they become embroiled in householder life themselves. If we are fortunate, if we truly seek out a genuine guru with complete sincerity and persistence, and if we pray feelingly to the Lord to encounter such a spiritual master, then the Lord will surely lead us in this lifetime to a genuine guru, by taking shelter of whom, we will be able to attain the greatest blessings.
Brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
Guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija
In the course of wandering through Brahma’s universal creation, a fortunate soul may receive the seed of the creeper of devotion. This happens by the grace of the guru and Krishna .
Krsna jadi krpa karena kono bhagyavane
If Krishna is merciful to a particularly fortunate soul, then He comes Himself to teach him, either externally as the spiritual master or from within as the Supersoul.
Guru krsna-rupahana sastrera pramane
Guru-rupe krsna krpa karena bhakta-gane
According to the revealed scriptures, the spiritual master is the manifestation of Krishna . Krishna comes in the form of the guru to show His mercy to the devotees.
Even though my spiritual master is the servant of Lord Chaitanya, I know that he is a direct manifestation of the Lord (CC 1.1.44)
Jiva saksat nahi tate guru caitya-rupa
Siksa-guru haya krsna mahanta-svarupe
Since one cannot directly experience the guru as the Supersoul, Krishna appears as the siksha guru in the form of a highly advanced Vaishnava. (CC 1.1.58)
“O my beloved Krishna ! Please be kind and accept me as your servant. For all my life I have thought of myself as the master of my house and the enjoyer of the fruits of my work, but I shall give all this up for you.”
When a jiva sincerely prays to Krishna in this way, then Krishna appears to him in the form of the Mahanta Guru.
Without receiving transcendental knowledge from a bona fide spiritual master, no one gains the eligibility to serve Krishna . Neither god nor human can give such transcendental knowledge. This is why we have such a great need for a genuine spiritual master.
WHO IS THE GURU AND HOW IS SERVICE TO HIM TO BE CARRIED OUT?
The spiritual master and the Vaishnava are transcendental temples. The Supreme Lord does not manifest Himself just anywhere. He reveals Himself only through the spiritual master and the Vaishnava. Many people would like to see God, but they do not know that one only sees God through seeing the guru. If there were no such thing as the spiritual master in this world, there would not be any devotion. The spiritual master is the connecting thread that leads to the vision of God. The supreme Lord shows His mercy to the conditioned souls by sending His best servants or Vaishnavas into this world. The spiritual master is the concrete form of His mercy.
The spiritual master is your closest friend and relative. This is why it is not enough to serve the guru at a respectful distance, acting out of a sense of duty alone. One has to serve with visrambha, a combination of deep faith and loving affection. This attitude will have the most auspicious results.
We need the spiritual master even more than we need Krishna. Srila Gauranga Deva is the spiritual master of all spiritual masters. He taught us that even though the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord are in no way different, the guru is positioned at the pinnacle of the category of a devotee. There is no way to achieve auspiciousness except through service to the spiritual master.
HOW CAN WE BECOME GURUS?
SHOULD WE MAKE DISCIPLES?
We should not make disciples until we have become liberated or a pure devotee. You must first take shelter of a bona fide guru, become a disciple and listen to the topics of Krishna from his mouth. Then you have to put everything you have heard into practice and repeat it to others with humility. After doing this for some time, you must become guru yourself. You should not intentionally remain a “lightweight” for the rest of your days. This is a kind of self-deception. To become guru means to become a genuine devotee, engaging all of your senses in the service of Krishna toward Him and make everyone into Krishna ‘s devotee.
DO WE HAVE TO MAKE DISCIPLES?
We don’t have to make disciples, we have to become disciples. In other words, we have to remain constantly engaged in the service of Krishna and the spiritual master. The devotees of Vishnu, the Vaishnavas, see the guru in all things. If one becomes proud of being a Vaishnava, then one’s service to Vishnu and the Vaishnavas evaporates. One who is free from the sense that he is the doer, who thinks, “I actually do nothing myself, it is Krishna alone who engages me in all activities.” And who is constantly engaged in the service of the Lord, can actually do something beneficial for the ordinary soul by turning them toward Krishna. But it is not enough to make phoney speeches about how you are not the doer. You have to genuinely feel that you are being made to act by the Lord.
WILL HE ABLE TO MAKE DISCIPLES?
Give up your enviousness and show mercy to every living being by turning those who are currently indifferent to Krishna back toward Him. Don’t play as a spiritual master with the intention of immersing yourself in sense objects. Don’t just dress up as a spiritual master. Should you manage to become a sincere servant of the guru and Krishna and acquire their blessing, then there will be nothing to fear. If not, however, you are doomed
WHO CAN CARRY ON THE GURU’S MISSION ?
The work of spiritual master is done by those who have been sent here by the Lord from the transcendental world to take on the appearance of ordinary human beings for the sake of unfortunate conditioned souls like ourselves, to deliver them from the three miseries and send them back to the divine realm. The Lord’s messengers, the carriers of His divine message, are the intimate associates of the Lord.
The true holy person carries a sharpened sword with which he beheads the goat-like tendencies to enjoy and renounce, sacrificing them on the altar of devotion. Such a person is the true spiritual master.
The spiritual master is one who has no other duty other than service to Krishna; whose intelligence is fixed on Krishna and who sees nothing but Krishna. He has no desire to hear flattery and so is beholden to no one. He can thus fearlessly preach the truth.
One is eligible to become guru if he speaks nothing but Hari Katha, if he never instructs anyone in anything other than devotional service, and if he does not waste a day in activities other than those which please Krishna .
An insincere hypocrite cannot be a guru. One whose aspiration is for mundane activity cannot be a guru. Pseudo-gurus should be turned out and exposed. If one selfishly uses the gifts his disciples have surrendered to the Lord, taking them as a means to accumulate wealth, women and worldly fame, then he should be renounced immediately as a cheater. One should not listen to the words of such a rascal. One who purloins the materials meant for God’s service in his own selfish interest is not worthy of the name “guru”.
The Naradiya-purana says:
Iha yasya harer dasye
Karmana manasa gira
Nikhilasv apy avasthasu
Jivan-muktah sa ucyate
One is called a living liberated soul who in all circumstances performs every action, whether of the body, mind or speech, in the service of Krishna.
The atheist who is engaged in social service instead of devotional service to the Lord should be avoided, for such a person can benefit neither himself nor anyone else. In the name of such so-called social service, one simply falls deeper and deeper into the pit of illusion while dragging others down with him.
We refuse to keep the company of those who try to deceive the Supreme Lord by chanting on their beads or by crying and making a great show of emotion, but who do not see Krishna in every syllable, or see beautiful Gauranga in every sound. The ultimate goal of scholarship is to understand, one’s realation with Krishna . Our lives can truly become auspicious only when we understand, through the association of sadhus and obedience to the spiritual master’s order that everything in the universe is somehow meant for the service of the Lord.
The path to auspiciousness is revealed when we associate with devotees who see the Lord everywhere, or who see everything in relation to the Lord; who see the spiritual master everywhere, who are more humble than the straw in the street, who are as tolerant as the tree, free of pride but full of respect for others, and who are constantly engaged in chanting the Holy Names attentively. It is only with the greatest good fortune that we encounter a saintly person of such qualifications. A servant of illusion may disguise himself as a spiritual master, but he will never be able to approach Mahaprabhu Gaurasundar through the enjoying mentality. Even if Gauranga’s pastimes in this world, His prakata lila, are not going on at the present moment, if I am able to stay in the company of the guru and holy persons, then my consciousness will be dovetailed with theirs; my desires and aspirations will mix with theirs. If we are able to take shelter of the spiritual master in this way, surrendering ourselves fully to his lotus feet, then we will achieve the greatest good through good association, service and obedience.
IS IT PROPER FOR US TO MAKE DISCIPLES?
The genuine guru does not make anyone his disciple. Rather, he makes everyone his guru by turning those who have no interest in Krishna into devotees. He tries to give Krishna pleasure by engaging everyone in His service. The guru’s vision is that everyone has importance; thus everywhere and everything is related to Krishna. For him nothing is insignificant; nothing is seen as an object of the senses. He does not see this world as a mundane creation. The guru’s work is like that of a medical professor in the university: he is not making students; but doctors. Similarly, the guru is making other gurus.
If the Vaishnavas do not play the role of spiritual master, then the transcendental family of Vaishnavas will dwindle and disappear. The problem is that as soon as one becomes guru, he ceases to be a Vaishnava. Therefore it is not proper to act as guru if one is not qualified. This means only inauspicious results for the disciple and falldown for the guru. The spiritual master does not identify himself as a guru, for his inner identification as a servant of God is too powerful. If the spiritual master thinks of himself as guru, then the first vowel of his name changes and he becomes goru-a cow.
The genuine guru is engaged twenty – four hours a day in Lord Krishna’s service. He acknowledges no duty other than serving Krishna . Thus the only person who is completely committed to his own spiritual master and has made service to him, his life and soul.
WHO CAN TAKE ON THE ROLE OF SPIRITUAL MASTER?
A devotee of Krishna who knows the philosophy of Krishna consciousness can act as spiritual master. Those who are ritualists, impersonalists and yogis can never be accepted as guru because they are not devotees. Only one worships the Personality of Godhead can be a guru.
On the other hand, someone who proudly thinks that he has become the servant of Krishna cannot be guru either. As long as one considers oneself to be a Vaishnava, he cannot be guru. For this reason, anyone who functions as a guru does not call himself a guru or a Vaishnava. Anyone who calls himself a Vaishnava is immediately branded a “non-Vaishnava”.
Amit tovaisnava, e buddhi hile
Amani na ho’bo ami
Pratisthasa asi’, hrdoya dusibe,
If think “I am a Vaishnava,” then I will never become humble, My heart will become contaminated with the hope of receiving honor from others, and I will surely go to hell.
Tomara kinkora, apane janibo,
Tomara ucchistha, pada-jala-renu,
Sada niskapate bhaji
Give me the mercy that I can be your servant and renounce the false conception of being guru. Let me accept without duplicity your remnants, the dust of your feet, and the water that has washed them.
Nije serstha jani, ucchisthadi dane,
Ho’be abhimana bhar
Tai sisya tava, thakiya sarvada,
Na lobibo puja kar
By thinking that I am superior and giving my remnants to others, I will become increasingly egotistical. Let me always remain in the mood of a disciple and never accept any worship or praise from others.
The Maha Bhagavata is the true guru. Only someone who has achieved the status of Maha Bhagavata can take the role of spiritual master. One can act as guru when he himself sees the guru everywhere, for such a person can transform another insignificant individual (or laghu) into one capable of imparting spiritual instruction himself (guru). He can turn a non-devotee into a devotee. If one is not himself a devotee he cannot make anyone else into a devotee. Thus the meaning of being guru is being a devotee. All of one’s senses must be engaged in the service of the guru, he has no right to act as guru.
The Maha Bhagavata is more humble than the grass in the street. He thinks he is the most insignificant person in the world. He does not think, “I have played the role of servant long enough; it’s no fun any more. I need to be guru now.”
The guru serves as spiritual master, but does not identify himself with that role.
Source: Gopinatha Gaudiya Math