The Science of Accepting a Spiritual Master
The Science of Accepting a Spiritual Master
© 1987 Vaishnava dasa
Prabhupada Anti-Defamation Association (PADA)
Table of Contents
Chapter 1–What is the Spiritual Science?
Chapter 2–One Must Go to a Guru
Chapter 3–Lord Brahma Was the First Disciple
Chapter 4–The Disciplic Succession is Nonsectarian
Chapter 5–Learning Submissively How to Become Submissive to God
Chapter 6–Pure Instructions vs. False Institutions
Chapter 7–The Guru, Sadhu and Shastra
Chapter 8–The Three Categories of Devotees–The Neophyte Devotee
Chapter 9–The Three Categories of Devotees–The Madhyama- and Uttama-Adhikaris
Chapter 10–The Disciple Searches for the Bona Fide Guru
Chapter 11–What is Initiation?
Chapter 12–Offenseless Chanting of the Holy Name
Chapter 13–How Does One Become a Spiritual Master?
Chapter 14–Symptoms of the Bona Fide Guru
Chapter 15–The Disciple Becomes a Guru
Appendix 1–Some Practical Considerations
Appendix 2–The Ritvik-Acharya Appointment Conversations
Chapter 1–What is the Spiritual Science?
There is a great need for anyone in the clutches of material illusion to get out of ignorance by accepting the shelter of God, Lord Krishna. Therefore, understanding the science of accepting the spiritual master who can lead one out of the material world and reawaken ones lost relationship with Krishna is essential for those who are inquisitive about spiritual life. In the modern age, God consciousness has been replaced by all types of speculations on the nature of the absolute truth and that is why scientific solutions are accepted by the general population as the answer to all miserable conditions of life. Theories now popular within the scientific community like the chemical origin of life and disbelief in life after death seem to indicate that the scientific community will not accept the existence of God because they cannot find any tangible evidence of the antimaterial soul. According to the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (5.9): balagra-shata-bhagasya shatadha kalpitasya cha / bhago jivah sa vijneya sa chanantyaya kalpate–“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul.” This tiny particle of soul cannot be captured in the laboratory by the scientist. It is also said in the Bhagavad-gita (2.25): avyakto’yam achintyo’yam avikaryo’yam uchyate / tasmad evam viditvainam nanushochitum arhasi–“It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable.” In the purport to this text, Prabhupada says:
As described previously, the magnitude of the soul is so small for our material calculation that he cannot be seen even by the most powerful microscope; therefore, he is invisible. As far as the soul’s existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of shruti, or Vedic wisdom. We have to accept this truth, because there is no other source of understanding the existence of the soul, although it is a fact by perception.
We should know that His creations are not always understood with our limited senses. The soul is beyond the perception of the five senses. Although the scientist is working hard under the premise that everything can be understood through the power of perception of the extended senses with laboratory tools, microscopes, telescopes, etc., the text mentioned here from the Bhagavad-gita says that this is actually not possible. Similarly, when trying to get some realization about the existence of God, we must understand that in order to know Him, we must take to the science of God consciousness which is the process of understanding God and our relationship with Him. It is actually a science but it is based on the assumption that God is perceived–not through the process of the technology of the laboratory–but through the process of accepting the shelter of a bona fide representative of God who is himself an expert in the spiritual science.
The spiritual science includes understanding the nature of the soul, its relationship with God, the nature of the material universe, the nature of the spiritual world, the activities of the soul and eternal time. To understand these things in their proper perspective in full knowledge without doubt requires an experienced teacher who has such vast wisdom. God is the only being who can claim such vast knowledge and His representatives who take knowledge from Him. No one can take such authorized and authoritative knowledge that has survived the test of time and the onslaughts of many empiricists and speculators without admitting that such wisdom comes only from God Himself. It is He that deserves all credit and glory for giving such confidential and powerful knowledge for the purpose of correcting the ignorance of human society. Therefore the representatives of God who have learned the science of God consciousness are forever humble and appreciative to the Lord for giving such transcendental knowledge to get us out of our ignorance.
The Lord shows His love for the souls within the material world by purifying their hearts with transcendental knowledge. God incarnates within this world to give knowledge so that those who desire to become free from misery may know the way to surrender to Him and develop tangible and realized knowledge about Him. The ultimate goal of this process is to develop the proper attitude for serving Him which is everyone’s eternal occupation. When one develops such an attitude with love and devotion, he is considered to be situated in his factual eternal status which is a state of existence without any ignorance or anxiety. That is the constitutional position of the living entity. By learning the spiritual science, he becomes free from the anxieties of the material world and becomes situated in his eternal consciousness which is full of bliss and full of knowledge; that knowledge being that he is one in quality and infinitesimal in quantity in comparison to the Lord.
The whole program of work is to get the living entity out of the material clutches and bring him gradually out of his ignorance and elevate him to the platform of receiving transcendental knowledge. This is the sum and substance of all religious processes. Religion therefore means to reunite the individual soul with God. One who is trying to revive his eternal consciousness takes to the process of religious life to learn all about the eternal nature of himself and about his relationship with God. There is no possibility of reviving the eternal consciousness of the living being by speculation and experimentation. One who has forgotten God and wants to understand Him cannot do so simply by his own labors. It is not possible unless one is helped by God Himself; and He looks for whatever sincere desire the soul expresses to have and reestablish this lost relationship. In order for one to get an understanding and education in the matter of God consciousness, he must accept the bona fide representative of God who knows God and who can reintroduce one to God. This is the process of reviving ones forgotten Krishna consciousness.
Chapter 2–One Must Go to a Guru
The process of receiving transcendental knowledge is to receive knowledge from the disciplic succession. The disciplic succession is an unbroken chain of transcendentalists who receive the message of God and teach it to their students who then continue to impart spiritual knowledge to their disciples. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Shri Krishna is the supreme authority for the disciplic succession because He is the perfect knower of everything. If God were not full of perfect knowledge, then there would be no necessity for hearing His words. But since He is full of knowledge, His philosophy–like the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures written under His permission–are error-free and cannot be challenged.
In our present condition of life, we cannot directly approach the supreme authority, so we must contact His bona fide representative and take our knowledge from him. The bona fide representative is called the spiritual master because he is learned in the spiritual science and can impart spiritual knowledge to a bona fide disciple who is properly qualified to receive such knowledge. This is the process of receiving spiritual knowledge.
Earlier we have mentioned that to receive spiritual knowledge is a gift for the conditioned soul. It is an expression of the mercy of God to help the conditioned soul become free from all types of miserable conditions on account of pursuing temporary, material desires. The materially-conditioned soul is full of desires for happiness pertaining to the material body and–being so engrossed in the pursuit of such temporary happiness–he fails to be attracted to the divine message of Godhead which will lead him from all miserable conditions of life and take him back to Godhead where there is no anxiety. But in order to accept any type of knowledge about spiritual life–unless one has the proper preliminary qualifications to actually begin to receive such knowledge–then there is no progress in spiritual realization. In other words, without becoming a bona fide disciple, there is no scope for learning spiritual knowledge and becoming free from ignorance.
In the Bhagavad-gita (4.34) it is said: tad viddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sevaya / upadekshyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darshinah–“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” So the principle of becoming actually qualified to receive any type of knowledge of spiritual topics is described here. One must inquire with a submissive, service attitude. If one does not do so then the spiritual master or Krishna will not be able to benedict one with such spiritual knowledge. The very nature of understanding spiritual life begins with understanding that one has an eternal relationship with Lord Krishna in a service mode. Naturally, this means that he must take his instructions from the superior; in this case it is God, so there is no question of being able to challenge in any way. Therefore, if one considers that to take to spiritual life is burdensome or if he thinks that God requires his service to be happy, then there is no possibility of advancing in spiritual life. Relationships within the spiritual world where God is personally present are based on loving exchanges. All of the innumerable living beings there are very anxious to want to fulfill the desires of Krishna, in contrast to those persons in the material world who take service to Krishna as a burdensome affair. Then, from the beginning of spiritual training, one must adopt the proper attitude in order to learn the spiritual science of ones relationship with Krishna. Therefore, it is recommended that one must learn how to approach the spiritual master humbly so that he may be pleased and thereby become inclined to impart confidential, spiritual knowledge into the heart of the disciple. However, in the absence of such sincere humility from the disciple, the whole process is simply a waste of time.
The spiritual and material worlds can be compared to the state where the law-abiding citizens freely live and the prison where the criminals are forcibly kept. The spiritual world is the abode of Lord Krishna and the material world is the place of suffering where the souls desiring to disobey the authority of Krishna come to take their punishment. Although the inhabitants of the material world falsely think of themselves as happy and satisfied in all respects without their eternal relationship with Krishna, they are actually possessed with a hellish mentality and therefore they commit all types of abominable activities in the name of enjoyment. In either the spiritual world or in the material world, all of the living beings are the eternal servants of Krishna; this eternal relationship never changes. Similarly, within the state, all the residents of the country are servants of the state and must abide by the laws of the government. Those persons who are willing to challenge the laws of the government are taken to the prison and punished; nevertheless, for all their desire to challenge the laws of the government, they become subjected to the laws of the government and remain under the jurisdiction of the law.
In all circumstances, all the living beings in this material world or in the spiritual world are all the eternal servants of God. This fact is the basis for understanding what religion is. Religion is not a sectarian function meant only for one group of people, but real religion as mentioned here means that in any condition of life–whether one is black or white, Russian, American, Catholic, Hindu, dog or ant–he is a servant of the Supreme Lord. This is real spiritual knowledge. If one thinks that he is not a servant or subjected to the laws of the Supreme Lord then he’s in maya or illusion. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (7.15): na mam dushkritino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah/ mayayapahrita-jnana asuram bhavam ashritah–“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” Such conditioned souls however, remain controlled by the laws of God.
When the conditioned soul begins to come to his real senses and tries to understand his real eternal situation, he begins to inquire seriously about life. Such a person wants to know about God and his relationship with Him. He wants to know why there is suffering and if there is any way to relieve such suffering. He wants to know how to make spiritual advancement and reach the perfection of life. Such a person takes the trouble to search out the help of spiritual knowledge and–if one is fortunate–he comes in contact with a bona fide spiritual master who can reintroduce him to God making his search for perfection complete.
It is said In the Bhagavad-gita (18.61) that the Lord, in His expansion of the Supersoul, resides within the heart of all the living beings. By this mercy of the Lord, he always accompanies the conditioned soul throughout his journey within the dark material world. The individual soul is never alone but when he desires to come into the material world to enjoy separately from the Lord, the Lord covers the rebellious soul with the illusory energy called maya. In this way, the conditioned soul cannot see the Lord although the Lord agrees to accompany always the soul in His Supersoul feature and He awaits the opportunity to bring that soul back to his original consciousness. When the Lord then sees that one has had enough so-called enjoyment and is ready to resume his actual life of transcendental service, He then directs the soul to the spiritual master so that the conditioned soul may be able to render service, and by so doing, revive his original transcendental nature.
Such a spiritual master who comes within the disciplic succession and is authorized to preach the cult of Krishna consciousness is actually nondifferent from the Lord because he is the confidential servant of the Lord and is empowered through the disciplic succession to carry out the mission of the Lord. But there are also many pseudospiritualists who do not desire to take full advantage of the mercy of the Lord and are consequently lured to the temporary pleasures of the material world. As Prabhupada says (SB 2.9.20 Purport):
The ultimate purpose of Vedic knowledge is to know the Lord and not to misuse the knowledge for any other purpose. Those who do not utilize Vedic knowledge for that purpose are known askuta-yogis, or pseudotranscendentalists who spoil their lives with ulterior motives.
When a person makes some advancement in spiritual life, he automatically revives some spiritual facilities and with these newly acquired opulences such as increased knowledge, etc., he may become sidetracked in his progressive march toward developing his service attitude toward Krishna. Thus a person’s newly-acquired spiritual opulences may become a hindrance toward progressive spiritual advancement. Such spiritualists who are not free from material desires may take advantage of the situation and exploit others in the name of becoming themselves spiritual teachers; thus their actual spiritual life is checked. For the clarification of this matter as to who is the bona fide spiritual master and who is lacking the necessary qualifications of the bona fide spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada has devoted many purports within his books as well as many taped conversations and lectures on the matter so that any aspiring transcendentalist will be able to take shelter solidly under the lotus feet of the Lord and be able to realize his relationship with God without check. We hope to impress upon the student of transcendence the need for understanding the importance of reviving his dormant love for God and describe the method of achieving God consciousness according to the authorized process of the disciplic succession.
Chapter 3–Lord Brahma Was the First Disciple
Authority comes only from one place, the source of everything: Lord Shri Krishna. God is not impersonal as some religionists and spiritualists do claim, but He does have an impersonal feature. The impersonal feature of the Lord is not His ultimate feature but a partial feature of His opulence. Those persons who desire to merge into the existence of God take His effulgent spiritual light, thebrahmajyoti, as the all-in-all in spiritual realization; but it is stated in the Vedic literatures that the shining effulgence from the personal body of the Lord is but His partial feature. As it is stated in the Vedic literature (SB 7.5.31): na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum durashaya ye bahir-artha-maninah. These spiritualists do not have any knowledge of the lotus feet of the Lord at which the transcendentalists in the authorized disciplic succession aim all of their devotional activities.
Beginning from the time of Lord Brahma up to the present point in the modern history of man, the science of Krishna consciousness has been taught in an unbroken chain of spiritual masters and disciples. The glory of this disciplic succession is that it is started by the Supreme Lord Himself and those who appear to propagate this knowledge given by the Lord, accept the knowledge as it is without any change, and thereby pass it on without adulteration. This is the process of accepting and delivering knowledge about Krishna. Therefore, as Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (10.14) exclaims: sarvam etad ritam manye yan mam vadasi keshava / na hi te bhagavan vyaktim vidur deva na danavah–“O Krishna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me.” One can also take the message of God and accept it as truth if it is properly received through the disciplic succession.
Those persons who have forgotten who is God must take the knowledge given in the disciplic succession in order to get out of ignorance. Everyone who is born in the material world to enjoy material desires has to receive authoritative spiritual knowledge to get free from such illusory desires.
Lord Brahma, as the first living being within the universe who is employed by the Lord to create the material bodies, is first in the line of disciples and he received knowledge directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Before Brahmaji was able to see the Lord however, he was first told to perform penance. Brahma was bewildered in the matter of creation so he accepted the vibration of “tapa tapa” to be spoken by the Lord Himself and he followed this instruction in the spirit of following the instruction of the Lord. Thus by performance of bhakti-yoga, Brahma achieved the favor of the Supreme Lord. The example shown here is that even though Brahma is the most exalted pious living entity within the universe, still he is not independent in his activities and knowledge and therefore conditioned souls like Brahma–what to speak of others–must take the instruction of the Supreme Lord by the performance of sacrifice. The Lord is the source of all knowledge and by satisfying Him by the performance of sacrifice, He is prepared to benedict the devotee with spiritual realization.
Although we cannot take our direction directly from the Lord as Lord Brahma did, we should accept the orders of the Lord as they come to us through the representatives of the Lord like Brahmaji and others who execute the orders of the Lord. About the matter of receiving the order to perform penance, Prabhupada says (SB 2.9.8 Purport):
There is no difference between the Lord and sound vibration coming from Him, even though He is not personally present. The best way of understanding is to accept such divine instruction, and Brahma, the prime spiritual master of everyone, is the living example of this process of receiving transcendental knowledge. The potency of transcendental sound is never minimized because the vibrator is apparently absent. Therefore Shrimad-Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita or any revealed scripture in the world is never to be accepted as an ordinary mundane sound without transcendental potency.
Anyone who is desirous to follow in the perfect footsteps of Lord Brahma in the matter of becoming qualified to receive transcendental knowledge must take the instruction of the Lord and become prepared to execute tapa or penance in the matter of service to the Lord. Tapa is penance and is the price for winning the mercy of the Lord. The Lord is merciful undoubtedly but for those persons who sacrifice their desires for material enjoyment for the satisfaction of the Lord, the Lord is attracted to such a person and favored so much so that He reveals Himself and His supreme abode directly to such a pure devotee. Others who do not perform devotional service to the Lord are too bewildered by material desires such as maintaining attachment for women, money, fame, and material possessions and do not see the defects of the material situation. Such persons cannot turn their attention wholeheartedly to the devotional service of the Lord and do not become free from material bondage. Therefore, their bondage within the material tabernacle continues.
The penance that Brahma performed was that he controlled both his mind and senses and engaged them in the devotional service of the Lord. Like Brahmaji who is able to perform such penance in the name of devotional service to please the Supreme and thereby engage himself in the matter of creation, the same principle of devoting all of ones activities in the service of the Lord is followed by all the disciples in the line of Brahma.
Lord Brahma is the most pious living entity within the universe. As such, although he did not see the person who vibrated the sound “tapa tapa”, he could accept the vibration of the sound as transcendental. Those sincere transcendentalists who wish to follow in the footsteps of Brahma should also be able to distinguish between transcendental sound as opposed to mundane, manufactured sound. Brahma accepted the vibration “tapa” to be nondifferent from the Lord and therefore he was inspired to carry out this order. Consequently, the Lord was able to benedict Brahma with all perfection, namely, detachment from material desires and direct engagement in the loving service of the Lord.
The history of how Lord Brahma attained perfect knowledge is meant to be an example to all those conditioned souls who similarly want to reestablish their forgotten relationship with Krishna. Krishna is the goal as well as the source of all knowledge. Today, what is accepted as knowledge has nothing to do with trying to understand the spiritual nature of the living being. Although scientists are claiming the source of life is due to a complex arrangement of chemicals, they cannot prove their theories practically by producing any life in their laboratories. Therefore their so-called knowledge is simply ignorance of the spirit soul which is the active principle in all living beings. This soul is an infinitesimal part of Krishna who is the original living being. Real knowledge means understanding who God is. Therefore, it is stated in the Katha Upanishad (2.2.13): nityo nityanam chetanash chetananam. There are innumerable living entities but Lord Krishna is the maintainer of them all. Further it is said in the Bhagavad-gita (10.8): aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate iti mattva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah. Krishna says that He is the source of everything. It is this spiritual knowledge that was revealed to Lord Brahma.
In the beginning, Lord Brahma was instructed by the Supreme Lord in the matter of performing penance. Following in the footsteps of Brahmaji, all disciples of spiritual life must accept the process of penance to please the Supreme Lord or His bona fide representative. It is stated in Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura’s Shri Shri Gurv-ashtaka (Verse 8): yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado. “By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Krishna. Without the grace of the spiritual master, one cannot make any advancement.” Brahma’s spiritual master was directly the Supreme Lord so it behooved Lord Brahma to perform penance by the direction of the Lord so that he could advance in spiritual life. This is the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple. Because it is necessary to see how eager and how well the student is willing to accept the principle of reviving his service attitude toward Krishna, the bona fide spiritual master gives necessary instruction to his disciples and the disciple accepts the order, sacrificing his own material desires in order to please Krishna. In this connection Prabhupada says that (SB 4.8.32 Purport), “It is the duty of the spiritual master to test the disciple to see how seriously he desires to execute devotional service.”
The disciple’s duty is essentially to execute the order of the bona fide spiritual master so that he will be able to develop the proper attitude for devotional service. However, the spiritual master, although he is the most confidential servant of the Lord, is always aware that he is the transparent via media between the disciple and the Lord and never declares that he himself is God. Therefore Prabhupada says (CC Mad 24.254 Purport):
The representative of Krishna never tells his disciple, “Surrender to me. ” Rather he says, “Surrender unto Krishna.” If the disciple accepts this principle and surrenders himself through the representative of Krishna, his life is saved.
The qualification of the spiritual master is that he represents Krishna and does not try to become Krishna.
Consider this conversation with a reporter of the London Times cited in the Science of Self-Realization (SSR p. 61, 68) in a chapter entitled “Separating the Saints From the Swindlers”:
Reporter: Sometimes I get the feeling that not all of them are as genuine as they ought to be. Would it be right to warn people who are thinking of taking up spiritual life that they should make sure that they have a genuine guru to teach them?
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes. Of course, to search out a guru is very nice, but if you want a cheap guru, or if you want to be cheated, then you will find many cheating gurus. But if you are sincere, you will find a sincere guru.
Reporter: I wondered how many people you think might have been taken in by fake gurus.
Shrila Prabhupada: Practically everyone. [Laughter.] There is no question of counting. Everyone.
Reporter: This would mean thousands of people, wouldn’t it?
Shrila Prabhupada: Millions. Millions have been cheated, because they want to be cheated.
So by this hint we can understand the necessity of accepting a bona fide spiritual master who is as qualified as Lord Krishna. Although the bona fide spiritual master is the representative of Krishna, he must be as qualified as Krishna in that he delivers the message of Krishna as it is without any change or adulteration. In essence, the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple must be like that between Krishna and Lord Brahma or as Prabhupada says (ISO p. 53-4), “The perfect disciple must be like Arjuna, and the spiritual master must be as good as the Lord Himself.” If the spiritual master does not represent the disciplic succession by misrepresenting Krishna, then he falls from the position of spiritual master. Similarly, if the disciple fails in his duty to take the instruction of the bona fide spiritual master, then his progress in spiritual life is immediately checked.
Penance to please Krishna is the basic principle to be adopted in regaining our eternal Krishna consciousness. From the very beginning of the creation of the universe, as shown by Lord Brahma, this principle has been observed. It is on account of possessing desire to enjoy material life and our unwillingness to accept the authority of the Lord that we have taken birth in the material world. When one is convinced somehow or other that the material world is a place of repeated birth and death, he must search out his original Krishna consciousness to free himself from the ignorance of his eternal identity. Therefore, the method of accepting the authority of Krishna, either directly or through His bona fide representative is absolutely necessary. This desire of the disciple to please the bona fide representative of Krishna is the way of achieving the benediction of devotional service. The benediction of devotional service to Krishna is to be situated in ones factual, eternal position in touch with Krishna, being freed from the doubts arising from contact with the duality of material consciousness. As Prabhupada says (CC Ant 4.194 Purport):
Being in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is situated on the transcendental platform. Thus having attained knowledge and the spiritual platform, he always engages in the service of the spiritual body of Krishna. When one is freed from material connections in this way, his body immediately becomes spiritual, and Krishna accepts his service.
Chapter 4–The Disciplic Succession is Nonsectarian
The world is divided by many political, national, social, ideological and religious groups. Each group works for the benefit of its members but hardly one group is to be seen working for the benefit of the entire world. Mainly, this is the duty of religion. Religion is supposed to deliver God to human society but hardly any religion in existence can claim to be faithfully executing this task. Therefore, the true spirit of religion is not exhibited within the voice of contemporary religious teachers and followers of religious movements.
Practically speaking, so-called religion is a means to segregate and alienate one people from the next. Rather than serving the true purpose of religion, which is to bring people to knowledge, religion has often served to encourage factionalism and apartheid.
This may be precisely why many think it wise that government should avoid any encounter with religion, especially in its public institutions like schools. Rather than trying to understand and foster a healthy education about what the message and influence of religion is, educators avoid the topic of religion and its influence and in this way are side-stepping this most important and influential area of humanity.
Real religion however is not a sectarian concern involving a particular group of people to the exclusion of others. In all bona fide religious teachings, there is only one supreme God and He is God for the entire creation–not just for a certain section of people. Therefore, what God says is equally applicable for all. God’s teachings are universal and are not to be misunderstood as meant for a particular group of people only. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (4.7-8), when there is a rise of irreligion and when the true message of Godhead becomes lost to society, then God comes to reestablish the principles of religion for those who are willing to go back to Godhead. Sometimes God comes to the Earth directly or sometimes He sends a representative to perform this task. In previous times, many such incarnations of God have descended upon Indian soil like Lord Krishna, Lord Ramachandra and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in order to set man on the course back to Godhead. Whatever they speak is full of eternal, spiritual wisdom and is meant for all people without reference to caste, creed or color. God is the father of all the living beings in whatever condition of life they are in. The illusory energy causes the living being to forget his relationship with God and thus he accepts all types of material designations in the formation of his false identity. Everyone accepts the physical body as the actual self. As such, they begin to accept designations based on nationality–American, Russian, Chinese; designations based on religion–Christian, Hindu, Jew; designations based on occupation–doctor, scientist, policeman; designations based on skin color–white, black, red, yellow; and further false designations like male, female, young, old, beautiful, ugly, etc. The list of material designations are endless. But factually, bona fide religious teaching is supposed to teach the eternal identity of the living being which is not connected to the external, temporary designations of the body. This means that all bona fide religions must teach the reality that everyone is eternally a part of God. This is one’s eternal identity as distinguished from all types of false, temporary bodily designations.
The Hare Krishna movement is meant to teach the science of understanding what is God. As a science, it is equally applicable to everyone no matter what type of material designation he has accepted for himself. Ask anyone what they are and they’ll say, “Yes, I’m Mr. Jones.” “Yes, I’m American.” “Yes, I’m a physicist.” But they will not be able to say what they really are because they identify themselves with the body. This is the ignorance of the materially-conditioned soul. By accepting designations like American, Russian, black or white, they place themselves in illusory classifications. To understand one’s true identity, one must give up all temporary, material designations.
One must also be careful to avoid the blindfold of accepting membership within a religious institution as equal to gaining the acceptance of God. The fallacy that by merely accepting membership into a religious institution one can immediately attain to everlasting, blissful life is not the requirement for actually doing so. This is a mistake many so-called religious teachers make because they think that God is more concerned with institutions rather than in purifying the conditioned souls of material desires. Therefore another pitfall to be avoided is to accept a narrow view of God. God is never under the control of those who misrepresent His teachings; but instead, those persons who misrepresent God in the name of spreading so-called God consciousness are actually the most dangerous elements within society. Shrila Prabhupada says in this regard (ISO p. 67-8):
The pseudoreligionists have neither knowledge nor detachment from material affairs, for most of them want to live in the golden shackles of material bondage under the shadow of altruistic and philanthropic activities and in the guise of religious principles. By a false display of religious sentiments, they present a show of devotional service while indulging in all sorts of immoral activities. In this way they pass as spiritual masters and devotees of God. Such violators of religious principles have no respect for the authoritative acharyas, the holy teachers in the strict disciplic succession. To mislead the people in general, they themselves become so-called acharyas, but do not even follow the principles of the acharyas. These rogues are the most dangerous elements in human society. Because there is no religious government, they escape punishment by the law of the state. They cannot, however, escape the law of the Supreme, who has clearly declared in Bhagavad-gita (16.19-20) that envious demons in the garb of religious propagandists shall be thrown into the darkest regions of hell. Shri Ishopanishad confirms that these pseudoreligionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after the completion of their spiritual master business, which they conduct simply for sense gratification.
This is a warning to all types of unqualified religious leaders to be aware that in the name of God and God consciousness they should not try to manufacture any concocted ideas and present them in the name of religious life. If one simply does not understand the science of God, he should not pose himself as a representative of God for material profit and thereby mislead the innocent public. As stated above, such persons will not be able to escape the punishment of the laws of God at the end of their cheating business.
Although a neophyte may be convinced of the importance of adopting a life of God consciousness through any one of many various religious organizations or leaders, he must be aware that if such a religious organization fails to follow the orders of the Supreme Lord, it simply is a religious organization in name only. Factually, it has no connection with God. Insufficient knowledge about the goal of religious life can be dangerous and could keep one in ignorance life after life. Materially-motivated religious leaders, especially in the Kali-yuga or the present age of hypocrisy may find it convenient to exploit the naiveté of their followers and lead them to believe that salvation is dependent on the choice of a particular religious institution. The real acharya knows the true purpose of religious life as Prabhupada points out (CC Adi 3.98 Purport):
The so-called acharyas of the age of Kali are more concerned with exploiting the resources of their followers than mitigating their miseries but…an ideal acharya [is] concerned with improving the condition of the world situation.
Also Prahlada Maharaja comments on the cheated and the cheaters in the name of spiritual life (SB 7.5.31):
Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Vishnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially-attached men led by another materially-attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.
Because both the unqualified leaders and their followers do not follow the real principles of spiritual life as given by God in various authoritative scriptures and confirmed by the great acharyas, they are described as blind and the result is that such blind leaders lead their followers into the ditch of material misery.
Ideally, a religious institution is supposed to bring one to God. But if one understands and abides by the message of God as it is, then the actual goal of religious activity is reached. If a so-called religious institution neglects teaching and observing the real principles of religious life namely, “re-presenting” the message of God, then it is unable to be effective in the matter of delivering God consciousness.
The human form of life is especially meant for one to take the opportunity for elevating himself toward God consciousness. It is stated in the Vedanta-sutras: athato brahma-jijnasa. In human life, one must take the opportunity to inquire about the absolute truth. This verse indirectly indicates that the living entity is born in ignorance. This fact is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (7.27) where Krishna says: ichchha-dvesha samutthena dvandva-mohena bharata–“All living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” Consequently, the conditioned living beings deny the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because the living beings’ illusory desire to enjoy the resources of the material energy in the form of acquiring fame, engaging in sense gratification and attachment to material wealth, he cannot accept the all good message of God on account of his feverish mentality. As a result, he sometimes declares the existence of God is a myth or he speaks out some bogus philosophy in favor of enjoying material nature. In this way, such a person wastes the valuable asset of having sufficient intelligence in the human form of life especially meant to perform tapa or penance to revive his lost Krishna consciousness.
Such demoniac persons who do not surrender to God are actually overwhelmed and controlled by illusory fantasies for material enjoyment. As such, proper behavior, or truth is lacking in their character. Sometimes such madmen create propaganda against the message of God in the name of God consciousness. As mentioned previously, they may escape punishment from the state, but they are destined for punishment from God. As Prabhupada notes (Bg. 4.2 Purport):
At the present moment also there are so many editions of the Gita (especially in English), but almost all of them are not according to authorized disciplic succession. There are innumerable interpretations rendered by different mundane scholars, but almost all of them do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, although they make a good business on the words of Shri Krishna. This spirit is demonic, because demons do not believe in God but simply enjoy the property of the Supreme.
Prabhupada would often comment about how many different editions of the Gita there are: about 500 different editions. Because the authors have no connection with Krishna or His authorized disciplic succession but have simply relied on their scholarly interpretation on the words of Krishna, they could not justly convey the message of the Gita. On the contrary, they simply have caused confusion in the matter of understanding Krishna. Because of such whimsical interpretation of the words of God is going on, one must get his knowledge from the right source–from the authorized disciplic succession, otherwise one will be misled and his chance to achieve perfection lost.
There are never any new opinions within the disciplic succession. The duty of the disciple within the disciplic succession is to accept the teachings of Krishna as they are without any change. As soon as one thinks that be has some improvement to make in the matter of God consciousness which runs contrary to the infallible message of God propagated by the entire disciplic succession, be becomes an offender to the disciplic succession. From Lord Brahma up to the present most recent spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada, this principle of faithfully reproducing the message of Godhead has been strictly and rigidly adhered to. Prabhupada comments in this regard (CC Intro. to Adi-Lila, Chap. 1, p. 17):
Since we belong to this chain of disciplic succession from Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, this edition of Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita will contain nothing newly-manufactured by our tiny brains, but only remnants of foodstuff originally eaten by the Lord Himself.
Even the most erudite mundane scholar cannot approach tile transcendental plane unless he submits himself to transcendental sound with a receptive mood, for in that mood only can one realize the message of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu [who is none other than Lord Krishna Himself]. What will be described herein, therefore, has nothing to do with the experimental thoughts created by the speculative habits of inert minds. The subject matter of this book is not a mental concoction but a factual spiritual experience that one can realize only by accepting the line of disciplic succession described above. It is not the arrogant scholarship of a mental speculator but a sincere effort to serve the order of a superior authority whose service is the life and soul of this humble effort. It does not deviate even slightly from the revealed scriptures.
The main principles established in this excerpt are that no one can transmit anything worth hearing unless it is supported by the authoritative disciplic succession. Any transcendental message must always be supported by authorized revealed scriptures and no matter how learned one may be, he must always humbly submit himself as a servant to the message of Godhead in order to receive and transmit spiritual knowledge. Even persons who do appear to accept as their spiritual authorities persons in the line of disciplic succession–if they do not follow these above principles in the matter of strictly adhering to the words of the authorized acharyas–then they are not actually considered within the shelter of the disciplic succession. Prabhupada states this clearly (CC Adi 7.48 Purport):
One who is in the line of disciplic succession cannot manufacture his own way of behavior. There are many so-called followers of the Vaishnava cult in the line of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who do not scrupulously follow the conclusions of the shastras, and therefore they are considered to be apa-sampradaya, which means “outside of the sampradaya.”
It is not that one receives instruction from the authorized spiritual master who comes within the disciplic succession and then creates a new philosophy in the name of the disciplic succession. Simply by having some dealings or contact with the bona fide spiritual master, one doesn’t necessarily become qualified with spiritual assets. Prabhupada points out that (CC Mad 18.99 Purport):
Unless one is enlightened by the knowledge given by the spiritual master, he cannot see things as they are, even though he remains constantly with the spiritual master.
The principle is to accept the instructions of the disciplic succession very rigidly without manufacturing any new processes. This is actually the humility of the disciple. He understands that as a member of the disciplic succession, his business is simply to accept the message of God as it is without any addition or adulteration. If he makes a change: if one thinks that there is some lack of knowledge or some new idea to be appended to the message of Godhead as it is, then one challenges the authority of the disciplic succession and he becomes apa-sampradaya or outside of the sampradaya.
Sincere devotees and spiritual students therefore carefully study the authoritative scriptures just like lawyers who scrutinize various lawbooks in order to establish the actual principles of religious life. As stated in the Shri Shri Sad-gosvami-ashtaka (Verse 2): nana-shastra-vicharanaika-nipunau sad-dharma-samsthapakau lokanam hita-karinau tri-bhuvane manyau sharanyakarau. The six Goswamis (Shri Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunatha Bhatta, Raghunatha dasa, Jiva and Gopala Bhatta Goswamis) followed this principle of scrutinizingly studying all the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings. They were not concerned with concocting some new process of religion for the sake of name, fame, disciples and profit. But their duty was to take knowledge from the authorized scriptures and thereby acknowledge and establish the authority of Lord Krishna and His disciplic succession.
The glory of the disciplic succession is that it has not deviated even slightly from the message of Krishna. One who takes to becoming a servant to the orders of the Lord as they are coming down through the authorized disciplic succession has direct access to the transcendental message of God.
There is no difference of opinion between the message of Krishna as He originally imparted to Brahma and the message of the present acharya, Shrila Prabhupada. In order to personally realize the transcendental knowledge and realize the existence and reality of God, all one need do is accept the knowledge of the disciplic succession with a submissive and service attitude.
The test of the transcendentalist in the bona fide disciplic succession is that he is able to faithfully represent the message of the Lord. As such, the powerful message of the Lord acts through the lips of a pure representative to relieve the pangs of material life within the hearts of a submissive audience. In this connection Prabhupada says about Shrila Shukadeva Goswami (SB 1.1.3 Purport):
The subject matter is so presented through the lips of Shrila Shukadeva Goswami that any sincere listener that hears submissively can at once relish transcendental tastes which are distinct from the perverted tastes of the material world.
To describe further the effects of submissively hearing the message of Godhead, it is stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (SB 1.1.2):
Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are fully pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhagavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within his heart.
By hearing from the bona fide representative of God in submission is the process for mitigating all miseries born of ignorance of ones eternal relationship with God. Unless one is qualified with authorized spiritual knowledge about Krishna, one cannot have access to any factual knowledge about God to soothe the blazing fire of material desires. Today, many doctors, therapists, psychologists and so-called religious men of all types offer various techniques for relieving the unavoidable stress and pressures of life; but without being able to deliver factual Krishna consciousness, there is no possibility of relieving the constant anxiety of material life. Therefore, people remain locked in the bodily conception of life and do not realize their real positions as servants of Krishna. The words of the bona fide spiritual master however, can shatter all the misunderstandings due to false identification with the body and direct the disciple back to his real identity as eternal servant of the Supreme Lord.
Chapter 5– Learning Submissively How to Become Submissive To God
The test of the bona fide disciple of Krishna consciousness is that he is able to distinguish between that which is spiritual and that which is material. The actual advanced devotee of spiritual life sees everything as the different energies of the Lord by factual realization. The neophyte, however, has very little understanding of spiritual matters and cannot understand his own spiritual nature or the nature of God and His energies. As such, the neophyte must submissively approach the spiritual master in order to learn how to serve God.
Material understanding is limited to the temporary universal situation whereas spiritual knowledge is eternal and limitless. Science has made great strides in amazing the minds of modern man but it cannot touch the greater spiritual world of eternal reality. As it is stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.34): panthas tu koti-shata-vatsara-sampragamyo vayor athapi manaso munipungavanam / so’py asti yat-prapada-simny avichintya-tattve govindam adi purusam tam aham bhajami. If the greatest human minds thought about and speculated on the nature of the absolute truth for many billions of years, still they could not understand what is spiritual. That is the nature of spiritual understanding. One can only get spiritual knowledge from Krishna.
The process of approaching Krishna is to go to the bona fide representative of Krishna–the spiritual master. Therefore Krishna recommends in the Bhagavad-gita (4.34): tad viddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sevaya / upadekshyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darshinah. The Lord says, “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” The Lord does not recommend that one approach Him directly. It has become a fashion with many whimsical spiritualists (known as sahajiya) to make a foolish attempt to reach God directly and quickly declare themselves liberated. But as stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32) they are vimukta maninah or falsely considering themselves free from material desires. They are actually avishuddha-buddhayah or not liberated because their intelligence is not yet purified. Consequently they fall down despite their practice of penance and austerity in the name of God realization. Such souls should not try to minimize the authoritative words of the pure devotees who always carry the instructions of the Lord as taught by the bona fide disciplic succession. There is no difference between the Lord and His instructions. Similarly, there is no difference between the Lord and His pure devotees who can deliver the message of the Lord intact. Because one cannot understand spiritual nature, they mistakenly try to distinguish between a devotee and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But Prabhupada states that the representative of the Lord and the Lord are the same providing that the representative is, in fact, bona fide.
There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the … spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service (CC Adi 1.47 Purport).
The spiritual master is a direct manifestation of the Lord. With this conviction, a disciple can advance in Krishna consciousness. The spiritual master is nondifferent from Krishna because he is a manifestation of Krishna (CC Adi 1.44 Purport).
In the dealings of an acharya, there are no activities but those of transcendental loving service to the Lord. He is the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead. It is worthwhile to take shelter of such a steady devotee, who is called ashraya-vigraha, or the manifestation or form of the Lord of whom one must take shelter (CC Adi 1.46 Purport).
One should treat the spiritual master as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and never be envious of him or consider him to be an ordinary human being (SB 4.20.13 Purport).
Regarding the necessity for learning about God through a bona fide spiritual master, Prabhupada says (Bg 11.54 Purport):
For one who does not take personal training under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, it is impossible to even begin to understand Krishna. The word “tu” is specifically used here to indicate that no other process can be used, can be recommended, or can be successful in understanding Krishna.
As mentioned earlier, one cannot go to God by exercising his mental powers of speculation (panthas tu koti-shata-vatsara-sampragamyo). By performing penance and austerities, he also cannot go to God directly. Prabhupada again confirms this point in a conversation from the Science of Self-Realization (p. 265):
Mr. O’Grady: Is it possible to arrive at this understanding of God alone?
Shrila Prabhupada: No. Therefore we have cited this verse: tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigachchhet. The word “abhigachchhet” means “must”. It is not possible alone.
One must go to the person who is expert in Krishna consciousness and take knowledge from him by submitting oneself in all humility. It is by submissive inquiry and carrying out the specific order of the spiritual master that one can receive transcendental knowledge. Knowledge about Krishna consciousness is not dry philosophy but it awakens ones dormant love for God. As such, the principle of listening to the words of the spiritual master is not a matter of lending a discriminating ear in order to challenge and debate but to allow the pure message of Godhead penetrate the heart and destroy the ignorance of the submissive disciple. Prabhupada says in this regard (SB 2.1.10 Purport):
The bona fide spiritual master reasonably explains everything to the disciple on the authorities of Vedic wisdom. The disciple can receive such knowledge not exactly intellectually, but by submissive inquiries and a service attitude. The idea is that both the spiritual master and the disciple must be bona fide.
One must be careful and intelligent enough to discriminate to see who is the bona fide spiritual master. When one finds such a qualified devotee who is expert in the science of Krishna consciousness, he surrenders, then he is able to take spiritual instruction. If one feels that he need not surrender to the lotus feet of the guru, he can make no progress in spiritual understanding. Prabhupada says (SB 7.15.26-7 Purport):
If one considers the spiritual master an ordinary human being, one is doomed. His study of the Vedas and his austerities and penances for enlightenment are all useless, like the bathing of an elephant.
It is further said in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.32), “Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaishnava completely freed from material contamination, persons very much inclined toward materialistic life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is glorified by His uncommon activities.” In the purport to this text, Prabhupada explains:
One cannot understand Krishna unless one is graced by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only one who has surrendered to a pure devotee of Krishna and taken the dust of his lotus feet can understand Krishna. One must take shelter of a self-realized spiritual master, not a materially educated scholar or politician. One must take shelter of a nishkinchana, a person engaged in devotional service and free from material contamination. That is the way to return home, back to Godhead.
Prabhupada further comments elsewhere:
Spiritual life begins with the association of a devotee, a sadhu. One cannot progress an inch without the mercy of a sadhu (TLK pp. 141-2).
Unless one is fortunate enough to have the dust of the lotus feet of a mahatma on his head, there is no possibility of perfection in spiritual life (SB 3.22.6 Purport).
From the very beginning, the process of understanding spiritual life is that the devotee disciple present himself as humble and thereby approach the lotus feet of the bona fide spiritual master. This process has been followed by all bona fide disciples within the disciplic succession. As a natural result, the devotee attains all perfection in spiritual life having been able to receive transcendental instruction in this way. Still, however, he always considers himself always dependent on the mercy of his spiritual master.
It is this mood of being always subordinate to the instructions of the bona fide spiritual master that is the qualification of the disciple. It should be noted however that the bona fide disciple is never a fool although he may express himself as such. To submit oneself in all humility to the lotus feet of the spiritual master means that the student is obedient to the order of the Lord and therefore he has perfect intelligence. The real fool is he who does not take advantage of the order of the Supreme Lord by submission to the spiritual master. Therefore Prabhupada says:
Every disciple must consider himself completely unaware of the science of Krishna and must always be ready to carry out the orders of the spiritual master to become competent in Krishna consciousness. A disciple should always remain a fool before his spiritual master (CC Adi 7.72 Purport).
He who remains a great fool before his guru is a guru himself. However, if one says, “I am so advanced that I can speak better than my guru,” he is simply a rascal (SSR p. 57).
It is out of humility that a disciple always presents himself as a fool or completely unable to make any progress of life without the mercy of his spiritual master. Even Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu observed this etiquette even though He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the supreme authority of all spiritual knowledge. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says (SB Introduction to Canto 1, pp. 34-5):
I have taken to the sankirtana movement instead of the study of Vedanta because I am a great fool. And because I am a great fool, My spiritual master forbade Me to play with Vedanta philosophy. He said that it is better that I chant the holy name of the Lord, for that would deliver Me from material bondage.
And as Prabhupada has personally displayed this sentiment, he says (CC “Concluding Words” Antya: 5, pp. 319-20):
It is to be admitted that whatever translation work I have done is through the inspiration of my spiritual master because personally I am most insignificant and incompetent to do this materially-impossible work. I do not think myself a very learned scholar, but I have full faith in the service of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. If there is any credit to my activities or translating, it is all due to His Divine Grace.
One should take advantage of the bona fide spiritual master by serving him in all humility. By his satisfaction, one can awaken his own dormant love for Krishna which is the ultimate perfection of life.
Chapter 6–Pure Instructions vs. False Institutions
In the Bhagavad-gita (18.66) Lord Krishna says: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja/ aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shuchah. He says to give up all types of religious processes and surrender to Him. Krishna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is declaring that one should surrender to Him without any fear or reservation. This is the goal of religion. One must always perform some type of service because servitude is the eternal characteristic of the soul. In conditioned life, everyone is falsely thinking that he will find happiness in this material world without surrendering to God. Instead of becoming the servant of God, he tries to become the master. Factually speaking, he works hard to serve the illusion that he has no connection with God. He’ll work hard to establish a situation of comfort within the material world with family, friends, wealth and prestige, but ultimately–because he has neglected to serve God–God comes at the time of death to take him away from his so-called earthly kingdom and thus, all his service in the name of material happiness proves futile.
Although the saying, “You can’t take it with you,” refers to ones family and wealth at the time of death, one does take his desires for material enjoyment with him. The desire for happiness without God is certainly an illusion because the living being is eternally a servant of God. When one leaves one chapter of material life at the time of death, unfulfilled material desires take him to his next birth. Again he tries to enjoy separately from God. This cycle of birth and death and rebirth continues until one gets the mercy of God and begins to see the reality of the situation.
The soul, in its normal, eternal condition is always happy in the association of God. But while one desires material pleasures, the soul does not experience its eternal nature. As soon as one becomes convinced that he is the eternal servant of the Supreme Lord, one must surrender and take ones direction from Him. That’s why He requests the conditioned soul to give up all types of processes and ideas to become happy in the material world and just surrender to Him. This is the ultimate act in the search for God. One may look and examine many hundreds of different religions, philosophies and sensual and mental activities to become eternally situated in happiness. But Krishna says just to give up all these things and surrender to Him without doubt. He then assures one of relief from the reaction to all past sinful activities and the surrendered soul begins to make progress on the path of actual knowledge.
Because no one can give protection from ones sinful life except God, one must be sure to take shelter of God and His pure representative only. No other personality can possibly claim to be able to give another protection from the miseries of material life and the consequences of ones sinful deeds. However, when one surrenders to Krishna through the spiritual master, the Lord does provide the means for deliverance from the suffering of material life. Prabhupada explains this process in terms of the spiritual master (CC Mad 24.254 Purport):
The representative of Krishna never tells his disciple, “Surrender unto me.” Rather he says, “Surrender unto Krishna.” If the disciple accepts this principle and surrenders himself through the representative of Krishna, his life is saved.
So the spiritual master is compared to a cloud. Just as there are torrents of rain from a cloud, so the spiritual master brings mercy from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A cloud takes water from the sea. It doesn’t have its own water, but takes water from the sea. Similarly, the spiritual master brings mercy from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just see the comparison. He has no mercy of his own, but he carries the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the qualification of the spiritual master. He is just like a mailman. When a mailman delivers you some large amount of money, it is not his own money. The money is sent by someone else, but he honestly delivers it–“Sir, here is your money. Take it.” So you become very much satisfied with him, although it is not his money he is giving you–brought by the mailman–you feel very much satisfaction. Thus the spiritual master is offered obeisances: “Sir, you have brought mercy from the Supreme Lord; therefore, we are much obliged to you. You have come to deliver us, so we offer our respectful obeisances.” That is the meaning of this verse: the first qualification of the spiritual master, or guru, is that he brings you the message to stop the blazing fire in your heart. This is the test (BTG, Vol. 13, No. 1-2, “The Qualifications of the Spiritual Master”).
The process of salvation from the material world is to receive God’s mercy through His bona fide representative. It is important to note that the spiritual master is always the representative of God. He is not God nor does he ever claim to be God, neither does he claim to be able to become one with God. He is only a representative of God. In the excerpt above, he is compared to the mailman who can deliver the message of Godhead as it is. If he manufactures some message and presents it as the message of God; or if he declares that he is equal to or greater than God, then he’s not a bona fide spiritual master. The qualification of the spiritual master is that he delivers the words of Krishna as it is without any change.
Because it is the general tendency especially in the Kali-yuga to manufacture a religious process in the name of God consciousness, there is a constant rivalry between the members of the bona fide disciplic succession and the so-called religionists who desire to exploit the resources of the innocent neophytes. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for one to come to the conclusion that he is receiving the knowledge about God without adulteration. one must have that discriminating power in order to make progress in surrendering to Krishna.
All bona fide spiritual masters have always taught that the goal of life is to reestablish ones eternal relationship with God. In their missionary activities, they spread propaganda within society to establish firmly the eternal principles of religious life. Such religious leaders do this type of work on behalf of the Supreme Lord. However, their established institutions have not always remained faithful to the instructions of the bona fide acharya.
Lord Jesus Christ is recognized as a bona fide spiritual master because he was able to deliver the message of God as it is. Any bona fide acharya will say the same thing regarding the soul’s eternal status. As Lord Christ has said, it is everyone’s duty to love God. That is the actual message of all bona fide religious teachings.
Today, however, it is questionable as to how the so-called followers of Lord Christ are following his instructions. Many different religious movements have been created in the name of following the teachings of Lord Christ but as before mentioned, a disciple must be able to see whether or not such a religious institution or religious leader is able to deliver the message of God as it is without any change. The essential reason for having any religious organization is to deliver the words of God as they are, as they were taught by God Himself. As God is the father and creator of all the living beings, His message is not a sectarian concern. Those persons who would try to capitalize on the name and fame of God by posing as His representatives for the sake of material advancement only, commit an offense to Him. As a result, such blind religious persons lead similar blind followers into the ditch of material desire. No one can make progress in religious life by following a spiritually blind religious leader or religious doctrine.
In this connection, Prabhupada has often commented on the position of Jesus Christ as a bona fide representative of God:
Actually, anyone who is preaching God’s glories must be accepted as a guru. Jesus Christ is one such great personality. We should not think of him as an ordinary human being. The scriptures say that anyone who considers the spiritual master to be an ordinary man has a hellish mentality. If Jesus Christ were an ordinary man, then he could not have delivered God consciousness (SSR pp. 120-1).
Reporter: What about a Christian priest?
Shrila Prabhupada: Christian, Muhammadan, Hindu–it doesn’t matter. If he is simply speaking on behalf of God, he is a guru. Lord Jesus Christ, for instance. He canvassed people, saying, “Just try to love God.” Anyone–it doesn’t matter–be he Hindu, Muslim, or Christian, is a guru if he convinces people to love God. That is the test. The guru never says, “I am God,” or “I will make you God.” The real guru says, “I am a servant of God, and I will make you a servant of God also.” It doesn’t matter how the guru is dressed. As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Whoever can impart knowledge about Krishna is a spiritual master.” A genuine spiritual master simply tries to get people to become devotees of Krishna, or God. He has no other business (SSR pp. 62-3).
But Shrila Prabhupada has questioned the activities of the so-called followers of Christ as well as other so-called religious people:
In other words, if I profess to follow some religion but I do not know who God is or how to love Him, I am practicing a cheating religion. As far as the Christian religion is concerned, ample opportunity is given to understand God but no one is taking it. For example, the Bible contains the commandment, “Thou shall not kill,” but Christians have built the world’s best slaughterhouses. How can they become God conscious if they disobey the commandments of Lord Jesus Christ? And this is going on not just in the Christian religion, but in every religion. The title “Hindu,” “Muslim,” or “Christian” is simply a rubber stamp. No one of them knows who God is and how to love Him (SSR, “What is Krishna consciousness?” pp. 11-12).
A preacher of God consciousness is a friend to all living beings. Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this by teaching, “Thou shalt not kill.” But the Christians like to misinterpret this instruction.
They think they can freely kill billions of innocent animals in the slaughterhouses. So although there are many persons who profess to be Christians, it would be very difficult to find one who strictly follows the instructions of Lord Jesus Christ. (SSR, “Jesus Christ Was a Guru” p. 134).
The principle to be observed here is to understand that the spiritual master is spreading the perfect knowledge about Krishna consciousness. As such, people may come to know about the Supreme Lord and adopt the process for going back to Godhead. Sometimes, however, the followers of the acharya change the pure message of the acharya in the name of God consciousness, but such foolish persons who are guided by desires to enjoy material life do not go back to Godhead, but suffer the resultant actions of their sinful behavior.
Even though Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami was a bona fide acharya in the disciplic succession, his disciples experienced some difficulty in the matter of executing devotional service after their guru’s departure from the world. The best of his disciples–Shrila Prabhupada–comments on the activities of his Godbrothers many times in his books–not to criticize but-to establish the proper standard of behavior of a bona fide student of the disciplic succession.
It was not the fault of Bhaktisiddhanta that many of his disciples could not become effective in the mission of spreading God consciousness. But, as Prabhupada points out, the key to becoming successful in ones devotional service to Krishna is to take the instructions of the guru and follow them as they are without change. That is the key to achieving success in devotional service. As Prabhupada points out, this quality of following strictly the orders of the guru was lacking in the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta, therefore they were not able to preach effectively. To follow the instructions of the bona fide spiritual master as far as possible is the key to achieving the actual mercy of God. In all cases, no matter if one considers himself “Christian,” “Hindu,” or “Jew,” if one does not follow the words of the bona fide representative of God who presents the nonsectarian message of God as it is, he cannot achieve any success in advancing in spiritual life.
As the latest bona fide representative in the Brahma-sampradaya, Prabhupada’s books on spiritual topics are the authoritative summary study of all the Vedic literatures. Prabhupada does not take any credit in the matter of writing these transcendental books and commentaries on the Vedic literatures. According to the process of transmitting transcendental knowledge, Prabhupada’s credit is due solely to his ability to present the knowledge as it is coming down through the disciplic succession from Krishna. He hasn’t added any of his own philosophy but simply repeated the message as it is. This is the actual process of becoming a spiritual master. One need only repeat the words of the disciplic succession as it is without any addition or change. Difficulties in spiritual progress arise when one abuses this system and changes the meaning of the instructions of the guru or does not follow them as they are. Shrila Prabhupada emphasizes this point by his own practical example (CC Adi 7.95-6 Purport):
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu never disobeyed the orders of His spiritual master and stopped propagating the sankirtana movement. Shri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami, at the time of his passing away, ordered all his disciples to work conjointly to preach the mission of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world. Later, however, some self-interested, foolish disciples disobeyed his orders. Each one of them wanted to become head of the mission, and they fought in the courts, neglecting the order of the spiritual master, and the entire mission was defeated. We are not proud of this; however, the truth must be explained. We believed in the words of our spiritual master and started in a humble way–in a helpless way–but due to the spiritual force of the order of the supreme authority, this movement has become successful.
Prabhupada suggests that one can tell the worthiness of a disciple by the his desire to carry on the mission of Krishna consciousness (CC Adi 12.12 Purport):
There are many disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, but to judge who is actually his disciple, to divide the useful from the useless, one must measure the activities of such disciples in executing the will of the spiritual master.
But to reiterate the importance that the disciple should rigidly adhere to the instruction of the bona fide spiritual master, Prabhupada says (CC Adi 12.9 Purport):
When disciples do not stick to the principle of accepting the order of their spiritual master, immediately there are two opinions. Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation.
Again Prabhupada was not interested to find fault amongst the activities of his Godbrothers: the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta. Yet he is anxious to display how even by slightly deviating from the bona fide spiritual master’s order, one creates havoc in the progressive path back to Godhead. When the disciple concocts some new method of devotional service which is contrary to the order of theguru, then he is actually not taking shelter in God but he takes shelter of his mental concoctions. No matter what one concocts within his mind, he’ll not be able to escape the miseries of material life. As stated in the Vedic literatures (SB 5.18.12): yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akinchana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah/ harav abhaktasya kuto mahadguna mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih–“One who has unflinching devotion for the Personality of Godhead has all the good qualities of the demigods. But one who is not a devotee of the Lord has only material qualifications, that are of little value. This is because he is hovering on the mental plane and is certain to be attracted by the glaring material energy.” In other words, the proper attitude toward serving Krishna and His representative must be adopted in favor of pursuing different mentally concocted ideas. The proper mood for devotional service is stated in Shrila Rupa Goswamis Nectar of Devotion:anyabhilashita-shunyam jnana-karmady-anavritam/ anukulyena krishnanushilanam bhaktir uttama–“One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service.” one should serve the Lord without desire for any type of gain–either material or spiritual. That is called first class devotional service and it springs from a desire simply to simply please the Lord without an ulterior motive.
Prabhupada comments about bow disagreement with the orders of the spiritual master proved to be an impediment to his Godbrothers’ devotional activities (CC Adi 12.8 Purport):
Disagreement among the disciples of one acharya is also found among the members of the Gaudiya Matha. In the beginning, during the presence of Om Vishnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya Ashtottara-shata Shri Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, all the disciples worked in agreement; but just after his disappearance, they disagreed. One party strictly followed the instructions of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, but another group created their own concoction about executing his desires. The secret of success in advancement in spiritual life is the firm faith of the disciple in the orders of his spiritual master. One must judge every action by its result. The members of the self-appointed acharyas party who occupied the property of the Gaudiya Matha are satisfied, but they could make no progress in preaching. Therefore by the result of their actions one should know that they are asara, or useless, whereas the success of the ISKCON party, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which strictly follows guru and Gauranga, is increasing daily all over the world.
It is clear that such disciples who are not willing to follow the instruction of the spiritual master have accepted a guru simply out of fashion. Serious students or bona fide disciples accept a spiritual master to learn how to surrender to God. The casual student disciples do not understand how to accept the order of the guru. As Prabhupada states (TLK p. 174):
Surrender means that one will accept whatever the guru says. It is not that one thinks, “I do not care for my guru’s order. Still I am a disciple.” That is not actually accepting a guru. Of course, it has become a fashion to accept a guru in this way but this will not help anyone.
As soon as the spiritual master departs from the world, it is natural that his students should be so trained that they may continue to be strong to create counter-propaganda against the opinions of the demons. This is the mission of the bona fide disciples of the disciplic succession. As the knower and guardian of religious principles, the acharya is able to provide shelter to many students of transcendence so that such disciples may progress under the acharyas expert guidance. His personal presence and influence checks the material desires of motivated disciples. But when the acharyadeparts, Prabhupada comments that (SB 4.28.48 Purport):
Unfortunately, when the acharya disappears, rogues and nondevotees take advantage and immediately begin to introduce unauthorized principles in the name of so-called svamis, yogis,philanthropists, welfare workers and so on. The acharya, the authorized representative of the Supreme Lord, establishes these principles, but when he disappears, things once again become disordered. The perfect disciples of the acharya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master.
The real principle in trying to revive ones Krishna consciousness is to accept the orders of the actual bona fide acharya or spiritual master in the disciplic succession. One should not try to gain acceptance within or take shelter of any religious organization without being fully aware that one can receive the bona fide message of Godhead. It is only by taking shelter of the bona fide spiritual master that one can come to learn about God in truth. A person who poses as spiritual master who does not follow the actual spiritual master is himself a spiritual master in name only. Such a person or religious organization has no connection with God but leads its followers blindly. If one does take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master then he does receive factual knowledge about the reality of God and ultimately the disciple achieves realized knowledge about his eternal relationship with God. This perfection of life is only possible if the student disciple comes into contact with the bona fide representative of God and takes wholeheartedly to his service. If one foolishly accepts any self-appointed false guru as a spiritual master, then one cannot achieve knowledge of God.
Chapter 7–The Guru, Sadhu and Shastra
There are three sources of transcendental knowledge that we can take advantage of to guide us in spiritual knowledge. In the Vedic literatures, these sources of perfect knowledge are called the guru, sadhu and shastra. From these three sources of spiritual knowledge comes a message that is one in purpose. The message is to educate the soul about his eternal Krishna consciousness.
In the previous chapters, we have briefly noted that there are gurus and sadhus that do not preach the message of Godhead as it is. They are not actually sadhus and gurus in the true sense of the word but they are referred to as pseudospiritualists, so-called religious men, kuta-yogis, neophytes and so on. We should understand that when any reference is made to a bona fide devotee of God who is acting in strict accordance to religious principles and who is free from material desires–a liberated soul–then he is referred to as a guru or sadhu. Today, many persons have accepted the different titles of spiritual life according to personal desire and without having the necessary qualifications. As such, there are many self-made swamis, gurus and so-called incarnations of God who cannot guide anyone toward the perfection of life. As Lord Brahma suggests (SB 10.2.32), they are falsely claiming that they are liberated because of their show of austerities and penances in spiritual life but because they have not taken actual shelter of Krishna, their intelligence is not very good. Similarly, Prahlada Maharaja says that (SB 7.5.31) such persons are blind leaders who lead similar blind followers into a ditch of material misery. For the sake of clarity, any reference to guru and sadhu herein means the bona fide representative of God, not the charlatans who pose as such. Prabhupada gives the actual criterion by which one can be known as a spiritually advanced soul. It is not simply by accepting a title but one accepts such a title by his ability to influence others to adopt the path of Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada explains this point further (CC Ant 3.143 Purport):
Some of them are called gosvamis, some are called svamis, some are prabhus, and some are prabhupada. One is not recognized, however, simply by such a name. A spiritual master is recognized as an actual guru when it is seen that he has changed the character of his disciples.
A similar point is mentioned in the Nectar of Instruction as to how an advanced devotee can be recognized apart from his title. Titles like swami and sadhu may be very impressive to a neophyte devotee who cannot distinguish between the different levels of spiritual advancement another has attained to but the test is again, to see the influence such a sadhu or swami has in bringing his disciples to Krishna consciousness. In this connection two excerpts may be cited:
The kanishtha-adhikari cannot distinguish between a devotee and nondevotee (NOI p. 61).
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaishnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaishnavism (NOI p. 58).
The proper attitude of all bona fide sadhus and devotees of Krishna is to give up all different types of material designations. The pure transcendentalist actually has nothing to do with material designations like swami, sadhu, brahmin, etc. This point was expressed in Shrila Rupa Goswami’s Padyavali (Verse 74):
I am not a brahmana, I am not a kshatriya, I am not a vaishya or a shudra. Nor am I a brahmachari, a householder, a vanaprastha or a sannyasi. I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.
The defect of the neophytes and the pseudospiritualists is that they do place emphasis on the material assets rather than understanding the actual spiritual status of a devotee. It is a general tendency to give more importance to a person’s material position. Therefore neophytes generally disregard ones spiritual qualification and regard ones title, performance of austerity, fame and mundane scholarship as qualifications of the sadhu and guru. Such thinking for example, leads to accepting the literate as more spiritually advanced to the illiterate, the sannyasi more advanced than thegrihastha, the famous more advanced than the unknown, the old more advanced than the young, the high born more advanced than the lowborn, etc., as rules for understanding who is advanced in spiritual life. Such thinking should be avoided because sadhus and gurus are not stereotyped by material qualifications.
Simply because a person is seen to wear a saffron cloth or is seen to show some magic tricks or has hundreds of followers is no indication of his spiritual status as a bona fide guru and sadhu. The real qualification is seen in terms of ones ability to follow and preach the orders of Krishna. Therefore it is stated:
Only one who is a bona fide spiritual master expanding the cult of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Krishna consciousness movement, and who is in full control of his senses can be addressed as a goswami [sadhu]. At the present moment, in most cases the title is being misused … (CC Mad 9.289 Purport).
Even though one is found not to be following the strict rules and regulations of devotional service, if one simply has unflinching faith in Krishna the Supreme Person, he is understood to be asadhu. Lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya: simply by a moment’s association with a sadhu one can attain perfection (SB 3.25.20 Purport).
The sadhu or guru must however be completely in agreement with and servant to the principles of the bona fide disciplic succession which are the infallible words of the Supreme Lord. Because the pure devotee acts only within the guidelines and instruction of the Lord, all of his activities are dedicated to the loving service of the Lord. The sadhu’s devotion is not dependent on any material qualification and as such, the sadhu may be seen to be coming from any material situation. Without understanding real religious principles governing bona fide religious life, one cannot recognize asadhu merely by his material qualities. One must understand how one is spiritually situated by how one is serving the order of Krishna. The sadhu and guru are always situated in devotional service to the Lord.
As the sadhu and guru are always situated in devotional service to the Supreme Lord, they are always in agreement with the revealed words of the Lord or the shastra. It is the duty of the sadhu andguru to be in complete agreement with the bona fide shastras like Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam and teach everyone about the knowledge revealed therein after having personally assimilated such knowledge themselves. There is no contradiction between the guru, the sadhu and the shastra. One must take shelter of these transcendental sources of knowledge in order to make progress in spiritual life.
A sadhu or guru does not have any contrary opinions or realizations against the conclusions of the revealed scriptures. However, this does not mean that the guru and sadhu are blind followers who blindly accept the authority of the shastra without knowing about their contents. They are actually fully realized that the conclusion of all scripture is to bring one to unalloyed devotional service and because of his unflinching service, the Lord automatically reveals within the heart of a devotee all knowledge that is contained within the scriptures. A devotee who has been favored by the Lord by dint of his unflinching devotion surrenders to the lotus feet of the Lord without duplicity and therefore has come to the perfectional stage of life. Having realized that the service of the Lord is the goal of all activity, his mind is completely freed from material contamination and–by the grace of the Lord–the conclusions of all Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed. Therefore, the pure devotee sadhu or guru is fully realized in the matter of how to surrender to Krishna which is the goal of human life.
How this perfect knowledge is revealed to the sadhu is explained in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6.23): yasya deva para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau/ tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakashante mahatmanah–“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.”
There is no difference between the guru, the sadhu and the shastra because they all aim at the lotus feet of the Lord. For the devotee of the Lord, there are no activities except transcendental loving service to the Lord. As such, the pure devotees are nondifferent in quality than the Lord by dint of their constant engagement in favorable and unmotivated devotional service. They never say anything that is outside the scope of the eternal revealed message of God or the shastra. In this way the sadhus and gurus serve the disciplic succession by remaining always subordinate to the message of Godhead revealed in shastras like Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
To remain always faithful and servant to the revealed scripture is the duty of the sadhu. We have personally encountered some difficulties in the preparation of this particular literary attempt. Although we have discussed its contents with many so-called devotees and sadhus, they have expressed their doubt about the value of our attempt to explain the Science of Accepting a Spiritual Master. But since we have rigidly adhered to the principle of presenting only the conclusions and statements of the sadhu, guru and shastra, and have avoided any speculation and avoided any attempt to try to falsely interpret the message of the disciplic succession, we are hoping that some actual sincere devotees may take advantage of the information contained herein and be able to begin his spiritual life by understanding the preliminary concepts of how to recognize the symptoms of a bona fide spiritual master. By so doing, he can, with full knowledge, surrender himself to such transcendental sources of knowledge and make rapid progress in spiritual life. It is also to be noted that such information is not to be misunderstood to be part of a particular religious ritual or custom but the eternal process of reviving ones God consciousness regardless of ones allegiance to a particular religious faith. In all circumstances, one who is interested in reviving his forgotten God consciousness must take shelter of the guru, sadhu and shastra for the successful execution of the mission of human life. In reference to the above points, Prabhupada says:
No one should attempt to create or manufacture answers. One must refer to the shastras and give answers according to Vedic understanding. Otherwise one’s words will proceed from mental concoction (SB 7.13.23 Purport).
Commentaries written according to one’s own philosophical way are never accepted; no one will appreciate such commentaries on the revealed scriptures (CC Ant 7.134 Purport).
The original purpose of the text must be maintained. No obscure meaning should be screwed out of it, yet it should be presented in an interesting manner for the understanding of the audience. No learned man should be willing to hear a person who does not represent the original acharya (SB 1.4.1 Purport).
The sadhu or guru cannot manufacture, or as Prabhupada says, “no obscure meaning should be screwed out” of the shastras. When a so-called devotee changes the meaning of the revealed scripture, on account of his propensity to cheat others, his imperfect senses, his capability to make mistakes or on account of his being in illusion, be commits an offense and he falls from the platform of devotional service. While in an immature platform of devotion, one may try to present ones own literary work, philosophy, or so-called realized knowledge in the name of shastra. As confirmed herein, one must always refer to the shastras as evidence and not try to twist the meanings found therein to suit ones purpose. The shastras are the actual words of God. As such, to try to change or alter shastra means that one is trying to override the authority of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How can one bring the Supreme Authority under his control? It’s not possible. Therefore, the guru and sadhu are always in accordance with the shastra. This is the test of the words of the guru and sadhu. Sometimes such pure devotees are referred to as “bhagavatas”. The book “bhagavata” and the personality “bhagavatas” are always without the four defects of material life as above mentioned. It is advised that one who wants to take shelter of the Supreme Lord; he must take shelter of the book or person bhagavatas–the guru, sadhu and shastra–to advance in spiritual life.
Chapter 8–The Three Categories of Devotees–The Neophyte Devotee
In discussing the various types of devotees of transcendental knowledge who are actively trying to reestablish their lost relationship with Krishna, it is stated in the shastra that devotees may be classified according to their level of advancement. There are third, second and first class devotees; or in sanskrit, these devotees are called kanishtha-, madhyama- and uttama-adhikaris.
After understanding the importance of spiritual life, a conditioned soul is convinced of the need to make further progress in spiritual realization. As stated in the Chaitanya-charitanrita (CC Mad 22.107): nitya-siddha krishna prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya/ shravanadi-shuddha-chitte karaye udaya–“Pure love for Krishna is eternally established in the hearts of living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, the living entity naturally awakens.” Everyone has love for God eternally situated in their hearts but until the conditioned soul is prepared to accept the devotional service of the Lord, that eternal love for Godhead lies dormant within the heart.
According to the Bhagavad-gita (7.16) there are four classes of men who surrender to God. These four classes of men who are distressed, in need of wealth, inquisitive and who are searching for knowledge of the Absolute are described as being materially motivated although they seek the shelter of the Supreme. Because their purpose is to ask God for knowledge, wealth or mitigation of their material miseries rather than to serve God in spite of his material situation, his devotion is not very good. Such devotees, however, are better than the atheist class of men who deny the existence of God because at least they recognize God as the supreme controller. But due to their material desires, they are considered to be on the neophyte stage of devotional service. Their purpose is not to serve God which is the actual constitutional position of the soul; but their purpose is to have God fulfill his desires. As stated by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the proper devotional attitude is (Shikshashtaka 4): na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isha kamaye/ mama janmani janmanishvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi–“O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.” Similarly, it is stated in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.1.11): anyabhilashita-shunyam jnana-karmady-anavritam/ anakulyena krishnanu shilanam bhaktir uttama–“One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service.”
From the neophyte devotee who turns his head toward God to the advanced devotee who serves Krishna without any desire for profit, these devotees act in relation to God according to their different realizations of God. Their understanding of God is directly proportionate to their desire to serve God purely because Krishna reveals Himself according to ones devotional attitude. If one is advanced in devotional service, it is to be understood that he has been able to receive the mercy of the Supreme Lord or His devotee. Advancement in devotional service to the Lord means that the Lord is personally revealing His confidential nature to such a pure devotee. As such, no one can attempt to make any advancement in spiritual life without the direct approval of the Lord or His representative: the bona fide guru and sadhu. If one is unable to make any advancement in spiritual life, it should be assumed that he has not properly taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord or more importantly, the lotus feet of the spiritual master who is nondifferent than the Lord. The spiritual master never claims to be God, but for the sake of receiving transcendental knowledge about God, one must take shelter of him because he is the most confidential servant of God who has been personally accepted by God and empowered by Him with the ability to spread the eternal Krishna consciousness movement. Therefore it is stated in Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura’s Gurv-ashtaka (Verses 7-8):
sakshad-dharitvena samasta-shastrair uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih/ kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya vande guroh shri charanaravindam
yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado yasya prasadan na gatih kuto ‘pi/ dhyayan stuvams tasya yashas tri-sandhyam vande guroh shri charanaravindam
The spiritual master is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master, who is a bona fide representative of Shri Hari [Krishna]. By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Krishna. Without the grace of the spiritual master, one cannot make any spiritual advancement. Therefore, I should always remember and praise the spiritual master. At least three times a day I should offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master.
Advancement in spiritual understanding is dependent on satisfying Lord Krishna through the bona fide spiritual master or the pure devotee who represents Krishna. In all circumstances one must take shelter of the pure representative of the Lord in order to attain the mercy of Krishna. If one thinks that he need not take shelter of the lotus feet of the representative of Krishna and try to take shelter of the Lord directly, he cannot make any progress in spiritual life but is doomed to mental speculation. The process is to take shelter of the true servant of the Lord and not take shelter of the Lord directly, without the help of the spiritual master.
The kanishtha-adhikari is a devotee of the Lord who is on the primary stage of devotion. He is trying to worship the Lord but has not developed firm faith in the understanding of the Supreme Lord and His energies. In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam it is stated (SB 11.2.47): archayam eva haraye pujam yah shraddhayehate/ na tad-bhakteshu chanyeshu sa bhaktah prakritah smritah–“A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple, but who does not know how to behave toward devotees or people in general is called a prakrita-bhakta or kanishtha-adhikari.”Such a devotee worships and respects the archa-vigraha or the form of the Lord in the temple but he has no idea about how to show proper respect to others. Although they do have a preliminary understanding about the existence of God, they place more importance on material desires. Arjuna displayed the qualities of the kanishtha-adhikari or the neophyte devotee before he heard theBhagavad-gita from Krishna. His idea was not to serve the Lord by performing his duty as a kshatriya, but he thought that to serve his family was more important. The neophytes are not able to understand the orders of the Supreme. Invariably, they are not steady in devotional service. Prabhupada further comments about neophyte devotees (SB 2.3.24 Purport):
The neophytes, due to their being in the lower stage of devotional service, are invariably envious, so much so that they invent their own ways and means of devotional regulations without following the acharyas. As such, even if they make a show of constantly chanting the holy name of the Lord, they cannot relish the transcendental taste of the holy name. Therefore, the show of tears in the eyes, trembling, perspiration or unconsciousness, etc., is condemned. They can, however, get in touch with a pure devotee of the Lord and rectify their bad habits; otherwise they shall continue to be stone-hearted and unfit for any treatment. A complete progressive march on the return path home, back to Godhead, will depend on the instructions of the revealed scriptures directed by a realized devotee.
The neophyte devotee must make further progress under the shelter of an advanced devotee of Krishna consciousness in order to get rid of his envious attitude. Everyone is envious, practically without exception. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (7.27) as the qualification for taking birth in the material world. But in order to make progress in devotion to God, one must be parama nirmatsaranam: properly trained to give up all enviousness as stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.2). Sometimes in the name of religious leaders, they manufacture their own process of devotional service at the expense of misleading and exploiting others. These are to be recognized and understood to be the activities of a neophyte devotee who has not yet understood or seen the value of following the bona fide directives of the real acharya. As stated above, these neophytes can be rectified and become fit to actually advance in spiritual understanding if they agree to accept the shelter of the bona fide disciplic succession rather than their own mental concoctions.
The kanishtha-adhikari cannot recognize and distinguish the difference between a devotee and nondevotee. Due to his lack of spiritual understanding, he cannot see how the devotee is engaged in the devotional service of the Lord. Similarly, he cannot understand the activities of a pseudotranscendentalist who simply makes a show of being engaged in devotional service. He simply views all activity from more or less a material point of view. This mentality is discussed in the Nectar of Instruction (Text 6) and may cause the neophyte to criticize the activities of a pure devotee whose dealings in devotional service are beyond the scope of his comprehension. Such a vaishnava-aparadha or offense at the lotus feet of a pure devotee checks the spiritual progress of the offender. The neophyte should learn to see others by seeing how one is internally engaged in executing the orders of the spiritual master. This will save him from the danger of making offenses.
Chapter 9–The Three Categories of Devotees–The Madhyama- and Uttama-Adhikaris
If the neophyte kanishtha-adhikari devotee is fortunate to make further progress in spiritual understanding by taking shelter of the spiritual master and develops faith in the instructions of Krishna, he makes gradual progress and comes to the level of madhyama-adhikari. This devotee accepts the instructions of Krishna in full faith and accepts the words of Krishna In toto, without doubt. He is called shraddhavan, or one who has firm faith in the words of the disciplic succession. Such a devotee can distinguish between the demoniac person, the ignorant person, the devotee of the Lord and the Lord Himself who is the object of his devotion. Because the madhyama-adhikari devotee has the ability to properly see the spiritual condition of the living entity, he avoids the demoniac persons who are only interested in pursuing sense gratification. He is able to help guide the ignorant toward Krishna consciousness if they express the desire to take spiritual instruction and he makes friends with the actual devotees of the Lord.
In the Vedic literature (CC Mad 22.67) the madhyama-adhikari is described as being fortunate. As such, the madhyama-adhikari is a steady devotee who is a candidate for further advancement in devotional service. His spiritual vision allows him to recognize others according to their particular spiritual status. Unlike the kanishtha-adhikari who cannot distinguish between a devotee and a nondevotee, the madhyama-adhikari is able to tell who is a demon, who is ignorant and who is a devotee. A kanishtha-adhikari’s vision is clouded because he generally sees everything with material vision. But the madhyam-aadhikari sees beyond the external, material qualities of a person and sees how one is factually situated in his service to Krishna. A madhyama-adhikari has such vision because he sees in relation to Krishna. Although the madhyama-adhikaris are not able to present expertly the conclusions of the shastras, still they have firm faith in chanting Hare Krishna and are staunchly engaged in devotional service. People in general place their faith in the words of mundane experts, scientists and philosophers and therefore they cannot see with proper spiritual vision. Others will accept some of the words of Krishna while rejecting others in favor of other ideas which are more appealing. For instance, we have met some neophyte devotees who accept Vedic teachings on many topics but sometimes they neglect to accept the Shrimad-Bhagavatam’s version of the structure of the universe as explained in the Fifth Canto. Instead, they place their faith in the words of the scientists. This mentality is not shraddhavan or not the mentality of the madhyama-adhikari who has faith in the revealed words of Krishna. It is the mentality of a neophyte who places faith in his own opinions and mental speculations. Such refusal to accept the bona fide authority of the disciplic succession causes one to remain in the material concept of life.
The mentality that one should accept a thing blindly without question is not the mentality of an advanced devotee. A disciple of spiritual life does not make advancement in God realization if–in the name of accepting the authority of the disciplic succession–fails to relieve doubts within his mind by asking relevant questions. The whole process is to hear attentively and submissively from the spiritual master and then to make relevant inquiries. If both the guru and disciple are bona fide–that is–if the guru repeats the message of Godhead as it is and if the disciple is serious and sincere about making progress in spiritual understanding, then by the authoritative answers to such inquiries, the ignorance in the disciple’s mind is gradually removed. The progressing disciple’s character is described by Prabhupada (CC Mad 24.330 Purport):
As far as the mutual testing of the spiritual master and disciple is concerned, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that a bona fide disciple must be very inquisitive to understand the transcendental subject matter. 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.
A disciple does not blindly accept the guru or the shastra but he is alert when trying to understand the qualifications of the guru and the subject matter of the shastra in order to make further progress in Krishna consciousness. Once having established that the guru is bona fide, then the sincere disciple automatically develops firm faith and easily progresses under the shelter of Krishna. It is the qualification of the bona fide disciple to be able to make sure of the position of the guru before accepting initiation as Prabhupada points out (NOI p. 58):
In this verse Shrila Rupa Goswami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanishtha-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. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master.
Therefore in order to rise to the madhyama-adhikari platform, the disciple must take instruction from the bona fide guru so that he may develop firm faith in the authority of guru and Krishna. The neophyte devotee should not blindly accept anyone and everyone as a guru nor should he take to the process of mental speculation and research work. one should very seriously try to search out a bona fide spiritual master and make relevant inquiries in order to relieve himself of doubts concerning all types of spiritual matters. When he can understand what is God, what is the demon, the ignorant, and the devotee according to the opinion of the shastra–and when he is firmly and faithfully established in devotional service under the guidance of the disciplic succession–then he is understood to be on the madhyama-adhikari platform of spiritual life.
When the madhyama-adhikari achieves the realization that be is the eternal servant of the Lord Shri Krishna–the Supreme Personality of Godhead–under the guidance of the spiritual master and engages himself in trying to spread the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world, he comes to the topmost platform of devotion called uttama-adhikari. This first class devotee never deviates from the words of the disciplic succession and having been trained up on how to preach by the bona fide guru, the uttama-adhikari himself takes up the work of spreading Krishna consciousness all over the world. As such, he is to be accepted as the spiritual master: one in whom others may take shelter of for education in spiritual topics because he can deliver others to the first class platform of devotional service and free them from material contamination. Shrila Prabhupada says in the Nectar of Instruction (p. 58) that the perfected Vaishnava–the uttama-adhikari–is the personality which others may take shelter of for advancement in spiritual life. Although the kanishtha- and madhyama-adhikaris can also accept disciples, such disciples must be on the same platform as the kanishtha- and madhyama-adhikari spiritual masters. However, the disciple is instructed to take shelter of an uttama-adhikari for he is accepted as the spiritual master (NOI p. 58):
One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava 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.
As a student of spiritual life, one may also accept disciples in order to help them advance in spiritual life. Such a person, although not an uttama-adhikari, is described in the previous excerpt as well as the following excerpt from Easy Journey to Other Planets where it is discussed that a devotee who takes shelter of the spiritual master and accepts initiation from him may also act as a spiritual master. However, such a devotee must always act under the guidance of the disciplic succession. Because he has not come to the first class platform of devotion–the level of an uttama-adhikari–one can accept guidance from such an aspiring transcendentalist to rise to the same level of devotion, but one should actually take shelter of the uttama-adhikari spiritual master to be able to make advancement toward the perfectional stage of Krishna consciousness under the guidance of such an expert and steady devotee. That madhyama- or kanishtha-adhikari guide is described as follows (EJOP p. 34):
He must not take on unlimited disciples. This means that a candidate who has successfully followed the first twelve items [summarized as taking spiritual initiation from the bona fide guruand learning submissively the process of bhakti-yoga following in the footsteps of previous sadhus and gurus] can also become a spiritual master himself, just as a student becomes a monitor in class with a limited number of disciples.
Because he is advanced in the topics of devotional service due to taking shelter of the disciplic succession, he may guide others to the same platform of devotion. But since he has not come to the perfection of having realized his eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot advance well under such inexperienced madhyama-adhikari spiritual masters.
Any devotee may be spiritual master even though he is not on the uttama-adhikari platform. However, one should only take full shelter underneath the lotus feet of the uttama-adhikari and thus accept initiation from such an advanced devotee. The other spiritual masters may be accepted as shiksha-gurus or spiritual guides who instruct one in spiritual life. In the ultimate issue, there is no difference between the uttama-adhikari, the madhyama-adhikari and the kanishtha-adhikari spiritual masters because they all never deviate from the words of the bona fide disciplic succession. If it is found that such devotee deviates even slightly from the intentions of the disciplic succession, they are not actually on the platform of spiritual master but actually cause havoc on the progressive path back to Godhead. But because these spiritual masters are on different levels of advancement, one should take shelter of the uttama-adhikari by initiation although he may accept any others asshiksha-gurus for guidance in advancement in spiritual understandings. As soon as the devotee deviates however, he is no longer a spiritual master, by definition. Prabhupada explains this in a conversation (SSR pp. 62-3):
Reporter: But the bad gurus….
Shrila Prabhupada: And what is a “bad” guru?
Reporter: A bad guru just wants some money or some fame.
Shrila Prabhupada: Well, if he is bad, how can he become a guru? [Laughter.] How can iron become gold? Actually, a guru cannot be bad, for if someone is bad, be cannot be a guru. You cannot say “bad guru.” That is a contradiction. What you have to do is simply try to understand what a genuine guru is. The definition of a genuine guru is that he is simply talking about God–that’s all. If he’s talking about some other nonsense, then he is not a guru. A guru cannot be bad. There is no question of a bad guru, any more than a red guru or white guru. Gurumeans “genuine guru.” All we have to know is that the genuine guru is simply talking about God and trying to get people to become God’s devotees. If he does this, he is genuine.
Sometimes, it is seen that an ordinary man may try to adopt the title of swami and guru without the necessary qualifications. As such, I hope we have sufficiently covered the qualities that distinguish the real spiritual master from the self-appointed gurus and sadhus. As stressed throughout, the actual qualification for the spiritual master is that he is strictly repeating the words of Krishna from the disciplic succession. As long as he is in strict obedience to the guru, sadhu and shastra, he is a spiritual master himself, be he of the kanishtha-, madhyama- or uttama-adhikaritype. One may receive guidance from any bona fide devotee but should accept shelter under the uttama-adhikari as indicated in the Vedic literatures (NOD pp. 28-9):
Devotees can be divided into three classes. The first or uppermost class is described as follows: one is very expert in the study of relevant scriptures, and he is also expert in putting forward arguments in terms of those scriptures. He can very nicely present conclusions with perfect discretion and can consider the ways of devotional service in a decisive way. He understands perfectly that the ultimate goal of life is to attain to the transcendental loving service of Krishna, and he knows that Krishna is the only object of worship and love. This first class devotee is one who has strictly followed the rules and regulations under the training of a bona fide spiritual master and has sincerely obeyed him in accord with revealed scriptures. Thus being fully trained to preach and become a spiritual master himself, he is considered first class. A first class devotee never deviates from the principles of higher authority, and he attains firm faith in the scriptures by understanding with all reasons and arguments.
In affirming that one should only accept an uttama-adhikari as guru, Prabhupada says (CC Mad 24.330 Purport):
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 [uttama-adhikari].
One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. The uttama-adhikari, or highest devotee, is one who is very advanced in devotional service. An uttama-adhikari is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Krishna consciousness. According to Shrila Rupa Goswami, the association and service of such a maha-bhagavata, or perfect Vaishnava, are most desirable. Out of many [bona fide] Vaishnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Krishna consciousness movement. Such a Vaishnava should be accepted as an uttama-adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought. Indeed, the advanceduttama-adhikari Vaishnava devotee should be accepted as a spiritual master. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaishnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaishnavism (NOI Text 5 pp. 48, 50-1, 57-8).
All the bona fide disciples from any of the three classes (kanishtha-, madhyama- and uttama-adhikaris) may be accepted as bona fide spiritual masters as long as they do not deviate from the conclusions of the disciplic succession and Krishna. Therefore, it is also stated that guru is one. When one deviates because of lack of faith in the disciplic succession, he must not be looked upon asguru or spiritual master but must be rejected. The title of spiritual master is only valid if one is in agreement with the disciplic succession. For those devotees who want to advance in spiritual life, it is suggested that they take shelter under the direction of the uttama-adhikari for he has attained to pure devotional service by his unflinching faith in the bona fide guru and the mercy of Krishna. As such, the uttama-adhikari guru is expert in explaining the conclusions of the shastra and because of his firm faith, he never deviates from the path of the disciplic succession or the devotional service of Krishna.
Chapter 10–The Disciple Searches for the Bona Fide Guru
As explained in the Bhagavad-gita (4.34), one must go to a spiritual master: one who knows the science of Krishna consciousness and serve him and inquire submissively from him because he has realized the Absolute Truth and can impart such knowledge unto the sincere disciple. The spiritual master is the transparent medium by which the disciple can receive direct knowledge about God. The mystery of the relationship between the disciple and the guru is that the guru clearly and understandably explains the science of Krishna consciousness and, if the disciple is qualified by submissive hearing, the Lord within the heart of the disciple acts to confirm such spiritual knowledge and inspires the devotee to experience the presence of the Lord within his heart. Thus the devotee experiences the presence of the Lord through the words of the spiritual master and confirmed within his own heart by the grace of the Paramatma, known as the Lord of the heart.
In order for this education to take place, the guru and the disciple must be bona fide. It is mentioned that the guru must be fully qualified to deliver his disciples. The disciple must also be tested by the spiritual master in order to learn if he is sincere and able to take up the transcendental service of the Lord. But as far as seeing toward the necessities of the guru are concerned, it is stated in theshastras:
1. 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 (CC Mad 24.330 Purport).
2. The spiritual master … should not be professional and should not accept disciples for monetary gains (SB 3.32.42 Purport).
3. The shastras enjoin that before we take a guru we study him carefully to find out whether we can surrender to him. We should not accept a guru suddenly out of fanaticism. That is very dangerous (SSR p. 59).
4. One must first find a guru to whom one can surrender, and if this is not possible, one shouldn’t waste his [ones own] time (TLK pp. 38-9).
5. A person who establishes a temple or matha to take advantage of people’s sentiments by using for his livelihood what people contribute for the worship of the Deity cannot be called agosvami or acharya. One who knows the conclusions of the shastras, follows in the footsteps of his predecessors and endeavors to preach the bhakti cult all over the world is to be considered an acharya. The role of an acharya is not to earn his livelihood through the income of the temple. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that if one earns his livelihood by displaying the Deity in the temple, he is not an acharya or a gosvami. It would be better for him to accept service even as a sweeper in the street, for that is a more honorable means of earning ones living (CC Ant 3.223 Purport).
6. The first qualification of the spiritual master, or guru, is that he brings you the message to stop the blazing fire in your heart. This is the test (BTG, Vol. 13, 1-2, “The Qualifications of the Spiritual Master”).
7. The test of the guru is that by following his instructions you’ll be free from anxiety. This is the test (BTG, Vol. 13, 1-2, “The Qualifications of the Spiritual Master”).
8. There are three classes of devotees and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class (CC Mad 24.330 Purport).
9. According to shastra, the duty of the guru is to take the disciple back home, back to Godhead. If he is unable to do so and instead hinders the disciple in going back to Godhead, he should not be a guru. Gurur na sa syat (SB 5.5.18). One should not become a guru if be cannot enable his disciple to advance in Krishna consciousness (SB 8.20.1 Purport).
10. One who has controlled the particular senses mentioned above is called a gosvami. Without becoming a gosvami one can become neither a disciple nor a spiritual master. The so-called spiritual master without sense control is certainly the cheater, and the disciple of such a so-called spiritual master is the cheated (SB 2.9.43 Purport).
11. If one poses himself as an acharya but does not have an attitude of servitorship to the Lord, he must be considered an offender, and this offensive attitude disqualifies him from being anacharya. The bona fide spiritual master always engages in unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead (CC Adi 1.46 Purport).
12. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. An uttama-adhikari is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Krishna consciousness. Indeed, the advanced uttama-adhikari Vaishnava devotee should be accepted as a spiritual master. Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaishnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaishnavism (NOI Text 5, pp. 48, 50-1, 57-8).
13. The spiritual master must also be well versed and learned so that he may be able to answer all these inquiries from the devotees. Thus one who is not well versed in the authorized scriptures and not able to answer all such relevant inquiries should not pose as a spiritual master for the matter of material gain. It is illegal to become a spiritual master if one is unable to deliver his disciple (SB 2.8.7 Purport).
14. Some spiritual teachers say, “In my opinion you should do this,” but this is not a guru. Such so-called gurus are simply rascals. The genuine guru has only one opinion, and that is the opinion expressed by Krishna, Vyasadeva, Narada, Arjuna, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and the Gosvamis. If we send a telegram, the person who delivers the telegram does not have to correct it, edit it, or add to it. He simply presents it. That is the guru’s business (SSR p. 56).
15. First of all you have to know who is guru. If you accept one rascal as guru, how you can be helped? First thing is, who is guru. So our simple method is to see whether somebody is speaking about Krishna or what Krishna has said. If he does not do so, then immediately accept him [as] asuram bhavam ashritah [Bg 7.15]–a rakshasa [demon]. How can you accept him asguru, a rakshasa? That is your mistake. So simple thing is that Krishna is the original guru. There is no better guru than Krishna. So anyone who repeats the words of Krishna [and] teach[es] others, he’s guru. otherwise, he’s a rascal (Lecture Tape, BTM, 6/20/76, TOR 76-3).
As far as (1) is concerned, one should not accept a guru without understanding if he is an authorized uttama-adhikari devotee in the bona fide disciplic succession. One becomes authorized not by a voting process as stated here (CC Mad 1.220 Purport):
Mundane votes have no jurisdiction to elect a Vaishnava acharya. A Vaishnava acharya is self-effulgent, and there is no need for any court judgment. A false acharya may try to override a Vaishnava by a high court decision, but Bhaktivinode Thakura says that he [the false acharya] is nothing but a disciple of Kali-yuga.
One becomes authorized by strictly adhering to preaching the message of Godhead as it is without change. Thus Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu authorizes such a pure devotee. (2) suggests that the person who exploits the resources of the disciple is not a guru. His interest is not to deliver transcendental knowledge but to make a business or a living from being a so-called guru. Sometimes we accept the guru without testing his qualifications according to the directions in the shastra. (3). This blind following mentioned herein is condemned. (4). If we cannot surrender to the bona fideguru because of the false ego, there is no question of making any progress in spiritual life. In the Bhagavad-gita (4.40) it is said that for one who doubts the authority of transcendental knowledge, there is no happiness or spiritual advancement. (5). In this connection Prabhupada says (Bg 3.8): “So-called renunciation for the purpose of maintenance is never approved by the Lord, nor by any religious scripture. One should never attempt to become a so-called transcendentalist, renouncing work and living at the cost of others.” (6) and (7). A sincere disciple will get relief from the words of the guru, which mitigates the heartfelt pangs of material attachment. (9). If one mistakenly accepts a spiritual master who misguides the disciple, such a neophyte may not be aware of the deception of the so-called guru. This is a great impediment on the path of devotional service. If the so-called guru deviates from the disciplic succession, he becomes fit to be abandoned. The word “cult” in its derogatory sense is applicable to those persons and leaders who pose as gurus and disciples but who act outside of the disciplic succession. Prahlada Maharaja condemns such “cults” who accept as their leader a man blinded by material desire who has lost sight of the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu (SB 7.5.31: na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum). As such, the unqualified guru leads the blind followers into the ditch of material life. (10). One who accepts the title of “gosvami” must have full control of his senses. According to Prabhupada (SB 5.14.4 Purport): “Sometimes in our society, ISKCON, a person out of sentiment may take sannyasa, but because his desires are not burned completely, he again takes to family life, even at the risk of losing his prestige and disgracing his good name.” Only the one who can control his senses–not by artificial repression but by receiving the benediction from Hrishikesha, the master of the senses–can become a spiritual master as stated in the Nectar of Instruction (Text 1). The senses are not controlled by ones own endeavor but only when one has been able to engage his senses favorably in the loving devotional service of Krishna through the bona fide guru. The so-called guru or swami who cannot control his senses is the cheater and the followers of such cheaters are the cheated in the name of spiritual life. (11). There are many so-called devotees who maintain material desires and sometimes foolishly try to pursue their desires for enjoyment in the name of becoming acharya. Before one poses as anacharya, he must be free from material desires for there are nothing but activities in devotional service for the bona fide guru as stated in the Bhakti-rasamrita sindhu: anyabhilashita-shunyam….Prabhupada comments further about the status of such false acharyas (Bg 9.12 Purport): “There are many devotees who assume themselves to be in Krishna consciousness and devotional service but at heart do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, as the Absolute Truth. For them, the fruit of devotional service–going back to Godhead–will never be tasted.” (12) and (13). The necessity for accepting an uttama-adhikari is stressed here. Since he is expert at presenting arguments from scripture, he can satisfy the inquiries of the disciple using authoritative scriptural references. He is not ignorant of the shastra nor does he juggle words to mislead the disciple. He is fully conversant and realized about the contents of Vedic knowledge. (14). This excerpt stresses the fact that the spiritual master is always servant to the disciplic succession. He may not let his personal philosophy or opinions cloud the meanings of the transcendental parampara. The spiritual master is therefore described as the transparent medium by which the disciple can see God directly because he delivers the message of the disciplic succession as it is without any change, addition, adulteration, misinterpretation or mundane speculation. There is no difference between the words of Krishna and seeing Krishna face-to-face. It is a question of realization on the part of the listener only. If the listener is pure, he can directly see the Lord through the words of the bona fide guru. (15). In summary, before accepting a guru, the disciple must already know the qualifications of theguru. To accept a guru is not to be taken as a fashion or a status symbol. The neophyte disciple should determine who a guru is and accept one in all earnestness with the intention to make his own life perfect. If one takes shelter of a bona fide guru and satisfies him in all respects, he pleases the Supreme Lord and devotional service is assured. By accepting a guru blindly, one cannot actually become elevated in spiritual life.
These are some of the many characteristics for understanding who is the bona fide guru which an aspiring candidate for spiritual initiation must consider seriously.
Chapter 11–What is Initiation?
Spiritual initiation or diksha means that one comes into contact with the mercy of the Lord and thus begins his path back home to Godhead. Spiritual knowledge about Krishna is understood through the bona fide disciplic successions as taught by the acharyas who appear in them.
Krishna fulfills the desires of the conditioned soul to enjoy the material world. As one desires to enjoy certain material facilities, Krishna, who resides in the heart of the living entity, can understand these desires and allows the conditioned soul some facility to enjoy material life. Real happiness in material life however, is illusion because the soul’s real status is eternal whereas the material body–its designations, and the enjoyment obtained therein–is temporary. Therefore Krishna fulfills the desires of the conditioned soul until he has sufficient experience about the nature of material life. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (13.8-12), real knowledge about the material world means understanding that the world is a place full of miseries where birth, death, Old age and disease are unavoidable. As he loses his taste for material enjoyment, the Lord immediately arranges for the deliverance of the soul from material life. It is therefore stated (CC Mad 19.151)–brahmanda brahmite kona bhagyavan jiva/ guru-krishna prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija:
According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.
The wandering living entity, while traveling all over the universe, also gets the opportunity to come into contact with the Krishna consciousness movement which gives him an opportunity to advance in spiritual life. By the mercy of Krishna, one is able to come in contact with the spiritual master and get the bhakti-lata-bija or the seed of devotional service.
In order to receive the seed of devotional service, one must come in contact with the bona fide guru in the disciplic succession. The bona fide guru speaks about the science of Krishna consciousness and his words act to arouse the dormant Krishna consciousness within the heart of the conditioned soul. The materialistic person, on account of his desire for material enjoyment, is described as being in deep sleep or unconscious of his real spiritual life. In order to wake him from this dream of material life, the transcendental message of Krishna implores the conditioned soul to wake up to his spiritual devotional service to Krishna. If such a sleeping soul is fortunate, he begins to act on this transcendental order of the spiritual master. This is the process of initiation.
Once one receives the bhakti-lata-bija by the mercy of Krishna and the spiritual master, he must cultivate this seed until he becomes free from all material desires and again engages in the Lord’s transcendental loving service. One must get the bhakti-lata-bija from the bona fide spiritual master by Krishna’s grace; otherwise it is not available. There are many so-called gurus and sadhus and so-called religious men of all varieties who hold contrary opinions to the conclusions of the bona fide acharyas in the disciplic succession who actually do represent Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One should not take shelter under such pseudotranscendentalists because they cannot give anyone the bhakti-lata-bija. The seed of devotional service is only received when one takes the instructions of the bona fide guru.
The incident between Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and a Buddhist cult illustrates this point very nicely. After meeting with some Buddhists for discussion, Lord Chaitanya defeated their logic and argument on spiritual topics and thus cut down their false pride. Afterward, they attempted to plot against the Lord out of envy but as a result, the leader of the Buddhists fell unconscious. The disciples of the Buddhist leader went to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and requested Him to forgive their offense and bring their master back to life. By the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the disciples of the Buddhists were instructed to chant the holy names of “Krishna” and “Hari” into the ear of their unconscious leader and thus, by executing the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, these Buddhist disciples were duly initiated.
Because they were disciples of the Buddhist leader, they had not actually received the mercy of the Lord or they had not gotten the bhakti-lata-bija due to their so-called guru’s disqualifications. Only when they followed the orders of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, were they then converted to Vaishnavas and were able to begin their spiritual life. As a result of their chanting in their guru’s ear, the Buddhist leader was actually initiated by his disciples by the mercy of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. One should understand from these incidents that no one can act as spiritual master or disciple unless he has the mercy of Krishna. Only when one is in touch with Krishna and His disciplic succession does he get the opportunity to engage in devotional service. Without the guru- or krishna-prasade, or the mercy of the bona fide guru and Krishna, no one can engage in devotional service.
Diksha or initiation is the process by which one voluntarily agrees to accept the service of the Lord. Sometimes diksha is mistakenly identified as a ceremonial ritual, but actually it is the spiritual activity of accepting the words of the bona fide guru and Krishna. As explained in the Vedic literatures:
Diksha, or spiritual initiation, is explained in the Bhakti-sandarbha (868) by Shrila Jiva Goswami: divyam jnanam yato dadyat kuryat papasya sankshayam/ tasmad diksheti sa prokta deshikais tattva-kovidaih–“By diksha one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life” (NOI p. 51).
Diksha is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksha (Bhakti-sandarbha 283).
Diksha actually means initiating a disciple with transcendental knowledge by which he becomes freed from all material contamination (CC Mad 4.111 Purport).
The spiritual master awakens the sleeping living entity to his original consciousness so that he can worship Lord Vishnu. This is the purpose of diksha, or initiation. Initiation means receiving the pure knowledge of spiritual consciousness (CC Mad 9.61 Purport).
Spiritual initiations are valid only if they are in touch with the bona fide spiritual master. This is the principle behind initiation as stated: guru krishna prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija. If one is fortunate by the mercy of Krishna, one gets the seed of devotional service from the bona fide spiritual master. From this beginning, the disciple makes advancement in spiritual life so that he can come to unalloyed Krishna consciousness. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (14.26): mam cha yo’vyabhicharena bhakti-yogena sevate/ sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate. The devotee engages in pure devotional service and gradually the effects of the material energy (sattva-, rajo- and tamo-gunas) diminishes until his heart becomes completely free from material desires. At that point, he is situated in pure spiritual consciousness and is able to understand the transcendental nature of the Lord.
Being a spiritual process, initiation does not depend on so-called favorable or unfavorable circumstances in order to take place. However the process of diksha depends on the mercy of Krishna andguru and the willingness of the disciple to carry out the orders of the guru. As cited earlier, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu initiated the so-called disciples of a Buddhist guru simply by ordering them to chant the holy names. They, in turn, were able to initiate their so-called guru by the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Also, Narada Muni explains how he began spiritual life by accepting the service of some sages, accepting their food remnants and hearing them discuss the science of Krishna consciousness although he was only a boy of five years. Due to the mercy of the sages, Narada was able to receive initiation and consequently was able to perceive the form of the Lord within his heart. Prabhupada says:
In his previous life, when Naradaji was impregnated with spiritual knowledge by the grace of the great sages, there was a tangible change in his life, although he was only a boy of five years. That is an important symptom visible after initiation by the bona fide spiritual master. Actual association of devotees brings about a quick change in life for spiritual realization (SB 1.6.5 Purport).
If the bona fide spiritual master agrees, one can be initiated immediately, without waiting for a suitable time or place (CC Mad 24.331 Purport).
The main consideration is that the spiritual master be bona fide and that the disciple be willing to execute the order of the guru. In this connection, Shrila Prabhupada says (NOD pp. 47-8):
If a person is properly initiated by the bona fide spiritual master, he should not think that simply by the acceptance of such initiation, his business is then finished. One still has to follow the rules and regulations very carefully.
Initiation marks the beginning of spiritual life. By following the orders of the bona fide spiritual master, the disciple makes progress in devotional service. However, simply by accepting initiation from the guru, one should not be complacent or proud; thinking that one has become perfect. Perfection will depend on ones ability to execute the instructions of the spiritual master to his satisfaction.
Chapter 12–Offenseless Chanting of the Holy Names
Diksha marks the beginning of spiritual life. A disciple who is interested to revive his dormant love for God agrees to follow the orders of the bona fide guru who explains the science of Krishna consciousness. As cited in the last chapter, after one agrees to begin spiritual life, he must continue on until he has reached the goal of life which is to engage himself in the loving devotional service of the Lord. When he follows the words of the spiritual master rigidly, he becomes perfect in spiritual realization. As such he is able to chant the holy name of the Lord without offense.
The material disease of malice, envy, greed, lust and so on arise from the desire to enjoy the material body, mind and senses. As long as one remains in the darkness of life by pursuing material desires, he cannot understand Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or his own spiritual identity. If, by the mercy of the Lord he gets the opportunity to take instruction from the bona fideguru and chant the holy name of the Lord in all sincerity and faith, he immediately becomes situated in pure devotional service.
The Vedic literatures and all the bona fide acharyas stress the importance that one begin his spiritual life by approaching the bona fide guru and accept proper initiation from him. Even though the Lord incarnates on the Earth as Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shrila Vyasadeva, etc., they all observe this important process of taking shelter at the feet of the guru.Of course, there is no question that the Supreme Lord is lacking in any knowledge but He accepts a guru in order to set the example for the people in general. He takes shelter of the bona fide guru,accepts the teachings of the disciplic succession and follows the instructions of the guru faithfully. He does this just to establish the supreme authority of tile disciplic succession.
In the Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.12) it is stated: tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigachchhet. One must go to a guru to advance in spiritual life. The word “abhigachchhet” means “must”. It is not that one may go or may not go according to ones whim, but it is stated here that one must go to the guru if he is serious in advancing in spiritual life. Therefore, for anyone who is interested in reviving his forgotten Krishna consciousness, he must go to and accept training from the spiritual master who is the representative of Krishna and the disciplic succession. That is the conclusion of the authoritative shastras.
One who is serious about learning about Krishna can take initiation from the bona fide spiritual master and become a devotee of Krishna. However, simply by adopting the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, in full devotion and faith, one can achieve all perfection even without formal initiation from the guru. This is stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (CC Mad 15.106-8) by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Whoever chants the holy name of Krishna just once is worshipable and is the topmost human being. Simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna, one is relieved from all the reactions of a sinful life. Once can complete the nine processes of devotional service simply by chanting the holy name. One does not have to undergo initiation or execute the activities required before initiation. One simply has to vibrate the holy name with his lips. Thus even a man in the lowest class (chandala) can be delivered.
From the authoritative statements of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who established the chanting of the holy names or the sankirtana movement in the Kali-yuga, Be states that the chanting of the name of the Lord is so powerful that by so doing, one becomes freed from past sinful karmic reactions and one becomes a pure Vaishnava. Such a person need not even take initiation to be delivered from material life if he can chant with such faith and devotion. This is the power of the holy name when uttered offenselessly. Therefore, offenseless chanting of the holy name is so powerful that, without waiting for initiation, one can be delivered simply by taking shelter of the holy names of the Lord. The conclusion is that offenseless chanting of the holy name is the last word in the matter of spiritual necessities. This is confirmed in another verse in Shrila Rupa Goswami’s Padyavali (29):
Chanting the holy name does not depend on initiation, pious activities or the purashcharya regulative principles generally observed before initiation. The holy name does not wait for all these activities. It is self-sufficient.
It is further stated by Shrila Prabhupada that (CC Mad 15.111 Purport):
Whether a Vaishnava is properly initiated or not is not a subject for consideration. One may be initiated and yet contaminated by the Mayavada philosophy, but a person who chants the holy name of the Lord offenselessly will not be so contaminated. A properly initiated Vaishnava may be imperfect, but one who chants the holy name of the Lord offenselessly is all-perfect. Although he may apparently be a neophyte, he still has to be considered a pure unalloyed Vaishnava.
Sometimes it may be seen that even a so-called advanced sannyasi who has taken initiation from the bona fide guru falls into the illicit association of women. Consequently, some observers like nondevotees and neophytes may be prone to doubt the authoritative statements of the Krishna conscious disciplic succession when witnessing the activities of the so-called advanced devotee. However, they should know that a pure Vaishnava is not stereotyped according to any material condition. Advancement is actually to be understood by how purely and offenselessly one is able to chant the Lord’s holy name. As stated above, a so-called advanced initiated disciple may be imperfect whereas a person who has great respect for the holy name of the Lord–although not having formally received initiation–is perfect. Generally, people can only see the material qualities of another, therefore they wrongly conclude that if one wears a saffron cloth, or if one is famous, etc., that devotee is automatically advanced in spiritual life. However, one must know that material qualities have no jurisdiction in the eyes of the Supreme Lord in determining who is or is not advanced in spiritual life and one may achieve the perfect shelter of the holy name of the Lord by the quality of his chanting even though he may not even undergo formal spiritual initiation.
One should not think that he can independently chant the holy name of the Lord offenselessly to avoid accepting the process of initiation. This thinking should certainly be avoided. People are contaminated by so many material desires that they will do any abominable activity in the name of happiness. As recommended above, they must go to the spiritual master to learn the art of offenseless chanting. If a disciple pleases the guru, the disciple can make wonderful progress in the matter of spiritual progress and chanting the holy name. But, as stated above, one who can chant the holy name situated in a superior position because they have accepted initiation from the bona fide guru or even have accepted the renounced order of life, certainly fall from their position if they deride such unalloyed Vaishnavas who are actually perfectly situated because of their firm faith in Krishna. Such vaishnava-aparadhas can destroy the spiritual progress of such careless neophytes. Prabhupada further stresses this point (SB 3.25.20 Purport):
Even though one is found not to be following the strict rules and regulations of devotional service, if one simply has unflinching faith in Krishna, the Supreme Person, he is understood to be asadhu. A sadhu is a strict follower of devotional service.
Lord Chaitanya is described as maha-vadanyaya or the most charitably disposed incarnation of Godhead because He makes the path back to Godhead very easy in the Kali-yuga. The guru,following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya, accepts many disciples to encourage them to take up the spiritual path. To become proud after undergoing initiation, thinking oneself to be liberated and to lord it over others like karmis or non-initiated devotees is certainly the mentality of the prakrita-bhakta or the neophyte. Such neophytes, although found to be in the renounced order or following strictly the rules and regulations of devotional service should actually take shelter of the unalloyed Vaishnavas as mentioned above. Although such Vaishnavas and sadhus may sometimes be seen not to be following the rules and regulations of devotional service, not to have taken proper initiation and be engaged in sinful activities, because they are qualified with unflinching faith in the lotus feet of the Lord, they are still to be considered the most holy souls without a doubt. Their qualification is their sincere earnestness and attachment to the Lord’s devotional service and consequently they are protected by the Lord in all circumstances. They are not to be offended by the neophytes who may not recognize their spiritual status but simply see the external situations of life. The defects of the neophytes are stated here from the Nectar of Instruction (p. 61):
The kanishtha-adhikari cannot distinguish between a devotee and nondevotee. Unless one is actually a devotee, he cannot see another devotee perfectly.
It may be questioned that, why should one undergo the process of diksha, following the rules and regulations governing spiritual life rather than simply adopting the process of offenselessly chanting the holy name of the Lord, which is the goal of these processes. The answer is that although the offenseless chanting is the goal of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, unless one makes progress under the bona fide guru, there is no question of spiritual advancement of life. Although one may accept the chanting of the names of the Lord without spiritual initiation there is every chance that without the expert guidance of the spiritual master such a person will continue to be allured to material life. The conclusion to be drawn from the above examples is that no matter what material condition of life one may be in–whether he be in the highest renounced order of life, or simply one coming from the family of sinful life (chandalas)–he must take the shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord by accepting the chanting of His holy name and go to His bona fide representative–the spiritual master–in order to make advancement in spiritual life. The actual advanced devotee in Krishna consciousness is not recognized by his material position. If a disciple does not make forward advancement in following the instructions of the bona fide guru, certainly his position is materialistic. To make a show of following the rules and regulations of spiritual life like chanting the holy names of the Lord and avoiding illicit sex, gambling, intoxication and animal killing in order to maintain ones false prestige and position is certainly the mentality of a materialist whose aim is to lord it over others. Devotional service to Krishna is not a show of avoidance of sinful life as performed by the tyagi or false renouncer, but devotional service is dependent on the loving dealings between the individual soul and the Supreme Lord. Even if one is not able to become free from the strong influence of material desires, still, if he earnestly continues to make advancement under the direction of the Lord and His representative, be is properly situated and soon attains perfection. The strong faith that as long as one continues in the process of devotional service even though he may not follow strictly the rules and regulations governing spiritual life, and by endeavoring in this way he will eventually attain the shelter of Krishna, is more important than the envious neophyte’s external show of religious life.
Before the guru accepts the disciple for spiritual initiation, the guru sees if the student is fit for initiation by observing the student’s sincerity. Prabhupada points out that (CC Mad 24.330 Purport):
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 to a year.
It is the duty of the spiritual master to test the disciple to see bow seriously he desires to execute devotional service. Then he may be initiated (SB 4.8.32 Purport).
The spiritual master must not accept a disciple who is not qualified; he should not be professional and should not accept disciples for monetary gains. The bona fide spiritual master must see the bona fide qualities of a person whom he is going to initiate. An unworthy person should not be initiated (SB 3.32.42 Purport).
When the bona fide spiritual master sees that the student is sincere about the matter of advancing in spiritual life and is willing to adopt the necessary practices to control the mind and senses, he accepts the student by the process summarized as follows (SSR pp. 63-5):
Shrila Prabhupada: You’d also have to give up eating meat, eggs, and fish. And you’d have to give up gambling as well. Unless you gave up these four sinful activities, you could not be initiated.
Reporter: Does “surrender” mean that someone would have to leave his family?
Shrila Prabhupada: No.
Reporter: But suppose I were to become an initiate. have to come and live in the temple?
Shrila Prabhupada: Not necessarily.
Reporter: What about work? Would I have to give up my job?
Shrila Prabhupada: No, you’d simply have to give up your bad habits and chant the Hare Krishna mantra on these beads–that’s all.
Reporter: Would I have to give any financial support?
Shrila Prabhupada: No, that is your voluntary wish. If you give, that’s all right. And if you don’t, we don’t Blind. We do not depend on anyone’s financial contribution. We depend on Krishna.
Reporter: I wouldn’t have to give any money at all?
Shrila Prabhupada: No.
Reporter: Is this one of the main things that distinguishes the genuine guru from the fake guru?
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, a genuine guru is not a businessman. He is a representative of God.
The disciple accepts the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra–Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Bare Hare/ Bare Rama, Hare, Rama, Rama Rama, Bare Hare–as recommended in the Brihan-Naradiya Purana: harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam/ kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha–“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” The importance of this injunction is further stressed by Prabhupada (CC Adi 17.24 Purport):
Our Krishna consciousness movement stresses the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra only, whereas those who do not know the secret of success for this age of Kali unnecessarily indulge in the cultivation of knowledge, the practice of mystic yoga or the performance of fruitive activities or useless austerities. They are simply wasting their time and misleading their followers. When we point this out very plainly to an audience, members of opposing groups become angry at us. But according to the injunctions of the shastras, we cannot make compromises with these so-called jnanis, yogis, karmis and tapasvis. When they say they are as good as we are, we must say that only we are good and that they are not good. This is not our obstinacy; it is the injunction of the shastras. We must not deviate from the injunctions of the shastras.
From the Narayana-samhita, it is stated–dvapariyair janair vishnuh pancharatrais kevalaih/ kalau tu nama-matrena pujyate bhagavan harih:
In the Dvapara-yuga people should worship Lord Vishnu only by the regulative principles of the Narada-pancharatra and other such authorized books. In the age of Kali, however, people should simply chant the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Hare Krishna maha-mantra is recommended in the Kali-santarana Upanishad-hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare/ hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare/ iti shodashakam namnam kali-kalmasha-nashanam/ natah parataropayah sarva-vedeshu drishyate:
After searching through all the Vedic literature, one cannot find a method of religion more sublime for this age than the chanting of Hare Krishna.
The disciple chants the holy names of the Lord by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and, by refraining from sinful life by avoiding intoxication, gambling, illicit sex and meat-eating, he controls the mind and the senses. Thus the disciple begins his spiritual life under the guidance of the spiritual master and the revealed scriptures like Shrila Rupa Goswami’s Upadeshamrita, which is a practical guide for the neophyte disciple.
Chapter 13–How Does One Become a Spiritual Master?
It may be puzzle how a fellow human being with many apparent similarities to the ordinary man can become a spiritual master, deserving all the respect given to the Supreme Lord Himself. As we have discussed earlier, the spiritual master’s qualification is that he never deviates from the principle of presenting the actual words of the disciplic succession. Sometimes it may even be seen that the spiritual master himself is not fully qualified. This is stated by Prabhupada (in a letter dated April 26, 1968 to Janardana Dasa):
A person who is liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as guru and acharya by strictly following the disciplic succession.
The spiritual master comes from the group of liberated persons, namely the nitya-, sadhana- and kripa-siddhas. Because these spiritual masters are liberated, they are intimately associated with Krishna and are understood to be empowered personally by Krishna to spread the Krishna consciousness movement by initiating disciples by the diksha process. One who is not liberated but who is undeviatingly following the process of bhakti-yoga under the strict guidelines of the disciplic succession and the bona fide guru, may also act as spiritual master. Although he may have material desires within his heart, he never teaches anything else except pure, unadulterated Krishna consciousness as he had learned from his spiritual master. If he deviates from the pure message of the disciplic succession, he becomes unfit to act as representative of Krishna. Generally, such non-liberated spiritual masters rise to the platform of liberation because of their staunch adherence to the message of God and Krishna empowers them to spread the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. But if one is seen to be acting as spiritual master and willfully deviates from the message of the Lord for material gain, the Lord punishes such a pseudospiritual master as explained (Ishopanishad Mantra 12, pp. 67-8):
Shri Ishopanishad confirms that these pseudoreligionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after the completion of their spiritual master business, which they conduct simply for sense gratification.
The sincere and earnest spiritual master will always follow sincerely and sacrifice everything in the matter of following the instructions of the Lord. Therefore, the bona fide guru has no connection with desires for money, women, fame, accumulating disciples, and attachment to the false ego, false pride, etc. He sacrifices everything in order to remain an obedient servant at the lotus feet of the Lord. Therefore it is said that the order of Krishna becomes the life and soul of the disciple in the disciplic succession. His perfection is that he never “mis-represents” the message of Krishna. That is his qualification. As stated by Shrila Prabhupada (Lecture Tape, HYD 72-63, “Bg. 2.26-29”, BTM, 11/30/72):
We should follow, that is called parampara system. As Arjuna understood Bhagavad-gita, if we understand that way, then we are perfect. I may be imperfect but because I understandBhagavad-gita as it was understood by Arjuna, I’m perfect. Because the knowledge I’m distributing; that is not imperfect. Just like a post peon. A post peon is delivering (to] you one thousand dollars. So he may be [a] poor man, but the one thousand dollars he’s delivering; that is a fact. That is not bogus because he has not manufactured something. He has received that money order from the post office; he’s asked to deliver it to such and such person. He’s honestly deliver[ing] the money order as it is to the bona fide person. That is his perfection. He doesn’t require–because he’s delivering one thousand dollars–he doesn’t require to become a very rich man. He may be [a] poor man. Similarly, a guru. A guru is perfect when he delivers the words of the superior authority as it is; then he’s perfect. He may be imperfect in your estimation but that is his perfection that he’s not misleading people by becoming a so-called rascal scholar and interpreting in a different way and misleading the whole population. That is perfection. People say so much about me that I have done some wonderful thing but I say that I am not a magician. I am not a magician. My only credit is that I am presenting Krishna as Be is. That’s all. I am not “diluting” Krishna. That is not my business. And therefore because it is pure–“pure ghee”–therefore everyone accepts it. And if you place dalda, mixing with ghee some rascal thing, then nobody will accept it. Therefore so many swamis went before me in the Western countries and they presented adulterated [thing]. There was not a single person (who] became a krishna-bhakta. Now by thousands they’re becoming. Why? Because it is presented pure thing. Pure thing will be accepted [by] everyone.
As stated here, the bona fide guru is perfect as long as he delivers the words of Krishna as they are without adulteration. He is just like the postman who delivers a check for a thousand dollars. The postman doesn’t require to be a rich man but he simply delivers the money, as it is. Similarly, if the guru delivers the words of Krishna, be may be imperfect with material desires but as long as he delivers the words of Krishna as they are, without addition or adulteration, he’s a perfect guru. Such pure devotee gurus, as mentioned before, come from the kanishtha- and madhyama-adhikariplatforms of devotion. Although they may accept disciples, it is stated that one should only accept initiation from the liberated souls from the uttama-adhikari platform of devotion in order to make rapid progress under the expert guidance of the first class devotee.
Such less advanced gurus may also be diksha-gurus as mentioned by Prabhupada (SB 4.12.32-3 Purport):
This incident proves that the shiksha- or diksha-gurus who has a disciple who strongly executes devotional service like Dhruva Maharaja can be carried by the disciple even though the instructor is not as advanced. The conclusion is that a disciple or an offspring who is a very strong devotee can carry with him to Vaikunthaloka either his father, mother, or shiksha or diksha-guru.
There is no bar for any pure devotee who strictly follows the words of the disciplic succession to act as a guru or acharya. Such a guru may even have a strong disciple who can carry his less advanced guru back home to Godhead if the guru is not yet liberated. A non-liberated soul acting in the position of a spiritual master is as good as the liberated spiritual master because there is no doubt that the message of Godhead he is delivering is the same. Non-liberated, liberated, neophyte, advanced; it doesn’t matter what type of guru he is. All bona fide gurus simply repeat the message of Krishna as it is, without change. Guru is one because the message is one. One’s material position is unimportant. As Prabhupada points out (TLK p. 53):
It doesn’t matter what his position is, whether he is a son, a boy, a shudra, brahmana, sannyasi or grihastha. One should simply learn from one who knows.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura also states that although one is situated as a brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra, brahmachari, vanaprastha, grihastha or sannyasi, if he is conversant in the science of Krishna he can become a spiritual master as vartma-pradarshaka-guru, diksha-guru or shiksha-guru (CC Mad 8.128 Purport).
Such a devotee spiritual master must be blessed with the mercy of Krishna and thus be equipped, not with theoretical knowledge or research knowledge but with realized, revealed knowledge as awarded by the Lord Himself. Then one may take shelter of such a guru, as stated here (SB 2.4.10 Purport):
A serious devotee must first approach a spiritual master who not only is well versed in the Vedic literatures but is also a great devotee with factual realization of the Lord and His different energies. Without the help of such a devotee spiritual master, one cannot make progress in the transcendental science of the Lord.
Chapter 14–Symptoms of the Bona Fide Guru
Everything rests upon the mercy of the Supreme Lord in the matter of becoming a spiritual master in the strict line of the disciplic succession. As explained earlier, the conditioned soul comes into contact with the bona fide disciplic succession through the mercy of Krishna. If such a fortunate soul accepts the service of the Lord in all earnestness and makes further progress on the spiritual path by the mercy of the Lord and the spiritual master, the disciple attains to the platform of pure devotional service to the Lord. There is no possibility of advancing in spiritual life without the sanction of higher authorities. By ones own endeavor, it is impossible.
Similarly, the Lord empowers one to teach the message of Krishna consciousness only if the devotee has no other shelter except the lotus feet of the Lord. When the devotee understands that he has no other hope in life other than the shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord, the Lord reveals Himself to such a surrendered soul and the devotee is entrusted with the confidential service of the Lord.
The mission of the Lord within the material universe is to guide the sleeping souls back to God consciousness. The soul, under the influence of material desires cannot enjoy the pure unadulterated bliss which is his normal, eternal condition. Instead of enjoying life in the material world, the soul pursues endless desires for godless enjoyment which perpetually binds him to the cycle of birth and death. The Lord within the heart of the living being tries to convince him of the miseries of the material condition and the spiritual master who engages in the service of the Lord, makes similar propaganda on behalf of the Lord. In this way the Lord within the heart and the representative of the Lord–the spiritual master, who is manifest before ones eyes–work to awaken the spiritual consciousness of an illusioned society. The bona fide acharya is recognized by his effectiveness to act in this capacity.
The empowered Vaishnava–the devotee who has been authorized to spread the Krishna consciousness movement–is the most intimate associate of the Lord. He has the full blessings of the Lord to act on His behalf to reclaim the conditioned souls from maya. The Lord requests everyone to understand who He is by pursuing spiritual life and surrendering to His instructions. After one understands the importance of God consciousness, the Lord again orders such a person to go and preach the message of God consciousness. The Lord is always there hidden within the hearts of everyone, but He personally reveals Himself to those spiritually advanced souls who act on His behalf.
When the Lord sees that one is especially eager to adopt the mission of the Lord as his own mission of life due to his understanding the compassionate nature of the Lord, the Lord Himself empowers the devotee to act as guru and spiritual master within the human society.
The power to act as a spiritual master depends on the approval of the Supreme Personality of Godhead because it is only by His approval that one can carry the authority of the infallible disciplic succession. The spiritual master is nondifferent than the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. This fact is confirmed throughout the Vedic literatures. Therefore, without the approval of the Supreme Lord, no one can act as His representative.
There are mistaken ideas on how one becomes qualified to act as the authorized representative of the Lord. Some neophytes may try to appoint a bona fide saint by an election process. Although they haven’t learned to follow the preliminary orders of the bona fide guru by understanding the science of spiritual life and studying the revealed shastras very carefully, they may foolishly assume the role of God in appointing a so-called spiritual master themselves. This is quite unreasonable for it assumes that the Supreme Lord is powerless and unable to act to select a worthy devotee in His own transcendental way. The Lord doesn’t appoint anybody by any material process but empowers the qualified devotee with spiritual influence. Therefore such an empowered devotee acts to influence others to give up sinful life and inspires them to become worshippers of the Lord. As stated by Prabhupada (CC Ant 3.143 Purport):
Some of them are called gosvamis, some are called svamis, some are prabhus, and some are prabhupada. One is not recognized, however, simply by such a name. A spiritual master is recognized as an actual guru when it is seen that be has changed the character of his disciples.
It is the Vedic system that one accept the titles of swami when one adopts the renounced order of life. However, no matter what title or order of life one accepts, unless one is personally empowered by the Lord to preach Krishna consciousness, he cannot be known as a spiritual master. Especially in the Kali-yuga, everyone is eager to adopt the titles of guru and spiritual master without being duly empowered to preach the Krishna consciousness science, but they do so simply for a livelihood. But the authorized guru works as stated by Prabhupada (TLC p. 28):
Without even being invited, a devotee will go from door to door to enlighten people and to bring them out of the darkness of nescience by injecting knowledge of the living entity’s constitutional position as a servant of Lord Krishna. Such devotees are empowered by the Lord to distribute devotional consciousness, or Krishna consciousness, to the people in general. They are known as authorized spiritual masters and it is by their mercy that a conditioned soul gets the seed of devotional service.
Therefore it is known that the authorized guru is empowered with immense compassion for the fallen souls that he goes anywhere there is a lack of Krishna consciousness to preach about the Lord so that the fallen souls may be saved. They are inspired from within by the Lord to perform this work and because they are empowered by the Lord Himself to act on His behalf, the association of such an empowered devotee acts to eradicate ignorance from the hearts of the conditioned souls.
As far as Prabhupada being appointed guru, he states indirectly that his appointment was given by Krishna and as such he was able to spread the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. Not only did he not wait for a so-called appointment from his Godbrothers, but he states that they were actually critical of his activities (NOI p. 64):
Those who think that Krishna consciousness is limited to a certain section of people, a certain section of devotees or a certain tract of land are generally prone to see the external features of the devotee. Such neophytes, unable to appreciate the exalted service of the advanced devotee, try to bring the mahabhagavata to their platform. We experience such difficulty in propagating this Krishna consciousness all over the world.
Unfortunately we are surrounded by neophyte Godbrothers who do not appreciate the extraordinary activities of spreading Krishna consciousness all over the world. They simply try to bring us to their platform, and they try to criticize us in every respect. We very much regret their naive activities and poor fund of knowledge. An empowered person who is actually engaged in the confidential service of the Lord should not be treated as an ordinary human being, for it is stated that unless one is empowered by Krishna, one cannot spread the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world.
The authorized preacher of Krishna consciousness does not wait for a judgment by a board of directors, group of neophyte devotees, or governmental commission to execute the confidential mission of the Lord. Any group of welfare workers cannot do any lasting good to society nor can they have any jurisdiction on the activities of the empowered Vaishnava who is serving the order of the Supreme Lord. The bona fide guru does not work independently. On the contrary, he is undeviatingly serving the order of the Supreme Lord. As such, although he is seen to be acting, not caring for the opinions of the karmis and so-called devotees, he is always situated in the Lord’s confidential service by spreading the message of Krishna all over the world. As stated above “unless one is empowered by Krishna, one cannot spread the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world.” Again, the guru is empowered by Krishna to act as the authorized spiritual master.
Prabhupada has explained how such a guru, empowered by Krishna, is self-effulgent and is not elected by anyone (CC Mad 1.220 Purport):
Mundane votes have no jurisdiction to elect a Vaishnava acharya. A Vaishnava acharya is self-effulgent and there is no need for any court judgment.
To be more specific, Prabhupada said that Bhaktisiddhanta never appointed anyone to become the next spiritual master nor was he himself going to appoint anyone to become the next spiritual master before his own departure.
Before passing away, he [Bhaktisiddhanta] gave all direction and never said this man should be the next acharya but these people just after his passing away, they began to fight, “Who should be acharya?” They declared some unfit person to become acharya, then another man comes, then another comes, and another comes (BTM, BOM 76-2A, 8/15/76, “Liberated Won’t Say He’s Liberated”).
When asked who would succeed him as the leader of the Krishna consciousness movement, Shrila Prabhupada replied: “All of my disciples will take the legacy. If you want, you can also take it. Sacrifice everything. I–one–may soon pass away. But they are hundreds, and this movement will increase. It’s not that I’ll give an order: ‘Here is the next leader.’ Anyone who follows the previous leadership is a leader” (BTG, Vol. 13, 1-2, p. 25, “Shrila Prabhupada Speaks Out–His Final Instructions”).
When the spiritual master departs from the world, his bona fide disciples take the order of the Lord and the guru very seriously and perform the duty of preaching Krishna consciousness. Although the guru has passed away, the disciple never considers that the guru has left. Rather, the disciple always feels the presence of his guru through his instructions and he executes the mission of theguru faithfully. There is no need to fill the vacancy left by the guru by artificially electing some unfit person into the acharya position as if the acharya position were a mundane political post. Those persons who participate in such a political system in the name of preaching God consciousness actually have no faith that the Lord is capable of maintaining His own disciplic succession. On the plea of carrying on the preaching work or maintaining the disciplic succession, they whimsically name an unqualified person or persons to act as the representative for the Lord. The Lord, however, never authorizes such independent activities on behalf of His mission and such persons never receive the actual shelter of the Lord. The result of such activity is stated by Shrila Prahlada Maharaja (SB 7.5.31):
Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Vishnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.
Such neophytes who have little understanding of how a devotee is empowered directly by the Lord should understand that when the Lord sees that the bona fide devotee is sincerely executing the orders of his guru by faithfully preaching the science of Krishna consciousness without adulteration, that devotee is empowered and becomes authorized by his continued unalloyed service to become the spiritual master. As stated above, the neophytes and nondevotees accept as their guru or leader a man who is blinded by material desires. As a result, the blind leader may attract blind followers in the name of spiritual life but as a result, they can make no advancement in spiritual life, what to speak of executing the preaching mission of the Lord.
Chapter 15–The Disciple Becomes a Guru
The spiritual master orders the sincere disciple to learn first how to become a perfect servant of the Lord and then teach the path of perfection to others. As such, the perfect disciple’s perfection means that he never misleads others by changing the true intention of the disciplic succession. Therefore, the disciple must be fully conversant with the knowledge given by the disciplic succession and always be an obedient servant to the will expressed therein even to begin to represent the disciplic succession by engaging in preaching work. Until one is advanced in spiritual knowledge as taught by the bona fide disciplic succession, one should not present oneself as capable of acting as a spiritual master. This principle must rigidly be observed by all students of the spiritual science if one wants to attain to pure devotional service. The spiritual master is always to be obeyed in all circumstances. Sometimes the physical presence of the guru is not appreciated by the neophyte who may not understand the exalted status of such a liberated soul. But the message of the guru is another manifestation of the gurus presence and must be understood to be nondifferent than theacharya himself. The real disciple never considers his spiritual master to be absent in any circumstance. By his advanced position in spiritual realization, the sincere disciple’s activities are always perfect because he never neglects the order of the guru, considering him to be always present by his instructions. This is expressed by Shrila Prabhupada:
Prabhupada: I will never die.
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!
Prabhupada: I shall live from my books, and you will utilize (Shrila Prabhupada Lilamrita Volume 6 p. 97)
So, there is nothing to be said new. Whatever I have to say, I have spoken in my books. Now, try to understand it and continue your endeavors. Whether I am present or not present, it doesn’t matter (Shrila Prabhupada Lilamrita Volume 6 p. 2).
There is no difference between the spiritual master’s instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple (CC Adi 1.35 Purport).
Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the last day of December, 1936, I still consider His Divine Grace to be always present with me by his vani, his words. There are two ways of association–by vani and by vapuh. Vani means words, and vapuh means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence (CC “Concluding Words” Antya 5, p. 319).
Then, as stated above, one must always be surrendered to the true guru and be ready to take to his service by adopting the instructions of the guru through his vapuh or vani. In this way, one always remains in touch with the pure transcendental service of the Supreme Lord and makes unimpeded progress along the spiritual path. A disciple who has not learned this technique for always staying in touch with the guru should understand that the guru’s presence is to be fully appreciated when the disciple accepts the transcendental order of the guru.
After the bona fide guru departs from the world, the disciple may become guru; the actual qualifications and disqualifications are described by Prabhupada as follows:
One who has not listened carefully to the instructions of the spiritual master is unfit to chant or preach the cult of devotional service. One has to water the bhakti-lata-bija after receiving instructions from the spiritual master (CC Mad 19.152 Purport).
Unless one has perfect knowledge from disciplic succession, he simply puts forth some theories of his own creation; therefore he is cheating people (SB 3.24.17 Purport).
There is no chance, however, to receive the Vedic knowledge from mental speculators. The test for such bona fide spiritual masters is that there should be no difference between the instruction of the Lord originally imparted to His devotee and that which is imparted by the authority in the line of disciplic succession (SB 2.8.1 Purport).
There is no bar against anyone; anyone can become a spiritual master provided he knows the science of Krishna. This is the only qualification, and this science, in essence is contained inBhagavad-gita (PQPA p. 88, 90-2).
One who knows the conclusions of the shastras, follows in the footsteps of his predecessors and endeavors to preach the bhakti cult all over the world is to be considered an acharya (CC Ant 3.223 Purport).
It is not that one thinks, “I do not care for my guru’s order. Still I am a disciple.” That is not actually accepting a guru. Of course, it has become a fashion to accept a guru in this way, but this will not help anyone (TLK p. 174).
If one poses himself as an acharya but does not have an attitude of servitorship to the Lord, he must be considered an offender, and this offensive attitude disqualifies him from being anacharya (CC Adi 1.46 Purport).
The spiritual master must also be well versed and learned so that he may be able to answer all these inquiries from the devotees. Thus one who is not well versed in the authorized scriptures and not able to answer all such relevant inquiries should not pose as a spiritual master for the matter of material gain. It is illegal to become a spiritual master if one is unable to deliver his disciple (SB 2.8.7 Purport).
Generally, people say, “In my opinion,” thinking that “my opinion” really means something. As we have stressed over and over, we have to receive knowledge from the disciplic succession. Knowledge has to be received from Bhagavan, the perfect one. If we simply follow this system, we can become guru for the whole world.
It is not difficult to become a guru, provided that we repeat what Krishna says (TLK p. 198-9).
If the disciple doesn’t change the message, he is a bona fide spiritual master (SSR p. 264).
The disciple first learns the science of Krishna consciousness then he becomes perfect by executing the orders of the guru. The process of making spiritual advancement from neophyte to perfect disciple is to always remain an obedient servant of the guru. If one tries to imitate artificially the activities of a more advanced Vaishnava or the spiritual master, he falls down. Such duplicitous and whimsical behavior is never appreciated by the Lord or His representative. The secret for success is to always remain staunchly obedient in the matter of executing the orders of the guru faithfully. By such staunch determination to please Krishna through the disciplic succession, Krishna returns such loyal devotional service by empowering the devotee to act as an authoritative, authorizedguru himself.
As explained before, such authorization is awarded by Krishna because the sincere disciple is never overwhelmed by the enjoying spirit but he is motivated by a sincere desire to serve the transcendental mission of the Lord. As Prabhupada explains:
Prabhupada: If in this world there is one Vaishnava, he can deliver the world.
Satsvarupa: You are that one Vaishnava, Shrila Prabhupada.
Prabhupada: You become. Each of you. Why not?
Guru-kripa: We can try.
Prabhupada: Yes, try. But follow. Do not imitate (Shrila Prabhupada Lilamrita Volume 6 p. 363).
Prabhupada as well as Lord Chaitanya orders everyone to become a spiritual master. But the order does not mean that one immediately becomes “empowered” to act as spiritual master as if “electrically charged” by the guru. As cited above, one must follow the path of perfection by understanding the science of God consciousness at the lotus feet of the guru, and follow his orders strictly. One cannot artificially imitate the activities of the departed guru and advertise oneself artificially as guru. In this connection, it is said (NOI p. 58):
Shrila Rupa Gosvami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanishtha-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.
The practice of imitating the bona fide guru has caused a great deal of damage to the good reputation of the actual system as practiced by the bona fide gurus and disciples in the line of the disciplic succession. There are countless so-called gurus who are cheating the innocent public in the name of God consciousness. This is the rule rather than the exception in the present age of Kali-yuga, or the age of irreligion. In this age, everyone is imbibed with an increased tendency to lord it over others, even in the name of becoming big leaders of religious movements. This is stated by Prabhupada (CC Adi 3.98 Purport):
The so-called acharyas of the age of Kali are more concerned with exploiting the resources of their followers than mitigating their miseries.
Reporter: I wondered how many people you think might have been taken in by fake gurus.
Prabhupada: Practically everyone [Laughter.] There is no question of counting. Everyone.
Reporter: This would mean thousands of people, wouldn’t it?
Prabhupada: Millions. Millions have been cheated, because they want to be cheated (SSR pp. 61-2, 68-9).
The symptoms of Kali-yuga are vividly described in another chapter of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (canto 12, chapter 2). Simply a change of garb, i.e., from a white garment to the red and holding a rod as a mark of renunciation, will transfer anybody to the renounced order of life (Essay: “The Divinity of Lord Chaitanya” by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, March 30, 1953).
In the age of Kali, godless civilizations will create so many so-called religious societies in which the Personality of Godhead will be directly or indirectly defied. And thus faithless societies of men will make the world uninhabitable for the saner section of people (SB 1.16.20 Purport).
As such, one must carefully take shelter of the authorized version of spiritual knowledge as found within the bona fide disciplic succession and summarized herein, in order to make progress in spiritual life. One should not be carried away by sentimental attachment to a bogus guru who presents some mentally concocted opinions which are contrary to the infallible message of the disciplic succession. In all circumstances, the bogus guru must be rejected and the bona fide guru must be taken shelter of in order to reach the perfection of life. This is the proper determination of the disciple who follows in the footsteps of the mahajanas like Bali Maharaja. As stated by Prabhupada (SB 8.20.1 Purport):
[Bali Maharaja] deliberated on this point–should he refuse to accept the advice of his spiritual master, or should he immediately do everything to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead? He took some time. Therefore it is said, tushnim bhutva kshanam rajann uvachavahito gurum. After deliberating on this point, he decided that Lord Vishnu should be pleased in all circumstances, even at the risk of ignoring the guru’s advice to the contrary. Anyone who is supposed to be a guru but who goes against the principle of vishnu-bhakti cannot be accepted as aguru. If one has falsely accepted such a guru, one should reject him. Shrila Jiva Gosvami has advised that such a useless guru, a family priest acting as a guru, should be given up, and that the proper, bona fide guru should be accepted.
According to revealed scriptures, a teacher or spiritual master is liable to be rejected if he proves himself unworthy of the position of a guru or spiritual master (SB 1.7.43 Purport).
The disciple of spiritual life must be sure to take shelter of the Lord by taking shelter of the bona fide guru. If, by mistake or by circumstances, one takes shelter of a so-called guru who leads the disciple away from the shelter of Krishna, he should be rejected and the proper guru should be accepted.
Such a perfect disciple who has found the shelter of the bona fide guru follows the instructions of the guru by adopting such instructions as his mission in life. By faithful execution of such instructions, the disciple is blessed by the guru and Krishna and he attains all perfection in spiritual realization, knowledge of the Vedas, etc. The main principle to be observed in attaining such success in spiritual life is to serve the order of Krishna, through the medium of the bona fide spiritual master. By adopting this humble mentality, the disciple does not care for material success or failure nor does he care for any favorable material circumstances like safety, comfort, maintaining false prestige, etc. He is only concerned with serving the order of the guru without duplicity. This mood of devotion is described by Prabhupada in his Markine Bhagavata-dharma (Verses 1, 12, 15):
My dear Lord Krishna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here [to America]. Now You can do whatever You like with me. Somehow or other, 0 Lord, You have brought me here to speak about You. Now, my Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or failure as You like. 0 Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, 0 Lord make me dance as You like.
In another place Prabhupada describes this desire to execute the order of the bona fide guru as follows (SB 2.8.6 Purport):
Pure devotees like Narada and Nityananda Prabhu take up the order of the spiritual master as the sustenance of life. They do not mind what becomes of the future of their lives. They take the matter very seriously as the order comes from the higher authority, from the representative of the Lord, or from the Lord Himself.
In all circumstances, even amidst the greatest dangers, they undeviatingly carry on with the greatest determination. An intense lover of Krishna does not care for any number of material discomforts, scarcity, impediments or unhappiness (CC Mad 4.186 Purport).
Less advanced devotees are more concerned with enjoying material complacency at the cost of executing the orders of the disciplic succession. The mission of Krishna is to spread propaganda for going back home, back to Godhead. To follow this order of the bona fide guru means that one has to face all types of difficulties in order to establish oneself firmly in devotional service; however, the so-called sadhus and gurus do not adopt the orders of the guru wholeheartedly due to material considerations as stated here by Prabhupada (SB 5.18.22 Purport):
We have actually seen that one of the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wanted to enjoy the property of his spiritual master, and the spiritual master, being merciful toward him, gave him the temporary property, but not the power to preach the cult of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world. That special mercy of the power to preach is given to a devotee who does not want anything material from his spiritual master but wants only to serve him.
Why, then, are there severe types of penance for the perfection of devotional service? An easy-going life and attainment of perfection in transcendental realization cannot go together. The Lord is more clever than any living entity; therefore He waits to see how painstaking the devotee is in devotional service (SB 2.9.24 Purport).
The bona fide disciple accepts anything and everything if it is favorable for executing the mission of the Lord and similarly, rejects all unfavorable circumstances in pursuance of pure devotional service. The last word in serving the spiritual master is that the sincere disciple continues to propagate the Krishna consciousness movement without adulteration and adopts this mission as his prime duty in life. If such a devotee is seen by the Lord to be properly executing this most important function in society, He entrusts such a devotee with the power to spread the Krishna consciousness movement which is meant for liberating the conditioned souls from material bondage.
Appendix 1–Some Practical Considerations
Now, a chapter based on the practical application on the Science of Accepting a Spiritual Master.
Q. Who is Prabhupada’s successor to the disciplic succession?
A. Prabhupada himself said before he left the planet, “All of my disciples will take the legacy. If you want, you can also take it. Sacrifice everything. All my disciples are leaders … as much as they follow purely. If you want to follow, then you can also lead. But you don’t want to follow” (BTG, “Shrila Prabhupada Speaks Out–His Final Instructions” Vol. 13, 1-2, p. 25). Anyone who wants to follow Prabhupada is fit to be the heir to the disciplic succession.
Q. It is a general understanding within ISKCON that Prabhupada selected specific spiritual masters before he left to insure the continuation of the disciplic succession.
A. This misunderstanding was mistakenly propagated by some of Prabhupada’s disciples. It was a very believable theory that the disciples Prabhupada selected to act as ritvik-acharyas would immediately take up the spiritual master title and position as soon as Prabhupada left this world. It is actually the duty of the disciple to rise to the occasion and become the acharya in the chain of disciplic succession; but one must be recognized and empowered by Krishna after one has–as Prabhupada says above–“sacrifice[d] everything”.
Q. In the Shrila Prabhupada Lilamrita Volume 6, Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami cites evidence that such an appointment took place.
A. Yes, the conversation that occurs on pages 324-5 is an edited version of the conversation to support the theory that the ritvik-acharyas would become diksha-gurus after Prabhupada’s departure. It is not that the conversation was intentionally interpreted to support the ritvik-acharya-to-diksha-guru theory but the actual conversation–in its entirety–has been the subject of some controversy and interpretation. We are hoping that this particular literary attempt will lay to rest any questions about how the disciple actually becomes the spiritual master as practiced throughout the disciplic succession. In essence, the conversations on pages 324-5 and pages 345 of the Shrila Prabhupada Lilamrita Volume 6, describe Prabhupada selecting his disciples to act only as officiatingacharyas: acharyas who perform the initiation ceremony on behalf of Prabhupada. In another appendix to this book, the actual conversations in their unedited form will be discussed briefly but analytically. One should be aware, however, that Prabhupada remarked in his final instructions, “It’s not that I’ll give an order: ‘Here is the next leader.”‘
Q. Is there any harm done in the action taken by the disciples when, after their guru’s departure, they start to initiate and accept disciples on their own behalf ?
A. When the guru departs, it’s actually the duty of all the disciples to become qualified to become the next acharya and initiate others into spiritual life. Such pure devotees never deviate from the disciplic succession by acting independently after their guru passes away. However, some disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta made the mistake of artificially filling the acharya post after the departure of the guru and spoiled the preaching efforts of the Gaudiya Matha. Although in the mundane sense, Bhaktisiddhanta never appointed anyone as the successor acharya, no one should have thought or feared that the disciplic succession would have ended. One disciple–Shrila Prabhupada-became empowered to act as the acharya because he understood and executed the orders of his guru. That is the process of becoming a spiritual master. Everything is managed by Krishna in the matter of maintaining the eternal disciplic succession.
Q. Can it be assumed that the ritvik-acharyas appointed by Prabhupada are not bona fide gurus?
A. No. If they are teaching the science of Krishna consciousness without adulteration, they–or anyone–are bona fide gurus. However, it is stated that one should be careful to accept initiation only from the uttama-adhikaris or the authorized spiritual masters. Because it was assumed that the ritvik-acharyas were appointed by Prabhupada to become diksha-gurus on his departure, there may be some confusion on behalf of the neophytes as to the spiritual status of these ritvik-acharyas. One may have automatically assumed that Prabhupada recognized these devotees as being liberated souls. All students of spiritual life must be trained to see things through the shastras in the matter of who to accept as the bona fide guru.
Q. What happens to a sincere disciple who takes initiation from a guru and the guru falls down into illusion (maya)?
A. This should never happen because normally, the guru is not to be accepted from the kanishtha- or even the madhyama-adhikari platform. The uttama-adhikari is fixed in devotional service. Usually, it is the neophyte disciple who falls into maya. A sincere disciple does not accept an ordinary man as guru.
Q. Did Prabhupada want the ritvik process to go on after his departure?
A. Prabhupada was sometimes initiating disciples through his devotee-representatives. These devotee-representatives are called ritvik-acharyas. Prabhupada gave instruction to the ritvik-acharyas: “So without waiting for me, whoever you consider deserves. That will depend on discretion.” It is apparent that the bona fide guru need not be physically present in order to accept disciples. The business of the ritvik-acharya is to determine who is fit or unfit for initiation and then act on behalf of the diksha-guru to perform the initiation ceremony. The diksha-guru and his transcendental instructions are nondifferent. As long as the disciple has firm faith in the orders of the bona fide guru, he can expect Krishna’s mercy in the matter of achieving pure devotional service. The bona fide guru is always present in his vani, or transcendental instructions. There is no necessity for discriminating: “Which guru shall I take initiation from?” Guru is one. The only consideration is that he is fully equipped with all transcendental necessities in order to deliver his disciple. In other words, he must be bona fide; and the disciple must be prepared to learn the transcendental science very seriously.
Q. In the April 1986 issue of the ISKCON World Review, there appears an article called -ISKCON’s News Makers-. It says that, -Twenty disciples of Shrila Prabhupada were just approved to initiate disciples. Blessings were given by the GOVERNING BODY COMMISSION at the March, 1986 meetings here. The new spiritual masters are:- etc.
A. Shrila Prabhupada was a guru because Krishna empowered him as such. The benediction to preach Krishna consciousness automatically comes to the disciple who has no material motive to fulfill.
Q. Should the GBC appoint anyone as guru?
A. It should be admitted that Krishna is the only one who can empower one to act as guru. It is not necessary for others to perform this function. The GBC, as a body of devotees whose function it is to see that the worldwide affairs of ISKCON are continuing in the interest of advancing in Krishna consciousness, should see that all activities and policies are carried out in strict compliance with the version of the guru, sadhu and shastra.
Appendix 2–The Ritvik-Acharya Appointment Conversations
In order to understand the following two conversations that occurred in May and June of 1977–the year Shrila Prabhupada passed away–we will examine the exchanges between Prabhupada and his disciples. These conversations are cited in Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s Shrila Prabhupada Lilamrita Volume 6 but appear here unedited. This following conversation occurred in May.
Satsvarupa: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiations would be conducted.
Shrila Prabhupada: I shall recommend some of you, after this is settled up. I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acharya.
Tamala Krishna: Is that called ritvik-acharya?
Shrila Prabhupada: Ritvik. Yes.
Comment: Prabhupada’s intentions are to appoint some of his disciples to perform the initiation ceremony on his behalf. By this process of initiation, the new disciple becomes the disciple of Prabhupada even though Prabhupada is not personally present to perform the formal initiation ceremony. Initiation is not a material process but it is the transcendental activity where the aspiring disciple agrees to learn the science of Krishna consciousness by accepting the orders of the bona fide spiritual master. One can derive the benefit of association with the guru by following his transcendental instructions or vani. Prabhupada recommends this process in response to Satsvarupa’s question as to how initiations will be performed in the future, .. particularly at that time when [Prabhupada is] no longer with [his disciples)”.
Satsvarupa: What is the relationship of that person who gives the initiation and…
Shrila Prabhupada: He’s guru. He’s guru.
Comment: There appears to be some confusion about the relationship between the ritvik-acharya and the newly initiated disciple. Although the ritvik-acharya performs the initiation on behalf of the actual diksha-guru, be is actually not the diksha-guru. In Satsvarupa’s question, he says, “that person,” meaning the “ritvik-acharya”. Then he says, “who gives the initiation”. Actually the ritvik-acharya does not give any initiation. “That person” in Prabhupada’s mind is Prabhupada himself. Therefore Prabhupada interrupts the question before it is completed by correcting: “that person”-thediksha-guru–“he is guru”.
Satsvarupa: But he does it on your behalf.
Comment: The “he” mentioned here by Satsvarupa indicates the “ritvik-acharya”; and “does it” refers to “initiation” which the ritvik-acharya does not actually do. “He does it” only makes sense if “he” is a bona fide guru who is authorized by Krishna and his guru is no longer present. That is, if the bona fide guru’s disciple is authorized by Krishna, he may act as ritvik-acharya in the presence of his guru, but he does not act as diksha-guru as long as his guru is present. This is a formality.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes. That is formality, because in my presence one should not become guru–so on my behalf. On my order, amara ajnaya guru hana, he is actually guru. But by my order.
Comment: Before, Prabhupada tried to establish that only the diksha-guru gives the initiation, but Satsvarupa is trying to determine when the ritvik-acharyas will become diksha-gurus and accept their own disciples. Because Satsvarupa is assuming that the ritvik-acharya is immediately qualified to initiate, Prabhupada agrees to pursue Satsvarupa’s line of thinking. Therefore Prabhupada admits that if he did have a qualified disciple to become guru, they would not initiate until Prabhupada had passed away. Although such a perfectly qualified disciple has the sanction of Krishna to initiate, he does not do so because his guru is present, so he acts as ritvik-acharya instead–initiating disciples on behalf of the diksha-guru. However, Prabhupada is advising his disciples to adopt the process of becoming ritvik-acharyas for “that time when [he is] no longer with [his disciples]. Did he mean that the process would go on indefinitely? No. Prabhupada’s next statement gives the qualification for becoming diksha-guru: yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krishna’-upadesha/ amara ajnaya guru hana tara’ ei desha. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says (CC Mad 7.128):
Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Shri Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.
In this verse “amara ajnaya” is translated: “under My order”–or the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. One becomes a guru under the direct permission of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by preaching the gospel of Bhagavad-gita as it is. This is the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the bona fide guru to the disciple. By saying this, Prabhupada again pursues his own way of thinking with a view to establish the qualification of the diksha-guru in the mind of Satsvarupa. The regular disciple or ritvik-acharya becomes a diksha-guru by following the orders of the disciplic succession and receiving the permission from Krishna to spread the Krishna consciousness movement. Otherwise, a disciple–be he a ritvik-acharya or not–has no such facility to act automatically as diksha-guru upon the guru’s departure.
Satsvarupa: So they may also be considered your disciples?
Comment: Satsvarupa assumed Prabhupada’s comment to mean that the ritvik-acharya will accept disciples on Prabhupada’s order. But since Prabhupada is personally present, the question remained in his mind, “Are they your disciples also?”
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes, they are or their disciples, but consider who …
Comment: In the Lilamrita, this remark is edited to read, “They are their disciples.” However, Prabhupada is still pursuing his own line of reasoning as well as his disciple’s line of thought. Before he is cut off, he makes an attempt to resolve the two lines of thought.
Tamala Krishna: No. He is asking that these ritvik-acharyas, they are officiating, giving diksha, the people who they give diksha to, whose disciples are they?
Comment: Tamala Krishna’s question reveals that he is also thinking that the ritvik-acharyas who are performing the initiation ceremony are actually “giving diksha”. This question could only be answered if it is assumed that the devotee–who is acting as the ritvik-acharya–is qualified to act as a diksha-guru; meaning that he is an uttama-adhikari devotee. But Tamala Krishna is also pursuing Satsvarupa’s line of thought, thinking that Prabhupada has misunderstood. What they did not see was that Prabhupada was trying to establish that the ritvik-acharya does not “give diksha”.They still think that the ritvik-acharya is being given the power to initiate by Prabhupada on his order.
Whoever follows the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or the bona fide guru, he becomes guru. The “order” means to become a sincere disciple and become fit to execute the mission of the disciplic succession.
Shrila Prabhupada: They are his disciples.
Tamala Krishna: They are his disciples?
Comment: In answer to Tamala Krishna’s question, Prabhupada only confirms that if one is authorized to “give diksha,” the newly initiated disciples become the diksha-guru’s disciples. This is not at all unusual that Prabhupada would allow Tamala Krishna and Satsvarupa to pursue their line of reasoning. It is the responsibility for the disciple–after the departure of the guru–to become a guruin the disciplic succession. The guru does not want the preaching to stop, but he desires that his disciples become perfect gurus and continue the preaching at full force. The sincere disciple aspires to become a guru by following the orders of his spiritual master. He is not motivated by a desire for material gain, but by a sincere desire to serve the order of the higher authorities. In one sense, Tamala Krishna’s and Satsvarupa’s line of thinking is befitting the mentality of a bona fide disciple because they could be indicating that they will become qualified to be able to give diksha by their unalloyed desire to serve the guru. However, Prabhupada is aware of the flaw of his disciple’s line of thought–they are thinking that the ritvik-acharya has to ability to initiate–so he tries to correct them by trying to stimulate their minds to reexamine their own questions.
Prabhupada could have answered, “They are my disciples,” in which case, he would not be properly answering the question: “The people who they give diksha to, whose disciples are they?” Of course, if they are “giving diksha,” they are accepting their own disciples. Another consideration: The question also only makes sense if Prabhupada has passed away because, as Prabhupada had just explained, “In my presence one should not become guru.” In order to keep the question intact, he answers the question assuming that he is no longer present and that his appointed ritvik-acharyas have become diksha-gurus by the grace of Krishna through their unalloyed devotion. However, Tamala Krishna is expecting Prabhupada to say the new disciples are his own disciples. He therefore questions: “They are his [the ritvik-acharya’s] disciples?”; thinking that Prabhupada is allowing the ritvik-acharyas to accept disciples not having understood the contradictions in his own question.
Shrila Prabhupada: Who is initiating. His grand-disciple.
Comment: The perfect disciple of Prabhupada initiates disciples and they become Prabhupada’s grand-disciples.
Satsvarupa: Then we have a question concerning…
Shrila Prabhupada: When I order you become guru, he becomes regular guru. That’s all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. Just see.
Comment: It is the order of the disciplic succession for all sincere disciples to become guru. One who executes the mission of the Lord in the matter of preaching Krishna consciousness: be becomes most dear to Krishna and–by Krishna’s grace–he becomes a bona fide spiritual master.
The following is the conversation where Prabhupada selects the ritvik-acharyas which took place in June of 1977.
Tamala Krishna: Shrila Prabhupada, we are receiving a number of letters now. People are wanting to get initiated. So, until now, since you were becoming ill, we asked them to wait.
Shrila Prabhupada: The local senior sannyasis can.
Tamala Krishna: That’s what we were doing formerly. The local GBC sannyasis were chanting on their beads and they were writing to Your Divine Grace. And you were giving a spiritual name. So should that process be resumed or should we… [There is an interlude where Tamala Krishna discusses the spiritual master taking the disciple’s karma, and Shrila Prabhupada’s health.] That’s why we’ve been asking everybody to wait. I just want to know is we should continue to wait some more time.
Comment: The spiritual master agrees to suffer the sinful reactions of his disciples. Therefore, since Prabhupada was in bad health, the initiations performed by the ritvik-acharyas on behalf of Prabhupada were suspended.
Shrila Prabhupada: No. Senior sannyasis.
Tamala Krishna: So they should continue to…
Shrila Prabhupada: You can make a list of sannyasis. You can do.
Kirtanananda can do. Satsvarupa can do. So these three can do.
Tamala Krishna: So supposing someone is in America. Should they simply write directly to Kirtanananda or Satsvarupa?
Shrila Prabhupada: Nearby. Jayatirtha can do.
Tamala Krishna: Jayatirtha.
Shrila Prabhupada: Bhagavan. And he can do also–Harikesha.
Tamala Krishna: Harikesha Maharaja.
Shrila Prabhupada: Five, six men may divide. Who is nearest.
Tamala Krishna: Who is nearest. So persons wouldn’t have to write to Your Divine Grace. They could write directly to that person. Actually, they are initiating the person on Your Divine Grace’s behalf. Those persons who are initiated are still your…
Shrila Prabhupada: Second initiation. We shall think. Second.
Comment: The disciple accepts first initiation by promising to refrain from intoxication, meat-eating, gambling and illicit sex as well as promising to chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra on a string of 108 japa beads a minimum of sixteen rounds daily. When he is accepted by the spiritual master as a disciple, the spiritual master changes the name of the disciple to indicate that he is a servant of the Lord. The disciple also marks his body with tilaka which also identifies him as a devotee of the Lord. The spiritual master does not accept a disciple immediately, but he tests the sincerity of the disciple for no less than six months or a year. After another period of six months to a year, the disciple is recommended for second initiation and if he is sincerely adhering to the instructions of the bona fide guru–faithfully rendering devotional service under his expert guidance–he is offered a sacred thread and is accepted as a bona fide brahmana.
Tamala Krishna: This is for first initiation. Okay. And for second initiation, for the time being we should…
Shrila Prabhupada: Again have to wait. Second initiation, that should be.
Tamala Krishna: Some devotees are writing you now for second initiation. And I’m writing them to wait a while, because you are not well. So can I continue to tell them that?
Shrila Prabhupada: They can do second initiation.
Tamala Krishna: By writing you?
Shrila Prabhupada: No. These men.
Tamala Krishna: These men. They can also do second initiation. So there’s no need for devotees to write to you for first and second initiation. They can write to the man nearest them. But all these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who would give initiation is doing so on your behalf.
Shrila Prabhupada: Yes.
Comment: In order to avoid any confusion about the status of the new disciples in relationship to the ritvik-acharyas, Prabhupada confirms that these new devotees are his own disciples–not theritvik-acharyas’–in the matter of accepting either first or second initiation.
Tamala Krishna: You know that book I’m maintaining of all your disciples’ names? Should I continue that?
Shrila Prabhupada: Hmmm.
Tamala Krishna: So if someone gives initiation, like Harikesha Maharaja, he should send the person’s name to us here, and I’ll enter it in the book. Okay. Is there someone else in India that you want to do this?
Comment: An error appears in Tamala Krishna’s statement. The ritvik-acharya does not give initiation but the diksha-guru–in this case, Shrila Prabhupada–is giving the initiation.
Shrila Prabhupada: India? I am here. We shall see. In India-Jayapataka.
Comment: Prabhupada indicates the possibility of himself performing the initiation in which case there is no necessity for the ritvik-acharya.
Tamala Krishna: Jayapataka Maharaja?
Shrila Prabhupada: You are also in India. You can note down these names.
Tamala Krishna: Yes, I have them. [The list is read, and Shrila Prabhupada adds two more names–Hridayananda and Rameshvara.]
Shrila Prabhupada: So without waiting for me, whoever you consider deserves. That will depend on discretion.
Tamala Krishna: Oh yes, discretion.
Comment: The responsibilities of the ritvik-acharyas are to select worthy disciples, perform the initiation ceremony on behalf of Prabhupada–the diksha-guru–and award the disciple first and second initiation “without waiting” for Prabhupada. However, as stated above, they are still the diksha-guru’s disciples–Prabhupada’s disciples.