The Living Guru is Here–Are we Ready to Follow Him?
As far as the living guru is concerned, the living guru is there, but it us up to us to recognize him and take advantage of his teachings.
Hare Krishna! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
In India the Hindus often attend “Bhagavata-saptahas.” This is a seven day festival where people engage in hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam and practicing spiritual activities. But this is not the method recommended in the Bhagavatam itself. There it is recommended: “Nityam Bhagavata sevaya.” We should hear the Bhagavatam nityam, constantly, at least daily. It is not that we should practice Krishna consciousness for seven days or fifteen days to get some sort of relief from the material world, some “purification,” with the ultimate aim of entering the material world again with increased vigor and enthusiasm. No. The Bhagavatam recommends giving up material attachments and transferring those attachments to Krishna.
The real point of Krishna consciousness is to give up doing things for ourselves and to instead perform all our activities for the pleasure of Krishna. We have to test our activities at every moment of the day, “Who am I doing this for?” and if the answer is not Krishna then we are still engaged in material activities.
That we still desire to perform so many activities for your own sense gratification [meat eating, sex, intoxication, etc] shows us that we are not Krishna conscious at all. We are still completely on the material platform. As we awaken our dormant Krishna consciousness these material desires for sex, intoxication, meat eating, etc will disappear and will be replaced with the desire to serve Krishna, to do something for Krishna.
The point will come, if we follow the process of Krishna consciousness under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, when service to Krishna will be the most pleasurable activity in our lives and we will be getting so much pleasure from serving Krishna that the material so-called pleasures like sex, intoxication and meat eating will seem distasteful to us.
But this purification takes time and it requires austerity on our part. We have to refrain from the sinful activities even though we still have a taste for them, a desire for them. That is the voluntary austerity a devotee undergoes. He agrees to follow the four regulative principles [no illicit sex (which includes self-induced acts like masturbation, sex is only to be used for having children in marriage), no intoxication (that includes smoking, alcohol, even drinking tee and coffee), no gambling (that includes all types of speculative business dealings and time-wasting sports), and no meat eating (actually a devotee only eats "prasadam" (food that has been offered to Krishna) and Krishna does not accept meat fish or eggs.)
So you can see that taking to Krishna consciousness requires a great deal of determination. Of course we can chant Hare Krishna and even if we can not follow all the principles that chanting will be very beneficial to us and ultimately we will come to the point where we can follow the principles . But it is an offense to chant Hare Krishna with the view to counteract the sinful activities we are performing. Chanting Hare Krishna can free us from all sinful activities but if we commit sinful activities thinking that if I chant Hare Krishna I will become free from the reactions to my sinful activities that is the greatest offense and will not be effective.
Chanting Hare Krishna has been likened to lighting a fire and not following the regulative principles is like pouring water on that fire. To purify our heart we have to have the blazing fire of devotional service burning within our hearts, but we can not get that blazing fire if we keep pouring water on it. So we can not make any substantial advancement in Krishna consciousness until we come to the point of following the four regulative principles and chanting at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra daily at least.
It is true that Krishna consciousness develops in the association of devotees. In the beginning one has some faith and from that faith one begins to associate with devotees and by that association one's faith becomes stronger and all the anarthas [unwanted things] within the heart start to be cleared away and then one becomes firmly fixed in the practice of devotional service under the regulative principles. So it is very important to associate with devotees, however these days it is difficult to find devotees sincerely engaged in the practice of Krishna consciousness. That is why I have recommended you to read Srila Prabhupada’s books.
As far as the living guru is concerned, the living guru is there, but it us up to us to recognize him and take advantage of his teachings. Even in Srila Prabhupada’s physical presence many were not able to recognize the bona fide spiritual master and we have seen so many of the disciples he initiated fall away due to not following the instructions of Srila Prabhupada.
So one has to find the correct living guru. The guru must be a self-realized soul. That is a very basic principle. The whole point of Krishna consciousness is we want to become free from the entanglement of this material world and we want to reestablish our relationship with Krishna. We can only do this under the guidance of a pure, unalloyed devotee of Krishna.
I will close by reassuring you that everything you need to know about becoming Krishna consciousness is in Srila Prabhupada’s books and I again recommend you to read them very seriously and as a regular part of your daily schedule. From your letter I can detect you have not yet read Srila Prabhupada’s books in much detail. Otherwise you would not be asking such questions.
But all this requires a great deal of determination and you have to develop this determination. Otherwise, without the strong desire and determination to follow the principles it is very difficult to make fast advancement. Of course whatever we can do for Krishna is very good. But without the determination and following the principles it will take us many, many, many lifetimes…
Hope you are well. Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!