Spiritual Master / Guru

Published on August 26th, 2022 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


A Spiritual Master Should Not Be Accepted As A Matter Of Fashion

If you want to know who is a spiritual master, then you have to test him whether he is speaking exactly like the bona fide spiritual master. Sri Narottama dasa Thakura has explained about this, who is spiritual master. What is that? He says, sadhu sastra guru vakya tinete kariya aikya. If you want to advance yourself in spiritual science, then you have to test these three things…

Lecture on Teachings of Lord Caitanya — Seattle, September 25, 1968

(kirtana, prema-dhvani)
Prabhupada: (chants:) Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami **. (devotees respond)

cintamani-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vrksa-
laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
[Bs. 5.29]

So we are worshiping govindam adi-purusam. Adi-purusam, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original. You have to find out the original. That is called philosophy. Philosophy means searching out the original. Darsana. In Sanskrit word it is called darsana, to see the original, to find out the original. So the original information is given by Vedanta-sutra. What is that origin? Athato brahma jijnasa. One should be inquisitive to understand about the origin. That is the chance in this human form of life. We do not know the origin. The scientists, they explain, “Perhaps,” “Like this; it was like this,” ‘Perhaps,” “It might be like this.” That is not explanation. So the direct explanation is…, very nice explanation is given by the Vedanta-sutra what is that origin. The Vedanta-sutra says, janmady asya yatah [Bhag. 1.1.1]. The origin is that from which everything is born. That is the origin. Now we have to find out what is that thing from whom everything is born. That is Krsna. The great sages, they have searched out what is that origin. And in the Brahma-samhita it is said,

isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah
[Bs. 5.1]

Sarva-karana-karanam means the cause of all causes. They have searched out. Scientifically they have searched out that Krsna is the origin.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam also it is described, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. There may be different kinds of Bhagavan, or the Personality of Godhead. Not different kinds, but different expansion, extension. But Krsna is the origin. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. The expansion of Krsna may be understood just like a person. He is, at home, a father, a husband, like that, and when he’s office, he’s boss, or when he’s clerk, he’s secretary. In this way, a man may be in different position, in different circumstances, but the man is the same. Similarly, Krsna, the original Personality of Godhead, might have assumed the form of Visnu, Narayana, Govinda, so many.

But this original form is Krsna. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. And in the Bhagavad-gita also Krsna explains Himself, aham sarvasya prabhavah: “I am the origin of everyone.” Mattah sarvam pravartate: “Everything emanates from Me, all the energies.” Just like from the sun globe the energies are coming out incessantly just like flows of water, and everything is being created in this material world through the sunshine, similarly, the shining principle which is emanating from Krsna, which is known as brahmajyoti, is the origin of everything. So krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.

So this Krsna science is a very great science, and Bhagavad-gita explains this Krsna science very nicely, the origin of everything. And we should take advantage of this great book of knowledge, Bhagavad-gita. It is already known in your country, Bhagavad-gita. There are many editions, but unfortunately, sometimes Bhagavad-gita is misinterpreted and people are misled to understand the origin. Therefore we have the opportunity to publish the Bhagavad-gita as it is. We have entrusted the matter to Messrs. Macmillan Company. They are going to publish the book next month. So try to understand Bhagavad-gita as it is without any interpretation. Then you will understand the origin.

So the process of understanding Bhagavad-gita is very nicely stated in the Bhagavad-gita itself. And in our disciplic succession the Sad-gosvami, the six Gosvamins, of whom I offered a prayer in the beginning, vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau… So we are publishing another book, Teachings of Lord Caitanya. So the printing is complete. That book also will come next month. So I shall request some of you to read the teachings to Lord…, teaching to Sanatana Gosvami. Will somebody come here? You’ll read? Yes. Sit down there.

Girl: Right here?
Prabhupada: Yes. Open page number twenty-nine. What is that, heading?
Girl: “Teachings to Sanatana Gosvami.”
Prabhupada: Yes. Read it.
Girl: “In the instructions of Lord Caitanya to Sanatana Gosvami we can understand the science of God in the matter of His transcendental form, His opulences, and His devotional service, where everything is being described to Sanatana Gosvami by the Lord Himself. By that time Sanatana fell at the feet of the Lord and in great humility asked about his own real identity.”
Prabhupada: Read little slowly so that…, and loudly, so that others can hear.
Girl: “He spoke as follows. ‘I am born of a lower family. My associations are all abominable and I am fallen. The most wretched of mankind, I was suffering in the dark well of material enjoyment, and I never knew the actual goal of my life. I do not know what is beneficial to me. Although in the mundane sphere I am what is known as a great learned man, I am in fact so much of a fool that I even accept that I am learned.’ ”
Prabhupada: “I am…? I am so much fool that I accept…?” What is that?
Girl: “…that I am learned.”
Prabhupada: “I am learned.” Now, this Sanatana Gosvami, he was formerly known as Dabira Khasa. He was born in a high aristocratic family, brahmana family, and he was finance minister in the government of Nawab Hussain Shah, the then Bengal governor of Bengal. It is about five hundred years ago India was governed by the Pathans, Muslims, and in Bengal the governor was known as Nawab Hussain Shah. Under his government this Dabira Khasa was minister of finance, and his brother also, Sakara Mallika, he was also a departmental minister. So both the brothers were in very high position. They were great scholar in Sanskrit and Parsi, Urdu. Parsi, Urdu, you know the language spoken in Arabia, in that part of the world. So they were very good scholar and born in very aristocratic family and associated with rich men, aristocratic persons. Because they were ministers, no ordinary person could mix with them. So that was their position. And when they met Lord Caitanya, they decided to retire from the service and propagate the movement of Lord Caitanya, Krsna consciousness. So he resigned from the service. The Nawab was very much sorry. He did not like that he should resign from the service because the Nawab was so much dependent on his good service. But he decided that “I must resign.” So some way or other he got rid of the service and approached Lord Caitanya in a very humble way.

Now he’s presenting himself before Lord Caitanya that “I am very low born, and my association is abominable. And people call me a very learned man, and I also accept that I am very learned man. But actually, I am not, because I do not know what I am.” It is very nice picture, you see? In the Vedas the injunction is that if anyone wants to understand the transcendental science, he must approach to a bona fide person or a spiritual master in such humbleness as Sanatana Gosvami is approaching. He is born of a very high aristocratic family, but he says that “I am born very low.” He’s very learned man, but he says that “People say me learned man, but actually I am not.” Just the position. So why he’s saying that? That will be explained. Because actual learning means to know oneself. That is real knowledge. This knowledge that “I am American,” “I am Indian,” “I am born of this family,” “I am father of this person,” “husband of that lady,” and this and that, so many designations, that is not real knowledge. Real knowledge is to know oneself. That is being taught by Sanatana Gosvami, that “I do not know what I am. I am simply identifying myself with this body. That is not real knowledge.” He’s presenting in that way. Read next.

Girl: “You have accepted me as Your servant and You have delivered me from the entanglement of material life. Now You can tell me what my duty is in this liberated state of life.”
Prabhupada: Now he, he was a minister. Now he thinks that after resigning this service he’s feeling liberated. Because he hasn’t got to obey somebody who is a materialistic person, therefore he’s thinking liberated. And he’s asking Caitanya Mahaprabhu, whom he has accepted as his master, “Now You have liberated me. Now You can say what is my duty.” Go on.
Girl: “In other words, as we see by this plea, liberation is not the final word in perfection.”
Prabhupada: Yes. Here is one point. He says that “You have liberated me. Now let me know what is my duty.” This is very important point. The Mayavadi philosopher, they think that liberation is the ultimate goal. Just like in Buddha philosophy, the nirvana. Nirvana means annihilation of material existence. Nirvana. They think that as soon as there is annihilation of this material existence, that is the final goal. The Mayavadi philosopher or the impersonalist, they think that not only to get freedom from this material existence, but to remain in spiritual status, jnanam, simply in the knowledge that “I am spirit soul. I am merged into the spirit soul,” that is their goal. But here, the Sanatana Gosvami, he belongs to the Vaisnava philosophy.

He says, “Now what is my duty?” That means after liberation it is not that everything is void or activity is stopped. No. Actually activity begins after liberation. At the present moment our activities are not liberated activities. At the present moment all our activities are conditional, but actually I am not… Because I am spirit soul, therefore I’m not under material condition. But somehow or other, I am now put into material conditions. This is also explained in the Bhagavad-gita: brahma-bhutah prasannatma [Bg. 18.54]. When one is actually liberated, brahma-bhutah, that is called brahma-bhutah. When one is not liberated he’s called jiva-bhutah. Just like we are, ordinary living entities, we are under designations, and in the concept of this body, we are thinking everything. But actually I am not this body. I am not matter. I am a spirit soul. When this understanding comes, that is the point of liberation. And after that liberation, actual duty begins. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita also.

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
[Bg. 18.54]

Liberation means there is no more anxiety. In the conditioned state we are always full of anxiety, and the liberated state… Just like when a man is attacked with fever, he’s always suffering. As soon as the fever is gone, he is liberated. Similarly, the material concept of life, when we are freed from the material concept of life, that is the beginning of our liberation. Actually, liberation will be maintained by liberated activities. That is Krsna consciousness. Just like a man is suffering from some disease, so he cannot act freely. But when he is out of the disease, then he can act freely. To get out of the disease does not mean that there will be no activity. The Buddha philosophy and the Mayavada philosophy say that after liberation, activity stops. But this Vaisnava philosophy says no. After liberation real activity begins. Go on.

Girl: “There must be activities in liberation. Sanatana clearly asks, ‘You have saved me from the entanglement of material existence. Now after liberation what is my duty? Kindly explain it to me.’ Sanatana further inquired, ‘Who am I? Why are the threefold miseries always giving me trouble? And finally, tell me how I will be relieved from this material entanglement.’ ”
Prabhupada: Now here is another question, that when… Our inquiries should be how to get out of the threefold miseries. In the conditioned state… Just like an animal. Animal is always suffering. That is a fact. Everyone knows. In the lower grade of life than human being, every animal is always under very strict condition. Why? What is the difference between civilization and not civilization? The difference is that their life is most conditional life. In the civilized life there is a pinch of liberation. So what is that statement? Yes.

Threefold miseries. Threefold miseries are there in every living condition, but when a man is enhanced or advanced in knowledge he can understand that “I am under always threefold miseries.” What are those threefold miseries? Miseries, that I explained the other day. The threefold miseries means first, pertaining to the body and mind, and second, miseries inflicted by other living entities, and miseries by nature or higher authorities. Just like severe cold or severe heat or famine or earthquake. They are also miseries. This is beyond our control. So miseries which are beyond our control. So far bodily disease, mental disturbance, we can get some remedy in our own way. We can go to a psychiatrist or we can go to a doctor and get some medicine and get relief. And so far miseries from other living entities, we can take protection, we can defend ourself. But so far miseries offered by the demigods, daiva, there is no remedy. If there is all of a sudden here earthquake, oh, there is no remedy. You have to suffer. If there is, all of a sudden, there is inundation, you cannot. If there is, all of a sudden, there is thunderbolt, you cannot make any remedy.

So threefold miseries are always there, either one or two or three. So Sanatana Gosvami is presenting himself that “People call me very learned man, but I am so learned that I do not know why I am suffering from these threefold miseries.” These question do not arise. Actually, when people will come to the understanding, when they will inquire that “Why I am suffering from the threefold miseries…?” The threefold miseries is summarized in Bhagavad-gita by four principles: janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam. If a man is actually learned and intelligent, he should always see before him that there are four kinds of distresses. What is that? The distress of taking birth, the distress of dying procedure, janma-mrtyu, and distress of old age, and distress of diseases. So we are very much proud of our advancement of knowledge, but actually there is no solution for these four principles of miseries. There is no remedy. They are trying to control birth rate, janma, but still, every minute there are increasing, the population of the world is increasing.

Similarly, they are trying to save people from death, but still, people are dying in hundreds and thousands. And they are trying to get out of this old age. So many medicines, so many cosmetics, but old age is taking place. And so far disease, we can discover many high-grade medicines, but there is no stoppage of disease. So one should be very intelligent that there is no remedy for these four kinds of miseries, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi. And a learned man should be inquisitive, “If there is any remedy?” So Sanatana Gosvami is presenting himself before Lord Caitanya, that “People say that I am very learned man. But I am so learned man that I do not know what I am and why I am suffering from these miseries although I do not like to suffer.” Go on.

Girl: ” ‘I do not know how to question You about the advancement of spiritual life, but I beg that You kindly, mercifully, let me know everything that I should know.’ This is the process of acceptance of a spiritual master by the disciple. One should approach a spiritual master and humbly submit to him and then inquire from him about one’s spiritual progress. The Lord was pleased by Sanatana’s submissive behavior, and He replied as follows. ‘You have already received benediction from Lord Krsna.’ ”

Prabhupada: Here… Here is another point, that Sanatana Gosvami approached his spiritual master, Lord Caitanya, and he submitted himself in such a way that his spiritual master, Lord Caitanya, was very pleased. So that should be the point of disciples, how to please the spiritual master. And Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, he has composed eight stanzas as prayers of spiritual master. And in the seventh stanza he says, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah **. If you can please your spiritual master, then you know that God, or Krsna, is pleased. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ‘pi **. And if you cannot please your spiritual master, then you must know that you do not know your whereabouts. You do not know where you are going. So Sanatana Gosvami was actually following the disciplic principles. He wanted to please Lord Caitanya submissively. To please the spiritual master means to approach him submissively, not in a challenging mood. The Bhagavad-gita also explains in this way:

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti jnanina
tad jnanam tattva-darsinah
[Bg. 4.34]

Tad viddhi pranipatena. If you want to understand the spiritual science, then you have to approach to a person where you can completely surrender yourself. Because everyone is proud: “Oh, who can teach me? Why shall I go to a spiritual master? I know everything.” That is the general mentality. Therefore Bhagavad-gita gives us direction that you should go to a person where you can fully surrender. So you have to find out a bona fide spiritual master where you can surrender your pride. Then tad viddhi pranipatena. Praniptena means surrender. Pariprasnena. If you find out such, if you are fortunate enough to find out some person where you can surrender, then you can put questions before him. That Sanatana Gosvami is putting, that “What is my position? I think that I am very learned man, I am born of very aristocratic family and so on, so on, but actually, I do not know what I am. What is my position?” This is pariprasna, inquiry. Surrender, inquiry, and sevaya. That answer should be received in service mood.

So these are three formulas. Simple questions will not help us. The question should be put to a person where you have got full surrender and you have got the service mentality. You cannot ask spiritual master or any person whom you think is greater than you in a challenging spirit. Then you will be deceived. In a submissive way, of course, you have got right to place questions, and with service mood. So Sanatana Gosvami is the vivid example of this disciplic succession. Tad viddhi pranipatena [Bg. 4.34]. In the Vedas also the same injunction is there. Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet [MU 1.2.12]. If you want to learn that transcendental science, then you must approach to a person who is heavier than you. Guru. Guru means heavier. You don’t go to a person who is lighter than you. Heavier. Heavier means heavier in knowledge. So the same thing is explained everywhere. And Sanatana Gosvami is ideal disciple and Lord Caitanya is the ideal teacher, and we should learn how to approach a teacher and what is the qualification of a teacher. Just like Arjuna. Arjuna was talking with Krsna in the beginning on friendly terms, just like a friend talks with his friend. But when he saw that his problem was so great that it could not be solved on friendly talks, it must be seriously understood, so he also surrendered himself. Sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam prapannam: “My dear Krsna, now from this point I accept You, my spiritual master, and I surrender unto You. Please teach me.” And then He began teaching. These are the process. Then?

Girl: ” ‘And therefore you know everything and you are free from all the miseries of material existence.’ The Lord further replied that because Sanatana was in Krsna consciousness, naturally, by the grace of Krsna, he was already conversant with everything. ‘But because you are humble, a humble devotee, you are asking Me to confirm what is already realized by you.’ ”

Prabhupada: This is another point. Even one thinks that he knows everything, still, he, before the spiritual master, he should be blank slate, that “I do not know anything.” That is the qualification of the disciple. He should approach the spiritual master as if he does not know anything. Go on.

Girl: “These are the characteristics of a true devotee. In the Narada-bhakti-sutra, it is said that one who is very serious about developing his Krsna consciousness by the grace of the Lord has his desire for understanding Krsna fulfilled very soon. The Lord said, ‘You are a suitable person for protecting the devotional service of the Lord. Therefore it is My duty to instruct you in the science of God.’ ”

Prabhupada: Here is another point, that one should not accept somebody as spiritual master all of a sudden. At the same time, the spiritual master also should not accept anybody as his disciple immediately. Now Sanatana Gosvami is proving himself that he’s qualified disciple, and Lord Caitanya is accepting him, that “You are just the suitable person; therefore I shall accept you as My disciple and teach you the science of Krsna consciousness.” Yes.

Girl: ” ‘And I will explain to you everything, step by step.’ It is the duty of the disciple approaching the spiritual master to inquire about his constitutional position. In conformity to that spiritual process, Sanatana has already asked, ‘What am I and why am I suffering from the threefold miseries?’ The threefold miseries are called adhyatmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika. Adhyatmika means caused by the body and mind. Sometimes the living entity suffers bodily and sometimes he is distressed mentality. Both are adhyatmika miseries. We experience these miseries even in the womb of our mother. There are many forms of miseries that take advantage of our delicate body and give us pain. Miseries inflicted by other living entities are called adhibhautika. There are many living entities such as bugs born of eggs that cause us miseries while we are sleeping in bed. There are many living entities like cockroaches that sometimes give us pain. And there are other living entities born on different kinds of planets, and they also cause us miseries.

So far as adhidaivic miseries are concerned, they originate with the demigods from the higher planets. For instance, sometimes we suffer from serious cold weather, sometimes we suffer from the thunderbolt, sometimes from earthquake, tornadoes, droughts, and other natural disasters. So we are always suffering one or another of three kinds of miseries. Sanatana’s inquiry was ‘What is the position of the living entities? Why are they always undergoing these three kinds of miseries?’ Sanatana has admitted his weakness. Although he was known by the mass of people as a greatly learned man, and actually he was a highly learned Sanskrit scholar, and although he accepted the designation of a very learned man given him by the mass of people, yet he did not actually know what his constitutional position was and why he was subjected to the threefold miseries. The necessity of approaching a spiritual master is not a fashion, but is for he who is seriously conscious of the material miseries and who wants to be free of them. It is the duty of such a person to approach the spiritual master. We find similar circumstances in the Bhagavad-gita…”

Prabhupada: Yes, this is very important point, that a spiritual master should not be accepted as a matter of fashion. Somebody thinks that “Everyone gets a spiritual master, so I may also have some spiritual master.” Or “I may keep some spiritual master as my pet.” Just like somebody keeps some pet dog or pet cat. So they want also, “Somebody must be my spiritual master, and whatever I order him, he’ll carry.” So such kind of fashionable spiritual master is useless. A spiritual master, it is defined in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Who requires a spiritual master? That is stated: tasmad gurum prapadyeta [SB 11.3.21]. Tasmad. Tasmad means “therefore.” “Therefore one should approach a spiritual master.” What is that “therefore”? Jijnasuh sreya uttamam. If one is actually inquisitive to understand about the spiritual existence, then he requires a spiritual master. A spiritual master does not mean that he’ll teach you how to keep your body fit, how you can reduce your fat, how you can remain a young man, so many nonsense. This is not the duty of the spiritual master. However you may try to keep your body fit, how long you shall keep your body fit? As soon as you are born, the death is also born along with you. Suppose one man is twenty-five years old. That means he has already died twenty-five years. So you cannot protect yourself from death, however you may become very strong, stout.

Therefore actual education, actual spiritual knowledge begins, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita… The Bhagavad-gita, the beginning of Bhagavad-gita is that when Arjuna surrendered to Krsna, He immediately said that “My dear Arjuna, you are posing yourself as very learned man but you are fool number one.” Why? “Because you are identifying yourself with this body.” Asocyan anvasocas tvam prajna-vadams ca bhasase [Bg. 2.11]. “My dear Arjuna, you are talking just like very learned man, but you are lamenting on the subject matter of your body.” Gatasun agatasums ca nanusocanti panditah. Actually one who is learned, he has no necessity for lamenting on the subject, on the body, either living or dead. So the whole process of education in the materialistic way of civilization is on the body, how to keep the body fit, how to avoid death, how to avoid disease. Simply concentration on the body. So this bodily concept of life is immediately discouraged in the Bhagavad-gita.

asocyan anvasocas tvam
prajna-vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca
nanusocanti panditah
[Bg. 2.11]

Panditah means those who are learned, they are not affected by this body, either dead or alive. So that means one should be inquisitive to learn about the soul which is sitting in the body. That is real knowledge.
So one who is inquisitive about understanding that knowledge, he requires a spiritual master. Not that one who wants to keep this body fit or wants to reduce fat. No. For him there is no necessity of spiritual master. That he can go to a doctor or a medical physician. That’s all. He can advise. What is the use of going to a spiritual master? Spiritual master means jijnasuh sreya uttamam. Who can teach you about the highest benediction, he is spiritual master. So we shall discuss in next meeting. This is very interesting, and you’ll be profited if you please come and hear.
Devotees: Hare Krsna. (offer obeisances)
Prabhupada: Any question? (pause) No question? Yes?

Jaya-gopala: Prabhupada? These days there are so many men who claim to have found the Absolute, who claim to be spiritual masters in their own way. How does one tell who is a bona fide spiritual master?

Prabhupada: Yes. What is your idea of bona fide spiritual master?
Jaya-gopala: One who can teach the Absolute.
Prabhupada: So a spiritual master… Just like Krsna is spiritual master, and Lord Caitanya is spiritual master. We are talking about Lord Caitanya’s teaching to Sanatana Gosvami. That means Lord Caitanya is the spiritual master. Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gita we find Arjuna is taught by Krsna Bhagavad-gita. So there is no difficulty to understand who is spiritual master. Is there any difficulty? Because we see that Lord Caitanya is teaching Sanatana Gosvami and Krsna is teaching Arjuna. So both Lord Caitanya and Krsna are spiritual master. Is there any difficulty to understand? So anyone who represents Lord Caitanya and Krsna, he is spiritual master. That’s all. Anyone who speaks exactly what Lord Caitanya said, exactly what Krsna said, then he is spiritual master. Just like a teacher who says that “I have passed M.A.” Now what is the proof? That means if he speaks exactly like persons who have passed M.A. examination, then he is M.A. A medical practitioner who is approved by other medical practitioners in the medical college, he is medical practitioner.

Similarly, if you want to test who is spiritual master, you have to see the standard spiritual master, Krsna and Lord Caitanya and similar. Even Lord Jesus Christ, there are…, Lord Buddha, they are also spiritual masters, but they spoke in different circumstances. That is different thing. But if you want to know who is a spiritual master, then you have to test him whether he is speaking exactly like the bona fide spiritual master. Sri Narottama dasa Thakura has explained about this, who is spiritual master. What is that? He says, sadhu sastra guru vakya tinete kariya aikya. If you want to advance yourself in spiritual science, then you have to test these three things. What is that? Sadhu, saintly person. Sadhu, sastra, scriptures, and spiritual master. Now suppose you want to know who is a spiritual master. Then you have to test whether he’s speaking just like other saintly persons and whether he’s following scriptures. Sadhu sastra. So you have to test a spiritual master by corroborating whether he is speaking according to the scriptural injunction, whether he’s speaking to other saintly persons. So in the world, anywhere you go, the standard spiritual master… Take it, Lord Jesus Christ or Buddha or Sankara or Ramanujacarya or Caitanya—nobody will say that you make adjustment here and live peacefully. Everyone will say that you have to extinguish this material existence. Lord Buddha says nirvana, and Sankara says brahma satyam jagan mithya, and Krsna says sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66]. Lord Jesus Christ says that “You have to go the kingdom of God. Just come with me.” So nobody says that “Let us make United Nation organization and stick up to thousands of flags, and let there be peace and prosperity, and let the war go on in any part of the world.” That is not spiritual master. Spiritual master means that he is interested with the other world beyond this material world. That is spiritual master. Yes?
Woman: What then is a master?
Prabhupada: Master means who is master of the science. That’s all. He must know everything of spiritual life. That is master.
Woman: Are there not many planes in mastership?
Prabhupada: What is that?
Upendra: “Are there not many planes in mastership?”

Prabhupada: Yes, there is. But you have to accept the standard platform by your advancement. Just like somebody accepts somebody as master, that is according to his own mentality. And somebody accepts somebody else as master, that is his mentality. But the highest, according to Vedic literature, Krsna is the supreme master. Because all the acaryas, all the spiritual masters of Vedic perfection, just like in the recent years Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, and Visnu Swami, Lord Caitanya, all of them, they have accepted Krsna as the supreme spiritual master. All of them. Even Sankaracarya, he’s impersonalist, still he has accepted Krsna. Sa bhagavan svayam krsna. He says that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krsna. That is mentioned in his commentary of Bhagavad-gita. And what to speak of Vaisnava acaryas, they accept. And Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he says, yare dekha tare kaha krsna-upadesa [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. If you want to become a spiritual master, then try to disseminate the teachings of Lord Krsna. So that is our, so far we are concerned, Krsna consciousness, our ideal spiritual master is Krsna. Yes?

Upendra: Swamiji, someone approached me and we were discussing about Krsna consciousness. And I said to approach Krsna one must be pure, but he said, “What is purity?” Could you explain that technically? What is purity?

Prabhupada: Yes. Purity means standing on the spiritual platform. That is purity. In the material platform there is no purity. So according to Bhagavad-gita, that standard of purity, that means standing on the spiritual platform, which is called brahma-bhutah. Brahma-bhutah. So Krsna says this purity,

mam ca vyabhicarena
bhakti-yogena yah sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate
[Bg. 14.26]

This Brahman understanding, or to stand on the Brahman platform, is purity. How one can attain that platform of purity? Krsna says that “One who is engaged in devotional service to Me without any deviation,” that means twenty-four hours in Krsna consciousness, “he is pure.” He is pure. If you can keep yourself always, constantly in Krsna consciousness, always thinking of Krsna, then you are pure. Otherwise… Krsna consciousness or God consciousness, it doesn’t make any difference. So just like if you keep always in touch with fire you are warm—there is no possibility of being cold—similarly, some way or other if you always keep yourself in Krsna consciousness or God consciousness, then you are pure.

Therefore we advise our students, “Chant Hare Krsna.” As soon as you chant this sound, Krsna, immediately you are in touch with Krsna. Therefore you are, you keep yourself pure. Is that clear? Yes. So try to keep yourself in Krsna consciousness without any deviation. Then you remain pure. That is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, daivi hy esa gunamayi… [Bg. 7.14]. [break] It is very difficult to get out of the clutches of this maya, contamination. Very difficult. Mam eva ye prapadyante: “But one who keeps touch with Me, with full surrender,” mayam etam taranti te, “he’s out of these clutches of maya.” So just like there is antiseptic, what is called, vaccination, to keep yourself from the contamination… There is epidemic, and under government order everyone is vaccinated, that “You take this. So you shall keep your…” This is material way of keeping oneself from contamination. Similarly, if you keep always yourself in spiritual understanding of Krsna consciousness, you remain pure. Yes?

Woman: What then are the guides? Are they also masters in a sense?

Upendra: What then are the guides? Can you repeat the question again?
Woman: What then are the guides? Are they also masters of a sense? Spiritual guides.

Prabhupada: Yes. One cannot be a spiritual guide unless he’s not master of the senses. Therefore the spiritual guide is called svami or gosvami. Svami means who is master of the senses. He’s not servant of the senses. Generally, people are servant of the senses. One who becomes master of the senses, he can become spiritual master. Otherwise not. All right. Chant Hare Krsna. (devotees offer obeisances) You chant. Chant. Madhavi-lata, you can chant. You. You and Madhavi. Madhavi. All right. (end)


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About the Author

Founded the Hare Krishna Movement in 1966 in New York. In only 11 years he spread the movement all over the world. He wrote more than 80 books including Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Sri Isopanisad. Prabhupada's books constitute a complete library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.

4 Responses to A Spiritual Master Should Not Be Accepted As A Matter Of Fashion

  1. Uma Sridhar says:

    Hare Krishna!

    Please accept my humble Pranam Swamiji!

    Thank you very much for your kind reply and guidance to worship Salagram. As you have mentioned, I will perform Salagram puja on regular basis. I give assurance that I won’t skip! and I take your instruction as my Guru Vani and I obey your order.

    I pray to you please give me your kind guidance in spiritual platform in future/ forever also.


    Uma Sridhar!

  2. Uma Sridhar says:

    Hare Krishna!

    Pranam Swamiji,

    Thank you very much for your kind reply and appreciate your frank reply about Salagram silas.

    I want to give you the importance of worshiping of Salagram silas in India whatever information I have gathered from my vaishnava friends. By birth I belong to Saivities family (worshiper’s of Lord Shiva); however, since my childhood days I start worshiping Lord Krishna as my Ishta Devtha (favourite God) its my blessing; being orphaned (brought up relatives) had disturbed childhood; but my devotion towards Lord increased. During my toughest days; I felt Krishna’s presence and support very much! When I was a teenager, he gave “darshan in my dream; in dream he came very close; I saw him very close with beautiful lotus eyes (red in colur) bluish body, he was putting more garlands on my neck and signaling with his eyes; asking me not to cry! After 3 years I visited Mathura for the first time, I saw the same Krishna in photo which is in “Janamsthan (Jail) in the basement of temple who came in my dream worshiped daily by millions of people! Let me tell you, I am stunned/shocked, neither at home nor somewhere any temple I saw the photograph of Lord who came in my dream! And I almost fainted in temple; I cried, and I find no words to explain this experience! From then on I stopped worrying about myself; by his grace I am happily settled although my husband does not involve much in Krishna consciousness, he respect my belief he take me to temple and participate in puja etc. I have kept my sons name Gopal & Govind… Whatever I am today is Krishna’s mercy/blessings; I know I do not deserve; but he gave me everything in life and blessed me; I am very grateful to Krishna and this I always keep in my memory till my end. Hari Bol!

    I belong to southern part of India, In South, its very auspicious to worship salagram at home. Almost every vaishnava’s home have salagram and when a daughter is getting married, parents gift salagram to girl alongwith other household items. As you told, I am interested to worship salagram by worshiping at home is good for family. There is no difficult rules for worshipping; weekdays I keep it in rice do very simple puja offering fruits etc and during holidays I do “abhishek” (bathing) and puja. In south it is very famous; and it is not advisable to give somebody. So, I am very much interested to worship salagram at home.

    For so many years, I was looking for somebody to guide me in Lord Krishna worship in proper way; only 3 years back I came to know about Srila Gurudeva and ISKON… Finally Krishna showed me the way and I landed up in Krishna.org under your kind guidance. I thank Krishna for your divine association swamiji!

    Kindly bear my poor English!

    Thanks & pranam Swamiji!

    Uma Sridhar

    • Hare Krishna Uma

      Yes. Of course it is very good and very auspicious to worship the Salagram sila but that worship, although simple, must be done in a very regulated way. It is not that we worship Krishna at our convenience. We have to organize things so we can worship Krishna regularly and punctually on a daily basis. So the worship of the salagram silas, as you say, does not have to be very elaborate, but it has to be done daily in a very fixed up and regular schedule. The most practical way is to get out of bed early in the morning and worship the deity or the salagram sila then. In that way we can do the worship every day without fail because there are no other activities, except serving Krishna, that we have to do in the early hours of the morning. And when we get up early in the morning then immediately we have so many extra hours in our day and there is nothing to disturb us from practicing Krishna consciousness at all in those early morning hours… We have to do the worship without fail and punctually, that is the way of deity worship, no matter what other distractions may come and go in our lives…

      These days even in South India many of the brahmana families are not actually following the brahminical principles. It is very rare to find in kali-yuga anyone actually who is truly following the brahminical principles.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

      • Uma Sridhar says:

        Hare Krishna!

        Please accept my humble pranam Swamiji!

        Thanks for your kind reply and guidance to worship Salagram.. I give you assurance that I will perform salagram puja on regular basis. As you have mentioned even in South India people are not following as per scriptures.

        I pray to you kindly guide me in spiritual platform future also. I take/obey your order as “Guru Vani”.

        Hare Krishna!

        Uma Sridhar

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