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Who is a guru and why it is important to have a guru? How should we reach out a guru?

If you want to understand spiritual knowledge, you have to approach guru. One meaning of the word guru is” weighty”. Therefore the guru is one who is “heavy” with knowledge. And what is that knowledge? That is explained in the Kathopanisad: srotriyam brahmanistham [MU 1.2.12]. Srotriyam means “one who has received knowledge by hearing the Vedas, the sruti”, and brahma-nistham indicates one who has realized Brahman, or rather Parabrahman, Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the guru’s qualification. One must hear from those who are in the line of preceptorial succession, or disciplic succession. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gita, evam parampara-praptam [Bg. 4.2]. If one wants standard transcendental knowledge, not upstart knowledge, one must receive it from the parampara system, the disciplic succession. Another meaning of the word srotriyam mentioned above is “one who has heard from a guru in the disciplic succession”. And the result of this hearing will be brahma-nistham, “He is firmly fixed in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead”. He has no other business. These are the two main qualification of a bona fide guru. He does not need to be a very learned scholar with an M.A., B.A., or Ph.D. and He simply needs to have heard from the authority in disciplic succession and be fixed in devotional service.

Therefore it is said, saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih: the guru is as good as God. When we offer respects to the guru, we are offering respects to God. Because we are trying to be God conscious, it is required that we learn how to offer respects to God through God’s representative. In all the sastras the guru is described to be as good as God, but the guru never says, “I am God.” The disciple’s duty is to offer respect to the guru just as he offers respect to God, but the guru never thinks, “My disciples are offering me the same respect they offer to God; therefore I have become God.” As soon as he thinks like this, he becomes a dog instead of God.

The genuine guru is God’s representative, and he speaks about God and nothing else. The genuine guru is he who has no interest in materialistic life. He is after God, and God only. It doesn’t matter if the guru is Christian, Muhammadan or Hindu 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 who-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 Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Whoever can impart knowledge about Kṛṣṇa is a spiritual master”. A genuine spiritual master simply tries to get people to become devotees of Kṛṣṇa, or God. He has no other business.

Therefore Visvanatha Cakravarti says, kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya. Because he is the most confidential servitor of God, the guru is offered the same respect that we offer God. God is always God, guru is always guru. As a matter of etiquette, God is the worshipable God, and guru is the worshiper God (sevaka-bhagawan). Therefore the guru is addressed as prabhupada. The word prabhu means “lord,” and pada means “position.” Thus prabhupada means “he who has taken the position of the Lord.” This is the same as saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih.

The procedure to reach out a guru is given by Lord Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gita: tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya [Bg. 4.34]. “One must offer obeisance’s to the guru, inquire from him, and serve him”. If you simply go and ask the spiritual master questions in a challenging spirit but do not accept his instructions and do not render service, then you’re wasting your time. The word used here is pranipatena, “offering obeisances with no reservation”. So reception of transcendental knowledge is based on this pranipata. That is why Kṛṣṇa says later, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: [Bg. 18.66] “Give up everything else and just surrender unto Me”. Just as we have to surrender to Kṛṣṇa, we have to surrender to Kṛṣṇa’s representative, the spiritual master.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “The Quest for Enlightenment”, Page 74
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “The Science of Self-Realization”, Page 67 and 72

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Why it is important to receive knowledge from the authoritative sources?

Any sincere soul who is searching for spiritual science must try to seek out a bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession (parampara). Lord Sri Kṛṣṇa is the original spiritual master. The Vedic knowledge, as it is, has been handed down from master to disciple, one after another. Even on the mundane platform, if someone wants to learn chemistry, he has to approach a professor of chemistry; how much greater, then, is the need to approach a bona fide spiritual master to attain the supreme spiritual perfection, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is absolutely necessary for a sincere soul to approach a bona fide spiritual master and surrender unto the lotus feet of the spiritual master without reservation. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Sanatana Gosvami thus: “The first and foremost thing is that one should accept a bona fide spiritual master. That is the beginning of spiritual life”.

The Personality of Godhead, Sri Kṛṣṇa has said in the Bhagavad-gita that after many births a learned sage surrenders unto Him, and that it is rare to see such a mahatma, who is able to connect everything to Vasudeva (the plenary manifestation of Viṣṇu). Such a mahatma never tries to approach Godhead by any invented method – one concocted through the inductive, ascending process of knowledge. Rather, he accepts the deductive, descending process – that is, the method that comes down directly from the Supreme Lord or through His bona fide representatives. No one can reach the Lord by the ascending process, even after endeavouring for many, many years. All that is obtained by this ascending process is imperfect, partial, impersonal knowledge, which deviates one from the Absolute Truth. By the empiric process of philosophical research, one can perhaps distinguish the metaphysical subjects from the physical objects, but unless the seeker of truth can reach the personal feature of the Absolute Truth, he gains only dry, impersonal knowledge of Him, without any actual transcendental profit.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2012 edition), “The Scientific Basis of Krishna Consciousness”, Page 50 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2012 edition), “Message of Godhead”, Page 38 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “The Science of Self-Realization”, Page 84

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What are the guidelines for surrender?

There is no essential difference between a fully surrendered soul and a person in the renounced order of life. The only difference is that a fully surrendered soul is completely dependent upon Kṛṣṇa. There are six guidelines for surrender:

• One should accept everything that is favourable for the discharge of devotional service, and one should be determined to accept the process.
• One should give up everything that is unfavourable to the discharge of devotional service, and one should be determined to give it all up.
• One should be convinced that only Kṛṣṇa can portect him and should have full faith that the Lord will give that protection. An impersonalist thinks that his actual identity is in being one with Kṛṣṇa, but a devotee does not destroy his identity in this way. He lives with full faith that Kṛṣṇa will kindly protect him in all respects.
• A devotee should always accept Kṛṣṇa as his maintainer. Those who are interested in the fruits of activities generally expect protection from the demigods, but a devotee of Kṛṣṇa does not look to any demigod for protection. He is fully convinced that Kṛṣṇa will protect him from all unfavourable circumstances.
• A devotee is always conscious that his desires are not independent; unless Kṛṣṇa fulfils them, they cannot be fulfilled.
• One should always think of himself as the most fallen among souls so that Kṛṣṇa will take care of him.

Such a surrendered soul should take shelter of a holy place like Vrndavana, Mathura, Dvaraka, Mayapur, etc., and should surrender himself unto the Lord, saying, “My Lord, from today I am Yours. You can protect me or kill me as You like”. A pure devotee takes shelter of Kṛṣṇa in such a way, and Kṛṣṇa is so grateful that He accepts him and gives him all kinds of protection. This is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.29.34) where it is said that if a person who is about to die takes full shelter of the Supreme Lord and places himself fully under His care, he actually attains immortality and becomes eligible to associate with the Supreme Lord and enjoy transcendental bliss.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2012 edition), “Teachings of Lord Caitanya, The Golden Avatara”, Page 140

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Is there one disciplic succession or more?

The Vedic knowledge is given to everyone because Kṛṣṇa is within everyone’s heart (sarvasya caham hrdi sannivistah), but one must be qualified to receive that knowledge. Kṛṣṇa helps us by giving us knowledge both from within as the Supersoul (caitya-guru) and from without as the spiritual master. Brahma receives knowledge from Kṛṣṇa and distributes that Vedic knowledge, and therefore he is an authority. We have to accept Kṛṣṇa through the disciplic succession. There are four sampradayas, disciplic successions. One comes from Lord Brahma (the Brahma-sampradaya), and another comes from Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, (the Sri-sampradaya). There are also the Kumara-sampradaya and the Rudra-sampradaya. We have to approach an authoritative representative of Kṛṣṇa appearing in one of these sampradayas, and then we can receive real knowledge. At the present moment, the Brahma-sampradaya is represented by the Madhva-sampradaya. The Madhav-gaudiya-sampradaya stems from Madhvacarya. In that sampradaya there was Madhavendra Puri, and Madhavendra Puri’s disciple was Sri lsvara Puri. Sri lsvara Puri’s disciple was Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus, the followers of Madhav-gaudiya-sampradaya are coming in the disciplic succession from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It is not that they have manufactured a sampradaya; rather, their sampradaya stems from Lord Brahma. There is also the Ramanuja-sampradaya, which comes from the Sri-sampradaya, and there is the Viṣṇusvami-sampradaya, which comes from the Rudra-sampradaya. The Nimbaditya-sampradaya comes from the Kumara-sampradaya. If we do not belong to any sampradaya, our conclusion is fruitless. It is not that one should think, “I am a big scholar, and I can interpret Bhagavad-gita in my own way. All these sampradayas are useless.” We cannot manufacture our own comments. There are many commentaries made in this way, and they are all useless. They have no effect. We have to accept the philosophy as it was contemplated by Lord Brahma, Narada, Madhvacarya, Madhavendra Puri and lsvara Puri. These great acaryas are beyond the imperfections of so-called scholars. Mundane scientists and philosophers use the words “perhaps” and “maybe” because they cannot arrive at a proper conclusion. They are simply speculating, and mental speculation cannot be perfect.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Teachings of Queen Kunti”, Page 133
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2007 edition), “Teachings of Lord Kapila, The Son of Devahuti”, Page 190

 

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Is it wrong to reach out guru for fulfilling material desire?

One who is inquisitive to understand the ultimate goal of life must approach a proper guru. An ordinary man interested in the bodily comfort of life doesn’t require a guru. Today, however, a guru is generally taken to mean someone who can give you some bodily remedy. People will approach some so-called saintly person and ask, “Mahatmaji, I am suffering from this disease”. “Yes, I have a mantra that will cure you”. That sort of guru is accepted – to cure some disease or give some wealth. No. Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gita [4.34], tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah. One should approach a guru to learn about tattva, the Absolute Truth, not to acquire some material benefits. One should not search out a guru to cure some material disease. For that there is a medical practitioner. Why should you search out a guru for that purpose? A guru is one who knows the Vedic sastras, or scriptures, and who can teach us to understand Kṛṣṇa.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “The Quest for Enlightenment”, Page 76

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What about spiritual masters (Baba’s) who claims to be God?

A spiritual master is supposed to act not as God but as the most confidential servant of God by spreading God consciousness, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says, saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair uktah: all the sastras, the Vedic literatures, state that the spiritual master is to be honored as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus the idea that the spiritual master is as good as God is not bogus. It is stated in the sastras, and therefore those who are advanced in spiritual life accept this spiritual injunction (uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih) . Then is the spiritual master as good as God? Kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya: the spiritual master is not God, but is the confidential representative of God. The distinction is that between sevya-bhagavan (he who is worshiped) and sevaka-bhagavan (he who is the worshiper). The spiritual master is God, and Kṛṣṇa is God, but Kṛṣṇa is the worshipable God whereas the spiritual master is the worshiper God. The Mayavadis cannot understand this. They think, “Because the spiritual master has to be accepted as God and because I have become a spiritual master, I have become God”. This is rebellious. Those who are given a position by God but who want to usurp His power, which they actually cannot do, are rebellious fools and rascals who require punishment. Therefore Kuntidevi says, avani-dhrug-rajanya-vamsa-dahana: “You descend to kill all these rascals who rebelliously claim Your position”. When various kings or landholders are subordinate to an emperor, they sometimes rebel and refuse to pay taxes. Similarly, there are rebellious persons who deny the supremacy of God and declare themselves God, and Kṛṣṇa’s business is to kill them.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Teachings of Queen Kunti”, Page 215

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Who is a Sadhu?

The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime. A sadhu is a devotee of the Lord. His concern, therefore, is to enlighten people in devotional service; that is his mercy. He knows that without devotional service, human life is spoiled. A devotee travels all over the country, from door to door, preaching, “Be Kṛṣṇa conscious, become a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Don’t spoil your life in simply fulfilling your animal propensities. Human life is meant for self-realization, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” These are the preachings of a sadhu. He is not satisfied with his own liberation. He always thinks about others. He is the most compassionate personality toward all fallen souls. One of his qualifications, therefore, is karunika, great mercy to the fallen souls. While engaged in preaching work, he has to meet with so many opposing elements, and therefore the sadhu has to be very tolerant. Someone may ill-treat him because the conditioned souls are not prepared to receive the transcendental knowledge of devotional service. They don’t like it; that is their disease. The sadhu has the thankless task of impressing upon them the importance of devotional service. Sometimes devotees are personally attacked with violence. Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Haridasa Thakura was caned in twenty-two marketplaces, and Lord Caitanya’s principal assistant, Nityananda, was violently attacked by Jagai and Madhai. But still they were tolerant because their mission was to deliver fallen souls. A sadhu is merciful because he is the well-wisher of all living entities. He is not only a well-wisher of human society, but a well-wisher of animal society as well. The word sarva-dehinam refers to all living entities who have accepted material bodies. Not only does the human being have a material body, but other living entities as well. The devotee of the Lord is merciful to everyone-cats, dogs, trees, etc. He treats all living entities in such a way that they can ultimately get salvation from this material entanglement. Sivananda Sena, one of the disciples of Lord Caitanya, gave liberation to a dog by treating the dog transcendentally. There are many instances where a dog got salvation by association with a sadhu, because a sadhu engages in the highest philanthropic activities for the benediction of all living entities. Yet although a sadhu is not inimical toward anyone, the world is so ungrateful that even a sadhu has many enemies.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2007 edition), “Teachings of Lord Kapila, The Son of Devahuti”, Page 135