Originally composed February 1994 / Updated 2010
by Jayantakrid das (aka Jayanta Krsna das) now BV Suddhadvaiti Swami
A Faithful Understanding
Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, and the foremost exponent of the science of Bhakti yoga of the modern age, at times, gave a broad definition of "guru" as meaning "preacher". However, the main thrust of his teachings on the subject of guru tattva is to emphasize the very exalted qualifications required of a bona-fide spiritual master, or sad-guru. He must be a pure devotee, a self-realized, liberated soul. Ideally, he should be an uttama-adhikari, a mahabhagavata.
Let us read Krishna's instruction in the Bhagavad gita. "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 Truh." (Bg 4.34)
There are currently different conceptions of guru, but in this verse, the proper understanding of the qualifications of the bona-fide spiritual master is given. He must be self-realized, and have seen the Truth, so that he can impart transcendental knowledge to his disciple.
What is the Truth? tattva-vastu Krishna. Krishna is the Absolute Truth, so a seer of the Truth must have seen Krishna. If we take another angle of approach, the Tattva, the Absolute Truth, the Advaya Jnana, the Nondual Substance, has three aspects; Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan SB 1.2.11 Therefore, one must be at least a Brahman-realized soul, which means on the liberated, or brahma-bhuta stage, in order to be accepted as a bona-fide sad-guru. This comes at the nistha-bordering-ruci stage of the madhyama-adhikara level.
"One has to raise himself at least to the stage of a second-class devotee, and thus become eligible to know the Absolute Truth." (SB 1.2.12) Srila Prabhupada repeatedly indicated this stage to be the minimum concessional level to be achieved before one should become an initiating spiritual master, or diksa guru.
There are different grades of spiritual masters, such as, kanistha-dhikari, not acceptable, nistha, barely acceptable, ruci, good, asakti, better, bhava, even better and nitya-siddha, topmost. There is great need for education in guru-tattva. The most urgent reason to provide this education presently is to help the spiritual aspirant comprehend the limiting implications of accepting a guru who is not highly qualified. The subject of guru-tattva is very vast. There is no subject matter that Srila Prabhupada spoke more about. It is the greatest disservice to the Vaisnava community to minimize how crucial it is for the guru to be highly qualified.
We judge a thing by the results. Lack of proper qualification for diksa-guru status has already been a cause of great difficulties, and even devastating disaster. This is echoed everywhere in sastra, the revealed scriptures, and in the Vaisnava world. If someone does not fit the sastric criteria of what is a guru, then he is at best a vartma-pradarshaka guru, or one who shows the path, even if he prematurely gives initiation.
The three levels of devotees are first class (uttama), second class (madhyma), and third class (kanistha) adkikaris. We have to base our understanding on the overall teachings of Srila Prabhupada and the sastras he teaches from, which state that the diksa-guru should undoubtedly be a pure devotee, a tattva-darsi, or one who has seen the Truth. He should be a self-realized liberated soul, or uttama adhikari. Such an exalted devotee comes down, or rather adjusts his vision, to the madhyama platform to preach Krsna consciousness.
The madhyama adhikara level is a concession to be a guru and the kanistha adhikara stage is not acceptable. It is stated in the Harinama Cintamani by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura that one must take diksa from a Vaisnava, but that the "madhyama stage marks the beginning of Vaisnavism. A kanistha-adhikari is called vaisnava-abhasa, or near Vaisnava".
Qualifications of a Bona-Fide Spiritual Master (Sad-Guru)
There is only one guru, the adi-guru, the original preceptor, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who, as Sri Guru, is assuming different forms. One does not become guru because he wants to be one, because others push him to be one, or because of popular vote. Krishna decides who can represent Him, and not anyone else.
The guru is ideally a svarupa-shakti pusta parikara, an eternal associate of the Lord. He is invested and imbued with the Lord's delegation of guru-shakti. Svarupa means oneself. Krishna invests himself in the proper person. Srila Prabhupada says that the guru is not the body of the guru, but the guru is the principle embodied in the spiritual master. "Krishna and His representative are the same. The spiritual master is the principle not the body." (Letter 28.4.68) So, in the guru, there's him, a perfect devotee, and there's Krishna's delegation.
He is guru because Krishna has chosen him due to his pure love for Him and invested him with the power to represent Him. "The Lord gives His pure devotee the power to distribute His own mercy (sva-kripa-sakti) as he likes," (Madhurya Kadambini, Ch1); so one has to be truly connected to Krishna to be thus empowered. Mercy comes through a fit person.
The Lord makes Himself known to us through the form of Sri Guru. It is said that,"since we cannot see the Supersoul He appears as a liberated devotee." (CC Adi 1.58) And "Although I know my spiritual master as a devotee of the Lord, I also know him to be a plenary manifestation of the Lord."(CC Adi 1.44) That is guru, and that should be learned. One shouldn't read "diksa-guru" when Srila Prabhupada simply speaks of preacher, and indulge in the fallacious logic, that since a diksa-guru is a preacher, all preachers are therefore qualified as diksa-gurus, without considering their adhikara, or eligibility as a guru.
His exalted qualities
"Generally a guru's symptom is that he's a perfect devotee, that's all." (Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers). A guru of theoretical knowledge can only partially help us. He must be established in the Absolute Truth. The best devotee is the guru. "Unless one is pure devotee, how can he be guru? Spiritual master means representative of God, so who can become so? He is Krishna's representative because he is his most confidential servant." (Letter 23.10.72). The company of a pure devotee alone is conducive to cultivate pure bhakti, so the Lord reveals his own tattva, the Truth about Himself, to those aspirant souls who have surrendered themselves unconditionally at the feet of a niskincana bhagavat bhakta, a completely surrendered soul. Krishna appears as Sri Gurudeva.
He must provide the Transcendental Necessities (CC Madhya 24.330)
A less than liberated soul shouldn't attempt the impossible task of trying to become the eternal spiritual master of another conditioned soul. That will deprive both of them from the real thing. If someone cannot deliver the necessities listed below and only imagines he can,like the Christians who are only imagining that they can give Christ to others ,yet pretends he can deliver, he is actually cheating.
Absorption of Karma
What is diksa? The guru gives divya-jnana and takes the sinful reactions of the disciple: Diyate, ksiyate, something is given, something is taken; that is diksa. According to what? According to the guru's capacity.But diksa is not dependent on formalities or a ceremony. It is not a one-time affair. It is an on-going process. One is admitted in the school of diksa. One is a real diksa-guru only if he can both give this divya-jnana and deliver from material bondage.
How is the karma taken? Srila Prabhupada gave the example of a fan being switched off, so the guru has to be a properly authorized agent of the Lord to be able to turn off the switch, not someone who has become a guru on his own initiative (Nectar of Devotion, p116) Krishna invests his pure devotees with the bhakti-shakti and kripa-shakti, the mercy potency. By the strength of the empowered guru, the sincere disciple is blessed. Then by practicing according to the divya-jnana received by the authorized guru and by chanting, sinful reactions are vanquished. The disciple is protected by the guru and that counteracts all sinful reactions. (SBhag 9.9.8)
Then there is the consideration of the disciple's surrender "Diksa tends to confer spiritual enlightenment by abrogating sinfulness. Its actual effect depends on the degree of willing cooperation on the part of the disciple and is therefore not the same in all cases... It imparts an initial impulse, the nature of which varies in accordance with the condition of the recipient." (Srila Sarasvati Thakura) When the disciple surrenders fully, he is relieved from his sinful reactions. Since the surrender is usually partial, artificial, conditional, there's only partial relief on the disciple's part. Real initiation is not therefore automatically on the spot of the fire-yajna. It is considered complete upon achieving bhava-bhakti.
Srila Prabhupada mentions that one may even receive the seeds of material desires, karma, fruitive action, and jnana, cultivation of knowledge aiming at liberation, instead of the bhakti-lata bija, the seed of the plant of devotion, if the guru is not pleased: (see CC Madhya 19.152)
Srila Prabhupada explains in Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers:
Syamasundara das: One time you said that sometimes you feel sickness or pain due to the sinful activities of your devotees. Can sometimes disease be due to that?
Srila Prabhupada: Krishna says: "I will deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear." So Krishna is so powerful that He can immediately take up all the sins of others and make them right. But when a living entity plays the part on behalf of Krishna, he also takes the responsibility for the sinful activities of his devotees. Therefore to become a guru is not an easy task. He has to take all the poisons and absorb them. So sometimes, because he is not Krishna, there is some trouble. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu has forbidden: "Don't make many disciples." That's a fact. The spiritual master has to take the responsibility for all the sinful activities of his disciples. Therefore to make many disciples is a risky job unless one is able to assimilate all the sins. That idea is also in the Bible. Jesus Christ took all the sinful reactions of the people and sacrificed his life. That is the responsibility of a spiritual master. Because Krishna is Krishna, he is apapa-viddha. He cannot be attacked by sinful reactions. But a living entity is sometimes subjected to their influence because he is so small. Big fire, small fire. If you put some big thing in a small fire, the fire itself may be extinguished. But in a big fire, whatever you put in is all right. When the spiritual master is in suffering, Krishna saves him. Krishna thinks: 'Oh, he has taken so much responsibility for delivering a fallen person.' So Krishna is there... because the spiritual master takes the risk on account of Krishna.... The pain is there sometimes so that the disciples may know, 'Due to our sinful activities our spiritual master is suffering.' "(Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers)
So, again, it is a question of being authorized. If someone wrongly becomes a guru, he is liable to suffer. The real guru has so much love for Krishna that he wants that all give their love to Him, that the Lord may not be deprived of the love of his parts and parcels or jiva-amsa for Him. At the same time, because he loves Krishna and sees everyone as part and parcel of Krishna, his heart bleeds out of compassion for the fallen conditioned souls. That is guru. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja said, "Guru means to suffer on behalf of the conditioned souls." That's another reason why he is so dear to Krishna. It is also mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam (8.4.15) that the guru has to see a nightmare due to the disciples' sinful reactions. And: "When a spiritual master accepts a disciple, he naturally accepts the disciple's sinful activities and their reactions. Unless he is very powerful, he cannot assimilate all the sinful reactions of his disciples. Thus if he is not powerful, he has to suffer the consequence for one is forbidden to accept many disciples." (CC Madhya 22.118) Srila Prabhupada also says in a letter "He is not a liberated person. He cannot initiate one in Krishna Consciousness. It requires special benediction from higher authorities." (Letter 4.6) Who are the higher authorities? Guru and Krishna. "Self-appointed man cannot be guru. He must be authorized by the bona fide guru, then he is guru. He must be authorized by a superior, not be self-made." (Lecture 10.31.72) "Nobody can become guru unless he carries the order of the Supreme."(Lecture 7.12.75)
Some say that a guru may fall down because he takes the disciple's karma.
But Srila Prabhupada explains the falldowns of such "gurus" differently: "If one follows the order of his guru, there's no question of falling down. As soon as a foolish disciple tries to overtake his guru and becomes anxious to occupy his post, then he immediately falls down." (SBhag 5.12.14) and, "A bona fide guru will never become fallen." (Nectar of Devotion) and "The contamination of material qualities can't even touch them." and, There is no possibility that a first class devotee will fall down even though he may be mixing with non-devotees to preach." (cf Madhya 22.71) and, "One shouldn't imitate the behavior of the uttama-adhikari for he will eventually become degraded." (Upadesamrita 5)
One shouldn't hope nor pretend that he can somehow of other eradicate the sins of another conditioned soul when he is not yet pure himself.
Srila Narayana Maharaja also says that the karma is burned by the guru's powerful mercy and by the Holy Name.
Giving of Suddha-Nama
"Chanting doesn't depend on initiation." "One doesn't have to undergo initiation, one has simply to vibrate the Holy name." These quotes from the Caitanya Caritamrta seem to indicate that the personal level of the guru has no bearing on the mantra he gives. But other quotes give further indications that this is not the case at all. The famous quote: ?sampradaya vihina ye..." clearly indicates that the mantra's potency does have something to do with the one who gives it. But the sahajiyas, or pseudo devotees, think that the spiritual status of the guru or of the disciple doesn't matter, for the maha-mantra will work by its own power.
The point is that the Holy Name can take one up to at most liberation without initiation, but it will not give prema. When it is said that by chanting once Hare Krishna one can go back to Godhead, that refers to pure chanting. In Harinama-Cintamani it is explained that namaparadha chanting will give dharma, religiosity, artha, material wealth, and kama, sense pleasure; namabhasa chanting will give mukti, liberation from bondage, which means that it creates a platform for achieving liberation, as in the case of Ajamila, but only Suddha-Nama will deliver prema, love, the ultimate goal. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prays in his Siksastakam: "Oh, my Lord, You have made approach to You easy through Your Holy Name." That approach can be bridged only through His pure and favored representative. So accordingly, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati writes: "One must take shelter at the feet of a spiritual guide who has realized and does see the form (Svarupa) of the Name. The mere letters forming the Name, namaksara, may be had at any place and from anybody, but the profound and unknown Truth behind those letters can only be exposed by the grace of a true guru, a pure devotee of Krishna. Only such a guru's grace can protect from the ten offenses, carry across from the early twilight of Nama, namabhasa, to the pure light of Nama." (Nama-Bhajan) "Otherwise, simply the alphabets are coming out, but that's not the Name: namaksara bahir haya nama nahi haya." (Conversation 2.25.77)
Srila Prabhupada explains: "This chanting, don't make it cheap. It has got a science.... In the beginning you may be very liberal, and I have done it. The thing is that some way or other if you're near the fire you'll get some heat, but there is a process how to take heat. That you cannot reject: 'Because I'm getting little heat, it is sufficient.' That is sahajiya.... And if it is done by a pure Vaisnava, then they get the full benefit." (Conversation 2.25.77) and, ?The mantra must be received through the proper channel otherwise it will not act." (Letters Book, p 1)
The pure Name is the asset, the property of the pure Vaisnava guru only: The Holy Name proper comes only through the agent authorized by the Absolute From that merciful saint's heart it enters the ear, then comes to the heart. From the heart, after proper cultivation of devotional sentiment under that saint's guidance, with his blessings it will appear on the tongue. The tongue cannot produce the Name (atah sri krishna nama adi...), it comes itself from the heart (svayam eva sphuraty adah). The mantra chanted with namaparadhas is not Krishna.
So. a guru who has not yet himself surpassed the level of namabhasa cannot give more than mukti, what to speak of one who has not yet freed himself from namaparadhas. Since the Holy Name can take one up to mukti without initiation, the question can be raised: "Why should one accept initiation from one who cannot give you more anyway?" Indeed, one should not give diksa but only siksa until one meets the standard. If the prospective disciple has not met yet anyone who is fit, then he should wait.
Identification with the body and mind slackens at nistha, and real attraction to Krishna begins. Nistha is the end of kanistha and the beginning of madhyama. They border on each other, they overlap. So, nistha is clearly the barely minimum stage to initiate disciples. Madhyam adhikara starts at nistha. Until then, one is a kanistha adhikari, with no eligibility or right (adhikara) to be a diksa guru. Only at full nistha, or the liberated stage, does one enter the world of bhakti proper (mad-bhaktim labhate param). (Some spiritual authorities place the stage of liberation, brahma-bhuta, or jivan-mukta, even higher.) One only begins to develop love for Krishna in madhyam-adhikara, as it is said that at nistha comes the first trace of love, nistha haile upajaya premera taranga. (CC Madhya 22.134) The anarthas of kama and lobha must be fully gone (tada-rajas-tamo bhava kama lobhadayas ca ye) and one fully established in goodness (sthitam sattve prasidati).The famous verse 'vikriditam vraja-vadhu...' which says that by hearing Krishna-gopi-lila one achieves pure bhakti and becomes free from lust refers specifically to the last tinges of subtle lust remaining in the heart once one has attained nistha. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura stresses the word sraddhayanvita and dhira, indicating firm faith, paramarthika sraddha, the hallmark of nistha.
At nistha, the stage of firm faith, there is no more oscillation of the mind, aviksepa-satatyam, and pure nama-bhajan begins. Suddha-sattva begins to develop at nistha. One cannot transmit Suddha-Nama if he doesn't have the qualification (adhikara) to be a guru. How can the Pure be received through the impure? The guru must be factually non-different from Krishna. He must factually be guru. The disciple accepts the guru as good as God, so the guru must be as good as God. Remember: "The chanting, however, must be heard from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord...." "Everyone should be given a chance to hear the name chanted by a pure Vaisnava." (CC Madhya 22.105) "Following in the footsteps of liberated souls who are able to vibrate real transcendental sound can lead one to the highest stage of devotion." (CC Adi 2.117)
Bringing His Disciples to the Lotus Feet of Krishna
The reason the guru must be fully liberated is that only such a perfected devotee can introduce one to Krishna. "The devotee is accepted in the confidential entourage of the Lord through the agency of the guru." (SBhag1.5.39) So the bona.
fide guru can take you up to the highest, whereas a non-liberated soul cannot even take himself to that level. Entrance in Krishna's entourage can only be attained through the mercy of a genuine spiritual master chosen by the Lord. Not "AII I can do is take you to Srila Prabhupada." Can one even do that? We should take great care to confirm our assumptions with the sastras and preferably a living sadhu, lest we fall into wishful-thinking. If one claims he can reach Srila Prabhupada, be with him and bring him one's own disciples, then that means he is able to enter in Krishna's entourage, where Srila Prabhupada is. When he was asked if one could associate with him after his physical departure, Srila Prabhupada said that he would always be with us in his books, in his vani. This is true, and every disciple has a privileged access to his guru, but Prabhupada also answered, "Yes, if you're very pure." One shouldn'?t misunderstand statements like, "If one chants his rounds and follows the four regulative principles, he is guaranteed to make it back to Godhead", and assume he can make similar statements to his disciples without deeper consideration. Yes, normally, if one practices faithfully there is a great chance that he will be purified by the time he leaves his body, if he has not made too much gross or subtle accommodation with maya on the way. And one who is not yet free from anarthas risks to become overburdened by prematurely assuming the position of guru.
Give his Disciples Krishna
Since Krishna and His Name are non-different, this can be seen as redundant with the previous point, but since our realization of the non-difference between Nama and Nami is more theoretical than factual it has also been explained differently. "A pure devotee is one who has attracted the Lord by his love so that the Lord cannot give up the devotee's heart." (SBhag 11.2.55) And from his heart, the pure devotee guru can transfer Krishna and make Him appear in the heart of his disciple when it has been cleansed of all contamination. So, one who knows Krishna, sees Krishna, has Krishna bound up with the ropes of love, can make Krishna appear, that person is a sad-guru. "Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Krishna is never established."(Nectar of Devotion, Intro.) This statement doesn't only refer to initiation from non-bona fide sampradayas. It can refer to any unqualified person.
Give His Disciples Realized Divya-jnana
"He must understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only then can one become a spiritual master. Diksa actually means initiating a disciple with transcendental knowledge." (CC Madhya 4.111) Giving divya-jnana doesn't mean making sure the disciple reads and understands Srila Prabhupada's books. Srila Jiva Goswami explains: "Divya-jnana comprises knowledge of the original form of the Lord. It is conveyed in seed form within the mantra given by the guru, along with specific knowledge of the disciple's particular relationship with the Lord." (Bhakti Sandarbha) If there's no realization on the guru's side, there's no transmission of divya-jnana.
Also, the transmission of theoretical knowledge, knowledge given without realization cannot be effective.There must first be realization (bhagavata tattva vijnana) (SBhag 1.2.20) on the guru's side. Then this transcendental knowledge is instilled in the heart of the sincere disciple (divya-jnana hrde prokasita).
Whatever the acaryas and the sastras teach has to be understood in truth (tattva). But neophyte devotees mostly only hover on the intellectual or mental plane, (apara-vicara). lt is said that Lord Balarama's plow is guru-vakya, the guru's instructions, to cultivate the barren field of the heart. Balarama, or Lord Nityananda, is the principle of guru; the Gurudeva is the incarnation of Nityananda Rama's mercy potency, so one must be a qualified empowered representative of the Lord to fulfill that role, and be able to cultivate the disciple's heart and make it fertile for bhakti and real attraction to Krishna to be planted and cultivated. One must oneself have that real attraction, ruci, to transmit it. Before attraction, karsana, which is the root of the name Krishna, there must be cultivation, akarsana.
Destroy His Disciples' Doubts
The purport to the famous verse "tasmad gurum prapadyetam" says: The bona fide guru must be nisnatam, deeply experienced in Vedic literature and in practical understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A so-called guru will be unable to dissipate the doubts of his disciples and therefore unable to execute the function of bringing the sincere student back to Godhead." (SBhag 11.3.21) According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, "If the guru is not deeply versed in the sastras and is insufficiently skilled in explaining their inner meaning (tattva-vicara), the doubts of the disciple will not be dissipated. The disciple will thus become dejected and suffer assuredly a loss of faith If the guru is not capable of direct spiritual perception (aparoksa-anubhava), whatever mercy he bestows will not properly fructify" (Commentary on the same verse, SB 11.3.21) Doubts are compared to demons in the Gita, and Arjuna asked Krishna to kill these demon-like doubts. So one must be an authorized representative of Krishna to do so.
If One Is Not Qualified As Sad-Guru
He can, but theoretically shouldn't, be a diksa guru. One can limit himself to the position of siksa-guru. If there is someone of a higher caliber there is no need to give initiation. Everyone is not going to take diksa just from one person, no matter what anyone says, because Krishna inspires different devotees of different mentalities, levels of sukriti, accumulated piety, etc., to approach different gurus.
A kanistha-adhikari may also accept disciples, but if it is said about the madhvam-adhikari's disciples that they cannot progress well due to insufficient guidance, then what can be said about a kanistha guru's disciples? Because Prabhupada gave so many warnings, when we read in the Upadesamrita, purport to verse 5, that a kanistha may also accept disciples, it can be understood that it indicates mostly siksa and not diksa. That doesn't mean that just to be able to continue a mission gurus can be artificially fabricated if we don't have qualified ones, neither that we have to manufacture a new philosophy.
Now, of course, it is up to the disciple's demand. If all what he wants is a one rupee guru, ten rupee guru.... But what is advised? "If my mind takes the direction of the service of any other entity than that of the best of Krishna's servants, it would be impossible to find such another fool as myself." (Srila Sarasvati Thakura). The same thing is advised by Srila Prabhupada: "A devotee should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as spiritual master." (Upadesamrita 5, purport). Such guru is always available. It's an eternal process. It is not that it existed in the past but no longer now. And one should further understand that one cannot progress very well towards the ultimate goal due to insufficient guidance. A less than fully self-realized guru can only partially deliver the Lord's message due to his own lack of knowledge and realization. He cannot transmit divya-jnana. "Such a devotee must be a representative of Sukadeva Goswami, like Suta Goswami." (SBhag 1.2.12) Satam prasangam mama-virya samvido: "Only in the association of pure devotees can the words of Lord Krishna be fully potent." (SBhag 3.25.25).
A madhyma-adhikari can give the seed of bhakti; a kanistha-adhikari can only give komala sraddha, very weak faith.
Krishna se tomara krishna dite para, tomara sakati ache: Because the guru does not have Krishna yet, the disciple should know that he does not have the power to give Him. Such a guru should mercifully encourage his disciples to look for a self-realized siksa-guru, thus giving them a chance to receive what they are entitled to as members of this sampradaya. "A spiritual master unable to take his disciples back to Godhead should responsibly advise them to take shelter under someone who can. Actually, Srila Prabhupada advises that a person unable to take his disciples back home not act as a guru." (GBC "Guru-Ashraya" Paper) And, "According to sastra, the duty of the guru is to take the disciple back to Godhead. If he is unable to do so, he shouldn't be a guru." (SBhag.5.5.18) Srila Prabhupada writes: "If one is not factually detached from material attachment but still proclaims himself advanced in devotional service, he is cheating. No one will be happy to see such behavior." (CC Antya)
One may thinks that it is his duty to initiate, that it is a risk to be taken on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, one's Society and Krishna, but "no-man is an island." One senior member taking a risk affects not only himself and his disciples but the whole Society and the world, for which Prabhupada wanted to set a perfect example. He was very concerned about that. The guru must give Krishna. The prema-bhakti sutra (rope of pure love) is tied at Krishna's lotus feet and handed over to the disciple by the sad-guru. Unless one can hand it over, he should connect his disciples with someone who can. One may argue that the above statements are not practical but actually one must accept with full faith all that Srila Prabhupada taught, even if one can't figure out how it will be "practically" effected.
To refrain from initiating and to concentrate on training one's disciples,which in the case of a less qualified guru may mean to send them to a more advanced siksa-guru for training, doesn't diminish one's position. It is actually adding to one's glorious position as a preacher to display such humility. In our Vaisnaya disciplic line, we worship humility, not pride.
What Should a Disciple or Aspiring Disciple Do?
a) He should learn guru-tattva, including siksa-guru-tattva, and what is pure devotion.
Studying systematically guru-tattva, (starting from the bhakta program) will hopefully dissipate all misconceptions. One will have the weighty task of applying the formula himself, but at least with a good basis of prior knowledge.
If one becomes conversant with Srila Prabhupada's books he'll be less likely to be misled. One must deeply study the sastra and try to understand the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness; and he must come to a mature understanding of the qualifications of a bona fide guru and choose a guru accordingly. "Before accepting a guru one should be assured of the spiritual master's position." (Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 24.330) One must not accept his spiritual guide out of mere sentiment or blind fanaticism. Sentimentality and blind fanaticism are not to be taken as devotion. Sri guru-carane rati ei sei uttama gati: Attachment to the guru is not cheap. It develops by cultivation. Of course it will develop not just according to the disciple's devotional surrender, but according to the worthiness of the recipient. The disciple's genuine faith has the chance to develop insofar as the guru is truly qualified to represent the Lord and the disciplic succession. He should choose someone whom he has full faith is fully competent to connect him to Krishna by instruction, personal behavior, and realization. Artificial faith will not last, due to its having a false basis it will be easily shaken.
Should every guru be worshipped by the singing of the Gurvastakam prayers? Faith and worship are given according to the degree of worthiness of the recipient, not according to ritualistic tradition. One may come up with so many pragmatic arguments, but we shouldn't adjust the philosophy. Nothing should take precedence over the pure teachings of the Acaryas. Prabhupada's books all say the same thing about the qualifications of a bona fide guru. If one is properly educated and has already taken initiation, there's no reason to panic if there something he sees in his guru which is not supposed to be there. It is not that in the name of the disciple's welfare he should be trained to see someone as absolute who is not on that platform. Srila Prabhupada always spoke against blind faith. Don't we say that religion without philosophy is sentimental or fanatical? So, if one sees things in the guru that he thinks are not supposed to be there, he is entitled to approach him, with great humility, and express his heart, his doubts, and even, if necessary, ask his permission to approach someone more advanced for siksa. There is no question traditionally of rejecting a guru for a lack of knowledge or spiritual advancement. The Vaisnava process is to approach a siksa-guru. Rejection is only applicable in cases such as a falldown, or one's guide being envious of higher Vaisnavas. If one has been educated and warned then if, for instance, the so-called "guru" falls down, the trauma is minimized. The disciple can reason: "I have to admit that when I accepted him as guru I was a young fool, and I couldn't properly distinguish. I also have to admit that there's no such thing as spiritual injustice. Somehow my karma, or lack of sincerity, seriousness or sukriti has earned me this; now let me sincerely pray to the Lord for sending me his true representative."
It's not so much a question of pointing out to the devotees who the qualified gurus are, as it is of teaching what the sastras and Srila Prabhupada said are the qualifications. Properly knowledgeable devotees will be able to make wise choices and will less run the risk of making a mistake. A bona fide guru is not some cheap commodity. How many were there during Srila Prabhupada's time? A qualified guru is one who is free from anarthas, self-realized, and able to take his disciples back to Godhead. The term "bona fide guru" shouldn't be misunderstood. The-spiritual master must be self-realized according to sastra. Unless one is at least fully established on the platform of nistha he is not really a guru in the strict sense of the term. He cannot and should not be seen as saksad-hari. And nistha, which many incorrectly assume is the position of the rank-and-file fixed-up preacher, is not cheap, if one considers that it is above the anartha-nivritti stage and if one studies these anarthas in depth. It is by the Lord's grace that one gets a bona fide guru. A guru is an absolute necessity. He must be a pure, liberated devotee. Krishna will make an arrangement in due time for the meeting of such a guru if one is very sincere and eager to get the real thing, and an aspiring disciple should therefore become sincere and eager and petition the Lord.
One should also know that when many people speak of guru, they don't know or consider what is guru-tattva, and that there are spiritual masters on different levels. What applies to a self-realized maha-bhagavat doesn't necessarily apply to any diksa guru On the other hand, we have to promote the faith if the guru is truly qualified, not suppress it. Some disciples may become overzealous, but that can be tolerated (mat guru, sei jagat guru: the famous disciples' complex). Every disciple thinks his guru is best and naturally tends to glorify him. It is up to the guru himself to correct his disciples if in the name of glorifying their guru they offend others. Initiation is not a light thing: There is no rush. Real initiation is in the heart, it's not just the formal yajna. First initiation in the Gaudiya Math is not taken as diksa per se. It is considered an encouragement, an admission into the school. Real diksa is considered initiation through gayatri mantras. Srila Prabhupada waited for eleven years. The Hari-Bhakti-Vilasa recommends mutual study between guru and aspiring sisya. Jiva Goswami advises not to accept a guru out of customary convention. One should wait until he is 100% convinced, with full faith that the guru is a pure representative of God who can deliver all the transcendental necessities. If you don't have such faith, don't take initiation. Wait and watch. As advised in the purport to Nectar of Instruction verse 5, don't settle for less than the best. Don't follow the flock of sheep logic. By sastric knowledge one can have an idea of who is qualified, but a new devotee has little such knowledge, so he must wait and develop some knowledge and experience, not act out of blind faith or sentiment and anxiety to have a name and be like the rest of his peers. Great care and caution should be exercised. All the signs of a fully qualified guru should be observed scrutinizingly. Great precaution should be taken before accepting someone as guru. There are many sincere, dedicated preachers, but those qualities don't automatically qualify them as saksad-hari. If one takes premature vows, there is the risk of loss of faith and of committing offenses. It's reasonable to wait and be somewhat mature before pronouncing vows that many have proved unable to follow.
About Pure Devotional Service: Anyabhilasita-sunyam, service rendered without motive other than Krishna's satisfaction, sarvopadhi vinirmuktam, free from false designations, is pure service. The guru must be a pure devotee, that's in all sastras. The adhikaras (qualifications) are according to the degree of eligibility to practice devotional service. How strictly can one follow, how can one be fully pure if there are still material desires in the mind? It is said that pure service unmixed with karma or jnana truly begins in the full nistha stage. To attain the platform of pure devotional service one has to become spiritually pure and attain the platform of brahma-bhuta." (CC Madhya 24.111) and "One who is free from the bodily concept of life, he is an eligible candidate for pure devotional service." (Nectar of Devotion p32) and "Pure devotees are of two types. The personal associates, parisads, factual devotees, and the neophytes, sadhakas, prospective devotees. Perfect servitors of the Lord are considered His personal associates, whereas devotees endeavoring to reach perfection are called neophytes. (CC Adi 1.64) It is not that one who does a lot of service is automatically to be considered a pure devotee. Faith determines the adhikara to perform pure bhakti. Accordingly, one whose faith is stronger is considered more eligible than one whose faith is komala, still tender. Faith here doesn't mean belief. It is defined as the firm conviction that Krishna-bhakti will fulfill all duties, needs and desires. Due to this conviction being there but not absolute a kanistha-adhikari is advised not to become a diksa guru lest he develops faith in Maya's subtle proposals of happiness through having followers. Firm faith, or paramarthika sraddha, can only come after anarthas are gone, which means on the nistha stage. Until nistha, one is a kanistha. Under the modes of nature one identifies with the body and wants to enjoy what actually belongs to Krishna. Unless one is liberated from the three gunas he is bound to be envious, even if slightly so. Therefore, one shouldn't become a guru unless one is liberated, otherwise one will manifest this envy in the form of unconsciously identifying with his position as spiritual guide and wanting to enjoy the position. Consequently he will be somewhat attached to pratistha and want to enjoy the fame belonging to Krishna or His bona fide representative. Attracted to name and fame, he will assume the others are as well (atmavan many ate jagaf) and thus compete and risk offending much more qualified Vaisnavas.
b) He should pray to Krishna to send him a self-realized guru.
One's sincere crying out to Krishna to mercifully appear as a bona fide self-realized spiritual master is the only option. The Lord reveals himself to the serious student in the form of a teacher who can rescue him. In Science of Self Realization Srila Prabhupada answered to a Mr. O'Grady's question on this point: "The problem is to find this [bona fide] spiritual master" "That is not the problem. The problem is whether you are sincere. You have problems, but God is within your heart.... If you are sincere, God sends you a spiritual master." So, one should study guru-tattva, become very sincere, and especially cry to the Lord, admitting one's blindness, one's full dependence on Krishna to inspire him from within the heart to recognize a real guru. If the aspiring disciple thinks that he can recognize the guru, then he may well be cheated. "You have to select a guru not by seeing but by your ear, by hearing". (Lecture 8.12.66) And you'll feel a spontaneous attraction in your heart, Krishna's inner confirmation. One symptom of a bona fide spiritual master is that he can destroy all your doubts. One should learn what is a guru and simultaneously pray to Krishna to send His representative. He may start by testing your determination and not send you one right away. Then he may also test your depth of desire by sending you an ordinary kind of guru. If you accept the first one without discrimination he may leave things there. But if you cry: "Oh, no, Krishna, I want a real one, not just a good fixed-up devotee. I want an ocean of mercy, a kalpa-vriksa, one like it says in the books!", then Krishna will send you a mahabhaqavata who is totally qualified, free from envy and pratistha and who can deliver you the transcendental necessities. An uninitiated devotee should wait until his faith is 100% The newcomers or those in need of reinitiation should not rush before accepting anyone as sad-guru, but build their faith. This is not a light thing that one can rush, thinking he has a yardstick to measure who is guru. ?The current of thoughts prevalent in this world cannot assail Sri Gurudeva, who is too heavy for them. He has been able to keep them at a distance of innumerable crores of miles. He is guru, or the heaviest object, because his position is not shifting." (Srila Sarasvati Thakura) It is said that just as the spiritual master will have to suffer if he takes unsuitable persons as disciples, if a disciple takes an unqualified guru he will accordingly suffer. It is a source of great anxiety and misery to see one's spiritual guide fall down, so in order to avoid these misfortunes one should be very cautious. One should only accept as guru someone from whom one can obtain Krishna by the process of surrender. "You have to find out such an exalted person where you can willingly surrender." (Lecture 22.8.73) and ?You should check whether he is guru or not. That is allowed. Guru and sisya should meet for one year. The sisya will hear and study whether he is actually fit for becoming guru... (and vice-versa]. Before, study the guru, whether you can surrender. Don't accept a guru all of a sudden like a fanatic. Acceptance of guru must be selected after careful examination... One has to select a guru whose order-carrying you'll not commit a mistake.... If you accept the wrong person as guru and if he guides you wrongly then your whole life is spoiled. So one should accept a guru whose guidance will make one's life perfect.... The disciple must be sure that the guru can deliver all the transcendental necessities." (CC Madhya 24.330) "Before the student accepts a guru he should examine him for one year. Without examination, the teacher-student relationship is only a disturbance.... The seriously inquisitive student must approach a guru who has attained shelter and faith in the Vedas and God, and surrender to him: tasmad gurum prapadyeta. (PancaSamskara, Bhaktivinoda Thakura) One should not take diksa unless he has complete faith that his guru is able to take him to Krishna, that he has the qualifications required of a sad-guru. Until that faith is there, he should take siksa, study Prabhupada's books and guru-tattva, and not sentimentally think that whatever he reads about the guru automatically applies to his guru or just any guru. At the same time, as mentioned above, one should be fully dependent upon Krishna to inspire him, not thinking that by one's own power one will recognize Sri Guru.
c) He should qualify himself as a true disciple.
So much is being spoken about the guru's qualifications, but what about the disciple's? One must make sure he obtains the best type of guru available, but he must also worry if he is himself a qualified disciple. Once one has found a proper recipient for one's faith and surrender, one should fully surrender, not artificially, conditionally or partially. The Gita says pranipat, very humbly approach a guru. One's approach should be wholesome. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had coined a phrase: "Dont come to the guru with a return ticket to material life in your pocket." When the disciple fully surrenders at the time of diksa to an authorized master, he gets that sadhu's mercy, and Krishna accepts him as his servant. By the mercy of a true Vaisnava one gets all perfection. But one has to avail oneself of that mercy, open oneself to it, not put out an umbrella of attachments. The Vaisnavas are patita-pavana, the saviors of the fallen, not kapatya-pavana, the saviors of the insincere. Love of God will manifested if you perform sadhana, cultivation, if you allow the guru to cultivate your heart and make it a fertile ground. The empowered Vaisnava guru sends you a rope from above to pull you out of Maya's web, the prison-house of Durga. You have to hold that rope very tightly, not slackening, then you'll get mercy. Don't follow the path of independence. Independent people don?t want to surrender, they want to give directions to the guru; what they say, they want the guru to say yes. They cannot catch the rope and be delivered. They want a service that will please them, not guru and Gauranga. They discriminate about service: ?This service is not good for me. I don't want that service." One should be crying for service. Service is granted, not taken. If you take, it is not service, it is manodharma. One should beg to receive service from the guru that will please Krishna. Service is for the master's pleasure, not the servant's. Of course, if the master is pleased, the servant will be pleased. One must not lack the faith that one's best interest is represented in his master. The servant who wants only his own happiness is not crying for service. He qualifies himself for being cheated. It is not enough to have a real guru. One must be a real disciple: Sad-guru, sad-sisya. One should be ready to undergo all tribulations, to pass the tests, to prove that he is cured of the disease of selfish enjoyment, then Krishna will hear his prayers and that disciple will receive mercy. So, guru anugati bhajan. One cannot render service whimsically. It has to be done under the guru's direction. One should develop a bond of strong affection for the spiritual master. Krishna says that he is most pleased with one who is always engaged in trying to serve his guru with affection and love. A real disciple thinks that Krishna has mercifully placed him in the hands of His dear servant, who knows what is best for him, who cares even more than himself about his real welfare. He sees everything as paraphernalia for the service of guru and Krishna: "Everything is my guru's, Krishna's. It is meant for their service, not mine, I should not develop lust and greed for it." He should think that he has no better friend in this world than his guru. "I am his servant, He is my master. He is my dearmost friend, parent, relative. He is my father, he is my mother. He is Krishna's dear friend, he must be served life after life." Such a disciple can understand all tattvas, he gets all suspiciousness, all mercy, by gradual installments up to final promotion to the highest perfection of love of God. The lotus feet of a real sadhu-quru, a true representative of Krishna should be served in this way. The dust of such a guru's feet is so powerful that it goes up to the spiritual world. Therefore we pray that we may become a speck of dust at the lotus feet of a pure Vaisnava. You cannot be admitted in the school of Hari-bhajan, devotional service to Krishna,.if you don't develop the qualities of the tmad api sunicena verse. Mahaprabhu has given this formula. You will not translate diksa into a life of bhajan without these qualities.