Kṛṣṇa says, ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān [SB 11.17.27]. Vaiṣṇavera kriyā, mudrā vijñeha nā bujhaya

October 15, 2020 in Articles by Laksman dasa

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Both Kāśīśvara and Govinda were personal servants of Īśvara Purī. After Īśvara Purī’s demise, Kāśīśvara went to visit all the holy places of India. Following the orders of his spiritual master, Govinda immediately went to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu for shelter. Govinda came from a śūdra family, but because he was initiated by Īśvara Purī, he was certainly a brāhmaṇa. Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya here asked Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu why Īśvara Purī accepted a disciple from a śūdra family. According to the smṛti-śāstra, which gives directions for the management of the varṇāśrama institution, a brāhmaṇa cannot accept a disciple from the lower castes. In other words, a kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra cannot be accepted as a servant. If a spiritual master accepts such a person, he is contaminated. Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya therefore asked why Īśvara Purī accepted a servant or disciple born of a śūdra family.

In answer to this question, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied that His spiritual master, Īśvara Purī, was so empowered that he was as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As such, Īśvara Purī was the spiritual master of the whole world. He was not a servant of any mundane rule or regulation. An empowered spiritual master like Īśvara Purī can bestow his mercy upon anyone, irrespective of caste or creed. The conclusion is that a spiritual master who is authorized and empowered by Kṛṣṇa and his own guru should be considered as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. That is the verdict of Viśvanātha Cakravartī: sākṣād-dharitvenaśā. An authorized spiritual master is as good as Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Hari is free to act as He likes, the empowered spiritual master is also free. As Hari is not subject to mundane rules and regulations, the spiritual master empowered by Him is also not subject. According to the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 7.11), kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana. An authorized spiritual master empowered by Kṛṣṇa can spread the glories of the holy name of the Lord, for he has power of attorney from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the mundane world, anyone possessing his master’s power of attorney can act on behalf of his master. Similarly, a spiritual master empowered by Kṛṣṇa through his own bona fide spiritual master should be considered as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. That is the meaning of sākṣād-dharitvena. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore describes the activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the bona fide spiritual master as follows.


137  Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “Both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and My spiritual master, Īśvara Purī, are completely independent. Therefore, neither the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead nor that of Īśvara Purī is subject to any Vedic rules or regulations.

138  The mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not restricted to the jurisdiction of caste and creed. Vidura was a śūdra, yet Kṛṣṇa accepted lunch at his home.

139  Lord Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is dependent only on affection. Being obliged only by affection, Lord Kṛṣṇa acts very independently.


Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is merciful, but His mercy does not depend on mundane rules and regulations. He is dependent only on affection and nothing else. Service to Lord Kṛṣṇa can be rendered in two ways. One can serve the Lord in affection or in veneration. When service is rendered in affection, it is the Lord’s special mercy. When service is rendered in veneration, it is doubtful whether Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is actually involved. If Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is there, it is not dependent on any prescribed caste or creed. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted to inform Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the spiritual master of everyone, and He does not care for mundane caste or creed. Therefore, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu cited the example of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s accepting food at the house of Vidura, who was a śūdra by birth. By the same token, Īśvara Purī, an empowered spiritual master, could show mercy to anyone. As such, he accepted Govinda, although the boy was born in a śūdra family. When Govinda was initiated, he became a brāhmaṇa and was accepted as Īśvara Purī’s personal servant. In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī states that one who is initiated by a bona fide spiritual master immediately becomes a brāhmaṇa. A pseudo spiritual master cannot transform a person into a brāhmaṇa, but an authorized spiritual master can do so. This is the verdict of śāstra, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and all the Gosvāmīs.

140  In conclusion, dealings in affection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead bring happiness many millions of times greater than dealings with Him in awe and veneration. Simply by hearing the holy name of the Lord, the devotee is merged in transcendental bliss.”

141  After saying this, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu embraced Govinda, and Govinda in turn offered his respectful obeisances unto Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet.

142  Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then continued speaking to Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya: “Consider this point. The servant of the spiritual master is always respectable for Me.

143  As such, it is not befitting that the guru’s servant should engage in My personal service. Yet My spiritual master has given this order. What shall I do?


A guru’s servants or disciples are all Godbrothers to one another, and as such they should all respect one another as prabhu, or master. No one should disrespect his Godbrother or try to engage him as a servant. For this reason, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu asked Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya what to do about Govinda. Govinda was the personal servant of Īśvara Purī, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s spiritual master, and now Īśvara Purī had ordered Govinda to become Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s personal servant. So, what was to be done? This was the inquiry Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu placed before Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, an experienced friend.

144  Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya said, “The order of the spiritual master is very strong and cannot be disobeyed. That is the injunction of the śāstras, the revealed scriptures.

145  Being ordered by his father, Paraśurāma killed his mother, Reṇukā, just as if she were an enemy. When Lakṣmaṇa, the younger brother of Lord Rāmacandra, heard of this, He immediately engaged Himself in the service of His elder brother and accepted His orders. The order of the spiritual master must be obeyed without consideration.


as to be a living guru.  But these texts indicate that both the Lord and the bonafide empowered spiritual master are above the dictates of shastra, and that their directives must be followed without considOne point of consideration in the above, is that the Iskcon reasoning is that shastra says the diksha guru heration, any consideration.

One of the main arguments of Iskcon in connection with the appointment of gurus is that it is the instruction of shastra that the diksha guru must be a living personality.  The above section from CC discusses this subject of shastric authority versus the authority of the pure devotee.  The conclusion is that the bonafide guru is as independent of shastric gudelines as the Supreme Personality of Goadhead.

The discussion centers around the fact that Lord Caitanya and Govinda were godbrothers and disciples of Isvara Puri and that one godbrother cannot become the servant of another.  However, Isvara Puri instructed Govinda to become the servant of Lord Caitanya.  Lord Caitanya is saying that according to shastra, He knows that this is incorrect, and yet, he feels that the order of His spiritual master takes precedence over the dictates of shastra. 

In other words, regardless of what shastra dictates, according to Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada’s order to act as Ritvik for the next !0,000 years is as good as the order of the Supreme Personalty of Goadhead.

Therefore, in consideration in the above, the Iskcon reasoning that shastra says the diksha guru has to be a living guru, must be accepted as subordinate to Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to implement the Ritvik program of initiation, and this must be followed without consideration, up to and including shastrc injunction. 

The same applies to all of the other accusations and criticisms of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers with respect to the changes in protocol that Srila Prabhupada has implemented in order to push the movement forward.


Srila Prabhupāda: Yes. That is ordinary duty. If you encroach upon my freedom, I have the right to kill you. That is recommended. That is clearly stated in the śāstras. If anyone sets fire in another’s house, if anyone kidnaps his wife, if anyone takes his money—so many list—he is to be killed. There is no question. He can be killed immediately. That action-reaction is going on in the material world, that is a different thing. That is karma-bandha. But in devotion, there is no karma-bandha. As Kṛṣṇa is free from all reaction, similarly Kṛṣṇa’s devotee who wants to satisfy Kṛṣṇa only, he is also free from all reaction. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa says, ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān nāva-manyeta karhicit [SB 11.17.27]. “The ācārya is as good as I am,” Kṛṣṇa says. Nāva-manyeta karhicit, “Never neglect him.” Na martya-buddhyāsūyeta, “Never be envious of the ācārya, thinking him as anything of this material world.” Ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān [SB 11.17.27]. Therefore, ācārya’s position is as good as Kṛṣṇa. Sākṣād-dharitvena samasta-śāstrair **. Ācārya is always cautious that he may not be subject to criticism. But who criticizes ācārya, he becomes immediately offender. Because he is playing the part of ācārya, he plays as far as possible. But sometimes for preaching work, he might have to do something which is not consistent. But if he is criticized, then that man who criticizes, he becomes… Of course, he must be ācārya, not a bogus. Ordinary man cannot transgress the laws, but Kṛṣṇa and His representative, ācārya, might be sometimes seen that he has transgressed. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa says, ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān [SB 11.17.27]. Vaiṣṇavera kriyā, mudrā vijñeha nā bujhaya. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Vaiṣṇava ācārya, his activities is not understood even by the wisest man. Vaiṣṇavera kriyā, mudrā vijñeha nā bujhaya. Brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam. Ācārya, guru, he is completely surrendered to Kṛṣṇa. He has taken the shelter of Kṛṣṇa, being completely freed from all material affection. Brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam. Everything… Everyone has got some material desire to fulfill, but a guru or ācārya has no such business. That is the symptom of ācārya. He has no more any material business. Brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam. He has finished all business of material satisfaction. That is the symptom of ācārya. And śābde pare ca niṣṇātam. And he has taken full bath in the ocean of transcendental (indistinct). Śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta [SB 11.3.21], one should surrender to such spiritual master. Jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam, when he is actually serious about inquiring the transcendental subject matter. Otherwise there is no need of accepting guru or ācārya. He has no business. If one is not interested in the transcendental subject matter… Just like so many people come, they have no interest. Unnecessarily they talk and waste time. As soon as I asked that man that “If I say something, whether you will accept?” He said, “If I like it, then I shall accept.” Then why come to waste my time to inquire from me? Therefore Bhagavad-gītā says, tad viddhi praṇipātena [Bg. 4.34]. When you go to inquire something from a person, you must fully surrender there, or you must find out a person where you can fully surrender. Otherwise, don’t put any questions. Your waste of time, his waste of time. Because he will not accept. Suppose if you go to a physician, you are diseased, and the physician says, “All right, I shall give you medicine.” And if you say, “Yes, I shall accept the medicine if I like it,” then why do you go to that physician? What is the meaning? The physician, one physician doctor friend, long…, forty years ago, he prescribed one of my patent medicines. And the patient little protested because it is Indian-made. He was Eurasian. So as soon as he questioned, “What is this medicine, Indian-made?” “Yes, it is Indian-made. If you have no such faith, don’t come to me.” He flatly said, “Don’t come to me.” That should be the position of the physician or ācārya. If you go there, you should accept whatever he says. If you are in doubt, then don’t go there. That is the position. It is freedom. It is not that you have to accept some ācārya particular by canvassing. No, you should be inspired that “Yes, here I can surrender, here I can gain something.” Then surrender. In the spiritual science, there is no bluffing. Everything must be very clear-cut. Otherwise it will be not very satisfactory. [break] Hear this sound, ca-caw caw. (laughter) Because nobody takes this rooster. Prabhupāda: Oh, that is not harmful. (break—end) Conversations : 1972 Conversations : March, 1972 : Room Conversation with John Griesser (later initiated as Yadubara Dasa) — March 10, 1972, Vrndavana