Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out: Living Guru misunderstandings cleared up by Srila Prabhupada

February 15, 2021 in Articles by Laksman dasa


Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out:  Living Guru misunderstandings cleared up by Srila Prabhupada- “Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī advises that one not accept
a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions.”

Hare Krishna, all glories to Srila Prabhupada and all the Vaisnavas. In the following purport by Srila Prabhupada, it is explained that one must accept a spiritual master who is fully qualified and not by “hereditary” or “customary social” and “ecclesiastical conventions.”

The answer is that the living Guru philosophy has been created by those who wanted to occupy the position of Srila Prabhupada and bewilder others that a Guru must be physically present and he cannot accept disciples if he is physically absent. These are some kind of self-concocted rules created without the authority of bonafide scriptures and consultation with Srila Prabhupada. 

Those who follow all this insult Srila Prabhupada by calling him as “dead” or using other offensive words simply to present themselves as more qualified than Srila Prabhupada. If that was the case then why’d all of them fall down? They have also started a tradition of abusing those who consider Srila Prabhupada as the “living guru”. But when they’re asked to explain their own position with reference to bonafide scriptures, they fail to do so. 

If Jiva Goswami himself says that one must not accept a spiritual master according to some so-called conventions, then why do those who follow the living guru system do all this against the instruction by Srila Prabhupada? Are these people confidential associates of Krsna? Are they uttama-adhikaris? Were they authorized by Srila Prabhupada to become Gurus? There is no answer to these questions given by them when they’re asked.

The purport that follows gives a direct instruction as to serving the words of the spiritual master in his physical absence and that should be the disciple’s pride.

Regarding parampara system: there is nothing to wonder for big gaps. Just like we belong to the Brahma Sampradaya, so we accept it from Krishna to Brahma, Brahma to Narada, Narada to Vyasadeva, Vyasadeva to Madhva, and between Vyasadeva and Madhva there is a big gap. But it is sometimes said that Vyasadeva is still living, and Madhva was fortunate enough to meet him directly. In a similar way, we find in the Bhagavad-gita that the Gita was taught to the sungod, some millions of years ago, but Krishna has mentioned only three names in this parampara system—namely, Vivasvan, Manu, and Iksvaku; and so, these gaps do not hamper from understanding the parampara system. We have to pick up the prominent acaryas, and follow from him. There are many branches also from the parampara system, and it is not possible to record all the branches and sub-branches in the disciplic succession. We have to pick up from the authority of the acharya in whatever sampradaya we belong to. [Letter to Dayananda — San Francisco 12 April, 1968]

In the absolute world there is no distinction as me, or he, and I. Krishna and His representative is the same. Just like Krishna can be present simultaneously in millions of places. Similarly, the Spiritual Master also can be present wherever the disciple wants. A Spiritual Master is the principle, not the body. Just like a television can be seen in thousands of places by the principle of relay monitoring. [Letter to Malati — Allston, Mass 28 May, 1968]

Note: In the quote below, Srila Prabhupada states that we must follow the “prominent” acaryas and not to worry about the big gaps, and now we know that Srila Prabhupada is still “living” in his books, lectures, pictures, etc. Srila Prabhupada himself used to say that he never felt separation from his Guru Maharaj because he was always instructed by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur in his heart.

Note: [This quote clarifies everything about the “living guru ” issue, a true Guru is eternally present with his sincere disciples, hence leaving no doubts that Srila Prabhupada is the prominent acarya and all should follow him.]

Srila Prabhupada: When you read the Bible, you follow the Spiritual Master. How can you say without? As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. That means that you are following the Spiritual Master. So where is the opportunity of being without Spiritual Master?”

Madhudvisa: I was referring to a living Spiritual Master.

Srila Prabhupada: Spiritual Master is not question of…Spiritual Master is eternal…so your question is ‘without Spiritual Master’. Without Spiritual Master you cannot be at any stage of your life. You may accept this Spiritual Master or that Spiritual Master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that ‘by reading Bible’, when you read Bible that means you are following the Spiritual Master represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ. Room Conversation, Seattle, Washington. October 2, 1968

Note:  The purport that follows gives a direct instruction as to serving the words of the spiritual master in his physical absence and that should be the disciple’s pride.

Srila Jiva Goswami’s advice helps us to understand the process of accepting a bona fide spiritual master.

mantra-guru āra yata śikṣā-guru-gaṇa

tāṅhāra caraṇa āge kariye Vandana

SYNONYMS

mantra-guru—the initiating spiritual master; āra—and also; yata—as many (as there are); śikṣā-guru-gaṇa—all the instructing spiritual masters; tāṅhāra—of all of them; caraṇa—unto the lotus feet; āge—at first; kariye—I offer; vandana—respectful obeisances.

TRANSLATION

I first offer my respectful obeisances at the lotus feet of my initiating spiritual master and all my instructing spiritual masters.

PURPORT

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, in his thesis Bhakti-sandarbha (202), has stated that uncontaminated devotional service is the objective of pure Vaiṣṇavas and that one has to execute such service in the association of other devotees. By associating with devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa, one develops a sense of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and thus becomes inclined toward the loving service of the Lord. This is the process of approaching the Supreme Lord by gradual appreciation in devotional service. If one desires unalloyed devotional service, one must associate with devotees of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, for by such association only can a conditioned soul achieve a taste for transcendental love and thus revive his eternal relationship with Godhead in a specific manifestation and in terms of the specific transcendental mellow (rasa) that one has eternally inherent in him.

If one develops love for Kṛṣṇa by Kṛṣṇa conscious activities, one can know the Supreme Absolute Truth, but he who tries to understand God simply by logical arguments will not succeed, nor will he get a taste for unalloyed devotion. The secret is that one must submissively listen to those who know perfectly the science of God, and one must begin the mode of service regulated by the preceptor. A devotee already attracted by the name, form, qualities, etc., of the Supreme Lord may be directed to his specific manner of devotional service; he need not waste time in approaching the Lord through logic. The expert spiritual master knows well how to engage his disciple’s energy in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, and thus he engages a devotee in a specific devotional service according to his special tendency. A devotee must have only one initiating spiritual master because in the scriptures acceptance of more than one is always forbidden. There is no limit, however, to the number of instructing spiritual masters one may accept. Generally, a spiritual master who constantly instructs a disciple in spiritual science becomes his initiating spiritual master later on.One should always remember that a person who is reluctant to accept a spiritual master and be initiated is sure to be baffled in his endeavor to go back to Godhead. One who is not properly initiated may present himself as a great devotee, but in fact he is sure to encounter many stumbling blocks on his path of progress toward spiritual realization, with the result that he must continue his term of material existence without relief. Such a helpless person is compared to a ship without a rudder, for such a ship can never reach its destination. It is imperative, therefore, that one accept a spiritual master if he at all desires to gain the favor of the Lord. The service of the spiritual master is essential. If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual master’s instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple. If one thinks that he is above consulting anyone else, including a spiritual master, he is at once an offender at the lotus feet of the Lord. Such an offender can never go back to Godhead. It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the śāstric injunctions. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding. Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila,Chapter 1,Text 35, Original 1975 Edition:

Key points:

  • Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, in his thesis Bhakti-sandarbha (202), has stated that uncontaminated devotional service is the objective of pure Vaiṣṇavas and that one has to execute such service in the association of other devotees.
  •  If one desires unalloyed devotional service, one must associate with devotees of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, for by such association only can a conditioned soul achieve a taste for transcendental love and thus revive his eternal relationship with Godhead in a specific manifestation and in terms of the specific transcendental mellow (rasa) that one has eternally inherent in him.
  • The secret is that one must submissively listen to those who know perfectly the science of God, and one must begin the mode of service regulated by the preceptor.
  • The expert spiritual master knows well how to engage his disciple’s energy in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, and thus he engages a devotee in a specific devotional service according to his special tendency.
  • If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. 
  • There is no difference between the spiritual master’s instructions and the spiritual master himself. 
  • In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple.
  • Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.

“If you have understood this Krishna philosophy and if you have decided that you will take Krishna consciousness seriously and preach the philosophy to others; that is your initiation. My touch is simply a formality. It is your determination that is initiation.”    (Back to Godhead Article, ‘Search for the Divine’)

Interviewer: What is the procedure of the movement? Do you initiate yourself all the disciples or do your other disciples also do that?

Srila Prabhupāda: Well, initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge. [break] …knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing. (sound coming on and off, tape recorder faulty.) So our this movement is successful… Press Interview, October 16, 1976

Srila Prabhupāda: I was born in 1896, now you can calculate.

Reporter (2): What will happen to the movement in the United States when you die?

Srila Prabhupāda: I will never die.

Devotees: Jaya! Hari bol! (laughter)

Srila Prabhupāda: I shall live for my books, and you will utilize.

Reporter (2): Are you training a successor?

Srila Prabhupāda: Yes, my Guru Mahārāja is there. Where is my photo of Guru Mahārāja? I think… Here is. (July 16, 1975, Berkeley, Interview)

In the absolute world there is no distinction as me, or he, and I. Krishna and His representative is the same. Just like Krishna can be present simultaneously in millions of places. Similarly, the Spiritual Master also can be present wherever the disciple wants. A Spiritual Master is the principle, not the body. Just like a television can be seen in thousands of places by the principle of relay monitoring. [ Letter to Malati — Allston, Mass 28 May, 1968

Tamala Krishna: Can a Christian in this age, without a Spiritual Master, but by reading the Bible, and following Jesus’ words, reach the…

Srila Prabhupada: When you read the Bible, you follow the Spiritual Master. How can you say without? As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. That means that you are following the Spiritual Master. So where is the opportunity of being without Spiritual Master?”

Madhudvisa: I was referring to a living Spiritual Master.

Srila Prabhupada: Spiritual Master is not question of…Spiritual Master is eternal…so your question is ‘without Spiritual Master’. Without Spiritual Master you cannot be at any stage of your life. You may accept this Spiritual Master or that Spiritual Master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that ‘by reading Bible’, when you read Bible that means you are following the Spiritual Master represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ. Room Conversation, Seattle, Washington. October 2, 1968

“Don’t follow any rascal. You follow the ācārya, you get the benefit of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is our request. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti (BG 4.9). Then your human form of life will be blessed. You’ll get success in obtaining this human form of life.”
[Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Visakhapatnam, February 20, 1972]