Jagat Guru For
The Golden Age
Sriman Narasimha Prabhu
Since several learned devotees have provided so much sastric evidence to prove that a bona fide spiritual master should be on the highest plane of devotional service, and since it is now clear that Srila Prabhupada never appointed any gurus, this short essay is meant to appeal to the common sense, logic and best spiritual sentiments of our Godbrothers.
We all know that Srila Prabhupada is one of Lord Caitanya’s intimate associates – an associate empowered to spread Krishna Consciousness all over the world. Srila Prabhupada himself indicated this variously, particularly by saying his books would be the lawbooks for mankind for the next 10,000 years. Also, just before he left, Srila Prabhupada told us we could install his murti on our altars and on his vyasasanas in all our temples around the world. Thus it should be clear to even the dullest among us: Prabhupada’s position in Lord Caitanya’s movement is unique.
It is the desire of Mahaprabhu Himself that Srila Prabhupada should be accorded special, almost unprecedented honor in the Gaudiya-sampradaya. Bhaktivinoda Thakura predicted Prabhupada’s appearance, and as far as we know no other great acarya is scheduled to appear in the near future. So, it is obvious that Srila Prabhupada is destined to be prominent in the Brahma-sampradaya in this yuga in the same way that Srila Madhvacarya is prominent in the sampradaya and Sri Ramanujacarya is prominent in the Sri-sampradaya.
Strict Vaisnavas in these sampradayas still consider themselves followers and disciples of these two great acaryas, even though the acaryas have been assisted in their missions by other nitya-siddha and sadhana-siddha devotees. We hear much talk these days of vani being more important than vapu. Sometimes we forget, however, that Prabhupada also left us his vapu to serve and adore; he left his murti, which we can worship with all paraphernalia. Thus service to Srila Prabhupada’s vapu manifestation is more available now, in a sense, than ever before. When a new disciple bows down and offers bhoga, should he meditate on someone other than Prabhupada and Krsna? Who else outside that room will even know he’s making an offering?
Many people have come to a Hare Krsna temple for the first time and been deeply moved just by seeing Prabhupada’s murti. In 1985 we saw a lady cry when she saw Srila Prabhupada. Apparently she actually saw him – thereafter she started chanting, reading, and engaging in enthusiastic devotional service. I think most of us have not greatly developed our understanding regarding how Srila Prabhupada is still with us. Yet we can all see how he is still attracting people to this movement by his books, tapes, pictures, murtis, and transcendental pastimes. And why should we worry that new disciples – or old ones, for that matter – will suffer because they have no absolute authority on the physical plane?
We all must learn to take shelter of Prabhupada’s instructions and rely on sadhu-sanga. Prabhupada wanted us to work together cooperatively, and it is a fact that he allowed leading disciples to assume positions of significant authority before his disappearance. Yet no intelligent disciple ever doubted that Srila Prabhupada was their eternal spiritual master.
Why should things be different now? Others may act as guru, but why should their followers consider them absolute if they are not in fact fully self-realized? Why think that Srila Prabhupada is now unable to initiate new disciples? Haven’t most new devotees joined us because they got a taste of Prabhupada’s all-attractive mercy? Why should we be so eager to claim disciples as our own? Which one of us is free from all anarthas, all material desires? Hasn’t Srila Bhaktisiddhanta pointed out that the desire to be guru is another material desire? He said, “One who thinks he’s guru is garu (cow).” To which one of us has Srila Prabhupada and Krsna spoken and said, “Now you become the spiritual master. Deliver the world. You are now an authorized guru.”? We’ve seen instead the great confusion and chaos that comes by trying to be guru artificially, on one’s own initiative or by appointment.
Going further, many devotees believe Srila Prabhupada will always be the eternal spiritual master in this yuga, even when there are other self-realized souls present. Five thousand years from now Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana, with his murti alone, will still be the only vyasasana in the millions of ISKCON temples all over the world. His guru-puja will always be a standard temple function relished by millions of Vaisnavas. Who will deny this? It is our faith that great devotees will be empowered to accomplish wonderful things in the decades and centuries to come by approaching Prabhupada personally, acting on his behalf totally, and working in cooperation with his co-followers.
Never will anyone be single-handedly glorious and successful, and thus no one will ever attain a position like Prabhupada’s. As Dhruva Maharaja’s position is unique in this universe, Prabhupada’s position is unique in our sampradaya. Prabhupada is the Founder-Acarya – now and always. It is a simple thing to understand: Lord Caitanya’s ecstatic love of Godhead will always be distributed by Srila Prabhupada. As all avatars in this yuga prepared the field for Lord Caitanya’s advent, we can also say that all gurus and acaryas in our line have assisted in laying the foundations of Srila Prabhupada’s mission, the destined main branch of Lord Caitanya’s movement.
Yet rather than encourage and inspire the world to taste Srila Prabhupada’s mercy directly, as we have tasted it, we have foolishly told them they must first surrender heart and soul to devotees of questionable realization and, in some cases, questionable character. After so many falldowns, we decreased the ritual status of our “gurus” and told new “gurus” to act more humbly and honestly and admit that they were not uttama-adhikaris. But now, what intelligent devotee will want to absolutely adore and serve a non-absolute person who has adopted an absolute role? The basis of such a relationship is contradictory. We can only pray that our Godbrothers leading the movement will not be blinded by ambition.
We beg them to hear our pleas and understand the desire of thoughtful devotees all over the world. Let us not diminish the deep significance of the word “guru” and the guru-disciple relationship. That will be – has already been – a disaster for a spiritual movement. Let’s teach our followers, now and in the future, to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada. In this way, we will all become glorious, working together, approaching prema-bhakti with love for Prabhupada. As VVR has so nicely put it: Let there be one acarya, one scripture, one movement. Otherwise, if due to ignorance or ambition we risk coming between even one sincere soul and Srila Prabhupada, that will be a great disservice, a great sin.
This article was previously published in 1992 by the Vedic Village Review.