by purujit dasa
NEED FOR GURU
Because the Complete Whole is eternal, the Vedas also must be eternal. As mentioned before, Vedas means “knowledge”. If knowledge is not eternal, it cannot be accepted as authoritiative because it would be relative to time, place and circumstance. Nothing relative can describe that which is absolute.
From the Vedic literature we understand that shortly after the creation Lord Brahmā was instructed in the Vedas. It is not that the Vedas were created by Brahmā, although Brahmā is the original person in the universe. If Brahmā did not create the Vedas but he is acknowledged as the first created being, wherefrom did Vedic knowledge come to Brahmā? Obviously the Vedas did not come from an ordinary person born in this material world. According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye: after the creation, the Supreme Person imparted Vedic knowledge within the heart of Brahmā. There was no person in the beginning of the creation other than Brahmā, yet he did not compile the Vedas; therefore the conclusion is that the Vedas were not compiled by any created being. Vedic knowledge was given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who created this material world.
CC Madhya 9.49
In order to insure that the original Vedas remain intact and do not become polluted by the exploitative motivated interpretations of pseudo spiritualists they are being passed down through a disciplic line (parampara) of spiritual masters.
The Vedic knowledge is infallible because it comes down through the perfect disciplic succession of spiritual masters beginning with the Lord Himself. The Vedic knowledge is received from the transcendental sources, and the first word was spoken by the Lord Himself. The words spoken by the Lord are called apauruseya, not delivered by any person of the mundane world. A living being of the mundane world has four defects, which are: 1. that he must commit mistakes, 2. he must sometimes be illusioned, 3. he must try to cheat others, and 4. he is endowed with imperfect senses. With these four principles of imperfection one cannot deliver perfect information in the matter of all-pervading knowledge. The Vedas are not known like that. The Vedic knowledge was originally imparted into the heart of Brahmā the first created living being, and Brahmā in his turn disseminated the knowledge to his sons and disciples, who have continued the process down through history.
Iso Mantra 1
The qualification of the spiritual master is that he presents the message of the Vedas as it is as he heard it from his spiritual master without change.
What five thousand years ago Vyāsadeva instructed or Kṛṣṇa instructed, the same thing we are also instructing. Therefore there is no difference between instruction. Therefore guru is one. Although hundreds and thousands of ācāryas have come and gone, but the message is one. Therefore guru cannot be two. Real guru will not talk differently. Some guru says that “In my opinion, you should like this,” and some guru will say, “In my opinion you’ll do this”—they are not guru; they are all rascals. Guru has no “own” opinion. Guru has got only one opinion, the same opinion which was expressed by Kṛṣṇa, Vyāsadeva or Nārada or Arjuna or Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu or the Gosvāmīs. You’ll find the same thing. Five thousand years ago, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa spoke Bhagavad-gītā and Vyāsadeva wrote it, recorded it. Vyāsadeva does not say that “It is my opinion.” Vyāsadeva writes, śrī bhagavān uvāca: “Whatever writing, it is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” He’s not giving his own opinion. Śrī bhagavān uvāca. Therefore he is guru. He is not misinterpreting the words of Kṛṣṇa. He’s giving as it is. Just like a bearer, peon. Somebody has written you letter, the peon has got the letter. It does not mean he has to correct it or edit it or addition or... No. He’ll present it. That is his duty. Then he is guru. He’s honest. Similarly, guru cannot be two. Mind that. The person may be different, but the message is the same. Therefore guru is one.
[lecture London 73]
The guru also explains the essence of the Vedas according to time, place and circumstance. In other words, although the knowledge itself is unchanging and eternal, the spiritual master presents it in such an expert way that we can understand it from our relative point of view, which is quite to the opposite- ever-changing and temporary. In other words he explains things which are beyond our experience by using examples which are within our experience. This requires complete realization of the subject matter.
Professor (Hṛdayānanda): He's saying that for example he could listen to everything that you were saying, and then he could repeat it, and someone might say to him that "Oh, you are an expert. You are a master," but actually he's not. He's simply repeating.
Prabhupāda: No, this is example. By receiving a knowledge, you must corroborate by your knowledge or by your experience, by the method.
Room Conversation with Professors -- February 19, 1975, Caracas
For example, as opposed to the so-called scientists who proclaim that life is coming from matter, but cannot give any example of such phenomenon taking place anywhere in the world, the spiritual master repeats the Vedic statement that life is coming from life and points out to our direct experience of such a phenomenon (living parents produce a living child) in order to corroborate the Vedic version.
But how do we know that the guru indeed repeats the message as it is? what if he’s showing us that the essence is this, but in actuality the essence is something else? To this, we can say that because we cannot possibly verify that as it is beyond our experience, it’s just like asking: how do I know that which I do not know?
Guest (3): So, Śrīla Prabhupāda, have you realized God?
Prabhupāda: What do you think? What is your opinion?
Guest (3): I can't say.Prabhupāda: Then if I say, "yes," then what you will understand? If you are not yourself expert, then even if I say, "Yes, I am God realized," how you will take it as truth? If you do not know what is God realization, then how you can ask this question and how you will be satisfied by the answer? You do not know.
Guest (3): Well, what is God realization?
Prabhupāda: Then... Then you were asking, "Are you God realized?" If I say, "Yes," then how you'll believe it? You do not know what is God realization. Then why do you put this question? You do not know yourself. If I say,"Yes," how you'll understand that I am right? Therefore you should not put all these questions. It has no value. You do not know yourself what is God realization. Now, just like a medical man, if he asks another man, medical man, so if he says, "Yes," then medical man will understand him by technical terms whether he is medical man. So unless one is medical man, what is the use of asking another man, "Are you medical man?" Unless you are prepared to take the answer whatever I give. Are you prepared?
Reporters Interview -- June 29, 1974, Melbourne
The answer is simple. That which is beyond our experience can be known through hearing. It is not difficult. People are fond of saying that unless they experience something, they don’t believe it. They fail to understand though that hearing is also an empirical experience just like any other. If you’re ready to experience through all other senses, why not experience through hearing?
Anything which is beyond the scope of experience by our imperfect senses can be realized fully by the sound representation. A person transmitting sound from a far distant place can be factually experienced.
So, just like any truly scientific man, we should make an experiment. The real question to ask is who wants to experiment? Usually it’s the people who are not satisfied with how things are. They want to experiment with something new, because they don’t like limitations. Sometimes it happens that the experiment does not work and they end up even worse than they were before. But this is the sweet excitement of brave experimentators. They are not ordinary people. They are not hesitant to take the risks in order to break the boundaries and discover new things for the benefit of the whole society. The bona fide disciple is therefore the future leader.
Who needs a guru? A third-class, fourth-class man, ordinary man, doesn't require a guru. Guru, to keep a guru or to have a guru is not a fashion. One who is very serious to understand spiritual life, he requires a guru. Otherwise, there is no need of guru. Just like you keep a dog as a fashion, don't keep a guru. Guru means..., is a question of necessity. One must be very serious to understand what is spiritual life, what is God, what is my relation with God, how to act. When we are very much serious about this subject matter, then we require a guru. Don't go to a guru as a matter of fashion. That is useless. That is useless. Therefore śāstra says, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta. Because we have to go to guru and surrender there. Without surrendering, you cannot learn anything. If you want to challenge guru, it is not possible. Then you'll learn nothing.
Lecture: What is a Guru? -- London, August 22, 1973
Prabhupāda: Any good thing, it is meant for some people, not for all people. But if there is an ideal class of men, the others will follow. Jewel. Jewel is always costly. Still everyone aspires, "If I get a jewel." That is wanted. Not that everybody can possess jewel, but still, everybody will appreciate jewel.
Yogeśvara: There are a lot of people who don't accept it because they think, "Maybe it is another imitation jewel. Maybe I'll get cheated again."
Prabhupāda: So why don't you become once more cheated? You have been cheated so many times. Why not try this also? If that is his argument, that means you have been cheated so many times. So why not once more, and see whether it is cheating or reality? That sense will not come. "Oh, I have been cheated so many times. Therefore I shall not take." So why not become once more cheated and see the value? The example, as I say, sometimes. (Bengali) ...that he lost his utensils several times. The thief stole it. Therefore he promised, "Now I shall take my food on the ground. I shall not purchase any more utensils."
Morning Walk -- June 2, 1974, Geneva
This is a wonderful example. If a man who lost his utensils decides, ok now I will not eat anymore, he’s a nonsense because without eating he will die. Similarly, if someone reasons that
because there are many cheaters, therefore it is not worthy to experiment and hear from yet another guru, he actually doesn’t want to learn.
Hṛdayānanda: They still have doubts on this point that how can we know that it's worth our trouble, that if we dedicate our lives to this searching for the transcendence, how can we be sure that at the end of it we won't have wasted our lives? How can we be sure that the transcendence is actually worth searching for?
Prabhupāda: No, first of all you must understand the importance of the business. Then we can do it. If you do not understand the importance of the business, then you cannot do it.
Room Conversation with Professors -- February 19, 1975, Caracas
Athāto brahma... In the Brahma-sūtra, in the Vedānta-sūtra, it is stated, athāto brahma jijñāsā. Brahma-jijñāsā. Brahma-jijñāsā means to inquire, inquire about the supreme subject matter Brahman. That requires a qualification. Atha. Atha means those who have become experienced of this miserable life of this material world. They can inquire. Then can inquire what is Absolute Truth, what is spiritual life. Athāto brahma jijñāsā. Similarly, in the Bhāgavata also it is stated, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam [SB 11.3.21]. Śreya uttamam. Uttamam means the udgata-tamam. That is transcendental. Tama means darkness. Anything of this material world, that is in darkness because this material world is dark. You know that the whole world, whole universe, is dark. Therefore there is requisition of the sunlight, moonlight, electricity. It is dark. So uttamam means which is beyond this darkness, beyond this darkness. That means transcendental subject, spiritual subject. In the spiritual world there is no darkness. So if anyone is desirous of inquiring about the spiritual world, then he requires to find out a spiritual master. Otherwise there is no necessity. For a man who wants to remain in this darkness, for material benefit...Suppose I want some spiritual master or I want to study Bhagavad-gītā or Vedānta-sūtra so that I may make some material improvement. Oh, that is not required. For material improvement you can work just so many people are working. They are making, trying industry or something like... That is prescribed. But if you are at all interested about the Brahman subject, the spiritual subject, then you require a spiritual master. That is clearly stated. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta [SB 11.3.21]. Tasmāt means "Therefore one has to surrender unto the spiritual master."
Bhagavad-gītā 4.34 -- New York, August 14, 1966
Disciple is someone who is eager to ask questions. If he doesn’t have any questions, what will he understand about the answers? The guru can talk and talk, but there’s no benefit.
Without inquiry, you cannot make advance. Just like a student in the school who inquires from the teacher, he's very intelligent. Even a boy, a child, if he inquires from the father, "Oh, father, what is this? What is this?" that child is very intelligent. Very intelligent. So inquiry is required, not only praṇipāta... "Oh, I have found out a very good spiritual master, very learned and very good, saw. All right. I have surrendered. Then all my business finished." No. That is not...
Bhagavad-gītā 4.34 -- New York, August 14, 1966
Inquiry is the core engine of the learning process. It is the inquiry which moves the whole thing forward. This is completely different from faith, which is pushed on us from outside by the influence of material nature whether we asked for it or not.
The Supreme Lord said, according to the modes of nature acquired by the embodied soul, one's faith can be of three kinds-goodness, passion or ignorance. Now hear about these.
Before we realize Krsna as a fact, we must believe in Krsna. True. The difference is that the disciple’s imagination(faith) is being purified by the spiritual master and the scripture, whereas a
nonbeliever, who is taking shelter of his limited mind only is being dictated what to believe in by the conditioning of the material nature. By following the instructions of the spiritual master,
we become free from the influence of material faith and by rejecting and acting so-called independently from the authority of the bona fide spiritual master, we become ever-increasingly devoted
to the beliefs that are pushed on us from outside. A desire to acquire knowledge must be therefore rooted in our willingness to liberate ourselves from the influence of the material nature. At a
certain point, prior to meeting the spiritual master we have to, on our own come to conclusion that ignorance means suffering.
Suppose I want to go somewhere. Now I am in the station. Actually, it so happened when I came to New York first from India. I was to be dispatched to Butler by the bus station, but I was a new man. I did not know the rules and regulation. Of course, somebody was guiding me. Still, I was very much in disturbed condition, how to get on the bus, how to get the ticket, how... All these. So disturbance of mind is due to our ignorance.
Bhagavad-gītā 2.13 -- New York, March 11, 1966
By nature's own way the complete system of material activities is a source of perplexity for everyone. In every step there is perplexity, and therefore it behooves one to approach a bona fide spiritual master who can give one proper guidance for executing the purpose of life. All Vedic literatures advise us to approach a bona fide spiritual master to get free from the perplexities of life which happen without our desire. They are like a forest fire that somehow blazes without being set by anyone. Similarly, the world situation is such that perplexities of life automatically appear, without our wanting such confusion. No one wants fire, and yet it takes place, and we become perplexed. The Vedic wisdom therefore advises that in order to solve the perplexities of life and to understand the science of the solution, one must approach a spiritual master who is in the disciplic succession. A person with a bona fide spiritual master is supposed to know everything. One should not, therefore, remain in material perplexities but should approach a spiritual master. This is the purport of this verse.
Bg 2.7 purport
That is why people go to school –they don’t want to suffer being unemployed. This is why we have computer because we don’t have to suffer by unnecessarily going to 1000 different places to check the info. Intelligence is basically for stopping our misery, relieve the distressful situation. This is the difference between man and animal. A human wants to stop or avoid his suffering, an animal cannot.
It does not require any education, simply thinking that, a slight thinking, that "I do not want all these sufferings, but I am suffering. Why? Is there any solution? Is there...?" But there is solution. All these scriptures, all these Vedic knowledge, everything... And not only Vedic knowledge... Now... Oh, why you are going to school? Why you are going to college? Why you are taking scientific education? Why you are taking law education? Everything is meant for ending our sufferings. If there was no suffering, then nobody would have taken education.
(Bhagavad-gita 2.7-11, New York, March 2, 1966)
There is no necessity of approaching a spiritual master unless one is in need of solving the problems of life. One who does not know how to put questions before the spiritual master has no business to see him.
SB 1972 1.19.31 purport
Paramahaṁsa: They don't see how they can have faith if they have no knowledge of God. And they argue, "Well, I don't know God. So how can I have faith in Him?"
Prabhupāda: You learn from me. I am your spiritual master. You tell him. You are asking me. Why you are asking me? What is...? Why you are asking me?
Paramahaṁsa: Well, I was just giving an argument that people...
Prabhupāda: No, argument, that's all right. Why you are asking me?
Paramahaṁsa: For knowledge.Prabhupāda: For knowledge. So take knowledge from me.
Yogeśvara: That's what you tell them.
Prabhupāda: "Otherwise, why you are asking, wasting your time and my time? If you are asking, you take knowledge from me." Is that all right?
Prabhupāda: Yes. If... The same example. Suppose I do not know which way to go. If I ask somebody, it is supposed that he knows. Is it not?
.Prabhupāda: Otherwise, why I shall ask somebody? It is supposed that he knows. Now, when you ask him, then you must take his word. He says, "You go this way." You shall go there. And again, you say, "Why shall I go this way?" And why, rascal, you come to ask me? Is it not? You asked me, "Which way I shall go to go to that place?" I say, "You go this way." And if you again say, "Why shall I go this way?" "Then why, rascal, you come to waste my time and your time?" This is the answer. If you ask me, then you take my word. Eh?
Prabhupāda: That's it. And if you think that I do not know, then why do you ask me, and waste your time and my time? Therefore śāstra says that "Ask from guru." If you accept somebody as guru, then ask from him. As soon as you ask, the man to whom you ask, he is your guru.
Morning Walk -- June 11, 1974, Paris
So it’s either you ask and be ready to hear, or don’t ask and remain as you are. The one who asks, but doesn’t want to accept the answer sometimes thinks that the spiritual master is a businessman. He wants to make a deal with the spiritual master. “I will accept you, but this instruction I do not want to hear, can you take it out?” This is not a sincere disciple and a spiritual master who agrees to fulfill such whimsical desires is not a spiritual master, but a bogus man, who in order to get material facilities from the so-called disciples becomes their pet.
The conditions for hearing the transcendental message of the Absolute Truth are set forth herein. The first condition is that the audience must be very sincere and eager to hear. And the speaker must be in the line of disciplic succession from the recognized ācārya. The transcendental message of the Absolute is not understandable by those who are materially absorbed. Under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, one becomes gradually purified. Therefore, one must be in the chain of disciplic succession and learn the spiritual art of submissive hearing. In the case of Sūta Gosvāmī and the sages of Naimiṣāraṇya, all these conditions are fulfilled because Śrīla Sūta Gosvāmī is in the line of Śrīla Vyāsadeva, and the sages of Naimiṣāraṇya are all sincere souls who are anxious to learn the truth. Thus the transcendental topics of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa's superhuman activities, His incarnation, His birth, appearance or disappearance, His forms, His names and so on are all easily understandable because all requirements are fulfilled. Such discourses help all men on the path of spiritual realization.
The Vedic knowledge is a science. Just like in mathematics, if you change one number, the whole calculation comes out wrong. The disciplic succession of spiritual masters is passing the science
as it is, so the conclusion of one master will match the conclusion of his predecessors. Just as knowledge is one and universal, similarly guru is one.
The Vedas enjoin us to seek out a guru; actually, they say to seek out the guru, not just a guru. The guru is one because he comes in disciplic succession. What Vyāsadeva and Kṛṣṇa taught five thousand years ago is also being taught now. There is no difference between the two instructions. Although hundreds and thousands of ācāryas have come and gone, the message is one. The real guru cannot be two, for the real guru does not speak differently from his predecessors.
SSR 2a: What Is a Guru?
Another point is that disciplic succession does not mean one has to be directly a disciple of a particular person. The conclusions which we have tried to explain in our Bhagavad-gita As It Is is the same as those conclusions of Arjuna. Arjuna accepted Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we also accept the same truth under the disciplic succession of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another. This is an axiomatic truth. So there is no difference of opinion of understanding Krishna between ourselves and Arjuna. Another example is that a tree has many branches, and you will find one leaf here and another leaf there. But if you take this leaf and the other leaf and you press them both, you will see that the taste is the same. The taste is the conclusion, and from the taste you can understand that both leaves are from the same tree.
Letter to: Kirtanananda — Los Angeles 25 January, 1969
Guru speaks whatever his guru says and his guru says whatever his guru says and ultimately all gurus say what the scripture says. Therefore we have to hear what the guru says, not see how he
looks, or how many disciples he has.
As there are symptoms for each and every man, in terms of his particular situation, similarly one who is Kṛṣṇa conscious has his particular nature—talking, walking, thinking, feeling, etc. As a rich man has his symptoms by which he is known as a rich man, as a diseased man has his symptoms, by which he is known as diseased, or as a learned man has his symptoms, so a man in transcendental consciousness of Kṛṣṇa has specific symptoms in various dealings. One can know his specific symptoms from the Bhagavad-gītā. Most important is how the man in Kṛṣṇa consciousness speaks, for speech is the most important quality of any man. It is said that a fool is undiscovered as long as he does not speak, and certainly a well-dressed fool cannot be identified unless he speaks, but as soon as he speaks, he reveals himself at once. The immediate symptom of a Kṛṣṇa conscious man is that he speaks only of Kṛṣṇa and of matters relating to Him.
Bg 2.54 purport