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Does My Spiritual Master Care For Me?



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Does My Spiritual Master Care For Me?


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Does My Spiritual Master Care For Me?

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

Within such a huge organisation like Iskcon, it is not surprising to sometimes experience less of the affection we expected. There are several reasons for this. But if a disciple feels this way about his or her guru in good standing, does it indicate a neglect of some sort?

The worldwide preaching mission of Iskcon is still a novelty in historical vaisnava terms. This is the first successful attempt, and still very much work in progress. Often we hear that other religious organisations have old-age homes, hospices, hospitals, schools and the rest, and they have been around for many centuries. We have a few of these amenities already, after just 40 odd years, so we’re not doing too badly so far. For a preaching mission that supposedly has little regard for “Home comforts,” it is doing even better.

We again often hear the comparison that our worldwide expanse fares poorly with the traditional localised system of guru/disciple relationships. Is this true? The majority of traditional gurus were grhasthas, who for family reasons stayed local. The renounced sannyasa gurus usually wandered like mendicants and so their disciples would expect long periods of separation.

It so happens that the majority of our initiating gurus are sannyasis who travel the world preaching. Even the relatively few grhastha gurus also travel and are not always localised. This difference in comparison is not a poor one. Why did Srila Prabhupada set this standard himself? There were times when communities of his disciples waited for long periods before his return from preaching duties elsewhere in the world.

The traditional sannyasis travelled on foot, and our modern-day sannyasis travel by plane, but the principle remains the same. What isn’t the same though are the sheer numbers of disciples located in different parts of the world, many of whom also wait for long phases of time before meeting their gurus again. Is this something to worry about?

In his mind’s eye, Srila Prabhupada visualised many temples around the world. This inner vision materialised in harmony with Sri Chaitanaya Mahaprabhu’s vision. This meant that the preaching he did to achieve this, served a higher purpose than we normally think. There is something about preaching that enables one to feel a sense of unison with the higher order of things.

“The dust of the lotus feet of pure devotees, enthusiastic devotional service, and service to the pure devotees of the highest order, are the roots of the creeper of devotion.” (Suddha-Bhakata)

Whether we consider any potential new devotee to be as if introducing a new gopi to Sri Krishna, or whether we preach simply to please the spiritual master, both have a unifying effect that’s binds our mutual interest in serving the mission of Srila Prabhupada. That mutual interest is shared by all of our previous acaryas who are oceans of mercy. This quality of mercy is not always fully appreciated. The same applies for spiritual affection.

If a disciple expects to be treated with affection by the guru in the same way as love-lost materialists do, he or she will be disappointed for much of the time. In situations where the divorce rate is unacceptably high, and the adventure for extra-marital affairs ever booming, lovers and married couples have to continually test their bonds of affection with, “Do you love me? Do you really, really love me, and no one else?”

This love-lost test cannot apply to a relationship where the guru is already merciful. The merciful and affectionate spiritual master may be heavy and stern with some disciples, and gentle and forbearing with others. From an internal viewpoint there is no different in the affection displayed by the guru. If we choose to judge externally, thinking that the guru favours some disciples and not others, then our whole conception requires renovation.

If someone raises the question, “Can the spiritual master withdraw his mercy?” then again it is not applicable to a bona-fide guru full of mercy. The prerogative to give or not to give Krishna’s mercy is there, but for an initiated devotee the rope of mercy has already been handed out. Rather, any apparent withdrawal of mercy is subject to the disciple’s resolve. If a disciple fails to grasp the rope it is not the fault of the guru.

“Krishna is yours; you have the power to give Him to me. I am simply running behind you shouting, Krishna! Krishna!” (Ohe Vaisnava Thakur)

When and if a disciple develops worldly mindedness due to falling short of required standards, it can create relative vision. With this vision one can conclude that perhaps the guru has withdrawn his mercy and affection, and does not really care. This can extend towards fellow devotees too. With this type of consciousness many small incidents will be a cause of disappointment. Relative vision equals relative misery.

“O my dear Lord Nityananda! Since You are always very joyful in spiritual bliss, please cast Your merciful glance over me, because I am very unhappy.” (Savarna-Sri-Gaura-Pada-Padma)

For instance, suppose there is a group of 100 disciples and well-wishers converged in one place. The spiritual master appears on the scene. He knows that everyone present would be happy to speak with him, or to receive a greeting and a few words from him. With time constraints or other commitments it is not possible to meet everyone, yet he may speak to some individuals. If this causes great disappointment for those who did not get spoken to or to be acknowledged, the guru can hardly be blamed for appearing to “snub” or “ignore” certain others in the crowd.

“Your heart is the resting place of Lord Govinda, and Lord Govinda says, “The vaisnavas are in My heart.” (Vaisnava Vijnapati)

These feelings of disappointment will persist so long as one values the external feature of the guru more than the internal one. Just like on Janmastami at midnight, some pujaris may hand out several prasada items to many eager outstretched hands. Are those who squeezed to the front to receive such prasada more fortunate than the others further back? Yet, standing right at the back could be one sincere soul quietly shedding tears in admiration for the Lord’s mercy in handing out the prasada through the pujaris.

“Slay me or protect me as You wish, for You are the eternal master of Your eternal servant.” (Manasa-deha-geha)

In this case, the Lord’s mercy was distributed differently, but the grateful and appreciative soul had a broad internal vision. With maturity of vision a disciple will realize that the guru cannot be everywhere at once, but he has already accessed the heart of the disciple by planting the holy name – Sri Nama Prabhu.

Another important matter to consider is that providence makes these events happen. To conclude that one’s guru is indifferent is to say that Sri Krishna Himself is not merciful or affectionate, which is a philosophical non-starter.

“O Gopinatha, is this Your judgement, that seeing Me averse to You, You abandon Your servant and don’t bestow even a particle of mercy upon him?” (Gopinatha, part 2, verse 6)

Yet another problem can slow our Iskcon projects down. We are all dependent on the mercy of the spiritual master. But sometimes we may allow this dependence to make us fairly inactive service-wise, until the guru is around. This is why it is essential that as many of our senior devotees as possible be available, to reflect or mirror the affection of the guru. This is Siksha in action.

This Siksha action of our senior devotees will lend balance to our community structures. They can be the driving force in implementing plans of action. They can also become the emotional support of disciples, or in many cases, junior God brothers and God sisters. They can bridge the sometimes distant openings between the disciples, the gurus and GBC’s.

It is not unnatural for any disciple to want to be with the guru. “When will such mercy fall to this one who is weak and devoid of intelligence? Allow me to be with you.” (Gurudeva)

But when the number of disciples is large, and missionary duties limit desired guru/disciple interactions, the middle ground of the senior devotees can help make up the difference. Otherwise, some forlorn disciple might end up wondering whether he or she must either do something extraordinary, or the opposite of this, to attract the attention of the guru.

“If you are not merciful unto me, I can only weep.” (Gurudeva, from Saranagati)

These sort of things happened when Srila Prabhupada was around too. One incident occurred when Brahmananda Dasa and Bali-Mardana Dasa, who were both influential devotees, decided to greet Srila Prabhupada at one airport, after requesting all the other devotees to remain back at the temple to receive him. These two God brothers greeted their master and received a warm embrace. Were they more fortunate than the other devotees back at the temple?

In light of all the many nuances of the guru/disciple relationship within a progressive preaching mission as Iskcon, the higher purpose that Srila Prabhupada taught us is to rely on the internal, or the instruction side of the guru. Like the sincere devotee at the back of the temple quietly shedding tears in admiration of Krishna’s mercy, this fits in neatly with our goal to act in such a way so that Krishna will be pleased to reveal Himself to us. If we replicate this mood towards the guru, eventually the real purposes and treasured goals in life shall be revealed. “We must always keep within our hearts the instructions of Sadhu, Sastra and Guru. This is the process.” (Prema-Bhakti-Candrika)

Your servant, Kesava Krsna Dasa – GRS.

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1 Unregistered

All this mention of “guru”, but you didn’t specify/define “guru”. Which guru? There are many types/forms of guru. However, I would assume most readers will automatically assume you’re referencing the diksha guru. Why is there so much importance placed on the diksha guru? I see this as a BIG problem in our modern day spiritual movement.

Over-emphasizing the role & importance of the diksha guru (the one that officiates the Harinam initiation formalities & name giving) at the expense of valuing the equal importance of the other necessary guru forms. Guru is one. Krsna is the original guru & the source of all knowledge. He disseminates knowledge through His unlimited potencies.

I’m willing to walk on a razor’s edge and say that this extreme diksha fan club mentality, that seems to be rather widespread, breeds sectarianism and a lack of understanding Sri Guru.

(Disclaimer: I am NOT a ritvik)

Comment posted by bbd on September 8th, 2010
2 pustakrishna

In addition, there is Chaitya-guru, Sri Krishna, within our heart. He is our dearmost Friend, and will give us the proper intuition of things according to our dependence upon Him. In the loneliest of situations, Krishna never leaves us…so we must try never to leave Him. Also, Krishna is present in through His representatives, both the Acharya(s) and the associate vaishnavas, and through shastra, like Bhagavadgita and Srimad Bhagavatam. We must realize that we cannot become our own guru. That warning is there from Srila Prabhupad. That will be unsuccessful. So by realizing our dependence upon Gurudeva, we will begin to see His affection everywhere, literally. It depends upon our “attenae” or receptiveness. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 8th, 2010
3 Unregistered

Thank you Kesava Krishna Prabhu for your enlightened and erudite presentation…

Besides, isn’t love enhanced by separation…?
and isn’t union in separation achieved, while pleasing the spiritual master by following his instructions, both general and personal…?

Deep subject matter !

However, there is another point which you have left aside, in relation to the level of advancement of the spiritual master… whether he is a kanistha, a madhyama or an uttama adhikari.

As it is, one may reciprocate with the affection and the hankerings of one’s disciples, according to how much of a mahatma one is… and as you pointed out, sa mahatma sudurlabha, rare is one who knows Krishna in truth, who sees Krishna, who is a genuine tattva darshi…

Srila Prabhupada, as a bonafide spiritual master uttama adhikari, is saksad Hari…

Sri Guru is the external manifestation of the Supersoul… and knows whatever everyone of his disciples does, says or even thinks at any time !

So, whether he may be externally physically present or not, doesn’t make so much difference, in the sense that for his sat shishya he is always present, in the same way that he himself always felt the presence of his own spirtual master by his side…

On the other hand, in the realm of conditioned souls, sincerity is the clue !

If guru and disciple being still on a relative platform, stick to the instructions of the sat Guru and keep associating with sastras and saddhus, while performing seva, they will become eligible to relish on the spiritual platform, in due course of time, the constant association of the Sat Guru and by his mercy, will be able to see Krishna and become tattva darshi themselves…

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah
[Bg. 4.34]

brahmanda brahmite kona bhagyavan jiva
guru-krsna-krpaya paya bhakti-lata-bija
[C.c. Madhya 19.151]

Hare Krishna
Your servant

Puskaraksa das

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 8th, 2010
4 Unregistered

thank you for writing this article, prabhu, which is an expansion of the topic of your last one, which was about receiving mercy from seniors. You are certainly right that the actual mercy of the guru is his siksa- and you also mentioned that the guru may not have time to talk with everyone when he visits. Then the only siksa the disciple may get is in the form of a public lecture, which is usually tailored for newcomers, or a lecture at the temple, which may or may not allow him time to do his business as a disciple- enquire. It is also expected that the disciple will enquire on matters related to the lecture- whereas his doubts may be elsewhere. He may also feel inhibited due to shyness, to raise his hand in public, particularly to expose a doubt he has! So in 3 aspects, enquiring publicly has its drawbacks- lack of opportunity, related subject matter, and shyness. Therefore, the guru must be available for private and personal enquiries from each and every disciple, in order to ensure that the disciple is gaining ground in understanding all nuances of bhakti, and the practical implications of such- eradicating his personal anarthas- which are unique transmutations of the material modes that need specific instruction on.

It is curious that you interpret the liberating siksa as an onus on the disciple, rather than the guru- as in the carrying out of the instruction. That is only half of the siksa process- the process mentioned in the gita is not just sevaya- serving the instruction, but enquiry. If there is no opportunity to enquire, because the guru has initiated a thousand other disciples, or because he is more focussed on making disciples, rather than keeping them, or on travelling the world, rather than freeing a mind, then it will be a failure. One may object that this is exactly what S. Prabhupada did, but he did not. His personal instruction was there in the form of his books, and additional siksa could be had by mail or in person, if needed. We cannot imitate him, in initiating the numbers he did, without following in his footsteps, spending 6 hours a day, after sleeping 4 at most, writing vital instructions for his disciples and followers, now, and for generations to come.

Generally the warning is against accepting too many disciples. Thus, not following such orders can create difficulties, not least the disciples suffering from lack of guidance.

Comment posted by niscala on September 10th, 2010
5 Visakha Priya dasi

In a letter to Sri Galim (see Vedabase) Srila Prabhupada writes:

“To answer your last point, one who teaches can be treated as Spiritual Master. It is not that after we become initiated we become perfect. No. It requires teaching. So if we take instruction from them, all senior godbrothers may be treated as guru, there is no harm. Actually, you have only one Spiritual Master, who initiates you, just as you have only one father. But every Vaisnava should be treated as prabhu, master, higher than me, and in this sense, if I learn from him, he may be regarded as guru. It is not that I disobey my real Spiritual Master and call someone else as Spiritual Master. That is wrong. It is only that I can call Spiritual Master someone who is teaching me purely what my initiating Spiritual Master has taught. Do you get the sense?” (italics mine)

If I don’t like the way my spiritual master treats me or if I think he doesn’t understand me or if this and this and that, then I can go to another devotee who will pander to my desires. This attitude is the other extreme of the diksa-fan club and perhaps as widespread.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a member of the diksa-fan club.

Comment posted by Visakha Priya dasi on September 10th, 2010
6 Akruranatha

One thing that we have going for us compared to guru-disciple relationships in olden times is, modern communications systems such as email and Skype which makes it easy to stay in touch over long distances. (I supposed experts like Sanjaya and Vyasa had no need of such contrivances, but for the beginners who are not perfect in yogic telepathy, there is now internet telephony).

Regarding Disha-Siksha, I recently read Sivarama Swami’s book “The Siksa-guru, Implementing Tradition Within ISKCON”, published in 1999 by Bhaktivedanta Intezet. I found it interesting, and it challenged some of my assumptions on the subject. In fact, Sivarama Swami disclosed that in doing the research before writing the book some of his own, similar assumptions were dispelled. Sivarama Swami writes:

“At the beginning, we had a different conception of siksa-guru. Our idea was that the diksa-gurus and siksa-gurus were autonomous representatives of Lord Krishna, who, in the course of a devotee’s spiritual life, exercised their influence according to their unfettered will. Perhaps it was his spiritual need or the arrangement of Lord Krishna that would direct the flow of a devotee’s spiritual fortunes, sometimes to the initiator, sometimes to the instructors. If one found a very exalted instructor, then by all means one should soak up the nectar, at all cost, for who has the right to regulate the flow of transcendental knowledge and the right to be Krishna conscious?

“In retrospect, this scenario sounds horrendously selfish and anarchistic. But there it is; that is what we understood. … But once we set out to study Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, read other relevant texts, and discussed with senior devotees, the picture changed. At first we rejected the apparent conclusion. In time, for lack of other authorized alternatives, we struggled with it and, once convinced it was Srila Prabhupada’s will, we embraced it….”

“…A devotee may receive ongoing instructions from sadhus or be directed to an advanced Vaisnava for siksa. Still, he considers his diksa-guru as his main connection to the Lord. All others act like assistants to the initiator, although from the absolute point of view they are equal and non-different…

“The spiritual masters must be aware of their grave responsibility and work cooperatively, free from personal ambition … They should encourage their disciples to respect those who give siksa, whoever and wherever they may be.”

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 11th, 2010
7 pustakrishna

The formality that Akruranath Prabhu has brought out must be re-examined. Really, Siksha or instruction is the life of association. Diksha is a formality, but an important one, since one should learn the offenses against chanting of the Holy Names purely. The Diksha is thus a beginning of the formal commitment to place Krishna consciousness as central in one’s life. But, Siksha, association and inspiration, is vitally important.
We may consider that Krishna brings us what we need and maintains what we have…according to His instruction in the Bhagavad Gita…and that this instruction relates to the spiritual needs of the bhakta. Bhakta literally means ‘one who is maintained’. The bhakta must feel oneself dependent upon Krishna. Krishna is fully independent, and does not have to conform to any preconceived idea we may have. Krishna is our Maintainer, not our order supplier.

There seems to be much concern with the question of affectionate dealings between devotees, and especially between the disciple and his or her gurudeva. Please know that there is an ocean of affection awaiting each and every one of us. Krishna is espertly taking us there through His help and through the assistance of His external representatives. But, we must never consider that the ‘affection’ we are counting on is something like the affection of the mundane world, lust. Lust is based on exploitation for sense/mind enjoyment. Love is revealed spiritually according to the Will of Krishna. Brahma bhuta prasannatma….mad bhaktim labhate param. Bhakti is obtained as the fruit of spiritual determination and quest. One already feels self-satisfied in decision and determination to make the spiritual life the goal of one’s existence. But love will flood the bhakta gradually or immediately as willed by the Supreme Lord.

One word of caution, I believe, is necessary: People are trying to compare current disciples of Srila Prabhupad who have taken on the responsibility of giving diksha with great acharyas like Srila Prabhupad. It is not necessary that one have the charisma, the wealth of knowledge, or the wealth of spiritual experience, to become an initiating teacher. Certainly, you do not want your teachers to fall away from the determination of Krishna consciousness….but if one can teach according to realization, in a manner consistent with the Guru Parampara, then they may be qualified to initiate bhaktas into the chanting of the Holy Names. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 11th, 2010
8 Unregistered

thats interesting, Akruranath and Visakha Priya, that the siksa guru must only be secondary to the diksa guru- that the disciple must consider the diksa guru as his main connection to the Lord. It seems that throughout the guru parampara, the opposite happened many times- many links being siksa not diksa links. How can that be right?

Considering that Bhaktivonode Thakura considered his siksa guru, Jaganatha Dasa Babaji’s instructions most importantly, and rejected at least some, if not many, of the instructions of his diksa guru, particularly when the latter started claiming he was superior to Raghuinatha Dasa Goswami- due to his birth-I think that Srila P rabhupada’s instructions need to be taken in context- that he was preaching to his disciples according to time, place and circumstance. He knew that he was not deviating in any way from the conclusions of sastra and parampara, and he wanted that the other gurus in his disciples lives, siksa gurus, exactly follow his preaching, not be at variance with it: “my only qualification is that I do not change the message”

If a diksa guru is in any way deviating from Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and orders, and one finds a siksa guru who isn’t, then does it not make sense to follow the example of Bhaktivinode Thakura and consider the siksa guru’s instructions the vital ones? The main thing is that the guru is bonafide- whether he is siksa or diksa guru is secondary. Bonafide means that he is exactly following the orders and precepts of the predecessor acaryas, all the way back to Krsna.

I think that the essential point in understanding Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, is that when he speaks of siksa and diksa gurus, he is speaking of bonafide ones, who do not deviate in any way, personally or philosophically. Assuming both are bonafide, the siksa guru should certainly give directions in accordance with the diksa guru. In the present context, the pre-eminent siksa guru (Srila Prabhupada) is the one to allign oneself with, and diksa gurus are bonafide inasmuch as they do not deviate an inch from the instructions of the Srila Prabhupada.

Times have changed, and far more stress was placed by Srila Prabhupada on the guru being bonafide, on the guru “not deviating an inch” on “the message being passed down unchanged” than on diksa gurus versus siksa gurus. The clue is in his last words in the quote “all on the absolute platform”…

Comment posted by niscala on September 12th, 2010
9 KKDasa

Dear BBD?

I hope you will appreciate that all broadminded members of Iskcon are fans of the Guru Principle, or the Principle Of Guru with all of its varieties, and yes, including the emphasis on Siksha as our predecessor acaryas taught.

It is true there may be some elements of sentimental guru worship, but as Puskaraksa Prabhu mentioned in his comment (3), that with the right guidance and willingness to progress in Krishna consciousness, the internal mood will blossom eventually.

One does not have to be a deviant to highlight these things, but then, there should be an effort made to highlight certain issues amongst ourselves in the spirit of cooperation, as Srila Prabhupada desired. Unfortunately, there are those who cannot withstand this cooperation and will try to suggest, or exaggerate matters from the comfort of non-involvement, or motivated righteousness.

And guess what? It seems to be easier to opt out of the rigours of cooperation, and easier still, to pass judgement. It should again be appreciated how the members of Iskcon are serving in cooperation, and sometimes in difficult circumstances. That is where the mercy of our Siksha Guru, Srila Prabhupada, flows abundantly for those who try, even try, with their body, mind and souls to do the needful. Yet this conception cannot be grasped by all.

Pusta Krishna Prabhu,

It seemed your comment was a part two, or a continuation of something previously written. It would be presumptuous to ascertain your whole message otherwise.

Vishaka-priya Mataji,

It is nice to see you getting more involved here. We met a few weeks ago in Johannesburg and you indicated about this. And your contributions are valuable too.

You correctly wrote of the other extreme of Guru worship. We in Iskcon are striving for the correct balance in terms of “institutional” challenges and other trial and error developments. You and I have witnessed and experienced the downside of unqualified gurus. This experience certainly does not produce membership of guru “fan” clubs. We are “fans” of the guru principle, and the oneness of guru in all of its varieties, if we want to put it that way.

Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

Comment posted by KKDasa on September 12th, 2010
10 KKDasa

Puskaraksa Prabhu,

Yes, you made some valid points, as you did with my previous article. The problem is, that when trying to focus on a particular aspect of, as in this case, Guru worship, it would lengthen the article greatly to add other considerations. To evaluate the level of advancement of the guru or prospective guru is an extremely important part of Guru Tattva. It would require at least a lengthy paper to cover this.

You may not be aware, but I wrote a previous article for Dandavats called, “When Guru Worship Gets Sentimental.” I briefly mentioned the downside of over-estimating the advancement of certain gurus. But this topic needs to be understood in perspective with our present early days of Iskcon and so on. It is worth writing about, but has to be done carefully due to the sensitivity of it.

One can imagine that for God brothers and God sisters, who were raised in Krishna consciousness along with someone who eventually becomes guru, will probably have a different perspective on that guru than his disciples would have. Yet, in the context of the problems we experienced with certain gurus not living up to very high standards previously, there has to be some awareness, or even preparedness in case something undesirable happens.

Niscala Mataji,

In regards to the curiosity raised about the emphasis on diciples working on the guru/disciple relationship, we have to ask; does the guru need disciples, or do the disciples need a guru?

When the necessity is there for one to search out for a bona-fide guru, then the need is greater for the disciple. Of course, as you say, the guru must teach the disciples. And if there isn’t much time for this? This can be a problem. This is why we need the siksa principle brought to life with our senior devotees being there. Again, prospective disciples are warned, or should be warned, about the likelihood of personal contact, or lack of it, especially with gurus who have many disciples.

Akruranatha Prabhu,

Amazing how technology can enable instant contact, as if going back to the walking pace of the sannyasis of olden times. But not all gurus are up to scratch with skype and so on.

With so many senior devotees around within Iskcon, they should be taking the siksa role. This can help lessen the external dependence on the guru, as well as tone down possibilities of sentimental guru worship as happens sometimes. This can bring siksa to life, as it were.

Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

Comment posted by KKDasa on September 12th, 2010
11 Unregistered

Puskaraksa das prabhu has commented in #3 :

“Sri Guru is the external manifestation of the Supersoul… and knows whatever everyone of his disciples does, says or even thinks at any time ! ”

In this conversation with His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami(bramacari at the time), Srila Prabhupada clarifies the perfection of the Acarya. He is not considerered omniscient as God. How Krsna dictates His instructions through the medium of the spiritual master is indeed mystical and as the Supersoul He knows the heart of all. By the grace of Krsna the spiritual master can know the heart of the disciple. It is not a given that the guru knows whatever everyone of his disciples does, says or even thinks at any time. On countless occasions Prabhupada would inquire about the well being of his disciples and was sometimes surprised to hear about their behavior. Other times devotees experienced how Prabhupada seemed to “read their minds” when he would address their unique circumstance with an unsolicited gesture, glance or statement. In a lecture published in the Harmonist(1936), Prabhupada further clarifies the universal application of Sri Guru by stating,”There does not arise any question of discriminating my guru from your’s or anyone else’s. There is only one guru, who appears in an infinity of forms to teach you, me and all others.” Thus Sri Guru is the external manifestation of the Supersoul.

Jayadvaita: Because we see… For instance, sometimes the acarya may seem to forget something or not to know something, so from our point of view, if someone has forgotten, that is…
Prabhupada: No, no, no. Then…
Jayadvaita: …an imperfection.
Prabhupada: That is not the… Then you do not understand. Acarya is not God, omniscient. He is servant of God. His business is to preach bhakti cult. That is acarya.
Jayadvaita: And that is the perfection.
Prabhupada: That is the perfection. Hare Krsna.
Jayadvaita: So we have a misunderstanding about what perfection is?
Prabhupada: Yes. Perfection is here, how he is preaching bhakti cult. That’s all.

Comment posted by Gangamantri dasa on September 12th, 2010
12 Akruranatha

Dear Niscala Prabhvi,

In answer to the point you raised, I think the statements made by Sivarama Swami which I quoted refer to the ordinary situation in which neither the diksa-guru nor the siksa-guru have deviated from the parampara. Under this normal situation, there are considerations of etiquette that apply, and the bona-fide diksa-guru remains the disciple’s main link to the Lord, even where siksa-gurus are of greater stature and devotional power. Neither the bona-fide diksa-guru nor bona-fide siksa-guru deviate from these rules of etiquette, and the disciple takes back the realizations he has learned from the siksa-guru to be confirmed by the diksa-guru.

The situation you raise, of a diksa-guru who has deviated from the bona-fide Vaisnava path, falls outside what Sivarama Swami calls the “Traditional Protocol.”

I recommend Sivarama Swami’s book. He mentions that it is an introduction to a big subject. I do not know if he has further developed these themes in some of his subsequent books (but I look forward to reading them).

Regarding the above point, Sivarama Swami gives a lot of evidence. I only have time and space to quote a little here:

“Siksa-guru does not mean he is speaking something against the teachings of the diksa-guru. He is not a siksa-guru. He is a rascal, because that is offense. Gurur avajna… ” (SP lecture, Honolulu, July 4, 1974)

“If K. Maharaja speaks what I speak, then he can be taken as siksa guru. Guru sastra sadhu. The spiritual master is one, that is a fact. K. Swami may be taken as sadhu, not spiritual master, or as instructor guru.” (SP Letter, July 20, 1974)

“If one’s initiating spiritual master and instructing spiritual masters are of small spiritual potency, or in other words, if they do not possess a special power to give spiritual instruction on worship for devotional service, then one may listen from the mouth of other great advanced Vaisnavas and understand the special instructions. However, thereafter the disciple must go to his spiritual master for his confirmation or instructions.” [”Sri Krishna-bhajanamrta” by Narahari Sarakara Thakur, verse 46]

I should make clear that a main theme of Sivarama Swami’s book is that the importance of siksa-gurus and the fact that our sampradaya is based on siksa has been under-emphasized in ISKCON, and this needs to be corrected.

However, the proper etiquette for dealings among siksa and diksa gurus (and their disciples) should also be known and observed.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 14th, 2010
13 Visakha Priya dasi

Vaisnava etiquette is one thing. When Ramacandra Puri criticized Sri Caitanya Mahapra bhu, Mahaprabhu responded by following his instructions, but only until Ramacandra Puri left Jagannath Puri. Thereafter, the Lord resumed His former activities. In the same way, although we need to follow a certain external etiquette, we cannot entrust our spiritual lives to anyone and everyone without discrimination. At least I cannot. It seems to me that only a complete neophyte trying to imitate a mahabhagavata can do so.

One last thing: Even though our line is bhagavat-parampara, not diksa-parampara, we need a diksa-guru. Although Bhaktivinoda Thakura is said to have rejected Bipin Bihari Gosvami, the reason given by Niscala Prabhu seems to indicate that Bipin Bihari Gosvami was a smarta brahmana, not a Vaisnava. Because no Vaisnava, especially a Gaudiya Vaisnava, could possibly think himself or herself greater than Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. And therefore he was fit to be rejected. But we are not talking about this, are we? We could if the need arises. As Kesava Krsna Prabhu mentioned, he and I have plenty experience about that paticular subject. But right now we seem to be discussing bona fide situations, so I will stop here.

Comment posted by Visakha Priya dasi on September 14th, 2010
14 Unregistered

Dear Krishna Kesava Prabhu

Yes, I had assumed that you had voluntarily left aside the evaluation of a specific person playing the role of guru aside, in your benevolent and merciful attempt to encourage juniors if they felt neglegted by so and so…

In that respect, taking shelter in vani is definitely a life long valid instruction !
However, as with Krishna, love is the only clue for everlasting remembrance and ultimate union in separation…

Nevertheless, I had felt duty bound to say a word so that one may not misinterpret your presentation and cheaply transpose what was true with Srila Prabhupada as an uttama adhikari, nitya siddha, premi bhakta, on any person who would still be a conditioned soul, acting on the conditioned platform… who would definitely have a way of relating with his entourage still influenced by the modes of material nature…

Dear Gangamantri Prabhu

What can I say… Everyone speaks according to one’s degree of understanding and realization, as you may judge by yourself with the mood underlying the question you have quoted…

Symptomatically, Srila Prabhupada tries to protect his disciple from making the aparadha of trying to find some fault or so called imperfection with Sri Guru, by interrupting… as (if - for those who have doubts) he knew what was in the mind of this, at the time relatively new in Krishna Consciousness, devotee…

Guru means Guru and the title of Sri Guru refers to he who is endowed Sri, with Krishna prema, by the mercy of both Gaurangi and Gauranga…

Sri Guru is one in essence…

But lessons taught by Caitya Guru can be many, displayed via the medium of various external manifestations, as in the example of the avadhuta brahmana who accepted twenty four gurus…

Srila Prabhupada certainly knew - and if you kindly allows me, I would rather say - knows past, present and future… He is tri kala jna and this would certainly not be possible if he was/is not the external manifestation of the supersoul, a title deserved only by saksad Hari, the liberated soul, the premi bhakta whom we refer to everyday while singing the samsara prayer to the spiritual master, the sat guru…

As such, Srila Prabhupada has proven in numerous examples that he knew what someone did, said or thought, without having to be told !

Now, only when the training intensifies, may one experience such close attention from Sri Guru and intimacy, what to speak of when love solidifies…

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 14th, 2010
15 Unregistered

Akruranatha:“Siksa-guru does not mean he is speaking something against the teachings of the diksa-guru. He is not a siksa-guru. He is a rascal, because that is offense. Gurur avajna…

It is clear from this statement that the essential qualification of guru is that he does not change the message. In our case, that message is not from the diksa guru, as in Prabhupada’s time, but the siksa guru of all of ISKCON, who is Srila Prabhupada. To the extent that our diksa gurus don’t change in any way the message of that siksa guru, they are to that extent, bonafide. And if they are in this way, bonafide, then other siksa gurus should not speak something against their teachings- as that would be a deviation. It is not because the diksa guru is above the authority of the siksa guru, but because he is bonafide- that he does not change the message- that is the criterion of his authority, not that he performed a fire sacrifice and gave a name. And if he is bonafide, the siksa gurus should not contradict his teachings, as that would certainly be deviation.

“If one’s initiating spiritual master and instructing spiritual masters are of small spiritual potency, or in other words, if they do not possess a special power to give spiritual instruction on worship for devotional service, then one may listen from the mouth of other great advanced Vaisnavas and understand the special instructions. However, thereafter the disciple must go to his spiritual master for his confirmation or instructions.”

It is not clear here which spiritual master he needs to go to for confirmation- the siksa or the diksa guru, so this quote is irrelevant. Is there a quote in Sivarama Swami’s book that even if the siksa guru is more spiritually advanced or more pure than the diksa guru, one still needs to confirm the siksa guru’s instructions with the diksa guru? Lacking such evidence, it is to be understood that when Srila Prabhupada speaks of the diksa guru to his disciples, he is referring to himself, and when he says that the siksa gurus should not deviate from the diksa guru, he is referring to his disciple’s not deviating!

This is indicated in the quote you give: If K. Maharaja speaks what I speak, then he can be taken as siksa guru.

And if K. Maharaja has these days become a diksa guru, and Srila Prabhupada is regarded as the siksa guru for his disciples- then their diksa guru must not deviate. Lacking such clarity, opens the doors to minimize the instructions of S. Prabhupada..

Comment posted by niscala on September 15th, 2010
16 KKDasa

There is one important consideration to be made which is often overlooked, and which would render the main diksa argument as inadequate.

Experience tells us that our present diksa gurus are not just diksa gurus in name only. Most if not all, are active siksa gurus as well, through the methods of preaching to one and all. This active dual role suits the importance of siksa over diksa.

Because our diksa gurus are actively preaching as siksa gurus, there should not be a great deal of concern if it appears that disciples are overly attached to the diksa feature. This apparent attachment is given more to the siksa aspect of the diksa guru.

So long as disciples treasure the instructing side of the guru, and render service to the diksa/siksa guru as is necessary, then the balance of service and respect to the principle of guru in various manifestations is upheld.

Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

Comment posted by KKDasa on September 17th, 2010
17 Unregistered

Dear Krishna Kesava Prabhu

I had assumed that you had voluntarily left aside some aspects of Guru tattva as your main intention was to mercifully comfort devotees and highlight the importance of service in separation, based on the unity in between vani (instructions) and vapu (physical presence).

Of course, there is the absolute platform where Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and where Guru refers to Sri Guru, he who is endowed with Sri, with Krishna prema. The ways, such a liberated soul interact with other jivas in general and his disciples in particular is also perfect and transcendental.

However, on the relative platform, when the spiritual teacher is still influenced by the modes of material nature, there is some scope for imperfection and some shortage may be felt…

Nevertheless, one should persevere on the spiritual path and search for the association of Guru, Sastras and Saddhus…and try to be as sincere as possible, for the mercy of Guru & Krishna is available to the sincere souls even if they are fallen, but not to the crooked and duplicitous…

Dear Gangamantri Prabhu

Thank you for your comment and for initiating a discussion on the topic of the potency of Sri Guru, he who is worthy of the title of saksad Hari, whom we chant the glories everyday in the samsara prayer…

In that regard, on the morning walk in Los Angeles on 8 June 1976, Bharadvaja prabhu asked something directly applicable to Prabhupada himself.

“I understand, Srila Prabhupada, that the pure devotee can be as pervasive as Supersoul? By the mercy of Supersoul, he can be present in many places at once?”
“Yes. By the grace of Krsna,” Prabhupada told him, “a devotee can become anything.”
“So in other words,” Duryodhana-guru asked, “that means the pure devotee can be omniscient?”
“Everything,” Prabhupada confirmed. “God is omniscient, so a pure devotee can be omniscient by the grace of God.”

So, the answer to the question “Can Sri Guru, by the grace of Krishna, as the external manifestation of the Supersoul, know whatever everyone of his disciples does, says or even thinks, at any time?” is yes.

However, that doesn’t mean that he will be aware of everything, everywhere, at any time. Not only, as you rightly say, because he is not God and doesn’t have all the powers of God, but because he is only endowed by God with the powers and knowledge useful for the fulfillment of his mission.

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 18th, 2010
18 Unregistered

Srila Bhaktisiddantha nicely explains the range of action of Sri Guru:

« It is not for us or anyone to fully know the ways of God. We are only aware of that much of the divine activity as is helpful to us for His service. The least particle of such knowledge is more than sufficient for all the purposes of our pure souls. The person who knows God does not understand His ways in the sense in which Godhead understands them. He understands them in the measure that is necessary for having his conscious share in those activities as a subservient of His subservients. Admission to the plane of service is equivalent to the cessation of spiritual ignorance. Spiritual enlightenment does not mean that the person so enlightened understands all things as God Himself understands them, either of this or of any other world. What such a person actually understands is his own relationship to and location in the uncovered plane of the Absolute Reality. Instead of being an insignificant ignorant actor in this mundane cosmos, he finds himself to be the most insignificant conscious entity in the plane of the supermundane sphere of all-existence, all-knowledge and all-joy. He consciously shares in the life of that realm in the tiny measure of his eligibility for the service of God. »

Of course, a conditioned soul may not even conceive of what is the “eligibility for the service of God” of he who is worthy of the title of “Jagat Guru”!

Another reason for a liberated soul, mercifully coming down from the spiritual world to liberate the jives, to appear both as an empowered Acarya and as a meek and humble human being can be witnessed in the example of Jesus, of our Srila Prabhupada and of Sri Guru in general, as Sri Guru (the bonafide spiritual master) is one in essence.

For instance, Jesus could perform miracles and foresee the course of events, including the betrayal of Judas leading to his crucifixion, but he also seemingly acted as a meek and humble jiva, addressing God on the cross “Father, do not abandon me…”, while still praying, in the mood of Prahlada Maharaja, for the forgiveness of those who had tortured him “Father, please forgive them, as they don’t realize what there are doing…”.

Therefore, Srila Jiva Gosvami explains that Krsna empowers His pure devotee with His own qualities. Krsna has so many qualities, and one of His best qualities is that He empowers His pure devotees with sarvajnata and mugdata: omniscience and bewilderment or lack of knowledge.

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 18th, 2010
19 Unregistered

These two qualities are simultaneously present, sarvajnata and mugdata. As a matter of fact, these two qualities are also simultaneously in the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna Himself. On one hand He is all-knowing and on the other hand He is like a cowherd boy, sometimes bewildered and as though knowing nothing.

In this way, in one of the Vedanta sutras, it is stated that when Sri Guru, comes to this world as an empowered acarya, he performs what is called naravata-lila. This means that he acts like a human being, otherwise the general mass would not be able to follow him. Although a perfect soul, he behaves like a human being. In this way anyone can follow him and benefit from his example.

However, rather than try to understand Sri Guru according to our relative level of spiritual advancement at a given time (as illustrated in the example you quoted) and try to see the glories of Sri Guru, which are unfathomable, the best attitude is to try and act, speak and think in such a way that Sri Guru will see us - that is to say will wish to look at us - the same way that Srila Bhaktisiddantha Sarasvati Thakur Maharaja Prabhupada and our Srila Prabhupada have explained that rather than try to see Krishna, who is the seer (Purusha), we should try to act, speak and think (alike a genuine tridandi sannayasi) in such a way that Krishna will see us, i.e. will take pleasure in looking at us.

“Krsna appears in two ways. He appears as antaryami, the Supersoul within himself, within oneself, and He appears as the spiritual master, externally. Caitya-guru and diksa-guru. Caitya-guru… As caitya-guru, as the supreme spiritual master, He is in everyone’s heart. And His representative… In order to help externally the sincere person, He sends the spiritual master. Therefore the spiritual master from outside and the caitya-guru from inside, they are helping. The Supreme Personality is helping a devotee, a real, serious devotee two ways: from within, from without. The Caitanya-caritamrta therefore says that krsnera prakasa, manifestation of Krsna, a spiritual master. And Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado yasya aprasadad na gatih kuto ‘pi: “If I can satisfy my spiritual master, then I understand that Krsna is satisfied. And if I cannot satisfy my spiritual master, then I have no other way to approach Krsna.” These songs we sing every day …/…

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 18th, 2010
20 Unregistered

So my Guru Maharaja used to say that “Instead of seeing Krsna, you serve so faithfully that Krsna will see you.” That should be the process. Krsna is omnipresent. He can see you. He can understand you, what are doing. So we have to execute devotional service in such a faithful way that Krsna will see us. Then you will be successful. “Don’t try to see Krsna. Try to become seen by Krsna.” That was my Guru Maharaja’s instruction.”
Srila Prabhupada Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam, 02-10-71, Gorakhpur

As one makes progress along the path, one may feel the glance of Sri Guru and one may experience more and more the presence of both Krishna as Caitya Guru within one’s heart and Sri Guru by one’s side in the course of one’s service, which made Srila Prabhupada say, that he only accompanied his spiritual master in the US…

So, let us pray that we act, speak and even think is such a way that both Krishna, seated on the lotus of our heart, and Sri Guru who knows the hearts, may be pleased by our devotional service and may grant us the boon of becoming their eternal servants…

Hare Krishna

All glories to your service
All glories to Srila Prabhupada
All glories to Sri Guru & Sri Gauranga

Your servant
Puskaraksa das

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on September 18th, 2010
21 Visakha Priya dasi

Regarding Niscala Prabhu’s question about whether we need to confirm with one’s diksa-guru even though the siksa-guru is more advanced than the diksa-guru, we have the fascinating example of Syamananda Prabhu (formerly known as Dukhi Krsnadasa). He was a disciple of Hrdaya Caitanya, who was in sakhya rasa. Dukhi Krsnadasa was sent by his guru to study under Srila Jiva Gosvami in Vrindavan. Jiva Gosvami was in madhurya-rasa and it so happened that Dukhi Krsnadasa was also in madhurya-rasa. It’s a long story, which Satyaraja Prabhu has recorded in a book portraying the lives of Narottama Dasa Thakura, Srinivasa Acarya, and Syamananda Pandit. The way it is portrayed is controversial in Gaudiya circles, but in any case it would appear that the diksa-guru is to be seen as the ultimate authority and that if he happens to be wrong the needful will be done through divine intervention. Hare Krsna! (All we need is faith. A tall order at times.)

Comment posted by Visakha Priya dasi on September 20th, 2010
22 Akruranatha

I hope I have not accidentally misrepresented Sivarama Swami’s very good book. I mentioned it because it addresses these topics. I also pointed out that its conclusions challenged some of my own assumptions and that even the author admitted that the research he did in preparing to write the book made him reject earlier assumptions.

However, I want to make clear that these issues (about the diksa guru normally being the most prominent in a disciple’s life, and the siksa gurus acting as assistants to the diksa guru, even if they have greater stature and are more advanced Vaisnavas) are not the central focus of the book.

[Aside from pointing out that normal state of affairs, he also describes situations in which that normal arrangement may not apply, and where a disciple initiated by one guru may form a more prominent relationship with one of the siksa gurus. It is nice to learn there are traditions about all these things to guide us, going back many generations, and that we are not reinventing the wheel, so to speak.]

Sivarama Swami does deal extensively with Srila Prabhupada’s preeminent position as Founder-Acarya and as that great devotee who, it had been predicted, would spread Krishna consciousness all over the world. No one who reads this book can say that Mahartaja is minimizing the position of Srila Prabhupada.

However, Maharaja is also describing a system where devotees who are initiated disciples of one spiritual master may also have guru-disciple relationships with other devotees, like their GBC, their TP, sankirtan leader, head pujari or temple commander, as their siksa gurus.

Mainly, he is out to describe the traditional etiquette and practices within the authentic Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition and examine how they can be implemented in ISKCON, and why they should be. In doing so, he is careful to try to understand the tradition thoroughly and scientifically, based on authoritative evidence and his mature understanding of the science of Krishna consciousness, rather than be motivated by “current events” within ISKCON social relations to arrive at different conclusions.

He seeks to emphasize that siksa, or spiritual instruction, is the real basis for all guru-disciple relationships. It is not normally the case that a diksa guru just gives a mantra and a name and you never hear from him again. Normally the Vaisnava who gives extensive instruction becomes one’s diksa guru later on, and accepts a deep commitment to train the disciple.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 22nd, 2010
  1. Edinburgh Scotland Rathayatra
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Edinburgh Scotland Rathayatra

By Parasuram das

This was a very special event. Rathayatra had not taken place in Scotland since 1982, so many years later the Lord of the Universe was again giving his causeless mercy.


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