Who Qualifies to be Guru?
From Bhakta das,
5 July 1994
Dear Trivikram Maharaja:
Please accept my most humble obeisances at your feet. All glories to His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada. I have just received your welcome letter, dated June 23, 1994, in reply to my letter of April 26, 1994. Thank you very much for taking the time to further enlighten me.
It seems that everyone who hears from guru, sadhu and shastra gets some difference in realization. I am not going to argue with you or spend time referencing quotations with which you are obviously vastly familiar with. Nor did I ever intend to act or even think that I was your teacher. I am very, very sorry to have given you that impression, even accidentally.
Obviously I made innumerable mistakes, sins, offenses over the years, and by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and other Vaishnavas, slowly I am being allowed to see more clearly.
I think both Srila Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya have big enough hearts for all of us, in spite of all our inadequacies, so Maharaja, I wish only good fortune and success in your continuing efforts to propagate the chanting of Hare Krishna to every corner of the globe.
I have one question: you have quoted that “The bona fide spiritual master is he who has received the mercy of his guru.” (SB 8.16.24, purport) This is certainly right.
In another place, in Nigeria, Prabhupada said, “No one can be a guru unless he is ordered by his guru. Don’t go quickly.” Did you receive such an order or mercy? Or is it just a “blanket order” that everyone should become guru? In lectures I have heard Prabhupada state that in the famous Chaitanya-charitamrita shloka “Upon My order, become guru,” the words “Upon My order” are very important. So yes, the shastras do say that a madhyam or second-class devotee may become a guru, but they also say that his guidance is insufficient.
This morning, I listened to a 1969 Bhagavad-gita class in which Srila Prabhupada talks about how the scriptures (Vedas/Puranas ) do not reject anyone, but have divisions for those in tamas, raja, sattva gunas, etc. They are the desire tree. So you want to be guru, and that is your service, the shastras are supporting you. But there are others who also have shastric support.
You may not know that after 1980 I never spoke with Hansadutta Prabhu for thirteen years! He is a special soul, and at least now he is trying to preach again. I find his current mood rather blissful. Puri Maharaja has told me that Hansadutta is qualified to preach. Puri Maharaja has not ad much complimentary to say about the ISKCON acharya system as it currently exists. For myself, he has encouraged me to chant Hare Krishna, go out on Hari Nama regularly and to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam every day, etc. He has told me to not think about the past or the future, and to simply focus all my attention learning to chant the Hare Krishna mantra without making offenses. He is not “my Puri Maharaja.” He is a wonderful senior Vaishnava, a real god-brother of Srila Prabhupada, and he has helped me to become a more obedient son of Srila Prabhupada after many years of neglect. I am, of course, grateful for his help.
In your letter, you reference Prabhupada’s conversation in Vol. 22, p. 82-83, about a guru being the one who does not cheat. This is a very nice quote. So if all of you “initiating gurus” are presenting yourselves as peon messengers of Srila Prabhupada only and have not added or subtracted anything, and are not at all ambitious to collect disciples, have money, have temples, etc., then indeed you are doing a wonderful service.
Maharaja, I am always hankering for the association of sincere devotees. That association is my life and soul. I do feel that I am part of Prabhupada’s society now and always have been. I certainly have no friends who are not engaged in devotional service.
If, by chance, you happen to come through S.E. Asia, please know that you are most welcome to camp at my house for a day or two or more. I will be much honored to try and serve you in any menial manner. If, by chance, there is any service I may do from here for your Polish devotees, please let me know. Thailand is a good place to buy rice!
Hope this greets you in perfect health and very ecstatic spirits. I remain,
Your obedient servant,
From Bhakta das, Bangkok, Thailand
6 July 1994
Dear Srila Trivikram Maharaja:
Please accept my most humble obeisances at your feet. All glories to His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada!
After thinking a bit about the content of your holiness’s letter a bit longer I thought to share a few excerpts from Srila Prabhupada’s books with you also.
When Srila Prabhupada writes (Nectar of Instruction ): “THEREFORE A DISCIPLE SHOULD BE CAREFUL TO ACCEPT AN UTTAMA-ADHIKARI AS A SPIRITUAL MASTER,” those words are about as clear and direct as I can find.
Similarly, in the Chaitanya-charitamrita Madhya-lila, wherein Lord Chaitanya specifically orders Sanatana Goswami to explain the qualities of the bona fide spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada has quoted from the Padma Purana: “THE GURU MUST BE SITUATED ON THE TOPMOST PLATFORM OF DEVOTIONAL SERVICE.”
So it would seem that only referring to the quotes in your letter and the other numerous quotes wherein it is deemed that one should serve and surrender to an uttama devotee, there is contradiction? Is it meant to be confusing?
In Easy Journey to Other Planets, Srila Prabhupada mentions a type of “monitor guru,” which is how I relate to the concept of rittvik guru, or madhyam adhikari guru, whatever you might like to call it, the point is honesty with all regarding the factual level of one’s own realizations.
In the Phalgun Krishna Panchami (Verse 23) of Srila Prabhupada, written in 1961 as an offering to Thakur Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, Srila Prabhupada clearly states: “If everyone just initiates, then there will only be a contradictory result. As long as it goes on, there will be only failure.”
There is no doubt that Srila Prabhupada desires for each and every one of his children to become perfectly realized souls and thus actually be empowered with the mercy of Lord Chaitanya to distribute the pure name of Krishna. But since he disappeared, there was so much concoction. Instead of worshipping the acharya and preaching how he was omnipresent in sound and serving his divine orders, we all tried to become initiating spiritual masters, and now we have 70 or 80 or 90 families of gurus and their children, all of whom seem to think, “My guru is better than your guru” and will come to physical blows over this subject from time to time. Not only that, but their beloved “gurus” seem to encourage this type of thinking in their children.
Your holiness is undoubtedly a very sincere devotee and is dear to Srila Prabhupada. But please do not think that Srila Prabhupada has given up his relationship with those of us who are living without the mbrella of the GBC over us. I can only speak for myself, but I can assure you that I do not feel any separation from his Divine Grace any longer, because I am trying with every ounce of my being to be his obedient son. I realize that it may take many, many more lifetimes of practice, but I know that I am rightly situated under the dust of his divine feet again.
Undoubtedly, Srila Prabhupada’s pleasure is seeing the mutual respect and co-operation of his children to distribute the holy name of Krishna to every home on this planet. So I continue to pray that the day will come when all of us will fully surrender to our beloved spiritual master and will give up all the desires which are keeping us from mutually glorifying him.
I beg you to mercifully tolerate and forgive any offense I might commit knowingly or unknowingly at your lotus feet.
Your humble servant,