Everyone Become Guru: Don’t take it out of context

January 30, 2013:

Dear Bhakti Vikasha Maharaj,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Over the years I have noticed that you have stepped forward to speak with “frank” and “bold” statements regarding issues that you think stray from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. I have also noticed that you wrote a book called, “On Speaking Strongly in Srila Prabhupada’s Service”. I have not read it, but Srila Prabhupada writes, “I want that you all my advanced disciples become very bold preachers and take up this task of saving the fallen humanity from its worst condition of sinfulness.”

Actually it is in line with this very quote and another misquote that I am writing you. I am writing you because I am surprised that you have fell victim to misrepresenting the verse “āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra’ ei deśa”.

You write:

What is the qualification? The answer to this is given by Srila Prabhupada himself in the famous conversation of April 22, 1977: “Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants that, ‘amara ajnaya guru hana. You become guru. But be qualified. Little thing, strictly follower.'”

Especially as Srila Prabhupada’s statements about succession have been variously interpreted, we must be very careful to not introduce preconceptions or personal motivations when attempting to understand and explain the statements and intentions of our acarya. Yet the simple and clear understanding here, directly derived from Srila Prabhupada’s own words, is that the qualification to be a guru is to be a strict follower.

You and so many others have completely taken it out of context for so many years. This has been parroted by so many as a free ticket to Guru Stardom, but what is the context of the quote? That is the real question.

In this part of the Chaitanya Charitamrta Lord Chaitanya has traveled to South India and is converting everyone into Vaishnavas just by his glance. It is stated that the entire country of India became Vaishavas. While in South India He meets a materially successful house holder named Kurma and goes to his house.

Kurma has everything, a beautiful wife, money, children. He begs Lord Chaitanya, “My dear Lord kindly show me favor and let me go with You. I can no longer tolerate the waves of misery caused by material life.” In the purport to this verse Srila Prabhupada quotes Narottama das Thakur, “saṁsāra-viṣānale, divā-niśi hiyā jvale”. In this verse Narottama das Thakur writes about the burning in the heart caused by materialistic life, and Srila Prabhupada goes on to say that at the end of life one should renounce all family life and go to the forest. THEN in the next verse Lord Chaitanya replies to Kurma, “Don’t speak like that again.”

It’s not that Kurma was necessarily wrong, because as Srila Prabhupada states, it is advised in the scriptures to do this type of thing in the Vedic literatures. But still Lord Chaitanya says, “Don’t speak like that again.”

This is the context of this famously misquoted verse “”āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra’ ei deśa”. The house holder Kurma wanted to renounce everything an go with the Lord and become a renounced Guru, just like so many in today’s world. They wanted to join Srila Prabhupada, dress like him, and do what he did, just like Kurma wanted to join Lord Chaitanya. But Lord Chaitanya’s reply is, “Don’t speak like that again.”

Srila Prabhupada nails the meaning in the purport to verse CC. Madhya 7.127:

It is not advisable in this Age of Kali to leave one’s family suddenly, for people are not trained as proper brahmacārīs and gṛhasthas. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advised the brāhmaṇa not to be too eager to give up family life. It would be better to remain with his family and try to become purified by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra regularly under the direction of a spiritual master. This is the instruction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. If this principle is followed by everyone, there is no need to accept sannyāsa. In the next verse Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advises everyone to become an ideal householder by offenselessly chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and teaching the same principle to everyone he meets.

Then the famously misquoted verse Madhya 7.128: yāre dekha, tāre kaha ‘kṛṣṇa’-upadeśa āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra’ ei deśa. “Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa as they are given in the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.”

Srila Prabhupada again continues to make it clear in the purport:

This is the sublime mission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Many people come and inquire whether they have to give up family life to join the Society, but that is not our mission. One can remain comfortably in his residence. We simply request everyone to chant the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. If one is a little literate and can read the Bhagavad-gītā As It Is and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, that is so much the better.

Srila Prabhupada goes on to write about chanting with ones family and following the 4 regulative principles and making prasadam for the Lord. And at the end, just so we understand, again Srila Prabhupada writes, “The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to elevate human society to the perfection of life by pursuing the method described by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in His advice to the brāhmaṇa Kūrma. That is, one should stay at home, chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and preach the instructions of Kṛṣṇa as they are given in the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.”

And then the next verse again it is explained:

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu further advised the brāhmaṇa Kūrma, “If you follow this instruction, your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement. Indeed, if you follow these regulative principles, we will again meet here, or, rather, you will never lose My company.”

This is an opportunity for everyone. If one simply follows the instructions of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, under the guidance of His representative, and chants the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, teaching everyone as far as possible the same principle, the contamination of the materialistic way of life will not even touch him. It does not matter whether one lives in a holy place like Vṛndāvana, Navadvīpa or Jagannātha Purī or in the midst of European cities, where the materialistic way of life is very prominent. If a devotee follows the instructions of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, he lives in the company of the Lord. Wherever he lives, he converts that place into Vṛndāvana and Navadvīpa. This means that materialism cannot touch him. This is the secret of success for one advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

So this is the real context of the verse, “Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa as they are given in the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In this waybecome a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.” This means the one should stay in whatever position they are in and preach Krishna Consciousness and IN THAT WAY they become a spiritual master. It does not mean that they are instructed to take disciples. There is no instruction to take any disciples in this part of the Sri Chaitanya Caritamrta.

If one is preaching by their example, like it says in the purport before, by reading Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, chanting with their families, and cooking prasadam for everyone, then they are at the front of the line in preaching and yes they are spiritual masters. But to give initiations to someone, they must have a personal specific instruction from the spiritual master.

Srila Prabhupada says,

Nobody can be self-made anything. A medical practitioner, he cannot become self-made, that “I have studied all the medical books in my home.” No. “Have you ever gone to the medical college and taken instruction from the bona fide teachers?” Then, if you have got the certificate, then you are medical practitioner. Similarly, bona fide guru means he must be authorized by the superior guru. Just like Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra’ ei deśa [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. He must receive the order from the superior. And the superior must be bona fide. Then he’s bona fide, not self-made” (Vrindaban, Oct 31st 1972)

No one can become a self-made diksha guru just from this quote of Lord Chaitanya, that “everyone become guru”. Lord Chaitanya gave a specific instruction to Kurma “don’t speak like that” when he was saying he wanted to give up everything and travel with Him. Kurma wanted to be “self-made”. He wanted to go by his own idea. Lord Chaitanya says, “don’t speak like that”. He says just stay here and chant Hare Krishna and read Gita and give out prasadam and in THAT WAY become a spiritual master. Otherwise what is the meaning of Diksha Guru? What is the distinction? There are different kinds of Gurus: siksha, dikshna, mother, teacher, speaker: what are the distinctions? There are distinctions.

That is a different subject, but at least this one verse should be taken in context. As I quoted before, Srila Prabhupada writes, ” “I want that you all my advanced disciples become very bold preachers and take up this task of saving the fallen humanity from its worst condition of sinfulness.” (8/16/74) This is the same instruction. Just give up your “own ideas” and surrender on to what your guru wants. In the same manner Krishna says to Arjuna, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” In other words, just listen and stop making your own “varieties” and go out and chant Hare Krishna and read Gita and make prasadam and in that way “teach” others. So many Prabhupada disciples want to become like Kurma and do what THEY WANT TO DO for Srila Prabhupada, but hardly anyone wants to DO WHAT SRILA PRABHUPADA wants them to do. Srila Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya want them to just make it simple, BE WHO YOU ARE, Chant Hare Krishna, Read Bhagavatam, make Prasada and speak to others about what you heard : Sravanam Kirtanam. It is a simple process.

Your Servant, Gadadhara das (Berkeley, CA)

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