The Divinity of the Guru

śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year 6, Issue 12
Posted: 21 January 2014

Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Inspired by and under the guidance of
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja

The Divinity of the Guru

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda

First published in the
Harmonist, August 24, 1933

(Portrait of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda)

Theism necessarily implies the distinctive personality of the guru. If there is to be any real distinction between God and man, there must also be a means for making this distinction possible. This third entity is the guru. He is the means.

There is another line of argument also by which the personality of the guru can be entertained. This line of argument is concerned with the nature of worship. If God and man exist separately from one another, it becomes also necessary to find out their relation to one another. This gives rise to an endless series of considerations which is represented by the conception of the divine power, or śakti. Man is subservient. God is absolute master.

Absolute subserviency is the characteristic quality of power. Between subserviency and mastership, there should be an unbridgeable gulf of separation, one being separated from the other by the difference of functioning. But as nature abhors a vacuum, the very basis of thinking requires us to find out some principle of intermediacy between the two. Guru, or the principle of this intermediacy, is absolute master. The guru is the divine giver of the efficient as well as the material relationship between the master and his relative subservients.

In his aspect of absolute servant, the guru is the source of all relative subservient entities. He is the cause of the soul of man and of all spiritual entities by whose help the soul of man is enabled to serve God in and through the guru. In his aspect as master, the guru allows or disallows man the service of God. But guru is never disallowed the service of God.

All these considerations have to be carefully kept in one’s mind if one is to approach with the proper attitude of enlightened faith and submission, the subject of the divinity of the guru.

Guru – A Double Personality

Let us now turn to the concrete Reality Himself. The guru himself has a double personality. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is served by Śrī Rādhikā and Śrī Baladeva. There is a distinction between the services rendered to Śrī Kṛṣṇa by Śrī Baladeva and Śrī Rādhikā. The aspect of Śrī Baladeva is subordinate to Śrī Rādhikā. The aspect of the mastership of Śrī Baladeva has no authority over Śrī Rādhikā. Śrī Baladeva has His master’s jurisdiction over entities that are collectively called jīva. Over the realm of the jīvas, Śrī Baladeva rules with absolute supremacy. This realm is divided into the lower half of the absolute sphere, Vaikuṇṭha, and the shadow of the absolute sphere, namely the mundane world.

Śrī Baladeva is the object of worship of the entities of Vaikuṇṭha. His domination is not directly exercised over the concerns of the mundane world. The creation and government of the mundane world are functions of distinctive, divine persons emanating from Him as His plenary portions. They are known as the puruṣas. The puruṣas are the transcendent creators and immanent sustainers of the mundane world. There is also no direct contact even between Them and this mundane world.

Māyā – The Principle of Limitation and Ignorance

That aspect of the power of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which serves as the principle of limitation and ignorance enshrouding the jīva, is called māyā. Individual souls emanating from Śrī Baladeva are permitted the option of being dissociated from Śrī Baladeva by the exercise of their freedom of will. Jīvas who choose to be separated from Śrī Baladeva are, by the will of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, deprived of the sight of Śrī Baladeva by the contrivance of the deluding potency which functions in this mundane world.

Māyā means ‘that by which things are capable of being measured’. In the realm of Vaikuṇṭha, things are not measurable by the faculties of the jīvas. It is only on the plane of māyā in this phenomenal world that it is possible for the jīva to comprehend anything by his unaided faculties. But such comprehension is useless for the real purposes of the jīva in as much as it does not give him access to the real entity of anything.

The subject and object, as well as the process of knowledge in this world, are a contrivance of the deluding energy for enabling jīvas who are averse to Śrī Baladeva to have a plane of existence that is congenial for the practice of their aversion to Śrī Baladeva.

Those souls who are not with Śrī Baladeva are necessarily against Śrī Baladeva. The faculty of reason in man is capable of going against itself. But as soon as it chooses to do so, it cannot also claim to be reasonable.

The Absolute Will

The ultimate reality is the personality who manifests Himself as the Absolute Will behind the activities of the plenary, undivided cognitive principle. The operations of the cognitive principle in the jīva tend to lose all cognitive value as soon as they cease to consciously manifest the divine will behind them. They cease to manifest the guiding hand behind them as soon as the jīva chooses to become unreasonable.

It is not possible for the cognitive faculty of the jīva to function on its own unguided initiative. In other words, the will in man is not the master. The will in man is a will to choose to act. It is not free to encroach upon the equal freedom of choice of any other individual. When it chooses to suppose that it is the master and desires to behave accordingly, it is degraded to the level of limited choice that prevails in this world. But the unreasonable mastership that it thus chooses to have is a contradiction in terms. It is not really mastership but the deliberate stunting of itself by the sheer desire for the commission of suicide. It is malice against oneself and against all entities. It is the height of folly and the lowest depth of possible degradation for reason in the jīva.

It is not possible for the individual to avoid this degradation till it agrees to submit to the guidance of the Absolute Will in all sincerity. The jīva is not the source of his own being. He does not become the source by merely wishing to be so, against the dictates of his own reason and for no other purpose except to do harm to himself and to others. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, fortunately for us, knows full well how to deal with such meaningless perversity, without Himself ceasing to be perfectly reasonable.

Instead of allowing the perverse soul to function in Vaikuṇṭha, Śrī Kṛṣṇa permits him to choose this mundane realm for his permanent place of residence and the congenial sphere of his malicious activities. But as the soul can never be master, he is deluded into the belief that it is quite open to him to aspire for the domination of this world. He is constantly tempted to accept the offer of the Tantalus’ cup of unlimited enjoyment of the so-called mundane falicities. These felicities themselves are proverbially, and are doled out to the miserable exiles from the realm of real felicity by a power that has no intention of serving such unworthy masters. So instead of the promised domination of the world, man only receives the empty punishment of constantly broken promises. He becomes in fact the slave of māyā and not her master. But he always chooses to suppose that he is her present and would be master.

* A Pythagorean cup (also known as a Pythagoras cup, a Greedy Cup or a Tantalus cup) is a form of drinking cup that forces its user to imbibe only in moderation. (Wikipedia)

Objection to the Guru – an Objection to Fundamental Individuality

The principle of the individual is co-ultimate with the Absolute Integer. There is room for both in the final position. Any doctrine that tends to contentless monism is a denial of the fundamental principle of intelligence.

The proper employment of the faculty of judgement that happens to be the prerogative that distinguishes man from all other entities of this world is to seek to be acquainted with the nature of distinction in respect of function, as between the Integer and the individual soul, the jīva, instead of seeking to perversely ignore the existence of the distinction. There would be no necessity of exercising one’s judgement for any rational purpose if the only object of such functioning was to find the effective method of committing the final suppression of this meaningless faculty by the attainment of the state of complete mergence in the One.

The objection to the guru is at the bottom of an objection to the fundamental nature of individuality. If there is distinction between the individual soul and the Absolute Integer also, in the final position there is necessarily room also for the respective functions of both. The Integer is both master and servant. The function of the Absolute as servant is the function of the guru. As servant, the Absolute is the stay of the functions of all individual souls. The individual soul is an eternal, dissociable infinitesimal potency of the Absolute as servant and not as master. As part of the potency of the absolute servant, the individual soul is also servant of the divine servant.

The form of the Absolute as servant is necessarily distinct from his form as master. We thus get the specific personality of the guru, identical with that of the Absolute as servant. The absolute nature of the further distinction between the function of one individual and another is established by the fact of their associated co-existence in the function of the divine service of the guru.

From The Harmonist, August 24 1933
Published in Rays of The Harmonist,
Volume 2, Number 2, Kartika 1998


Rays of The Harmonist On-line, Year 6, Issue 12, "The Divinity of the Guru" by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.

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