śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!
Year-1 & 14, Number 8
Posted: 20 September 2008 & 26 September 2021
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Inspired by and under the guidance of
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Who is a True Guru?
by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda
Who is a true guru? It is he who is constantly engaged in the service of Śrī Hari. And who is the truly learned man? It is he who, in the words of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is well conversant with actual knowledge of the jīva’s bondage and his deliverance from it (C.f. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 11.19.41).
We should only accept as our guru he who employs all of his time, cent-per-cent, in God’s service. Otherwise we will fail miserably by following him. Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta has instructed us: “A true guru teaches his disciple through his own behaviour and practice. He cannot teach dharma who does not abide by it himself.”
The Śrutis instruct us, “One who seeks true knowledge of tat – that Supreme Being – should gather the necessary articles for initiation and approach a guru who is conversant in the Vedas and steeped in realization of Brahman – the Supreme Spirit” (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, 1.2.12). This instruction has also been given in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.21): “One who seeks his highest well-being should surrender himself to a guru who is well-versed in the imports of the Vedas, who has full realization of Parabrahma and who has thereby become the shelter of true peace.” Neither platform-speakers, who are but skilled in giving speeches, yet who conduct themselves improperly, nor professional priests can be gurus.
One who does not stay constantly engaged in hari-bhajana (devotional service to Śrī Hari) will be anxious to take up other engagements on the strength of śrī nāma and will thus risk committing the severe aparādha, or offence, of utilizing śrī nāma in sinful affairs. Moreover, one who acts in the capacity of guru for a salary or according to a contract cannot be a guru, nor can one who reads the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam blindly. First of all, refrain from approaching such professional priests and platform-speakers. Observe whether or not they fully devote their time to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. For one who is steeped or accomplished in realization of Parabrahma, one’s full time is occupied with service to God.
From whom should we hear the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam? We should hear and learn the Bhāgavatam from a true Vaiṣṇava, for it cannot emanate from the mouth of one who is not a bhāgavata, or true devotee. Pretending to ably recite it just leads others astray. He who does so is himself deceived and as such, deceives others. How can the Bhāgavatam, which is not different from Śrī Bhagavān, really play on the tongues of the professional readers who pose as conversant scholars when reading it before others, but who have no true devotion to Śrī Bhagavān due to being engaged in worldly enjoyment? On the plea of discussing the Bhāgavatam, they simply gratify their own senses instead of the senses of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
He who is anxious for his true well-being should never come in contact with such professional readers and thereby court his own downfall, while falsely believing that he will truly be benefited by accepting them as his gurus and hearing from them as though he were their disciple. How can someone who is busy with the maintenance of his wife and children; who is fully devoted to his desire for worldly enjoyments, which arise out of illusion; and who tries to employ God, the highest Entity worthy of adoration and service, in supplying him fuel for the fire of those enjoyments; act as jagad-guru, or the true instructor of all people?
What do we observe in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and in the conduct and preaching of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His devotees? Those who foster within their hearts fear, affliction, illusion, sensual desires, greed, and feelings of frustration in relation to their bodies, wealth, friends and so on due to their attachment to some object other than God, have not surrendered themselves to God. Such undedicated individuals cannot advise others to surrender to God. Even if they give verbal instructions, their preaching, which is bereft of any practical examples from their own conduct, is ineffective.
Only a mahābhāgavata (exalted devotee of God) who has no worldly possession or attachment, and who has sincerely surrendered himself to Kṛṣṇa and exclusively serves Him twenty-four hours a day can legitimately occupy the ācārya’s seat.
Adapted from The Gauḍīya, Volume 24, Number 11
CC-BY-SA Rays of The Harmonist No.19 (Gaur Purnima 2009)