After the Disappearance of the Guru

Dec 2 2000 - Krishna Talk 10
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

(This article is adapted from a lecture given by Swami B. G. Narasingha Maharaja on the tirubhava anniversary of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, October 31,2000 at Radha Damodara Temple, Sri Vrndavana Dham.)

Question: What are the types of disciples who become manifest after the disappearance of the guru?

Answer: There are gradations and sub-gradations of all things, but basically the disciples of the guru manifest in three main categories: kanistha, madhyama, and uttama. The gradation in the development of sraddha (faith) may be taken as the basic differentiating factor in these three types of disciples.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple has very little sraddha–his faith in the instruction and spiritual teachings of the guru is very meager and he has no faith in the Vaishnavas.

maha-prasade govinde nama-brahmani vaisnave
svalpa-punya-vatam rajan visvaso naiva jayate

"For those who have amassed very few pious activities, their faith in maha-prasad, in Sri Govinda, in the Holy Name and in the Vaishnavas is never born."

The kanistha-adhikari disciple worships the physical form of his gurudeva and may shout "Jaya Prabhupada!" at the top of his lungs, but such glorification of the guru is lip deep only, because the kanistha-adhikari disciple has no proper service attitude, faith, or surrender.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple proclaims his gurudeva to be the only bona fide guru. Having rejected the ontological position of Srila Rupa Goswami as the Acharya of the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu the kanistha-adhikari disciple thinks, "Because my gurudeva is the "Founder-acharya," the efficacy of the guru-parampara is no longer applicable. All other branches and sub-branches of the guru-parampara are all rendered useless."

The kanistha-adhikari disciple thinks that his gurudeva is Absolute in all circumstances–he is unable to understand and properly harmonize the relative and Absolute statements of the guru.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple has no subjective realization of his gurudeva and he does not know anything of the ontological position of his gurudeva in terms of guru-varga and aprakrta-lila. He is materially attached to the formal institution of his gurudeva but he is lacking in siddhanta or philosophical understanding of the truths (tattvas) concerning the Absolute Truth. For all his endeavors the kanistha-adhikari disciple simply becomes absorbed in society consciousness but not God consciousness.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple lacks proper discrimination and he is thus offensive to pure Vaishnavas. He considers his gurudeva as non-different from the formal institution, non-different from his murti, and non-different from his books but he cannot recognize his guru on an internal plane. The kanistha-adhikari disciple knows that, "Everything is in Prabhupada’s books" but he does not know what that "thing" really is.

On certain holy days the kanistha-adhikari disciple expresses his mundane sentiments of how his gurudeva saved him from material life but the kanistha-adhikari disciple cannot follow even the four regulative principles. Sometimes however the kanistha-adhikari disciple does rigidly follow the four regulative principles but he does not follow the internal principles of pure devotional service, nor does he have any capacity to recognize the flow of divinity.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple measures everything from the external or relative point of view. The kanistha-adhikari disciple prides himself in external achievements of acquiring land, constructing buildings, amassing money and gathering many followers, but he has no concern for or understanding of inner spiritual life. The kanistha-adhikari devotee is a bahiranga-bhakta, an external devotee.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple sometimes thinks that he has become a rasika-bhakta and tries to relish the mellow of the higher lilas of the Supreme Lord. But due to his lack of genuine qualifications, the kanistha-adhikari disciple displeases his spiritual master and creates a disturbance in the eternal lilas of the Lord.

Due to management propensities, expertise in business, or often by default (time spent in the mission) the kanistha-adhikari disciple rises to a position of prominence and authority within the institution of his gurudeva. He then creates havoc and great disruption by turning the spiritual mission of his gurudeva into a mundane institution for profit, adoration, and distinction.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple sometimes occupies the living quarters of his gurudeva as his own. He strives for more and more control over the institution. He despises the spiritual advancement of his Godbrothers and he uses the money collected for devotional service to log court cases against his Godbrothers simply to further his own selfish ends.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple who is attached to women and attached to the association of women sometimes becomes guru in the institution of the spiritual master–-he then cheats his disciples by collecting donations from them simply for maintaining his material attachments.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple also sometimes takes sannyasa and becomes a guru in the institution of his gurudeva but he later gives it up and marries one of his disciples or engages in numerous other non-devotional activities. The spiritual intelligence of the kanistha-adhikari disciple is always bewildered by maya but he is nonetheless very expert in making excuses why he has failed to live up to or why he has abandoned his duty to the spiritual master.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple thinks that time and physical proximity with the guru enables one to understand the purpose of the guru. Such kanistha-adhikari disciples do not know that only faith and surrender to the guru will enable one to know the real purpose of the spiritual master. Physical proximity alone never gains one the adhikara (qualification) to understand the Absolute Truth.

yasya deve para bhaktir, yatha-deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah, prakasante mahatmanah

"Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed." (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.38)

Not understanding the true purpose of the spiritual master the kanistha-adhikari disciple sometimes returns to the university to obtain a degree. He says that if he has a Ph.D. certificate then people will take him more seriously when he speaks about the teachings of his gurudeva. The kanistha-adhikari disciple does not know that if he simply becomes a pure devotee of Krishna, then the whole world will be attentive to what he has to say.

Thus the kanistha-adhikari disciple is of no spiritual credit to the greatness of his gurudeva. Unfortunately the kanistha-adhikari disciple is an embarrassment to his gurudeva and thus he misses the opportunity of attaining love of God, prema-bhakti.

The kanistha-adhikari disciple believes that despite his not pleasing the spiritual master, the spiritual master will take him back to Godhead anyway. However, due to his many offenses the kanistha-adhikari disciple does not have the mercy of the spiritual master and thus the eligibility of his going back to home, back to Godhead is highly unlikely.

We should sincerely pray at the lotus feet of gurudeva and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu so that they may be pleased to save us from the mentality of becoming a kanistha-adhikari.

The madhyama-adhikari disciple is greatly superior to the kanistha-adhikari as he shows us proper discrimination and places great emphasis on the vani or instruction and spiritual teachings of the spiritual master. The madhyama-adhikari disciple has guru-nistha or firm faith in the guru and this is confirmed by his engaging in a strong practicing life of Krishna consciousness.

The madhyama-adhikari disciple gives preference to substance over form and thus he becomes more and more absorbed in God consciousness and free from the shackles of society consciousness and institutional considerations. Whenever it is necessary, the madhyama-adhikari disciple may sacrifice the relative consideration for the sake of the Absolute consideration.

In the beginning, the madhyama-adhikari disciple is interested to carry out the vani of his gurudeva "to the letter of the law" but he often fails to understand the "spirit of the law." An advanced madhyama-adhikari disciple, however, understands the underlying spirit of the law and thus he does not follow the law simply for law’s sake. An advanced madhyama-adhikari disciple can discriminate between relative and absolute instructions given by the spiritual master and he understands how such instructions are to be applied according to time, place and circumstances.

The madhyama-adhikari disciple realizes the non-difference of the plurality of gurus in the guru-tattva principle and seeks the association of those higher thinking (uttama) devotees of the Supreme Lord. Thus the madhyama-adhikari disciple makes spiritual advancement and he begins to manifest the personal character of one absorbed in pure devotional service.

Superior to the madhyama-adhikari disciple is the uttama-adhikari disciple, who due to his advanced faith, has fully surrendered to his gurudeva. The uttama-adhikari disciple realizes the subjective nature of the guru principle and the ontological position of his beloved gurudeva. Seeking the dust of the lotus feet of the followers of Sri Rupa Goswami as life’s ultimate goal the uttama-adhikari disciple fully pleases his spiritual master.

sri-rupanuga janera pada-padma dhara
ekanta bhavete tandera anugatya kara

Take hold of the feet of the followers of Sri Rupa Goswami and follow them with exclusive commitment." (Sri Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura)

The uttama-adhikari disciple knows that his gurudeva is present by his side at all times. The uttama-adhikari disciple experiences union is separation from his gurudeva–-he so much perceives the continuous presence of his gurudeva that he sometime feels that his gurudeva has taken possession of every atom of his existence.

The uttama-adhikari disciple tactfully avoids the association of the kanistha-adhikari disciples because it pains his heart to see their systematic destruction of the mission that their gurudeva labored so diligently to establish.

The uttama-adhikari disciple can do great benefit to the whole world because he is the abode of all good qualities and the reservoir of love of God.