The Role of Sri Guru in the Gaudiya Sampradaya

Mar 3 2010 - Krishna Talk 107

It is said in the revealed scriptures that to understand the very meaning of religion, self-realization and to know God, one has to approach a bona-fide spiritual master through the proper process.

tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit panih srotriyam brahma-nistham

In order to realize the truth, one should take gifts in hand and approach a spiritual master who is learned and fixed in the Absolute Truth. (Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12)

A guru or acarya heads a certain sampradaya and brings down the knowledge of the revealed scriptures from the previous acaryas. He practices according to his spiritual master’s instructions and distributes those instructions through his disciples to deliver the fallen souls in this material world.

acinoti yah sastrartham acare sthapayatyapi
svayam acarate yasmad acarya stena kirtitah

The acarya is thus called because he has studied and understood the meaning of the scriptures, he establishes this meaning in the behavior of others and he practices what he preaches. (Manu-samhita)

But unfortunately most of the spiritual masters at present, being forced by the enjoying spirit of material nature, forget their real position in society and fail to propagate the true conception of religion or the highest engagement of the jivas as seva – service unto the lotus feet of Lord Krsna as advised in all Vedic literatures. Therefore, the true conception of religion has been almost totally neglected in general religious views.

Some of them, coming from bona-fide and reputed disciplic successions, are well versed in Vedic injunctions and practice the renounced order as pontiffs of mathas established by the founders of their sampradaya. Yet they perform various religious activities prescribed in the Vedic literature for material benefits, in the name of devotion. They run educational institutions in the name of distributing knowledge for the benefit of the general public, and promote material education, which is the cause of degradation in society. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says:

jada vidya jata, mayara vaibhava tomara bhajane badha
moha janamiya, anitya samsare jivake karaye gadha

Material knowledge is the great power of the illusory energy and an impediment to pure devotional service. It creates an illusory attachment to samsara and turns a human being into an ass. (Saranagati 2)

Acting as religious advisers to the general public and to popular social personalities, such as business people, politicians and others who occupy high positions by their professions in the society, they take part in mass religious processions with other religious leaders to establish the strength of a particular religion and construct temples at the places which are disputed by other religions. Thus they become famous as religious leaders and become the heroes and saviors of that particular creed. To maintain their position and fame in society they join hands with politicians and un-bonafide self-appointed religious leaders. Less intelligent people consider them as religious authorities and their words as scriptural conclusions. They become famous in the spiritual field also for their various literary works on the Vedic scriptures by writing essays, and commentaries. Therefore people in general consider them enlightened with spiritual knowledge. However, they fail to invoke any kind of desire to serve Lord Krsna in pure devotion within the hearts of their disciples, nor in the hearts of people in general.

Externally they may appreciate the efforts of acaryas belonging to the same sampradaya who have genuinely propagated the true conception of religion and who became extremely successful in their spiritual mission – but they hesitate to recognize them as part of their sampradaya for they are not born brahmanas. Being extremely envious of their success, they criticize their pure devotional activities and their accepting disciples irrespective of caste, creed and nationality.

Some of the so-called gurus and jagad-gurus belonging to other sampradayas propagate impersonalism. They spend their whole life learning the Vedic literatures in order to become expert in interpreting them, indulging in arguments to exhibit their command over the philosophy they are following. They read and encourage their disciples to read Sankaracarya’s commentary on the Vedanta-sutras and Upanisads. They believe that the process of perfection is to accumulate knowledge from the Vedanta. By preaching the impersonal doctrine they misguide the people from the true conception of religion. They consider bhakti as knowledge. For them, knowing the supreme Brahman is the ultimate goal of life and they worship all demigods as supreme – the sun-god, Vinayaka, Siva, Goddess Durga, Visnu etc. By fire sacrifices, chanting Vedic hymns and performing other ritualistic activities they convince people that such rituals can pacify the demigods and lead to a happy life in this world and the next.

In this way they misguide the people in general without revealing to them the true conclusions of the scriptures – that Lord Krsna is the Supreme God and all other demigods are His servants, and that chanting the Holy Name of Krsna is superior to chanting the Vedic hymns. They fail to establish the true relationship between the Lord and the jiva and also fail to establish the eternal relationship between Sri Guru and the disciple. Lord Brahma says:

sreyah-srtim bhaktim udasya te vibho
klisyanti ye kevala-bodha-labdhaye
tesam asau klesala eva sisyate
nanyad yatha sthula tusavaghatinam

My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of knowledge or in speculation, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired results. A person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, and one who engages simply in speculative knowledge cannot achieve the desired result of self-realization. The only gain is trouble. (Bhag: 10.14.4)

Then there are some so-called yogis who unscrupulously propagate the process of meditation and conduct public programs and perform and teach the yogic activities such as pranayama, astanga-yoga, asanas etc. and chant certain mantras that are not authorized to be chanted in public. Teaching some breathing and physical exercises they give false assurances of happiness, long life, strength and better health. Some so-called sadhus in the name of devotion unscrupulously conduct sat-sangas and attract people by chanting hymns from the Puranas, Upanisads, Bhagavatam, Ramayana, Bhagavad-gita etc. melodiously with musical instruments. With scholarly expertise they explain their commentaries poetically and exhibit artificial devotion towards the Lord. These two classes of gurus become very famous and materially wealthy by collecting money in exchange for their performances.

The most dangerous are those self-made mahatmas, or god-men, who undertake charitable activities such as running educational institutions and giving free material education, distributing free food and cloth, providing shelter, giving free medical assistance by running hospitals in the name of service to human kind. They propagate that service to mankind is superior to all spiritual activities and preach their own philosophy that has no scriptural validity. Lazy and foolish people worship them as God.

These unscrupulous personalities cheat the people in general by showing them some cheap magic and convince them that they have some mystic powers. By this they attract the attention of wealthy and powerful people in society, make them their followers and collect money from them in exchange for blessings to be successful in the field of their profession. Con men worship them for material benefits and the higher class worship them for their blessings. In this way, by keeping them always in illusion, they offer sense enjoyment to them and pacify their own material senses by accumulating wealth, name and fame.

prayena veda tad idam na mahajano’yam
devya vimohita-matir bata mayayalam
trayyam jadi-krta-matir madhu-puspitayam
vaitanike mahati karmani yujyamanah

The great mahatmas or mahajanas in the estimation of fruitive workers of this material world, and such advocates of religiosity, do not know actually what is meant by a mahatma engaged in devotional service. Such material mahatmas are upset by the influence of the illusory external energy of Lord Visnu manifested in the three modes of material nature. And for this reason they are unable to estimate the worth of devotional service and are engaged in the network of fruitive activities for material benefit. The flowery language of the Vedas such as Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva bewilders the intelligence of such mahatmas. They are captivated by the material interpretations. Such mahajanas and mahatmas in spite of being worshipped by the people in general are not engaged in transcendental loving service of the personality of Godhead Lord Krsna. (Bhag. 6.3.25)

According to the results in their fulfillment, those that are materially educated, spiritually learned, pious, impious, high class or low class, put their faith in a particular guru or in a number of gurus. Therefore, due to their undetermined faith (avyavasayatmika buddhih) they are unable to recognize or distinguish a pure devotee or a true saint whose only ambition is to deliver the jivas from the miseries of the material nature. They consider pure devotees to be on the same platform as the fallen gurus and are never able to purify themselves. All the water contained in the lakes and oceans of the world cannot change the blackness of coal. It can only be transformed by fire. In the same way it is only by the blazing fire of the divine instructions from the sad-guru (pure devotee) that one can be purified of material contamination. Only then can one be free from the clutches of the witch of material illusion and able to distinguish the real guru from the so-called guru found in the different sectors of society.

krsna-bhakta niskama ataeva santa
bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami sakali asanta

Because a devotee of Lord Krsna is desireless he is peaceful. Fruitive workers desire material enjoyment, jnanis desire liberation and yogis desire material opulence. Therefore they are all lusty and cannot be peaceful. (Cc. Madhya 19.149)

The scriptures always recommend us to approach a bona-fide divine master from a Vaisnava sampradaya, because it is said:

sat-karma-nipuno vipro mantra-tantra-visaradah
avaisnavo gurur na syad vaisnavah sva-paco guruh

A brahmana can be expert in mantras, rituals and six kinds of brahminical works – performing and teaching fire sacrifice, studying and teaching the scriptures, giving and receiving charity – but if he is not a Vaisnava, he cannot be a guru. On the other hand, a Vaisnava, even if born in a family of untouchables, may become a guru. (Padma Purana)

Among Vaisnava sampradayas, the Gaudiya sampradaya originating from Lord Brahma, stands highest for practicing and preaching the gist of scriptural conclusions. It teaches us the true conception of guru-tattva and the true conception of religion through the bona-fide disciplic succession. The instructions of a Vaisnava guru are non-different than the scriptural injunctions. The guru engages us in to the topmost path of purification of bhakti to achieve the highest goal of human life – causeless and unconditioned service unto the lotus feet of Radha-Govinda.

etavan eva loke’smin pumsam dharmah parah smrtah
bhakti-yogo bhagavati tan-nama grahanadibhih

The highest duty of a human being in this world is to be engaged in the loving service of the Personality of Godhead and to chant His Holy Names. (Bhag: 6.3.22)

It is said in the scriptures that the Holy Name is meant for counteracting the contaminations of the illusory energy of this material nature in the age of Kali. So it is recommended that every ritualistic activity should be performed with the chanting ofthe Holy Name:

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Otherwise ritualistic activities are incomplete without the Holy Name.

mantratas tantratas chidram desa-kalarha vastutah
sarvam karoti nischidram anusankirtanam tava

There may be discrepancies in pronouncing the mantras and observing the regulative principles, and, moreover, there may be discrepancies in regard to time, place, person and paraphernalia. But when your Lordship’s Name is chanted, everything becomes faultless. (Bhag. 8.23.16)

Lord Krsna, as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, inaugurated the congregational chanting of the Holy Name in this world about 500 years ago along with His associates Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Advaita Prabhu, Pandita Gadadhara Prabhu and Srivasa Pandita Prabhu. Lord Krsna, descending on this earth as a pure devotee in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, showed the example of a pure devotee and Sri Guru to be followed by his successors.

ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
mama vartmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah

As all surrender unto Me I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in every respect. (Gita. 4.11)

The guru in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya is worshipped as the Lord Himself because he is enlightened by the divine knowledge of the Lord. He represents the Absolute Truth and distributes transcendental knowledge to deliver the jivas of this world from the miseries of material energy.

Therefore, Sri Guru in the Gaudiya sampradaya, although the eternal servant of Lord Caitanya, is always to be respected as much as the Lord Himself because the spiritual master is the personality who exhibits the nature of Mahaprabhu. The Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya accepts the spiritual master in terms of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva – simultaneously one with and different from the Personality of Godhead Lord Krsna

prema-dhama-devam eva naumi gaurasundaram

At roadsides, temples and sanctuaries He would chant in sweet tunes, ‘Krsna, krsna, krsna, krsna, krsna, krsna hey!’ Sometimes carried away by some indescribable divine exultation, He would sing ‘Rama! Rama!’ and dance sweetly in ecstatic rhythm. He would deliver one and all, irrespective of time, place or circumstances, by magnanimously inducing them to chant the Holy names of Lord Krsna. I sing with joy the unending glories of my golden Lord Gauranga-sundara; the divine abode of pure love. (Prema-dhama-deva Stotram 22)

Chanting loudly and dancing on the streets, Mahaprabhu and His associates, distributed the Holy Name to this world as the yuga-dharma (the prescribed religion of this age) to be eternally followed by His successors in the future. He predicted that one day it would be spread to all the corners of the world.

The yuga-dharma which was inaugurated by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is being carried out through disciplic succession coming down from Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada and Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, who dedicated his whole life to fight against all misconceptions to re-establish the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda as the supreme, establishing Gaudiya Mathas all over India and engaging his disciples in preaching the message of Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavatam extensively all around the world.

One of his chief disciples, Jagad-guru A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, executing the order of his Gurudeva and empowered by Lord Nityananda Prabhu, fulfilled the desire of Caitanya Mahaprabhu by miraculously spreading His message throughout the world and distributing the Holy Name everywhere.

guruvajnam sirasi dharyamsaktyavesa svarupine
hare krsneti mantrena pascatya-pracya-tarine

Taking the word of his Guru upon his head, he became empowered by Lord Nityananda Prabhu to act as a saktyavesa-avatara. He distributed the Hare Krsna maha-mantra all over the eastern and western world delivering all fallen souls.

tara pradhana sisya-jana, svami narasingha nama
patita janete daya-dhama

Srila Jagad-guru Svami Bhakti Gaurava Narasingha Maharaja is one of Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada’s dear-most disciple and a reservoir of compassion for all fallen souls.

Carrying out the mission of Mahaprabhu according to the orders of his Gurudeva, our Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Gaurava Narasingha Maharaja, is now constantly engaged in distributing the nectar of the Holy Name in this world and enlightening us through his transcendental teachings. He is protecting those who have taken the shelter of his lotus feet from the darkness of ignorance caused by the apa-siddhanta propagated by caste-gurus, pasandimahatmas’ and artificial fruitive workers. He is illuminating the sky of spiritual realization like the full moon – chasing away the darkness of spiritual misconception. For those sincere people seeking true spiritual guidance, his divine instructions are enough to free one from all material miseries and gain the highest wealth of service unto the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

ekas-candras tamohanti
na ca tarah sahasrasah

If there is one moon in the sky, that is sufficient for illumination. There is no need for millions of stars.