Gurus of Different Levels

by Puru Das Adhikari

The following is an interview with Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayan Maharaj in which he clarifies certain points pertaining to guru-tattva. The questions asked to him were condensed from a series of questions presented by rtvik proponents. By his straightforward and penetrating answers he establishes that gurus are not all of the same level and their respective potencies will be determined according to certain symptoms which are evident to a discriminating disciple. He warns herein that a disciple who truly wishes to progress in his spiritual life must be very careful to avoid connection with a guru who has personal motives, and if this becomes discovered at some point by the disciple, then he must without delay give up his connection to such false guru and seek the connection of a truly qualified guru.

Q: How does a disciple relate with his guru in aprakata-lila (the guru’s entrance into the eternal pastimes of Krsna in the spiritual world)? Like Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s disciples, how can they relate with him since he is now in aprakata-lila?

Srila Narayana Maharaja: A disciple should think, "He is my Gurudeva ,he is eternal, he is still here." When we pray for anything, he will inspire us. HE is eternal, everywhere, in our hearts also. He has not left his body. His body, his everything, is transcendental. So don’t worry. Our relationship with him is the same as it was.

Q: Is the example of Sri Madhvacarya approaching Srila Vyasadeva an example of this, that a disciple can, so to speak, summon a departed acarya who has entered into aprakata-lila and request initiation from him?

Srila Narayana Maharaja: Madhvacarya was a direct disciple of Vyasadeva. When Madhvacarya was living, about 4,000 years had passed wince Vyasa disappeared form this world. However, Madhvacarya knew that Vyasadeva was still alive and that he is eternal. So he prayed to him in Badrikasrama, beseeching him, "I want to take your darsana and to be initiated by you." And when he was praying, at once Vyasadeva personally came there, and Madhvacarya presented his wish to him that he should grant him initiation. And then after that Vyasa disappeared.

So guru is like this. But those who do not understand the correct siddhanta, and are not very learned, and who have not developed their bhakti to the level of madhyama-adhikari or uttama-adhikari, cannot realize all these truths. And certainly a kanistha-adhikari is not able to realize all these things. So such persons being bewildered, may try to take help from the rtvik philosophy or some other ideology which is not our siddhanta. (editor’s note: please refer to Bhagavata Parampara article included as previous chapter of this book .)

Q: Unless the guru is an uttama-adhikari can he give the bhakti-lata-bhija? Can a kanistha-guru or madhyama —guru also give this?

Srila Narayan Maharaj: A kanistha canot give. Never. Only a madhyama-adhikari can give it. A madhyama-uttama-adhikari is capable of giving the bhakti-lata-bija.

Q: But is a kanistha or lower level madhyama able to give it?

Srila Narayan Maharaja: A kanistha cannot. But a madhyama-adhikari who knows the siddhanta and has served his Gurudeva, attaining some realization, is capable of giving. If the seed of bhakti is there in him, then he can give the seed of bhakti. If he does not have bhakti himself, how can he do this?

Q: If someone has a guru who cannot give the bhakti-lata-bija, then is that to be accepted as real initiation.?

Srila Narayan Maharaja: No, he should be changed. It is not real initiation. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that when a bhakta, a devotee, is thinking and contemplating his own situation and is asking himself, "What has my Gurudeva given? Nothing is going on. I am endeavoring to practice so much, and I am praying, but nothing is coming." Then he should realize that he has not received so much. The guru is not qualified. Then he should change his Gurudeva, and accept at least a realized madhyama-utttama vaisnava as his guru. Otherwise he should not change.

If his guru is chanting harinama and he has sraddha, and he also knows some siddhanta–not so much, but he is not fallen–then a devotee may approach his Gurudeva and request him, "Can you please be merciful? Can I take siksa from that other guru?" Then his guru will be very happy, and the guru himself will also go to him. But if he does not agree, then the disciple should understand that he does not have a qualified guru. A qualified guru will be very happy and he will tell his disciple, "You should go to that person." Like the example in Jaiva-Dharma where Raghunatha dasa Babaji, who is so highly qualified, sent his two disciples to Ropala guru Goswami in Puri to take siksa from him, even though they were very advanced. Or another example is Hrdaya Caitanya who told his disciple Sayamananda to go to Jiva Goswami. Like this, there is not harm. The qualified guru is very happy. If a guru is not instructing like this, then the disciple should understand that his guru has false ego.

Q: In this situation, which you are describing, is the bhakti-lata-bija coming form this first guru who is sincere but not so advanced, or is it coming from the uttama-guru?

Srila Narayan Maharaj: It is mixed. But the real bhakti-lata-bija will come from the second guru, the uttama-guru. If he is so qualified, and the disciple hers so much tattva form him, the real diksa will be there.

Srila Narayana Maharaja: Maybe they will fall down! If inspiration is not coming from the guru’s instructions and diksa, then the disciple should understand that the guru, being, unfaithful to his own Gurudeva, is therefore not qualified. But if he is qualified to some extent, and is not fallen, then we should go to him and we should beg his consent, his order, that, "Please, you order me and give your permission to me to go to this qualified person." He will quickly give his blessings. If he does not consent, then it should be understood that he has false ego.

Q: Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupadsa says the guru takes the disciple’s sins, papa.

Srila Narayana Maharaj: Never. The bona fide guru is qualified. He is like fire. He will burn everything away. Why will he take it himself? He will not take the fruits from the disciple’s karma. Never will he take them. He will at once, by his mercy, quickly burn all. Not, there is nothing to be confused about. But, if the guru is not qualified, if he is not tattva-jnani, or if he is a kanistha-adhikari, then he will take all the sins. A madhyama-adhikari who is at the level of madhyama-uttama, oh, he will burn everything.

Q: You say in your commentary of the Gopi-gita that if the guru takes unqualified disciples, then a consequence will be that it will ruin the guru’s bhakti. Does this refer to a lower-class guru?

Srila Narayan Maharaj: Yes. It means that he wants so many disciples. He is not qualified, and actually not guru of that higher class. Caitanya Mahaprabhu made the whole world His disciples by instructing "Oh you should chant!" We are doing like so and to some we are giving so much inspiration.

Q: Also they use the argument that unless one is on the platform of uttma oneself, one cannot recognize another uttama. They say, "it takes one to know one". How can one recognize?

Srila Narayana Maharaj: there should be a greed for bhakti, and regarding those who are not helping to develop their greed, the disciple should think, "My guru is not qualified". I should go to a qualified guru.

Q: How can the disciple get inspiration?

Srila Narayan Maharaj: He will get true inspiration and inspiration for the activities of sravanam,kirtanam and visnu-smaranam from a bonafide guru. If a so-called guru is not some what realized, he cannot give a seed of bhakti, because he has no developed bhakti himself. How can he give? So he should be changed.,

Gaura Prermanande!

[Originally published 05/10/99 on VNN]

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