Should One Accept Disciples?
by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada
Answer: We must be in sadhu-sanga at every moment. I am weak. Without sadhu-sanga I cannot possibly save myself. If I remain far away from sadhu-sanga, then I will fall pray to the ill-mentality that “I am the master.” If we do not live in accordance with the instructions of the sadhu or the guru, then we will be plunged into great calamity. The moment we are without shelter, maya will capture us. Consequently, we will roam here and there in this material world as a servant of maya.
Question 2: How is one delivered from the cycle of material existence (samsara)?
Answer: Without the mercy of Bhagavan, no one can ever be delivered from material bondage. We are the eternally purchased slaves of Krsna. As soon as we forget this, we must become the slaves of maya. Only service to Bhagavan constitutes bhakti. The desire for sense gratification is not bhakti (abhakti); it is entanglement in material existence. The only way to be delivered from this disastrous material existence is to hear krsna-katha from Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas, accompanied by self-surrender, submissive inquiry and a service attitude. By hearing hari-katha with affection (priti), the tendency to get entangled in material existence will come to an end.
Question 3: Should one accept disciples?
Answer: Without becoming a suddha-bhakta* or a mukta (liberated soul), a person should not accept disciples. First, he should become a disciple himself by taking shelter of a bona fide guru, and he should also hear hari-katha from his lips. Then in his own life he should practise all he has heard from Sri Guru. Thereafter, by humbly performing kirtana – that is, repeating to others what he has heard – gradually he may also become a guru himself.
It is self-deception to think “I will intentionally remain laghu (insignificant) forever.” One must become guru.** This means one has to become a true devotee of Krsna, fully engaging all one’s senses in service to Krsna, at every moment.
This does not necessarily mean that one must accept disciples. Still, by the desire of Bhagavan, some suddha-bhaktas impart instructions for the welfare of the people in general. They are devoid of any selfish motive in doing so. Their purpose is to make those who are laghu (insignificant) become guru (significant); to make those averse to Bhagavan inclined towards Him; and to make everyone a devotee of Krsna.
* One of the definitions of suddha-bhakta given by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada is one who is free from the desire for wealth, women and fame.
** A literal definition for guru is heavy, or weighty with significance. In other words, to perform significant service to Krsna, one must accept heavy responsibility.
Question 4: Is Krsna the wealth of the guru?
Answer: Srila Gurudeva is the proprietor of Bhagavan. Bhagavan Sri Krsna is the wealth of Sri Gurudeva, so only Sri Guru can give us Bhagavan. It is solely by the mercy of Sri Guru that one will attain Krsna’s mercy and have darsana of Him.
Question 5: What does “darsana of Bhagavan” mean?
Answer: To have darsana of Bhagavan means cent-per-cent engagement of the senses in the service of Godhead. In other words, it means to serve Bhagavan with all of one’s senses throughout the twenty-four hours of the day. To be thus engaged is in fact to be established in atma-dharma (the constitutional function of the soul) and is actual bhagavat-darsana. Internal and external sphurti (transcendental vision) of Krsna, which arises by Sri Guru’s mercy as well as by the influence of one’s bhajana, is indeed darsana of Krsna.
Question 6: Is it especially necessary to have antar-darsana (internal darsana)?
Answer: Certainly. To relinquish external vision – vision aimed at enjoying this world – along with the physical forms therein, it is especially necessary to have internal vision. Someone who does not have internal vision will surely have external vision, in which he sees everything as meant for his own enjoyment. Indeed, external vision means seeing maya, or illusion.
When someone is extremely eager to see the contents of the letter, he won’t waste his time staring at the external envelope. If we can perceive the whole universe as engaged in the service of Bhagavan, our external vision of it will be dispelled.
“Bhagavan pervades the whole universe; everyone’s heart is His place of residence. He constantly resides in the temple of my heart to bestow upon me the opportunity to serve Him.”
When this realization intensifies and becomes strong, we will see the whole world as His residence, just as we see our heart – atmavat manyate jagat. We will perceive the presence of our worshipable Lord everywhere. At that time there will be no question of having bahir-darsana, external vision; itara-darsana, separate vision from the interest of Krsna; laghu-darsana, insignificant vision; visva-darsana, objective vision of the phenomenal universe; and so forth. Only then will we perceive the whole world to be full of transcendental happiness.
Question 7: Can I protect myself?
Answer: Never. To think, “I will protect myself,” is a fiendish, non-devotee mentality. As soon as this type of ill-thought comes, one is endangered.
“Sri Krsna is my sole protector. What do I have to fear?” We should exclusively imbibe this exalted conception, just as Bhakta Prahlada Maharaja did. If we become indifferent to the narrations and instructions of Sri Bhagavan, then soon after, our reliance on Him will lessen. As a result of this, our various ill-thoughts and our false-egos would place us in a calamitous situation.
We will constantly busy ourselves in service to Bhagavan without wasting even a single moment. We have to serve, remaining exclusively in the association of sadhus. By constantly remaining in such sadhu-sanga, our aptitude for service will continuously be enhanced.
Bhagavan fulfils every desire of His surrendered bhaktas without fail, and He never rejects them – krsna sei satya kare, yei mage bhrtya [Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 15.166]. Only Sri Bhagavan has the ability to protect us by giving us shelter. Other than He, no one else has such power. With such resolute faith, we can become free from fear and anxiety, and become happy and successful. Krsna is the embodiment of auspiciousness; and therefore, if we have complete faith in His nature to bestow auspiciousness, we will certainly attain such auspiciousness. Words cannot express the kind of great auspiciousness that is obtained by surrendering fully at the lotus feet of Bhagavan.
Question 8: Who will be delivered?
Answer: It is only when we do not engage ourselves in service to Bhagavan that other thoughts, characteristic of the enjoying mentality, grasp us. The embodiment of compassion, Sri Krsna, is always ready to protect us from this danger, but how will we be protected if we do not entirely depend upon Him? As the guru, Krsna protects the jiva. Sri Guru is the embodiment of Krsna’s mercy. Sri Gurudeva, the representative of Sri Krsna, descends to this world to deliver the jiva from material existence and bring him back to Krsna. Only those fortunate seekers of the Truth who whole-heartedly accept the mercy of Sri Gurudeva can be delivered from this material existence and enter into the abode of transcendental peace and happiness.
Srila Prabhupadera Upadesamrta is a compilation of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada’s instructions in question-and-answer form.