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Translations of various devotional texts.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati on Guru Tattva - Selected quotes

Jagat - Sat, 18 Sep 2004 07:07:57 +0530
Although some people here are not big fans of Saraswati Thakur, I find that many of his statements are very perceptive and instructive. Here are some things that I translated a couple of years back for Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj's Vyasa Puja magazine.

The original source of these quotes is not given. They were compiled by Sri Bhakti Mayukh Bhagavata Maharaj. The edition I am using is published by Sri Bhakti Sarvasva Tirtha Maharaj of the Sri Gauranga Math in Raipur, Birbhum.


Quotations on the Guru by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati

How to find a guru?

516. How will I be able to recognize someone as a bona fide spiritual master? (page 406)

When you make judgments based on your own intelligence that such and such a person is guru, you are in fact projecting the qualities of guru on him. Such a person is never truly the guru. In such cases, you are thinking that the guru is somehow under your control, or within the purview of your sensory knowledge. When Krishna himself decides to send you someone to act as your spiritual master, that person will be manifest before you as the Mahanta Guru.


526. Who is the acharya? (page 413)

Only a devotee of the Lord who is fixed in the activities of devotional service and preaching the message of the Lord can be considered an acharya. The acharya is free and independent. He sets the perfect example of completely abandoning the company of the impious and always engaged in hearing and speaking about Krishna. One who preaches to others fearlessly and without any constraint, inducing them to similarly give up bad association, is the acharya.


509.How will I find a bona fide spiritual master? (page 399)

The Supreme Lord acts as guru in two ways: within as the Chaittya Guru in the heart and without as the Mahanta Guru, or pure devotee. If I am sincere, then the Lord reveals the Mahanta Guru to me. We can go to a thousand different people with a petition in hand, but until the one person who can approve our application approves it, we get nowhere. The Supreme Lord is that person. Why he does or does not approve our request is something we cannot fathom. He is not a field laborer working in our personal garden. We have to be patient and wait. In the meantime, we should prepare ourselves by cultivating a service attitude and trying to eliminate other, extraneous desires. If we pray sincerely for the Lord's blessing, then he will graciously bless us. Through his grace we will find a bona fide spiritual master.

kRSNa jadi kRpA karen kono bhAgyavAne
guru-antaryAmi-rUpe zikhAya Apane

When Krishna decides to be kind to some fortunate soul, then he personally directs that person from within as the Supersoul and from without as the spiritual master. (CC 2.22.47)


300. How should we understand the guru? (page 235)

One has to be devoted to the spiritual master in the same way one is devoted to Krishna. One should think of the spiritual master in the same way that one thinks of Krishna, for he is in no way less than or inferior to Krishna. It is the duty of a pious person to recognize the spiritual master as equal to Krishna and to worship him and serve him in that way. If one does not do so, then is destituted of his status as a disciple.

Those who see the guru and Krishna as the same will be able to understand the essence of the scriptures. They alone will be able to chant the Holy Names and they alone will be able to speak on Krishna.

Sri Krishna himself has descended in the form of the spiritual master in order to teach service to himself. Those on whom fortune smiles will be able to understand this spotless scriptural truth. If not, their doubting minds will plunge them into the ocean of samsara.

The spiritual master is neither the ultimate object of devotion, viSaya-vigraha, nor the original reservoir of devotion, Azraya-vigraha. He is a manifestation or prakAza-vigraha of the original reservoir of devotion. Sri Krishna is the supreme object of all love, whereas the guru is the reservoir of divine love. Krishna is the predominating absolute, the bhoktA bhagavAn, while the guru is the predominated absolute, or sevaka-bhagavAn; he is God as worshiper or servant. Even though the spiritual master is the reservoir of love, he is Krishna himself; at the same time he is the most beloved of Krishna. This is the inconceivable paradox of guru tattva. Krishna is the complete omnipotent and the spiritual master is his complete potency. The spiritual master is not an ordinary living entity, he is master of all living entities. The spiritual master is the supreme consciousness, the plenary manifestation of the Lord's potency, his internal potency. We ordinary jivas on the other hand are atomic particles of consciousness, Krishna's marginal potency and separated parts.

379. Who is the genuine guru and how can we find him? (page 302)

The road to auspiciousness begins with taking shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. In accordance with God's plan, everyone on this earth finds a teacher that meets his or her particular needs and qualifications. Thus the Christians have their Jesus and the Muslims their Mohammed. Some less fortunate individuals think that some materialist individual with formal traditional ties to the family is their guru, with the result that they become embroiled in householder life themselves. If we are fortunate, if we truly seek out a genuine guru with complete sincerity and persistence, and if we pray feelingly to the Lord to encounter such a spiritual master, then the Lord will surely lead us in this lifetime to a genuine guru, by taking shelter of whom we will be able to attain the greatest blessings.

brahmANDa bhramite kona bhAgyavAn jIva
guru-kRSNa-prasAde pAya bhakti-latA-bIja

In the course of wandering through Brahma's universal creation, some fortunate soul may receive the seed of the creeper of devotion. This happens by the grace of the guru and Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita, 2.19.151)

kRSNa jadi kRpA karena kono bhAgyavAne
guru-antaryAmI-rUpe zikhAya Apane

If Krishna is merciful to a particularly fortunate soul, then he comes himself to teach him, either externally as the spiritual master or from within as the Supersoul. (CC 2.22.47)

guru kRSNa-rUpa hana zAstrera pramANe
guru-rUpe kRSNa kRpA karena bhakta-gaNe

[indent=30px]According to the revealed scriptures, the spiritual master is the manifestation of Krishna. Krishna comes in the form of the guru to show His mercy to the devotees. (CC 1.1.45)

yadyapi AmAra guru caitanyera dAsa
tathApi jAniye Ami tAGhAra prakAza

[indent=30px]Even though my spiritual master is the servant of Lord Chaitanya, I know that he is a direct manifestation of the Lord. (CC 1.1.44)

jIve sAkSAt nAhi tAte guru caittya-rUpe
zikSA-guru haya kRSNa mahAnta-svarUpe

Since one cannot directly experience the guru as the Supersoul, Krishna appears as the siksha guru in the form of a highly advanced Vaishnava. (CC 1.1.58)

"O my beloved Krishna! Please be kind and accept me as your servant. For all my life I have thought of myself as the master of my house and the enjoyer of the fruits of my work, but I shall give all this up for you." When a jiva sincerely prays to Krishna in this way, then Krishna appears to him in the form of the Mahanta Guru.

Without receiving transcendental knowledge from a bona fide spiritual master, no one gains the eligibility to serve Krishna. Neither god nor human can give such transcendental knowledge. This is why we have such a great need for a genuine spiritual master.

393. Who is the guru and how is service to him to be carried out? (page 314)

The spiritual master and the Vaishnava are transcendental temples. The Supreme Lord does not manifest himself just anywhere. He reveals himself only through the spiritual master and the Vaishnava. Many people would like to see God, but they do not know that one only sees God through seeing the guru. If there were no such thing as the spiritual master in this world, there would be no such thing as devotion either. The spiritual master is the connecting thread that leads to the vision of God. The Supreme Lord shows his mercy to the conditioned souls by sending his best servants or Vaishnavas into this world. The spiritual master is the concrete form of his mercy.

The spiritual master is our closest friend and relative. This is why it is not enough to serve the guru at a respectful distance, acting out of a sense of duty alone. One has to serve with vizrambha, a combination of deep faith and loving affection. This attitude will have the most auspicious results.

We need the spiritual master even more than we need Krishna. Srila Gauranga Deva is the spiritual master of all spiritual masters. He taught us that even though the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord are in no way different, the guru is positioned at the pinnacle of the category of devotee. There is no way to achieve auspiciousness except through service to the spiritual master.


How can we become gurus?

20. Can we make disciples? (page 9)

We should not make disciples until we have become liberated or a pure devotee. You must first take shelter of a bona fide guru, become a disciple and listen to the topics of Krishna from his mouth. Then you have to put everything you have heard into practice and repeat it to others with humility. After doing this for some time, you must become guru yourself. You should not intentionally remain a "lightweight" for the rest of your days. This is a kind of self-deception. To become guru means to become a genuine devotee, engaging all of your senses in the service of Krishna, at every moment.

This does not mean that you absolutely have to make disciples. Even so, if it is God's will, some pure devotees teach Krishna consciousness for the benefit of others. They have no ulterior motive in doing so. Their one and only purpose is to make the light heavy, i.e., to turn those with no interest in Krishna towards him and make everyone into Krishna's devotees.


125. Do we have to make disciples? (page 85)

We don't have to make disciples, we have to become disciples. In other words, we have to remain constantly engaged in the service of Krishna and the spiritual master. The devotees of Vishnu, the Vaishnavas, see the guru in all things. If one becomes proud of being a Vaishnava, then one's service to Vishnu and the Vaishnavas evaporates. One who is free from the sense that he is the doer, who thinks, "I actually do nothing myself, it is Krishna alone who engages me in all activities," and who is constantly engaged in the service of the Lord can actually do something beneficial for the ordinary souls by turning them towards Krishna. But it is not enough to make phoney speeches about how you are not the doer. You have to genuinely feel that you are being made to act by the Lord.

299. Will I be able to make disciples? (page 235)

Give up your enviousness and show mercy to every living being by turning those who are currently indifferent to Krishna back toward him. Don't take up the role of spiritual master in order to do harm to others. Don't play at spiritual master with the intention of immersing yourself in the sense objects. Don't just dress up as spiritual master. Should you manage to become a sincere servant of the guru and Krishna and acquire their blessings, then there will be nothing to fear. If not, however, you are doomed.


378. Who can carry out the guru's mission? (page 299)

The work of spiritual master is done by those who have been sent here by the Lord from the transcendental world to take on the appearance of ordinary human beings for the sake of unfortunate conditioned souls like ourselves, to deliver them from the three miseries and send them back to the divine realm. The Lord's messengers, the carriers of His divine message are the intimate associates of the Lord.

The true holy person carries a sharpened sword with which he beheads the goat-like tendencies to enjoy and renounce, sacrificing them on the altar of devotion. Such a person is the true spiritual master.

The spiritual master is one who has no other duty other than service to Krishna; whose intelligence is fixed on Krishna and who sees nothing but Krishna. He has no desire to hear flattery and so is beholden to no one. He can thus fearlessly preach the truth.

One is eligible to become guru if he speaks nothing but Hari katha, if he never instructs anyone in anything other than devotional service, and if he does not waste even a second of the day in activities other than pleasing Krishna.

An insincere hypocrite cannot be a guru. One whose aspiration is for mundane activity cannot be a guru. Pseudo-gurus should be turned out and exposed. If one selfishly uses the gifts his disciples have surrendered to the Lord, taking them as a means to accumulate wealth, women and worldly fame, then he should be renounced immediately as a cheater. One should not listen to the words of such a rascal. One who purloins the materials meant for God's service in his own selfish interest is not worthy of the name "guru."

The NAradIya-purANa says-

IhA yasya harer dAsye
karmaNA manasA girA
nikhilAsv apy avasthAsu
jIvan-muktaH sa ucyate

One is called a living liberated soul who in all circumstances performs every action, whether of the body, mind or speech, in the service of Krishna. (Brs 1.2.187)

The atheist who is engaged in social service instead of devotional service to the Lord should be avoided, for such a person can benefit neither himself nor anyone else. In the name of such so-called social service, one simply falls deeper and deeper into the pit of illusion while dragging others down with him.

We refuse to keep the company of those who try to deceive the Supreme Lord by chanting on their beads or by crying and making a great show of emotion, but who do not see Krishna in every syllable, or see the beautiful Gauranga in every sound. The ultimate goal of scholarship is to understand one's relation with Krishna. Our lives can truly become auspicious only when we understand, through the association of sadhus and obedience to the spiritual master's order, that everything in the universe is somehow meant for the service of the Lord.

The path to auspiciousness is revealed when we associate with devotees who see the Lord everywhere, or who see everything in relation to the Lord, who see the spiritual master everywhere, who are more humble than the straw in the street, who are as tolerant as the tree, who are free of pride but full of respect for others, and who are constantly engaged in chanting the Holy Names attentively. It is only with the greatest good fortune that we encounter a saintly person of such qualifications. A servant of illusion may disguise himself as a spiritual master, but he will never be able to approach Mahaprabhu Gaurasundar through the enjoying mentality. Even if Gauranga's pastimes in this world, his prakata lila, are not going on at the present moment, if I am able to stay in the company of the guru and holy persons, then my consciousness will be dovetailed with theirs; my desires and aspirations will mix with theirs. If we are able to take shelter of the spiritual master in this way, surrendering ourselves fully to his lotus feet, then we will achieve the greatest good through good association, service and obedience.


438. Is it proper for us to make disciples? (p. 349)

The genuine guru does not make anyone his disciple. Rather, he makes everyone his guru by turning those who have no interest in Krishna into devotees. He tries to give Krishna pleasure by engaging everyone in his service. The guru's vision is that everything has importance; thus his every action is an act of devotion. The spiritual master sees the guru everywhere and everything related to Krishna. For him nothing is insignificant; nothing is seen as an object of the senses. He does not see this world as a mundane creation. The guru's work is a lot like that of a medical professor in the university: he is not making students, but doctors. Similarly, the guru is making other gurus.

If the Vaishnavas do not play the role of spiritual master, then the transcendental family of Vaishnavas will dwindle and disappear. The problem is that as soon as one becomes guru, he ceases to be a Vaishnava. Therefore it is not proper to act as guru if one is not qualified. This means only inauspicious results for the disciple and falldown for the guru. The spiritual master does not identify himself as a guru, for his inner identification as a servant of God is too powerful. If the spiritual master thinks of himself as guru, then the first vowel of his name changes and he becomes goru-a cow.

The genuine guru is engaged twenty-four hours a day in Lord Krishna's service. He acknowledges no duty other than serving Krishna. Thus the only person who is qualified to do the work of a guru is the devotee who is completely committed to his own spiritual master and has made service to him his life.


420. Who can take on the role of spiritual master? (p.336)

A devotee of Krishna who knows the philosophy of Krishna consciousness can act as spiritual master. Those who are ritualists, impersonalists and yogis can never be accepted as guru because they are not devotees. Only one who worships the Personality of Godhead can be guru.

On the other hand, someone who proudly thinks that he has become the servant of Krishna cannot be guru either. As long as one considers himself to be a Vaishnava, he cannot be guru. For this reason, anyone who functions as a guru does not go around calling himself a guru or a Vaishnava. This is why my spiritual master never claimed to be a Vaishnava. Anyone who calls himself a Vaishnava is immediately branded a "non-Vaishnava."

Ami to vaiSNava, e buddhi hoile
amAnI nA ho'bo Ami
pratiSthAzA Asi', hRdoya dUSibe,
hoibo niraya-gAmI

If I think "I am a Vaishnava," then I will never become humble. My heart will become contaminated with the hope of receiving honor from others, and I will surely go to hell.

tomAra kiGkora, Apane jAnibo,
'guru'-abhimAna tyaji'
tomAra ucchiSTha, pada-jala-reNu,
sadA niSkapaTe bhaji

Give me the mercy that I can renounce the false conception of my being guru and can be your servant. Let me accept without duplicity your remnants, the dust of your feet and the water that has washed them.

nije zreSTha jAni, ucchiSThAdi dAne,
ho'be abhimAna bhAr
tAi ziSya tava, thAkiyA sarvadA,
nA loibo pUjA kAr

By thinking that I am superior and giving my remnants to others, I will become increasingly egotistical. Let me always remain in the mood of a disciple and never accept any worship or praise from others.

The Maha Bhagavata is the true guru. Only someone who has achieved the status of Maha Bhagavata can take the role of spiritual master. One can act as guru when he himself sees the guru everywhere, for such a person can transform another insignificant individual (or laghu) into a one capable of imparting spiritual instruction himself (guru). He can turn a non-devotee into a devotee. Evidently if one is not himself a devotee he cannot make anyone else into a devotee. Thus the meaning of being guru is being a devotee. All of one's senses must be engaged in the service of the Lord. If one cannot become fixed in the service of the guru, he has no right to act as guru.

The Maha Bhagavata is more humble than the grass in the street. He thinks he is the most insignificant person in the world. He does not think, "I have played the role of servant long enough; it's no fun any more. I need to be guru now."

The guru serves as spiritual master, but does not identify himself with that role.


160. Who should live in the math?

We don't need people who are seeking a kind of military discipline to come and live in our maths, nor those who are looking for gentile society. Only devotees of Krishna should live in the math.

If we can one by one get rid of all those people who have taken residence in the math, but are still attached to the belly and the genitals, the debauches and gluttons, then not only will our costs go down, but the whole world will be better off.

Those who live in the math but do not accept the philosophical principles or follow the monastic rule are neither submissive to the spiritual master nor do they possess humility. We should send all such independent and arrogant people home. If this means our numbers will decrease, so be it. If someone has not come here to honestly serve the Supreme Lord, but harbors desires for profit, adoration and prestige, or secretly hopes to win female admirers or make a living for himself, they should not be kept in the math. This is because ultimately they are the enemies of the math. If someone thinks, "I have lived in the math for a long time and performed so much service, so I deserve to eat nicely and dress in good clothes. I should get to play the boss. I want respect and I want to be given an important position in the temple management," these are all attitudes that are inimical to devotion and should not be tolerated. These attitudes arise out of spiritual doubt, criticism of others and gossip.

We should not becoming intoxicated with the idea that we are the greatest experts, that we are very intelligent, that we are great speakers or great singers. The real devotional attitude is one of absolute humility. If someone attacks me or criticizes me, I should chant the Holy Name and try to bear the test on my patience. One should think that Mahaprabhu has mercifully given me the chance to act according to his teachings and think of myself as lower than the straw in the street. Thus if anyone personally insults me or calls me names, I should recongnize that they have been sent by Krishna to help me advance spiritually.

161. Who has no connection to the math?

The math can have no connection with anyone who has deceptively become a resident with the intention of misusing the transcendental knowledge; as such there is no real connection.

Many people have become my disciples because they think, "In order to cross a river, one needs to engage both a ferry and a ferryman. In the same way, I need to engage a spiritual master." This is the mentaliry in which they have taken me as their guru. They have never met me and I have never spoken with them. Nor will we meet in the few days that still remain in my life. Even though these phonies may not yet have begun to practise their deceptions, they are already offensive to the spiritual master and the Vaishnavas, as a result of which their material desires will one day surface and they will give up the life of devotion.

As soon as we start to argue with the guru, or when we measure him according to the ruler of our empiric understanding, when we stop following the guru and start to imitate him, then our spiritual life is headed for disaster. Benedictions come when we put all these durbuddhi aside and sincerely surrender to thespiritual master's lotus feet, we will be truly benefited.

Wealth, learning, worthiness, scholarship, and mundane heroism are all unnecessary for the intense devotee of the Lord, because he knows that if he gives priority to such things, he will end up committing offenses to the guru and the Vaishnavas. The consequences of such offenses are deprivation from the service of the guru and the Lord.

422. How does a genuine disciple think? (p.338)

For the genuine devotee of a spiritual master, the genuine disciple, the spiritual master is his entire life, his ideal. His vow is to serve the spiritual master, and though he adores both Krishna and the spiritual master equally, he gives special preference to his spiritual master. A genuine disciple is not weak, but is empowered by the power of the guru's mercy. The spiritual master's blessings and the spiritual master's service are his hope and his strength.

A genuine disciple does not disobey the order of the spiritual master even at the risk of his life. Whatever responsibilities the spiritual master mercifully gives him, he does with all his heart. Thus he receives the guru's full blessings.

424. What is the true nature of initiation? (p.339)

Knowledge of relations, sambandha jnana, comes first. Sambandha jnana is also known as transcendental knowledge or initiation. Initiation is not simply instruction in the mantra. Initiation is the transmission of transcendental knowledge. One may read hundreds of books or make a pretense of worship according to his own fancy, but will never achieve true blessings. Only the spiritual master can bestow transcendental knowledge on a sincere disciple. One who gives up his own independence to follow the directions of the spiritual master is qualified to receive the mercy of the spiritual master. By receiving this transcendental knowledge, he becomes truly fortunate and completely fulfilled.


432. Are personal conversations more beneficial to the hearer? (p. 343)

Certainly. Someone who gives personal instructions to each individual will have a greater effect on that person than a platform speaker. The platform speaker may touch on a large number of different subjects and thus is often unable to remove all the doubts of many members of his audience, thus these people are not always benefitted. It is the same as in a college, where a student is probably more benefitted by coaching or personal tutoring than by the professor's lectures. When being coached by a tutor, the student's personal defects are more easily detected and corrected. So you should take the trouble to instruct people individually, for in this way they will receive more permanent benefit.

441. Who are the Kartabhajas? (p. 351)

The Kartabhajas are a heterodox sect. They cannot be considered Vaishnavas or devotees. They think that the spiritual master is Krishna himself, the Lord in his form as the supreme enjoyer. In other words, they do not have to worship Krishna separately. This is a blasphemous doctrine.

The spiritual master is indeed Krishna, but he is not Krishna as the enjoyer (bhoktA bhagavAn); he is the Lord in his form as servant; he is the sevA-vigraha or Azraya-vigraha. The spiritual master is the Lord, but he is also the Lord's dear servant. Krishna himself takes the form of the guru in this world in order to teach service to himself. The guru is not the viSaya-vigraha, he is not the all powerful Supreme Godhead. He is Krishna's full potency, he is of the Brahma substance, but of the nature of the ashraya, the reservoir of devotion and not the supreme object of devotion. He is absolutely free of the enjoyer mentality. Therefore Vaishnavas who have committed themselves to the guru serve Krishna under the tutelage of their spiritual master. They make service to Krishna life, but as tools of their spiritual master. They never think of the spiritual master as the enjoyer of the Rasa dance, as the lover of the gopis or the beloved of Srimati Radharani.

126. But you have made many disciples, haven't you? (page 86)

I have made no one my disciple. Those whom other people call my disciples are in fact my spiritual masters. Associating with someone else means to take something from them. I never take anything from anyone other than what I received from my spiritual master. I take no action without the direction of my spiritual master; I follow no one else's orders. One should take nothing from anyone for one's own benefit. If anyone gives something out of faith and affection for Krishna and the spiritual master, then if one uses that in their service, it will have auspicious results. The secret to entering the kingdom of God is to engage everything in His service without looking on it as an object of personal enjoyment.