|ON SUFFICIENT GUIDANCE
"A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava situated on the intermediate platform (second-class devotee) can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance." - Nectar of Instruction 5, Purport
Lord Balarama is God. Lord Balarama always has been God and always will be God. His status as God is everlasting and is never dated. At some time in the future, our current dating system will become a relic of the past. Indeed, material time itself will eventually come to an end when this universe is destroyed. God's existence, however, never comes to an end.
During the course of a material universe, God may choose to manifest Himself in one of His eternal forms--such as Balarama--but such an appearance has no effect whatsoever on His eternal existence in that form. Material forms, movements, earth changes, and the like all run in various cycles according to material time. God's existence, form, pastimes, and characteristics, however, are transcendental to those cycles.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada laid the foundation for his message by taking the renounced order of life in India. He then went on to establish God consciousness throughout the world, beginning in the mid-Sixties. His unprecedented tour of Krishna Consciousness has never been experienced in the history of this planet.
He was physically manifest and therefore able to act with full intensity as guide and final arbiter for his students, disciples, followers, and well-wishers. He was a genuine spiritual master, a guru in the true and full sense of the term. He could directly clarify any and all controversies. He would give specific orders in specific situations in order to establish the will of God and spiritually uplift his disciples. He would curb disciples who became intoxicated with power. His name was Prabhupada--the master at whose feet all other masters sit-- and his mission was transcendental to the influence of material time.
He was as good as God for his disciples--but he was not God. He was the messenger of God. Balarama is God. The guru is not God. The real guru is the God-realized servant of God. The guru is the fully surrendered son of God, the Father. He does not chomp on a cigar and deliver various witty inanities in the name of Absolute Truth or harmony for humanity.
Peace within a society can be best obtained when there is peace and satisfaction within the humans who comprise that society. When a human soul directly hears, directly speaks to, and directly sees a true form of the Supreme Person, such a very lucky man or woman attains complete peace within. The primary form of God in this world is known as Vishnu. When you hear His transcendental voice, it does not sound raspy or gravelly, like that of an old man who smokes too much. When you have personal exchanges with Him, you will neither be exasperated nor challenging in your reciprocations with Him. You will be devoted in awe and reverence.
Vishnu is the first form of God directly seen by a transcendentalist, because this form of God is the closest to everyone. He is even the closest form of God to the non-devotees, many of whom wish that He did not exist. Lord Vishnu is situated within each and every human's heart. Actually, He's situated within every non-human living entity, also.
Those seeking to realize--to directly hear, to directly speak to, to directly see--Lord Vishnu within their hearts (the Personality the Christians call "the Holy Ghost") are called devotees. They are also called "yogis", because they are performing yoga disciplines in order to link up with God. God can only be fully realized through the method of devotion known as bhakti-yoga. Since devotees have this primary goal in life--to realize Vishnu--all devotees of God are known as Vaishnavas.
When a rare and exalted devotee has actually attained the goal, he is known as a God-realized Vaishnava. At this stage of devotional service, he is also known as a guru, a spiritual master. He is a master because he has completed the full course and has obtained the goal. Thus, it is only the God-realized Vaishnava who can expertly and effectively lead an aspiring devotee--one who is still conditioned by material nature and has not realized Vishnu--to perfect and pure transcendental contact.
There are gurus who even have higher realizations of God than this, having achieved personal reciprocation and exchange of higher mellows (relationships) with a form of God--such as Lord Balaram or Lord Krishna. Certainly, there are stages of God realization beyond the realization of Lord Vishnu within one's heart. Indeed, realization of Lord Ramachandra or Lord Narasimha or Lord Narayana is beyond realization of Lord Vishnu, because these higher forms of Godhead offer more ecstatic exchanges for the liberated soul than does Lord Vishnu. Even beyond these forms of God, there is the possibility for reciprocation with Lord Chaitanya, Lord Balarama, and Lord Krishna on the highest planet (Krishna Loka) in the transcendental world.
Nevertheless, any Vaishnava who has fully realized the Personality of Godhead, commencing with the realization of God as Lord Vishnu, is qualified to be guru. If we actually want to reach God, then we must take guidance from the expert who has already fully realized Him. God has transcendental form, transcendental characteristics, and transcendental pastimes. He wants to share these with His devotees.
And you, as spirit--whether you are aware of it or not--are searching for this even during conditioned life.
ON BRAHMAN REALIZATION AND LIBERATION
You as spirit will never be fully at peace or fully satisfied by mere realization of light. Yes, there is a stage of direct perception wherein transcendental light is attained. This stage is not the ultimate goal; it is preliminary to God realization. In the Sixties, this realization had such names as "the white light" or "cosmic consciousness". Actually, cosmic consciousness is a stage of realization still within the material universe and just preliminary to brahman realization. Cosmic consciousness is a very, very high stage of metaphysical realization, however, and it is rarely attained by anyone in this age. Realization of the "white light" is a stage of liberation beyond the material world. As just mentioned, it is called brahman realization, and this brahman is the effulgence of God.
A person who has only realized brahman is sometimes considered a guru. Some of these transcendentalists are impersonalists, but most of them are still serving Vishnu and desire to attain His realization. Because not all brahman realized persons are Vaishnavas, they are not all devotees of God. Some of them instead think that they are God. Due to impure intelligence, they think that realization of brahman is the same as becoming God.
You don't want to become a disciple of such so-called spiritual masters, because they are not actually good guides in spiritual life. The most you can attain by serving such masters is the brahman effulgence, which is never the goal of the human opportunity. You cannot attain the ecstasy of contact with the Personality of Godhead when you serve so-called masters who think that they have become God.
Neither should you select as guru even a devotee who is somewhat advanced. If a Vaishnava has not yet realized the form of God--even if he has come to the preliminary realization of the light of God--it is not recommended that you accept him as guru, because his guidance is still insufficient.
"A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance." - Nectar of Instruction 5, Purport
Everyone who is not God-realized is conditioned--or, at the very least, still affected by energy foreign to his or her pure spiritual state. In the truly liberated state of life, the spirit is in direct and complete and ecstatic contact with God. Previous to renewal of that state, the soul has at least some kind of veil over his or her consciousness. Even a brahman realized soul--who has not attained complete God realization--is considered, to some degree, a conditioned soul. Although a brahman realized soul is sometimes also called liberated, this liberation is only a preliminary liberation. Real liberation is personal God realization. As such, all conditioned souls whose realization is less than this are on the same platform of life--a platform which has not reached the completely liberated state.
ON SUFFICIENT GUIDANCE
Yes, we can accept discipline from someone more advanced than us in spiritual life. Even if such a guide is not yet God realized, such guidance will help us on the path of attaining the ultimate goal. In one sense, as long as your guide is a Vaishnava (who has accepted a genuine initiation from a God-realized Vaishnava), you can accept him as a representative of the guru. Nevertheless, that guidance can never be sufficient, because it is not transparent. He is not yet out of the fog of extraneous influence. Only the God-realized soul is transparent, and only he can give you sufficient guidance on the path to attain darshan, or direct perception of the Personality of Godhead.
These are teachings from the Vedic wisdom. They differ from all other teachings throughout the world. They are different from the teachings of the so-called gurus from India. They are different from the teachings of the so-called religions of the Western world. And, most importantly, they are different from teachings--which appear to be the Vedic and Vaishnava teachings-- not actually in line with the pure teachings of the Krishna Consciousness movement.
The true Vedic and Vaishnava teachings differ from all other philosophies in two important ways. First of all, they are Personal. That is, they consider God to be the Ultimate Person. Virtually all the other philosophies, systems, gurus, and movements (even those purporting to be Vedic) culminate in an impersonal message. Without going into any great detail, in the final analysis you will invariably find that these gurus and their disciples preach so-called God realization as being impersonal. If they even recognize Vishnu or Krishna, they consider Them to be subordinate to realization of the light.
In other words, they often say that you are really God yourself, but, somehow or other, you have forgotten that. In the meantime, find a guru who has the realization that he is God--and has become God again. Become his disciple. Surrender to him. Do as he says. Worship him. He will train you to become God--supposedly just like him. Perhaps he'll prove his status by presenting you his card with the word "God" on it.
If you analyze the teachings of almost all of the multifarious gurus or holy men from India, you will find that the vast majority of them present a philosophy of impersonalism. Impersonalism never represents the true path to spiritual life.
Since Vedic teachings ultimately culminate in the Vaishnava system of God realization, we shall use the term Vaishnava teachings for the remainder of this treatise. The second way in which Vaishnava philosophy differs from other prominent Western systems: it emphasizes the manifest guru.
Vaishnava philosophy is the science of the Absolute Truth. It is the science of attaining God consciousness. There are millions of devotees throughout the world. Becoming a devotee who has actually learned the fundamental truths of this Absolute Science--without any error or compromise--is both valuable and special. In any proper presentation of the Absolute Truth, the true status and importance of the spiritual master can never be ignored.
After the disappearance of a God-realized spiritual master, his disciples will often diverge into different and conflicting ways. All this transpires due to false ego and personal ambition. They then emphasize different things, creating factions. Many serious problems are created in the wake of each faction's bias. All of these problems trace their source to misconceptions revolving around the true status and importance of the guru. In order to learn the true importance of the guru--in order to emphasize the manifest guru--we must first learn who is a guru and who cannot be a guru. This requires understanding Vaishnava philosophy, learning in truth the fundamentals of the science of Krishna consciousness.
If aspiring Vaishnavas learn the basic building blocks of this science properly, there is some chance that they will continue to evolve in that knowledge. It will then become clearer and clearer for them. When these fundamentals are understood correctly, common delusions will be eliminated. Even if devotees become bewildered or fallen in other areas, that philosophical foundation can remain. As this knowledge spreads, a systematic foundation for all neophytes in the Krishna consciousness movement will eventually emerge.
ON DIFFERENT CLASSES OF DEVOTEES
Obviously, the guru is a Vaishnava, but his initiated disciples and followers are also Vaishnavas. Any person who believes that Lord Vishnu is God is a Vaishnava at some level. Knowledge of guru entails learning about the different levels of devotional service, the different grades of devotees or Vaishnavas. Not all Vaishnavas are gurus; indeed, it's a special Vaishnava who is actually a realized spiritual master.
"There are three classes of devotees, namely first, second, and third class. The third-class devotees or the neophytes, who have no knowledge and are not detached from material association, but who are simply attracted by the preliminary process of worshiping the Deity in the temple, are called material devotees. Material devotees are more attached to material benefit than transcendental profit. Therefore, one has to make definite progress from the position of material devotional service to the second-class devotional position." - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.12, Purport
During the course of this progress from the lower rungs of neophyte to the second-class devotional position, one will remain a neophyte. Nevertheless, there will be evolution to higher spiritual knowledge within that third-class status. This movement is both important and essential. It's during this stage of progress that spiritual knowledge is emphasized. It requires attentive hearing from devotees who have the knowledge, are willing to communicate it, and who know its importance. This foundation in philosophy is the only way to qualify for graduation from the neophyte status.
"One has to raise himself at least to the stage of a second-class devotee and thus become eligible to know the Absolute Truth. A third-class devotee, therefore, has to receive the instructions of devotional service from the authoritative sources of Bhagavata. The number one Bhagavata is the established personality of devotee, and the other Bhagavatam is the message of Godhead. The third-class devotee therefore has to go to the personality of devotee in order to learn the instructions of devotional service." - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.12, Purport
Obviously, a third-class devotee, a neophyte, is not at all qualified to be a master. The neophyte is a student, still not fully eligible to know the Absolute Truth. Rather than imitating a spiritual master, the neophyte should be approaching a spiritual master. Imitation is always condemned throughout Vaishnava teachings.
"The devotee should also know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform. . . one should not imitate the behavior of an advanced devotee or maha-bhagavata without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded." - Nectar of Instruction 5, Purport
Maha-bhagavat is a sanskrit term for the first-class devotee, the God-realized guru. When a devotee realizes God or Vishnu, the devotee also realizes his true spiritual self simultaneously. Thus a self-realized devotee is also a God-realized devotee. These terms are usually synonymous.
Sometimes, however, when a devotee is self-realized it means that he has only attained brahman realization (the transcendental light). So, a self-realized Vaishnava is always an advanced devotee, and this term can be applied to either a brahman-realized devotee or a God-realized devotee. In most cases, it refers to the God-realized devotee, who is, as aforementioned, called a maha-bhagavat, the first-class Vaishnava. He is the real guru, and he is called the person bhagavat in the highest sense of the term.
If you are able to contact, recognize, and attentively hear the person bhagavat, that is the number one way of making progress in devotional service, in learning this Absolute philosophy. When such an exalted guru is physically manifest--and you have the advantage of his personal association--the authoritative transmission of his instructions and teachings can be very directly impressed upon the heart and mind. This is the best method of purification in spiritual life.
"The physical spiritual master is God's mercy. If God sees that you are sincere, He will give you a spiritual master who can give you protection. He will help you from within and without. Without in the physical form of spiritual master, and within as the spiritual master within the heart." - Room Conversation with Irish Poet, Desmond O?Grady -- May 23, 1974, Rome
Physically manifest mahabhagavats are rare, but they do appear from time to time. When they do, sincere neophytes contact that spiritual master, because God sends him to them. Some neophytes are able to recognize him as a first-class Vaishnava, the real guru. Some of those neophytes surrender to him and begin the hearing process. This is the number one authoritative process for learning the eternal and divine philosophy from the person bhagavat.
ON THE ACHARYA
The maha-bhagavat is known as an acharya. This means that he is the recognized leader of a certain line, or school, of Vaishnava teachings. The sanskrit name for such a Vaishnava school is "sampradaya." The recognized leader of any line or school of Vaishnava teaching is therefore known as the sampradaya-acharya. Usually, he is simply called the acharya, rather than the sampradaya-acharya, but dignifying him with the term "acharya" recognizes his exalted status as the leader of that disciplic succession.
There are four bona fide sampradayas on this planet at this time. None of these lines or schools preach at cross-purposes with one another or contradict one another. They simply emphasize different aspects of the science, and their central goals are ultimately the same. Some may emphasize the Vishnu form of God, others Narasimha, others Ramachandra, and others Balaram or Krishna. They are not competitors at all.
Obviously, when the founder-acharya leaves manifest existence, other acharyas will manifest in due course of time in order to keep the teachings pure and intact. Still, disciples of the acharya who has just disappeared do not automatically themselves become acharyas when their master departs. After he leaves, they can initiate new disciples into the line only when they become qualified to do so, but, even then, their realizations may not be to the level of sampradaya-acharyas for the disciplic succession. Even if they are madhyam-adhikaris on the second-class platform, they must still serve as students and pass many tests before becoming genuinely recognized as a maha-bhagavat or an acharya.
In order to be a prominent acharya in any of these schools of devotional service, a Vaishnava must be a first-class devotee of God. Sometimes, there will be more than one such first-class devotee acting as acharya, and sometimes there will be only one such maha-bhagavat. Sometimes, there will be none. Due to the rarity of first-class devotees being physically manifest on earth at any given time, sometimes there will be no physically manifest acharya on earth. These are the spiritual bad times. During this period, there is always danger of the science being polluted, changed, warped, and even lost. It's an unfortunate cycle.
"Sometimes in autumn the falls come down from the top of the hill to supply clean water, and sometimes they stop. Similarly, sometimes great saintly persons distribute clear knowledge, and sometimes they are silent". - Krishna Book ch. 20
ON THE TWO KINDS OF BHAGAVAT
During any cycle or period of time wherein an acharya--a God-realized guru--is not physically manifest, the person bhagavat is more difficult to find. Person bhagavat is not limited to the God realized devotee, but also includes the madhyama, the brahma-realized devotee. Spiritual life will generally be more trying, for the neophytes especially, during such times. In such situations, the shelter shifts from the person bhagavat to the book bhagavat.
"Here is the remedy for eliminating all inauspicious things within the heart which are considered to be obstacles in the path of self-realization. The remedy is the association of the Bhagavatas. There are two types of Bhagavatas, namely the book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata. Both the Bhagavatas are competent remedies, and both of them or either of them can be good enough to eliminate the obstacles." - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.18, Purport
Inauspicious things are obstacles to progress in spiritual life. These obstacles are troublesome to the heart. By rendering service to the highest manifestation of devotee Bhagavata--the maha-bhagavat or God-realized guru--one associates with him during his physical manifestation. Such a lucky disciple can be freed from inauspicious things and lifted by the guru to the next platform of devotional life, beyond the neophyte plane. The preliminary goal is to become fixed in devotional service. Attaining this preliminary goal entails the eradication of the obstacles and inauspicious things (anarthas) within the heart. Personal association with the physically manifest spiritual master provides unequivocal direction for the neophyte.
Obviously, physical association with the devotee Bhagavata is a most effective way to self-realization. Sometimes, however, such great saintly persons are silent and not physically manifest. During those cycles, neophytes still have the option to take shelter of the Book Bhagavat. It can also remove the obstacles and inauspicious things troublesome to the heart.
"The messages of the book Bhagavata, therefore, have to be received from the devotee Bhagavata, and the combination of these two Bhagavatas will help the neophyte devotee to make progress on and on." - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.18, Purport
Even after the devotee Bhagavata has left manifest existence, the Book Bhagavata (explained by him with voluminous and lucid purports) still remains in written or in verbal (taped) form. It is sufficient guidance and is still available for the neophyte. The Book Bhagavata requires commentary by the acharya, even if he is no longer physically present, in order to render its meaning clear. A great saintly person may be silent for those who cannot comprehend this mystery, but he is not silent for those who act upon it.
Because the Book Bhagavata is combined with the commentary of the devotee Bhagavata, devotional service in relation to both of them is performed simultaneously. Hearing or reading the Book Bhagavata is the performance of authorized devotional service. Indeed, of the nine ways to perform devotional service (bhakti-yoga), hearing is the first and foremost. Naturally, after hearing, the devotee--if he or she is actually sincere and has heard properly--will be enthusiastic to perform various services. Such devotional services are recommended throughout the texts of the Book Bhagavata and within its commentaries.
If you desire to become proficient at some skill, association with someone who is already proficient at that skill is desirable. Neophytes still have obstacles on their path to self-realization. Neophytes still have inauspicious things in their hearts. All of them, by definition, have not attained firm faith in the process of devotional service. They are all under the more or less constant influence of four defects in conditional life: to make mistakes, to become illusioned, to cheat, and to misconceive due to imperfect senses.
Only on the highest level of this neophyte stage (anartha-nivritti) does a devotee get past his or her implication in anartha or unwanted activities. Maya is difficult to transcend. After anartha-nivritti comes nistha, the stage of brahman realization. The senses of even the devotee at the second-class stage remain imperfect, because even at brahman realization, the senses are still not perceiving the Absolute Truth fully. The completely clear stage is only attained upon realization of the personal form of God, which is the status of the first-class devotee. Still, neophytes generally have more purified senses (or less-imperfect senses) than non-devotees, and second-class devotees always have more purified senses than their neophyte brethren. Advancement in spiritual life is not all or nothing; it is a gradual process from one level to another, each of which contains numerous sub-levels
Certainly, all neophyte Vaishnavas are still conditioned souls. Nevertheless, because of their respect for God and His devotional service--because they are targeting some of their loving propensities back toward Him and away from the material world--they are rewarded with divine favor and some protection from degradation. When they act in devotional service, they are, at that time (for that time), considered pure devotees. The non-devotees are generally ineligible to receive these benedictions. Due to the third-class devotees' sincere interest in God, in His Holy Names, and in the practice of devotional service, such neophytes should always be given respect. They are not common men, but they are still conditioned by the four defects of conditioned life.
"The third-class devotee is one whose faith is not very strong but he is eligible to be promoted to the position of second-class devotee or first-class devotee by the gradual cultivation of devotional service . . . such a person is called a third-class pure devotee. The last-mentioned are not actually pure devotees. They are almost in the devotional line, but their position is not very secure." - Teachings of Lord Chaitanya ch. 11
Due to unwanted activities, inauspicious things within the heart, and the existential defects of conditional life, the neophyte receives regular reminders of his insecure position in devotional service. That's why the neophyte should take shelter of the Book Bhagavata or the devotee Bhagavata. They are both beyond the neophyte stage. They are pure. A neophyte can also seek out the association of a second-class devotee of God, because such a madhyam-adhikari is a pure devotee.
"A devotee who places full faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who makes friendship with the pure devotees, who shows favor to the innocent person, and who avoids those who are atheistic or are against devotional service--such a devotee is called a second-class pure devotee." - Teachings of Lord Chaitanya (Original Edition, Ch. 11)
The sanskrit term for a pure devotee--whether he is a second-class pure devotee or a first-class pure devotee--is sadhu, or holy man. This term "sadhu" is fairly common throughout India, but that does not mean that it is always accurately applied either here or there. As above-mentioned, the third-class devotee cannot yet be called, in the true sense of the term, a pure devotee of God. Sometimes, he is called a sadhu when he acts in Krishna Consciousness. In actuality, he is on the threshold of becoming a sadhu, but there is no guarantee that he will reach that status. His position is not very secure. The second-class Vaishnava is in a secure position, however. He is a genuine holy man.
When a person transcends the neophyte stage, he becomes a sadhu. He shows his love for God, his friendship for his peers and superiors, his mercy for those who are innocent, (and below his level of spiritual realization) and his reluctance to associate with the envious non-devotees and the sahajiyas. The neophyte, by definition, is not fully capable of doing this. Indeed, when neophytes constantly associate with one another, their mutual association lends itself to another result:
"Except for the association of pure devotees, any association is called kaitava, or cheating." - Teachings of Lord Caitanya (Original Edition, Ch.15 paragraph 28)
Now, in order to attain the association of a higher-grade devotee, we should not simply depend upon luck alone. Here and there, a very fortunate person is given an honorary degree by a university, despite the fact of having never engaged in that degree's curriculum at the university. This is the exception and not the rule. If we want the benefit of a university degree, we best follow the standard course, which requires much more endeavor than luck.
Similarly, if we want to attain the association of a second-class Vaishnava--or even the rare sadhu, the acharya--we should learn how to recognize these devotees. The Vaishnava teachings specifically instruct us about the qualifications and characteristics of a sadhu. Although there are a number of these qualifications and characteristics, one item is a constant. That constant is their development of faith.
The neophyte Vaishnava has soft faith. At the lower rungs of that stage, it is very soft. At the higher rungs it begins to firm up a bit. Nevertheless, throughout the neophyte stage, the faith is considered soft. The sanskrit term for faith is "shraddha." Soft faith is known as komala-shraddha.
The second-class Vaishnava does not have this kind of soft faith. His faith in devotional service is firm. The sanskrit term for that level of faith is called "nishtha."
All material benefits come as a result of previous work. Even windfalls are the result of previous work performed in previous lives. The value of benefits can be judged in light of the amount of work and sacrifice that proceeded them. If you work hard for a full year for a benefit which lasts less than an hour, generally that fleeting gain is not worth it. If you put forth a couple of hours of hard intellectual work for a benefit that will last a lifetime, that benefit is well worth the effort.
It takes some work to assimilate the knowledge given in this small treatise. Obviously, it also takes some faith. Any spiritual information initially takes faith in order to be believed and acted upon for realization. A number of terms and definitions have been introduced. They are neither complicated nor burdensome. Still, it does take some effort to hear these terms and definitions and to learn them. Such effort pays spiritual benefits for the fortunate person. Some of that benefit will be reaped more or less immediately. Some of it will be reaped in both the intermediate and long-term future.
A dull-witted person will not put forth the effort required to learn this knowledge. The dull-witted must be cheated in spiritual life, and that is both a metaphysical, and, ultimately, a spiritual law rarely transcended. If you've gotten this far in the reading, there is a high likelihood that you are not amongst the dull-witted class, i.e., that your intelligence is keen to assimilate spiritual knowledge.
The information contained in this treatise constitutes the A-B-Cs of devotional science. By learning it you can, slowly but surely, build upon its firm foundation. As you make progress beyond the A-B-Cs, you begin to concentrate more upon the finer threads of this science. To continue the analogy, you make progress further into the alphabet. All this will eventually reach the stage where a devotee becomes fixed-up, firm, and practically unshakable. That stage is called nishtha, as described previously.
"A sadhu is a strict follower of devotional service. It is recommended here that, if one at all wants to realize brahman or spiritual perfection, his attachment should be transferred to the sadhu, or devotee. . . Attachment to a devotee is attachment to the service of the Lord, because, if one associates with a sadhu, the sadhu will teach one how to become a devotee, a worshiper, and a sincere servitor of the Lord. These are the gifts of a sadhu." - Srimad Bhagavatam 3.25.20, Purport
As described previously, the "white light" stage of realization is called brahman realization. This brahman stage, although preliminary to God-realization, is nevertheless transcendental to the modes of material nature. The material universe is composed of the three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. The last two modes bind one to transmigration of the soul. The mode of goodness, although it is still within the confines of the material universe, can be spiritually helpful. It assists a neophyte devotee on the path of purification and helps the devotee attain brahman realization, the preliminary form of self-realization. When the devotee attains this brahman realization, he or she transcends the binding influence of these three modes of material nature.
The performance of devotional service by the neophyte has its preliminary culmination in the attainment of this second-class stage. There is an intrinsic identity between this second-class stage and brahman realization, between unflinching or unfailing faith (firm faith) and transcending the third-class or neophyte status of devotional service.
"One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman." - Bhagavad-gita 14.26
This is a verse from the Bhagavad-gita, which is considered Book Bhagavat. It clearly states that attainment of brahman realization is synonymous with unfailing or constant devotional service. This unfailing devotional service is the same thing as firm faith in devotional service, technically known as nishtha. The purport of this Bhagavad-gita verse goes on to describe a devotee who has become fixed up in devotional service:
"So, if one engages himself in the service of Krishna or His plenary expansions with unfailing determination, although these modes of material nature are very difficult to overcome, one can overcome them easily . . . Thus, the qualification is to become brahman, or freed from all material contamination." - Bhagavad-gita 14.26 Purport
In the very next verse, Krishna specifies how God-realization is beyond brahman realization:
"And I am the basis of this impersonal brahman, which is immortal" - Bhagavad-gita 14.27
The neophyte devotee simply concentrates upon the Deity but does not know how to behave very well with other devotees--or even with other neophytes. This is because the neophyte cannot properly recognize devotees. Neophytes often cannot even distinguish devotees from non-devotees, and this is especially the case when neophytes are situated on the lower rungs of that stage. The neophytes, although devotees, are basically innocent (if and when neophytes degrade into sahajiyas, they are no longer innocent, however). The second-class devotee is a sadhu, and he or she can recognize who are actually devotees, who are innocent and bewildered, and who are offenders to God. The sadhu avoids the demoniac, but neophytes become victimized by demoniac association.
The second-class devotee is further described as follows:
"He wants to develop his love for Krishna. He also wants to see that not a moment is wasted without engagement in Krishna consciousness. He is always careful not to spoil life's valuable time. That is the first qualification . . ." - Teaching of Lord Kapila Vs 36, Purport
Now we have learned something important about the second-class devotee. Although there are even further developments of Krishna consciousness within this second-class stage, the minimum qualifications are apparent. He is a sadhu, a pure devotee. He is brahma-realized, though not yet God-realized. He is constantly engaged in devotional service. He has attained firm faith in devotional service, the qualification known as nishtha.
Having attained the stage of brahman realization, he is known as a qualified brahmin. Although there are many devotees who are called brahmins and have received brahminical initiation from a spiritual master, not all of these brahmins are qualified brahmins. Many, if not most of them, are aspiring to become qualified brahmins. Their initiation as a brahmin by the God-realized spiritual master is an impetus to them for advancement; it is encouragement.
ON SECOND-CLASS GURUS
The next question that may be raised: is the second-class brahma-realized devotee a guru? The following five quotations present some evidence that the second-class devotee my be considered a spiritual master:
"If one is intelligent, he will associate with those who are trying to elevate themselves to the platform of self-realization through one of the various forms of yoga. The result will be that those who are sadhu, or realized, will be able to sever their attachment to this material affection. . . To cut something, a sharp instrument is required. And to cut the mind from its attachments, sharp words are often required. The sadhu or teacher shows no mercy in using sharp words to sever the student's mind from material attractions . . . If we actually want detachment from this material world, we should be prepared to accept such cutting words from the spiritual master. Compromise and flattery have no effect where strong words are required." - Perfection of Yoga Ch 4
"This Krishna consciousness movement directly receives instructions from the Supreme Personality of Godhead via persons who are strictly following His instructions. Although a follower may not be a liberated person, if he follows the supreme liberated Personality of Godhead, his actions are naturally liberated from the contamination of material nature. Lord Chaitanya therefore says: 'By My order, you may become a spiritual master.' One can immediately become a spiritual master by having full faith (nishtha) in the transcendental words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and by following His instructions." - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.18.5, Purport
"A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger, and the urges of the tongue, belly, and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world" - Nectar of Instruction 1
"The main qualification of a brahmin is to be inclined to the Vedic wisdom . . . A real brahmin is the natural teacher or spiritual master. Unless one has Vedic knowledge, one cannot become a spiritual master." - Srimad Bhagavatam 3.6.30, Purport
"The word 'guru' means 'heavy'--heavy with knowledge. And what is that knowledge? Tad-vijnana. That heaviness is brahma-nishtha ... The Upanishads inform us that the guru is one who has received knowledge by hearing the Vedas. Srotriyam brahma-nishtham . . . his knowledge is standard and received from the parampara (sampradaya) system. He is also firmly fixed in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (brahma-nishtham). These are his two qualifications: he must have heard the Vedic knowledge through the disciplic succession, and he must be established (fixed) in the service to the Supreme Lord." - Teaching of Lord Kapila Vs 4, Purport
ON THE GURU AND INITIATION
Obviously, the brahma-realized Vaishnava is a sadhu and has some qualifications that allow him to be considered a spiritual master. The next question is: should he initiate? Genuine initiation into the disciplic succession is a great achievement. In fact, it is very important, and this will be substantiated later in the document. Can a second-class pure devotee of God give this initiation? Is there any specific reference to a devotee who is not on the highest plane (who is not a God-realized first-class devotee) giving initiation as an initiating guru?
Taking a disciple does not automatically mean giving such a disciple initiation into spiritual life. Indeed, there are many gurus throughout history who were not initiating gurus for their disciples. Instead, they were instructing gurus. These instructing gurus were known in sanskrit by the term "shiksha-guru". A shiksha- guru is a sadhu who instructs his disciple in spiritual life.
There is also a term for a spiritual master who becomes an initiating guru. That term is "diksha-guru." A diksha-guru is a sadhu who initiates his disciple into spiritual life.
The first-class devotee, the highest manifestation of devotee bhagavat, is God-realized. As such, he is already in direct association with God at all times. Due to his being God-realized, he is fully empowered to transfer at any time to the transcendental planets.
The second-class devotee, although he is strictly following the instructions of God and his actions are liberated from the three modes of material nature, still has a consciousness that is not completely liberated. The brahma-realized sadhu is not God-realized as yet, and therefore he is not fully liberated like the first-class devotee. Is there any basis for this second-class devotee becoming a diksha-guru?
Even more importantly (since we are Prabhupada's disciples) is there any evidence of this in the directions of Srila Prabhupada? Does he acknowledge a diksha guru who does not possess full power, i.e., who has not attained complete God-realization? It appears that Prabhupada does--at least to some degree.
"The shiksha or diksha-guru who has a disciple who strongly executes devotional service . . . can be carried by the disciple even though the instructor is not advanced . . . The conclusion is that a disciple or an offspring who is a very strong devotee can carry with him to Vaikunthaloka (the spiritual planets) either his father, mother, shiksha or diksha-guru." - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.33, Purport
The first-class devotee does not need to be carried by anybody to the spiritual planets. When a devotee reaches God-realization, his consciousness has attained the qualification of the spiritual worlds. He has already entered those worlds. There is no possibility that any material desire, even if fulfilled, could produce any happiness that would remotely compare to the happiness of a God-realized devotee. He is therefore not attracted by material allurements. Indeed, material thoughts and desires cannot even pierce his consciousness. He cannot fall down.
So, the idea that a first-class devotee falls down to a lower level of realization has no basis in fact. The God-realized soul never falls down. His consciousness always remains on the highest platform. He pretends to be on the second-class platform in order to preach amongst mankind. He voluntarily comes down to this platform, but his consciousness does not descend there.
However, for preaching purposes, first-class devotees appear to come down to the level of second-class devotees. Their consciousness remains God-realized, but they act as a second-class devotee in order to carry out the mission of initiating and training disciples. A professional driver of an eighteen-wheeler does not lose his ability to drive those trucks simply because he drives a motor car for awhile. The initiating and instructing gurus, even though they may be first-class devotees, still have to discriminate between who is a devotee and who is a non-devotee. Such discrimination is inherent in their mission.
A first-class devotee who does not act as guru need not do this. However, a first-class devotee who takes the post of initiating guru must do this--for the benefit of his disciples and the mission of his sampradaya.
"The spiritual master is supposed to be in the most advanced stage, but for preaching purposes, he descends to the intermediate stage. The uttama-adhikari (first-class devotee), the most advanced devotee, does not discriminate between devotees and nondevotees. He sees everyone but himself as a devotee. The truly advanced devotee sees that he is not a devotee but that everyone else is a devotee . . .The madhyama-adhikari (second-class devotee) is a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord's devotees, is merciful to the ignorant, and avoids those who are envious by nature." - Teaching of Lord Kapila Vs 36, Purport
This quotation lends credence to the argument that a second-class devotee may be authorized to become diksa-guru and initiate disciples. Even if a second-class devotee can become a diksha-guru and initiate disciples, does Prabhupada recommend that disciples in his line should do that? For many devotees, this question is paradoxical. Its answer is very important, requiring a thoughtful and in-depth analysis in order to resolve the paradox.
The guru accepts a disciple. Disciple means discipline. Both words come from the same root word and are linguistically connected. In order to reach the stage of God-realization, a disciple must carry out the orders of his guru. Indeed, in order to make any progress to a higher platform of devotional service, obedience to the guru is primary. When a well-wisher once asked Srila Prabhupada how the guru can be pleased, Prabhupada answered as follows:
"If you please God's representative, then automatically God becomes pleased, and thus you can directly see Him . . . You have to carry out his orders, that's all. God's representative is the guru. He asks you to do this, to do that. If you do that, that is pleasing." - Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers Ch 3
When a neophyte surrenders to a spiritual master, obedience to the instructions of the spiritual master is the very essence of that surrender. Becoming initiated as a disciple by a genuine spiritual master signifies that the disciple wishes to surrender to his guru. Thus, the serious disciple will be obedient to his spiritual master.
"We have to render service to a guru and surrender ourselves. It is not that one should accept just any person as a guru. The guru must be the representative of Krishna. Then one can surrender oneself. Surrender means that one will accept whatever the guru says. It is not that one thinks, 'I do not care for my guru's order. Still I am a disciple.' That is not actually accepting a guru." - Teachings of Lord Kapila Vs 28 Purport
The neophyte, due to obstacles in his performance of devotional service and due to the inauspicious things within his heart, will--at least in the beginning--disobey the guru at times. This disobedience certainly does not help him advance in spiritual consciousness. Nevertheless, like a stumbling child, as long as he picks himself up and becomes obedient again, slowly but surely he makes progress toward the second-class platform.
Indeed, when he reaches the highest level of the neophyte stage (technically known as "anartha-nivritti" ), he ceases to disobey the instructions of his spiritual master. Obviously, at this stage, he does not engage in mental speculation about self-evident interpretations of Vaishnava teachings. In other words, he does not change or warp those teachings, because the spiritual master always forbids that.
Obviously, a second-class devotee will never disobey the orders of his spiritual master. The madhyama-adhikari (second-class devotee) will also never misinterpret the Vaishnava teachings. As such, the second-class devotee will not cheat in spiritual life. We have already read that the first-class devotee, when he preaches the mission and initiates disciples, acts on the apparent platform of a second-class devotee. We have already read definitive statements indicating that the second-class devotee can accept disciples, become an instructing spiritual master, and even be an initiating spiritual master (diksha-guru).
ON RECOGNIZING WHO SHOULD INITIATE
Considering the bewilderment it will likely cause neophytes (especially those who are searching after a guru), should a second-class devotee even elect to become an initiating spiritual master? Over and above this dilemma, can the second-class devotee imitate the acharya, the first-class devotee? Should a neophyte even consider accepting a second-class devotee as his initiating spiritual master?
All of these important questions are related to our chief question: Even if a second-class devotee can become a diksha guru and initiate disciples, does Srila Prabhupada recommend that any of his second-class disciples (if there are any of them) should do that? Prabhupada, through his authorized renditions of Vaishnava philosophy, has answered these questions, but, after his disappearance, those answers have mostly been covered over.
"Unfortunately, when the acharya disappears, rogues and nondevotees take advantage and immediately begin to introduce unauthorized principles . . . The acharya, the authorized representative of the Supreme Lord, establishes these principles, but, when he disappears, things once again become disordered." - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.28.48, Purport
Despite the disorder that has ensued since Prabhupada's disappearance, access to his answers has not yet been sealed off. Let us consider the primary question: does Prabhupada encourage a neophyte to accept a second-class devotee as his diksha-guru, his initiating spiritual master? Or, does Prabhupada say that the guru should only come from the God-realized class of Vaishnavas? The answer is self-evident:
"One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari (first-class devotee)." - Nectar of Instruction 5, Purport
"The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class. . . Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru." - Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 24.330, Purport
These authoritative statements are clear. Any follower of Srila Prabhupada has to admit that Prabhupada strongly discourages accepting any guru who is not God-realized. Indeed, the first quote is in the form of an order. How can a devotee disobey an order from his own guru and still be considered anything except a neophyte? In one sense, it is a contradiction for a disciple of Prabhupada to consider himself a second-class devotee and an initiating spiritual master at the same time, because "one should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari."
Now, what if a neophyte wishes to accept a second-class devotee as his or her instructing spiritual master, as a shiksha-guru? In such a case, no pact of initiation has been made. If a neophyte consults a second-class devotee for guidance and direction, is there any prohibition?
"A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava situated on the intermediate platform (second-class devotee) can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore, a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari (first-class devotee) as a spiritual master." - Nectar of Instruction 5, Purport
Obviously, since a disciple cannot obtain sufficient guidance from a second-class devotee--what to speak of another neophyte--there is only limited value in becoming a disciple of anyone other than a God-realized devotee.
If a neophyte chooses to accept discipline from a second-class devotee or even a neophyte who is more advanced than him, that is not prohibited. After all, they are still both on the same platform of conditional existence--neither of them has attained the goal of God-realization--but one of them is more advanced than the other in spiritual life. Nevertheless, in the same breath, Prabhupada strongly advises the neophyte to "be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master."
Why is this? The chief reason is that only the first-class devotee can give his disciple sufficient guidance in the process of God-realization. If someone has actually realized the Personality of Godhead, he can give flawless direction to his disciple as to how that goal can actually be attained. When you've actually attained something, you can give sufficient guidance to others in the matter of their attaining the same thing. If someone on a lower platform--another neophyte or even a second-class devotee--has not attained God realization (and, by definition, these devotees have not), then how can they ultimately guide anyone in the matter of direct contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
All the acharyas in the disciplic succession (sampradaya) of Srila Prabhupada emphasized the need for a guru to be a first-class devotee. One such past acharya, while analyzing a well known verse of Vaishnava philosophy, made the following commentary:
sabde brahmani vede veda-tatparya-jnapake sastra-antare ca nisnatam nipunam anyatha sisyasya samsayacchedabhave vaimanasye ca sati kasyacit sraddha-saitilyam api sambhavet pare brahmani ca nisnatam aparoksa-anubhava-samartham anyatha tat-kriya samyak-phalavati na syat
sabde brahmani - in spiritual sound; vede - in the Vedic literature; veda-tatparya-jnapake - in imparting the import of Vedic knowledge; sastra-antare ca nisnatam - deeply versed in the inner meaning of the scriptures; nipunam - expert; anyatha - otherwise; sisyasya - of the disciple; samsayacchedabhave - in the absence of dissipating doubts; vaimanasya - of dejection; ca - and; sati -there is; kasyacit - the disciple (the someone); sraddha-saitilyam - diminution of faith; api - certainly; sambhavet - takes place; pare brahmani ca nisnatam - and deeply versed in the Supreme Absolute Truth; aparoksa-anubhava-samartham - fully possessing the ecstasy of direct spiritual perception; anyatha - otherwise; tat-krpa - that mercy (he gives); samyak-phalavati - complete fruition; na syat - does not (produce)
"The guru must be expert in spiritual sound, in the Vedic knowledge, in the inner meaning of the scriptures, and in imparting the import of the Vedic literatures. Otherwise, in the absence of having his doubts dissipated, dejection and diminution of faith certainly takes place within the disciple. The guru must be full in the ecstasy of direct spiritual perception of the Supreme Absolute Truth. He must be well-versed in the Absolute Truth. Otherwise, the mercy he gives does not produce perfection for his disciple." - commentary to Srimad Bhagavatam, verse 11.3.21 by Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura
The inner meaning of the Vedic knowledge culminates in the Vaishnava teachings. The guru must be a God-realized Vaishnava, otherwise his disciple cannot actually surrender to him. Due to insufficient guidance, the disciple will be forced to doubt, will experience a diminution of faith, and will never actually surrender to a devotee who is not God-realized.
ON WORSHIP OF THE ACHARYA
The first-class devotee is distinguished from neophytes and intermediate devotees not only by his internal realization. Internal realization is not easily recognizable by a third-class devotee. The God-realized spiritual master is also distinguished in some external ways. One of these ways is the method by which his disciples are to dedicate themselves to him, and this is delineated in the following four quotations:
"When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata (first-class devotee), he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari (God)." - Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 24.330, Purport
"Since the spiritual master is the most confidential servant of the Lord, he should be treated exactly like the Supreme Personality of Godhead." - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.28.43, Purport
"If you respect the spiritual master as much as God, then you must offer him the same facilities you would offer to God."- Science of Self-Realization Ch 1 "What is Krishna Consciousness"
"It is recommended in authoritative scriptures that the spiritual master should be worshiped on the level of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of his being His very confidential servitor, and it is accepted by great authorities (acharyas) that the spiritual master is the external manifestation of Krishna." - Krishna Book Ch 47
The guru, although he is not God, is as good as God for the conditioned soul. The conditioned soul (with rare and special exceptions) does not directly perceive the Supreme Person. However, the conditioned soul can directly perceive the manifest pure devotee of God, who is in constant and direct contact with the Personality of Godhead. This is one of the chief reasons that a conditioned soul should select (surrender to) a genuine uttama adhikari.
The impure conditioned soul cannot directly surrender to God, because God is the Supreme Pure. God has created and designed the material universe for the purpose of rectifying souls who have offended Him. God designs this universal system very expertly by sending a transparent via medium, the God-realized guru, as His representative. The conditioned soul who wishes to once again enter into direct and eternal association with God must first pass through a probationary stage by surrendering to this spiritual master. The God-realized spiritual master is to be worshiped just as the conditioned soul would worship God.
A neophyte is never to be worshiped in this manner, nor is the brahma-realized second-class devotee.
Sometimes, neophytes, falsely thinking that they have become second-class devotees, believe that they can imitate the first-class devotee. They think that they should do this in order to create faith in their disciples. They think that this imitation is authorized by the disciplic succession, the acharyas who have maintained the sampradaya (spiritual school) since its founding. They become sahajiyas as soon as they fall down in this way. Srila Prabhupada forbids and condemns such imitation by the so-called second-class devotee in the following three quotations:
?1.?"However, one should not imitate the behavior of an advanced devotee or maha-bhagavata (first-class devotee) without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded." - Nectar of Instruction 5 Purport
?2.?"How could an intelligent man competent enough to possess exalted qualities allow his followers to praise him if he did not actually have them? Praising a man by saying that if he were educated he might have become a great scholar or great personality is nothing but a process of cheating." - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.15.24
?3.?". . . one who does not actually possess (certain) qualities should not try to engage his followers and devotees in offering him glory for them, even though these qualities might be manifest in the future. If a man, who does not factually possess the attributes of a great personality, engages his followers in praising him with the expectation that such attributes will develop in the future, that sort of praise is actually an insult." (all emphases added) - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.15.23, Purport
As discussed previously, the term "self-realization" can be interpreted in two different ways. One way is the direct way, and the other way is indirect. The chief way (mukhya-vritti) to understand what "self-realized" means is to know that this refers to God-realization. The secondary meaning (gauna-vritti) refers to brahman realization, i.e., realization of the spiritual effulgence of God. Unless specifically presented in the context of brahman realization, when Prabhupada uses the term "self-realization" in his writings, he is generally referring to God-realization. Indeed, this is the standard of all Vaishnava acharyas in their commentaries and writings.
It has been established that "self-realized" in quote number one is synonymous with "God-realized". It does not refer to a brahma-realized person. The second-class devotee is not authorized to imitate the first-class devotee. The second-class devotee cannot be worshiped as good as God. If he does take such worship, he falls to sahajiyism instantly. He will be punished and degraded for such imitation--if not quickly, then eventually.
Now, in regard to quote number one (above), an argument could be made that "self-realized" in the quote could refer to brahma-realized. The quote would then be interpreted to indicate that a devotee, who has become brahma-realized ("self-realized") is authorized to imitate the first-class devotee (mahabhagavat).
Still, in order to make this interpretation, we would have to use the secondary interpretation (discussed above) of the term "self-realized". There is no express reason to do so. Using the primary interpretation of the term "self-realized" makes full and complete sense. As such, there is no good reason to use the secondary interpretation of the term. We are only authorized to use the secondary meaning of a word or a term when the primary meaning either does not make sense or is contra-indicated. There's no application in this quote.
The second-class devotee, by definition, is constantly engaged in pure devotional service. He or she never engages in activities that are opposed to devotional service. As we can see from these quotes, imitation of a devotional status above one's own platform of realization is opposed to devotional service.
One of the chief reasons that Prabhupada made a number of discouraging commentaries in regard to accepting second-class devotees (madhyam-adhikaris) as gurus was indirect, however. It is the simple and psychologically disturbing fact that the vast majority of such "madhyams" in this age are actually only neophytes in the guise of madhyams. In the present circumstances, the totality of these so-called madhyams may indeed be nothing more than neophytes . . . and sahajiyas.
Only the first-class God-realized devotee is to worshiped as good as God. Only he is entitled to accept such praise, glory, and worship. Thus, if he chooses to reveal himself--and if he then chooses to accept such exalted worship--his status is made clear. He makes himself known to seekers, as well as his followers and disciples, by acceptance of such worship.
Certainly, in the aftermath of an acharya's disappearance, pretenders will come along and usurp the post of the first-class devotee. They will manipulate their followers, without authorization, into worshiping them on a undeserved level. Indeed, this is just what happened amongst a cadre of Srila Prabhupada's leading secretaries just five months after his disappearance (and one jumped up and did it immediately after Prabhupada left). They all were eventually degraded, as Prabhupada specifically warned. Some of them were degraded in either pathetic or horrific ways. One was killed in a black magic ritual by one of his followers.
You can't artificially create a first-class devotee of the Lord. Acharyas are not created by institutions. They are not determined by the votes of conditioned souls. The mahabhagavat cannot be rubber-stamped into existence. When a devotee emerges as the effulgent acharya, it is only through the mercy of the Lord. The acharya's esteemed realization is self-evident. All imitative concoctions are doomed to eventual exposure, despite the delusions and disturbances created during the brief period in which they run their foul course.
ON FERVOR AND FALSE SHELTERS
This brings us to religious fervor. Religious fervor generally has a bad reputation. This is not because it is intrinsically evil. It is not. The problem is that it is so often misplaced and misused. Just as the speculations and concoctions of so-called astrologers in daily newspapers can only obscure--but not obliterate--the predictive power of genuine sidereal astrology, similarly, misuse of any science does not render that great science useless.
It only can cover it for some time.
When there is a genuine acharya present, such a God-realized devotee can very easily energize his sincere disciples. Spiritual energy is our original energy, and it is very, very powerful. When it is reactivated by initiation from the first-class pure devotee of the Lord, it acts upon the conditioned soul much like fire acts upon iron, making it red-hot and virtually non-different from fire. The devotee of a guru who can give sufficient guidance is undoubtedly blessed. Such a disciple will always be a gentleman. Even when he or she displays some spiritual fervor, this fervor is not only intrinsically good, it is transcendental.
However, when a perverted reflection of this fervor is generated without proper foundation, it will always be disturbing--and often even harmful. Fanatics may possess a tremendous amount of energy and drive, but that energy is not spiritual, despite their claims to the contrary. That drive is warped, and we must go beyond such displays in order to advance in the scientific philosophy and process of true spiritual life.
We must first insist on attaining sufficient guidance before surrendering ourselves to various emotions generated by some powerful man or some group. We must go beyond warp-drive. If we cannot contact the first-class devotee directly, then we must take shelter of the Book Bhagavat, because it can also deliver us, as discussed previously.
If we actually want to advance in spiritual life, we must set the philosophical process up in the right way from the beginning. Not doing so is like carelessly diving into a shallow stream in order to escape the heat of a summer's day: we simply make matters worse by hitting our head on a huge, hard rock just as we enter the river. If we want to cross some large body of water, a fundamentally strong boat guided by an able captain can help us, but a stone boat guided by a pretender will never get us to the other side.
Since the disappearance of the last sampradaya-acharya, so many stone boats and pretenders have emerged to beckon us aboard and sail away to our spiritual death. We do not, however, have to sink with them, because there is a positive alternative to the stone-hearted men of pseudo-Krishna consciousness.
Briefly, these concoctions come in three divisions: the wild-card guru, institutionalized gurudom, and the non-manifest initiator guru. The first two of these three have been predominant forces covering the Krishna consciousness movement since Prabhupada's disappearance. For more information on these two, consult our addendum to this treatise, entitled TWO KINDS OF BOGUS GURUS. The third concoction will subsequently discussed in the chapter subheading Stop!Rittvik.
There is a difference between insufficient guidance and misleading guidance. The first is merely insufficient; the second is cheating. Cheating leaders and cheating followers are very prevalent in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy.
As long as you take instruction and direction from another conditioned soul, there is no harm if he or she teaches you some Truth that you did not previously know. There is no harm if you perform various services for your guide, since service attitude is always the key to advancement in spiritual life.
There is harm, however, if you are led to believe that insufficient guidance is--somehow or other--sufficient. It is not. There is also harm if you think that great attachment to insufficient guidance will help you cultivate contact with sufficient guidance. You should not become strongly attached to or enamored by insufficient guidance, because that will put a damper on whatever desire you may have had to seek out, contact, recognize, and surrender to sufficient guidance--in the form of the God-realized spiritual master.
Besides, in the absence of such a pure devotee being physically manifest, we still have recourse to an avatar that is sufficient: sufficient guidance in the form of the Book Bhagavat. Since November of 1977, the acharya has elected to remain non-manifest and silent. Our real solace and shelter, therefore, lies in the Book Bhagavat. It does not lie in the insufficient guidance of some neophyte upstart who has no business initiating anyone into devotional service and the Vaishnava sampradaya. Why should we be content to invest our faith and allegiance into any form of insufficient guidance? The Book Bhagavat is competent to deliver us, and, as an added bonus, the Book Bhagavat stimulates our desire for seeking out the God-realized devotee.
The Book Bhagavat is loaded with Absolute philosophy. This philosophy is not speculative. Instead, it is authorized. It is always factual and true, because it represents the direct perceptions of fully realized devotees of God. As such, it is flawless. Those unfortunate seekers of spiritual life who cannot put their faith in such flawless teachings instead put their faith in other things filled with flaws.
The previous acharya, Srila Prabhupada, put tremendous emphasis for spiritual advancement in the Vaishnava literatures he translated into English. His prolific writings were not simply an exhibition of scholarship. Instead, they were an emphasis on the need to read and retain flawless philosophy in order to advance in genuine spiritual life. The Absolute Truth can be communicated through philosophy. The Absolute Truth is realized directly, but it is flawless philosophy that lays the foundation for such realizations.
This is because philosophical truths have a direct connection with intelligence. They purify the intelligence, and intelligence is very important in the process of yoga. Without sufficient intelligence, a practitioner of yoga is prone to be cheated. Without spiritual intelligence, a yoga practitioner becomes enamored by the semi-spiritual or pseudo-spiritual. Intelligence, when it is polluted in this way, will guide the chariot of material existence in the wrong direction. The spirit self is the rider in this chariot, and it's up to spiritual intelligence (buddhi-yoga) to steer the vehicle properly. Previous to complete realization, there is no alternative to this.
However, when intelligence is polluted, the chariot will never reach the goal. The horses of the senses may be reined in, and the reins of the mind may be very tight, but the steering mechanism is not properly aimed. The charioteer may be strong, but he is warped. The spirit soul is just a helpless passenger, despite the misguided strength of the charioteer's intelligence. A polluted intelligence could conceivably even steer the chariot into the brahman effulgence, but, once attaining that position, he will then think that he has become God.
Most people with polluted intelligence--at least, in this age--never even come close to any Absolute realizations (although they think that they do). They simply remain cheated. Generally, a person with polluted intelligence becomes enamored with a bogus guru. The guru directs such a follower away from the philosophy contained in the Book Bhagavat. Sometimes, the bogus guru presents his own writings. No matter how much of his writings are true, the falsity in them is what's empowered. That falsity represents the bogus guru's vested interest. The practitioner adopts the falsity as truth, and, from that point on, there will be no actual progress in spiritual life. There will only be a facsimile of progress that further deludes the follower.
Before actually embarking on the search for a genuine guru, it is imperative that a seeker of spiritual life is situated in the basic philosophical truths of Vaishnava teachings. Retaining these truths will allow his or her intelligence to become sufficiently strengthened. Discrimination is not a bad word in spiritual life. Fine discrimination with good memory is essential for action in devotional service. This fine discrimination is only available to a person with evolving spiritual intelligence.
Maya means "that which appears to be so, but which is actually not so" or, for short, "that which is not". To get out of maya, a strong spiritual intelligence is necessary. Those with weak and polluted intelligence will become attracted to bogus teachings, bogus gurus, bogus cults, bogus institutions, bogus congregations, and bogus celebrations. The followers of bogus gurus sometimes adopt extreme austerities (usually for the purpose of getting money), and they give these fruits of their good karma to the bogus guru. They think that this will help them advance in the organization. These kinds of people soon become averse to reading Vaishnava philosophy in its unpolluted form, because such reading and hearing directly assaults their polluted intelligence.
Cheating in spiritual life is very prominent in this age. After the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada, such cheating took an exponential leap. As a result, there are so many cheating organizations out there-- along with bogus gurus and bogus initiations--that the whole smorgasbord of pseudo-spiritual life is mind boggling. Therefore, we should not trust only our minds in the matter of finding out which of these various groups are genuine and will actually lead us toward God-realization. We should instead emphasize our spiritual intelligence, which will discriminate in the matter of selection. Before actually embarking on a close examination of the smorgasbord, we can cull out a great number of the groups by surcharging our consciousness with the teachings of Vaishnava literature--as it is and as you (as spirit) like it.
"The first requirement is that one become educated in spiritual life. Spiritual life is not something one can understand by a few minutes' talk. There are many philosophy and theology books, but people are not interested in them. . . And if, by chance, someone becomes a little interested in spiritual life, he wants something immediate and cheap. Therefore, he is cheated." - Science of Self-Realization Ch 2 Choosing a Spiritual Master - Saints and Swindlers
This is the root of the problem: to become sincere enough that we won't tolerate being cheated.
PRABHUPADA: "But if you are sincere, you will find a sincere guru. Because people want everything very cheaply, they are cheated." - Science of Self-Realization Ch 2 Choosing a Spiritual Master - Saints and Swindlers
O'GRADY: 'The problem is to find this spiritual master.`
PRABHUPADA: 'That is not the problem. The problem is whether you are sincere. . . If you are sincere, God sends you a spiritual master. . . First of all, we must again be eager to revive our God consciousness. Then God will give us a spiritual master.` - Science of Self-Realization Ch 7 Exploring the Spiritual Frontier - An Awareness of What Is Best and Most Beautiful
"One who is serious about spiritual life is given by Krishna the intelligence to come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master, and then, by the grace of the spiritual master, one becomes advanced in Krishna consciousness." - Nectar of Devotion Introduction
It is not very difficult to come into contact with the followers of a bogus guru, or, for that matter, followers of bogus gurus:
REPORTER: 'I wonder how many people you think might have been taken in by fake gurus?`
PRABHUPADA: 'Practically everyone. There is no question of counting.`
REPORTER: 'This would mean thousands of people, wouldn't it?`
PRABHUPADA: 'Millions. Millions have been cheated, because they want to be cheated. . .`
REPORTER: 'Have you ever had people come to you who had previously been involved with a fake guru?`
PRABHUPADA: 'Yes, there are many.'" - Science of Self-Realization Ch 2 Choosing a Spiritual Master - Saints and Swindlers
It is not uncommon for sentimental people to be taken in by a bogus guru. Even after becoming somewhat aware that their guru (or institution) is bogus, it is also quite common for them to shrug it off and consider the whole experience still helpful--perhaps a stepping-stone. This is also the case when they come to discover that their institution is not really presenting the philosophy and teachings of Krishna consciousness correctly. These followers tend to project their own naivete onto their bogus guru or the leaders of their bogus institution. However, the motives of bogus gurus are neither naive nor benign. Bogus gurus of all stripes manipulate their followers. Such pretenders are given no slack by genuine gurus, as these six quotes by Srila Prabhupada confirm:
"The so-called acharyas of the age of Kali (our current epoch) are more concerned with exploiting the resources of their followers than in mitigating their miseries." - Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi 3.98
"Without understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead in this (the correct) way, one only creates a disturbance. In this age of Kali, so many gurus have sprung up, and . . . they are creating a great disturbance in the world in regard to understanding the Absolute Truth." - Srimad Bhagavatam 8.12.10, Purport
"Such violators of religious principles have no respect for the authoritative acharyas, the holy teachers in the strict disciplic succession. To mislead the people in general, they themselves become so-called acharyas, but do not even follow the principles of the acharyas. These rogues are the most dangerous elements in human society." - Sri Isopanishad 12, Purport
"People want to be cheated, and therefore they go to yogis and svamis who play tricks, but tricks do not mitigate the miseries of material life . . . One cannot become happy by accepting a false guru." - Srimad Bhagavatam 5.14.13, Purport
". . . Because of the instructions of a foolish guru, one remains perpetually in material existence and suffers its tribulations." - Srimad Bhagavatam 8.24.51, Purport
"Nowhere in authentic scriptures is it said that one will ultimately reach the same goal by doing anything or worshiping anyone. Such foolish theories are offered by self-made masters who have no connection with the parampara, the bona fide system of disciplic succession." - Sri Isopanishad 13 Purport
In order to actually make progress in spiritual life, it is imperative we realize that there can be no real benefit in the acceptance of a bogus guru or a bogus institution. We will only be exploited (or become ourselves transformed into an exploiter) if we do so.
After the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada, many foolish theories have gained momentum. These have all cropped up in the name of his teachings and his movement, of course. Previously, we mentioned three of the most prominent concoctions, the first two of which will be explained in an addendum to this paper. The third concoction is becoming institutionalized at the current time.
This one pushes the concept of a non-manifest initiator guru. Its members claim that Srila Prabhupada has now become this guru--and that he is, for all practical purposes, the initiating guru for posterity. Some of the leaders of this new view (many of them are actually initiated disciples of Prabhupada--having been legitimately initiated by him during his tour of the world) are great wranglers. They argue their points to no end, but the devices they use are often unscrupulous.
We cannot delve into the endlessly mutable alleys of all these polemics, as it would expand the size of this treatise exponentially. Instead, we shall present sixteen authorized points which clearly show that the guru-for-posterity philosophy--although very popular amongst Christian sects (from which rittvik has no doubt sprung)--has no genuine foundation within the Krishna Consciousness movement:
1. The Lord sends the initiating guru in manifest form. This takes place when the disciple is ready. Concoctions about initiation surface due to pressure from above and below. From above, the concoctions surface when (actually initiated) devotees wish to lead disciples--but require some kind of initiation concoction in order to do so. The pressure from below comes when new persons are not sufficiently sincere to contact a genuine guru in physical form and surrender to him for initiation. Nevertheless, they still demand to be initiated anyway.
"So if you are actually serious about Krishna, then Krishna will send you His representative, and he (the guru) will take charge of you. That is the process. If you do not find a guru, that means Krishna is not yet pleased. You are not serious." - Conversation with Bajaj and Bhusan--September 11, 1972, Arlington, Texas
2.?Throughout Vaishnava writings, we find mention of the "external manifestation" of God, i.e., the guru. The term "external manifestation" is self-evident. The initiating guru is the external manifestation of God, and we should simply face that fact rather than attempt to obscure and avoid it.
"When we are sincere, Krishna helps us, either in external direction by the spiritual master or internally by His (God's) Paramatma expansion." - Letter to: Pradyumna--Vrindaban 25 August, 1967
"Spiritual master is external manifestation of God. God is within and without . . . helping from within and without. Within as Paramatma and without as spiritual master. Both ways. So we have to take both ways--from inside, from outside." - Conversation Including Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.1-34 Recitation & Explanation--April 1, 1969, San Francisco
"Krishna is so merciful, He's trying to educate from within and outside. He sends His representative to teach. So He's trying to bring all these living entities back to home, back to Godhead. Two ways: from inside and outside." - Morning Walk--December 10, 1973, Los Angeles
3.?Srila Prabhupada has made direct references to the initiating guru as the "physical spiritual master." This obviously refers to the external manifestation of the initiating guru.
"If God sees that you are sincere, He will give you a spiritual master who can give you protection. He will help you from within and without--without in the PHYSICAL form of spiritual master and within as the spiritual master within the heart." (emphasis added) - Room Conversation with Irish Poet, Desmond OGrady--May 23, 1974, Rome
"DISCIPLE: 'His question was: 'Can you take initiation by accepting a spiritual master in your heart without actually taking . . . '?
PRABHUPADA: 'These are bogus propositions. It has no meaning. He doesn't know anything. If you think within yourself, 'I am eating,' will you be satisfied? You starve! And simply think, 'I have eaten everything.' Is that a very practical proposal? You must eat. We don't say all these bogus propositions. . . They say like that, 'There is no need of guru.'" - Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.1--Melbourne, May 21, 1975
"DISCIPLE: 'Yeah, right. They think that Krishna is in the heart, and you can accept initiation by that way.'
PRABHUPADA: 'You do not know where to find out Krishna in the heart.' " - Morning Walk--May 22, 1975, Melbourne
4.?It is the Vedic and Vaishnava tradition that both the guru and the prospective disciple study one another over a period of time. This allows both of them to discern each other's qualities. The guru-for-posterity system gives no such facility:
"It is said for one year the shishya (disciple) and the guru should meet together . . . The aspirant shishya will hear and study to see if he's (the guru is) actually fit for becoming guru. Similarly, the guru will also study that whether he's (the disciple is) fit..." - Morning Walk--March 23, 1974, Bombay
"When one is accepted as the master, then you have to accept his statement. There is no question of argument. That is the relationship between guru and disciple. Therefore, the process is, before accepting a person as guru, one must study his (the guru's) position." - Room Conversation with Yoga Student, March 14, 1975, Iran
5.?It is the duty of the guru to directly--in no uncertain terms--criticize, correct, and chastise his disciple. If the guru has left manifest existence, that is very convenient for the so-called "initiated disciple":
"Actually, it is the duty of the spiritual master to find fault with his students so that they may make progress. Not that he should always be praising them." - Letter to: Giriraja--Los Angeles 24 May, 1972
6.?When the initiating guru is physically manifest, he absorbs the sinful reactions of his disciple into his (the guru's) own body. Obviously, this is a topic that can be understood only up to a certain point. Ultimately, it is inconceivable. Nevertheless, it remains both the fact and the standard. The disciple requires that his sinful reactions be cleared so that he can make progress on the path without having to fulfill so many karmic entanglements and obligations. The guru greatly assists his initiated disciple by absorbing both the good as well as the wicked reactions.
"So to become guru is not an easy task. You see? He has to take all the poisons and absorb them." - Talk with Bob Cohen--February 27-29, 1972 Mayapura
"The pain is there sometimes so that the disciples may know that, 'Due to our sinful activities, my spiritual master is suffering.'" - Talk with Bob Cohen--February 27-29, 1972 Mayapura
7.?You may be able to feel the actual position of the guru to some extent by reading his books, but coming physically into contact with him will generally be a much heavier experience.
"Guru means heavy, who knows better than you." - Morning Walk--March 25, 1974, Bombay
8.?When you have an initiating spiritual master who is physically present, there are important benefits. He can act as the final arbiter. He can directly clear up delusions--when consulting his books does not accomplish it. He can nip concoctions in the bud.
"When you cannot understand, you should get it explained by your spiritual master." - Room Conversation--December 12, 1970, Indore
"Not that everything has to be included in the Bhagavad-gita. Therefore, the spiritual master is required." - Letter to: Vrndavana Candra--Los Angeles 19 July, 1970
"It is stated that those who are engaged in the service of the Lord in pure love and devotion--to them dictation is given from within their hearts. But still you should check with me." - Letter to: Karandhara--Bombay 13 November, 1970
"You are thinking of many plans but, without consulting me, do not enact anything... I do not know how you could dare to do this without asking me . . ." - Letter to: Mukunda--Los Angeles 12 January, 1974
9.?We need a personally manifest guru so that we can directly learn by his example. Conditioned souls benefit by seeing examples:
"If there is any difficulty in understanding, we should inquire from the spiritual master . . . We have to see how the scriptural injunctions are being followed by saintly persons." - Discussions with Syamasundar dasa - Henri Bergson
10. When a spiritual master departs manifest existence, his legacy (the opportunity to fulfill the legacy) is passed on to his disciples. It is their duty to keep the founder's legacy intact. When (or if) any of them becomes qualified as guru--according to their departed guru's specific instructions and directives--then such a disciple becomes the current link in the sampradaya. This is the Vaishnava system. Initiation is then to be taken from that current link.
Initiation is not to be taken from a departed spiritual master, even if he was the last link in the line of acharyas. A prospective disciple who wants to enter the school of disciplic succession can accept the departed spiritual master's guidance through his teachings--and, indeed, is encouraged to do so. Srila Prabhupada is the shishya-guru for all of us. For the newcomers, he is not diksa-guru after leaving manifest presence.
11.?The initiating guru gives purificatory mantras to his disciples, and these mantras are received when the guru initiates his disciple:
"One may receive a published mantra anywhere, but, unless it is accepted through the chain of disciplic succession, the mantra chanted without having been received from the disciplic succession has no efficacy." - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.8.53, Purport
All devotees can still chant the mantras Prabhupada presented us, and there will be spiritual benefit. Purification via the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra does not solely depend upon initiation from a guru on this plane. When a manifest guru performs mantric initiation, the purificatory process proceeds quickly. Receiving these mantras from Prabhupada's books and tapes is, however, still bona fide. The mantras can be chanted, because they have been received (in that way) through the disciplic succession. This is the link to the sampradaya via the Book Bhagavat.
All new devotees currently bewildered by rittvik can have all the benefits they seek (except the unauthorized social benefits of claiming a so-called initiation from a departed spiritual master) by dedicating themselves to the Book Bhagavat.
"In the Padma Purana it is also said, sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah. There are four sampradayas, or disciplic successions . . . If one wants to advance in spiritual power, one must receive his mantras from one of these bona fide sampradayas; otherwise he will never successfully advance in spiritual life." - Srimad Bhagavatam 6.8.42, Purport
12.?Falsely claiming to have a diksa guru and an initiation from him (an improper initiation) is very risky:
"A person who is not properly initiated can descend again into the animal species." - Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 15.108, Purport
13.?The initiation ceremony, performed on the manifest plane by a manifest guru, has spiritual (and ultimately inconceivable) value:
"Now, the next initiation will be performed as a ceremony, officially. Of course that ceremony has value, because the Name, the Holy Name, will be delivered to the student from the disciplic succession." - Letter to: Tamala Krsna--Montreal 19 August, 1968
14.?When a person concocts that he has accepted initiation from a non-manifest guru, that concoction is made without consulting that guru. The so-called initiated disciple will simply believe that the guru has taken responsibility for him (the disciple). In the actual Vaishnava system, the disciple knows that the guru has taken responsibility, because the permission to be initiated by him has been granted on the manifest plane by the spiritual master to the disciple.
"Upon your surrender, the spiritual master and Krishna take responsibility for your sins. So if you commit sin again, the spiritual master becomes responsible for your sinful reaction. . . . . Upon your recommendation, I will be very glad to accept Sriman Paul Zarouny as my duly initiated disciple."--Letter to: Batu Gopala -- Los Angeles 22 August, 1972
"If there is responsibility, there must be someone you are responsible to." - The Quest For Enlightenment 6, Discussions on Western Philosophy and Science--Jean-Paul Sartre: Is the Supreme Being Nothingness?
15.?When a person thinks that he has a non-manifest guru, how does such a disciple become trained? Being personally trained by a physically manifest guru is very important for Vaishnavas.
"Is there anything within this world which can be learned without guru? Even if you become an ordinary carpenter, you have to learn from an expert carpenter." - Room Conversation--February 15, 1975, Mexico
"Rupa Goswami said that the first business is to accept spiritual master. Adau guru ashrayam. Who will train him? He is already fool, rascal. He must be trained up. So he must be trained up by the representative of Krishna. " - Morning Walk--May 22, 1975, Melbourne
There are circumstances where a living entity goes back to Godhead at the time of death, despite having not been trained up in Krishna Consciousness during his or her lifetime. Anyone who thinks of Krishna at the time of death goes back to Krishna. So that special mercy is always there. However, the standard system of being trained by the physical spiritual master is still recommended. Following it produces more dependable results.
16.?In the remote past, there were some instances where devotees received initiation either directly from God or from a non-manifest guru (beyond the physical plane). There are very special circumstances involved in all of these rare occurrences. All of these disciples were in an exalted spiritual state before their initiations. The institutionalization of such a rare occurrence is both contradictory and appalling. The idea that these special circumstances are applicable on a mass scale at this time is erroneous.
"One should not, however, think himself on the level of Brahma (who received just such a special initiation thousands of years ago) to be initiated directly by the Lord from inside, because, in the present age, no one can be accepted to be as pure as Brahma." - Srimad Bhagavatam 2.9.7, Purport
"So physically you may not meet Krishna. But in higher stage, you can meet. But accepting that you cannot . . . you have to be in contact with his representative, (who) is coming in disciplic succession." - Room Conversation with Indian Guests--July 11, 1973, London
The leaders and followers of rittvik are attempting to institutionalize the process. Obviously, their Christian friends have set an example for them, but the Vaishnava system of transcendence is not the same as modern-day versions of Christianity. Although the belief in a personal God may be the same, there are many integral differences between Vaishnavism and so-called Christianity. This idea of institutionalizing a system of initiation for newcomers--wherein they are led to believe that they have received initiation from a non-manifest guru (in the current case, from Srila Prabhupada)--has no genuine authorization behind it. Certainly Srila Prabhupada did not authorize it, although some of the leaders of this new philosophy twist his words in such a way as to make dull-witted people think that he did.
Our Christian friends may believe in the concept that they are initiated (baptized or born again) by Lord Jesus the Christ, but that does not mean that devotees of Krishna Consciousness must also get into it. Indeed, Prabhupada made any number of self-evident statements against this idea of becoming initiated by a departed spiritual master (for example, Prabhupada ridiculed the delusion that Christ is so easily taking on all of his modern-day followers' sinful reactions). Just because we should not agitate the Christians does not mean that we must allow similar delusions to go unchecked within the Krishna consciousness movement.
Suffice it to say that no sampradaya in the history of Vaishnavism has instituted a system whereby a rittvik performs initiation on behalf of a departed guru. During Prabhupada's presence in manifest form, he authorized some of his disciples to be rittviks, and they performed the initiation ceremony on his behalf. That is authorized during the guru's presence. It is no longer authorized when he departs from the world.
ON RELIGION AND SERVICE ATTITUDE
Real religion is that system of philosophy (Absolute Truth), faith, and worship which assists its adherent to become a lover of God and to go back to Godhead. The goal is to realize God even before death. Real religion must be based upon Absolute philosophy. Since God is eternal, real religion is also eternal or absolute. Real religion requires flawless philosophy, Absolute philosophy. Religion without philosophy becomes sentiment in no time. In such situations, religion puts all of its emphasis on rituals, ceremonies, congregations, etc. In the worst cases, religion without philosophy degrades into fanaticism. We must become sound in spiritual knowledge, otherwise we are just gambling with whatever group or whatever leader we affiliate with at any given time.
In order for knowledge to actually take root and grow, the person receiving that knowledge must have a service attitude. The system of Krishna Consciousness is not based upon sentiment; it is based upon service. You may hear with your ears something, or you may read with your eyes something else, but if you do not possess the service attitude, that knowledge will act like water in a cracked pot. It will simply leak away, and you will lose it. Service must be there. That is why another name for Krishna Consciousness is devotional service. When service is offered to a superior devotee and/or to a genuine organization, the person offering that service receives knowledge and spiritual upliftment.
In order for this service attitude to work, the motivation must be right. Devotional service should not be covered by fruitive activity. The two are not completely compatible. Fruitive activity entails material motivation. Devotional service requires spiritual motivation. Any motivation to advance to a higher platform of Krishna Consciousness is spiritual motivation.
Obviously, sincerity and seriousness of intention constitute both a person's motivation and what the person will actually attain as his or her result. Genuine devotional service works to purify motivation. Effort to purify motivation results in an increase of genuine activities in devotional service. Just the opposite of a vicious circle, it is an upward spiral. They are integrally linked, and they both work together to accomplish two important purposes.
One of these purposes is obviously positive, and the other appears to be negative (or, more exactly, preventative). They are both transcendentally positive. A genuine service attitude combined with pure motivation allows the devotee to advance in Krishna Consciousness. Genuine service attitude combined with pure motivation also affords a devotee protection from becoming victimized by wild-card gurus, institutionalized delusions, or the concept that he or she can declare himself or herself initiated by a departed spiritual master.
A service attitude is not the same thing as surrender, but service attitude can lead to surrender. Service attitude can even be present at mundane levels. In those cases, the service attitude is not spiritual, of course. Nevertheless, it often can still be uplifting--especially if the service is in the mode of goodness. A service attitude in spiritual life is always uplifting and invigorating, even if there are some difficulties cropping up from time to time.
Having covered a number of important topics in this treatise, we will begin to wrap it up with some recommendations:
The positive recommendations are those which point out what activities should be done. The so-called negative recommendations are those which point out what should be avoided. Om tat sat. Hare Krishna.
TWO KINDS OF BOGUS GURUS
There are two chief types of bogus gurus: the wild-card guru and the institutionalized guru. Both are powerful representatives of the illusory energy, and they both mislead and delay neophyte transcendentalists on the path of the Absolute Truth.
First, let us understand the wild-card. These powerful and charismatic men create a personality cult and mystique around themselves. As loose cannons with varying degrees of apparent mystic power, they form a class of followers who are basically blind to the knowledge of Vedic literature. These followers become obsessed with the personal qualities of the wild-card guru. The contradictions inherent in his personality cult elude them.
Invariably, his followers fear his rules far more than they fear crossing the injunctions and moral standards of the Vedic literatures (or any genuine scriptures). These personality cults are capable of any kind of atrocity or injustice. Wild-card gurus have a strong tendency to encourage criminal acts by their followers, although this sanctioning is done covertly, of course. If the follower gets away with a criminal act--and gives the material result (usually money) to the wild-card guru--that follower becomes a pet disciple. If the follower gets caught, however, the wild-card guru ostracizes him from the group, using him as a scapegoat.
The wild-card is adept at making a show of profound sentiment to his god and his guru (it's not unusual for him to claim that he's God himself). His fans are enraptured by these displays. These demon-strations have no effect on sincere transcendentalists, however. They scorn the whole show. The volatility of the cult can (and usually does) erupt at various times, opening a Pandora's box for all kinds of gruesome karmic reactions. These often take years to manifest their full results and side-effects. Lord Krishna is never pleased by the personality cult of the wild-card guru, and negative results are part of the fate God decrees upon the whole affair.
One wild-card guru, Jim Jones, was responsible for the slaughter of nine hundred people in recent times. Nevertheless, wild-cards are still not as dangerous as the flip side of this bogus guru coin: the priests of institutionalized religion.
Rather that killing nine hundred people, the Inquisition was responsible for the tortures and deaths of at least sixty-million innocent people who refused to surrender to state-sponsored terrorism (disguised as religion). Institutional gurus are not limited to any one particular cult or religion, and they are insidious detriments to mankind's quest for enlightenment. Although they push many dogmas, you'll invariably find one false dogma as the central hub of their scheme.
This false dogma can be called "guru-by-plurality". It's got a bit of a democratic element to it, so that helps its popularity. It's still completely bogus as far as spiritual life goes, however. These groups advocate a belief--a mystery, supposedly--which says that initiation into Transcendence is ultimately made available only through the channel of a group. If prospective members can but attain the favor of the governing body--through one of its loyal agents--then the institution extends its permission to that agent in the matter of initiating the new member into the fold (whether the congregation is called a church or a society).
In this system, the governing body is held to be the highest authority--the required link to the Godhead--and it only dispenses initiation. Its priests are sometimes called gurus (depending upon which cult you are dealing with), but this "guru's" contract to a new member is not based upon the initiating priest's level of realization or his purity. The contract is based upon his loyalty to the governing body.
CULT OF NO RESPONSIBILITY
Institutionalized gurudom is based upon a group controlled (almost always from behind the scenes) by votes or vetoes. The governing body is under the influence of the most forceful, or manipulative, member within it--the one who can line up a power bloc quickly behind his initiatives. Any number of gurus or initiating priests are available to new prospects. Nevertheless, those fellows are not personally responsible for the spiritual deliverance of their "initiated" disciples. These disciples all come to know that any of the group's gurus, including the guru they chose, is under contract from the governing body.
The governing body is said to possess the mystique of being a direct manifestation of the essence of the institution, the essence of the founder of the institution, and the conduit to the disciplic succession. This obnoxious arrangement invariably takes advantage of the charisma of the original founder. Ironically, sometimes he may well have been a bona fide guru. The governing body, however, arranges to warp his teachings after his disappearance. The legacy of the original guru, the founder, is said to have passed inviolably to the corporate extension of the Society--composed entirely of conditioned souls.
The whole arrangement ultimately makes no sense when analyzed with logic, common sense, and the assistance of genuine scripture. The members of the group couldn't care less about that. The reasoning for the concoction is said by them to be buried within an inconceivable enigma surrounding the pet disciples of the founder. These pets, of course, predominate on the governing board. It is rare that even one of them is also not voted to be an initiating guru for the cult. Somehow or other, "the Society must go on." There must be initiations ("But who will initiate them?"), even when it becomes clear that the so-called initiating priests are shot through with many unwanted tendencies--and are prone to cheat at the slightest opportunity.
In institutionalized gurudom, political and social advancement (there is no actual religious or spiritual advancement, although there is a facade of that, of course) is predicated upon whether or not the appointed priest is loyal to the party--and the current party line. Sometimes, such loyalty is required even for the sake of survival, what to speak of advancement in the group. All preaching must be in sync with the politics of the moment. Power struggles, scape-goating, compromise, and patronage thus determine what is now in--and what (also, who) is now out.
Doctrinal changes are made in order to explain inevitable irregularities. Reforms emerge in order to adjust for endemic mistakes. No member of the cult dares to speak according to extemporaneous realization, even if such preaching corresponds to the Truth propounded by genuine gurus in the past. All managers for the society must first think how their statements will play out with the governing body and its loyalists.
The cart is put before the horse in institutionalized gurudom. The material arrangements of hierarchy are made all-important, while stark truths of any sort are considered dangerous. What's the use of belonging to a group (supposedly representing spiritual life) when knowledge and enlightenment are considered too risky to be important? No matter how good all the apples used to be, when one rotten apple gets in there, all of the others soon become similarly degraded.
Such a society adapts itself to contemporary trends favorable for attracting numbers and good public relations. "Results" determine what is true and false in these groups. You'll also find that every initiating priest (appointed or voted in by the cult to increase the membership) will always rely upon the weight of the institution as the ultimate vindicator of his status. The total material results the institution garners are held to be composite indicators of God's blessing upon it. Followers are enjoined not to worry about anything--except staying on the boat (and especially not rocking it).
There is no chance for self-realization in this kind of religion. Vedic literature condemns it. A genuine guru is never rubber-stamped to purity by an institution. His authority comes directly from God, and it is manifest through his personal realization. He does not claim allegiance to any kind of blind loyalty. The genuine guru knows it well that material benefits and influence (gained from any bogus arrangement) are always eclipsed by anarthas--which must subtly entangle anyone who takes advantage of the scheme.
If an advanced spiritualist or devotee even indirectly sanctions, approves, or tolerates the acceptance of an unqualified person as a spiritual master, he loses his purity instantly. After that, he will be made to share the reactions of such "initiating priests".
A genuine guru never misleads his disciple on the path of the Absolute Truth, nor can he stand to see any misleading done under the strength of even his indirect approval or influence. The bona fide guru neither cheats in that way nor in any other way.
THE TURTLE TANK
Spiritual life is undoubtedly difficult. The Vedas further reveal that, when a person becomes an imitator and attempts to act above his qualification or realization, evil is the ultimate product. Of course, the imitator may temporarily enjoy immense material benefits, but the real result will, in the final analysis, be bad for everyone involved--especially him.
In this age of kali yuga, sin, ignorance, and irreligion pose as real religion. An institutionalized delusion gets its momentum when ambitious persons concoct a series of rationalizations culminating in unqualified persons usurping the post of initiating guru.
When a former peer becomes such a guru, why should his competitor godbrother also not get promoted? They will soon be competing in order to show that they deserve their self-appointed guru statuses. In the beginning, they may even be called God-realized souls with extravagant titles--but they must prove themselves by "results". Now, results mean making disciples--giving initiations. So, in order to do that, these men quickly capture the means of production: the temples, the printing presses, the naive disciples of the founder, and all other such facilities.
Invariably, their defects become exposed. They even expose one another (at least in the beginning). Each turtle in the tank uses the shell of the turtle just under it to push its way up to the top. The turtle used as the pivot goes under. The institutional gurus fight within the confines of the turtle tank. Then, after scape-goating and scandals, they concoct some new party line, label it a reform, and they make up.
They then take refuge in allegiance to the Party. So, they become party men--particularly if they can get on the governing board. This appears to be the only solution for all previous disasters.
A whole chain of events becomes obscured in time. One plus one is made into three. More sophisticated math is introduced. Sometimes it is, in itself, correct. Nevertheless, being added from a fundamentally flawed base, it still has to wind up producing the wrong result.
The cult's material expansion becomes the be-all and end-all of its legitimacy. Nescience gets institutionalized and locked-in. The cult expands superficially. No one ever talks about returning to square one, despite the fact that many members complain about a malaise afflicting the group. Once the point-of-no-return has been breached, any talk of returning to square one is considered to be nothing but propaganda from an enemy.
As such, spiritual and philosophical injunctions (which direct the intelligence toward a priori spiritual truths and principles) suffer censorship by omission in these cults. Devotees who still preach the Absolute philosophy are considered anachronistic malcontents. They are ostracized and ignored, although, ironically, they are the only ones left who can really help anyone.
A fetish for so-called initiation, an over-glorification of and an over-dependence upon pets, a retro-rittvik movement, an over-emphasis on congregationalism--these do not constitute the formula of a successful Krishna consciousness movement for the 21st Century. This arrangement is insufficient. The Book Bhagavat offers something much better than this, so let's take shelter of it for a new beginning.
Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust