— Chapter Six —

Disobeying or Disrespecting
the Spiritual Master

All glories to Sri Panca-tattva and Sri Radha-Madhava. All glories to Navadvipa-dharma, Vraja-dhama, Yamuna-devi and to all the Vaisnava devotees.

The preciousness of human life

SRILA HARIDASA THAKURA SAID, "O Lord, kindly allow me to explain the third namaparadha. This aparadha is to disobey the orders of the spiritual master or to disrespect him.

"The soul travels through many lifetimes in different bodies and at last gets the chance of a rare human birth, which is auspicious in every respect. The soul has rotated through 8,400,000 different species; by ajnata-sukrti, or involuntary pious activities, the soul finally attains a human body.

A birth in the human form is most uncommon, because only in that body are spiritual activities possible, not in any other species. A demigod or denizen of the heavenly planets is destined only to enjoy the reactions of his past pious activities; he cannot voluntarily initiate any saintly activities. Animals are likewise bound by karmic reactions and are too steeped in gross ignorance to undertake any pious activities independently. The human birth alone is most conducive for spiritual life and for service to the Supreme Lord.

A spiritual master is essential for everyone

"Yet the fact remains that this body is transient. If one doos not carefully endeavor for self-realization, which is the greatest benediction, then he returns again to the endless cycle of birth and death. An intelligent person will therefore utilize this rare opportunity. He will search out a spiritual master who can lead him to the Supreme Lord Krsna. Such a spiritual master is truly a helmsman who can help the drowning jiva cross over the ocean of material nescience. Only the most foolish persons will attempt to cross this ocean by their own intelligence. The achievement of any success in this world requires the help of a guru's instructions. How, then, can one obtain perfection in the best of all subjects, spiritual science, without the aid of a guru? Only one who is self-realized and fully proficient in spiritual knowledge is fit to be a spiritual master.

"A few of the characteristics of a bona fide spiritual master are that he is peaceful, unperturbed, and a pure devotee of Krsna. He should be approached with humility.The jiva should satisfy him with service and receive formal initiation from him into the worship of Lord Krsna; herein lies his best chance to surmount the material entanglement. The jiva's inherent love for Krsna lies dormant in the heart and can easily be revived. But he can easily lose this chance through speculative debates and mischievous logic. He must evade such pitfalls, surrender to the spiritual master's instructions and receive the proper mantra from him. As for householders, they should remain within the varnasrama system and take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master.

A good brahmana is fit to be a spiritual master

"A brahmana is fit to be a spiritual master for all the other varnas or social orders if he is a devotee of Lord Krsna. But if a brahmana spiritual master is not available, then a spiritual master from another varna should be searched out. Still, the householder is best advised to accept initiation from a brahmana-varna spiritual master.

"A real spiritual master is one who is conversant with the science of Krsna consciousness. A spiritual master can be from any varna or asrama, but he must be a kalpataru or touchstone (which converts iron into gold), fulfilling everyone's spiritual longings, The prestige of having a spiritual master from a superior

varna is a material consideration; that prestige simply depends on the caste status of the one who is judging the spiritual master's caste. External factors such as caste have hardly any bearing on spiritual realization. Necessity demands that one must find a spiritual master who is bona fide and qualified; if he happens to belong to a higher varna, so much the better. A householder should look for a spiritual master from one of the higher varnas; if he finds one who is qualified then he may not look for one from a lower varna. It must be noted well, though, that in looking for a ‘high class’ spiritual master, one should not choose an unqualified person simply for the prestige of having a spiritual master from a higher varna.

A renunciant must have a renounced guru

"If for some reason a householder leaves home to embrace the life of a renunciant, and has still not been able to satisfy his spiritual yearnings, he naturally requires a saintly spiritual master. For such a renunciant, a spiritual master in the renounced order is best. By his spiritual guidance and initiation, the renunciant will very quickly relish the ecstasy of chanting the holy name.

"A householder devotee may suddenly feel the burden of family life affecting his spiritual quest. Though he leaves home, he heed not give up his previous spiritual master. A householder is advised to seek the shelter of a householder spiritual master if he is qualified and pure. If a householder spiritual master is not available, he may take initiation from a qualified renunciant guru. In any case, his spiritual master must be qualified. Under his guru's spiritual instructions, the neophyte begins devotional life and is gradually elevated to experience transcendental loving emotions in the service of the lord. He develops distaste for material life and then becomes a renunciant. Such developments are the natural course of things. Once he is in the renounced order, he is obliged to have a spiritual master who is a renunciant. He must be instructed in the life of renunciation from a renounced spiritual master, and accept from him the vesa or clothes of a mendicant.

Diksa-guru and siksa-guru equally respected

"There are two kinds of spiritual masters: the initiating spiritual master or diksa-guru, and the instructing spiritual master or siksa-guru. Both gurus have to be respected equally. This is the key to spiritual success. The diksa-guru initiates a person into the chanting of the holy name and the diksa-mantra, while the siksa-guru imparts spiritual conclusions to the disciple. This spiritual knowledge specifically means sambandha-jnana or the knowledge of the jiva’s relationship with the Supreme Lord and his multifarious energies. The diksa-guru is one but siksa-guru can be many. In fact all the Vaisnava devotees are siksa-gurus, but both the diksa-guru and the many siksa-gurus are to be equally respected.

The teaching of the adi-guru must be followed

"The Vaisnava disciplic successions are the real lines of saintly teachings and teachers. The Vaisnava lines have always disseminated the bona fide mantras, the proper scriptural conclusions, the authorized devotional process and the ultimate goal of life. If one is to be protected from the perils of mayavadi philosophy, then he should surrender to a spiritual master from a saintly line—namely a Vaisnava line.

The teachings left by the founder- acaryas of the sampradayas are to be especially honored. Sri Ramanuja, Sri Madhavacarya, Sri Nimbarkacarya, and Sri Visnuswami are the four original acaryas of the four Vaisnava lines. One should accept only their teachings and conclusions and not others. One should receive spiritual initiation in one of these four sampradayas and not others.

"A devotee must understand that the adi-guru, original spiritual master of the sampradaya, is the siksa-guru, and only his teachings are to be accepted and not those of any other scholar or teacher. And only a saintly devotee who has understood the teachings of the siksa-guru is eligible to be a diksa-guru for others. If one thinks that he can be initiated by a mayavadi guru into the teachings of Krsna consciousness, he errs severely. He will not attain pure devotion.

Accept only a pure devotee as guru

"He who imparts wrong teachings and he who receives them are both destined for hell. One who has accepted teachings and conclusions outside the line of pure bhakti has wasted his life. How then can such a person become a spiritual master? How can he save other conditioned souls? He himself is in illusion and is therefore an imperfect being, so how can he bring good fortune to others? One must understand that a pure devotee is not an ordinary soul. The scriptures declare that he is the most eligible to be a spiritual master.

The guru principle

"The diksa-guru and the siksa-guru are both intimate servitors of Lord Krsna. They are eternally situated in the Vraja mood of service; they are manifestations of Lord Krsna's energy. Never make the mistake of judging the guru as an ordinary mortal. The spiritual master is the representative of Lord Krsna's potencies, sent by the Lord as the eternal master of the disciples.

He must always be worshipped as an eternal associate of the Supreme Lord, nourished by the Lord's superior spiritual potency. However, one must never consider the spiritual master to be the Supreme Lord; this is mayavadi philosophy, not in line with the pure Vaisnava conclusions. The Vaisnava devotees are very wary of such misinterpretations, for the mayavadi whirlpool of word jugglery is indeed contaminating to the mind and heart. The spiritual master must always be worshipped according to the scriptural conclusions; when properly executed, these practices result in self-realization.

Guru-puja and respecting the spiritual master

"The spiritual master is to be worshipped first; only then may one worship Lord Krsna. The spiritual master should be offered different paraphernalia like a nice seat, shoes, foot bath, cloth, etc.; then with the spiritual master's permission one may worship the Deities of Sri-Sri Radha and Krsna. Food should be first offered to the Deities and then offered to the spiritual master, then to the demigods and other Vaisnavas. Without the spiritual master's sanction one cannot engage in Radha-Krsna worship. Before chanting the holy name, the disciple should remember the spiritual master and his instructions.

"One who disrespects the spiritual master commits a serious offense that will expel him from the path of pure devotion. The spiritual master, Lord Krsna, and the Vaisnavas must be worshipped with equal devotional fervor. Undeviating faith and devotion in the spiritual master will lead to pure chanting and the final goal of obtaining love of God—krsna-prema.

When to reject a guru

"If by some misfortune the spiritual master falls into bad association, he gradually loses his spiritual realization and potency. At the time the disciple met him, the guru was bona fide and realized, but later, due to offenses against the holy name (namaparadha), he became bewildered by maya and bereft of knowledge.

In this condition he detests Vaisnava company and the chanting of the holy name; gradually he becomes enslaved by lust, greed, wealth and women. If by the mercy of Lord Krsna the disciple can see through all this, then he will reject his guru. Later he can again seek a bona fide and pure devotee and under his spiritual guidance cultivate the pure name.

Guru and disciple must test one another

"The spiritual master must be strict with his disciples. He must correct a prospective disciple before initiating him, and punish the wayward initiated ones. A disciple's spiritual life is rendered useless if he serves and worships an unqualified guru. But as long as the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple is stable (i.e. each remains qualified in his position) then there is no question of one rejecting the other.

"The guru-disciple relationship is eternal. If both maintain their pure positions and are bona fide, their eternal relationship is never jeopardized. However, if the spiritual master is later exposed as perfidious, the disciple must immediately repudiate him.

The same is to be done by the spiritual master if the disciple is similarly exposed. If such repudiation is not carried out by both parties when it is necessary, then they stand to be doomed.

"One who disrespects the bona fide pure Vaisnava spiritual master is a reprobate and fit to be shunned by all. It is advisable, therefore, that before accepting a spiritual master one should carefully choose the right person. The spiritual master must be a pure devotee of the Lord. The scriptures recommend that both the spiritual master and the disciple place each other under strict scrutiny before mutual acceptance. This precludes the kula-guru or traditional family guru. Of course, if the kula-guru is qualified, it is of immediate convenience to accept him; but in the case that he is not saintly, a pure devotee should be searched out and taken as the spiritual master. Since even ordinary household items are tested before acquisition, it is only an unfortunate fool who will fail to go through a testing period in the selection of his true spiritual master, who is the best friend of the living entities.

The unqualified kula-guru should be offered due respect and devotion and, after begging permission to leave him, a person must seek a qualified spiritual master. The point is that one must not bring upon himself the calamity of having to reject his spiritual master. If one is prudent, he can avoid such a situation. One must watchfully avoid committing any offenses against a pure devotee guru. This is disastrous and will ruin both men and demigods alike.

How to serve the spiritual master

"Never disrespect the articles used by the spiritual master: for instance, his seat, bed, shoes, vehicle, footstool, bath water, etc. Stepping on his shadow, worshipping another person in his presence, giving initiation while he is itill alive, trying to impress others with one's spiritual knowledge in his presence, and trying to control him are to be totally rejected. Whenever and wherever one sees his spiritual master, he should offer his prostrated obeisances to him with prayers. The guru's name must be uttered with great reverence. His orders are never to be disobeyed. Always be eager to honor his remnants and do not say anything that is displeasing to him. Fall humbly at his feet and beg shelter from him, and in this way act to please him. Simply by behaving thusly, one can easily develop a taste for chanting, which in turn offers all perfection. This is confirmed in the Vedas.

"He who offends the nama-guru, or the spiritual master who initiates one into the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, falls into sinful company and adopts the viewpoint of unauthorized, sacrilegious scriptures. The nama-guru teaches scriptural conclusions and reveals the esoteric nature of the holy name. He initiates the disciple into the mantra of the holy name. The diksa-guru will generally be the nama-guru, and the diksa-mantra is actually the holy name. The mantra loses its meaning and purpose if it is separated from the holy name; simply by uttering the holy name of the Lord, the mantra is automatically chanted.

"The only way to be pardoned of this offense is to forsake sinful company, cast away the unauthorized scriptures and throw oneself at the spiritual master's lotus feet repenting piteously. The spiritual master is a compassionate Vaisnava; due to his merciful nature, he'll surely be forgiving."

I, the wretched author of Harinama Cintamani, am a sinner. My only hope of redemption is the dust of the lotus of Haridasa Thakura.