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To Find a Qualified Guru, Study How to be a Good Disciple

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By the mercy of a pure devotee even persons who are not even very religious can go beyond material dharma to ask higher questions about the soul. This is expressed in Vedic statement in the Brahma-sutra often quoted by Prabhupada: "athato brahma jijnasa" or now is the time to inquire about Brahman or the Absolute Truth. This inquiry is generally the fruit of religious life. Without coming to this point religious life is practically a waste--it is better than ordinary life, but still keeps one the the cycle of birth and death. Thus the pure devotees realizing how short life is point to the essence of the Vedic teachings, that we are soul, part of Krishna, and have to revive our eternal service to him.

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When devotees ask me how to find a good spouse I give them advise I learned from various teachers I have had. I recommend that they make a list of the qualities their future spouse will possess, and another list stating what they are willing to give in return for those qualities. Relationships are a two way street. Some people don't even clarify what they are looking for, or are vague, which often results in their being dissatisfied. Therefore, it is good to really understand what you require in a spouse in order to meet your material and spiritual needs. Yet that is only half of the relationship. Then you have to really think how you can reciprocate with someone. One has to be introspective to understand one's qualities and strengths and what you can do to help you future spouse.

In a similar way devotees also ask me how to find a qualified guru, or to find "their" guru. I tell them to study the qualities in Prabhupada's books of a bonafide (sincere, genuine, authentic) guru, but to also study what it means to be a bonafide disciple.

Some complain that there are no qualified gurus, while some gurus lament that it is hard to find a good disciple. The connection between student and teacher, or disciple and guru, is about a relationship and the reciprocation this entails.

In the first chapter of the Gita some commentators have said that here Arjuna demonstrates the qualities of a good and intelligent disciple who knows about dharma. On the other hand he is also criticized because he used knowledge of dharma or the principles of religion to try to avoid following Krishna's instructions.

From the perspective of bhakti, the purpose of religion is to bring us to the door of spirituality and knowledge of the soul. Then we are meant to progress to understand the relationsihp between the soul and God, and to follow Krishna's order (devotional service or bhakti). We read in Prabhupada's purport both praise for Arjuna's humility and lack of ego as well as criticism that he was trying to avoid his duty and service to Krishna by using religious understanding as justification. In another situation Arjuna's arguments would have been valid, but because Krishna desired that he fight to reestablish dharma and demonstrate the glory of his devotees, Arjuna's "moral" presentation was not appropriate.

The general process of the Vedas to first elevate people to follow the Vedas, which means to be religious. It is said in some Vedic texts, "athato dharma jijnasa", now is the time to inquire about religion. Religious life is superior to just animal life or a life of only following the animal propensities of bodily maintenance. Religious life colors our life with a Godly brush, helping people to live in the knowledge that there is a God and his laws such as karma and reincarnation. Still the thinking here is that we can use religious principles to enjoy material life. One type of such practice is the karmakanda section of the Vedas where people seek to enjoy here and be elevated to the heavenly planets for superior celestial enjoyment. This is condemn throughout the Gita.

By the mercy of a pure devotee even persons who are not even very religious can go beyond material dharma to ask higher questions about the soul. This is expressed in Vedic statement in the Brahma-sutra often quoted by Prabhupada: "athato brahma jijnasa" or now is the time to inquire about Brahman or the Absolute Truth. This inquiry is generally the fruit of religious life. Without coming to this point religious life is practically a waste--it is better than ordinary life, but still keeps one in the cycle of birth and death. Thus the pure devotees, realizing how short life is, point to the essence of the Vedic teachings which teach us that we are soul, part of Krishna, and have to revive our eternal service to him. It is so important an inquiry, that even if one hasn't been religious in this life---no matter, try to understand your soul and its relationship to Krishna, because this understanding can save one. If we understand Krishna even to some extent, then our life is successful, and we are progressing on the path to eternal service to him, our true friend, the real love of our life.

And there are even higher inquires we have received being in the movement of Lord Chaitanya: "athato rasa jijnasa" or the inquiry about our relationship with the Lord in pure love or prema. Generally there are four goals given for the Vedas: dharma (religion), sense gratification (kama), economic development (artha), and finally moksha (or liberation). Lord Chaitanya and his followers have given us the fifth and ultimate goal of the Vedas--prema. Shri Chaitanya teaches us that: prema pumartho mahan: to achieve love of Godhead is the highest perfection of life.

Shri Chaitanya gave us the essence of the real subjects of the Vedas. He described the complete Vedic revelation in three divisions: There are topics explaining our relationship with the Supreme (sambandha-gyan); there are processes for developing that relationship (abhideya-gyan); and there are details about the ultimate goal of that relationship (prayojana-gyan), which is loving service to Krishna.

The special contribution of the followers of Lord Chaitanya (who represent and understand him) is to look at the different forms of Godhead through the eyes of rasa or bhava. In other words, from the view of tattva (or philosophical truth) all forms of God are one, yet from the bias of spiritual emotion, there is a gradation. From a devotees perspective there is very little taste in the Brahman feature of God, since one cannot exchange rasa or relationship with that feature of God. There is more possibility of rasa with Vishnu, and more with Rama, and most with Krishna. And Krishna has aspects which are called perfect, more perfect, and most perfect. Thus we have different possibilities of relationship with Krishna of Dwarka, Mathura, and Vrindavana. In Krishna of Vrindavana there is the highest possibility of rasa or relationship in the most intimate loving way.

We have spoken about our good fortune and how we are living by Krishna's mercy only. Part of that great good fortune is the blessing to understand the esoteric and true purpose of the Vedas. More then just material intelligence or academics is required--we require love and devotion. Studying the scriptures is meant to fuel our spiritual practice, but we shouldn't think we have gone somewhere just with a head full of knowledge. We have to also develop humility of our ineligibility, realizing that we require the mercy of Shri Chaitanya and Nitai, and their representative, Shri Guru. We are not independent or self sufficient.

Another reason that Arjuna teachers us how to be an ideal disciple is that although he first argued from religious principles he finally realized that religion and material knowledge could not solve his existential crisis. He has a high level of necessity to resolve his problems, and thus he surrendered to Krishna:

"Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me." [BG 2.7]

And in the 4th chapter Krishna teaches us the necessary qualities of the sincere disciple:

"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth." [ Bg 4.34]

The 3 essential requirement list here are:
1) submission
2) inquiries
3) service

We inquire from the guru in submission and reciprocate by service to help him in his service. In addition we also need to have a sense of urgency for spiritual perfection. No one begins as a pure devotee, yet we still require to understand the goal, while being introspective enough to know what we can do. We can't run away from our material duties in frustration in the name of spirituality. Of course I am speaking generally. Different situations and mentalities require unique strategies--which is one of the reason we require a guru. One size doesn't fit all. Everything begins with faith, which is created in good association. Then we have to gradually develop a mature desire to obtain the goal. Undoubtedly we may have mixed motivations initially, though it may take awhile for us to realize this.

To sum up, if we truly realize--like Arjuna--that we need help to be successful in our life and we feel an urgency for spiritual perfection we should seek out a teacher who can help us. We need to study both the qualities of a genuine guru, and those of a genuine disciple. We can hear from many devotees, though eventually one may capture our faith. Our guru has the potency to remove our doubts and inspire us to practice by example and instructions. If we have a faith in a particular devotee we can seek initiation. It is sometimes said that initially the student and guru evaluate each other for a period of time to see if it is a good fit.

We may not feel we can uphold some of the vows at initiation. Even if we can follow them easily no one should consider themselves qualified for this path. We have to be humble and understand that ours is a path of mercy, not our high qualifications. Our "eligibility" is our faith and desire to be Krishna conscious. So we have to approach a guru we have faith in, who inspires us by his or her example, and honestly speak of whatever impediments we feel there might be for remaining fixed on the path. Then we can leave it to them to make a determination. Our connection to our guru is a gracious grand from above, rather then a reward for our qualifications to receive it--though generally it is said that no one can seriously take to bhakti without having practiced in it in their previously life. Thus some people come for only a short time, others for their whole life.

Another point is that Krishna will reciprocate with our insincerity and intensity of purpose. I will finish by giving Prabhupada's explantion of this point:

"Krishna helps a sincere person; as stated in the Chaitanya-charitamrita, guru-krsna-prasade: by the mercy of the spiritual master and Krishna, one attains the path of salvation, devotional service. If one sincerely searches for spiritual salvation, then Krishna, being situated in everyone's heart, gives him the intelligence to find a suitable spiritual master. By the grace of a spiritual master like Maitreya, one gets the proper instruction and advances in his spiritual life."[purport to SB 3.20.4]

Combined comments from old site

Tue, 01/13/2009 - 04:58 — Snehal
The most important person in our life

Hare Krishna!
Two years ago my friend told me that our spiritual master is the most important person in our life. She went further to say that he is even more important than our parents or spouse. Honestly, I did not understand this that time.

Then gradually I started understanding this. I realized that we have got this human form after 8400000 births. To make this life successful we must cultivate Krishna prema and Krishna bhakti. While doing this, we will have to fight with material energy and suffer the reactions of past deeds. Is it possible for unintelligent soul to understand Krishna? Is it possible for a conditioned soul to overcome illusionary energy?

Yes, it is only if we are guided and protected by someone who is pure at heart. someone who is representative of God. This someone is none other than spiritual master. Spiritual master can refer us to Krishna so that He showers mercy on us.

Neither our parents nor our spouse (granted that they are not spiritually advanced to be spiritual master) can take us to perfection. Thus I now understand what my friend had told me.

But many of us have not yet found our spiritual masters. So lets decide to become a genuine diciples first. We (all those who are searching for a spiritual master) lack some sincerity and so we havent found a spiritual master yet. But I believe that if we sincerely try to follow what Srila Praphupad has taught, we will find our spiritual masters one day.

Haribol!

Snehal.


*Reply*

Sun, 01/25/2009 - 00:32 — sandipkghosh
Belief, faith, knowledge, action, purity of mind and body

Yesterday I jotted down a lengthy reply but it was lost in processing. I smiled at my helplessness as the incident reminded me of my position in this universe.
I have no understanding of this human form after 8400000 births, but I understand that this human birth is one opportunity to cover a long distance or the full distance toward achievement of moksha or nirvana.
The journey starts with the belief in God and the faith in the belief. Just like starting a PhD we need a target subject to pursue. We start our work towards that with a belief and faith. Then follows the pursuit for knowledge and the actions based on that.
In the search of the eternal knowledge, the journey starts with the belief in God and unwavering faith in the belief feeding into the quest of spiritual knowledge and converting the knowledge into actions of daily life. Some start blindly from scratch and some with partial knowledge – depending on the past karmas.
This knowledge can be derived from external sources like spiritual books, spiritual gurus, spiritual discourses and satsangs. Knowledge whether in books or words comes out of one’s self. All knowledge is within us – the need is to peek deep inside us. To peek deep inside ourselves, it needs highest unwavering concentration with a thirst for knowledge. The mind, being the carrier of the thought process, is constantly disturbed by the five gunas which we have inherited and nurtured. To insulate the mind from these gunas, it needs disciplining the mind with more and more knowledge which may be through the external means. To align our mind and body with the knowledge gained, we need to put that knowledge into actions in our daily life. Because the reactions of the external world are not our control, there is every chance of reactions having adverse effect on the knowledge as the knowledge might not have reached the matured stage. So getting back to the knowledge source is required to rejuvenate.
Through these combined knowledge and actions the body and mind is disciplined and cleansed. This creates the launching pad for reaching the eternal knowledge reservoir. The journey is through a wafer thin tube clogged by the five gunas. Once opened, the knowledge pours in and cleanses the body and mind further.
The term guru is mostly external and broadly can be taken as any source of spiritual knowledge - be it books, discourses, satsangs or physical gurus. Of course easiest would be to have a physical guru.
The journey is not limited by the knowledge sources, only the intense belief and faith is required to move on.

Hari Om

Sandip


*Reply*

Sun, 01/25/2009 - 06:14 — NityānandaChandra
Haribol could you clarify

Haribol could you clarify what you mean by the 5 modes, the 5 gunas?

Also according to the Acaryas and Sastra, Bhakti only comes from Bhakti. It is not aroused by by previous karmas or vikarmas for it is independent like Krishna is independent. Nothing can force Krishna to appear other than His sweet will. So similarly His expansion, Bhakti, cannot be brought about by the karmas on anyone. It is only brought about though the causeless compassion of Himself manifested through causeless compassion of His devotees. The infectious Bhakti spreads from one heart to another and is spread though hearing, srnvatam, of Krishna's glories.

Physical Guru is also a must, as even Krishna gave His example of accepting a spiritual master. Krishna's words are that one Must accept a spiritual master. One may read books but without training how can one progress? Can one become a doctor simply by reading books or is training under someone successful in the field also neccessary?
Hare Krishna
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das


*Reply*

Mon, 01/26/2009 - 04:40 — sandipkghosh
The clarifications with my limited knowledge

Prabhu, my limited knowledge on life and liberation is not enough to comprehend the fullness of the entire lifecycles and how they are linked. Through discussions and knowledge flow, I may be able to have a better perspective of life philosophy
Prabhu, the sastra and acharyas cannot be wrong as the knowledge they carry has come after intense involvement of mind and body in the devotion of Lord. And yes bhakti comes from bhakti which I referred as unwavering faith. Bhakti is the constant companion for a person wishing for liberation. Throughout his endeavor of knowledge gaining and practicing, the Bhakti gets more and more prominent and intense. Bhakti does not need any background to start as it is the first step and also the constant companion. And because it the first step, it can be propagated easily and is always infectious. Prabhu please correct me if I am faltering in my knowledge forming.
Prabhu, Desire, anger, hatred, pride and jealousy are the commonly known gunas, but again I agree that there are different definitions also.
Prabhu, without the knowledge of the Lord, we are walking and groping in the darkness. Not knowing which side to move. I agree that Gurus, having the knowledge of the Lord are God sent blessing on us, as they make the journey easier. Having them to guide us is the best we can have, to cover a long distance. Not many are as lucky in Kali Yuga, there might not be many Gurus who are blessed by Lord, and not many amongst them available in all places for the bhaktas to take refuge. In the absence of them, the other ways to find the direction in the journey are the unwavering bhakti, spiritual books, spiritual satsangs and spiritual discourses, though I agree that the journey will be slow.
Prabhu, I am blessed to have seen and be a part of my grandmother’s life. The miracles which occurred at regularity in her life and having seen her going into Samadhi for two days – though I did not understand those incidents at that time, had mesmerized me. Yes she had a mantra for japa from her Guru diksha. I have never seen her Guru as far as I can remember which will be at least 40 years. All the while she was on her own. The blessed ones have the Lord as their Guru, as they start their life with the Bhakti and right state of mind. At some point, by Lord’s grace have the driving eternal knowledge passed on through some incidents.
Prabhu, please let me know if my understanding is in the right direction. It is enormously fullfilling to know the truth and get aligned to it.

Hari Om

at your service
Sandip


*Reply*

Mon, 01/26/2009 - 07:53 — NityānandaChandra
Kama, krodha, lobha, moha,

Kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya or lust, anger, greed, illusion, pride and envy I have not heard to be gunas. They are also known as the six sons of Marici, which means that they are the six sons of the mind.

As Balarama and Krishna only appeared after the six sons of Devaki were killed. Similarly love for Krishna will only appear after these six sons of the mind are purified.

Ones Bhakti does not arise from wishing for liberation, in fact wishing for liberation can be a disqualification for advancement. Bhakti becomes reawakened by hearing from or associating those who have bhakti.

Krishna will supply guru, but guru is a necessity.


Tue, 01/13/2009 - 06:03 — Karnamrita.das
All in Good Time--Krishna's time!

You have expressed it well. No one can "find" a guru who doesn't have the great necessity and urgency to find one. That is a kind of looking in itself--an inner looking more important then official external searching. Even if one knows they "should" (that word again!) find a guru, if it is not enough of a priority one will not see a guru even if they are right before one's eyes. Many things in life require a "calling"--we are called to do them by inner necessity. Being a devotee, a parent, sannyasi etc. are decisions best made as a calling, or inner prompting. In that way our outer life is a manifestation of our heart or who we really are, or strongly aspire to be. As I have said many times, "necessity rules"--with--of course--the Krishna factor. Krishna has his own timing and he may wait to reward our desire only when it has reached a peak. Every person is different, and Krishna is the most expert.

Some may relatively quickly find a guru, either because of their past life devotional standing or credit, or to test the devotee---are you really ready, or are your words cheap? So many possibilities. One thing is for sure: it is essential to understand that we require the help of Krishna through his agent. Krishna says--I believe in the Adi Purana--that one who thinks he is my devotee is mistaken, because to be my devotee, one must be a devotee of my devotee. That is the process.

Although the guru has a relative side in that he or she functions in the world in a body with its necessities and has natural idiosyncrasies, the guru is also a tailor made manifestation of Krishna that is just right for us. While we are waiting to meet our guru we are not idle, but we can preparing our self (active waiting, as opposed to waiting for the honorary degree) through the instructions and translations of Prabhupada, and those devotee who may inspire our practice. Krishna doesn't leave us "high and dry"--no--there are many devotee who may act as instructing gurus and may even introduce us to different gurus they have faith in. And we can pray to be sincere, humble, and with the best qualities to make spiritual progress, which include being a good servant--das or dasi.

Materially few people want to be anyone's servant, but spiritually Prabhupada has taught us that being a servant is the most congenial form of intimacy. From my experience just being in the presence of great souls is enlivening, what to speak of hearing from them, and doing personal service. Just read about Narada in the first Canto of the Bhagavatam. Serving great devotees and receiving their blessings is THE way we make rapid spiritual advancement.

Even the blessing of ordinary or aspiring devotees is powerful, thus we should all pray for each others spiritual advancement.

May you be successful in your all your spiritual endeavors!

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Sun, 01/11/2009 - 09:18 — bhaktincarol
You have summed so many

Hare Krsna!

You have summed so many things up so nicely here.
Your advice for choosing a guru is very practical and makes a lot of sense.

I am aspiring to a particular guru. Yet when I think back to how that began for me, these things had not happened.

The first time that I heard him speak, it was very clear to me that there was something very pure about him --beyond the regular sense of that word. There was purity in him, and he spoke love, and he radiated love of Krishna. I had never been around anyone like him. His words were used perfectly, and it was clear that he was very intelligent.

Also, I had experienced sadness and questions at that point and what he spoke of directly related to and answered those particular questions and eliminated my sadness. What he spoke seemed it couldn't be anything but truth.

I had come to the temple, not knowing there would be a speaker that night. I walked in to listen to what was happening, and there I heard him speak. I didn't know his name, nor would I have known at that point whether he was an initiating guru if I had been told his name. Due to my ignorance, I was unable to tell his position from his clothing.

I just knew that, whoever he was, I wanted some contact with this person.

When he had finished speaking, he walked with a group of devotees to upstairs rooms. I felt drawn and I followed him. Following the group up the stairs, I was aware of feeling like a dog following its master.

I didn't know if it was proper, or it was allowed, but I asked could I speak to him. They were very nice, and he invited me to come in and sit down. He was very kind. I felt so awkward and clumsy, and undeserving of the meeting.

I asked what felt so important to me: I asked would he teach me.

He is an initiating guru. It has been three and one half years since that first meeting, I have never had any doubts that he is the guru for me. I am hopeful to be initiated some day, in this life or another. He is an incredible devotee and guru.

I didn't map out or plan my meeting with this guru. Something in me told me this was the person I wanted to teach me. But also something in him came across as so very incredibly pure, and because of that I was drawn to him. I am so grateful he decided to consider me for initiation.

bhaktincarol


*Reply*

Tue, 01/13/2009 - 07:29 — Karnamrita.das
Our life is in Krishna's hands

We are forgetful of so many things and it seems we stumble around, but those who have done service for Krishna and his devotees, Krishna is making arrangements in our life to situate us again on the path of Bhakti. Our past spiritual life comes looking for us, and you may not think you are looking for a guru, though at the right time everything becomes clear. Our forgotten necessity rises to the surface of our consciousness at the right time. It is very fascinating how Krishna works in the lives of his devotees. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita