Seeking Able Guidance
Often, the affection and love of Krishna comes to us through the devotees. Without association it can be very difficult to develop Krishna Consciousness, what to speak of deep love for Krishna. Depending where you live, it may possible for you get the association of devotees by going to a temple or some other devotee gathering. Krishna.com has a growing list of temples and devotee gatherings. If you're able to associate with devotees, this will help you. Also, chanting together with devotees is good.
In regards to getting a spiritual master first you must meet and hear from such a qualified person. So that again means that you would best get to a temple or gathering of devotees where you can meet such a person. Once you have met someone you can write, hear recordings of their classes, etc. but the initial contact is essential.
Always remember that Krishna is guiding and protecting you but you can not always understand His presence...if you have strong faith in this fact then everything will work out well in time...you have to be patient. So try to get some association.
One question I think you should ask yourself is: "If Krishna loved me, what would I expect to see?"
Often we consider that "some special happy feeling" (or money, or whatever) will be an indication that Krishna loves us...but actually just the fact that you are in contact with Krishna consciousness, the Srimad-bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita is a sign that Krishna wants to help you; please be patient and confident of that affection from the Lord.
I've been reading Srila Prabhupada's books, but sometimes I need personal advice. It's not always possible for me to visit a temple, so I prefer to write to senior devotees whose answers I can trust.
by Laxmimoni dasi
This is a nice procedure, but it is also good to have guidance from someone who knows you and can judge your situation according to your particular time, place and circumstance. I suggest that you also seek out senior devotees where you are and consult with them now and again.
Furthermore, if you write down your questions and continue reading you may find that Krishna will also give you some insight into the matter. It will take some patience however; not all questions can be answered immediately because they may require some spiritual maturity before the answer can be understood.
While Srila Prabhupada was personally present, he appointed certain of his disciples to initiate on his behalf. He said that after he left this world, they could become regular gurus. This is the standard Vedic system. While one's spiritual master is still present, one shouldn't accept disciples of one's own, unless given permission by his guru. Srila Prabhupada wanted all his disciples to act as spiritual masters and to carry on the disciplic succession.
Worship is a Vedic custom that is not restricted to gurus. We're recommended to worship the Lord, the demigods, the guru, the brahmanas, and one's superiors. See Bhagavad-gita 17.14.
In ISKCON, any disciple of Srila Prabhupada in good standing can become a guru--that is, those who are steady in their vows to chant sixteen rounds (1728 times) the Hare Krishna maha-mantra daily and refrain from illicit sex, intoxication, meat eating, and gambling. Recommendations from responsible leaders are also required.
In the Vedic tradition there are two types of gurus, diksha-guru, the spiritual master who gives initiation, and shiksha-guru, the instructing spiritual master. Generally, one's shiksha-guru eventually becomes one's diksha-guru after some time.
To become recognized as a spiritual master in ISKCON, one currently has to be authorized by the GBC, Governing Body Commission, which is the highest managerial authority in ISKCON. To become a member of the GBC, one is recommended and selected by other members—generally a serious and respected devotee from a region. There are GBC representatives from each country. Their aim is to manage the society in accordance with Prabhupada's desire, which is to spread Krishna consciousness in a unified way.
This is a great question. Implicit in the question is that there's so much to be known, we can't know everything, and so what's the most important thing we can know? Our time is limited, so the best questions address our core situation; "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What is the purpose of my existence?" "How can I be freed from suffering?" "What/who is the source of everything?" Answers to such questions are the sum and substance of everything we offer on Krishna.com.
The topic of "what questions should I ask" is addressed again and again in our sacred texts:
Srimad-Bhagavatam, 7.16.6, Purport:
"The real vidvan [intelligent person] is one who tries to understand his own position within this material world. For example, when Sanatana Gosvami submitted to the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, his first question was 'ke ami', 'kene amaya jare tapa-traya'. In other words, he wanted to know his constitutional position and why he was suffering from the threefold miseries of material existence. This is the process of education. If one does not ask, 'Who am I? What is the goal of my life?' but instead follows the same animal propensities as cats and dogs, what is the use of his education?"
"O sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are worthy because they relate to Lord Krishna and so are of relevance to the world's welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying the self."
Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.2.5, Purport:
"In Bhagavad-gita (15.15) the Personality of Godhead says that in all the Vedas there is nothing but the urge for searching after Him, Lord Krishna. Thus the questions that pertain to Krishna are the sum and substance of all the Vedic inquiries."
Science of Self Realization
The Vedanta-sutra begins with the key inquiry about the Transcendence, athato brahma jijñasa: 'One should now inquire about Brahman, or the Transcendence.'
As long as a man is in the full vigor of life, he forgets the naked truth of death, which he has to meet. Thus a foolish man makes no relevant inquiry about the real problems of life. Everyone thinks that he will never die, although he sees evidence of death before his eyes at every second. Here is the distinction between animalism and humanity."
Science of Self Realization
"A man who is not intelligent enough does not inquire about this transcendental life; instead, he inquires about many irrelevant matters which do not concern his eternal existence. From the very beginning of his life, he inquires from his mother, father, teachers, professors, books, and so many other sources, but he does not have the right type of information about his real life."
"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."
"The whole world is full of questions and answers. The birds, beasts and men are all busy in the matter of perpetual questions and answers. In the morning the birds in the nest become busy with questions and answers, and in the evening also the same birds come back and again become busy with questions and answers. The human being, unless he is fast asleep at night, is busy with questions and answers. The businessmen in the market are busy with questions and answers, and so also the lawyers in the court and the students in the schools and colleges. The legislators in the parliament are also busy with questions and answers, and the politicians and the press representatives are all busy with questions and answers. Although they go on making such questions and answers for their whole lives, they are not at all satisfied. Satisfaction of the soul can only be obtained by questions and answers on the subject of Krishna."