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TO DISRESPECT AND DISOBEY THE SPIRITUAL MASTER (GURUAVAJNA)
IS THE THIRD OFFENSE
All glories to Shri Pancatattva and Shri Shri RadhaMadhava. All glories to Navadwipadhama, Vrajadhama, Jamunadevi and all the Vaishnava devotees.
Shrila Haridasa Thakura said, "O Lord, kindly allow me to explain the third namaaparadha. This aparadha is to disobey the orders of the spiritual master and thus to disrespect him."
The soul travels through many lifetimes in different bodies and at last gets a chance at the rare human birth, which is auspicious in every respect. The soul has rotated through 8,400,000 different species, It is by ajnatasukriti or unintentional pious activities that 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 to perform, unlike any other species.
A demigod or denizen of the heavenly planets is destined only to enjoy the reactions of his past good karma. He cannot voluntarily initiate any spiritual 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 service to the Supreme Lord.
A spiritual master is essential for everyone
Yet the fact remains that this body is transient. If one does not carefully endeavor for selfrealization, 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 Krishna.
[Footnote 1 by Bhaktivinoda]
Such a spiritual master is the only helmsman who can help the drowning jiva get across 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 teacher's instructions. How, then, will one obtain perfection in the best of all subjects, spiritual science, without the aid of a teacher? He is who fit to teach this science is he who is self-realized and fully proficient in Krishna consciousness. [End of footnote 1]
A few of the characteristics of a bona fide spiritual master are that he is peaceful, unperturbed and a pure devotee of Krishna. He should be approached with humility. The jiva should satisfy him with service and receive from him formal initiation into the worship of Lord Krishna. Herein lies his best chance to surmount the material entanglement. The jiva's inherent love for Krishna lies dormant in the heart and can easily be revived by a qualified spiritual master.
But the jiva can just as easily lose this chance by challenging the spiritual master through speculative debates and mischievious 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 take shelter of a bonafide spiritual master and remain within the varnasrama system.
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 as long as he is a devotee of Lord Krishna. But if a brahmana spiritual master is not available then a spiritual master from another varna should be searched out. If there is a choice, the householder would be best advised to accept initiation from a spiritual master in the brahmanavarna.
A real spiritual master is one who is conversant with the science of Krishna consciousness. A spiritual master can be from any varna or asrama, but he must be a kalpataru or touchstone that can fulfill the spiritual needs of people from all varnas and asramas. He must be able to give the jiva suddharati (pure attraction) for Krishna.
The prestige of having a spiritual master from a superior varna is a material consideration, because that prestige simply depends on the caste status of the one who judges the spiritual master's caste. The factor of caste rarely has any bearing on spiritual realization.
Necessity demands that one must find a spiritual master who is bonafide and qualified. If he happens to belong to a higher varna, so much the better. A householder may look for a spiritual master from a higher varna, and if he finds one who is qualified then he need 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 renunciate should accept a sannyasaguru
If a householder leaves home to embrace the life of a renunciate but has not yet been satisfactorally trained in Krishna consciousness, he naturally requires a qualified spiritual master. For one who is determined to renounce, a spiritual master in the sannyasa order is best. By receiving spiritual guidance and initiation from a sannyasaguru, the renunciate will very quickly relish the ecstacy of chanting the holy name. If the householder previously had a qualified spiritual master, he should not, when planning to renounce householder life, disrespect or neglect that guru. Indeed, while he is in the grhasthaasrama, the householder is advised to take shelter of a householder guru who is qualified and pure. That spiritual master should always be honored.
But if such a householder spiritual master is not available, one can take initiation from a qualified sannyasi even before leaving home. In any case, the spiritual master must be qualified. Under his instructions, the neophyte householder begins Krishna consciousness and gradually advances to experience transcendental loving emotions in the service of the Lord.
Only when the neophyte householder develops distaste for material life is he ready to become a sannyasi. This is a natural development of the practice of Krishna consciousness. Once he has actually renounced sense gratification, he is obliged to accept a sannyasi spiritual master. He must be trained in the life of renunciation from the sannyasaguru and accept from him the clothes or vesa of a mendicant.
Both diksaguru and siksaguru must be equally respected
There are two kinds of spiritual masters: the initiating spiritual master or diksaguru, and the instructing spiritual master or siksaguru. Both gurus have to be respected equally. This is the key to success in Krishna consciousness.
The diksaguru initiates his disciple into the chanting of the holy name and gives diksamantra. The siksaguru imparts sambandhajnana or the knowledge of the jiva's relationship with the Supreme Lord and his energies. The diksaguru is one but the siksaguru can be many. In fact, all the pure Vaishnava devotees who benedict the world by distributing the holy name are siksa-gurus. Both the diksaguru and the many siksagurus are to be equally respected.
The Vaishnava sampradayas
The four Vaishnava disciplic successions (sampradayas) are the only real schools of saintly teachers. These sampradayas have since days of yore disseminated the bona fide mantras, the proper scriptural conclusions, the authorized devotional process and the ultimate goal of life. If one wants to be saved from the perils of false doctrines, then he should surrender to a saintly spiritual master from one of the four Vaishnava schools.
The teachings left by the founderacaryas of the four sampradayas are to be especially honored. Shri Ramanuja, Shri Madhavacarya, Shri Nimbarkacarya, and Shri Vishnuswami are the four original acaryas of the Vaishnava schools. 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.
The founderacarya is the principal siksaguru
The founderacarya of the sampradaya is the principal siksa-guru for the entire disciplic succession. Speculations that contradict his teachings are to be immediately rejected. Only a saintly devotee who has understood the teachings of the principal siksaguru is eligible to be a diksaguru for others. If one thinks that he can be initiated by an unauthorized guru or a Mayavadi into these teachings, he errs severely. He will never attain Krishna consciousness.
One should accept only a pure devotee as his spiritual master
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 imperfect, 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 only he is eligible to be worshipped as the spiritual master.
The principle of the spiritual master
The diksaguru and the siksaguru are both intimate associates of Lord Krishna. They are eternally situated in the Vraja mood of service, and they are manifestations of Lord Krishna's own energy.
[Footnote 2 by Bhaktivinoda]
Never make the mistake of judging the guru as an ordinary mortal. The spiritual master is the representitive of Lord Krishna's potencies, sent by the Lord as the eternal master of the disciples. He must always be worshiped as an eternal associate of the Supreme Lord, empowered by the Lord's superior spiritual potency.
On the other hand, the spiritual master must never be considered to be the Supreme Lord Himself, for this is Mayavadi philosophy and is not in line with the pure Vaishnava conclusions. The Vaishnava devotees are very wary of such misinterpretations because the Mayavadi whirlpool of word jugglery is so contaminating to the heart. The spiritual master must always be worshiped according to the scriptural conclusions, for when properly executed, this worship results in pure Krishna consciousness. [End of footnote 2]
Gurupuja and how to respect the spiritual master
Before one can worship Krishna, he must first worship the spiritual master. While doing gurupuja, upacaras like seat, footwash, arghya, bath, cloth, ornaments and so on are to be offered; then with the spiritual master's permission one may begin worship of RadhaKrishna vigraha. The Deity's prasadam is given to the spiritual master first, then to the demigods and forfathers. Just as the disciple is required to get the spiritual master's blessings before worshipping RadhaKrishna, 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 bhakti. The spiritual master, Lord Krishna, and the Vaishnavas must be worshiped with equal attention. Undeviating faith in the spiritual master will lead to pure chanting and the final goal of Krishnaprema.
When to reject a guru
If by some misfortune the spiritual master falls into bad association, he may gradually lose his spiritual realization and potency. At the time the disciple accepted him, the guru was exalted, famous and greatly realized. But offenses against the holy name are so dangerous that even a highly qualified soul becomes bewildered. In that condition he comes to detest Vaishnava company and the chanting of the holy name. Gradually, he is enslaved by lust, greed, wealth and women. If by the mercy of Lord Krishna the disciple sees through all this, he must reject that guru, seek out a pure devotee and under his spiritual guidence cultivate the pure chanting of the holy name.
The spiritual master must be strict
The spiritual master must be strict with his disciples. He must straighten out the prospective disciples before initiating them, and punish the wayward initiated ones. This is the symptom of a responsible spiritual master. A disciple's spiritual life is rendered useless if he serves and worships a slack, irresponsible 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 gurudisciple relationship is eternal. If both maintain their pure positions and are bona fide, their eternal relationship is never jeapordized. However, if the spiritual master is later exposed as perfidious, the disciple must immediatley repudiate him. The same is to be done by the spiritual master if the disciple is similarly exposed. If such repudiation is not is not carried out by both parties when it is necessary, then they stand to be condemned.
A spiritual master must be tested before acceptance to insure that he is a pure devotee
One who disrespects the bona fide pure Vaishnava spiritual master is a reprobate fit to be shunned by all. It is advisable, therefore, that before accepting a spiritual master one should carefully choose the right person. Basically, the spiritual master must be a pure devotee of the Lord.
[Footnote 3 by Bhaktivinoda]
The scriptures recommend that both the spiritual master and the disciple place each other under strict scrutiny before mutual acceptance. This, then, precludes the acceptance of a kulaguru or traditional family guru. Of course, if the kulaguru is qualified, it is of immediate convenience to accept him; but if he is not, a pure devotee should be searched out and taken as one's 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 the his true spiritual master, who is his ever wellwisher. The unqualified kulaguru, after he is offered due respect and worship, should be requested to release the disciple from all duties of allegiance. Having abandoned his connection to the family guru, the genuine aspirant then must seek out 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 then he can avoid such a situation. One must be very careful not to commit any offense against a pure devotee guru. This is so disasterous it will ruin both men and demigods alike. [End of footnote 3]
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 still alive, showing off 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. All this is confirmed in the Vedas. But if one offends the namaguru, the spiritual master who initiates one into the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, he will surely fall into the sinful company of atheists.
[Footnote 4 by Bhaktivinoda]
The namaguru teaches scriptural conclusions and reveals the esoteric nature of the holy name, and he initiates the disciple in the mantra consisting of the holy name. The Vaishnava diksaguru is the namaguru, and the diksamantra is namatmika, receiving its life from the holy name. The mantra loses its meaning and purpose if it is separated from the holy name, and conversely, simply by uttering the holy name of the Lord, the mantra is automatically chanted. [End of footnote 4].
The remedy for guruavajna
The only way to be pardoned for this offense is to forsake sinful company, cast away blasphemous literatures and throw oneself at the spiritual master's lotus feet, repenting piteously. As a compassionate Vaishnava, the spiritual master will surely be forgiving and bestow prema upon the disciple through the holy name.
I, the wretched author of Harinama Cintamani, am a sinner.
My only hope of redemption is the dust of the lotus feet of Haridasa Thakura.