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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Sanatana Goswami > Vaishnava Etiquette Hari Bhakti Vilasa > SECTION A. SPIRITUAL MASTER AND DISCIPLE





1. One desirous to receive mantra, the means to cross the miserable material nature, should take shelter of a spiritual master who has conquered enemies like lust, greed, anger, etc; is free from disease; has achieved spontaneous devotion at the dust of Krishna's lotus feet; is well conversant with the pure path of the Vedic scriptures; who is dear to the saintly persons and has controlled his senses.


2. The guru desiring service and wealth from his disciple is not qualified; however, one who is an ocean of mercy; compassionate; the benefactor of all living entities; detached; perfect in all respects; master of all subjects; able to dispel all doubts and is not lazy can be recognized as a guru. 

                                    (Chapter 35, Text 40)


3. In spite of being born in an elevated family and famous because of his wealth and education, one cannot be a spiritual master if he is not a Vaishnava.


4. The Padma Purana says that if a Brahman is born in a very elevated family, is able to perform all kinds of yajnas and has studied the thousand branches of the Vedas but is not a Vaishnava, he cannot become a spiritual master.   The Narada Pancaratra says that whoever takes diksha from an avaishnava goes to hell.  Therefore, one who has taken initiation from an avaishnava should take re-initiation from a Vaishnava spiritual master.


5. Who is a Vaishnava?  One who has been initiated in Vishnu

mantra and is always eager to worship Vishnu is a Vaishnava. 

Therefore, who has not received Vishnu diksha and is not eager to worship Vishnu is an avaishnava.   One should never take shelter of an avaishnava.





1. One who rejects a spiritual master rejects Shri Hari.  His knowledge has become contaminated and his insolence prominent.  One who accepts a guru and then rejects him, that lowest of mankind will rot in hell for millions of lifetimes. 





1. One who eats a lot; procrastinates; is greedy for sense gratification; is averse to the scriptures; wicked; publicly divulges the secret sins of others; discredits the merits of others; does not have hair on the body or is too hairy; possesses black teeth and lips; has a foul breath; is greedy to collect wealth and does not give in charity is not eligible to become guru.  One marked with these and other such sinister characteristics is not eligible to become guru even if he appears to be greater than the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  Such a guru will only spoil the wealth of his disciple.  





1. The wise call a person who has been initiated in Vishnu mantra and worships Vishnu a Vaishnava.  Besides that, everyone else is an avaishnava.


2. According to the Pancaratra, one has received mantra from an avaishnava will have to go to hell.  Therefore, one must reject that guru and take re-initiation from a Vaishnava spiritual master.




1. The Narada Pancaratra states that a devotee must accept Krishna mantra from a Vaishnava with all respect.  A mantra received from an avaishnava will not help one develop devotion to Shri Hari.


2. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana says that if one receives mantra from a person devoid of devotion to Vishnu, he also becomes devoid of devotion.  If he receives mantra from a Shaiva (worshipper of Lord Siva) or a Shakta (worshipper of Devi), he does not advance spiritually. 


3. In the Kali Tantra it says one must take Vishnu mantra from a devotee brahmana and not from a  Shaiva or a Shakta.  If one accepts mantra from a Shaiva or a Shakta, he will not develop Hari bhakti.


4. The Devi Purana mentions one must carefully avoid worshippers of Shaiva (Siva), Saura (the sun), Ganapatya (Shri Ganesh), and Shakta (Shakti).  An atheist, no matter how learned he may be, must be avoided.


5. The Padma Purana explains that if the guru and disciple happen to go in opposite directions, how it will be possible for the disciple to serve his worshipable Lord, and how will the worshipable Lord be able to remain in the consciousness of the disciple?


6. The Padma Purana says that even a brahmana born in a very elevated family who has performed only honest activities and studied the one thousand branches of the Vedas is not eligible to become a spiritual master, give the Vishnu mantra or instructions on the Vishnu mantra if he is an avaishnava.




1.  The Brihat Gautamiya Tantra says, "Now I shall tell you about Shri Krishna mantras, receiving which the sages have become easily delivered.  Householders, vanaprasthis, sannyasis, brahmacaris, women, sudras, etc., everyone is eligible to receive this mantra.

                                                (Hari Bhakti Vilas 1)


2.  Those who are observing sacred vows, sudras who are religious and engaged in serving the brahmanas, chaste women and even candalas and other low class people are eligible to receive this mantra which reveals the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  The source of all incarnations is Shri Krishna and His mantras are more powerful than any other mantra.


3.  Shri Krishna has three different pastimes in Shri Vrindavan, Shri Mathura and Shri Dvaraka; however, through His pastimes as a cowherd boy in Vrindavan, He has revealed Himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  The mantras about His Vrindavan pastimes are the greatest and among them the eighteen syllable mantra is the best.




1. An initiated disciple should not reveal his mantra to anyone else. He should show great respect to the Vaishnavas,   spiritual masters and specially the Vaishnava acaryas.  He should try to help them to the best of his ability when they are in difficulty . He should always consider that the worshipable Lord is situated in the sun,  moon, cows, banyan trees, fire, the spiritual master and the brahmanas.


2. Whenever he receives the garlands and flowers from Shri Vishnu, he should offer obeisances to them, place them on this head and then throw them in the water. One should be very careful that they do not fall on the ground.


3. A disciple should not speak to or live with a person who blasphemes the spiritual master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the scriptures.


4. At the time of circumambulating, going somewhere, giving donations, in the morning and when in a distant place,  one should repeatedly remember his mantra.


5. He should not eat meat and fish, speak in the temple, sneeze or enter into the temple with shoes on, and eat from a bell metal pot.


6. The initiated disciple should observe Ekadashi according to rules and regulations, keep his worshipable Lord, guru, mantra and his beads as a sacred possession.


7. He should protect devotional scriptures such as the Shrimad Bhagavatam with great care,  get up during Brahma Muhurta, do aratika with instruments, take bath according to rules and regulations, wear sacred clothes, worship the Lord doing tarpan in water, honour caranamrta, wear Tulasi mala, remove the garlands from Vishnu, apply sandalwood on Vishnu's body and decorate Him with garlands.


8. He should worship the salagram sila, the deities with devotion, touch Tulasi to his head respectfully and then eat them and also pick Tulasi according to rules and regulations.


9. The disciple should tie his shika at the time of worship.  He should worship the forefathers with the water from Vishnu's lotus feet. When one has the ability, he should worship the Lord in a kingly way.  He should perform the daily activities that are not detrimental to devotion, offer fruits and flowers to the Lord with devotion, worship Tulasi regularly every day, decorate his body with tilak, worship Bhagavat regularly and Shri Vishnu three times every day.  He should hear the Puranas every day and wear the clothes that have been offered to Vishnu.


10. The disciple should abide by the instructions of the spiritual master, have faith in the instructions of the spiritual master, sing and dance with devotion, make regular offerings to the Lord, greet the sadhus and worship them.  He should accept Krishna prasadam, associate with the Vaishnavas, enquire about spiritual life, specially on Dasami Ekadashi and Dvadasi.  He should not consider observing the vows of Ekadashi to be difficult.


11. He should observe Janmastami and other such special celebrations, go to the temple, observe eight maha-dvadasis, serve all Vaishnava brothers and consider the spiritual master as God.


12. He should not eat or sleep when night turns into day and day turns into night, do acamana standing up, make friendship with nondevotees, put tilak on or do acamana without chanting mantra, accept any other scriptures besides Vaishnava scriptures, become attached to the association of nondevotees and temporary material happiness.


13. He should not take intoxication; even medicines with intoxicants should be avoided.


14. He should not take lentils or collect food from nondevotees, observe vratas not pleasing to Vishnu, chant any mantra other than Vishnu-mantra, become affected by lamentation or gamble.


15. If possible he should not eat even fruits on the day of vratas.  He should not perform shraddha on the Ekadashi day, sleep or pick Tulasi on Dvadasi day or bathe Vishnu during the daytime of Dvadasi. He should not observe shraddha with food that has not been offered to Vishnu.


16. He should not do acaman after drinking caranamrta, worship Vishnu sitting on a wooden seat or sitting without an asan.  At the time of worship he should not discuss mundane topics.  He should not worship the Lord with forbidden flowers like Karavi, Akanda etc.


17. He should not wear crooked tilak, even by mistake.


18. He should not offer stale or contaminated food, chant his mantra without counting or show disrespect in taking Vishnu-prasadam.




1.  One who is born in a pure family; is gracious; humble; good-looking; truthful; virtuous; intelligent; devoid of pride, lust, greed and anger etc; is wholeheartedly devoted to the lotus feet of the spiritual master; is eager to serve the Lord; free from disease; does not indulge in any kind of sinful activity; respectfully serves the Brahmans, The Lord and his parents; is youthful; sense-controlled and sympathetic to the sufferings of others is eligible to receive initiation.

                                                                             (Mantra Muktavali)


2. The Eleventh Canto of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.10.6) says:

"The servant or disciple of the spiritual master should be free from false prestige, never considering himself to be the doer.  He should be active and never lazy and should give up all sense of proprietorship over the objects of the senses, including his wife, children, home and society.  He should be endowed with feelings of loving friendship toward the spiritual master and should never become deviated or bewildered.  The servant or disciple should always desire advancement in spiritual understanding, should not envy anyone and should always avoid useless conversation."


3. One who is lazy; dirty; toils unnecessarily; proud; miserly; poor; diseased; indignant; materially attached; greedy for sense gratification; envious; sly; foul-mouthed; earns money by unscrupulous means; adulterous; inimical towards the learned; although ignorant pretends to be a scholar; has fallen from his vow; earns  his livelihood with difficulty; finds fault with others; inflicts pain on others; is gluttonous; a miscreant; wicked and sinful; such a degraded person is not eligible to become a disciple.


4.  Those who cannot be dissuaded from committing sinful activities and is negligent of the guru's strict instructions isdisqualified for initiation.  One should not accept such a person as his disciple.  If, being lured by money,  a guru accepts such a person as his disciple, he will incur the demigods' wrath, become poor, be bereft of wife and children and receive an animals body after death.


5. Both the spiritual master and disciple should live together for one year to test the eligibilty of each other.  The guru will check the disciple and the disciple will also check the guru.


6. According to the Mantra Muktavali, a minimum of one year is needed for the guru and disciple to know each other. Sruti states that mantra should not be given to a person who  has not stayed with the spiritual master for one year. It is encumbent upon the spiritual master to test his disciple because the Sarshangraha states that a bona fide spiritual master should test his disciple for one year.  Just as the minister's sin enters into the king, the wife's sin enters into the husband, similarly the disciple's sin enters into the spiritual master. 




 1. A disciple should not go anywhere without asking his spiritual master; sit with his legs stretched out in front of his spiritual master; yawn, laugh or speak loudly in front of the spiritual master; cover his neck with his upper garment ; snap  his fingers in front of the spiritual master and should always be engaged in activities that are pleasing and useful to the spiritual master.


 2. Lord Siva says in the Devi Tantra that a disciple should never transgress the guru's bed, sheet, vehicle, shoes, pedestal, bathing water and shadow.  He should not accept separate worship in front of his spiritual master  or allow anyone to say that he is non-different from his spiritual master.   The disciple should not give mantra; explain scriptures or establish his authority when the spiritual master is present. 


 3. Shri Narada also says that a disciple must offer his obeisances with folded hands falling like an uprooted tree wherever he sees his spiritual master.  A disciple should never transgress the instruction, feet, vehicle, sandal, cloth or shadow of the spiritual master.


 4. The Manu Smrti also instructs that a disciple should never, even indirectly, utter the name of the spiritual master without first using  proper titles.  The disciple should never imitate the spiritual master's movement, voice or gestures.


5. The Narada Pancaratra instructs that one should not utter the name of his spiritual master disrespectfully.   To say the name of his spiritual master, the disciple,  with a bent head and folded hands,  must first use the words "Om", "Shri" and then the word "Vishnupada." 


 6. The disciple should never even inadvertently give an order to the spiritual master on any subject;  disobey the spiritual master's  orders; eat anything without offering it to the spiritual master or eat the spiritual master's remnants without his permission.


7. The disciple must approach the spiritual master when he sees his guru coming and must follow him when he goes.  The disciple should never sit on a seat or bed in front of the spiritual master and all good food and drinks must be offered to the spiritual master first before they can be eaten.


 8. One should not do anything to court the spiritual master's displeasure, even when cajoled or treated rudely by him.   The disciple should never disobey the orders of his spiritual master or go against him.   The disciple who pleases the spiritual master with his life, wealth, activities, mind and words, attains the supreme destination.                                                                                                               (Vishnu Smrti)


 9. If the spiritual master gives initiation without testing the disciple and disciple receives the mantra without serving the spiritual master, both of them face great spiritual difficulty.   The Narada Pancaratra states that in this situation, both the spiritual master and disciple will go to a terrible hell for eternity.


 10. Vaishnava Tantra describes how a disciple should pray to the spiritual master after initiation for the spiritual master's pleasure; 

"O Lord of the Universe!  O my spiritual master!  I am being burned in the fire of material existence and am being beaten by the snake of time.  Please deliver me.  I am surrendering myself unto you."


 11. The wise accept only that initiation which offers him shelter at the lotus feet of Shri Vasudeva,  the crest-jewel of all demigods.  Any other type of initiation is simply a sign of stupidity.