Dear Swami Gaurangapada Gurudeva, Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!
Please accept my humble obeisances at the dust of Your Lotus Feet.
I would kindly like to know more spiritual truths about the subject matter "acharya". Nowadays some endless discussions are present among the devotees of different vaishnava groups about the term "acharya". They claim this or that Gurudeva is the "acharya", this or that is the right lineage, this or that is the only right way through which one can go back to Godhead, back to Gauranga-Krishna, and so on...
So i would like to know first of all, what does "acharya" actually mean? Is there something like a "head acharya", who is understood to be a leader of the whole world? If there is such an "head acharya" at a certain time, is he naturally acknowledged by the other "acharyas" and if yes, does that mean that the surrendering souls are actually coming back to Godhead through that "head acharya" and no other way is possible? Then how important is it for one's own spiritual life to recognize and acknowledge such a "head acharya", and surrender to him? Concerning the "traditional acharyas" it is quite obvious, we know Them, we read about Them and the Guru-Parampara appears to be clear. What about the "modern acharyas"? How do they fit into the spiritual truths of this subject matter?
Thank You very very much in advance for bringing light into this subject matter,
Yours sincerely, Matus
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!
Answer by Swami Gaurangapada:
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Acharya means one who practices and preaches. It comes from the Sankrit word "acharana" means to practice by example. There is no such thing as the living head acharya or lower acharya of this world. One may be the head Acharya of an institution founded by him but he or she is not head Acharya in the absolute sense. The only head Acharya for all time and for all souls is Lord Advaita Acharya (Lord Maha Vishnu Himself) who brought the Supreme Lord down to this earth in Kali Yuga. All others are normal Acharyas. No one is higher or lower. Guru Tattva is one.
Anyone who is nicely conversant and realized in the science of Lord Gauranga-Krishna is an Acharya. Such a person maybe grihastha or sannyasi, man or woman, it does not matter.
The theory of upakaraka (favour) Guru and uddharaka (deliverer) Guru has no basis in the scriptures and is a modern invention. The Acharya Guru who initiates the disciple in Naam Diksha is the deliverer of the disciple not some other "head" Acharya somehwere else. Of course the mercy of all the previous Acharyas is there but it is received by the devotee through one's Naam Diksha Guru and/or in some cases the advanced Shiksha Guru also. Spiritual life and relationship between Guru and Disciple has nothing to do with institutionalized heads etc.
As per Hari Naam Chintamani, all the previous Acharyas are our Shiksha Gurus (Instructing Spiritual Masters) and one can directly associate with them through their beautiful writings, books and vani. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have further queries.
Dear Swami Gaurangapada, Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!
Thank You very much for Your enlightening answer.
From Your words i can draw the conclusion, that the major part of the devotees nowadays actually misunderstands the real meaning of the word "acharya" and uses it for strengthening and justifying their beliefs and feelings of adherence to a particular group or institution.