There is no change in the spiritual form of the living entity. Any person above the bodily conception of life is pure and can receive transcendental knowledge. This transcendental knowledge is devotional service, and Prahlāda Mahārāja, while living in the womb of his mother, received instructions in devotional service from Nārada Muni. Any person engaged in the service of the Lord through the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master is immediately liberated, and being free from the clutches of māyā, he is relieved of all ignorance and material desires. The duty of everyone is to take shelter of the Supreme Lord and thus become free from all material desires. Regardless of the material condition in which one is situated, one can achieve this perfection. Devotional service is not dependent on the material activities of austerity, penance, mystic yoga or piety. Even without such assets, one can achieve devotional service through the mercy of a pure devotee.
Bona fide spiritual master (SB cantos 5 - 12)
"bona fide spiritual master" |"bona fide spiritual masters" |"bone fide spiritual master"
SB Canto 5
By acting on the platform of fruitive activity, one wanders throughout the universe in different species and forms. Unless he comes in contact with a devotee of the Lord, a guru, he does not become attached to the service of Lord Vāsudeva. Knowledge of Vāsudeva requires many births to understand. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (7.19): vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ. After struggling for existence for many births one may take shelter at the lotus feet of Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa. When this happens. one actually becomes wise and surrenders unto Him. That is the only way to stop the repetition of birth and death. This is confirmed in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (CC Madhya 19.151) in the instructions given by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī at Daśāśvamedha-ghāṭa.
- brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
- guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
The living entity wanders throughout different planets in different forms and bodies, but if by chance he comes in contact with a bona fide spiritual master, by the grace of the spiritual master he receives Lord Kṛṣṇa's shelter, and his devotional life begins.
In these four verses, Ṛṣabhadeva tells His sons how they can be freed from the false identification arising from false ego and material conditional life. One gradually becomes liberated by practicing as mentioned above. All these prescribed methods enable one to give up the material body (liṅgaṁ vyapohet) and be situated in his original spiritual body. First of all one has to accept a bona fide spiritual master. This is advocated by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu: śrī-guru-pādāśrayaḥ. To be freed from the entanglement of the material world, one has to approach a spiritual master. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12). By questioning the spiritual master and by serving him, one can advance in spiritual life. When one engages in devotional service, naturally the attraction for personal comfort—for eating, sleeping and dressing—is reduced. By associating with the devotee, a spiritual standard is maintained. The word mad-deva-saṅgāt is very important. There are many so-called religions devoted to the worship of various demigods, but here good association means association with one who simply accepts Kṛṣṇa as his worshipable Deity.
There are many stories and incidents in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that are described figuratively. Such allegorical descriptions may not be understood by unintelligent men; therefore it is the duty of the student to approach a bona fide spiritual master for the direct explanation.
Thus the struggle for existence continues, and the conditioned soul changes from one position to another. For a while, he is a child, but he has to become a boy. From a boy, he has to change into a youth, and from youth to manhood and old age. Finally, when the body is no longer workable, he has to accept a new body in a different species. Giving up the body is called death, and accepting another body is called birth. The human form is an opportunity to take shelter of the bona fide spiritual master and, through him, the Supreme Lord. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has been started to give an opportunity to all the members of human society, who are misled by foolish leaders. No one can get out of this struggle for existence, which is full of miseries, without accepting a pure devotee of the Lord. The material attempt changes from one position to another, and no one actually gains relief from the struggle for existence. The only resort is the lotus feet of a bona fide spiritual master, and, through him, the lotus feet of the Lord.
"Any person who seriously desires to achieve real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of his spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation and be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters." Similarly, Viśvanātha Cakravartī, a great Vaiṣṇava, also advises, yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādaḥ: ** "By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the mercy of Kṛṣṇa." This is the same advice given by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu (guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja (CC Madhya 19.151)). This is essential. One must come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and therefore one must take shelter of a pure devotee. Thus one can become free from the clutches of matter.
The people who take birth in this tract of land are divided according to the qualities of material nature—the modes of goodness (sattva-guṇa), passion (rajo-guṇa), and ignorance (tamo-guṇa). Some of them are born as exalted personalities, some are ordinary human beings, and some are extremely abominable, for in Bhārata—varṣa one takes birth exactly according to one's past karma. If one's position is ascertained by a bona fide spiritual master and one is properly trained to engage in the service of Lord Viṣṇu according to the four social divisions (brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra) and the four spiritual divisions (brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa), one's life becomes perfect.
None of these descriptions of Lord Anantadeva are imaginary. They are all transcendentally blissful and full of actual knowledge. However, unless one hears them directly from a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession, one cannot understand them. This knowledge is delivered to Nārada by Lord Brahmā, and the great saint Nārada, along with his companion, Tumburu, distributes it all over the universe. Sometimes the Supreme Personality of Godhead is described as Uttamaśloka, one who is praised by beautiful poetry. Nārada composes various poems to glorify Lord Ananta, and therefore the word saṁślokayām āsa (praised by selected poetry) is used in this verse.
Even if he be distressed or degraded, any person who chants the holy name of the Lord, having heard it from a bona fide spiritual master, is immediately purified. Even if he chants the Lord's name jokingly or by chance, he and anyone who hears him are freed from all sins. Therefore how can anyone seeking disentanglement from the material clutches avoid chanting the name of Lord Śeṣa? Of whom else should one take shelter?
SB Canto 6
"According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service." All living entities are rotating throughout the universe, going sometimes up to the higher planetary systems and sometimes down to the lower planets. This is the material disease, which is known as pravṛtti-mārga. When one becomes intelligent he takes to nivṛtti-mārga, the path of liberation, and thus instead of rotating within this material world, he returns home, back to Godhead. This is necessary.
Tat-puruṣa refers to a preacher of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, such as the spiritual master. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has said, chāḍiyā vaiṣṇava-sevā nistāra pāyeche kebā: "Without serving a bona fide spiritual master, an ideal Vaiṣṇava, who can be delivered from the clutches of māyā?" This idea is also expressed in many other places. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.5.2) says, mahat-sevāṁ dvāram āhur vimukteḥ: if one desires liberation from the clutches of māyā, one must associate with a pure devotee mahātmā. A mahātmā is one who engages twenty-four hours daily in the loving service of the Lord. As Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (9.13):
- mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha
- daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
- bhajanty ananya-manaso
- jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam
"O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible."
"O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve, by discharging his prescribed duties (dharma) according to caste divisions and orders of life, is to please the Lord Hari." The varṇāśrama institution offers the perfect process for making one eligible to return home, back to Godhead, because the aim of every varṇa and āśrama is to please the Supreme Lord. One can please the Lord under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, and if one does so his life is perfect. The Supreme Lord is worshipable, and everyone worships Him directly or indirectly. Those who worship Him directly get the results of liberation quickly, whereas the liberation of those who serve Him indirectly is delayed.
(Nārada Muni had asked how one could ignorantly defy one's own father. The Haryaśvas understood the meaning of this question.) One must accept the original instructions of the śāstra. According to Vedic civilization, one is offered a sacred thread as a sign of second birth. One takes his second birth by dint of having received instructions in the śāstra from a bona fide spiritual master. Therefore, śāstra, scripture, is the real father. All the śāstras instruct that one should end his material way of life. If one does not know the purpose of the father's orders, the śāstras, he is ignorant. The words of a material father who endeavors to engage his son in material activities are not the real instructions of the father.
A first-class intelligent man is called a brāhmaṇa because he knows the Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Truth. According to the Vedic instructions, tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet: (MU 1.2.12) to know this science, one must approach a bona fide guru, a spiritual master who will initiate the disciple with the sacred thread so that he may understand the Vedic knowledge. Janmanā jāyate śūdraḥ saṁskārād dhi bhaved dvijaḥ. Becoming a brāhmaṇa through the endeavor of a bona fide spiritual master is called saṁskāra. After initiation, one is engaged in study of the śāstra, which teaches the student how to gain release from materialistic life and return home, back to Godhead.
One must receive all kinds of mantras from a bona fide spiritual master; otherwise the mantras will not be fruitful. This is also indicated in Bhagavad-gītā (4.34):
- tad viddhi praṇipātena
- paripraśnena sevayā
- upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
- jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." All mantras should be received through the authorized guru, and the disciple must satisfy the guru in all respects, after surrendering at his lotus feet. In the Padma Purāṇa it is also said, sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ. There are four sampradāyas, or disciplic successions, namely the Brahma-sampradāya, the Rudra-sampradāya, the Śrī sampradāya and the Kumāra-sampradāya. If one wants to advance in spiritual power, one must receive his mantras from one of these bona fide sampradāyas; otherwise he will never successfully advance in spiritual life.
This is the way to receive knowledge. One must submit oneself at the lotus feet of great personalities who can actually deliver transcendental knowledge. It is therefore said, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam: (SB 11.3.21) "One who is inquisitive to understand the highest goal and benefit of life must approach a bona fide spiritual master and surrender unto him." Only one who is actually eager to receive knowledge to eradicate the darkness of ignorance is eligible to approach a guru, or spiritual master. The guru should not be approached for material benefits. One should not approach a guru just to cure some disease or receive some miraculous benefit. This is not the way to approach the guru. Tad-vijñānārtham: one should approach the guru to understand the transcendental science of spiritual life. Unfortunately, in this age of Kali there are many bogus gurus who display magic to their disciples, and many foolish disciples want to see such magic for material benefits. These disciples are not interested in pursuing spiritual life to save themselves from the darkness of ignorance.
In the transmigration of the soul through different bodies, everyone, in every form of life—be it human, animal, tree or demigod—gets a father and mother. This is not very difficult. The difficulty is to obtain a bona fide spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa. Therefore the duty of a human being is to capture the opportunity to come in touch with Kṛṣṇa's representative, the bona fide spiritual master. Under the guidance of the spiritual master, the spiritual father, one can return home, back to Godhead.
SB Canto 7
The soul can merely act in cooperation with the Supersoul because it is the Supersoul who gives him directions to act or not to act (mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca (BG 15.15)). One cannot act without His sanction, for the Supersoul is upadraṣṭā and anumantā, the witness and sanctioner. One who studies carefully, under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, can understand the real knowledge that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is actually the conductor of all the activities of the individual soul, and the controller of their results as well. Although the individual soul possesses the indriyas, or senses, he is not actually the proprietor, for the proprietor is the Supersoul. Consequently the Supersoul is called Hṛṣīkeśa, and the individual soul is advised by the direction of the Supersoul to surrender to Him and thus be happy (sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja). Thus he can become immortal and be transferred to the spiritual kingdom, where he will achieve the highest success of an eternal, blissful life of knowledge. In conclusion, the individual soul is different from the body, senses, living force and the airs within the body, and above him is the Supersoul, who gives the individual soul all facilities. The individual soul who renders everything to the Supersoul lives very happily within the body.
5) Arcanam. After pāda-sevanam comes the process of arcanam, worship of the Deity. If one is interested in the process of arcanam, one must positively take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and learn the process from him. There are many books for arcana, especially Nārada Pañcarātra. In this age, the pañcarātra system is particularly recommended for arcana, Deity worship. There are two systems of arcana—the bhāgavata system and pāñcarātrikī system. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is no recommendation of pāñcarātrikī worship because in this Kali-yuga, even without Deity worship, everything can be perfectly performed simply through hearing, chanting, remembering and worship of the lotus feet of the Lord.
One may ask why highly educated persons do not take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The reason is explained in this verse. Unless one takes shelter of a bona fide, fully Kṛṣṇa conscious spiritual master, there is no chance of understanding Kṛṣṇa. The educators, scholars and big political leaders worshiped by millions of people cannot understand the goal of life and take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, for they have not accepted a bona fide spiritual master and the Vedas. Therefore in the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad (3.2.3) it is said, nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo na medhayā na bahunā śrutena: one cannot become self-realized simply by having an academic education, by presenting lectures in an erudite way (pravacanena labhyaḥ), or by being an intelligent scientist who discovers many wonderful things. One cannot understand Kṛṣṇa unless one is graced by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only one who has surrendered to a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa and taken the dust of his lotus feet can understand Kṛṣṇa. First one must understand how to get out of the clutches of māyā. The only means is to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. And to become Kṛṣṇa conscious very easily, one must take shelter of a realized soul—a mahat, or mahātmā—whose only interest is to engage in the service of the Supreme Lord.
The words vaiśāradī dhīḥ refer to intelligence concerning the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is extremely expert. The Lord has created wonderful universes by His expert knowledge. Unless one is extremely expert, he cannot understand the expert management of the supreme expert. One can understand, however, if one is fortunate enough to meet a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession from Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Mother Lakṣmī or the Kumāras. These four sampradāyas, or disciplic successions of knowledge and transcendence, are called the Brahma-sampradāya, Rudra-sampradāya, Śrī-sampradāya, and Kumāra-sampradāya. Sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ. The knowledge of the Supreme received from such a sampradāya, or disciplic succession, can give one enlightenment. If one does not take to the path of disciplic succession, it is not possible for one to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one understands the Supreme Lord through devotional service with faith in the disciplic succession and then advances further, he awakens his natural love for God, and then his success in life is assured.
Here is a very good example concerning spiritual understanding. Foolish rascals, including so-called jñānīs, philosophers and scientists, cannot understand the existence of the soul within the body because they are lacking in spiritual knowledge. The Vedas enjoin, tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet: (MU 1.2.12) to understand spiritual knowledge, one must approach a bona fide spiritual master. Unless one has been trained in geology, one cannot detect gold in stone. Similarly, unless one has been trained by a spiritual master, he cannot understand what is spirit and what is matter. Here it is said, yogais tad-abhijñaḥ. This indicates that one who has connected himself with spiritual knowledge can understand that there is a spiritual soul within the body. However, one who is in an animalistic conception of life and has no spiritual culture cannot understand. As an expert mineralogist or geologist can understand where there is gold and can then invest his money to dig there and chemically separate the gold from the ore, an expert spiritualist can understand where the soul is within matter.
As advised by Mahārāja Ṛṣabhadeva, na sādhu manye yata ātmano 'yam asann api kleśada āsa dehaḥ (SB 5.5.4). One must be intelligent enough to understand that although one's body is temporary and will not endure for long, as long as one has a body he must undergo the pangs of material existence. Therefore, if by good association, by the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master, one takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, his conditional life of material existence is vanquished, and his original consciousness, known as Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is revived. When one is Kṛṣṇa conscious, he can realize that material existence, whether one is awake or dreaming, is nothing but a dream and has no factual value. This realization is possible by the grace of the Supreme Lord. This grace is also present in the form of the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu's mission is for everyone to engage in welfare activities to awaken the foolish living entity, especially in human society, so that he may come to the platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and benefit by liberation from conditional life.
One must accept the bona fide spiritual master and render service unto him with great devotion and faith. Whatever one has in one's possession should be offered to the spiritual master, and in the association of saintly persons and devotees one should worship the Lord, hear the glories of the Lord with faith, glorify the transcendental qualities and activities of the Lord, always meditate on the Lord's lotus feet, and worship the Deity of the Lord strictly according to the injunctions of the śāstra and guru.
To practice bhakti-yoga, one must first accept a bona fide spiritual master. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.74-75), advises:
- guru-pādāśrayas tasmāt
- viśrambheṇa guroḥ sevā
- sad-dharma-pṛcchā bhogādi-
- tyāgaḥ kṛṣṇasya hetave
One's first duty is to accept a bona fide spiritual master. The student or disciple should be very inquisitive; he should be eager to know the complete truth about eternal religion (sanātana-dharma). The words guru-śuśrūṣayā mean that one should personally serve the spiritual master by giving him bodily comforts, helping him in bathing, dressing, sleeping, eating and so on. This is called guru-śuśrūṣaṇam. A disciple should serve the spiritual master as a menial servant, and whatever he has in his possession should be dedicated to the spiritual master. prāṇair arthair dhiyā vācā. Everyone has his life, his wealth, his intelligence and his words, and all of them should be offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the via medium of the spiritual master.
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." (BG 4.34) One must approach a bona fide spiritual master by surrendering himself (praṇipātena) and rendering service. An intelligent person must inquire from the spiritual master about the goal of life. A bona fide spiritual master can answer all such questions because he has seen the real truth. Even in ordinary activities, we first consider gain and loss, and then we act. Similarly, an intelligent person must consider the entire process of material existence and then act intelligently, following the directions of the bona fide spiritual master.
This is the effect of the preaching of a pure devotee like Prahlāda Mahārāja. If a devotee is qualified, sincere and serious about Kṛṣṇa consciousness and if he follows the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master, as Prahlāda Mahārāja did when preaching the instructions he had received from Nārada Muni, his preaching is effective. As it is said in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.25.25):
- satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
- bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
If one tries to understand the discourses given by the sat, or pure devotees, those instructions will be very pleasing to the ear and appealing to the heart. Thus if one is inspired to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and if one practices the process in his life, he is surely successful in returning home, back to Godhead. By the grace of Prahlāda Mahārāja, all his class friends, the sons of the demons, became Vaiṣṇavas. They did not like hearing from their so-called teachers Ṣaṇḍa and Amarka, who were interested only in teaching them about diplomacy, politics, economic development and similar topics meant exclusively for sense gratification.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is filled with descriptions of the characteristics of various devotees, with reference to the service of the Lord. This Vedic literature is called Bhāgavatam because it deals with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His devotee. By studying Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master, one can perfectly understand the science of Kṛṣṇa, the nature of the material and spiritual worlds, and the aim of life. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam amalaṁ purāṇam. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the spotless Vedic literature, as we have discussed in the beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Therefore, simply by understanding Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, one can understand the science of the activities of the devotees, the activities of the demons, the permanent abode and the temporary abode. Through Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, everything is perfectly known.
The word tattvataḥ, meaning "in reality," is very important. Tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā. Unless one understands Kṛṣṇa in truth by the mercy of the spiritual master, one is not free to give up his material body. As it is said, āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ patanty adho 'nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ: (SB 10.2.32) if one neglects to serve the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, one cannot become free from the material clutches simply by knowledge. Even if one attains the stage of brahma-padam, merging in Brahman, without bhakti he is prone to fall down. One must be very careful in regard to the danger of falling down again into material bondage. The only insurance is to come to the stage of bhakti, from which one is sure not to fall. Then one is free from the activities of the material world. In summary, as stated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, one must get in touch with a bona fide spiritual master coming in the paramparā of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, for by his mercy and instructions one is able to get strength from Kṛṣṇa. Thus one engages in devotional service and attains the ultimate goal of life, the lotus feet of Viṣṇu.
Ācāryavān puruṣo veda: one who is guided by the bona fide spiritual master knows everything as stated in the Vedas, which set forth the standard of infallible knowledge. As recommended in Bhagavad-gītā, ācāryopāsanam: one must approach the ācārya for real knowledge. Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet: (MU 1.2.12) one must approach the ācārya, for then one will receive perfect knowledge. When guided by the spiritual master, one attains the ultimate goal of life.
SB Canto 8
Thus Kaśyapa Muni was an ideal spiritual master. He was not so foolish that he would present himself as an exalted personality, as good as God. He was actually a bona fide guru because he advised his wife to seek shelter at the lotus feet of Vāsudeva. One who trains his subordinate or disciple to worship Vāsudeva is the truly bona fide spiritual master. The word jagad-gurum is very important in this regard. Kaśyapa Muni did not falsely declare himself to be jagad-guru, although he actually was jagad-guru because he advocated the cause of Vāsudeva. Actually, Vāsudeva is jagad-guru, as clearly stated here (vāsudevaṁ jagad-gurum). One who teaches the instructions of Vāsudeva, Bhagavad-gītā, is as good as vāsudevaṁ jagad-gurum. But when one who does not teach this instruction—as it is—declares himself jagad-guru, he simply cheats the public. Kṛṣṇa is jagad-guru, and one who teaches the instruction of Kṛṣṇa as it is, on behalf of Kṛṣṇa, may be accepted as jagad-guru. One who manufactures his own theories cannot be accepted; he becomes jagad-guru falsely.
The guru does not manufacture a new process to instruct the disciple. The disciple receives from the guru an authorized process received by the guru from his guru. This is called the system of disciplic succession (evaṁ paramparā-prāptaṁ imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ (BG 4.2)). This is the bona fide Vedic system of receiving the process of devotional service, by which the Supreme Personality of Godhead is pleased. Therefore, to approach a bona fide guru, or spiritual master, is essential. The bona fide spiritual master is he who has received the mercy of his guru, who in turn is bona fide because he has received the mercy of his guru. This is called the paramparā system. Unless one follows this paramparā system, the mantra one receives will be chanted for no purpose. Nowadays there are so many rascal gurus who manufacture their mantras as a process for material advancement, not spiritual advancement. Still, the mantra cannot be successful if it is manufactured. Mantras and the process of devotional service have special power, provided they are received from the authorized person.
SB Canto 9
In Bhagavad-gītā (7.1) the Lord recommends, mayy āsakta-manāḥ pārtha yogaṁ yuñjan mad-āśrayaḥ. This indicates that one must execute devotional service under the guidance of a devotee or directly under the guidance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is not possible, however, to train oneself without guidance from the spiritual master. Therefore, according to the instructions of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, the first business of a devotee is to accept a bona fide spiritual master who can train him to engage his various senses in rendering transcendental service to the Lord. The Lord also says in Bhagavad-gītā (7.1), asaṁśayaṁ samagraṁ māṁ yathā jñāsyasi tac chṛṇu. In other words, if one wants to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead in completeness, one must follow the prescriptions given by Kṛṣṇa by following in the footsteps of Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. It is said, hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate: (CC Madhya 19.170) bhakti means to engage the senses in the service of the master of the senses, Kṛṣṇa, who is called Hṛṣīkeśa or Acyuta. These words are used in these verses. Acyuta-sat-kathodaye, hṛṣīkeśa-padābhivandane. The words Acyuta and Hṛṣīkeśa are also used in Bhagavad-gītā. Bhagavad-gītā is kṛṣṇa-kathā spoken directly by Kṛṣṇa, and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is also kṛṣṇa-kathā because everything described in the Bhāgavatam is in relationship with Kṛṣṇa.
SB Canto 10.1 to 10.13
It is said, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam (SB 11.3.21). Those interested in understanding transcendental subject matters as the goal of life must approach the bona fide spiritual master. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta. One must surrender to such a guru, who can give right information about Kṛṣṇa. Herein, Mahārāja Parīkṣit has surrendered to the right personality, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, for enlightenment in vāsudeva-kathā. Vāsudeva is the original Personality of Godhead, who has unlimited spiritual activities. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is a record of such activities, and Bhagavad-gītā is the record of Vāsudeva speaking personally. Therefore, since the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is full of vāsudeva-kathā, anyone who hears, anyone who joins the movement and anyone who preaches will be purified.
The word acyutāṁśam is used because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Ṣaḍ-aiśvarya-pūrṇa, full in the opulences of wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty and renunciation. The Supreme Godhead is never separated from His personal opulences. As stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.39), rāmādi-mūrtiṣu kalā-niyamena tiṣṭhan: the Lord is always situated with all His plenary expansions, such as Rāma, Nṛsiṁha and Varāha. Therefore the word acyutāṁśam is specifically used here, signifying that the Lord is always present with His plenary expansions and opulences. There is no need to think of the Lord artificially as yogīs do. Dhyānāvasthita-tad-gatena manasā paśyanti yaṁ yoginaḥ (SB 12.13.1). Yogīs meditate upon the Supreme person within the mind. For a devotee, however, the Lord is present, and His presence need only be awakened through initiation by a bona fide spiritual master. The Lord did not need to live within the womb of Devakī, for His presence within the core of her heart was sufficient to carry Him. One is here forbidden to think that Kṛṣṇa was begotten by Vasudeva within the womb of Devakī and that she carried the child within her womb.
"According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of both Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service." (CC Madhya 19.151) Nārada appeared in the garden to give the two sons of Kuvera the seed of devotional service, even though they were intoxicated. Saintly persons know how to bestow mercy upon the fallen souls.
Yet although the body will be turned into worms, stool or ashes, foolish persons, just to maintain it, commit many sinful activities. This is certainly regrettable. The human form of body is actually meant for jīvasya tattva jijñāsā, enlightenment in knowledge of spiritual values. Therefore, one must seek shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta: one must approach a guru. Who is a guru? Śābde pare ca niṣṇātam (SB 11.3.21): a guru is one who has full transcendental knowledge. Unless one approaches a spiritual master, one remains in ignorance. Ācāryavān puruṣo veda (Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.14.2): one has full knowledge about life when one is ācāryavān, controlled by the ācārya. But when one is conducted by rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa, one does not care about anything; instead, one acts like an ordinary foolish animal, risking his life (mṛtyu-saṁsāra-vartmani (BG 9.3)) and therefore continuing to go through suffering after suffering. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31). Such a foolish person does not know how to elevate himself in this body. Instead, he indulges in sinful activities and goes deeper and deeper into hellish life.
This is impossible. But in this case, because Nārada Muni desired that Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva see Vāsudeva face to face, the Supreme Personality of Godhead wanted to fulfill the words of His very dear devotee Nārada Muni. If one seeks the favor of a devotee instead of directly asking favors from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one is very easily successful. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has therefore recommended: vaiṣṇava ṭhākura tomāra kukkura bhuliyā jānaha more, kṛṣṇa se tomāra kṛṣṇa dite pāra. One should desire to become like a dog in strictly following a devotee. Kṛṣṇa is in the hand of a devotee. Adurlabham ātma-bhaktau. Thus without the favor of a devotee, one cannot directly approach Kṛṣṇa, what to speak of engaging in His service. Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura therefore sings, chāḍiyā vaiṣṇava-sevā nistāra pāyeche kebā: unless one becomes a servant of a pure devotee, one cannot be delivered from the material condition of life. In our Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava society, following in the footsteps of Rūpa Gosvāmī, our first business is to seek shelter of a bona fide spiritual master (ādau gurv-āśrayaḥ).
SB Cantos 10.14 to 12 (Translations Only)
Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself as the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the Supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. This bewildering, fearful condition is effected by the potency for illusion, called māyā. Therefore, an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, whom he should accept as his worshipable deity and as his very life and soul.
Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.
Accepting the bona fide spiritual master as one's life and soul and worshipable deity, the disciple should learn from him the process of pure devotional service. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, the soul of all souls, is inclined to give Himself to His pure devotees. Therefore, the disciple should learn from the spiritual master to serve the Lord without duplicity and in such a faithful and favorable way that the Supreme Lord, being satisfied, will offer Himself to the faithful disciple.
One who has accepted Me as the supreme goal of life should strictly observe the scriptural injunctions forbidding sinful activities and, as far as possible, should execute the injunctions prescribing minor regulative duties such as cleanliness. Ultimately, however, one should approach a bona fide spiritual master who is full in knowledge of Me as I am, who is peaceful, and who by spiritual elevation is not different from Me.
This tree of material existence has two seeds, hundreds of roots, three lower trunks and five upper trunks. It produces five flavors and has eleven branches and a nest made by two birds. The tree is covered by three types of bark, gives two fruits and extends up to the sun. Those lusty after material enjoyment and dedicated to family life enjoy one of the tree's fruits, and swanlike men in the renounced order of life enjoy the other fruit. One who with the help of the bona fide spiritual masters can understand this tree to be a manifestation of the potency of the one Supreme Truth appearing in many forms actually knows the meaning of the Vedic literature.
Although the false ego has no factual basis, it is perceived in many forms—as the functions of the mind, speech, life air and bodily faculties. But with the sword of transcendental knowledge, sharpened by worship of a bona fide spiritual master, a sober sage will cut off this false identification and live in this world free from all material attachment.