Who is bona fide spiritual master? That is also described, srotriyam brahma-nistham: "One who has heard from his spiritual master." This is... Spiritual master becomes by disciplic succession

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"who is bona fide spiritual master? That is also described, srotriyam brahma-nistham"

Lectures

Bhagavad-gita As It Is Lectures

Who is bona fide spiritual master? That is also described, śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham: "One who has heard from his spiritual master." This is... Spiritual master becomes by disciplic succession, ascending process. Just like we learn "Man is mortal" from higher authority, from my father, from mother or any other authority.
Lecture on BG 4.34-39 -- Los Angeles, January 12, 1969:

Suppose if you want to learn engineering, so you cannot go to a butcher. You must find out an engineer. You must admit yourself into the engineering college, learn how to practice engineering. Suppose if you want to become a medical practitioner, so you have to admit yourself in some medical college. Similarly, if you want to know about spiritual matter, then you must approach a spiritual master who knows the things. How you can learn it from anywhere and everywhere? One must be expert in spiritual knowledge. From him you have to learn. Therefore it is said here, "Just try to learn the truth by..."

Here truth means the Absolute Truth, not relative truth. Or even if you want to know relative truth, you have to approach a particular expert. But here, it is indicated, truth means the Absolute Truth. So Kṛṣṇa indicates that "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master." Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12). That is the Vedic injunction. In the Kaṭhopaniṣad the Vedas says that "If you want to learn transcendental science, so you have to approach a bona fide spiritual master."

And who is bona fide spiritual master? That is also described, śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham: "One who has heard from his spiritual master." This is... Spiritual master becomes by disciplic succession, ascending process. Just like we learn "Man is mortal" from higher authority, from my father, from mother or any other authority.

Or just a child. A child is attracted generally to his mother, in human being, in animals, everywhere. So if a child wants to know his father, then the authority is the mother, and there is not other authority. The child cannot know the name of his father by his own imagination or speculation, if he thinks, "Oh, he may be my father, he may be my father, he may be my father..." Go on imagining, speculating, but you will never be able to understand who is your father. But the mother indicates, "My dear child, he is your father"—immediately business finished. You see? So if you want to speculate who is God, who is the supreme father, you go on speculating for lives together. But if somebody knows, "Here is your God," you accept it—the business finished. Very simple truth. You cannot imagine, you cannot speculate, even on your ordinary father, what to speak of the supreme father. Is it possible? No.

Therefore just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. One who is fortunate to have a bona fide spiritual master, he is supposed to... Ācāryavān puruṣo veda: "One who has taken shelter of a real ācārya, spiritual master, from the disciplic succession, he knows." Ācāryavān puruṣo veda. Veda means "He is in the knowledge." One who has accepted a bona fide spiritual master, he is in the knowledge. Others are fools. This is the Vedic version everywhere. Here also, Bhagavad-gītā, it is said that "You try to learn the truth by approaching spiritual master."

And how to learn from the spiritual master? "Inquire from him submissively." You don't approach a spiritual master whom you can challenge. Then your selection of spiritual master is wrong. If you keep one spiritual master as showbottle, then your selection is not right. It is wrong. The spiritual master... You must select a spiritual master where you can bow down your head, "Yes," submissive. Therefore you have to see.

Suppose you are going here. You are coming here to learn something. When you are convinced that "Swamiji knows the thing," when you are convinced, then you accept. Then you ask for initiation. Otherwise don't do it hesitatingly or knowing half. Therefore in the system it is enjoined that the spiritual master also observe the disciple at least for one year, and the disciple also studies the spiritual master at least for one year. So when both of them are convinced that "He can be my spiritual master" or "He can be my disciple," then the relationship is established. We initiate our students. The preliminary initiation is offering chanting. Then we observe at least for one year, how he is chanting, how he is doing. Then the second initiation confirms. That is the system.

So inquire from him submissively. Where you cannot submit, if you think that "Oh, what is this spiritual master? I can challenge him," then there is no question of accepting as your spiritual master. You have to submit yourself, fully surrender yourself. You have to bow your head: "Yes. Here is my spiritual..." Just like Kṛṣṇa, er, Arjuna said, śiṣyas te 'haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam (BG 2.7). Arjuna in the beginning was speaking with Kṛṣṇa on friendly level, but at last, he submitted that "I am Your disciple. Please teach me." This is the process, submissively. "Inquire from him submissively."

And what is that submission? "Render service unto him." Try to please him by satisfying him, by service. Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādaḥ **, you singing. If he is pleased, then you know Kṛṣṇa is pleased. And if he is displeased, then there is no other way. This is the process, submissive. "The self-realized soul can impart knowledge." And because you have to select spiritual master, a self-realized soul... Just like if you want to study particular subject matter, you have to approach a realized person, a perfect person. Then you get. "The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." One who has not seen the truth, he cannot.