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You don't select a spiritual master who has got a very good hair or beard or some very beautiful feature, "Oh, he is a very good, nice looking." No. You must hear

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"you don't select a spiritual master who has got a very good hair or beard or some very beautiful feature"

Lectures

Bhagavad-gita As It Is Lectures

My Guru Mahārāja, my spiritual master, used to say that you have to select a spiritual master not by seeing but by your ear, but by hearing. And you don't select a spiritual master who has got a very good hair or beard or some very beautiful feature, "Oh, he is a very good, nice looking." No. You must hear. Tad viddhi praṇipātena (BG 4.34). Śruti. The whole process is śruti. The Vedas are called śruti. The ear has to aural reception.
Lecture on BG 4.24-34 -- New York, August 12, 1966:

If you are actually in search of knowledge, Kṛṣṇa will help you, because He is helping you in every way. Īśvara. Sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ (BG 15.15). This we have discussed this morning. He is always with you; so He understands what kind of knowledge you are in search after. So we must be sincere, that we want to know that Absolute Truth. Then you will find out; Kṛṣṇa will help you. If you want a Brahmavādī, He will help you. If you want a Paramātmavādī, then He will help you. And if you want a devotee, that also help. So tad viddhi. You have to first of all search out a person. So Kṛṣṇa recommends that if you want knowledge then first of all... That is the process, the whole Vedic process.

In the Kaṭhopaniṣad also it is said that tad-vijñānārthaṁ gurum eva abhigacchet: "If you want to understand the transcendental science, then you have to approach to a spiritual master." And who is spiritual master? Oh, nowadays everyone wants to be spiritual master. Oh, that is also mentioned, who is spiritual master. Samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham: (MU 1.2.12) "You have to approach a spiritual master who is śrotriyam and brahma-niṣṭham." Śrotriyam means who has come down from the disciplic succession, or from the Supreme. Just like we have understood in the Fourth Chapter, in the beginning of the Fourth Chapter, evaṁ paramparā-prāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ (BG 4.2). There is a paramparā; there is disciplic succession. So one who is coming into that disciplic succession and by coming from that disciplic succession, he is firmly convinced in the Absolute, he is firmly conversant in the Absolute Truth, he is guru. Two qualifications. Tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena (BG 4.34).

In Kaṭha Upaniṣad it is said tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12). Abhigacchet. This is a Sanskrit grammatical injunction. Where there is the question if imperative, "you must," there vidhilin, this form of verb, is used, gacchet, gacchet. Gacchet means "You must go." You don't think that without going to a qualified, bona fide spiritual master you can have. No. That is not possible. Here also, Lord Kṛṣṇa also recommends, tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā: (BG 4.34) "If you want to learn that transcendental science, then you have to find out a transcendentalist first of all." That is also recommended in Kaṭhopaniṣad.

In Bhāgavata also, it is said, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam: (SB 11.3.21) "One who is hankering after the highest type of question..." We have got so many questions. We can question the whole day and night "What is the rate of this commodity? What is happening in the political field? What is going on in China?" These questions are not... Not these question. Śreya uttamam. One who has become inquisitive in the uttamam. Uttamam means udgata-tama, not any question of pertaining to the material world. One who is eager to question about the Absolute Truth or the spiritual world, he requires a spiritual master. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta (SB 11.3.21). The first injunction is that tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta: "You must submit to a spiritual master."

Who? Who is recommended to find out a spiritual master? Tasmād gurum...jijñāsuḥ. Jijñāsuḥ means who is inquisitive. What kind of inquisitive? Jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam: "What is the ultimate goal of my life?" If you have no such view to inquire what is the ultimate goal of your, you need not require to search out a spiritual master. Spiritual master is not a show bottle. Just like, "Oh, so many people, they have got a spiritual master. Let me have also some spiritual master." It is not like that. It is only jijñāsuḥ, one must be very much inquisitive of the transcendental subject matter. He requires a spiritual master. So here also, the Lord says that tad viddhi: "If you want to understand that transcendental subject matter, then you must approach a person, a bona fide spiritual master."

And the process is praṇipāta, praṇipātena. Praṇipāta means full surrender. Pra means prakṛṣṭa-rūpeṇa, fully, and nipāta means completely becoming a blank slate. Blank slate. Nobody should approach a bona fide spiritual master just to argue with him and just to, with a desire that "I shall see what kind of spiritual master." No. This is useless. You have to select a spiritual master...

My Guru Mahārāja, my spiritual master, used to say that you have to select a spiritual master not by seeing but by your ear, but by hearing. And you don't select a spiritual master who has got a very good hair or beard or some very beautiful feature, "Oh, he is a very good, nice looking." No. You must hear. Tad viddhi praṇipātena (BG 4.34). Śruti. The whole process is śruti. The Vedas are called śruti. The ear has to aural reception.

So here also the same thing recommended by Lord Kṛṣṇa, that praṇipāta. First of all, you have to find out a bona fide spiritual master, and then you should surrender unto him. This is the first process. Praṇipātena paripraśnena. Paripraśnena means by sincere inquiries. Not only surrender, you must be intelligent enough to inquire. Not that when something is heard, and there is no question. No. There must be some question. Paripraśnena and sevayā. So surrender, inquiry, and sevā, service.

We sing this song every day,

yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo
yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto 'pi
dhyāyan stuvaṁs tasya yaśas tri-sandhyaṁ
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam **

Yasya, if we actually find a spiritual master, bona fide spiritual master, and if we can make him satisfied by my service, then my path for realization of God is guaranteed. This is the thing. Here it is. First of all we have to find out a bona fide spiritual master. Then by my service, by my surrender, by my questions, if we utilize, then my path for back to Godhead, back to home, is guaranteed. That is the... It is very important verse. Tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā, upadekṣyanti te jñānam (BG 4.34). That knowledge by which you can go to the point of your self-interest, Viṣṇu, that knowledge you can realize.