guru-laksana, sisya-laksana, donhara pariksana
guru-laksana—the symptoms of a bona fide spiritual master; sisya-laksana—the symptoms of a bona fide disciple; donhara—of both; pariksana—the testing; sevya-bhagavan—the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshipable; sarva-mantra-vicarana—consideration of the different types of mantras.
"In your book there should be the characteristics of the bona fide guru and the bona fide disciple. Then, before accepting a spiritual master, one can be assured of the spiritual master's position. Similarly, the spiritual master can also be assured of the disciple's position. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, should be described as the worshipable object, and you should consider the bija-mantra for the worship of Krsna, Rama or any other expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
brahmano vai gurur nrnam
sarvesam eva lokanam
asau pujyo yatha harih
na guruh syad avaisnavah
The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class. The first-class devotee is the spiritual master for all kinds of people. It is said: gurur nrnam. The word nrnam means "of all human beings." The guru is not limited to a particular group. It is stated in the Upadesamrta of Rupa Gosvami that a guru is a gosvami, a controller of the senses and the mind. Such a guru can accept disciples from all over the world. Prthivim sa sisyat. This is the test of the guru.
In India there are many so-called gurus, and they are limited to a certain district or a province. They do not even travel about India, yet they declare themselves to be jagad-guru, gurus of the whole world. Such cheating gurus should not be accepted. Anyone can see how the bona fide spiritual master accepts disciples from all over the world. The guru is a qualified brahmana; therefore he knows Brahman and Parabrahman. He thus devotes his life for the service of Parabrahman. The bona fide spiritual master who accepts disciples from all over the world is also worshiped all over the world because of his qualities. Lokanam asau pujyo yatha harih: the people of the world worship him just as they worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All these honors are offered to him because he strictly follows the brahminical principles and teaches these principles to his disciples. Such a person is called an acarya because he knows the principles of devotional service, he behaves in that way himself, and he teaches his disciples to follow in his footsteps. Thus he is an acarya or jagad-guru. Even though a person is born in a brahminical family and is very expert in performing sacrifices, he cannot be accepted as a guru if he is not a strict Vaisnava. A guru is a brahmana by qualification, and he can turn others into brahmanas according to the sastric principles and brahminical qualifications. Brahmanism is not a question of heredity. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.32.11) Sri Narada Muni tells Maharaja Yudhisthira what a brahmana is. He states that if brahminical qualifications are observed in ksatriyas, vaisyas or even sudras, one should accept them as brahmanas. In this regard, Srila Sridhara Svami has commented: samadibhir eva brahmanadi-vyavaharo mukhyah, na jati-matradity aha-yasyeti. yad yadi anyatra varnantare 'pi drsyeta, tad-varnantaram tenaiva laksana-nimittenaiva varnena vinirdiset, na tu jati-nimittenety arthah.
There is a similar statement made by Nilakantha, the commentator on Mahabharata:
sudro 'pi samady-upeto brahmana eva
brahmano 'pi kamady-upetah sudra eva
"Although one may be born in a sudra family, if he is endowed with the brahminical qualities beginning with sama [control of the mind], he is to be accepted as a brahmana. Although one may be born in a brahmana family, if he is endowed with the qualities beginning with kama [lust], he is to be considered a sudra." No one should present himself as a brahmana simply on the basis of being born in a brahminical family. One must be qualified by the brahminical qualities mentioned in the sastras, particularly Bhagavad-gita:
samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge and religiousness-these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work." (Bg. 18.42)
Unless one is qualified with all these attributes, he cannot be accepted as a brahmana. It is not a question of simply taking birth in a brahmana family. In this regard, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura remarks that Narottama dasa Thakura and Syamananda Gosvami, although not born in brahmana families, are accepted as bona fide spiritual masters because they were brahmanas by qualification. Personalities like Sri Ganga-narayana, Ramakrsna and many others, who were actually born in brahmana families, accepted Narottama dasa Thakura and Syamananda Gosvami as their spiritual masters.
The maha-bhagavata is one who decorates his body with tilaka and whose name indicates him to be a servant of Krsna by the word dasa. He is also initiated by a bona fide spiritual master and is expert in worshiping the Deity, chanting mantras correctly, performing sacrifices, offering prayers to the Lord, and performing sankirtana. He knows how to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead and how to respect a Vaisnava. When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru. However, if one is highly qualified but is not a Vaisnava, he cannot be accepted as a guru. One cannot be a brahmana unless one is a Vaisnava. If one is a Vaisnava, he is already a brahmana. If a guru is completely qualified as a Vaisnava, he must be accepted as a brahmana even if he is not born in a brahmana family. The caste system method of distinguishing a brahmana by birth is not acceptable when applied to a bona fide spiritual master. A spiritual master is a qualified brahmana and acarya. If one is not a qualified brahmana, he is not expert in studying Vedic literatures. Nana-sastra-vicaranaika-nipunau. Every Vaisnava is a spiritual master, and a spiritual master is automatically expert in brahminical behavior. He also understands the Vedic sastras.
Similarly, a disciple's qualifications must be observed by the spiritual master before he is accepted as a disciple. In our Krsna consciousness movement, the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars of sinful life-illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling. In Western countries especially, we first observe whether a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles. Then he is given the name of a Vaisnava servant and initiated to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, at least sixteen rounds daily. In this way the disciple renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representative for at least six months to a year. He is then recommended for a second initiation, during which a sacred thread is offered and the disciple is accepted as a bona fide brahmana. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura introduced the system of giving the sacred thread to a bona fide Vaisnava, and we are also following in his footsteps. The qualifications of a bona fide disciple are described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.10.6) as follows:
The disciple must have the following qualifications. He must give up interest in the material bodily conception. He must give up material lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness and envy. He should be interested only in understanding the science of God, and he should be ready to consider all points in this matter. He should no longer think, "I am this body," or, "This thing belongs to me." One must love the spiritual master with unflinching faith, and one must be very steady and fixed. The bona fide disciple should be inquisitive to understand transcendental subject matter. He must not search out faults among good qualities, and he should no longer be interested in material topics. His only interest should be Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
As far as the mutual testing of the spiritual master and disciple is concerned, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that a bona fide disciple must be very inquisitive to understand the transcendental subject matter. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.21):
tasmad gurum prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
"One who is inquisitive to understand the highest goal and benefit of life must approach a bona fide spiritual master and surrender unto him." A serious disciple must be alert when selecting a bona fide spiritual master. He must be sure that the spiritual master can deliver all the transcendental necessities. The spiritual master must observe how inquisitive the disciple is and how eager he is to understand the transcendental subject matter. The spiritual master should study the disciple's inquisitiveness for no less than six months or a year. A spiritual master should not be very anxious to accept a disciple because of his material opulences. Sometimes a big businessman or landlord may approach a spiritual master for initiation. Those who are materially interested are called visayis (karmis), which indicates that they are very fond of sense gratification. Such visayis sometimes approach a famous guru and ask to become a disciple just as a matter of fashion. Sometimes visayis pose as disciples of a reputed spiritual master just to cover their activities and advertise themselves as advanced in spiritual knowledge. In other words, they want to attain material success. A spiritual master must be very careful in this regard. Such business is going on all over the world. The spiritual master does not accept a materially opulent disciple just to advertise the fact that he has such a big disciple. He knows that by associating with such visayi disciples, he may fall down. One who accepts a visayi disciple is not a bona fide spiritual master. Even if he is, his position may be damaged due to association with an unscrupulous visayi. If a so-called spiritual master accepts a disciple for his personal benefit or for material gain, the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple turns into a material affair, and the spiritual master becomes like a smarta-guru. There are many caste gosvamis who professionally create some disciples who do not care for them or their instructions. Such spiritual masters are satisfied simply to get some material benefits from their disciples. Such a relationship is condemned by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who calls such spiritual masters and disciples a society of cheaters and cheated. They are also called baulas or prakrta-sahajiyas. Their aim is to make the connection between the spiritual master and the disciple into a very cheap thing. They are not serious in wanting to understand spiritual life.
The words sevya bhagavan in this verse are important. Bhagavan indicates the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu. Lord Visnu alone is worshipable. There is no need to worship demigods. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita:
kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah
tam tam niyamam asthaya
prakrtya niyatah svaya
"Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures." (Bg. 7.20)
yo 'anya-devam upasate
sva-pacim vandate hi sah
"A person who worships the demigods and gives up Lord Vasudeva is like a man who gives up the protection of his mother for the shelter of a witch."
ye 'py anya-devata-bhakta
te 'pi mam eva kaunteya
"Whatever a man may sacrifice to other gods, O son of Kunti, is really meant for Me alone, but it is offered without true understanding."
Demigods are also living entities and parts and parcels of Krsna. Therefore in one sense one worships Krsna when one worships the demigods, but not in the proper way. There is a proper method to water a tree. One should water the roots, but if one waters the leaves and branches instead, he is simply wasting his time. If one worships the demigods to the exclusion of Lord Visnu, his rewards will only be material. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita:
antavat tu phalam tesam
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam
devan deva-yajo yanti
mad-bhakta yanti mam api
"Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet." (Bg. 7.23)
Demigod worship is meant for unintelligent men because the benefits derived from demigod worship are all material, temporary and retractable. It is also stated in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa:
yas tu narayanam devam
sa pasandi bhaved dhruvam
"Whoever thinks Lord Visnu and the demigods are on the same level is to be immediately considered a rogue as far as spiritual understanding is concerned."
There are three modes of nature in the material world, but when one is situated spiritually, he is above the material modes, even though he lives in this material world. Lord Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita (14.26):
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma bhuyaya kalpate
"One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstances at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman." When one engages in the Supreme Lord's devotional service, he is in a transcendental position. Even though one may be situated in the mode of goodness in the material world, he is susceptible to pollution by the modes of passion and ignorance. When the mode of goodness is mixed with the mode of passion, one worships the sun-god, Vivasvan. When the mode of goodness is mixed with the mode of ignorance, he worships Ganapati, or Ganesa. When the mode of passion is mixed with the mode of ignorance, one worships Durga, or Kali, the external potency. When one is simply in the mode of ignorance, he becomes a devotee of Lord Siva because Lord Siva is the predominating deity of the mode of ignorance within this material world. However, when one is completely free from the influence of all the modes of material nature, he becomes a pure Vaisnava on the devotional platform. Srila Rupa Gosvami states in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:
silanam bhaktir uttama
The position of visuddha-sattva is the position of uncontaminated goodness. On that platform, one can then understand, aradhyo bhagavan vrajesa-tanayas tad-dhama vrndavanam: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead, the son of Nanda Maharaja, is to be worshiped along with His transcendental abode, Vrndavana."
The word sarva-mantra-vicarana means "considering all different types of mantras." There are different kinds of mantras for different kinds of devotees. There are the mantras known as the dvadasaksara, and these are composed of twelve syllables. Similarly, there are mantras composed of eighteen syllables-the Narasimha mantra, the Rama mantra, Gopala mantra and so on. Each and every mantra has its own spiritual significance. The spiritual master has to select a mantra for his disciple according to the disciple's ability to chant different mantras.
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