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Lecture: What is a Guru?
London, August 22, 1973
[I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who with the torchlight of knowledge has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance.]
[When will Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya, give me shelter under his lotus feet?]
[I offer my obeisances to Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, Prabhu Nityānanda, Śrī Advaita, Gadādhara, Śrīvāsa and all others in the line of devotion.]
[My dear Lord, and the spiritual energy of the Lord, kindly engage me in Your service. I am now embarrassed with this material service. Please engage me in Your service.]
Thank you very much. So, tonight's subject matter for speaking is "What is Guru?"
Prabhupāda: So, guru, there are many descriptions. Subject matter is the same, but different way, guru has been described by different ācāryas. Their aim is the same, but language or presentation may be little different. So generally guru means,
Just like in darkness, ajñāna-timirāndhasya. Ajñāna means ignorance, without knowledge. That is called ajñāna. So ajñāna is compared..., ignorance, stupidity, is compared with darkness. Just like if you are, if this room, immediately, all lights are off, then it becomes dark. We cannot see where I am sitting, where others are sitting. It becomes a confusion. Similarly, in this material world, we are all in the darkness. This material world is called darkness. It is called tamaḥ. Tamaḥ means darkness. Or timir. Timir means darkness. And actually, it is darkness. Because, because this material world is dark, there is need of sunlight, there is need of moonlight, there is need of electricity. (aside:) This child disturbing. But there is another world. We get description from the Vedic literature, na yatra bhāsayate sūryo na śaśaṅko na pāvakaḥ. There is another world, spiritual world, where there is no darkness, and therefore, there is no need of sunlight, there is no need of moonlight, there is no need of electricity.
So guru's business is to bring out the disciples from darkness to light. That is guru's business. That is guru. First business is that because he is suf... Everyone is suffering on account of ignorance. Just like you contaminate some disease out of ignorance. You do not know hygienic principle; you do not know that "This thing will contaminate me. This association will contaminate me. This kind of food will contaminate me." Because we do not know, therefore we contact infections, sometimes suffer from disease. It is very simple to understand. Everyone's... Suppose one commits something criminal due to ignorance, due to ignorance. But in the court, when a man is criminal, in the court, if he says, the criminal, if he says that "I did not know the law," he'll not be excused. Ignorance is no excuse. Similarly, even a child, he does not know, he catches on fire—the fire will burn. No excuse. The fire will not consider that "Here is a child. He does not know. Excuse." No. No excuse. So as there are stringent laws of nature or laws of the state, that because you do not know something, you have committed some wrong, you'll be excused—no, that is no, there is no possibility. You have committed something wrong out of ignorance, you must suffer. This is the law nature's law. You cannot... I have (given) many examples. Suppose you can not eat more. Out of ignorance, if you eat more, then you have to fast two days, three days, suffering, or you'll have some disease. You cannot violate any laws of the nature or any laws of the state anywhere. Wherever there is law, if you break it, then you'll suffer. This is ignorance.
Therefore guru's business is... Every human being is suffering in this material world. Nobody can say that "I am not suffering." It is not possible. There must be suffering. There are three kinds of sufferings. (But) That out of ignorance also, a rascal is suffering, he's saying that "I am very happy." That is also another ignorance. There are three kinds of sufferings in this material world: ādhyātmic, ādhibautic, ādhidaivic. Suffering on account of my own body and mind—this suffering is not imposed by anyone else. I do it. The same thing, that I cannot digest but I eat more, so there must be dysentery. You must suffer. This is due to my body and mind. That is another one kind of suffering. Another suffering is imposed by other living entities. Just like your enemy or an animal—or there are ants, mosquitos, flies, they are all causing suffering. You are killing them, and they are trying to give you suffering. This is called struggle. This is called ādhibautic, suffering given by other living entities. Suffering caused by myself, this is called ādhyātmic. And suffering caused by other living... And there are other sufferings, caused by the nature, superior power, ādhidaivic. All of a sudden, there is no rain, no rainfall, and now for want of rainfall, there is no food grain. Excessive heat, excessive chilly cold; earthquake, famine... So many, by natures, imposed by the natures. Flood. So there are three kinds of sufferings in the material world, and everyone is suffering either by one, two or three or..., but nobody can say that "I am completely free from suffering." That is not possible. And why this suffering? Due to ignorance. I do not know. I am committing sinful life, I am committing mistakes; therefore I am suffering. Therefore guru's business is first to rescue his disciple from ignorance, ignorance. Ajñāna-timirāndhasya. Everyone is suffering out of ignorance; therefore guru's business is to... Just like we go to a school. We go to a school, we send our children to a school. Why? To save him from suffering; to get education. "If my son does not get education, he'll suffer in the future." The same process: to get him out of ignorance, to get him relieved from the suffering. Therefore, guru's business is ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākaya. So sufferings is due to ignorance. Ignorance is compared with darkness. So in the darkness how you can save one? By some light. So guru's business is to take the torchlight of knowledge and present before the ignorant or the disciple in darkness and that gives him, relieves him from the sufferings of darkness or ignorance. This is guru's business.
Then another verse says,
It is Vedic injunction. Somebody was asking whether guru is absolutely necessary. Yes, absolutely necessary. That is the Vedic injunction. The Vedas say, tad-vijñānārtham. Tad-vijñāna means spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge; for acquiring spiritual knowledge. Tad-vijñānārtham. Sa—one; gurum eva—eva means must; gurum—to a guru. Must go to guru. Not "a" guru; "the" guru. Guru is one. Because as it is explained by our Revatīnandana Mahārāja, guru is coming from the disciplic succession. What five thousand years ago Vyāsadeva instructed or Kṛṣṇa instructed, the same thing we are also instructing. Therefore there is no difference between instruction. Therefore guru is one. Although hundreds and thousands of ācāryas have come and gone, but the message is one. Therefore guru cannot be two. Real guru will not talk differently. Some guru says that "In my opinion, you should like this," and some guru will say, "In my opinion you'll do this"—they are not guru; they are all rascals. Guru has no "own" opinion. Guru has got only one opinion, the same opinion which was expressed by Kṛṣṇa, Vyāsadeva or Nārada or Arjuna or Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu or the Gosvāmīs. You'll find the same thing. Five thousand years ago, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa spoke Bhagavad-gītā and Vyāsadeva wrote it, recorded it. Vyāsadeva does not say that "It is my opinion." Vyāsadeva writes, śrī bhagavān uvāca: "Whatever writing, it is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead." He's not giving his own opinion. Śrī bhagavān uvāca. Therefore he is guru. He is not misinterpreting the words of Kṛṣṇa. He's giving as it is. Just like a bearer, peon. Somebody has written you letter, the peon has got the letter. It does not mean he has to correct it or edit it or addition or... No. He'll present it. That is his duty. Then he is guru. He's honest. Similarly, guru cannot be two. Mind that. The person may be different, but the message is the same. Therefore guru is one.
The Vedic instruction is, tad vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet [MU 1.2.12]. Gurum eva, "one must." Eva means "must." Abhigacchet, this verb is used when there is the sense of "must." It never says "Go to a guru," but he says "Must approach the guru." Guru is one. Guru cannot be two. Gurum evābhigacchet. And we see also, practically, in the disciplic succession of guru, the same thing is spoken by the guru. Same thing. Repetition of the same subject matter, no other. Kṛṣṇa said that man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru: [Bg. 18.65] "Just think of Me," man-manā. "Just become devotee of Me," man-manā bhava mad-bhakto. "Just worship Me and just offer your obeisances unto Me." Sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja [Bg. 18.66]. "Just surrender unto Me." You'll find this instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā. The same thing was spoken by all the ācāryas. Rāmanujācārya also says the same, Madhvācārya says the same thing, Caitanya Mahāprabhu says same thing, the Gosvāmīs say the same thing, and we are also speaking the same thing. There is no difference. We do not interpret the words of Kṛṣṇa, that "In my opinion, Kurukṣetra means this body." This is rascaldom. The whole situation has been spoiled by these so-called rascal gurus who gives his own opinion. This is our plain declaration: Let any rascal guru come. We can convince him that he is not guru, because he is speaking differently. We can challenge any rascal. Just like somebody came here, he said that he's God, every one of us God. (aside:) Stop this. So I asked that "Just find out in the dictionary what is meaning of God. Let us see whether he is God." The dictionary, as soon as dictionary was consulted, the meaning of God is "the supreme being," meaning of God. So I asked him, "Are you supreme? If you cannot understand, then find out the meaning of supreme." Then when he consulted dictionary, the supreme, it is said "the greatest authority." So I asked him, "Are you the greatest authority?" The rascal could not answer. He does not know even the dictionary meaning, and he's claiming that he's God. This rascaldom is going on, whole world. Big, big rascal swamis, they say, "Why you are finding out God anywhere? You do not see so many rascal gods are loitering in the street?" This is going on. If you simply consult dictionary, you can understand what is the meaning of God. God is so cheap thing, huh? Supreme being. Are you supreme being? Supreme means the highest authority. Highest authority means nobody is equal to him, nobody is greater than him. That is supreme. So these rascals who are claiming to become God, is it a fact that nobody is equal to him, nobody is greater than him? There are so many.
So this kind of guru, this kind of rascal, will not help you. Guru must come from the paramparā system by disciplic succession. Five thousand years or five millions of years, what was spoken by the supreme God or guru, the present guru also will say the same thing. That is guru. That is bona fide guru. Otherwise, he's not guru. Simple definition. Guru cannot change any word of the predecessor. There is one instance in Caitanya Mahāprabhu's life. One gentleman, (he) is Vallabha Ācārya. He was very much devotee of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He wrote one comment on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Subodhinī-ṭīkā, it is called. That is recognized, nice ṭīkā, comment. But he approached Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He was very great devotee of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. So he simply said that "Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Lord Caitanya, if You hear my comment on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, You'll find it is far better than Śrīdhara Svāmī's." Śrīdhara Svāmī is the very old commentator. So Caitanya Mahāprabhu immediately rejected: "Oh, you are claiming that you have written something better than Śrīdhara Svāmī?" He chastised him. Svāmī means another... He sarcastically remarked, the word svāmī, Śrīdhara Swami, svāmī, another svāmī means "husband." So He said, svāmī jīva nahi mane besa bali guni(?): "I think one who does not recognize svāmī, he's a prostitute." He immediately said. "You do not recognize Śrīdhara Svāmī, then you are a prostitute. How can I hear from a prostitute?" He refused. Only word, that "I have written better than Svāmī." So this is the process of guru. You cannot disobey the previous ācārya or guru. No. You have to repeat the same thing. Not research. Sometimes rascals come, that "You are speaking the same thing. Why don't you speak something new by research work?" We say that we have no intelligence, we cannot make any research. We are... Guru more mūrkha dekhi koriyā vicāra [Cc. Ādi 7.71]. Caitanya Mahāprabhu said that "My Guru Mahārāja saw Me a great fool number one." So one who remains a great fool number one before his guru, he is guru. And one who says that "I'm advanced so much that I can speak better than my guru," then he's rascal. This is the process.
Kṛṣṇa said in the Fourth Chapter.
So guru is one. Guru cannot be two. As soon as you find two opinions of guru, either both of them are rascals, or one is still at least rascal. There cannot be two. This is guru. Another place it is said,
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta
jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ
Who needs a guru? A third-class, fourth-class man, ordinary man, doesn't require a guru. Guru, to keep a guru or to have a guru is not a fashion. One who is very serious to understand spiritual life, he requires a guru. Otherwise, there is no need of guru. Just like you keep a dog as a fashion, don't keep a guru. Guru means..., is a question of necessity. One must be very serious to understand what is spiritual life, what is God, what is my relation with God, how to act. When we are very much serious about this subject matter, then we require a guru. Don't go to a guru as a matter of fashion. That is useless. That is useless. Therefore śāstra says, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta. Because we have to go to guru and surrender there. Without surrendering, you cannot learn anything. If you want to challenge guru, it is not possible. Then you'll learn nothing. Tasmad guruṁ prapadyeta. Praṇipātena. So, just like Arjuna accepted Kṛṣṇa as guru, he said, śiṣyas te 'haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam: [Bg. 2.7] "I am now surrendered to you." That is the process. Tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā [Bg. 4.34]. To... Guru means Kṛṣṇa's representative, former ācāryas' representative. Kṛṣṇa's... All ācāryas are representative of Kṛṣṇa; therefore guru should be offered the same respect as you offer to God. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta [SB 11.3.21]. Therefore Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura says, yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo **. Because guru is bona fide representative of Kṛṣṇa, or God, so if you surrender to guru, bona fide guru, that means you surrender to God. God is accepting your surrender through the guru. Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo. If you surrender to guru, that means Kṛṣṇa is pleased. Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: [Bg. 18.66] surrender. That somebody argues, "Where is Kṛṣṇa? I shall surrender." No. You surrender to His representative, then you surrender to Kṛṣṇa. This is the process.
So guru is the representative of God. Therefore the śāstra says, the authority says, sākṣād-dharitvena samasta-śāstrair. Guru is as good as God. Here, in this Vyāsa-pūjā day, we are teaching or they are doing, offering respect to guru. That means they are learning how to offer respect to God. It is not personal affair; it is required. Because they are trying to be God conscious, they must learn how to offer respect to God or God's representative. That is required. Sākṣād-dharitvena samasta-śāstrair. In all the śāstra, Vedic literature, guru is described as good as God. But guru will never say that "I am God." The disciple's duty is to offer respect to guru as he offers respect to God. But guru will never say that "I am... Because my disciples are offering me respect as God, therefore I have become God." As soon as he thinks so, he becomes dog. He is no more God. Therefore Viśvanātha Cakravartī says... Why guru is offered respect like God? Kintu prabhor yaḥ priya eva tasya. Guru is offered the same respect as we offer respect to God. Just like in the morning. The other side, ārātrika was going on, offering to Kṛṣṇa, and this side was ārātrika was going on to offer respect to the spiritual master. The same respect. But guru will never say, and he's not that. Guru will never say, "Now I have become God." No. God does not become. God is always God. So God is God and guru is guru. But, as a matter of etiquette, God is the sevya God, worshipable God, and guru is the worshiper God. Just try to understand. Worshipable God and worshiper God. This is. Sevya bhagavān-sevaka bhagavān. Just like guru is addressed: "Prabhupāda." Prabhu means "the Lord" and pāda means "the position." "One who has taken the position of the Lord." The same thing: sākṣād-dharitvena, prabhupāda. These are the terms, one who is serious to study this science of God, they'll learn all these things. So one who is very serious to understand the science of God, for him a guru is required. Don't try to keep a guru as a matter of fashion, that it has become a fashion to accept somebody, some rascal as guru, and say that "I have got my guru." What kind of guru you have got? You are talking nonsense. Ācāryavān puruṣa veda. One who has accepted guru, he'll talk sense, where there is meaning. He'll never talk any nonsense. That is the sign that he has got guru. He has got the sacred thread. Yes, he's accepted by bona fide guru. That is the sign, sacred thread. So you are offering good respect to your spiritual master. That is very nice. You are very thankful. But at the same time we should remember that how to carry out the orders of the guru so that people may not think that you are talking nonsense. You must be very careful.
So in the Bhagavad-gītā also... I am reciting, citing various verses from various śāstras-Kaṭhopaniṣad, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Now here is another verse. Kṛṣṇa says, tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā, in the Bhagavad-gītā.
So you have to learn from guru by three processes. What is that? First process is you must surrender. Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta [SB 11.3.21]. Surrender. You have to find out such an exalted person where you can willingly surrender, "Yes." Therefore it is enjoined in the śāstras, before making a guru, try to study him, whether you can surrender there. Don't accept any guru all of a sudden as fanatic. No, don't do that. That is the injunction. And guru also must study the disciple who wants to become a disciple; must study him, whether he's fit for becoming a disciple. This is the way of making relationship between guru and disciple. Everything is there provided we take them seriously. Then we can train up how to become bona fide disciple, how to find out bona fide guru, how to establish our relationship with guru and act accordingly and make our life successful. Because guru's business is ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā. Guru's business is to enlighten the disciple, because he's in darkness. In another place in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that parābhavas tāvad abodha-jāto yāvan na jijñāsata ātma-tattvam. Parābhavaḥ, parābhavaḥ means defeat. Defeat. So whose defeat? Parābhavas tāvad abodha-jāto: one who is born rascal and fool. Everyone is born rascal and fool. Nobody, otherwise, if you are learned, if you are..., if you know things, then why do you go to a school and college and pass university? It is a fact. Animals. If we do not cultivate knowledge, then we are as good as animals. Now another animal is saying that there is no need of books, and he has become guru. But how you can get knowledge without authoritative studies of books and science and philosophy? But they are trying to avoid this. So imagine what kind of guru and what kind of disciple.
So śāstra says, parābhavas tāvad abodha-jāto. Abodha-jāto. Everyone is born rascal, fool. He has to be enlightened, he has to be given knowledge, and he has to receive knowledge to make his life perfect. Therefore parābhavaḥ means one who does not make his life perfect, he's being defeated. What is the defeat? Struggle for existence. We are trying to get better life. Here also, in this life also, we are struggling hard for getting better position. So real better position we do not know. That is described in the Bhagavad-gītā: saḥ amṛtatvāya kalpate. Here in this material world there is no better position because there is death. You may possess a very good better position, but you'll have to give it up. Either the better position will give up you, or ultimately you have to give up that better position. You cannot stay. Suppose you have earned millions of dollars, millions of pounds: "Now we have got good bank balance." You think, "Now I am in the better position." A little dysentery, or cholera, dysentery—finished, better position. Or the bank fails—that better position gone. So there is no better position in this material world. It is a false. Therefore those who are trying to get better position in this material world, they are simply becoming defeated, because there is no better position. He's a rascal. He's thinking this is better position. What is better position? Then Bhagavad-gītā says the better position is amṛtatva. Saḥ amṛtatvāya kalpate: "Don't die. Keep your position firm." That is better position. So is there any science to give knowledge how one becomes immortal? Yes, there is. You can become immortal. Not in this material science; not in the so-called universities. But there is knowledge in the Vedic scripture by which you can become immortal. That is better position. No more death, no more birth, no more old age, no more disease. So guru's task is very great responsibility. He has to guide the disciple how to make him quite eligible candidate to get the perfect position, immortality, back to home, back to Godhead.
Thank you very much. (end)