Traditionally, acarya must comment on the Vedanta sutra otherwise he is not recognized. In the past all the Vaisnava acaryas were vastly learned scholars who understood Vedanta philosophy fully, for unless one knows Vedanta philosophy he cannot be an acarya. To be accepted as an acarya among Indian transcendentalists who follow the Vedic principles, one must become a vastly learned scholar in Vedanta philosophy, either by studying it or hearing it.
For example, Srila Prabhupada has shown his vast knowledge of the Vedanta by giving a commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam, which is the essence of the Vedanta sutra written by the author of the Vedanta Sutra itself Srila Vyasadeva. But this is not enough. He must be also conversant with all the other systems of philosophy. Srila Prabhupada writes:
Theism in complete is explained in the Vedanta Sutra whereas in other system of philosophical speculations, practically no importance has been awarded to the ultimate cause of all causes. One is there expected to sit on Vyasa Asana after being conversant with all the systems of philosophy so that one can present fully the theistic views of Bhagwat in defiance of all other system.
SB 1.1.7 purport
The duty of a successor acarya is to highlight from the scriptures what is to be followed for a particular time period. Srila Srinivasa Acarya has sung:
lokanam hita-karinau tri-bhuvane manyau saranyakarau
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
Srila Prabhupada explains:
The six Gosvamis, under the direction of Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, studied various Vedic literatures and picked up the essence of them, the devotional service of the Lord. This means that all the Gosvamis wrote many scriptures on devotional service with the support of the Vedic literature.
(Madhya 1.33 purport)
The Vedic literature is also called sruti and smrti are the supplementary scriptures that explain the srutis. The smrtis cannot be changed, but different instructions are given for different times. In Kali-yuga for example, the smrti order is kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet “Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, or Lord Krsna’s name, one is liberated and goes back home, back to Godhead.”[SB 12.3.51]. So we have to do that. A physician gives a medicine and says “In the morning you take this medicine and in the evening you take this medicine.” Similarly, the smrti instructions are given according to the time. The medicine is prescribed according to different times. The qualified physician does not recommend a change of treatment. Neither do we take medicine according to our whims. Simialrly, the sruti-smrti cannot be changed, but they recommend different processes for different times. Srila Prabhupada explains this co-relation between srutis and smrtis in the following conversation.
Pusta Krsna: Can anyone change…
Pusta Krsna: …the rules of conduct as regarded in the smrtis?
Prabhupada: Nobody can change. Nobody can change. But rules and regulation for different times, different circumstances are there in the sruti-smrti. We have to take it. You cannot change.
Pusta Krsna: And who will sanction that application?
Prabhupada: Yes. Just like Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He said. He’s authority. He’s acarya.
Pusta Krsna: The acarya must sanction for the particular time and place.
Prabhupada: Yes. We are following the footprints of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It is not whimsical. You have to follow the authority in all circumstances. You cannot avoid. That is illegal. It will have no power.
Answers to a Questionnaire from Bhavan’s Journal — June 28, 1976, Vrndavana
Such a task is therefore exclusively reserved for an uttama adhikari, a devotee on the top most platform of spiritual advancement. In his book Nectar of Devotion, Chapter Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service, Srila Prabhupada explains that a first class devotee can very nicely present conclusions with perfect discretion and can consider the ways of devotional service in a decisive way. This is significant. For example, in the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna at one point requests Krsna:
buddhià mohayaséva me
tad ekaà vada niçcitya
yena çreyo ‘ham äpnuyäm
My intelligence is bewildered by Your equivocal instructions. Therefore, please tell me definitely which instruction is most beneficial for me.
In a prelude to the Bhagavad-gétä, many different items were explained by Kåñëa unsystematically. A more definite ascertainment of the path was needed for action and understanding. Arjuna wanted to clear up these apparently confusing matters so that any common man could accept such path and not make any mistake. Although Kåñëa had no intention of confusing Arjuna by any jugglery of words, Arjuna could not follow the process of Kåñëa consciousness—either by inertia or by active service. Therefore, by his questions he was clearing the path of Kåñëa consciousness for all students who seriously want to understand the mystery of the Bhagavad-gétä. The Bhagavad-gita was meant for the saintly kings (raja-rsis) because they were to execute its purpose in ruling over the citizens. This is where dry academics fail because theirs is only superficial understanding and altough they quote it, they do not know the actual meaning of the Bhagavad-gita. They cannot afford any particular solution on how to act in devotional service. Therefore a sincere disciple should always try to ascertain how to act practically in devotional service. He should not be satisfied by mere theoretical understanding of things. In this particular instance, Arjuna tries to undersrtand definetely what course of action he should undergo after hearing instructions that appear to be contradictory to him. Srila Prabhupada writes:
A Kåñëa conscious person has realized knowledge, by the grace of Kåñëa, because he is satisfied with pure devotional service. By realized knowledge, one becomes perfect. By perfect knowledge one can remain steady in his convictions, whereas by mere academic knowledge one is easily deluded and confused by apparent contradictions.
When apparent contradictions arise, the general people’s determination to act in devotional service becomes hackneyed. The first class devotee therefore gives conclusive knowledge and resolves these contradictions on the basis of sastra. He does not exclude one statement of the sastra in favor of other(ardha-kukkuti-nyaya), but explains both of them in the proper context and establishes a harmonious siddhanta, or a conclusion. A description of such a first class devotee, who is able to point out the direction for the general mass is given in the Srimad Bhagavatam. It is said there:
yah svanubhavam akhila-sruti-saram ekam
adhyatma-dipam atititirsatam tamo ‘ndham
samsarinam karunayaha purana-guhyam
tam vyasa-sunum upayami gurum muninam
Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto him who is the spiritual master of all sages and the son of Vyasadeva, who, out of his great compassion for the gross materialists desiring to cross over the darkest region of material existence, said the most confidential supplement of the cream of Vedic knowledge after having personally assimilated the same by experience.
This sloka refers to Sukadeva Goswami, who is the speaker of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Sukadeva has heard the Bhagavatam from Srila Vyasadeva and elaborated on it after he thoroughly assimiliated it. Thorough assimiliation means that by realizing the essence of the scripture, the bona fide acarya is able to explain it to varieties of different people in various circumstances. It is not that the acarya changes the meaning of the sastra to present something new just for the sake of it, in order to attract attention. Srila Prabhupada explains:
Personal realisation does not mean that one should attempt to show the vanity of one’s own learning trying to surpass the previous Acharya. He must have full confidence in the previous Acharya and at the same time he must realise the subject matter so nicely that he may be able to present the matter just for the particular circumstances in a suitable manner. The original purpose of the text must be maintained. No interesting meaning shall be screwed out of it and yet it may be presented in an appreciable manner for the understanding of the audience.
Sometimes the commentaries of the acaryas are themselves scriptures. They give practical advice on how to act in devotional service to the Lord. This is very difficult to determine at times. Lord Krsna says:
kim karma kim akarmeti
kavayo ‘py atra mohitah
tat te karma pravaksyami
yaj jnatva moksyase ‘subhat
Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all misfortune.
One cannot ascertain the ways of religion simply by imperfect experimental knowledge. Actually, the principles of religion can only be laid down by the Lord Himself. Dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam (SB 6.3.19). No one can manufacture a religious principle by imperfect speculation. Srila Prabhupada notes:
The authors of these scriptures are not ordinary human being with four disqualifications of conditioned life. And as such there is no possibility on the part of such liberated authors to commit mistakes, inconsistencies, cheating the public or imperfection.
BTGPY16c: Anomalies of “Geeta Press” Gorakhpur
In the conditioned state, our knowledge is subjected to many deficiencies. The difference between a conditioned soul and a liberated soul is that the conditioned soul has the above mentioned four kinds of defects. Due to these defects the neophytes are struggling to remain in the practice of Krsna consciousness and they sometimes fall down. In the Nectar of devotion, Srila Prabhupada defines the neophyte devotee as follows:
The neophyte or third-class devotee is one whose faith is not strong and, at the same time, does not recognize the decision of the revealed scripture. The neophyte’s faith can be changed by someone else with strong arguments or by an opposite decision.
NoD 3-1970: Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service
The first class devotee however does not fall down due to his thorough assimiliation of transcendental knowledge. How do we know whether we have fully assimiliated the knowledge given to us by the spiritual master? That is explained in the SB 1.1.2: Sadyo hridy avarudhyate tra kritivih shushruvis tatkshanat. As soon as a person applies culture of knowledge, namely, attentive and submissive aural reception to the messages of the Bhagvatam, the Supreme Lord is thus established within his heart. In other words, the assimilation of the Bhagavatam brings us to a stage where we can see Krsna not figuratively, but directly face to face. Srila Prabhupada explains:
…an intelligent person, by thoughtful discretion, can believe in the assurance of the great sage Vyasdeva and give a patient hearing to the message of Srimad Bhagwatam in order to realise directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
SB 1.1.2 purport
One must be anxious to hear about the transcendental message. And this qualification of hearing with interest is the prime qualfication for assimilating transcendental knowledge. Therefore if one becomes very eager to hear the Srimad Bhagavatam from the bona fide source of the spiritual master, he can be immediately lifted to the position of a paramahamsa (uttama-adhikari) and see the Lord face to face. Srila Prabhupada however states that such eagerness is hardly present in the neophyte devotee:
A neophyte devotee has very little taste for hearing from the authorities.
How can a neophyte devotee then see Krsna face to face and what to speak of commenting on the scriptures? That is not possible. Only a first class devotee can take up the post of the initiating acarya. This is confirmed by Srila Prabhupada also:
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.
One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari.
NoI: verse 5
Unless one is a resident of Krishna Loka, one cannot be a Spiritual Master. That is the first proposition. A layman cannot be a Spiritual Master, and if he becomes so then he will simply create disturbance.
Letter to: Mukunda — New Vrindaban 10 June, 1969
…he is not a liberated person, and therefore, he cannot initiate any person to Krishna Consciousness.
Letter to: Janardana — New York 26 April, 1968
There is further evidence of this conclusion in the following sloka of the Srimad Bhagavatam in connection with the Lord being impregnated into the womb of Devaki by the process of diksa. It is said there:
tato jagan-mangalam acyutamsam
samahitam sura-sutena devi
dadhara sarvatmakam atma-bhutam
kastha yathananda-karam manastah
Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Krsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.
In his commentary on this verse Srila Prabhupada notes:
We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart.
We should especially take note of the words ” carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart”. The Lord is already in the heart of everyone, but the Vaisnavas and the brahmanas actually perceive and see Him always in ecstasy. A description of such a devotee is given in the following sloka.
Bhavat vida bhagwatas teertha bhutah swayam bibho
Teerthi kurvanti teerthani swantasthena gadabhrita.
My Lord! devotees like your goodself are themselves holy places in person. Because you carry with you, within your heart, the Personality of Godhead and as such you render all places into a pilgrimage.
This was spoken by Maharaja Yudhistira in connection with Vidura Mahatma. Vidura was always feeling the presence of the Lord everywhere, he was seeing everything in the potency of the Lord and the Lord in everything and he had no desire in life save and except to serve the Personality of Godhead. The Personality of Godhead is always with such pure devotees because of their unalloyed service, which is without any tinge of fruitive action or utopian speculation. Such devotees are able to rectify a polluted atmosphere of any place. All these descriptions indicate that mentioning of a devotee discussed in this particular sloka refers to a first class devotee. Srila Prabhupada confirms this in a class on the same sloka:
So human society, there must be some religious process; otherwise, it is animal society. And in every religion there is recommendation to go to the place, holy places of pilgrimage. This is one set up. Another set up is that bhagavatas tirtha-bhutah. Those who are devotees, they are themselves maha-bhagavata. They are first-class devotee.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.10 — Geneva, June 1, 1974
Srila Prabhupada in the purport to this verse also mentions that such “pure devotees hear from the authorities and chant, sing and write of the glories of the Lord”.
Another consideration is that since the disciplic succession becomes lost due to the influence of the time factor(sa kaleneha mahata
yogo nastah [Bg 4.2]), the spiritual master must be tri-kala-jna (seer of the past, present and future). He must be situated beyond the purview of material time in order to rectify the deviation of the line caused by the very same time factor. Srila Prabhupada notes:
Those who have reached the highest perfectional stage of mystic power and can see everything in the past, present and future are called tri-kala-jnas. Similarly, the devotees of the Lord can see everything clearly that is in the revealed scriptures.
SB 3.11.17 purport
The position of such a pure soul is described in connection with Yamaraja:
manasaiva pure devah
manasa bhagavan ajah
The omnipotent Yamaraja is as good as Lord Brahma, for while situated in his own abode or in everyone’s heart like the Paramatma, he mentally observes the past activities of a living entity and thus understands how the living entity will act in future lives.Srila Prabhupada comments:
One should not consider Yamaraja an ordinary living being. He is as good as Lord Brahma. He has the complete cooperation of the Supreme Lord, who is situated in everyone’s heart, and therefore, by the grace of the Supersoul, he can see the past, present and future of a living being from within. The word anumimamsate means that he can decide in consultation with the Supersoul.
Similarly, by seeing past, present and future, an uttama adhikari is fully competent to find the best means to propagate Krsna consciousness and guide numerous souls.
As already mentioned the acarya is in direct relationship with Krsna. He sees Him directly, not figuratively, but face to face This is confirmed in the sloka of the Bhagavad-gita where Krsna says to Arjuna: I explain you the science because you are my devotee and my friend. One must be a devotee to comment on the Bhagavad-gita. At the same time he must be a devotee in direct relationship. Srila Prabhupada explains this in his introduction to the Bhagavad-gita As It Is:
…Bhagavad-gita is especially instructed to Arjuna, the devotee of the Lord, the direct student of Krsna. And not only that, he is intimately in touch with Krsna as friend. Therefore Bhagavad-gita is understood by a person who has similar qualities like Krsna. That means he must be a devotee, he must be in relation, direct relationship with the Lord…Everyone has got a particular relationship with the Lord and that particular relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. At the present status of our life we have not only forgotten the Supreme Lord, but also we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of many, many millions and billions of living beings, each and every living being has got a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa. Svarupa. And by the process of devotional service one can revive that svarupa of oneself. And that stage is called svarupa-siddhi, perfection of one’s constitutional position.
Bhagavad-gita Introduction — February 19-20, 1966, New York
Here Srila Prabhupada explains that svarupa-siddhi is the perfection of one’s constitutional position. It is not the neophyte stage of Krsna consciousness but the top most platform.
When you are liberated, you will understand in which way you are related with Krsna. That is called svarupa-siddhi. But that is attained when you are actually perfect in devotional service.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.16-17 — Gorakhpur, February 10, 1971
It is thus a completely faulty idea to say that a neophyte devotee can comment on the Bhagavad-gita or other Vedic scriptures or give diksa. Krsna wanted Arjuna to become an authority on the science of the Bhagavad-gita, because Arjuna was a top most devotee, in a direct relationship with Krsna. This is the position of the successor acarya. When the acarya writes, the Lord directly dictates to the devotee the contents of the transcendental literature. It is not the acarya’s speculation! There are several statements in this regards:
The secret in a devotee’s writing is that when he writes about the pastimes of the Lord, the Lord helps him; he does not write himself. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (10.10), dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te. Since a devotee writes in service to the Lord, the Lord from within gives him so much intelligence that he sits down near the Lord and goes on writing books.
The Personality of Godhead, being situated in everyone’s heart, specifically gives a devotee intelligence to describe Him. It is therefore understood that when a devotee writes or speaks about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is dictated by the Lord from within. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, Tenth Chapter: to those who constantly engage in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, the Lord, from within, dictates what to do next in order to serve Him.
Because mother Saci was feeling separation from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, she thought she was dreaming that her son had come to her. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, however, wanted to inform her that actually it was not a dream. He actually came there and ate whatever His mother offered Him. Such are the dealings of advanced devotees with the Supreme personality of Godhead. As stated in the Brahma-samhita:
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Syamasundara, situated within the heart of the devotee.” (Brahma-samhita 5.38) pure devotees realize dealings with the Lord on the transcendental plane, but because the devotees are still in the material world, they think that these are dreams. The Lord, however, talks with the advanced devotee, and the advanced devotee also sees Him. It is all factual; it is not a dream.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami explains:
ei grantha lekhaya more ‘madana-mohana’
amara likhana yena sukera pathana
Actually Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is not my writing but the dictation of Sri Madana-mohana. My writing is like the repetition of a parrot.
sri-rupa-hrdaye prabhu sakti sancarila
sarva-tattva-nirupane ‘pravina’ karila
By entering the heart of Rupa Gosvami, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowered him to ascertain properly the conclusions of all truths. He made him an experienced devotee whose decisions correctly agreed with the verdicts of the disciplic succession. Thus Sri Rupa Gosvami was personally empowered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The principles of devotional service are only apparently under the jurisdiction of material activity. To be rightly guided, one must be personally guided by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This was the case with Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami and other acaryas.
çré-rüpa kahena,—ämi kichui nä jäni
yei mahäprabhu kahäna, sei kahi väëé
Çré Rüpa Gosvämé said, “I do not know anything. The only transcendental words I can utter are those which Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu makes me speak.
The poet or writer dealing with transcendental subject matters is not an ordinary writer or translator. Because he is empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whatever he writes becomes very effective. The principle of being empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead is essential. A materialistic poet who describes in his poetry the material activities of man and woman cannot describe the transcendental pastimes of the Lord or the transcendental conclusions of devotional service. Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé has therefore warned all neophyte devotees that one should not hear from the mouth of a non-Vaiñëava.
çravaëaà naiva kartavyaà
sarpocchiñöaà yathä payaù
Unless one is a fully unalloyed devotee of the Lord, one should not try to describe the pastimes of Kåñëa in poetry, for it will be only mundane. There are many descriptions of Kåñëa’s Bhagavad-gétä written by persons whose consciousness is mundane and who are not qualified by pure devotion. Although they attempted to write transcendental literature, they could not fully engage even a single devotee in Kåñëa’s service. Such literature is mundane, and therefore, as warned by Çré Sanätana Gosvämé, one should not touch it.
Srila Prabhupada explains the difference of communication with Krsna between a minor devotee and a highly elevated devotee here:
Interviewer: …I’m curious with respect to the way Krsna communicates with you, whether it’s in a similar kind of way that He gives you your necessities.
Bali-mardana: In other words, when you decide that someone is to be in charge of a particular temple does Krsna tell you that this person should be in charge.
Interviewer: Or do you by judging him say this person is qualified.
Prabhupada: Yes, because a devotee always consults Krsna and He gives order.
Interviewer: It’s a more direct communication.
Prabhupada: Yes. And He gives order.
Ramesvara: Because intelligence, our philosophy is that intelligence comes from Krsna. So if I have some…
Interviewer: And your philosophy is that your daily necessities come from Krsna as well.
Ramesvara: Yes, try to understand. Suppose my intelligence sees that this person is qualified, that means Krsna has told me.
Prabhupada: No, not necessarily, Krsna will tell directly. A devotee always consults Krsna and Krsna tells him, “Do like this.” Not figuratively.
Interviewer: Does that apply then to other kinds of decisions and other kinds of activities as well?
Prabhupada: Everything. Because a devotee does not do anything without consulting Krsna.
Bali-mardana: But that applies to a very greatly elevated soul, that is not an ordinary person.
Prabhupada: That is, therefore the minor devotees, they consult the spiritual master.
Interview with Newsday Newspaper — July 14, 1976, New York
The minor devotees, who have not yet realized their svarupa siddhi, nor are in direct communication with the Lord must therefore consult the spiritual master.
How can one then understand various statements by Srila Prabhupada, where he states that devotees situated on lower stage of advancement can also accept disciples? Aren’t they also initiating spiritual masters? We submit two particular statements in this connection:
The second-class devotee accepts disciples from the section of third-class devotees or nondevotees.
A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance.
NoI: verse 5
To understand this apparent contradiction in Srila Prabhupada’s statements, we should further examine the position of a siksa guru (instructing spiritual master). There are two types of siksa guru: one who is liberated and one who is not yet liberated but who can give relevant instructions being guided by a liberated spiritual master.
Presently people are so fallen that they cannot distinguish between a liberated soul and a conditioned soul. A conditioned soul is hampered by four defects: he is sure to commit mistakes, he is sure to become illusioned, he has a tendency to cheat others, and his senses are imperfect. Consequently we have to take direction from liberated persons. This Krsna consciousness movement directly receives instructions from the Supreme Personality of Godhead via persons who are strictly following His instructions. Although a follower may not be a liberated person, if he follows the supreme, liberated Personality of Godhead, his actions are naturally liberated from the contamination of the material nature.
A person who is liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as guru and acharya by strictly following the disciplic succession.
Letter to: Janardana — New York 26 April, 1968
Srila Prabhupada refered to his disciples on numerous occassions as siksa gurus, although they might not have been necessarily liberated perfected devotees:
If Kirtanananda Maharaja speaks what I speak, then he can be taken a siksa guru. Guru sastra sadhu. The spiritual master is one, that is a fact. Kirtanananda Swami may be taken a sadhu not spiritual master, or as instructor guru.
Letter to: Satyabhama, Paramananda — New Vrindaban 20 July, 1974
Regarding your question about the husband becoming the Spiritual Master of the wife, anyone who can give instructing in spiritual life is treated as Spiritual Master. There are two kinds of Spiritual Master, initiator and instructor. So the husband can help the wife as instructor.
Letter to: Himavati — Los Angeles 24 January, 1969
Devotee: So what is our position towards Sai? This is where, brings great confusion in the minds of the devotees. Immediately they ask.
Devotee (2): Because they used to accept him as spiritual master, so now, now that’s all finished…
Devotee (2): …so, what is their relationship…?
Prabhupada: Let, let Sai accept me as spiritual master, and you remain Sai’s disciple, but be initiated properly. Or it is Sai’s duty to deliver all his followers to me. That will be very nice. As he has surrendered all his money, similarly, he can surrender all his followers.
Devotee (3): It’s like in the army.
Prabhupada: Huh? Yes. And then it is very good — for him and for his followers.
Devotee: He wrote this fall about that to the devotees. “Shaved heads. Now we are all disciples of Prabhupada. I can no longer treat you externally as my disciples, because of the negative reaction I will incur [indistinct]. If you are internally attached, that is fine. Please me by serving Prabhupada and his devotees. Prabhupada must first okay my taking on disciples. He may or he may not. I will follow his orders. He tells me to kill you all, I will kill you.”
Prabhupada: [laughs] That’s nice. Very, very good letter. That’s very good. So I shall write to him.
Prabhupada: Siksa-guru or diksa-guru. Initiated…, initiator master and instructor master. So you can treat him as your instructor master. That is allowed.
Room Conversation about Siddhasvarupa — March 21, 1971, Bombay
This conversation is of particular significance. Here Srila Prabhupada says: “…let Sai accept me as spiritual master, and you remain Sai’s disciple, but be initiated properly.” and later on: ” That is allowed.” Just a little history: Sai was a self-styled yoga guru from Hawaii who already had a group of disciples already when he became attracted to the principles of Krsna consciousness as taught by Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada did not see a “discipleship” of his former students as an obstacle, which he also expressed in a letter to Sai two months earlier:
The problem that your followers want to accept you as guide in spiritual matters is not objectionable if they are sincere. If they have sincere faith in you, it may not be disturbed, rather it can be fully utilized. My main purpose is to propagate the teachings of Lord Caitanya or Krishna Consciousness. I am not after recruiting some disciples; but for preaching work we want some assistants and if somebody offers voluntarily his service it is welcome. So the best thing will be that you become a regular disciple of me and you can teach your followers in the same principles.
Letter to: Sai — Allahabad 8 January, 1971
But such relationship of non-liberated siksa disciples and non-liberated siksa gurus however is not to be taken on the same level as the relationship one has with his ever-liberated diksa guru. In his book Easy Journey to Other planets Srila Prabhupada describes such a guru as a “monitor”. Sometimes in school, a teacher leaves the classroom due to some urgent buisness and he selects one student to supervise the other students in the teacher’s absence. Similarly, a kanistha adhikari may become a preliminary guide to other devotees if he strictly follows the principles of the diksa-guru.
A devotee who believes that the holy name of the Lord is identical with the Lord is a pure devotee, even though he may be in the neophyte stage. By his association, others may also become Vaisnavas.
Such a relationship often changes. Progress in devotional service is not stereotyped. It depends solely on the individual devotee’s degree of sincerity. If one is very sincere he can advance very swiftly in a short time and if one is not serious he cannot advance even after many lifetimes of regulated practise. It is then quite possible that such Vaisnavas who associate with the sincere neophyte devotee may also sometimes surpass him. For example, Druva Maharaja’s mother who instructed her son to search out Visnu in the forest was considered to be his siksa-guru. However, in the forest Druva Maharaja took shelter of a fully realized spiritual master Narada Muni and by his mercy advanced to the top most perfectional platform surpassing his mother to the extent of finally delivering her back home back to Godhead. This is more elaborately described in the 4th Canto. Therefore, whether one has the good fortune of having guidance of more advanced devotees or not, one must be always guided by an uttama adhikari devotee.
A neophyte and intermediate devotee should always be anxious to hear the maha-bhagavata and serve him in every respect.
The second-class devotee, even though he cannot support his position with sastric reference, can gradually become a first-class devotee by studying the sastras and associating with a first-class devotee. However, if the second-class devotee does not advance himself by associating with a first-class devotee, he makes no progress.
One can get guidance from various kanistha adhikari or madhyama adhikari devotees, learning from one or the other at various times, but if one does not hear sufficiently from an uttama adhikari and is not ready to surrender to him, he cannot reach to the perfection of life.
Diksa means divya-jnanam ksapayati iti diksa.(?) Which explains the divya-jnana, transcendental, that is diksa. Di, divya, diksanam. Diksa. So divya-jnana, transcendental knowledge… If you don’t accept a spiritual master, how you’ll get transcen… You’ll be taught here and there, here and there, and waste time. Waste time for the teacher and waste your valuable time. Therefore you have to be guided by an expert spiritual master.
Room Conversation — January 27, 1977, Bhuvanesvara
Although one may have various siksa relationships with devotees of various degrees of advancement and these relationship might break in due course, the relationship with one’s initiating spiritual master does not change. Srila Prabhupada states:
A devotee must have only one initiating spiritual master because in the scriptures acceptance of more than one is always forbidden.
The initiating spiritual master is one because he is always situated on the top most platform of devotional service and he never deviates. Only such spiritual master we should fully surrender to.
Indeed, the advanced uttama-adhikari Vaisnava devotee should be accepted as a spiritual master. Everything one possesses should be offered to him, for it is enjoined that one should deliver whatever he has to the spiritual master. The brahmacari in particular is supposed to beg alms from others and offer them to the spiritual master. However, one should not imitate the behavior of an advanced devotee or maha-bhagavata without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded.
NoI: verse 5