January 16, 1999 VNN2860
Finding A Qualified Guru: The Search Within
BY SWAMI B.V. TRIPURARI
EDITORIAL, Jan 16 (VNN) (from Sanga firstname.lastname@example.org) Should we look for anything less than the most qualified person when we look for our spiritual guide? Certainly not. The difficulty, however, arises when we look at our own self. It is said that "it takes one to know one." What is the aspiring disciple's capacity to recognize a qualified devotee? This must be considered.
The scripture gives us general observable criterion, that of 'brahma-bhuta' or 'brahma-nishtham', which consists of joyfulness (prasannatma), absence of hankering and lamentation (na socati na kanksati), and equal vision (samah sarvesu bhutesu). This speaks not of the highest qualifications, but of those that amount to a transcendental passport, while the visa is yet to come (visate tad anantaram.) Yet even these symptoms are not always observable.
One of Srila Prabhupada's disciples once asked if she could paint a picture of Srila Prabhupada. He agreed and gave her a photo of himself, one in which he appeared very grave. After some time, Srila Prabhupada asked her about the painting and she replied that she had not proceeded because in the photo Prabhupada looked sad. "Sad?" he replied, "That was a moment of ecstasy."
Surely he was joyful (prasannatma, more rasananda), but this kind of joy requires philosophical, if not spiritual, eyes to see. What then to speak of observable evidence of any higher attainment? 'Atah srikrsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih', as one cannot see Krishna with material senses, so one cannot understand a 'mahabhagavata' in the highest sense of the term without having considerable spiritual attainment oneself. Again, it takes one to know one. A person who has conclusive evidence as to the spiritual attainment of his guru, is indeed qualified himself to do the work of guru. We bow down to him.
Once Srila Sridhara Maharaja spoke of three types of guru. The first type has two feet in the spiritual world. The second has one foot here and one foot there. The third has two feet here but both eyes always there. A scriptural reference in support of this notion appears in Sri Jiva Goswami's Bhakti-sandarbha. Jiva Goswami describes three types of mahabhagavatas.
The first, 'bhagavat-parsada-deha-prapt', is situated in the spiritual world in his spiritual form while appearing in the material world. Narada Muni after he received his siddha deha is an example of this kind of mahabhagavata. Such souls are very rare, 'sudurlabha bhagavata hi loke'. The second, 'nirdhuta-kasaya', does not have material conditioning but has not yet realized his siddha-deha. Sukadeva Goswami is an example of this kind of mahabhagavata. The third, 'murcchita-kasaya', is still under the dim influence of the sattva-guna, yet has the Lord as his only goal in life. Such devotees still have desire and samskaras (material impressions) in their hearts, yet due to the force of their devotion, these impurities are supressed. Narada Muni, before receiving his siddha deha, is an example of this kind of mahabhagavata. He had a mystic darsana of Sri Krishna, only to have the Lord disappear and tell him that he would not have his darsana again until he was completely pure.
Jiva Goswami's explanation is supported in a general sense by the Bhagavad Gita. In 2.59, Arjuna asks about the charateristics of a realized soul (sthita prajna). Krishna proceeds to answer Arjuna, describing a gradation of sthita prajna. This explanation applies to both those in the jnana marg and those of the bhakti marg.
>From Jiva Goswmai's explanation we can also understand Srila Prabhupada's apparently contradictory statements about the qualities of a mahabhagavata found throughout his books. At one time he speaks of the first type, at another of the second, or third. Which shall we choose? Which will we be able to recognize, when furthermore, if they are preaching, they will be functioning as madhyama-adhikaris?
Over lifetimes we have acquired sukrti, 'bhakty-unmukhi sukrti'. Proportionate to our sukrti, we are qualified to connect with the transcendental realm and its ambassadors. Qualification of guru is an important consideration, yet no less important is the qualification of the disciple. The absolute truth is not in shortage of qualified representatives. It is we who must qualify ourselves to recognize them, and this requires all of the sincerity we can gather. And this, our sincerity, truthfulness, is all we have.
As like attracts like, our sincerity in connection with our sukrti will attract a representative of Godhead. Our sincerity may be great, and our sukrti small. This also must be considered. One may drive a Cadillac, another a Volkswagen. The driver of the Volkswagen may press the accelerator to the floor, giving all his sincerity, while the driver of the Cadillac may be stepping on the brake. One may have more sukrti than another; the other may be exercising greater sincerity. In this way there is much to consider. It is not black and white. Yet surely our sincerity will not fail us, for it will bring us closer to the Lord, albeit sometimes in a roundabout way. And we are not to argue with that. It is his will about which we are inquiring.
Sometimes in the name of generating faith, we affect the opposite. Comprehensive knowledge of scripture is necessary. Anyone can quote scripture to support his point of view, but few approach the scripture to have their views altered, what to speak of realizing the scripture's purport. Those who lack faith in others, often pass on only doubts rather than faith in the name of preaching about the qualifications of guru. If you yourself doubt that there is anyone advanced enough to do the work of guru, how can you preach to others? This is the logic of Srila Prabhupada. He would say, "Just see the foolishness in this. By thinking there are no advanced devotees one can hear from, one inadvertently proclaims oneself to be the most advanced."
This is the typical thinking of the kanistha-adhikari. He passes his doubt on to others. They, in turn, imbibe that consciousness and go out to scrutinize all prospective gurus, thinking, "I must have the most qualified guru." Often the unconscious underlying mentality is this search is "because I am so qualified." With this mentality, we will never find a qualified guru. A mahabhagavata we should search out, no doubt. But the search must begin within ourselves.
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