Guru-tattva: This category covers quotes and excerpts by Swami B.G. Narasingha Maharaja that focus on the spiritual nature of the guru and the importance of the guru-disciple relationship in the practice of Bhakti yoga. These are quotes and excerpts that have been extracted from articles, lectures and letters by Swami B.G. Narasingha.


There are so many missions, so how do we harmonise? Can we harmonise just under our guru? No. We may have a difference of opinion, a difference of understanding – so how do we harmonise? If we want harmony, we will find it at the lotus feet of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, where all these parties can come under one roof. His opinion must be taken. Then taking his opinion, we have the capacity to find harmony.


Sometimes we talk about higher adjustment, having a higher vision, and how Kṛṣṇa is everywhere – but when a catastrophe happens in our guru’s mission and it breaks into pieces, dissolves, or is in great danger, how are we to see Kṛṣṇa in all of this? Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja once explained that when our guru leaves this world, things cannot go on as if everything is fine. The troubles that come and attack us at that time are evidence of our guru’s greatness, as these challenges only manifest after he is no longer physically present.

When he was present, even if problems were there, they were silenced and taken out of the picture. It is a hard pill to swallow, but it is a confirmation of his greatness. We shouldn’t think, “Oh, everything will just be wonderful!” There will be tests and problems.


Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple is the place of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, who is our tattvācārya and he sets the standard of the siddhānta – he is like the cakra of Viṣṇu. If you approach the Six Gosvāmīs, particularly Rūpa or Sanātana, without the lens of Jīva Gosvāmī’s presentation, you can very easily misunderstand. So we must particularly give reference to the Sandarbhas which are the cumulative works of Jīva Gosvāmī. He has encompassed the whole Gauḍīya siddhānta within his Sandarbhas, giving protection all around, in all ten directions, against all opposing objections to rāga-mārga.


What we should really be concerned about isn’t the guru’s chastisement, but his indifference. Even in the material world if a teacher is indifferent to the pupil that is the worst position. How would we feel if our spiritual master just neglects us? He sees us, but he doesn’t care for us, he doesn’t even have one word for us. That is very painful. But someone who is not very sincere would rather be neglected than chastised. But those who know the standard of love, emotion and rasa will say that it is the most distasteful thing to be neglected. It is just like a married couple – if they get into an argument and they neglect each other, eventually one will do something to irritate the other who will start shouting. That way they got their attention, because an argument is better than neglect. When we are neglected it means we are nowhere.


After the disappearance of the spiritual master it is very important for the disciples to focus on the vāṇī, or the instructions of the guru. But we see some problem in the world right now. There are hundreds and hundred and hundreds of deities of Śrīla Prabhupāda – in some temples there are four or five deities of Śrīla Prabhupāda. I had a friend whose mission was to make Prabhupāda mūrtis and distribute them everywhere. Prabhupādas – from the mountains to the sea!

Once I saw a traffic jam in Māyāpura where there was a deity of Śrīla Prabhupāda coming this way on a palanquin, and there was a deity of Śrīla Prabhupāda coming the other way on a palanquin, and the two got into a traffic jam. I was on the veranda just looking at this. And the devotees were in the mood that, “Prabhupāda is on the left! Prabhupāda is on the right! Prabhupāda is everywhere.”

Now that’s very nice. We like to see deities of Śrīla Prabhupāda, because that will awaken certain sentiments in the devotees. But we also have another kind of thinking, and that is, if we neglect so many of the guru’s essential instructions in the name of just serving his form, then certainly we will fall down in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and become subject to illusion and so many unwanted things.


It’s not that all unqualified gurus will fall down and become victims of their senses. Generally we think that ‘fallen’ means falling down to sex desire. But they may not be fallen in that sense. They may follow the four regs, chant sixteen rounds, know some philosophy and all these things. They make a good show of appearing to be advanced devotees. But actually they might just be in limbo – means that they have no real taste for the Holy Name and are just keeping the seat warm. In other words, it’s all external. They’re actually kaniṣṭhas, because deep down they’re not really surrendered to guru and Kṛṣṇa – they’re attached to the position of guru. So that’s also dangerous. Actually Bhaktisiddhānta says a kaniṣṭha can never be guru because who gave him the authority to be guru? Another bunch of kaniṣṭhas? Or did he just become guru himself without any divine backing? This is what’s going on at present in the modern Hare Kṛṣṇa movement – kaniṣṭha gurus initiating kaniṣṭha disciples, creating a kaniṣṭha society – and that’s why there are so many problems.


The search for guru, the search for Kṛṣṇa, is not successful when it is only executed from our side. We have some little endeavour, but it is an objective search. We only hanker, like a crying child. We cry for the attention of the mother, and hearing that sound, the mother comes. We are to cultivate an eagerness to know what is God, and eagerness to be out of this life of ignorance. Then everything of value, that connection of guru will come down to us.


Two things are going on at present. One group, the larger group is concerned with the society as the mission. Another group is concerned with the meaning of pure devotion as the mission of the spiritual master – and all groups of sincere disciples are working for the mission of the spiritual master in this way. But of the two, we say it is better to continue the line of purity even if it’s smaller, than to expand the plane of mixed devotion. That is not as lasting. Mixed devotion is a problem. Pure devotion is the mission of the spiritual master.


Everyone can do some preaching, but being Kṛṣṇa’s pure representative is not an easy task. Many devotees have tried to become guru but many have failed. When the guru fails then many devotees have to suffer. So being guru is a very, very serious service and not just any devotee can do that.


Does one need to take śīkṣā from a godbrother? Not necessarily. It all depends on the individual – śikṣā might come from a godbrother, a godsister, your guru’s godbrother – even from a junior. You can’t say what shape śīkṣā might come in and from who. That’s up to Kṛṣṇa and it’s according to the necessity.

With the godbrothers and godsisters in our mission, sometimes I have to act as a friend, and other times I have to act in the position of the ācārya who has to lay down the law now and then. But it’s a difficult situation for both parties. That’s why I don’t want any more Vyāsa Pūjā offerings from them – first, its just plain embarrassing for me, and second, when I ask them to do something, if it’s convenient for them then I’m “Guru Mahārāja” and when its not convenient, then I’m just another godbrother or a friend. I remember how when I used to call _______ from India, he first used to tell everyone, “Hey, Guru Mahārāja is on the phone!” Then it became “Narasiṅgha Mahārāja is on the phone!” and then it was just “Mahārāja is on the phone!” So they’re always ‘swapping hats’ whenever it suits them. Better to leave “Guru Mahārāja” for the disciples…


At the time of Śrīla Prabhupāda there was only one guru in our movement. There were all these disciples and he was our guru and there was a Vyāsa-pūjā day – it was pretty straightforeward and simple. But shortly after that, there was short of a dozen other gurus in the world and now there are so many Vyāsa-pūjās going on. There was some kind of a confusion and sentiments ran very, very strong in all sections. Then I discovered the day known as Guru Pūrṇimā which is also celebrated as the appearance day of Sanātana Gosvāmī. In India that’s the day when everybody worships the guru. I thought, “Oh that’s perfect! That solves the problem, all these different Vyāsa-pūjās can all just happen on the same day. The whole Hare Kṛṣṇa movement all over the world, every devotee, all the new disciples, could celebrate the appearance of their guru on that day.”

I thought very, very strongly about that for some time, but that’s not the way it is supposed to be. Later on, I learned from Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja that prior to Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura that was the way it was. But Sarasvatī Ṭhākura established the system that guru represents Vyāsa and the guru’s appearance day is the day when the disciples should celebrate Vyāsa-pūjā because for them he is their Vyāsa, so to speak, meaning that he represents the literature of Vyāsadeva.


Abandon the thinking that your guru is the only guru and that anyone who differs from you or your guru is automatically a mahā-aparādhī or a demon. This is the mentality that consumed Iskcon in the 1980’s and caused their demise. This same mentality is now present in some groups of Hare Kṛṣṇas that originally left Iskcon to make a fresh start, but who have ended up creating a community of Hare Kṛṣṇas with the same woes! A step in the right direction at this point would be for Hare Kṛṣṇas to start learning how to think and to question and not to be afraid of the truth. Kṛṣṇa lives in the truth, so why settle for anything less?



ow one becomes guru? Is there an appointment? Maybe…if the appointment comes from the higher to the lower, that can be. It’s not that he’s never appointed. Vyāsa appointed someone in charge, Nārada appointed Vyāsa. Appointment is not impossible. In fact, appointment is more the standard. Actually, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said that the guru MUST be appointed. But everybody is thinking there has to be a vote by some committee and they give you a plaque for your door, and they authorise you! That may be there from the higher community of Vaiṣṇavas, but he said that “it must come from above.” That may come down to the earnest disciple of the guru at any time, and inspiration may come to move in this way. But it must come down, it must be authorised. If it’s not authorised from above, then its simply a show. Just to make a show, we cannot do anything. We can do, but there will be no inner substance to that. So wait and see what happens…wait and see with your ear. What do they say? How do they act? Then you may judge, “Oh, that has the backing of our guru-paramparā, and particularly our guru also.” It can’t have the backing of our guru-paramparā if it doesn’t have the backing of our guru. There’s no such thing. This is a problem for people. They think you can dump the whole paramparā and just follow your guru, but this is not accepted anywhere.


I t is better to give up this body rather than to go against the word’s of one’s guru. Better to remain a fool than to criticize the words of the spiritual master, even if one does not understand the spiritual master. One who criticizes the guru is lost in spiritual life. Gurus may disagree with each other, but a disciple should not go against the words of his own guru.


There’s some devotees who think its all “fun and games” becoming a guru – you get the garlands, people bowing to you, so much respect, Vyāsa Pūjās, and all this. If that’s the reason why you want to be guru, you need to see a psychiatrist! It is the most serious, most difficult service. And that’s what it is – it’s a service, and it has to be given by guru, and its a service where you are responsible for the lives of other jīvas, other devotees. You screw up, or you say the wrong thing, it doesn’t just effect you – it effects them. All eyes are on you! But nowadays, people just jump on the big seat, give out beads and names and mantras, and think that’s it – “I’m a guru now.” No! There’s an adhikāra to becoming guru, a particular level of spiritual advancement. You can’t just ‘pass the buck’ and say “Well, I’m not qualified, but my guru is, so he’ll take them back to Godhead!” YOU have to take the responsibility (and the karma). And if you can’t take it, or you lack the proper adhikāra, then don’t sit your ass on the seat! Remain a humble servant and accept the service that you’re fit for. It’s not a game…


Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not just a black and white situation. The search for Śrī Guru cannot be found by society consciousness. It cannot be bound by nationalism, racism, ageism – none of these things will help us in the search for Śrī Guru and his grace.



know some of my own disciples that avoid me. I’m serious! I know! They’ve lived in the same āśrama as me for years and I’ve hardly seen them! They have an impression of me that I am so heavy, so they avoid coming to see me, they avoid asking questions – basically they avoid my association. They think that I’m heavy?? Śrīla Prabhupāda was much heavier than me. There’s stories of Śrīla Prabhupāda shouting so loud and being so heavy that even big grown men practically wet themselves! Some of those men were GBCs and some of them are now gurus in Iskcon.

You shouldn’t avoid your guru – that’s not good. That’s a very bad sign. That’s a sign that you are afraid of chastisement, and that means you are afraid of being corrected. That means that you are not serious about hearing from him because you’re thinking that you might say something stupid and make him angry. But so what? The benefit of hearing from your guru outweighs everything else. When Prabhupāda was chastised by his Guru Mahārāja he said it was his “most glorious moment.” That’s how a disciple should accept his guru’s chastisement.


The key to everything is guru-niṣṭhā, firm faith in guru. Reading many śāstras and hearing many opinions can, and oftentimes does, become a case for bewilderment. While reading śāstra and listening to hari-kathā one should always keep in mind the question, Who am I serving? Under who’s āśraya (shelter) am I reading and hearing hari-kathā? Reading śāstra without āśraya of our guru is knowledge-seeking and does not produce bhakti.


To become guru yourself is also no easy task. It is easy to chant on beads, choose names and give initiation, but it is very difficult to give proper shelter (āśraya) to jīvas who are aspiring to take shelter at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. Being guru is no easy task. To be guru one must have the spiritual backing of the previous ācārya and ācāryas. In my case, I have seen many of my godbrothers try to become guru and fail. I waited eleven years after the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda before accepting my first disciple, and even then I went very slowly and I did not initiate many devotees.


D on’t think that the guru is like some local padre, who comes now and then to bless the family, eat nicely and then leave! That is not guru! In India you see that – it is called ‘kula-guru’ or family guru. He comes, does a pūjā, eats a big meal and then leaves with some money. Everyone happy – the kula-guru is happy, the family is happy, bas! This is all cheating! This is treating the guru like a prostitute…flatter him with nice words of praise, give some money, and then send him away. Of course, neither should the guru exploit the disciples for the sake of eating nicely and getting some donation. Guru has come to give us the highest thing, higher than anything we can possibly imagine.


The task is how to execute the order. We’ve been ordered by the spiritual master and with it comes a great task, how to execute that order. So for the disciple, both when the spiritual master is present and after he has left the physical world, we should meditate during devotional activities on the order and how to execute it. And in this way he should mould his life on the order of the spiritual master. So to such a disciple, then the spiritual master, he reveals how to execute this order. So actually both the order and how to execute that order. Both are revealed by the spiritual master. Both order and the process of how to execute it.


A fter the disappearance of the spiritual master, if the disciple worships the deity of his guru, but neglects his instructions, neglects the inner meaning of his message, then that worship becomes idol worship. From the beginning, the spiritual master is not his body. And even if there is a deity of the spiritual master, he does not become his body. He is not his body. That’s vāṇī and vapu. Vani means the instruction, and vapu means the body, the form. But, after the disappearance of the spiritual master it is very important for the disciples to focus on the vāṇī, or the instructions. If we neglect so many of his essential instructions in the name of just serving his form, then certainly we fall down in Krsna consciousness, and become subject to illusion and so many unwanted things.


If we have love for someone then we may naturally exaggerate their qualities, because that is the natural way of love. But even without any exaggeration due to love for our Guru Mahārāja, if we say that Śrīla Prabhupāda was one of the greatest saints to have ever come to this Earth, it cannot be taken as an exaggeration – his life and achievements stand as evidence for his greatness.


I am servant of others. I am not the master.” Even the master thinks, “I am serving you.” How am I serving you? I’m serving you by sharing what I’ve learned in fifty years. Mentoring you, it’s a service. If I forget that I am doing a service, and think that ‘I am the master’ then I am doomed, and you are doomed also, you see? Being the guru is also a service.


S ome disciples are of the opinion that a physical proximity with the spiritual master is what makes one dear to the spiritual master. Such foolish disciples do not know that it is by following the vāni (instruction) of the guru that one obtains his divine grace. Sometimes, the foolish disciple thinks that just by serving the institution of the spiritual master even though neglecting his instructions that all perfection will be achieved. They sometimes say, Just stay in the boat—it does not matter how bad things are—if you just stay in the institution you are going back to Godhead. However, such disciples may be in for a rude awakening at the end of life.


E ven a moment’s association of such highly qualified persons may lead us to perfection. But lifetimes of their association without paying attention, without surrendering, may just lead us to a worst position. Therefore in dealing with our guru we should always be very respectful, and a little distance is very nice. So often, those who try to run close – not in every case – but so often, those who run close to the guru are not getting actually what is guru. They get so close they can’t see what he is. It’s actually recommended, “Just step back a little ways. Come back. Don’t try to be so close. See from here, now you can see what he is, now you can hear very nicely.”


Ś rīla Prabhupāda used to tell us that, “Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura will be more affectionate to you – he will be more kind to you than even I directly, your guide, your teacher. Your grandfather will be more affectionate.” Then what to speak of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura? How much affection he must have to see our participation in Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s movement? How will we know if we are getting any of the affection from our parama-gurus and also from our gurus? We will know it if we will feel some inspiration. We may not have a dream of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura or Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, but a particular quality of inspiration will come within us which is the very quality of their preaching, which is quality of their mission, which is the quality of their realisation.


S ome people have the idea that if we worship our guru-varga, our original guru is lost. He is never lost. Our original guru always remains in our heart and is never lost, but we may find his grace and guidance in many places. That is our supreme fortune. Many give a challenge that, “You are not chaste to your guru!” My response is, “No! You are not chaste! You are only looking at the form – not in the substance! Chastity to guru means chastity to the principle of guru – not to the form. Chastity to guru means strict adherence to the principle of Vaiṣṇavism, of guru-tattva – not to the shape or form of the guru!”


Y ou cannot offend your guru and go on successfully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness doesn’t mean you have many temples, or a beautiful temple, or even nice humble disciples – these are all external. They can all be very, very deceiving. I met many nice monks in Italy – very sweet….unless you’re a cow! Then they’re not so sweet. They eat cows and chickens, but they have a sweet nature. So its very difficult to be judge – the thing is be judge of yourself. Improve thyself! Don’t judge others and worry about them.


T he Deity of Kṛṣṇa and the deity of the guru are not of equal status, or importance, or even necessity. It’s called vāṇī and vapu. Vāṇī means the instruction. What’s important in the worship of guru is following the instruction – not just waving lamps in front of a mūrti of the guru. That’s not very important at all.


C reating something is hard. Maintaining it is even more difficult, but destroying something is easy. Look at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s movement – Prabhupāda created a movement, the likes of which nobody in the western world had ever seen before. He was managing crazy people like us, translating books, opening temples, installing Deities, giving daily classes, travelling around the world, training us – and all in 12 years! And immediately after he left, it only took a handful of men to destroy his mission in a week! A WEEK!!! And it’s never recovered.

You can see – an empowered ācārya can work hard to create something, but it only takes a few men with selfish motivations to destroy it. And yeah, some of them will say, “Well, we only had the best intentions!” Like all those guys in Germany after the war who said, “We were just following orders!” Sure, maybe some of you did have good intentions. But a tree is known by its fruits…devotees thrown out of the temples, wrong philosophy, society consciousness, so much pain. Those are some pretty bad fruits…


O ne senior manager was called to see Śrīla Prabhupāda. Something had gone wrong in LA and he was in charge. He always used to tell everyone, “Its okay – I know how to deal with Śrīla Prabhupāda.” He had this idea that he knew how to ‘deal’ with his guru. So when he came in front of Prabhupāda, Prabhupāda chastised him so heavily that he finally crawled out of the room on his hands and knees, and Prabhupāda shouted, “Bring him back here!” And he was dragged back in and Prabhupāda carried on shouting at him. But this wasn’t just about a managerial problem in LA – there was something much deeper. It was this devotee’s mentality in ‘dealing’ with his spiritual master. After that chastisement, he told me, “I lost all my faith that day,” but the fact is that he never had any faith to begin with! He thought he was such an expert manager that he knew how to ‘deal’ with his guru. Anyhow, that devotee went on to take sannyāsa, became a guru and what happened to him later was extremely horrible. So I’m not saying that this horrible thing happened because of his offensive mentality, but there’s a lesson here about serving the spiritual master – we can’t deal with the guru as a mundane manager.


Y ou get these people who think, “Well, Guru Mahārāja doesn’t know!” or “Guru Mahārāja doesn’t understand!” So now they are making the aparādha of considering their guru as an ordinary human being because, by their standard of thinking, he ‘doesn’t understand.’ Once you start going down that road, well, that’s a slippery slope. There’s many of our godbrothers who are very educated with Phds and such, but they never committed the offence of going against the words of Śrīla Prabhupāda. And there’s a few of them that we’ve seen in our lifetime with that mentality, and they’re not around any more, just like J_______ who thought he knew better than Prabhupāda. I remember him saying in L.A. “Oh, Prabhupāda doesn’t know!” And look what happened to him! Ghastly! For a disciple to think he knows better than his guru is spiritual suicide. Yeah, he might hang around and everything seems great…for a while. But that mentality will eventually catch up with you in the end and there’s repercussions.


T here are a number of prayers offered to the guru expressing how he is the storehouse of kṛṣṇa-prema. Prema is the goal of our life. We are worshippers of prema. In worshipping prema, we must experience it from time to time. But sometimes prema, or Kṛṣṇa, eludes us and He hides Himself. But nonetheless, prema is always the goal of our life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness – prema-pumārtho mahān. Mahāprabhu told that the ultimate goal of life is to attain love of Kṛṣṇa. That which is the goal must be worshippable, it must be adorable by us. We must worship that conception. It is true – a disciple must always be fixed in the goal. He has guru-niṣṭhā – that means fixed in the goal. In that way, the guru is steeped in prema – always focusing on the goal to love Kṛṣṇa.

Sometimes people ask, “Have you experienced kṛṣṇa-prema?”

And I tell them, “Oh yes! I have experienced kṛṣṇa-prema.”

And of course, they say, “Oh my God! Could there be a more puffed-up person than this? He is sitting here and saying he has experienced kṛṣṇa-prema? How is it possible?”

Then I tell them, “Yes! Whenever I came to take darśana of Śrīla Prabhupāda, then I experienced kṛṣṇa-prema. He is himself a storehouse, a volcano, and ocean of that prema! And when coming close to that, some small ’spray’ of that nectar comes to us, and we experience that.”

And also I found that in the darśana of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, in the darśana of Akiñcana Kṛṣna Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, in the darśana of Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Mahārāja – and I found that they are absorbed in the ocean of that prema. But we may come in connection with some drops of nectar, some cool refreshing breeze from the shore of that ocean. That reestablishes that THIS is the goal of our life!


S ome people think their guru is simply sitting in a chair, wrapped up in a plastic mūrti, day and night, sitting in the temple room. People think Prabhupāda is only there in the mūrti. They cannot see that he’s somewhere living. There are people that say, “Prabhupāda is living in the samādhi!”

At one time, Prabhupāda refused to go any more to the samādhi of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta. I have a letter that somebody wrote to Prabhupāda once from Gauḍīya Maṭha, “Why don’t you come to the samādhi and see the śrī-vigraha? Guru Mahārāja is in the samādhi! You must come here!” Prabhupāda just blew it off and drove right past the samādhi! He said, “My Guru Mahārāja is ALWAYS living with me!”

Samādhi is there, but we are not dependent upon going to that samādhi. We can go and if the atmosphere is nice, that is so wonderful also…the samadhis of all the great ācāryas. It is a significant place. But he’s not been locked up there! We have to have a vision beyond the mundane sphere of a Vaiṣṇava if we are to understand what is a Vaiṣṇava, who is our guru – we must increase our vision. That is called aprākṛta.


T here is vapu (personal service to the guru) and vāṇī (the teachings of the guru). In both categories one must take the order and teachings of their guru as their life and soul—that vāṇī. One may not have personal service, but if he follows the vāṇī, he will be successful. If one does not follow the vāṇī, but yet has personal service, he may be classified as a fly. A fly is very physically close to the guru, but he is just an irritation. Of the two, the vāṇī is most important—learning the teachings and following the order.


T he kaniṣṭha devotee does not follow the instructions of the spiritual master. He has some love for him, he worships him, he shouts his name – he does all these things, but he does not follow the vāṇī. He worships the vapu, the form – it is said that he does not have the mercy of the spiritual master. If he had the mercy of the spiritual master, he would not remain as a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī. Those who have the mercy of guru, they cannot remain as a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī. It is impossible.


I f you follow and progress properly, you will find out in time that a relationship with your guru does not depend upon time and space. Guru means the representative of Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is not limited to time or space. Therefore, even if your guru is not even physically in this world, your guru remains as your guide and your spiritual inspiration.


M any devotees say, “Oh, our guru gave us everything! We don’t need anything else!” That might be true, he may have. But are you intelligent enough to understand what he gave? Have we become so advanced that we think we are above taking śikṣā from someone more elevated than ourselves? But accepting a śikṣā-guru is not a game or a formality! In the Ādi-līlā of Caitanya Caritāmṛta Kavirāja Gosvāmī says there is no difference between the śikṣā-guru and the dīkṣā-guru.


A fter the disappearance of the spiritual master, many things go wrong. And they should go wrong, and they must go wrong, and it is a necessary part of our development in this world. It has always been that way since the time of Caitanya Mahāprabhu – who could have been greater than Caitanya Mahāprabhu?


S omebody recently asked me, “Do you accept Prabhupāda as the preeminent ācārya?” My reply is, “What’s the meaning of ‘preeminent’? Do you even know what it is? What? There’s no God now? Prabhupāda is God? He has no guru? His guru, Bhaktisiddhānta is nothing? What are you talking about ‘preeminent’?” This is about being dāsa-dāsa-dāsānu-dāsa! I am his servant, and he is a servant of his guru, and his guru is a servant of his guru, and this goes all the way up to Rādhā-Govinda. What? We just take a shortcut and go flying past the whole ontological order of love, līlā, and it’s just us and Prabhupāda serving Rādhā and Kṛṣna? It’s not like that! What do they mean ‘preeminent’? I eat, sleep, drink, walk, think, dream Prabhupāda in my life, but does that mean I can’t have any affection, love or respect for anybody else? These are bad sounds – “Do you accept Prabhupāda as the preeminent ācārya?” Squeeze me and find out! Just go ahead and dare say in front of my face that I left Prabhupāda! I’ll slap you for that statement!


R ūpa Gosvāmī is the head of the sampradāya. Some people want to make Prabhupāda the head of the sampradāya, but Rūpa Gosvāmī is already the head of the sampradāya, that’s why we are all Rūpānugas. Mahāprabhu hand-picked him for that. The older devotees understand this, but to new ears – “Oh, this is Prabhupāda’s message of love.” They’ll hear that, and they won’t get it. No, this is Lord Caitanya’s message of love, and every ācārya since Lord Caitanya has presented that message of universal love. If it only goes back to my guru, then there is conflict because there are differences.


W e should not think that after the living time of our guru, that his hand is removed from our life and that we only have whatever he said and whatever he left at that time, and that’s all. That will be a living thing also to help us and guide us. One godbrother said, “Prabhupāda gave us everything!” and our response was, “And everyone also!” Not just ‘things’ – he gave us living examples also. he gave us ‘everything’ and ‘everyone.’ He gives us our inner guidance, and from that guidance we may see, know and understand.


I f we have love for someone then we may naturally exaggerate their qualities, because that is the natural way of love. But even without any exaggeration due to love for our Guru Mahārāja, if we say that Śrīla Prabhupāda was one of the greatest saints to have ever come to this Earth, it cannot be taken as an exaggeration – his life and achievements stand as evidence for his greatness.


W hen Prabhupāda started the Back To Godhead magazine, some of his godbrothers said, “This has not been authorised!” He took sannyāsa from Keśava Mahārāja, Keśava Mahārāja took sannyāsa from Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja – the other party was saying, “They’re not with the GBC! They’re outside. They’re renegades! They’re rebels.” I have letters where Śrīla Prabhupāda is being told, “Bhaktisiddhānta did not authorise his disciples to be independent and purchase land in Māyāpura.” You could just see this finger waving in his face! “No – not authorised!” That’s right, he didn’t authorise it, but certain things happened. Then? People did what they had to do.


I t is more the standard in our paramparā to have two or more gurus rather than having only one. In fact, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura often remarked that, “The eka-guru-vādīs, those who preach the philosophy of having only one guru, will certainly have a difficult time achieving perfection.” If you study our guru-paramparā carefully you will see that many of our ācāryas such as Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, who offers respect to Rūpa and Raghunātha at the end of every chapter of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, had two or more gurus.


T here was a man who came from somewhere in North America and the claim was that he got initiation from Śrīla Prabhupāda in a dream. So they asked Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja about this. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said that it is possible, but not very probable! If this special chosen person is going to just circumvent the whole authorised system of entering the paramparā, then we’ll expect to see some other wonders from this living entity – not just the fact that he had a fantastic dream. Of course, exceptions are there – exceptions of great mercy, exceptions of circumventing the norm – but when the exception BECOMES the norm, then you can expect there is going to be trouble in future.


I nattention in chanting the holy name is considered to be an offence. Inattention is not a good thing. If you’re worshiping the Deity of Kṛṣṇa but you’re inattentive to the Vaiṣṇava, then your Deity worship becomes idol worship! If you’re doing guru-pūjā to the spiritual master, but you fail to follow his instructions, then your guru-pūjā is idol worship! What you find is there’s a lot of big pūjā happening, but very few people give proper respect to the Vaiṣṇavas, and very few people are following the instructions of the spiritual master. They’re not very attentive. But if people started paying attention, then Vaiṣṇavism would improve. It’s not going to improve just by increasing the numbers – it’s just going to get worse!


S ometimes the guru is definitely surrounded by neophytes. Someone can become the personal servant of their guru, but they don’t pick up on anything! They don’t imbibe any of the sweetness of their guru, any of the kindness, any of the generosity – only some of the hard statements that guru may have said when he was angry. They pick up on those and remember them and live by them!


Y ou can’t become guru by popular vote. First off – who’s voting? The rank and file? The managers? A bunch of people who just managed to stick around longer than anyone else? It doesn’t work like that. In Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s words, “Guru is the delegation of Kṛṣṇa.” So how can you ‘make’ someone the ‘delegation of Kṛṣṇa’? Where do we find in the śāstra that a guru is voted in? The post descends from Kṛṣṇa through the qualified devotee to the qualified disciple. That’s paramparā! And after the guru has gone, well, that’s another thing…but the position of guru is not something to take lightly. All this voting nonsense is basically just mundane management and it’s highly doubtful that the actual potency of guru is even there! It’s not simply a question of giving out beads and names to people. It’s the greatest and most difficult responsibility there is. It’s not a game…it’s not to be taken lightly.


N owadays we’re in the plane that the taste of the disciple determines the qualification of the guru! Did it ever dawn on anybody that the disciple may be nonsense and that’s why they’re not getting any taste? No! The trend is, “Oh, you have a bogus guru – that is why you are not getting a taste.” Now that is a very unfortunate situation. Yasya prasāda bhāgavat prasādo yasya prasādan na gatiḥ kuto’pi – by the grace of guru we get Kṛṣṇa, which means he is descending to us. It is subjective. He is coming down to us. And by pleasing him, we will get Kṛṣṇa. We will be taken up by his agency. Simply we have to please him, however we can please him.


I n the lives of so many ācāryas, great ācāryas, we may find a trace of something that we may consider to be ‘mundane’. Like our Śrīla Prabhupāda said that he was a follower of Gandhi before meeting Sarasvatī Ṭhāḻura, and he called it “my māyā.” Now if that was his so-called ‘māyā’ then what can we say about the sort of māyā that we were in before meeting His Divine Grace? But if we look at the life of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, we can’t find any trace of anything even slightly mundane. From his birth in Jagannātha Purī, his childhood growing up in the home of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura – everything! There’s nothing mundane about anything in his life. That’s why Śrīla Prabhupāda referred to him as a ‘Vaikuṇṭha man’ – he was not of this world.


W hen Prabhupāda came to the west, with the exception of a few songs of Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura and others, the majority of the songs he introduced were the songs of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Prabhupāda told Acyutānanda that everything is in the songs of Bhaktivinoda. Bhaktivinoda’s songs contain the entire process and philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If you were left with only a couple of books to survive for centuries and push Kṛṣṇa consciousness forward and we couldn’t grab the whole Bhāgavatam or Caitanya-caritāmṛta, we would want to grab Bhaktivinoda’s song book, ‘Saraṇāgati.’ Everything is in there.

When we separated from the worldwide Hare Kṛṣna movement, we asked Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja for some direction. What should be our first service? He said, “Publish Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s first book to the western world, “Śrī Caitanya’s Life & Precepts.” This book was written in English and published in the year of Prabhupāda’s birth (1896) which is very significant. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja didn’t say, “Publish one of your Guru Mahārāja’s books!” He directed us all the way back to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Why? Why not go all the way back to Viśvanātha, or Rūpa Gosvāmī, or publish the Śikṣāṣṭakam? Because in the modern world, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is the start! Many devotees have forgotten the ‘mūla’, the root. The root of the modern day Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. To establish our deepest connection to that root, he suggested we publish this book.


I n the order of setting things straight, aggression is māyā! That is not a symptom of the divine message of love. Otherwise how can you say which part of it is māyā? It comes dressed in love, it has a message, it even says, “I know Prabhupāda better than any of you! He is more dear to me than any of you.” These are all bombastic, bold statements which have no validity other than for the person who’s saying them. How do you know you have more love for Prabhupāda than me or any of his devotees? What is your evidence? What is your proof? Nothing! Simply bombastic statements!


R ecently, one devotee wrote, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, I have love for you – I have no love for anyone else!” And a certain section will go, “Jaya! Such great devotion!” If someone says, “I have love for Rādhā-Govinda and no one else!” – yes! But if you say, “I have love for one Vaiṣṇava, and no one else!” the answer is NO! That is a kind of mundane fanaticism. If you have such love for one Vaiṣṇava, that will be multiplied and you will have great affection for so many Vaiṣṇavas.


I ’ve heard some Indian devotees in other Gauḍīya missions say, “Oh, the reason why you’re Guru Mahārāja (Śrila Prabhupāda) was so successful making his Iskcon was because he was such a good businessman!” And my response to that is, “Are you kidding? His business was a complete failure! His family life was a failure! Kṛṣṇa completely took everything away from him. He had nothing left! And that was his strength – he fully relied upon Kṛṣṇa. Not on business, not on money, not on anything in this material world. Kṛṣṇa took everything and all he had left was his strong, unshakable faith in Kṛṣṇa and in the words of his guru, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. It had zero to do with anything so mundane as being “good at business!”


O h yeah – we’re real ‘Prabhupāda men’! We don’t even have a drop of Prabhupāda’s behaviour in us really! If he did anything harsh, we remember that, and what he did which was soft, we can’t seem to remember – and if we do remember we say, “Well, the reason he did that was because, because, because…”We just seem to settle on the hard things. I realise that I’m not a ‘Prabhupāda man.’ I’m an imitation ‘Prabhupāda man.’ If I was a ‘Prabhupāda man’ then how can I act so harshly with people?


A ll these different missions exist mostly because of the government regulations and restrictions in different countries. You must have a registered society, otherwise you cannot preach. But the ‘registered society’ that we are concerned with is the paramparā. If you’re not in the paramparā, then you’re not actually qualified as an agent of Mahāprabhu’s grace. The qualification is the paramparā.


S ome devotees have this thing that somehow Prabhupāda has to be greater than any other living being that ever existed. That makes them feel good – that they made the right choice, because he’s greater than everybody and anybody. First, that’s not really true, and second, that doesn’t even matter. Āmāra-guru jagat-guru (”my guru is the guru of the universe!”) is not one of the quintessential achievements in bhakti-yoga. Thinking that my guru is the best of all – that’s not really an achievement. That comes from an anartha. It’s egotistical thinking because the focus is on ‘me’ – ‘ME!’ – not on your guru. You’re using your guru as a badge…just using him as something to flatter yourself by.


A group of kaniṣṭhas can’t vote or make another kaniṣṭha into an ācārya – that’s not how the paramparā works. Paramparā means that a pure devotee, one who is chanting the Holy Name purely, appoints the guru. Otherwise, if it is left up to the mob, means just the opinion of the general devotees or devotees who are not chanting purely, then you will just be left with another mundane religious society and it just goes downhill after that. Gurus are not created by democratic vote or popular opinion. So what to do if your guru is no longer present? Does the paramparā end? Kṛṣṇa is not powerless – He will make an arrangement. But we ourselves should not be ambitious to become guru – that service may come down from a higher inspiration, from the instructions from the higher quarter. But Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has warned, “Think a thousand times and a thousand times again before accepting such a position.” It is no light thing…


E ven if someone has accepted a guru and that guru goes away in devotional service, that person should not feel any resentment, especially hatred, or anything towards that person. One should not feel, ‘Oh I was cheated’. One should rather feel, ‘I got what I deserved’. And if you examine – even if the guru went away, did you got anything good from there? Even a small, small thing. “Yes I got something good.” Then you should be very happy. You have made a step in the right direction, now go on with your earnestness. Pray to Kṛṣṇa, and He will send you further guidance. If you blame that fallen guru, you are blaming Kṛṣṇa. You are saying, “Well, there is nothing wrong with me…I deserve the best. Why was I cheated?” You are very self-centered. And self-centeredness distances us from Divinity. Rather we should see, “The only defect is in me!” This will align us with Divinity, and the clouds of confusion and so many misunderstandings will just go away, and the sun of Kṛṣṇa will shine bright in our life.


W hen Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta was angry with Śrīla Prabhupāda, that was confirmation that the guru accepts the disciple. Getting that strong confirmation, the disciple is very happy. But if the guru is silent, then it means he is disgusted with us. But if anger is there, that is confirmation that is he our master and well-wisher. Just like a father – if he goes in the street, he may see some child doing something bad and he may try to correct him, but again if the child still does it, he will leave because he is not his father – he cannot say anything. But if his own son or daughter is there, then the father will snatch him by the arm and give a slap because he is the father.

So the meaning is that the guru’s anger is a confirmation and it is a type of blessing. But displeasure is something else. We may get the guru’s anger – that is good for us. But if we get his displeasure, or if we displease a Vaiṣṇava, if we make him sad or disgusted, then that is very bad for us. So we should consciously try to give pleasure to guru and Vaiṣṇava and Kṛṣṇa always.


O ur concern is not simply the spiritual master and to forget everybody else. Our concern is with our guru, and our concern is with the friends, the associates, and the servants of our guru. Just like we are not simply concerned with Kṛṣṇa. We are concerned with Kṛṣṇa, His paraphernalia, His devotees, His abode, His name, His pastimes etc. We are not simply concerned with Kṛṣṇa. In fact, one who is only concerned with Kṛṣṇa is not actually a real devotee. But who is concerned with Kṛṣṇa’s devotees, who is concerned with Kṛṣṇa’s paraphernalia, with Kṛṣṇa’s service and all these things – he is regarded as a real devotee. So sometimes we see manifest a great eagerness to serve the guru, but that comes with a total disregard for the other Vaiṣṇavas and so forth. That is not a pure desire to serve the guru.”