Need of a Guru

In Srimad Bhagavtam 3.25.8, it is said:

tasya tvaṁ tamaso ’ndhasya

duṣpārasyādya pāragam
sac-cakṣur janmanām ante
labdhaṁ me tvad-anugrahāt


Translation: Your Lordship is my only means of getting out of this darkest region of ignorance because You are my transcendental eye, which, by Your mercy only, I have attained after many, many births.

Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport to the above verse: This verse is very instructive, since it indicates the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple. The disciple or conditioned soul is put into this darkest region of ignorance and therefore is entangled in the material existence of sense gratification. It is very difficult to get out of this entanglement and attain freedom, but if one is fortunate enough to get the association of a spiritual master like Kapila Muni or His representative, then by his grace one can be delivered from the mire of ignorance. The spiritual master is therefore worshiped as one who delivers the disciple from the mire of ignorance with the light of the torch of knowledge. The word pāragam is very significant. Pāragam refers to one who can take the disciple to the other side. This side is conditioned life; the other side is the life of freedom. The spiritual master takes the disciple to the other side by opening his eyes with knowledge. We are suffering simply because of ignorance. By the instruction of the spiritual master, the darkness of ignorance is removed, and thus the disciple is enabled to go to the side of freedom. It is stated in Bhagavad-gītāthat after many, many births one surrenders to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Similarly, if after many, many births one is able to find a bona fide spiritual master and surrender to such a bona fide representative of Kṛṣṇa, one can be taken to the side of light.

Therefore, In Srila Rupa Goswami's Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu while explaining the limbs of bhakti, sadguru-padasraya hasbeen cited first. It is the duty of all faithful persons who have a desire for bhagavad-bhakti to take shelter at the lotus feet of a spiritual master who is a genuine preceptor of the shastras expounding the glories of Supreme Personality of God Head and who is expert in understanding and explaining the mantras describing Supreme Lord. All anarthas are easily removed only by the mercy of such a genuine spiritual master and thus one also obtains the supreme favour of Lord Sri Krishna. 

Srila Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur has written 
yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo
yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto 'pi
dhyāyan stuvaḿs tasya yaśas tri-sandhyaḿ
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam

For one who pleases the spiritual master the Supreme Lord is automatically pleased, but for one who displeases the spiritual master there is no means of obtaining success. I therefore meditate upon Srila Gurudeva, offer prayers to him, and bow down before him three times a day.

The Qualification of a bonafide Guru
Srimad Bhagavatam 11.3.21

tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta
jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ
brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam
Translation: Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.

In order to obtain direct realization of the supreme absolute reality, or in other words knowledge concerning prema-bhakti, a person who is desirous of his own welfare should approach a sad-guru who knows the purport of the Vedas and who is learned in the truths regarding Sri Krishna. Taking an
offering in one’s hands, one should submit oneself to such a sadguru with body, mind and words.

Three Kinds of Gurus

In  Bhakti-sandarbha  SrilaJiva Goswami, in  examining guru-tattva, has cited three types of guru: 

(i) Sravana-guru, (ii)  Siksha- guru and (iii) Diksha-guru.

 (i) Sravana-guru

The  person from whom one hears knowledge of the bhaktas, bhakti and bhagavat-tattva  is known as the Sravana-guru. In the conversation between Maharaja Nimi and the Nava-Yogendras in Srimad Bhagavatam (11.3.22) it is said:

tatra bhāgavatān dharmān
śiked gurv-ātma-daivata
amāyayānuvttyā yais
tuyed ātmātma-do hari

Accepting the bona fide spiritual master as one’s life and soul and worshipable deity, the disciple should learn from him the process of pure devotional service. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari,the soul of all souls, is inclined to give Himself to His pure devotees.Therefore, the disciple should learn from the spiritual master to serve the Lord without duplicity and in such a faithful and favorable way that the Supreme Lord, being satisfied, will offer Himself to the faithful disciple.

Such  a  person who  gives  instructions on  how to  execute bhajana is called a Sravana-guru. There may be many Sravana-gurus;nonetheless  the sadhaka should take shelter of one Mahapurusha among them who is suitable to his nature and receive instructions from him regarding how to perform bhajana.

(ii) Siksha-guru

Out  of many such  competent Sravana-gurus, one  who  gives instructions  in bhajana  which are just suitable to the  bhava of the sadhaka is called a Siksha-guru. There may be many Siksha-gurus also;  however,  it is  advantageous to  have one  Siksha-guru in particular who is conducive to one’s mood. The Sravana-guru and the  Siksha-guru are usually one and the  same person.

(iii) Diksha-guru

One who gives a mantra for worship according to the rules and regulations of scripture is called a Diksha-guru. The Diksha-guru should possess all the symptoms already described of a Mahapurusha and those described in connection with the sad-guru. The Diksha-guru should be conversant in  the  conclusions of the Vedas, he should be adept in expounding those conclusions, he should have direct experience and realisation of the Supreme Lord, and he should be completely detached from material sense objects. If he is lacking in these characteristics, then the faith of the disciple will waiver.

There  is only  one Diksha-guru. The Siksha-guru should be in conformity with the Diksha-guru; otherwise impediments may arise in the practice of sadhana. Ordinarily the Diksha-guru carries out the  function of Siksha-guru.  In his absence one should accept as one’s Siksha-guru an advanced devotee possessing the characteristics already described.

This is the purport of the verses quoted below from Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 238):

guror apy avaliptasya karyakaryam ajanatah˙

utpathapratipannasya parityago vidhîyate

- Mahabharata (Udyoga-parva 178.48)


mantrena nirayam  vrajet 

punas ca vidhinasamyag


-Hari-bhakti-vilasa (4.366)

In other words one who accepts a mantra from a non-Vaishnava guru goes to hell. Therefore one should again receive Diksha-mantra from a Vaishnava guru in accordance with the rules and regulations.

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