Chakra Discussions

The Bonafide or Imitation Guru

by Niscala d.d.

Posted September 24, 2004

Thanks to Mohinder Prabhu for thoughtful feedback with quotes as well. There is a mistake however in equating liberated with eternally liberated, and similarly devoteewith pure devotee. Sometimes Srila Prabhupada interchanged these terms and that is when the confusion often arises, for our devotees prefer to take everything in a way that confirms their foregone conclusions, rather than sort and sift data to find the actual truth.

"A Spiritual Master is always liberated. In any condition of His life He should not be mistaken as ordinary human being...a nitya siddha is never forgetful of Krsna throughout his whole life..." (Srila Prabhupada letter to Tamal Krsna, June 21, 1970)

In this letter to his disciple, Srila Prabhupada is clearly refering to himself. Otherwise he would have said "must be always liberatedrather than "is always liberatedand every spiritual masterrather than A Spiritual Master; Ais singluar tense. Certainly a spiritual master can be an eternally libertaed nitya siddha; however that does not mean that every spiritual master must be so. No genuine spiritual master though, is ordinary.

Similarly advanced devoteecan mean advanced to the level of nitya siddha, or just more advanced than oneself. Here Srila Prabhupada clearly refers to the former definition thus:

"An advanced devotee, therefore, does not live within the material body but within his spiritual body, just as a dry coconut lives detached from the coconut husk, even though within the husk. The pure devotee's body is therefore called cin-maya-sarira ("spiritualized body"). In other words, a devotee's body is not connected with material activities, and as such, a devotee is always liberated (brahma-bhuyaya kalpate), as confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (14.26)." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.22.26, purport)

Clearly not every advanced devotee is up to this level, yet obviously if one is at this level, one is advanced- very much so. It seems that Srila Prabhupada gave us credit that we would use our intelligence to take these terms in the context they are given.

Mohinder wrote:

A bona fide guru has NO material connections:
A pure devotee of the Lord does not live on any planet of the material sky, nor does he feel any contact with the material elements. His so-called material body does not exist, being surcharged with the spiritual current of the Lord's identical interest, and thus he is permanently freed from all contamination of the sum total of the mahat-tattva.(SB, 1.13.55)

Firstly, Mohinder has made the assumption that a bonafide guru must be a nitya siddha, for nowhere in this verse is the term bonafide gurueven used. The term pure devoteeis used, and from the context it is clear that the type of pure devotee refered to is the nitya siddha devotee.

Mohinder quotes thus:

"A bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession from time eternal and he does not deviate AT ALL from the instructions of the Supreme Lord." (Bg 4:42, purport)

Actually this is not the whole sentence, and in the remaining part it is clear that the eternality refers to the disciplic succession, not the spiritual masters presence in it, nor his status necessarily as a nitya siddha, as Mohinder has assumed. Furthermore in the sentences that follow, there is no reference to the impossibility of accidental falldown, but rather that the bonafide guru is pure in his motives to preach and he consequently will never twist the instructions of the Lord for his personal agenda.:

"A bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession from time eternal and he does not deviate AT ALL from the instructions of the Supreme Lord as they were imparted millions of years ago to the sun-god, from whom the instructions of Bhagavad-gita have come down to the earthly kingdom. One should therefore follow the path of Bhagavad gita as it is expressed in the gita itself and beware of self-interested persons after personal aggrandizement who deviate others from the actual path. The Lord is definitely the Supreme Person and all his activities are transcendental. One who understands this is a liberated person from the very beginning of his study of the Bhagavad gita"

Whosoever understands this is immediately liberated. Not necessarily eternally, of course, but if in addition one preaches that message with a pure motive to act in the Lords interest, then one is a bonafide guru. This was what Srila Prabhupada wanted each and every one of us to follow in his footsteps and be gurus and spread the teachings of Bhagavad gita as they are presented by the Lord Himself, without deviation . Lord Chaitanya wanted this also. If we are to follow Their instruction, which is our duty, then we must be assured that if in the future we accidentally fall from the path due to past bad habits (as opposed to deliberately misleading others), we will not have been imposters. We did our best, with good motivation, for in this respect, motivation is everything. If one is motivated to enlighten others with spiritual knowledge, then he or she should not be discouraged from the taking up the serious service of guru because there may be a possibility of future falldown. Lord Chaitanya advised everyone born in Bharata Varsha to be guru. Are they all nitya siddhas?

One should therefore carefully review ones motivation to preach.

One should similarly be attentive to associate with persons of genuine motivation:

Srila Prabhupada: "beware of self-interested persons after personal aggrandizement who deviate others from the actual path"

This deviation can be more subtle than, for example, mayavada philosophy. Bhaktivinode Thakur has warned that an imposter vaisnava is more dangerous, as he may use the very words of Krsna in the gita against his disciples best interest. He may misrepresent various quotes about guru to awe his disciples about the status of the guru as neccesarily nitya siddha, thus disempowering them from being part of the disciplic succession. He may require them to be authorized by the GBC, thus entrenching their illusions about the philosophy. In contrast, Srila Prabhupada, knowing our tendency to fall down, nevertheless instructed his followers to all be gurus. The real instruction is that of empowerment, not lifelessness. Arjunas mood after receiving instructions from Krsna is clear evidence of this- he was firm and free from doubt.

Therefore, if we find a bonafide guru who has opened the eyes of his disciples with the powerful light of sastra, who has thus exposed their illusions and weakness of heart, who has acted without self-interest such as to be seen as an advanced devotee or otherwise attract adoration or following, who is therefore free to act solely in his disciples best interest, even at the risk of being rejected (as cutting speech may often require), if we see he is wholly dedicated to his self-purification and that of others, we should not judge him as fallen, or worse still an imposter, if such a good soul accidentally succumbs to the illusory energy. We should wait for him to rectify himself, with patience and understanding, always remembering his service to the Lord. The Lord Himself never forgets this.