IT IS NECESSARY TO APPROACH A SPIRITUAL MASTER
In the Vedic tradition, knowledge based on sense perception and on deductive reasoning is considered unreliable because of the four inherent defects of all conditioned souls: being subject to illusion, being prone to make mistakes, having the propensity to cheat and having imperfect sense perception. Indeed, the senses have a limited range of perception in the material realm, what to speak of the spiritual or metaphysical one, the plane of the Absolute Truth. That domain is lying beyond the grasp of both the senses and the mind; the latter is just another material element -albeit subtler - and therefore it is unable to conceive what is beyond the governing principles of matter such as time, space and the law of cause and effect. The Vedic sages have declared that their thoughts and words could not pierce the coverings of the universe and reach beyond it but return to them.
The Absolute Truth, in His ultimate personal feature as Bhagavan Sri Krishna, holds the initiative to reveal Himself as He pleases. The spiritual part of the Vedic literature is how He chooses to reveal knowledge about Himself: sastra-yonitvat, states the Vedanta-sutra (1.1.3). However, this is not academic knowledge acquired for a simple informative purpose; rather, it is meant to transform the consciousness of its reader and student. It aims at enabling him to ultimately achieve spiritual emancipation from the bondage of matter, as well as realization of his eternal relationship of loving service to God. In other words, it is knowledge which must be applied and lived from within. Its essence is loving devotion to God, or bhakti. An academic approach is therefore not appropriate and will give only incomplete and deficient knowledge, not yield the fruit of self-realization - culminating in pure love of God - which is the avowed purpose of these teachings. As such, one must approach it according to the method stipulated in the Vedic tradition itself, which is to receive it from a genuine spiritual guide - a self-realized soul - to the service of whom one should dedicate himself: "The most important of all spiritual practices is guru-seva - service to the spiritual master. It bestows easily, quickly and joyfully bhakti for the Supreme Lord.
Thus, the relationship between guru and disciple is fundamental to assimilating the Vedic revelation. The syllables 'gu' and 'ru' respectively mean 'darkness' and 'light'. So 'guru' means one who takes his disciple from the darkness of ignorance of spiritual truths to the light of transcendental knowledge.
Unbroken lines of spiritual masters (paramparas or sampradayas) have faithfully carried this knowledge up to now, and it comes to us, identical, without any misinterpretation or distortion, thanks to these pure lines of transmission. The Padma Purana reveals that in the present age four such specific lines of masters transmit authentic knowledge, coming respectively from four great universal spiritual authorities: Sri Lakshmi-devi, Lord Siva, Lord Brahma, and Sri Sanat Kumara, who each have a sampradaya named after them.
The Lord, who is the ultimate subject of Vedic knowledge and love of Whom is the ultimate goal of that knowledge, chooses to whom He reveals Himself, as per the Mundaka Upanisad and He states to whom He is likely to do so: to one who faithfully serves his guru: guru-susrusaya yatha.
A FAITHFUL UNDERSTANDING
My spiritual master, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada - the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and the foremost exponent of the science of bhakti-yoga of the modern age - gave at times a broad definition of guru as meaning "preacher/teacher." However, the main thrust of his teachings on the subject of guru- tattva is to emphasize the very exalted qualifications required of a bona fide spiritual master, or sad-guru: He must be a pure devotee, a self-realized, liberated soul, an uttama-adhikari, or maha-bhagavata. This being said, although there is no doubt that the maha- bhagavata, or uttama-adhikari, is the ideal type of guru, it is also a rare type. So there is a need for madhyama-adhikari gurus. In this first part, I am stressing a lot on the importance of the maha-bhagavata guru, so it may seem that I am minimizing the value of the madhyama-adhikari gurus. I actually mean to point out the limitations of the low-level madhyama-adhikari gurus and furthermore of the kanistha-adhikari gurus.
Having received siksa from two other powerful exponents of krishna-bhakti in the wake of Srila Prabhupada - Srila Gour Govinda Svami and Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, who is also my sannyasa-guru - I have quoted them in this book, as they taught the very same thing. I have also quoted excerpts of Sri Guru and His Grace, a book based on interviews with Srila Prabhupada's esteemed godbrother, Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Maharaja.
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