Srila Gurudeva did not change philosophy on Guru-tattva
Srila Gurudeva did not change philosophy on Guru-tattva
by Bv Suddhadvaiti Swami
All glories to Srila Prabhupada, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja and Srila Gurudeva! Dear Maharajas, please accept my humble dandavat pranams, Dear devotees, please accept my humble pranams,
"The subject of guru-tattva is the essence of all our bhakti literature.”
"A preacher's constant function is to directly and frankly oppose anyone who is hurting himself or others by misrepresenting the truth, either due to malice or to genuine misunderstanding, by preaching in the most unambiguous and unequivocal manner." (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati)
The purpose of this paper is manifold.
1) To clear the doubts felt by many:
A) It seems that Srila Gurudeva drastically changed his teachings on Guru-tattva (supposedly « the diksa-guru can only be an uttama-adhikari »),
B) and that he has now authorized any sannyasi to initiate his own disciples whatever his level,
C) or has cheated his ambitious sannyasis impatient to become gurus and establish that, he has actually all along said: that while an uttama-adhikari is undoubtedly the ideal guru, due to the rarity of such top level gurus, qualified madhyamas are acceptable, that they are very much needed, that a madhyama-uttama is the second best choice after an uttama, that if not available, then a madhyama-madhyama is acceptable, that if not available, then exceptionally even one on the level just prior to that can be accepted, so it is not a new teaching of his, nor a deviation from his teachings,
b) and on the other hand that, he doesn't condone low-level madhyamas nor kanisthas to initiate, even if they're sannyasis, he has said at the end «at least madhyama-madhyama», he has unambiguously stated the limitations of madhyama gurus, even if they're qualified, while authorizing them to initiate even if they're not top-level madhyamas, while repeatedly presenting the solution consisting in approaching highersiksa-gurus later to complete the diksa process begun by these madhyamas.
c) and that he repeatedly expressed his desire that his qualified sannyasis would start initiating, and urged them to do so in spite of their reluctance.
2) To thus reassure the doubtful that, while it may seem so, we're not going at all the ISKCON way about guruship.
Before comparing our sanga and ISKCON, it may be noted that:
Even if our sannyasis are not all advanced madhyamas, they nonetheless have had for decades the direct opportunity of top-level sadhusanga, personal guidance and hari-katha from Srila Gurudeva, and some from various saints, that our godbrothers and nephews never ever had directly since 1977. They have been drilled on guru-tattva and the need for high-class association and the limitations of even madhyama gurus and the subsequent need for top-level siksa to complete the diksa process.
Also, that our sanga is not plagued by a dubious guru policy allowing even unqualified devotees to initiate, based on the rittvik-like misconception that the guru, even if not qualified, can nonetheless give everything his disciples are supposed to receive from a sad-guru, because he is connected to Srila Prabhupada and Prabhupada gives them everything through him, and therefore these disciples don't need to approach a qualified siksa-guru to get what they didn't get, as they already are getting everything, nor the subsequent unfortunate legislated idea that neither gurus nor disciples can receive such much needed higher guidance from anyone outside the walls of the institution.This being said, the value of the great preaching efforts of our brothers/uncles and nephews/cousins in ISKCON cannot be underestimated nor minimized.
3) To give the newcomers faith in their gurus, and to give everyone in our sanga faith in the sanga and its leadership, who is trying its best to fulfill Gurudeva’s desires and protect his legacy, faith that we're going the right way, that the aftermath of Gurudeva physically leaving doesn't have to be chaotic, as is often the case after the departure of such an elevated spiritual master, that he is still guiding, empowering and blessing us all.
4) To provide a systematic body of knowledge on the 3 adhikaras to help recognizing them, for the newcomers in order to make a proper choice of a qualified guru (all the while praying and depending on Krishna for providing them a qualified guru suitable to their needs, and confirming their choice) for the general body of devotees, for those considering to take the role of guru or having started to, for preachers.
5) To hopefully clear misconceptions about Srila Gurudeva's teachings on Guru-tattva. For instance:
To show that to initiate as a kanistha or a low-level madhyama is not recommended nor authorized by Gurudeva, but that it is his desire and our understanding that he has duly authorized that qualified madhyamas can/should be gurus, that it is not a deviation but legitimate, while he and we acknowledge their limitations.
To stress the need for qualified guidance (ideally minimum madhyama-madhyama diksa-gurus), and further guidance from higher siksa-gurus. (One can consult on this topic the Siksa-guru tattva part of the author's Guru-tattva paper)
To hopefully clarify and reconcile some apparently ambiguous or controversial statements of Gurudeva, such as, «they should do, who are qualified», «madhyama-madhyama», «they can all do it», showing that he didn't make blanket statements endorsing all sannyasis to initiate whatever their level is, and that these statements are not divorced from his other instructions as to what means to be a qualified madhyama guru.
6) To offer some practical guidelines like: How to choose a guru? How does a disciple see his guru? How can the disciples of one guru and the Godbrothers of that guru or other devotees, who may have a very different vision of that guru, interact harmoniously? In my naive pride, I hope that this paper fulfills these many ambitious purposes.
Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada consistently preached that a sad-guru is a pure devotee, a self-realized, liberated soul, an uttama-adhikari, a maha-bhagavata. However, in order to continue his mission, he hinted that his disciples could act as gurus even if they had not achieved this standard level, if they became qualified madhyama–adhikaris.
"Yes, I shall say who is guru, 'Now you become acarya. You become authorized.' I am waiting for that. 'You become, all, acarya'. But the training must be complete. The process of purification must be there. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants that. Amara ajnaya guru hana. You become guru. But be qualified. Little thing. Strict follower. Not rubber stamp. Then you'll not be effective.” (Bombay 04.77) He mentioned the limitations of the guidance of both madhyamas and kanisthas and, given these limitations, he advised one not to settle for less than the best:
A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform [ a kanistha cannot initiate a madhyama] and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master. » ( Nectar of Instruction, ch5 end of purport)
Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, Gurudeva, as a perfect follower of Srila Prabhupada, did exactly the same.
It is appropriate to emphasize the superiority and ultimate necessity of an maha-bhagavata guru. That doesn’t mean that there is no place or validity for qualified madhyama–adhikari gurus, who are empowered by Krishna and their gurus. They are not mutually exclusive but complementary figures. The role of madhyama–adhikari gurus is very important in the deliverance of the jivas. By their enthusiastic preaching, they connect with Krishna consciousness people who would maybe otherwise never know bhakti. Then they help them to progress and be more and more qualified. This function of the madhyama–adhikari guru cannot be minimized on the pretext that it is incomplete, but appreciated.
Srila Gurudeva did not change philosophy on guru-tattva. In the last few years, when he started to express his desire that his qualified madhyama-adhikari sannyasis should start to initiate their own disciples, he only clarified the limitations of their power much more than he did earlier.
That being said, madhyama gurus, like any empowered preacher, don't just give exactly what they personally have, but are also a medium of mercy of their gurus coming through them, so Srila Gurudeva, while pointing at their limitations, acknowledged their validity.
What did Srila Gurudeva say in earlier publications?
We can read in his purport to verse 1 of Manah siksa, “The topmost bhagavata devotee who completely destroys all anarthas and bestows sambandha–jnana or transcendental knowledge of one's relationship with Krishna is known as the diksa-guru…The guru should be a maha-bhagavata, otherwise the disciple will lose faith. Sraddha comes from the heart; it is not a thing of the imagination. »
And in Pinnacle of devotion:
A guru who is not realized in sadhana-bhakti, bhava-bhakti, and prema-bhakti cannot give bhakti, although he may appear to do the work of a guru. This is supported by all sastras, including Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Upanisads, and by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Krishna Himself. » (p 3)
“Unless he is perfect in his own realization of krsna-prema, he cannot give it.” (p7)
“Sri Guru also destroys all our sinful reactions: divyam jnanam yato dadyat kuryat papasya sanksayam…By diksa one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life. [Bhakti-sandarbha 283] Gurudeva destroys the four stages of sin: prarabdha, kuta bija, aprarabdha, avidya. If our diksa-guru is not of such a caliber that he is capable of doing this for us, then we should accept a siksa-guru who is more advanced. (p10)
«One who chants under the guidance of a highly qualified guru or Vaisnava will develop a high-class, superlative quality of chanting. Otherwise, this name will fulfill your material desires, but bhakti will not come. » (p47)
«Only if one receives the unconditional mercy of guru, or any realized devotee, or Gauranga, or Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. With such mercy suddha-nama is easily realized. Otherwise, attaining it is very difficult…There are two kinds of mercy, the mercy of a bhakta and the mercy of Bhagavan. For us to receive the mercy to chant suddha-nama, the bhakta must be fully-realized. » (p210)
And in Gurudevatatma, made from 2003 lectures:
“If a person is not a pure devotee, he cannot chant the pure name. He can only chant syllables that sound like the name. He can only chant offenses to the name (nama-aparadha) or a semblance of the name (nama-abhasa)”
“If the seed of bhakti and one’s relationship with Krishna (sambandha-jnana) are not given by a pure guru, there can be no sabda–brahma, experience of transcendental sound (sound coming from the transcendental realm). Acceptance and surrender to a sad–guru is therefore essential.” (Gurudeva defined a sad–guru as one of the 3 kinds of mahabhagavatas)
Srila Prabhupada says about sabda–brahma, "Following in the footsteps of liberated souls who are able to vibrate real transcendental sound can lead one to the highest stage of devotion." (CC Adi 2.117)
"Otherwise, simply the alphabets are coming out, but that's not the Name: namaksara bahir haya nama nahi haya… And if it is done by a pure Vaisnava, then they get the full benefit." (SP Conversation 25.2.77)
And Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati writes:
"One must take shelter at the feet of a spiritual guide who has realized and does see the form (svarupa) of the Name. The mere letters forming the Name, namaksara, may be had at any place and from anybody, but the profound and unknown Truth behind those letters can only be exposed by the grace of a true guru, a pure devotee of Krishna. Only such a guru's grace can protect from the ten offenses, carry across from the early twilight of Nama, namabhasa, to the pure light of Nama." (Nama-Bhajan)
“We should know what is guru–tattva. Guru means “heavy”, more so than anyone else in this world –even more than Krishna Himself. Sometimes, Krishna may come to that guru, take his foot-dust – it may be…This is guru-tattva…The subject of guru–tattva is the essence of all our bhakti literature. This subject is very heavy, and therefore you should hear it with the core of your hearts.” (Gurudevatatma)
“You should realize that the mercy of Krishna first manifests as the mercy of guru. From the bona fide guru, who is Krishna Himself as His manifestation (asrayavigraha), we can have the seed of bhakti. What is the the seed of bhakti? It is krsna–seva–vasana, the desire to serve Krishna …The seed of the bhakti creeper comes from this high class of gurudeva. » (Gurudevatatma)
Part Two: Gurudeva did not change, he only clarified further
If we read the exchanges of the last few years, we can see that Srila Gurudeva did not express a different viewpoint on guru-tattva. He didn't blur the distinction between the different adhikaras. He still clearly expressed the desirability of the uttama-adhikari guru:
“He should take the candidates to the uttama-adhikari”.
“It is better to take them to the uttama-adhikari”. (Italy morning walk 05/07/10)
But, as such type of spiritual master is rare, in order to continue his mission, he spoke repeatedly of the need for madhyama-adhikari diksa–gurus and clarified their position. He did not endorse them at all as fully qualified gurus, as sad-gurus. He repeatedly stressed the need for further guidance from a higher siksa-guru.
Can a madhyama-adhikari who has come from the kanistha platform give mercy?
“He can only give mercy according to the limit of his capacity, not beyond that. He can give harikatha according to what he knows… He can give harikatha. In this way, bhakti will gradually manifest…How will this come about? The madhyama guides his followers in the right direction. He directs them to the pure devotee. Thus, gradually, by exalted association, bhakti will manifest in their followers' hearts."( Walking with a saint 2008, p 49)
"A madhyama can only give the highest mercy when he is an uttama-adhikari in the role of a madhyama." (W.w.a.s.)
«If a guru doesn't know the svarupa of his disciple, he is not a guru. It means that himself is not situated in suddha-sattva. How can he help his disciple? (W. w.a.s. p144)
"To give this laulyam, the guru must be able to. He must be an elevated rasika-tattva-jna Vaisnava…" (W.w.a.s.)
“He must have some realization of Krishna; only then can he give Krishna from his heart to others. Without realizing Krishna, his prayers will not be heard by Krishna. He must also be detached from worldly desires and intoxications. Such a person is qualified to be selected as guru. If you have unknowingly chosen a guru who cannot help you, who has no self-realization, and who is not detached from worldly things, then give him up and take shelter of a real guru, a sad-guru. If your guru is a Vaisnava but he does not know sabda–brahma, if he has insufficient knowledge of sastra–jnana but he is a sincere Vaisnava, then when you finally meet a real guru you can take permission from that sincere Vaisnava: 'I want to develop my bhakti, so I want to associate with this pure devotee.' That sincere Vaisnava, your first guru, will happily permit you. If he does not permit you to go, he is not guru; you can reject him. For example, suppose you have bought a cow for milking, but after some time she has stopped giving milk and will never again give milk. You still want milk, so you will have to get another cow".
Devotee: Although some bhaktas have a desire in their heart for a pure guru, still they go to an un-bona-fide guru and don’t realize it. Why is this? Is it due to committing aparadhas?
Srila Gurudeva:That person does not have sufficient sukrti and does not want bhakti in the true sense; otherwise Krishna would not deprive him. If you are sincere and really want krsna–bhakti, Krishna will certainly arrange that you take shelter of a real guru.” (17/O5/2009 Las Vegas)
Answering doubts about the capacity of madhyama-adhikaris to initiate, Srila Gurudeva answered
"So, if madhyama–adhikari, even he has no realization, they can give [initiation]. No harm…But I want that they should also be qualified.” (29.10.07)
When asked, “Only the uttama–adhikari can give the bhakti-lata-bija. Is that true, or not true?” he answered
“It is true.”
“So a madhyama can
“Madhyama can inspire them for that. If he is sincere, he will tell all these things to him, and inspire him for that krsna-seva-vasana to come.” (29/10/07)
Answering doubts about their capacity to give divya-jana,
Question: “If the guru is only on the madhyama platform and the understanding of his own and his disciple's svarupa (eternal form) is not complete, then what conception can he give?”
Srila Gurudeva Answer: “He can give something, even though he does not have that realization. Then, in this life, or in future lives, you will find a perfect guru; and by surrendering to that perfect guru you will be able to realize your relationship with Krsna”.
He also said,
“If the guru is not of Srila Sukadeva Gosvami's caliber and is a madhyama-adhikari, then Krishna will fulfill the disciple's desire on behalf of that guru. (Badger 20.6.07)
“If he will follow order sincerely, Oh, Krishna realization may come.” (Govardhan 29.10.07)
Question: “What is the power of the diksa-mantras of one who has not reached the level of bhava?” he answered,
Srila Gurudeva: “If he has reached ruci, if he has ruci in the Holy Name, it will be Krishna's responsibility to arrange for the disciple to get what he is supposed to receive. He will arrange for him to approach a mahabhagavata.” (Govardhan Oct 2008)
Question: ”Below which level would you say that one should not venture to take disciples?” he answered,
Srila Gurudeva:“It is not written anywhere in scripture, but I think that, at the least, a madhyama-madhyama devotee should be there to give initiation.”
Question: “Does his diksa-mantra have the power to give divya-jnana?”
Srila Gurudeva: “It is not as powerful as if Narada would give…”
Question: “If one is not madhyama-madhyama and he gives diksa, what will be his reaction?”
Srila Gurudeva: “The desire for mana (honor) and summana (respect, the hankering for prestige, will grow more. That unqualified person will think, “I am the only guru,” and then he will fall down.”
“What about the disciple of a madhyama-madhyama”?
Srila Gurudeva: “Good destination (gati); so no harm in this. Krsna will do what is needful for him.”
Question: “What is the result of an unqualified guru giving diksa?”
Srila Gurudeva: “No! He should be qualified!”
Question: “The mantra is meant for one to achieve the goal of bhava, and ultimately prema. If a kanistha-adhikari gives this mantra, is there any effect?”
Srila Gurudeva: “A kanistha-adhikari should not do so. He should take that person to be initiated by a high-class Vaisnava.”
Question: “So, when a kanistha-adhikari gives the mantra, there is no effect?”
Srila Gurudeva: “The result will be nothing…The kanistha-adhikari should not give diksa. He should take the candidates to the uttama-adhikari…It is better to take them to the uttama-adhikari”. (Italy morning walk 05/07/10)
Srila Gurudeva said in the last couple of years that he thought his sannyasis in general and some in particular were qualified to accept disciples. Answering the sannyasis' own doubts about that, he said that their qualification was that he had trained them so much in guru–tattva, so he had faith that if they took disciples even while not being fully qualified, they would send them for siksa to a superior Vaisnava when one would manifest.
So it's not that he changed philosophy and suddenly said they were all very qualified madhyama–adhikaris just because, as sannyasis, they're doing the work of madhyamas. ISKCON sannyasis are also doing a similar work but he never accepted them as madhyamas on that basis.
He never said all his sannyasis were madhyama-adhikaris fully qualified to become diksa-gurus, as his sannyasis also include kanistha-adhikaris and low-level madhyamas.
He made an adjustment based on his faith that his insufficiently qualified sannyasis would defer their followers to more qualified sadhus for diksa or siksa.
It is a myth that Srila Gurudeva supposedly wanted all the sannyasis to initiate whatever their level.
One argument given is that he said in the 29.10.2007 darsana ,
“They should do, who are qualified” and that the qualification there is just to be a sannyasi. But just after, he says “but I want that they should also be qualified.”
And also, during the 2008 Govardhana sannyasis darsana, he said,
“About all are qualified…Those who are qualified…You’re not qualified…Others, the madhyama–adhikaris, they can do.”
And when one sannyasi asked him,
Question: “What if someone is not liberated and he gives initiation, what will be his reaction?” he replied,
“He must be madhyama, nistha, ruci, ruci, he is chanting always, preaching.”
Question: “And if he is not madhyama and he is giving,what will be his reaction?” Srila Gurudeva replied,
“Then he shouldn't do! He will fall down, like PP.”
Another argument is given that Srila Gurudeva said in the last morning walk in Italy,
“all”…“They can all do.”
But we have seen that he always insisted on high-level madhyama gurus, and the day before he specified,
“at least madhyama-madhyama.”
One explanation why Srila Gurudeva said “all” and “ They can all do” is that he was repeatedly fed by some devotees the idea that if we were asking so many questions on this guru issue, it indicated that we were eager to become gurus. That can be seen in the last Italy morning walk. It is right after such a remark that he said“They can all do it”
Devotee: “They are inviting (meaning “They are anxious to start initiating.”
Devotee to me: “You are raising the question; that means you must have some desire.” to which I replied,
“I am clarifying the issue. I have no desire for it. Clarifying the issue is so important.”
A devotee asked Srila Gurudeva,
Question: “We feel that Srila Prabhupada was the first wave of bhakti in our life, and you're coming as the second wave. Will there be many more waves in the future?” He answered,
Answer: ”Yes, so many waves. No one is able to count them. (Walking with a saint)
This means that there will be very highly qualified sadhus who will manifest. Is this encouraging statement to be neglected? Should there be a rush for new people to be initiated without having developed some prior understanding of guru-tattva and without a period of mutual observation between guru and disciple?
Srila Gurudeva always insisted on trying to secure an uttama-adhikari as one's guru and the need for high-class association and this should be taught to new people, along with education on the science of guru-tattva. Shouldn’t we as well pray, cry and look for such association, especially those who take the position of diksa–gurus?
So, madhyama-adhikaris initiating is not a new idea at all
Actually, if one scrutinizes earlier publications, he will see that Srila Gurudeva’s stance on madhyama-adhikari gurus initiating is not new, although he usually speaks of high-level madhyamas:
“An uttama-adhikari has the same outlook towardseveryone. He doesn't see the difference between a conditioned soul and a liberated soul; he sees that everyone is liberated. Therefore he has no duty.But it is the duty of the madhyama Vaisnava to have this partiality. Therefore, who will give the mercy by which bhakti will arise? The madhyama Vaisnava, and especially those that are higher madhyama Vaisnavas will give this mercy. One who is entering the realm of an uttama Vaisnava, who is not there yet, but is qualified to cross the upper limit of the madhyama stage is especially kind and merciful. He wants to distribute to others the wealth which he has stored inside his own heart…A pure guru will thoughtfully determine the sentiment of a prospective disciple, and if the person has a genuine desire for krsna-bhakti, then he will ghim the mantra... Especially if a madhyama-adhikari guru is a little weak, he will keep the prospective disciple in his company for some time, first become convinced about his purity of purpose, and then give him the mantra. The madhyama-adhikari Vaisnava mostly acts asguru, not the uttama-adhikari.” (Going beyond Vaikuntha, ch1)
Srila Gurudeva is referring here to Madhurya-kadambini, where Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that bhakti is due to the mercy given by a madhyama-adhikari:
“Considering the madhyama-adhikari, one finds that he does show partiality or discretion in distributing mercy, but the Bhagavatam accepts this partiality as a natural trait. The Lord, being subservient to His devotee, lets His mercy follow the mercy of His devotee, but still the cause of the devotee's mercy is bhakti itself residing in his heart. Bhakti causes the devotee's mercy, which causes bhakti in another person.” (MK 1)
In his classes in 2008, Srila Gurudeva explained, “Bhakti manifests in the heart of a devotee by the mercy of the madhyama-adhikari and not of the uttama-adhikari who sees everyone equally. Which madhyama? An uttama-adhikari in the role of an uttama-madhyama, or a madhyama-madhyama.
In Gurudevatatma, we can read:
“We must consider that the presence of uttama-adhikaris , madhyama-uttama-adhikaris (those approaching the stage of bhava), and even madhyama-madhyama adhikaris are very rare in this world. It is very rare, therefore, to have a guru of this caliber. What should we do under these circumstances? We will have to take a guru. If a guru is not sabde pare ca nisnatam, if he has not realized the established truths delineated in the Vedas, Upanisads and other sastras, but he has very strong faith in his pure guru and is sincerely following him, then, even if he is a madhyama-adhikari, do not reject him. If he is always serving his own maha-bhagavata guru and is obedient both internally and externally to him, then do not reject him. If the guru is madhyama-adhikari and sincere, if he is very obedient and following the footsteps of his guru, then he will gradually become an uttama-adhikari. So we should not reject him.
At the same time, if he is not perfect and thus cannot remove all our doubts about Krishna consciousness, what should we do? We should offer pranama to him and ask his permission to have the association of a maha-bhagavata devotee. A disciple may ask, ‘May I go to a high class Vaisnava?’ If the guru says, ’No, you cannot go,’ then give him up. On the other hand, if he says, ‘Certainly you can go, and I will also come,’ then he is a real guru…”
Commenting on the famous Bhagavatam verse, tasmad gurum prapadyetam (SB 11.3.21),Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura wrote
"If the guru is not nisnatam, deeply versed in the sastras and is insufficiently skilled in explaining their inner meaning (tattva-vicara), he will be unable to cut and dissipate all the doubts of his disciples. The disciple will thus become dejected and suffer assuredly a loss of faith. The guru should have realization of the Divinity. Only by theoretical knowledge of the scriptures, without having practical realization, he cannot give proper advice and direction in accordance to the eligibility of the disciple. By the instruction of a guru possessing the quality of practical realization, the disciple can have actual spiritual progress. If the guru is not in practical understanding of the Lord, not capable of direct spiritual perception (aparoksa-anubhava), whatever mercy he bestows will not properly fructify.”
“Someone may ask, 'If a guru is not an uttama-adhikari, how can he help his disciples? He may speak and behave incorrectly.' The reply to such a doubt is that if a guru is in the final stage of madhyama-adhikari, if he is madhyama-uttama, if he is very sincere and continually serving his uttama-adhikari gurudeva, and if he has no worldly desires, he will very soon become an uttama-adhikari…” (Pinnacleof devotion)
“A guru may be madhyama-uttama, a madyama-adhikari in the final stage; he may not yet be siddha (a perfect, self-realized soul…In that case, if he is a sincere devotee and if a disciple follows him with deep faith, who will give the fruit of the disciple’s worship? A madhyama-adhikari cannot give it…The madhyama-adhikari guru will tell hari-katha and engage his disciples in such a way that they will advance in bhakti. What will be the result? If one has very deep faith in that guru, Krishna Himself will surely give the fruit, and that fruit will be transcendental. Krishna will give that disciple the fruit of the association and shelter of an uttama-adhikari guru. To a devotee initiated by a madhyama-adhikari guru, and who really desires to attain the highest goal, Krishna gives the association and mercy of an uttama guru who can bless the disciple with that goal…Do not have any doubt about this. Uttama-adhikari gurus are not easily available; they are very rare in this world. Moreover, even if they are available, most people will not be able to recognize them… If a madhyama-uttama guru who is under the guidance of an uttama-adhikari guru will tell you, or an uttama-adhikari playing the role of a devotee in the stage of madhyama-adhikari will tell you, then you will be able to know. We should be very, very careful about this. Do not have any doubt in that kind of guru. If one is madhyama-uttama, he can help so much by his direction. The advanced madhyama-adhikari will very soon come to the stage of rati (bhava). » (Pinnacle of devotion)
“A guru must be free from anarthas, then he is thereby able to free others from theirs. He must have his relationship with Krishna, and thereby he can give to others their relation: the general relation of being krsna-nitya-dasa to neophytes, and a specific relation to more advanced devotees. » ( Vraja-mandala parikrama lecture 1999)
How to choose a spiritual master?
What should an aspiring disciple do? By sastric knowledge one can have an idea of who is qualified, but a new devotee has little such knowledge, so he must wait and learn some guru-tattva, including siksa-guru-tattva. That will help dissipate misconceptions. One should ideally have already some good understanding of the qualifications of a bona fide guru before to accept one, not act out of blind faith or sentiment or anxiety to have a spiritual name or follow the flock of sheep logic. Newcomers have difficulty evaluating the level of advancement of the sannyasis, and they tend to go by social considerations. It is advisable to observe the sannyasis’ activities, how they are interacting with the other Vaisnavas. Consulting trusted senior Vaisnavas is also a good idea.
To be Indian or to give nice harikatha are not in themselves criteria to be a qualified guru. The new devotees have the tendency to idealize the sannyasis or the senior preachers. They also have the tendency to believe that if they speak of their limitations, it is only out of humility, and that they are therefore even more qualified.
Even if one cannot fully recognize who is who, Srila Prabhupada wrote, “In this verse Srila Rupa Goswami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanistha–adhikari, madhyama–adhikari and uttama–adhikari. “ (Nectar of Instruction, 5, Purport)
And, «Srila Jiva Goswami says that since one should accept an uttama-adhikari as guru, many additional symptoms have been given so that one will not make mistakes in choosing a guru.” (Commentary on SB.11.2.48)
Srila Prabhupada says that the guru is not the body of the guru, but the guru is the principle embodied in the spiritual master,
“Krishna and His representative are the same. The spiritual master is the principle not the body." (Letter 28.4.68)
One should wait until he is fully convinced that the guru is a pure representative of God. This waiting period is important to build and deepen one’s faith.
"Before accepting a guru one should be assured of the spiritual master's position. You should check whether he is guru or not. That is allowed. Guru and sisya should meet for one year. The sisya will hear and study whether he is actually fit for becoming guru. Before, study the guru, whether you can surrender. Don't accept a guru all of a sudden like a fanatic. Acceptance of guru must be selected after careful examination…So one should accept a guru whose guidance will make one's life perfect…The disciple must be sure that the guru can deliver all the transcendental necessities." (CC Madhya 24.330)
"Is he really a guru or not? Is he always chanting and remembering Krishna, or not? Does he have some realization of his relationship with Krishna, or not? He must know all sastras, so that he can remove all his disciples' doubts… Unfortunately, if a devotee has not tested the guru, he may accept a person who will fall down, as so many ISKCON leaders are falling down." (Walking with a saint)
“It is to be considered that a disciple can have the capacity to comprehend the amount of scriptural knowledge possessed by the guru by hearing from Him. But how can a disciple understand whether the guru has realization of Divinity or not? The Supreme Lord is the Transcendental Reality, His Absolute Counterpart, the guru, is also transcendental. Therefore, a neophyte votary cannot understand the guru’s realization of Divinity by his own endeavor.
There are two aspects of the Supreme Lord and His Absolute Counterpart, the guru, the morphological aspect and the ontological aspect. The conditioned souls can by their mind, intellect and sense-organs grasp the morphological, i.e. the external aspect of the thing, the thing as it appears, and not the thing as it is. The thing as it is can be realized only by the grace of the Transcendental Realities, through unconditional complete surrender. As for example, the self-luminous sun can only be known by its own light and not by the help of other lights. We cannot see the sun in the night with the help of other lights, but when the sun rises, by accepting the grace of the sun—its light— we can see the sun and all the things of this world in the proper perspective. The Supreme Lord and His Absolute Counterpart, the guru, are self-effulgent.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, in his commentary, has given to the bona fide neophyte aspirants a clue to recognize the guru by one external quality: a bona fide guru is never subjugated by the cardinal passions— anger, greed etc…” (Guru-tattva by Srila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Goswami)
"Before the student accepts a guru, he should examine him for one year. Without examination, the teacher-student relationship is only a disturbance.” ( Panca Samskara, Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
"Before accepting the diksa–mantra, one should live near the guru and serve him with body, mind and words. This is called 'guru–pasati'. By this, the guru and disciple can examine each other's nature and temperament. Then the guru–tattva melts with compassion, being satisfied by the non-duplicitous service of the disciple. At that time, the priceless fruit of diksa is attained by the disciple" (Gurudeva commentary on Madhurya-kadambini 2.6) Lord Balarama, who is akhanda–guru–tattva, the original guru principle, is in the guru, as guru-tattva. When that guru–tattva is satisfied by a devotee's sincere vaisnava-seva, it manifests from the heart of that Vaisnava in the form of diksa.
If one accepts a guru hastily without observation, and building one’s faith, one may leave him as quickly, or the relationship will remain on a shallow platform.
Srila Gurudeva says that one should ideally take a top-level guru but that it's rare; so another way to look at the problem is that one can analyze, without sentimentalism nor idealization, if a guru who inspires him is at least a well-situated madhyama-adhikari and, understanding that he is limited, have faith and hope to get a high-class siksa-guru later. But more than anything, one should sincerely cry out to Krishna to send him a bona fide, self-realized spiritual master.
That is the best option. In Science of Self Realization, Srila Prabhupada answered to a Mr O'Grady's question,
“The problem is to find this [bona fide] spiritual master?"
“That is not the problem. The problem is whether you are sincere. You have problems, but God is within your heart. If you are sincere, God sends you a spiritual master."
So, one should study guru-tattva, become very sincere and, moreover, especially cry to the Lord, fully dependent on Krishna's arrangement, asking Him to inspire him from within the heart to recognize a real guru. And one will feel in one's heart, Krishna's inner confirmation.
“How do we choose? We surrender ourselves at the lotus feet of the caitya-guru (Krishna in the heart) and pray to Him. Residing in our heart, He will hear our plea. He will always hear. If one prays, “O Krishna, I sincerely desire to become your servant. Please direct me to the lotus feet of a qualified guru,” He will surely arrange this. One who neglects such prayer and has confidence in his own ability to select and examine his guru will be disturbed in his spiritual life.”( Pinnacle of devotion p
Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja used to say “You have to cry for mercy, not think that you can recognize a guru by your own power. Those who have not cried, they have not got, those who have cried, they have got. Therefore I have opened a crying school in Bhubanesvara.”
How should a disciple see his guru?
The ideal guru is an uttama–adhikari coming down to the madhyama–uttama platform to preach. All what the scriptures say about the guru applies to that kind of guru. Should the disciple see his guru as a nitya-siddha? Well, in raga-marga, when ruci appears, it appears with a slight trace of rati. This rati is nitya-siddha bhava making its first appearance. Therefore, even if that madhyama guru is not a nitya-siddha, his internal emotion is tainted with nitya-siddha bhava. So it could be said that the disciple can see this type of guru as a nitya-siddha because he has some nitya-siddha bhava.
Sadhana-siddha gurus become nitya-sakhis and nitya-siddha gurus are already prana-sakhis. So the discussion , 'Is my guru a nitya-siddha or a sadhana-siddha?" is essentially "Is my guru a nitya-sakhi or a prana-sakhi?" This discussion is practically irrelevant for newly initiated devotees, being beyond their capacity to know until they’re very advanced. In the beginning one should see his diksa-guru as saksad hari, a direct manifestation of God. That is enough. Until the disciple himself becomes free from anarthas and attains ruci, he has no internal realization anyway.
Gurudeva said that the disciple should see his guru as an uttama–adhikari. He seems to especially refers to a highly elevated kind of guru, as we can see in the following morning walks exchanges:
Devotee: “So, is it proper to even consider the possibility that one’s guru was once a baddha–jiva who achieved perfection and then came back to deliver the fallen souls?"
Gurudeva: "A guru may be like that, but we should understand our guru–parampara in this way: saksad–dharitvena samasta–sastrair. All the scriptures proclaim Sri Gurudeva is saksad–hari, the direct potency of Sri Hari, and he is thus considered by saintly authorities to be His non–different representative. Because Sri Gurudeva is so dear to the Lord, being His confidential servitor (acintya–bhedabheda prakasa vigraha, the inconceivable different and non-different worshipable manifestation of the Lord), I offer prayers unto his lotus feet. We should consider that, “My Gurudeva is nitya–mukta."
Madhava Maharaja: "Eternally liberated. If you think that he was conditioned, you may minimize his glory and then commit offenses."
Gurudeva: "Some gurus were baddha–jivas who were liberated and became associates; they are also considered acaryas. And some are directly nitya–mukta krsna–parikaras, eternally perfect associates."
Madhava Maharaja: "It is best to consider guru as eternally liberated. Guru speaks of himself as an ordinary jiva just to inspire the conditioned souls that they too can follow the process of bhakti and achieve perfection: Otherwise, those conditioned souls might become hopeless. They might develop a tendency to delay their bhakti process."
Gurudeva: "Whatever it may be, we should think, 'My Guru Maharaja is an associate of Krsna, and he has come from Goloka Vrndavana.' We should not think of him as a baddha–jiva. (Houston Walk on May 23, 2009)
Devotee: Is there any difference between the siddha–jiva and Your Grace?
Gurudeva: As a disciple, you should think I am a perfected soul, but I am not. I don’t want to cheat you. I am not perfect. I am a baddha–jiva (conditioned soul).
Padmanabha Maharaja: This can be compared to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who never wanted to be called Bhagavan, but who actually is Bhagavan.
Gurudeva: No, no. I don’t want to cheat you. But it is true; a disciple should think, “My Gurudeva is perfect, and he is the associate of Krsna.” (MW 2009)
Devotee: I would like to ask how one can realize that Sri Guru is omniscient?
Gurudeva: Guru is sarvajna (all-knowing), because Krishna is sarvajna. Krishna is present within guru; therefore guru is sarvajna. He knows what will happen to whom.
Devotee: If someone knows that you are sarvajna but he still performs wrong acts and does not speak the truth, can that person get bhakti?
Gurudeva: Is Krishna sarvajna or not? He is. Did Krishna not know whether or not the Mahabharata war would take place? He did. Similarly, guru knows. Within Krishna is guru, and within guru is Krishna. The Bhagavatam says that guru is a manifestation of Krishna’s intrinsic nature (svarupa). The disciple must consider guru in this way, and follow Him. (Bengalore, Sept. 2009)
“A disciple should always think, 'My Gurudeva is an uttama-adhikari and an associate of Sri Krsna.' He should think like that.” (20/06/2009)
It seems that this vision doesn’t apply to all gurus, whatever their level, as Gurudeva said:
“It is not correct to honor everyone in the exact same way. Rather, we should consider whether one is kanistha, madhyama or uttama-adhikari, and tender honor accordingly.”
“Suppose a person took initiation from an unqualified guru who was not on the stage of a maha–bhagavata. That guru was not realized in the established truths…Do the verses that glorify the qualifications of guru apply to that
guru or not? Should the disciple obey that guru with the attitude of surrender ordered by all the sastras ? Should
he follow that guru totally or not?”(Gurudevatatma)
Similarly, nowhere in Prabhupada's teachings do we find even a remote encouragement to take full shelter from someone who is still battling with anarthas. It is not that one has all the exalted qualities of a guru extolled in sastras because one has taken the position of guru, but the other way around.
Also, if a devotee has knowingly settled for a madhyama–adhikari because he couldn’t find an uttama–adhikari, his vision will obviously be different, wouldn’t it?
However a disciple should see his guru as saksad hari, the direct potency of Krishna. Without that faith, one should
not take initiation. And without that faith, the disciple won’t progress. Even if the guru is not very highly qualified, if he is a sincere madhyama-adhikari and if the disciple is sincere, Gurudeva said that Krishna will reciprocate that faith, take the service, and make arrangements to help that sincere disciple by guiding him to a higher guru.
Anyway, we can consider that the level of sukrti of someone determines the kind of guru one will approach as well as the vision one will have of one’s guru.
This brings us to another point:
How to reconcile different visions of the guru?
Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja has discussed this in the 8th chapter of Sri Guru and his grace. We are now, just like in ISKCON after Srila Prabhupada left, in the beginning of a socio-spiritual dynamic that is going to be increasingly common in the coming years. That dynamic is that devotees will have varying degrees of faith in those who are acting as gurus. Those who are disciples (siksa or diksa) will have a specific faith that requires acknowledgement and support from those they associate with. Bhakti is based on faith, and devotees have to be careful not to damage that tender faith of new disciples in their guru. Their Godbrothers and other devotees can dealwith the gurus in private in a certain way, but they should not show lack of respect to them in front of their disciples, nor criticize them, as those will naturally be uncomfortable in any environment or association that does not support their faith. We all have this need. It is the same dynamic that keeps us away from ISKCON, even though we may appreciate many of the aspects of that society. It is the same dynamic that is partly the cause of the Gaudiya Math having different branches.
It goes without saying that if the new gurus want the support of the sannyasis and senior devotees, and recognition of their position in front of their disciples, they must treat them respectfully and not in a condescending way in front of the same disciples, nor criticize them in their absence. They have to teach Vaisnava etiquette to their followers, which include respecting the guru’s godbrothers as the guru, as well as his cousins, what to speak of his uncles. Failure to do so could create unnecessary frictions and offenses.
An institution like the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti with three pure devotees acting conjointly and in harmony succeeded because of the demanding insistence by Srila Vamana Maharaja, the initiating guru, that all his disciples accept Srila Gurudeva, and Srila Trivikrama Maharaja as they would him. They were fully appreciative of one another and united in mood and service to their guru, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja. They required that all the devotees in their sanga follow their example.
Even the most optimistic person would have to admit that we do not have yet that kind of full unity among the senior devotees in our very broad based society. We have to develop the communication channels for dealing with the varied visions and moods between guru and disciple, guru and godbrothers, and disciples and godbrothers of guru.
Even if the gurus and godbrothers get along pretty well, the disciples may wish that the godbrothers have the same mood towards their guru as they do. And if they see that they don’t, they may perceive this as lack of respect or even offense to their guru. And perception is the key word here. If a senior godbrother of their guru does not exhibit the same kind of faith that they do, they may feel uncomfortable. Therefore there is a great need to educate the disciples that there are two visions, the absolute vision of the disciple towards his guru, and the relative vision of those who are not disciples of that guru. And the disciples have to be taught that this difference is completely normal and that they cannot expect, what to speak of demand, that those who are not disciples of their guru see him as they see him.
It is also possible that devotees of various new gurus will feel comfortable with each other. But for disciples of Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada who have not developed a similar mood of attachment, it may be a cause of uneasiness. We have seen this before, where godbrothers were even gradually pushed away, or felt disenfranchised, and took their distance from an institution quickly filling up with the neophyte disciples of the new gurus. So, some may have an initial reaction like, “Do we have to put up with this again? Doesn’t it smell like déja vu? Do we have to shut up again because some not so qualified devotees act as gurus and we are supposed to give them support, not make waves, and ‘play the game’ again?’ Some of us may not feel like condoning some not so qualified gurus because we saw in the past what happened in ISKCON. But we can consider that Gurudeva said he had faith. And because Krishna sees the disciples’ sincerity, he will help them, so is there really a problem?
These are delicate times and we have to take the high road in our dealings with the younger devotees. We are going to have to be patient and tolerant, always trying to figure out a way to keep our society in one piece more or less. If we can do that, we will have accomplished something rarely seen since the time of Mahaprabhu and His associates. If we want to have a successful worldwide society, then a broad minded, compassionate and accommodating approach will be required.
The guru naturally feels vatsalya towards his disciples and the need to shelter and support their faith. This can easily cause the guru to encourage his disciples to avoid the association of his godbrothers if they don’t support their faith. He may also be inclined to dis-associate himself from those godbrothers as well.
Srila Prabhupada wanted all his disciples to qualify themselves first and then become 'regular" gurus. He said, "Those who initiate should be qualified otherwise there's no meaning to 'bona fide' guru". He warned:
"You must become guru but you must be qualified first of all. Then you can become. No rubber-stamp, then you'll not be effective. (Conv.4.22.77)
Srila Gurudeva has expressed the same things.
Gurudeva expressed in Italy in 2010 his conviction that in the absence of an uttama-adhikari or a top level madhyama-adhikari, at least a madhyama-madhyama adhikari could be accepted as diksa-guru.
This being said, to say that a madhyama-madhyama adhikari can initiate is vague and not sufficient in itself. What are his symptoms and characteristics?
THE THREE ADHIKARAS OF BHAKTI
To help determining who is in the madhyama-madhyama stage, and what exactly that means, to begin with, let us examine what are the symptoms and characteristics of a madhyama adhikari? One may define him both as what he is not (tatastha-laksana, secondary symptoms) and what he is (svarupa-laksana, main symptoms). He is not an uttama-adhikari, neither a kanistha-adhikari. Let us see first what are the latter's.
The madhyama-adhikara begins at the level of nistha:
"When, by the influence of sadhu-sanga, one becomes free from anarthas and his sraddha becomes dense and transforms into nistha, one develops the madhyama-adhikara or the intermediate qualification for suddha-bhakti." (Bhaktivinoda Thakura; Bhakti-tattva-viveka 4)
Before nistha one is a kanistha-adhikari, whose general symptoms are given in sastra: yahara komala sraddha, se kanistha-jana:"one whose faith is soft and pliable is called a neophyte." (CC Mad 22, 69)
yo bhavet komala-sraddhah sa kanistho nigadyate (BRS 1.2.19)
«Kanistha devotees have very little expertise in understanding the scriptures and their sraddha is very delicate and immature. Their sraddha can be changed by others' logic and arguments. » (Bhakti-tattva-viveka 4)
arcayam eva haraye pujam yah sraddhayehate na tad bhaktesu canyesu sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah
”One who worships the Deity form of Sri Hari according to wordly faith, but doesn't know how to respect the devotees, and doesn't show mercy to the living entities in whose heart Sri Hari is situated, is a neophyte devotee.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.47)
The qualities of kanistha adhikari are disqualifiers for the madhyama stage. One of them is is that a kanistha-adhikari devotee does not know how to properly behave with others, Vaisnavas or persons in general. If a devotee has bad relations with their god-brothers or is always criticizing others or always in dispute with others, political, etc. these are symptoms of a kanistha adhikari, even though they may be quite learned in sastra or situated in a high social position (such as sannyasa). Also if a person lies, cheats, or is hypocritical, then they are a pretender, and at best a Vaisnava-abhasa (kanistha).
"Kanisthas are those who have embarked upon the path of bhakti, but are not yet true bhaktas…Sraddha is the bija, or seed of bhakti. One’s bhakti is only effective when he worships Bhagavan with sraddha, and it is still not suddha-bhakti unless he worships the bhaktas as well. Bhakti does not develop thoroughly as long as he fails to do so…Such materialistic devotees are not suddha-bhaktas"
Such people worship the Deity with laukika sraddha (worldly faith)…knowing that Bhagavan possesses personal form and attributes…This is where their Vaisnavism is found. On the strength of this one quality, and by the mercy of sadhus, they will certainly gradually be elevated…
Such a person does not have the characteristics of uttama-bhakti (anyabhilasita-sunyam)…
The kanistha Vaisnava is not acquainted with the intrinsic nature of suddha-bhakti, of which hearing, chanting, and so on are angas (limbs). Consequently, his hearing and chanting do not assume their primary identity, but are manifest in a gauna (secondary) form. Furthermore, whatever arises from the three gunas is known as gauna. When these activities become nirguna, free from the influence of the material modes, they are angas of suddha-bhakti, and one has attained the madhyama stage.” (Jaiva-dharma 8)
In Madhurya-kadambini. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has described in great detail the various steps of the development of bhakti from sraddha to prema. As the kanistha-adhikara is a very wide stage, extending from bhajana-kriya to the beginning of nistha, and as there are therefore kanistha-adhikaris of very different levels, and as what applies to a beginner kanistha does not apply to a seasoned kanistha, in the second and third chapters, he has specifically described the stage of kanistha-adhikara called anisthita-bhajana kriya (unsteady practice of bhakti) and anartha-nivrtti, summarized in the Bhagavatam verse:
srnvatam sva-katha krsnah/ punyah sravana kirtanah hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani/vidhunoti suhrt satam
“Sri Krishna, who is affectionate to His devotees and situated in their hearts,cleanses all anarthas from the hearts of those who have developed the urge to hear His messages, which are themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.17).
“Ahankara has two functions: ahanta, consciousness of I, and mamata, consciousness of mine. Bondage results from directing these two towards body, house, relatives and such. Identifying oneself as a servant of the Lord and making the Lord and His associates the object of one's affection is called prema-bhakti. As one progresses through the stages of bhakti, the material aspect of I and mine gradually reduces and the spiritual aspect increases. At the stage of anisthita-bhajana-kriya, the spiritualization is partial, and the material aspect is full… Meditation on the Lord is momentary and mixed with mundane topics. » (MK 8)
Six stages mark the progression of this unsteady devotional service. The last is called taranga-rangini:
”It is well-known that the very nature of bhakti is to be attractive, thus many people become attracted by the devotee, the abode of bhakti. And, as the old adage goes, 'By the public's attraction one becomes wealthy.' Bhakti produces much opportunity for material gain, worship and position (labha, puja, pratistha). These are weeds around the creeper of bhakti. Even when one is overwhelmed by the desire for spiritual advancement and is engaged in spiritual practices, he is drifted away by the powerful forces of the tide of worldly gain, name and fame. Seeking one's pleasure (ranga) amidst these facilities, which are but small waves (taranga) in the ocean of bhakti, is called taranga-rangini, delighting in material facilities.”
“At this stage, he develops some taste, gives nice hari-katha, sings very sweetly; he's given all kinds of offerings and respect, women are attracted and fall at his feet…Many, many devotees fall from this stage due to not giving these things to Hari, guru, Vaisnavas, not understanding it is prasada and enjoying them. Even sannyasis become vantasis by becoming grhastas again.” (MK class 2008
"At this stage, money comes, computers, disciples come» (Nectar sprinkle on Australia)
As the process of anartha-nivrtti (cleansing of inauspicious elements in the heart) continues, one approaches the stage of nistha.
"A kanistha is considered to have become a madhyama Vaisnava and a genuine bhakta when bhakti with the symptoms of the anyabhilasita sunyam verse manifests in his heart. Prior to this stage, he is a prakrta-bhakta, which means that he is only a semblance of a bhakta" (bhakta-abhasa)…
The word krnanusilana refers to prema, love for Krsna, and it is qualified by the word anukulyena. This refers to those things that are favorable to krsna-prema, namely, friendship with the bhaktas, mercy towards the ignorant,and neglect of those who are inimical. These three items are also symptoms of a madhyama Vaisnava. » (Jaiva-dharma 8)
It is strongly recommended that one shouldn't initiate disciples as a kanistha-adhikari. Although they are engaged in devotional practices, kanistha gurus are still affected by material desires and they maintain separate interests. Their preaching doesn’t have much power because they’re spiritually weak. Their faith is pliable and weak. They don’t know how to associate properly with other Vaisnavas, and they commit aparadhas. They have little discrimination about with whom to associate or not. They still have a lot of anarthas and therefore cannot deliver their disciples from material entanglement. Advancement under their insufficient guidance is limited. They cannot give suddha-bhakti. It is advised not to accept them. They risk to fall down. They are not qualified gurus but ‘kangurus’.
The general symptoms of the madhyama-adhikari
sastra-yukti nahi jane drdha, sraddhavan/ madhyama-adhikari sei maha-bhagyavan
« One who is not very expert in argument and logic based on the Scriptures but who has firm faith is considered an intermediate devotee; he must also be considered most fortunate. » (CC Mad 22.67)
« One who is not so expert in understanding the scriptures and yet is faithful is a madhyama-adhikari; in other words, although when presented with difficult arguments he is unable to answer them, within his mind he remains firmly faithful to his own principle. (BRS 1.2.19)
« Who can be guru? One who is fighting on the first level cannot be, nor at the beginning of the madhyama-adhikara. At least one should be madhyama-madhyama; better madhyama-uttama, because then one can distinguish really. » (Vraja-mandala parikrama lecture 10/99)
Srila Gurudeva has discussed the qualifications of the madhyama-adhikari in Pinnacle of devotion:
« A vartma-pradarsaka guru is one who says, “Come with me to a realized Vaisnava.” The vartma-pradarsaka guru shows the path. He may be kanistha, that is alright. But the initiating guru should not be less than a madhyama-adhikari. What are the symptoms of madhyama-adhikari? You need to know these symptoms before accepting a diksa or siksa-guru. If you do not see these symptoms, you should not accept a person as guru. Otherwise, there will be so many difficulties in your devotional life. If that guru falls down, your life will be ruined and you will cry bitterly.
The first symptom is:
tasmad gurum prapadyeta/ jijnasuh sreya uttamam sabde pare ca nisnatam/ brahmany upasamasrayam
'Any person who is seriously desirous of achieving real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of a spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation and arguments and thus be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken complete shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters.'[Bhag. 11.3.21]
In order to achieve real bhakti to Sri Krishna, have real happiness, and realize who you are and how you can progress in this life, go to a self-realized soul and hear his realizations from him. He will surely help you.
There are three symptoms of a bona fide guru. Though all symptoms should be there in full, two are prominent. The first is sabde pare ca nisnatam. The guru has complete knowledge of the scriptures. What is the meaning of sabde? He is perfect in his knowledge of Veda, Upanisads, Srimad-Bhagavatam, etc. However,knowledge of sastra and the ability to argue based on that knowledge is not enough to qualify him as a guru. If one has no realization of Krishna, if he is
not absorbed in bhajana, if his bhakti is not very developed, then he is not a guru.
The second symptom is upasamasrayam; he is detached from material desires. He is always so happy serving Sri Krishna. If he is unhappy and feels that his life has so many problems, then he is not qualified to be guru.
These first and second symptoms are external.
The svarupa, or internal symptom, of the bona fide guru, the third symptom, is pare ca nisnatam brahmany, he is realized in krsna-bhakti. Without his having this realization, because he still has material desires, he is bound to fall. Who is Parabrahman? Krishna Himself. He is param-brahman, purna-brahman, sanatana-brahman.
A guru should have some internal realization of this, otherwise he may fall down. If he only knows sastric arguments, but he is not absorbed in bhajana, it is not sufficient to keep him from falling down.
One may also know all the arguments to support the sastric viewpoint, and sometimes be outwardly performing some kind of devotional practice. Yet, if he is not detached from material desires and objects, he will fall down. If the guru falls, it causes a big problem for the disciple, disturbing his whole life. Therefore we should be very cautious to
approach devotees who will not fall.
Besides these three symptoms, a madhyama-adhikari who is qualified to be guru will have four additional qualities:
isvare tad-adhinesu balisesu dvisatsu ca prema-maitri-krpopeksa yah karoti sa madhyamah
'A madhyama-adhikari is one who has love for Krishna, is friendly towards His bhaktas, shows mercy towards those who are innocent and ignorant in regard to bhakti, and neglects those who are envious of the Lord and His bhaktas.'
(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.46)
The uttama-adhikari is of course superior and offers a superior result in bhakti but such a guru is rare in this world. In the absence of such an uttama-guru, the madhyama-adhikari can be accepted as a siksa or diksa-guru. But one should
see whether or not he has the following four qualities:
1) prema—He has love and affection for Krishna.
2) maitri—He shows friendship towards and offers service to the Vaisnavas. He has three kinds of relations with three kinds of Vaisnavas: he honors and obeys with a mood of friendship one who is more advanced than himself in bhakti. He relates to equals as friends, and he is also friendly to those whose bhakti is less developed. So he has maitri (friendship) with honor for superiors, maitri with mitra (friends on an equal level), and maitri with kripa (compassion) for subordinates.
3) kripa—He shows mercy to those persons who honor and have faith in Vaisnavas. Such a person’s faith may even be worldly—in other words, they may have some material sentiments in relation to the guru and the Deity. It may be that they have more affection for the Deities than for the devotees; and therefore they may not like to meet with devotees and hear their hari-katha. Such persons may understand that they should obey the scriptures, but they cannot act in the four ways that a madhyama-adhikari can act. Such persons may be ignorant, but they want to learn how to advance in devotional service. »
«Madhyamas distribute mercy in the form of bhakti. » (MK class 2008)
Again, the kind of madhyama-adhikari Srila Gurudeva is speaking about here is at least a madhyama-madhyama.
(The third characteristic of the madhyama Vaisnava is that he bestows mercy on the ignorant. The word balisa refers to people who are ignorant of spiritual truth, bewildered, or foolish. It means materialistic people who have not received any genuine guidance in spiritual matters, but have not been contaminated by unauthorized doctrines such as Mayavada. They are not envious of bhaktas and bhakti, but their mundane egoism and attachment prevents them from developing faith in Isvara. Learned scholars also belong in this category if they have not attained the highest fruit of study, which is to develop faith in Isvara. The kanistha-adhikari prakrta-bhakta is standing at the doorway to the temple of bhakti, but because of ignorance in the principles of sambandha-jnana, he has not yet attained suddha-bhakti. Such a person is also regarded as balisa until he comes to the platform of suddha-bhakti. When he becomes acquainted with the truth of sambandha-jnana, and awakens taste for suddha-hari-nama in the association of pure bhaktas, his ignorance will be dissipated, and he will attain the status of a madhyama Vaisnava.
It is essential that a madhyama Vaisnava should bestow his mercy upon all the above-mentioned ignorant people. He should treat them as guests and should satisfy their needs as far as he is able, but that is not enough in itself. He
should also act in such a way as to awaken their faith in ananya-bhakti and their taste for suddha-nama. That is the real meaning of mercy.
The ignorant may be victimized by bad association and may fall down at any time because they lack expertise in the
sastras. The madhyama Vaisnava should always protect such susceptible people from bad association. He should mercifully give them his association and gradually instruct them in spiritual matters and in the glories of suddha-nama.
A diseased person must be under the care of a physician because he cannot cure himself. Just as one should pardon the anger of a diseased person, so one should also excuse the improper behavior of the ignorant. This attitude is
known as mercy.
The ignorant have many misconceptions, such as faith in karma-kanda, occasional inclination towards jnana, worshiping the Deity with ulterior motives, faith in yoga, indifference towards the association of pure Vaisnavas, attachment to varnasrama, and many other things. However, the kanistha-adhikari can quickly become a madhyama-adhikari when these misconceptions are dispelled by good association, mercy, and good instructions…
The kanistha-bhakta becomes a suddha-bhakta at the madhyama level when his contamination of karma and jnana is dissipated, and he desires nothing other than exclusive bhakti. At that point, he understands that there is a difference between service to guests and service to bhaktas, and thus he awakens taste for serving the bhaktas, which is favorable to bhakti… When his sambandha-jnana becomes complete, he attains the stage of a madhyama Vaisnava. » Jaiva-dharma 8)
4) upeksa—He neglects offenders, persons who are against the Vaisnavas or who do not honor them. He is aware that relating or associating with such persons destroys all traces of bhakti. »
In Jaiva-dharma, chapter 8, a devotee inquiring about his adhikara describes his condition: «Now my mind is no longer disturbed by mischievous thoughts. I have developed taste for chanting a hundred thousand names of hari-nama every day. I understand that there is no difference between Sri Hari and Sri-nama, and that both are fully spiritual. I observe the Ekadasi fast according to sastra and offer water to Tulasi. When the Vaisnavas perform kirtana, I also join with rapt attention. I drink the water that washes the feet of pure Vaisnavas. I study the bhakti-sastras every day. I no longer desire to eat palatable food or dress nicely. I have no taste to hear or participate in mundane talks. When I see the Vaisnavas’ ecstatic moods, a desire comes into my mind to roll on the ground at their feet, and sometimes I do so, but it is out a desire for prestige… Even now I have some desire for honor. I think that I may attract others and win tremendous respect if I am seen weeping profusely and displaying ecstatic emotions. »
He is answered that he has surpassed the kanistha stage and has entered the madhyama stage and that he must endeavor to give up his desire for pratistha, otherwise there is a serious danger that his bhakti will be eroded and he will have to descend to the kanistha platform again…
Again in Jaiva-dharma:
« It is generally observed that madhyama-bhaktas perform harinama, kirtana, and other such activities in the association of bhaktas,free from any offense…The secondary symptom of the madhyama-bhakta is the way in which he lives his life. His life is completely surrendered to the will of Krishna, and is favorable to bhakti.
Some tendency to commit sins or offenses may remain in the beginning stage, but gradually these will disappear. Whatever sins or offenses are still present at the beginning of the madhyama stage are like chick-peas that are just about to be ground to a pulp; they are still seen as small lumps, but within a few moments they will be crushed and will cease to exist. Yukta-vairagya (appropriate renunciation) is the life and soul of the madhyama-bhakta.
In the initial stages, a faint trace of karma, jnana or extraneous desires may remain, but finally they are uprooted. Whatever vestiges of karma and jnana remain in the beginning of the madhyama stage occasionally make themselves visible, yet these gradually fade into oblivion. These devotees have no desire to live or die, or to attain liberation. They desire to live only to attain consummation of their bhajana. They have no independent desires. All their desires are
solely dependent on Krishna’s will, because they are firmly convinced that everything is happening by His will and that whatever happens is only because of His desire. They have, therefore, no need to aspire for anything independently.»
Again, just like the kanistha-adhikara is wide, so is the madhyama-adhikara, as it extends from nistha to the end of asakti. Its different stages have been described in chapters four, five and six of the Madhurya-kadambini, beginning
Srila Gurudeva said that we describe the different adhikaras for the sake of clarity as if they were three definite
stages of consciousness but that actually no two devotees are exactly on the same level and everyone is in his own category, so to speak.
« Nistha means nish sthana, fixed in one place, steady, stable. One attains stability in bhajan (MK class 2008)
« Nistha means to have the quality of steadiness, or naiscalyam (non-movement). Though a devotee tries for this steadiness every day, as long as five persistent obstacles are still present, he will not be able to attain it. These are laya, viksepa, apratipatti, kasaya and rasasvada.
Laya means the tendency to feel drowsiness and to sleep during kirtana, sravana and smarana (japa) in order of increasing tendency. It is due to leftover tama-guna.
Viksepa means to maintain mundane association, or to be distracted towards mundane topics while doing devotional activities, like being absorbed in other thoughts or gossiping during japa.
Apratipatti, or indifference, feeling uninspired, refers to the occasional inability to do kirtana or other service in spite of the absence of sleepiness or distraction. It's also due to tama-guna.
Kasaya refers to the instinctive or innate tendency towards such qualities as anger, avarice, greed and pride, due to past samskaras.
Rasasvada means to think of sense enjoyment while doing one's bhajana, or the inability to absorb the mind in kirtana and other services if one gets the opportunity for material sense pleasure, or if one remembers past sense enjoyment.
Nisthita-bhakti, or the nistha stage, appears in the absence of these faults. »
One can examine if the behavior of a devotee one is inspired by and considers to accept as guru is free from these 5 anarthas or not.
« The Srimad Bhagavatam describes this stage:
nasta-prayesv abhadresu/nityam bhagavata-sevaya bhagavaty uttama-sloke/bhakti bhavati naisthiki
'By regular hearing of the Bhagavatam and rendering service to pure devotees, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.' (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.18)
The words nasta-prayesv-abhadresu (inauspiciousness is almost destroyed) mean that a small portion of anarthas still remains undestroyed.
The next verse describes the effect of nistha on the devotee,
tada rajas tamo-bhavah/ kama-lobhadayas ca ye ceta etair anaviddham/sthital sattve prasidati
'As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of the modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust and greed, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness and he becomes completely happy.'(19)
Srila Prabhupada writes,
« With nistha comes freedom from rajas and tamas and sattva-guna comes. From this platform of purity or brahma-bhuta, we can realize
ourselves and God. »
« At the stage of nistha, the spiritualization of I and mine becomes more pervasive while the materialistic influence is almost full…During meditation there is only a trace (abhasa) of other topics.» (MK 8)
« From nistha-bhakti, one doesn't fall. One is fixed, enthusiastic. In anisthita-bhakti, one has doubt about what one should do or not; the mind is unsteady. » (MK class 2008)
At nistha comes the first trace of love of God : nistha haile upajaya premera taranga.(CC Madhya 22.134)
Nistha is firmness in the striving for the unfolding of bhakti.
« Rupa Goswami says that nistha means nairantaja, 'continuous connection'. When the covers are removed, then we find that inner continuity of flow with Krishna consciousness within us, and naisthiki-bhakti appears. That is completely
clear, cleansed. Then, on the basis of nistha, that continuous flow, further progress can be made on the positive side. In this way, the inner aspect of devotion will gradually come out…When the stage of nistha comes, when all
undesirabilities are almost finished, then we can have a real peep into the thing. » (Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja)
« Nistha is of two types: concerning bhakti directly, in its three basic divisions, bodily services, vocal activities (japa, kirtan) and mental activities (remembering, meditation), and concerning elements favorable to bhakti, which refer to qualities such as humility,tolerance, giving respect to others, not expecting respect, gratitude, friendliness, mercifulness, self-control and mental tranquility.
At times, however, one may see steadiness in such qualities in a self-controlled devotee
who has no steadiness in bhakti, while elsewhere one may not perceive steadiness in these qualities in an arrogant devotee who has attained steadiness in bhakti. In spite of this, by the presence or the absence of steadiness in bhakti itself rather than in these qualities, learned wise devotees understand the actual presence or absence of nistha. Those who are inexperienced are unable to perceive the truth. Although traces of the qualities born of rajas and tamas may be present they don't act as an obstacle to bhakti and no longer affect the devotee. »
« From the very time of her appearance in a devotee's heart sraddha has to be very carefully kept in a healthy condition…and must be protected from all varieties of inauspiciousness. Otherwise…she will not eventually develop into bhakti but will merely assume the form of anarthas. The danger of disease remains up until the tender Sraddha-devi becomes free from the influence of anarthas and transforms into nistha from being nurtured by the affectionate
mother of the association of genuine devotees and from taking the medicine of bhajana. Once sraddha has reached the stage of nistha, no anartha can easily harm her. » (Bhakti-tattva-viveka 1)
« At nistha, a devotee is unable to detect how and when his mind withdraws from topics of the Lord and fixes itself on material affairs. » (MK 6)
It should be noted that nistha covers also a wide spectrum, from barely graduating from the kanistha-adhikara to the brahma-bhuta stage in approaching ruci.
Srila Gurudeva did not recommend that one on the beginning of the nistha stage initiate disciples. As I mentioned earlier, when he speaks in Pinnacle of devotion of accepting « a madhyama-adhikari guru » without saying exactly what he means, in case one cannot approach a more qualified guru of the madhyama-madhyama level, it makes sense and seems safe to conclude that he is referring to being on the mature stage of nistha and having a strong footing in ruci as the very minimum level to initiate disciples, since he has said that a neophyte madhyama shouldn't.
If a devotee has not reached ruci, although he is steady, a taste may appear for accumulating disciples. If a madhyama guru accepts too many disciples and too quickly, he may stagnate in his progress or fall down. He won’t be able to digest their conditioned natures, and may become proud of having many followers. We have seen this too many times…
Nistha is the stage of madhyama-kanistha. Then comes the stage of ruci. Consciousness is not a static but moving, dynamic thing, so there's fluctuation; the various stages kind of overlap. This is a continuum of consciousness, not a black and white thing, so it can be said that madhyama-madhyama goes approximately from being solidly established on the ruci stage « up to asakti. » as Gurudeva answered in Italy morning walk 2010. This is ideally the minimum level to initiate disciples that he indicated.
«By the further pursuance of the activities of sadhana-bhakti such as sravana and by the influence of associating with devotees who are more advanced than oneself, one's nistha intensifies and assumes the form of ruci. »(Bhakti-tattva-viveka 4)
«Ruci is strong, condensed nistha. At ruci there's no more fear, nor more material desires. The brahmacari doesn't get married, nor the sannyasi falls…The two first qualities of bhakti_ klesaghni (freedom from suffering) and subhada (all auspiciousness)_ are very visible. The seeds of material desires are destroyed. At ruci, one chants constantly even without controlling it sometimes. Some realizations of the Lord's form, qualities and lilas come. Some of the three
tastes of bhava come: great desire, strong thirst to obtain, serve favorably and please Him. One's behavior becomes
like the Goswamis, one is constantly engaged in hearing and chanting. (MK class 2008)
« At ruci there is a touch of the sobha or brilliance of bhava.» (MK class 2008)
« To reach the Beautiful, who is playing and dancing in His own sweetness and affection, we have to follow that course of ´do or die´ at every moment… If you can adopt this process, then, quickly, anartha-nivrtti. Then nistha, you´ll find a continuous connection with this sort of principle in your life. It will always act continuously in you, and the other fleeting, mean desires will not be able to approach you or touch you. Then you´ll find ruci, a real taste for that most charming substance. Before that continuous connection with Him, whatever taste we think we possess is all treachery. This is not the real taste. We want 24 hours a day continuous connection with that charming substance. Real taste will come after that continuous 24h connection in divine thought of him. We can rely on that taste. The taste we may find in other positions is not reliable. The taste that comes after 24 h connection, eliminating all other charms of this world, is reliable. That ruci, taste, will guide us…Up to this ruci stage, one must follow the sadhana recommended by sadhu and sastra, and one will progress with that help. » (Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja)
« Before ruci, there is viksepa, distraction; and one cannot understand how to follow the Brajavasis' way of serving." (Srila Jiva Goswami)
Ruci is the stage where pure bhakti begins. If one is fortunate and has the appropriate previous samskaras, he may enter the sacred path of raganuga-bhakti.
« When ruci appears, the spiritualization of I and mine is nearly complete, while the materialistic idea of I and mine is still pervasive…In meditation there is no distraction and the meditation is long lasting. » (MK 8)
« When the devotee takes into his heart the golden medallion of bhakti, shining brightly by the fire of steady practice and propelled by its own energy, then ruci appears. When a person develops a taste for the activities of bhakti vastly
greater than attraction for anything else, that is called ruci. Unlike previous stages, at ruci constant performance of devotional activities like hearing and chanting doesn't cause even the least fatigue. Ruci quickly produces an intense
addiction to the activities of bhakti. One is like an addict who becomes restless in the absence of the object of his addiction and can't live without it.
Ruci is of two types; the first one depends on excellence of elements (for instance, a devotee may only experience pleasure from kirtana if it's pleasing to the ear and artistically sung. He may only relish hari-katha if it's delivered
skillfully with poetic ornaments and qualities. He may only enjoy Deity worship if the place, implements, materials and so on are according to his fancy.) The cause is a taint of impurity in the heart of the devotee, dosabhasa. The second
type of ruci doesn't depend on such excellence of elements.
…Then somewhere some time the devotee becomes like a bee tasting the nectar of the fruit of the desire tree, the Srimad Bhagavatam. He remains constantly with the devotees, sitting with them conversing about the nectarean pastimes of the Lord, relishing and glorifying them again and again, to the exclusion of all other topics. He enters the sacred dhama and becomes fixed in the pure, unalloyed service of the Lord (seva-nistha). Ignorant people think he is going crazy.
To begin the new dance step of the devotee's joyful way of meditating on and serving the Lord, ruci, the dance instructress, takes him by the two hands to personally teach him. Thus he begins to experience extraordinary, unimaginable bliss. »
« An advanced devotee, madhyama-madhyama at least, does bhajana with sambandha-jnana. » (MK class 2008)
A Vaisnava with ruci will usually be very concerned with deepening his own realization to the stage of asakti before accepting the responsibility of disciples, which may hinder his progress and become a distraction.
It is said that a madhyama-adhikari has prema. In Jaiva dharma,
« The first characteristic of a madhyama Vaisnava is that he has prema for Sri Krishna. The word prema here refers to suddha-bhakti (anyabhilasita sunyam) »
« Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti writes in his Srimad-Bhagavatam commentary that a madhyama-adhikari cannot have real prema. But by thinking of how the gopis loved Krishna, he may receive a shadow of their prema. Thus he achieves the level of asakti, attachment for Krishna. » (Note in Pinnacle of devotion)
Then comes asakti, which is at its beginning partly the madhyama-madhyama stage and at its mature stage partly the stage of uttama-madhyama adhikara. Srila Gurudeva indicated many times this stage as the preferable stage to begin taking the role of diksa-guru.
« Next, when the taste for doing bhajana reaches extreme depth and full-grown maturity, and Krishna becomes the sole object of life and the very object of one's devotional service, one attains asakti, or glue-like attachment. Ruci is the immature stage of attachment and asakti is its mature stage. »
« When ruci becomes mature, it becomes asakti. At ruci the taste is more for bhajan, at asakti, it's more for Krishna, the bhajaniya. » (MK class 2008)
« Asakti polishes the mirror of the heart to such a state of transparency that the reflection of the Lord suddenly seems to be almost visible there, as if he had appeared in person before the devotee…
Prior to asakti, on realizing that his mind has been overpowered by material objects, the devotee by his deliberate effort almost withdraws his mind from them and tries to fix it on the Lord. With the appearance of asakti, however, absorption of the mind in the Lord is automatic, without effort. One doesn't know how and when his mind withdraws from material topics, even in the middle of gossip, and spontaneously absorbs itself in topics of the Lord. One below that level can never experience this. Only a devotee on this level can know what is asakti…
He will engage in drinking nectar in intimate talks or in listening to hari-katha…At times, he'll remain in his house like a wealthy but miserly merchant greedy for treasure, absorbed all day in thoughts, 'where shall I go? What should I do?
How will I get my hands on my desired object?' Sometimes he'll act like a mute, sometimes he'll feign normality and hide his inner feelings…Oblivious to honor and dishonor, having fallen into the current of the great river of
attachment to the Lord, he'll simply continue in the same way. He begins to relish the supreme sweetness of the incomparable beauties of Krishna. Worldly talks and affairs become boring and unbearable. »
« At the stage of asakti, the spiritual aspect of I and mine is complete, and the material aspect becomes partial…Meditation becomes very deep.» (MK 8)
This is the stage where the uttama-adhikari 'comes down' or rather adjusts his vision and operates for the sake of preaching. When the uttama-adhikari, who has either come down from the spiritual world or achieved perfection from the sadhana platform, is in ardha-bahya-dasa, semi-external consciousness, he 'becomes' a madhyama-uttama. This is the ideal level a guru should be on.
« When suddha-bhakti appears in the heart even in the stage of sadhana, a little of the splendour of the limbs of bhajana begins to blossom. At that time, realisation of the jiva's eternal identity and realisation of the true intrinsic
nature of bhagavat-tattva is kindled by the medium of that splendour. Subsequently, a powerful agitation in the form of deep attachment for bhakti develops within the heart of the devotee. Thus, the appearance of this stage of
bhajana causes suddha-bhakti-sadhana to quickly unfold into the stage of rati or bhava. » (Bhakti-tattva-viveka 3)
Bhava is the beginning of the uttama-adhikara.
“First madhyama-kanistha, then madhyama-madhyama, and then madhyama-uttama, one will reach up to ruci and asakti . Then, when rati (bhava) manifests, that is the beginning of uttama-adhikara. “(Italy walks, 08/06/2009)
Actually, maturing asakti and bhava are overlapping, so much so that it can be said that they are very similar, and that madhyama-uttama and uttama kanistha are almost non-different in their respective end and beginning.
« When asakti achieves its utmost maturity, it is called bhava, or rati. It is the aim of sadhana-bhakti. Attachment and spontaneous tastes soften mind, heart, ego, and all reasoning faculties reach the point of melting. At bhava, one is entering onto the suddha-sattva platform and the three potencies constituting svarupa-sakti start to manifest, like the rays of the dawning sun of prema. It is the blossoming flower of the creeper of bhakti. »
« It is sudurlabha, extremely rarely achieved, for two reasons:
1) It can't be attained in spite of performing many sadhanas for a long time, as long as one doesn't have firm
faith and unwavering persistence.
2) Krishna doesn't easily grant it, even though one is engaged in sadhana endowed with unflinching attachment and expertise (asanga-yukta-bhakti).» (BRS 1.1.35)
«Those who engage in nava-bhakti are not granted suddha-bhakti by Krishna until they develop attachment for rati-tattva, which is the fruit of the perception of one's eternal identity. » (Jiva Goswami on Srimad Bhagavatam 5.6.18)
« It is moksa-laghutakrt, it makes liberation seem insignificant. Just one atom of bhava totally uproots ignorance.
At the stage of bhava, the spiritual aspect of I and mine becomes absolute; it seems as if it enters into a spiritual body suitable to his desire to serve the Lord, and the material aspect is reduced to an empty shadow, like when one just wakes up from a dream and still almost sees that dream for a moment before his eyes. His material body remains almost as he had left it. His sense of possessiveness (mamata) becomes like a bee to relish the nectar of the Lord's lotus feet.
Having obtained the most precious jewel of bhava, he tries to hide it from the ordinary people… At this stage, as soon as one begins meditation, he sees the Lord in his heart (sphurti)…
The sthayi-bhava combines with the 4 ingredients of vibhava, anubhava, sancari bhavas and sattvika-bhavas and becomes the rasa »
« Realization of one's specific relationship will come at the stage of bhava; without bhava, it won't come… When bhava comes you'll be able to see who you are and what is your eternal relationship with Krishna. But even at that stage, that realization is compared to see something through glass, covered by glass. In prema, you'll be able to see everything clearly. » (Italy Morning walk 5/7/2010)
« The vastu-prabha, or illumination of one's eternal identity arising from the diksa-mantra received from one's diksa-guru won't appear until one receives the svarupa-jnana (intrinsic knowledge concerning the sadhaka, sadhana and sadhya) by the mercy of a siksa-guru. »(Bhakti-tattva-viveka 2)
The symptoms of the uttama-adhikari
Sastre yuktau ca nipunau sarvatha drdha-niscayah/ praudha sraddho 'dhikari yah sa bhaktav uttamo matah
"One who is conversant with the scriptures, expert in all types of logic and possesses unwavering determination is the uttama-adhikari, or one endowed with firm sraddha." (BRS 1.2.17)
sastra-yuktye sunipuna drdha-sraddha yanra 'uttama-adikari' sei taraye samsara
"One who is expert in logic, argument, and the revealed scriptures and who has firm faith in Krishna is a topmost devotee. He can deliver the whole world." (CC Madhya 22.65)
In Bhakti-tattva -viveka, Bhaktivinode Thakura writes: « The sadhaka within whom ruci has developed is called an uttama-adhikari. Only such an uttama-adhikari attains suddha-bhakti. (BTV 4, p 42) But in Jaiva-dharma he writes, in chapter 8,” When the bhakti of the madhyama Vaisnava progresses beyond the stages of sadhana and bhava, and comes to the level of prema, it becomes highly condensed, and at that time, the Vaisnava becomes an uttama-bhakta.” This can be confusing. However, Bhaktivinode Thakura writes in Bhakti-tattva-viveka (ch4 p 48) that
the definitions of the three levels of devotees are pertaining to those belonging to vaidhi-bhakti, not to raganuga-bhakti. And Srila Gurudeva mentioned that the madhyama adhikaris who are well established in raganuga-bhakti
are like the uttamas of vaidhi-bhakti. The following can help reconcile the difference between the various statements about where do the different levels of the madhyama and uttama levels begin:
In Bhakti-tattva-viveka, the context is the adhikara or eligibility to practice vaidhi-bhakti sadhana. There are three
levels of eligibilty to practice vaidhi-bhakti. Bhaktivinode Thakura is explaining the subject based on the symptoms described by Srila Rupa Goswami in Bhakti- rasamrta-sindhu ch 2, and it makes perfect sense in that context.
Obviously, before nistha is the lowest eligibilty (komala-sraddha), nistha is middle level (one has drdha-sraddha but no realization), and ruci is the highest level of eligibility, because bhakti-tattva remains incomprehensible before ruci
(BRS1.1.45) Since when ruci appears bhakti-tattva is easily understood, that person is "sastra-yukti sunipuna" and has drdha-sraddha, so they have the best (uttama) eligibility for vaidhi-bhakti sadhana because sadhana truly begins from ruci. Before ruci it is considered sadhana-abhasa. So that is the first context.
Then, in Jaiva-dharma, when Bhaktivinode Thakura explains that madhyama is from ruci and uttama from prem, he is basing the discussion on Sri Krsna's teaching to Uddhava. It’s a different discussion, and a different context. It is not about adhikara for practicing vaidhi-bhakti sadhana. It is about levels of bhagavatas: madhyama-bhagavata and
uttama-bhagavata. They're also sometimes called "adhikaris" but the context is the level of eligibility for bhakti as a whole, not just sadhana.
Furthermore, when Sri Caitanay Mahaprabhu explained the three levels of Vaisnavas to the residents of Kulinagrama, it was based on nama-tattva, it was again a different context. In this analysis, Rupa Gosvami's kanistha and madhyama (BRS ch2), and also Krsna's kanistha (11canto) do not even make it into the categorization because they cannot chant purely even once. So Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's kanistha is Srila Rupa Gosvami's uttama. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura has written this directly in Jaiva-dharma p187,
"According to the characteristics of this description, all three classes meet the standards I have described for madhyama and uttama. None of them corresponds to the kanistha."
In other words, he confirms that each description has its own context, but they do not correspond if we try to cross reference them one-to one.
The Srimad Bhagavatam (11.2.45) describes the symptoms of an uttama Vaisnava as follows:
« One who sees his own bhagavad-bhava, ecstatic mood of attraction towards Sri Krishna in the hearts of all jivas, and sees all beings within Sri Krishna, is an uttama-bhagavata. »
"An uttama Vaisnava perceives that all living beings love Bhagavan with the same particular feeling of transcendental love that he himself cherishes towards his istadeva. He also perceives that Bhagavän feels a reciprocal attitude of love
towards all living beings. An uttama Vaisnava has no disposition other than this mood of transcendental love. Other moods arise from time to time, according to different circumstances, but they are all transformations of that prema. When suddha-prema becomes the very life of a bhakta, he is known as an uttama-bhagavata. In this condition there is no longer any distinction between love, friendship, mercy, and neglect, as is the case with the madhyama-adhikari. All his behavior becomes a manifestation of prema, and there is no difference in his eyes between a kanistha, madhyama, or an uttama, nor is there any difference between a Vaisnava and a non-Vaisnava. This advanced
condition is extremely rare.” (Jaiva-dharma 8)
3 Maha-bhagavatas or sad-gurus
«There are three levels of devotees who can act as sad-guru, and they are:
(1) bhagavat-parsada-deha-prapta. After giving up the gross material body, those who have perfected themselves through the practice of bhakti obtain sac-cid-ananda spiritual forms which are just suitable for the service of the
Lord as associates (parsadas). Such persons are the best of all uttama-bhagavatas.
2)Nirdhuta-kasaya: Those who, although still residing within the gross material body made of five elements, have no trace of material desire (vasana) nor any material impressions (samskaras) within their hearts are called nirdhuta-kasaya (who have thrown off all material impurities). They belong to the intermediate class of uttama-bhagavatas.
3)Murcchita-kasaya: – Those pursuing the path of bhakti in whose hearts there remains a trace of desire (vasana) and impressions (samskaras), based on the material mode of goodness, are known as murcchita-kasaya. Due to the influence of their bhakti, these vasanas and samskaras remain in a dormant or unconscious state. As soon
as there is a favorable opportunity, their worshipful object, Sri Bhagavan, somehow causes their desire to be consumed and attracts them to His lotus feet. Such elevated souls belong to the preliminary (kanistha) stage of
«Love enriched with the feeling of possession, in which one feels, 'the Lord is mine' is called prema. The devotee relishes the nectar flowing from the fruit of prema in the form of concentrated bliss, sandrananda. The sublime nourishing potency of this nectar is its power to attract even Krishna, sri-krsna-karsini.
Prema is in its intrinsic nature a dense, consolidated and ecstatic bliss. Once awakened, it never ceases, even if there be strong grounds of a break or cessation.
At the stage of prema, the spiritual aspect of I and mine becomes extremely thick and the material aspect is completely absent. There is not only sphurti in one's meditation but direct association of the Lord. » (MK 8)
In summary, we can say that Srila Gurudeva always said, earlier and later: One needs to accept a guru. One should
pray to Krishna to send him an uttama-adhikari guru. It is quite rare. So if one doesn't find such a rare uttama–adhikari, one can accept a qualified, seasoned madhyama-adhikari as one's diksa-guru, preferably an uttama-madhyama or a madhyama-madhyama.
As a madhyama-adhikari guru cannot give everything one needs, one should keep on praying for the association of an uttama–adhikari. When one will deeply feel the need for one, and if and when one will find one, one can accept him as siksa–guru with the permission of one's diksa–guru, (who will hopefully have already found him and taken his disciple at his lotus feet for the benefit of both of them).
Uttamas and madhyamas are complementary
Srila Gurudeva has adjusted to the present necessity of continuing his mission. He was highly practical. He also
knew that, whether he would authorize it or not, some of his followers would start to initiate their own disciples after his physical departure. Some had even been doing it since 2003. He said,
«If I am not alive, if I leave this planet, then what will be? All will stop their initiation? When I leave this planet, what they will do? They will initiate or not? I think, whether I will tell not, they must initiate. I know..” (Govardhan 29.10.07)
There is a kind of myth going around: On the basis of the quote just above, some say that Srila Gurudeva cheated his ambitious sannyasis. He supposedly told them that they could initiate only because they were impatient to do so, and that he wanted to see how they would react when pretty disciples would approach them.
It is true that Srila Gurudeva warned us, I remember him saying something like,
“My dear sannyasis, when gurus give initiation, so many ladies are attracted to them, and to get rid of them is so difficult. They may kiss you, approach you to enjoy with you, saying they love you, no law is there for them, and it is very difficult to get rid of them. That’s why they are falling down. So if you think you’re not like that, (laughing), then you can do.”
And it is a fact that when he was asked by two Indian sannyasis the evening after that 2008 Govardhan sannyasis darsana, and the next morning, why he had spoken the way he had, Srila Gurudeva answered,
“Because some wanted to hear that”,
“Because it is itching the mind of some“.
So, some may have had that desire. And he used the word 'some' twice, when answering the two Indian sannyasis.
But we also know that he had expressed his desire to have his qualified sannyasis initiate to continue his mission long before this meeting. ( as in the 2007 Govardhan darsana)
When different devotees approached him to clarify that, and directly asked him if he was cheating, he replied that he meant what he said and was not fork-tongued.
Again, a body is made of individuals, and with one action many purposes are fulfilled, so he may have tested some sannyasis, putting them in a situation where they could confront their anarthas, but one cannot apply this to all his sincere preachers, who were mostly most reluctant to initiate although Srila Gurudeva urged them to, as can be seen in different darsanas.
So, anyway, we have to deal with the realities in front of us today. Srila Gurudeva lately emphasized even more than
before that madhyamas gurus can be accepted as diksa-gurus in the absence of an uttama-adhikari, and that Krishna would make the arrangement for sincere disciples of sincere madhyama-adhikari gurus to meet an uttama-adhikari siksa-guru to get what they didn't get from their diksa-guru.
Srila Gurudeva allowed devotees solidly established in the madhyama-adhikara to initiate, in order to continue his parampara:
"And thus our parampara should go on. That I like.” Govardhan darsana, 2007)
This is not a no-string-attached license. It comes with an assorted responsibility of teaching one's followers about their need to complete their diksa by approaching a higher siksa-guru.
Present guru-tattva as it is
Guru-tattva is not complicated at all. If you have suddha-nama, you can give it. In other words, you cannot give what you have not got. Even a small kid or a moron can understand that. Only one who has gotten Krishna, who has
bound up Krishna in his heart, only he can make Krishna appear in the heart of his devoted disciple. No one else can give you Krishna. If someone has not gotten, how can he give?
Guru-tattva only gets complicated when we try to justify somebody who is below the level of self-realization, who is not chanting suddha-nama, and we try to philosophically show that such a person is a fully qualified guru.
If devotees feel that it is their duty and that it is Srila Gurudeva's desire that they take on the service of initiating before they have reached the madhyama-uttama stage, or even the minimum recommended madhyama-madhyama
stage ( beginning in solid ruci), they should not compromise the philosophy of guru–tattva, but present it as it is.
It is not our business to try and second guess why somebody takes on the service of guru, but guru-tattva should be presented unadulterated. This is most important.
We can be very optimistic for the future of our sanga as long as we keep on doing that, as Srila Gurudeva did, and we don't blur the difference of what you can get from gurus of different adhikaras.
Teach guru-tattva to newcomers
As mentioned earlier, new devotees should be systematically trained in the science of guru-tattva so that they can choose a qualified spiritual guide. They must have a strong grounding in complete guru-tattva and the unambiguous and collectively supported goal of taking association and guidance from devotees of the highest caliber available, ideally from maha-bhagavatas.
They shouldn't be taught that these high-class devotees don't exist or are so rare that it's futile to hope to have such a diksa–guru or that any sannyasi is automatically a fully qualified guru.
On the other hand, Srila Gurudeva has warned his sannyasis against criticizing those acting as gurus to a prospective disciple.
« But I want that there should be some rule and regulation. There should be no quarrel among yourselves. If
any devotee wants to take harinam from one Maharaja, but another Maharaja speaks again and again against him, and, oh, gives that devotee diksa and harinam, then this is not okay. If he says “No, no, no, don’t go to this Maharaja. Take from me.” So in case he will do so, the first time, he will get a warning. And the second time, then his own giving diksa should be stopped by the general body. I am giving power to the general body that if any sannyasi is doing so, he must be stopped. Like in ISKCON they are doing. Otherwise there'll be quarrels among yourselves and you will be separated.” (Sannyasis darsana 2008)
Need for qualified madhyama-gurus
If there is no manifested uttama-adhikari in our sanga then qualified madhyama-adhikaris can come forward and accept disciples. This is the teaching of our guru. This is the mandate we have from him. The mission has to move on with what it has at its disposal. Those whose bhakti is steady and proven can take the responsibility of guiding the new
One should become a guru as Mahaprabhu instructed. But if one is not strong enough, if he is affected by some important obstacle in his devotional life, then he should be truthful and do not attempt to play at what he is not and position himself on a level where he doesn't belong. If one is weak, then how will he make others strong? One who plays the role of guru should be guru in the true sense. He should be conscious of his capacity. If one can only carry one ton, why should he accept a load of two tons? “I have no capacity, I cannot deliver a soul, I am not liberated myself, so why shall I accept disciples?”
Accepting disciples when one does not have the capacity to deliver them is only cheating and hypocrisy, nothing else, if one doesn't let them know of one's limitations. “I am not completely free from anarthas, so how can I make him
free?” Guru means heavy. It also means heavy responsibility. It is not an easy affair to deliver even one soul from the clutches of maya, the fort of Durga. To do so, the guru has to spend gallons and gallons of spiritual blood. This is not child’s play. One shouldn't play the guru if he is not qualified.
Srila Prabhupada said,
« It's not that everyone becomes a ‘Guru Maharaja’. »
So one should mercifully guide his followers to someone more qualified who can deliver them.
What kind of guru do you want or can you afford?
It also, of course, depends what kind of guru a new person wants. Different levels of advancement are there. Different customers want different qualities of commodities. Varieties are there. It is up to one to decide what he wants, what variety he wants. Krishna knows the heart. If one is really crying for Him, thinking, “I want the best. I don’t want second class or third class. I want the topmost.”, so He arranges. What you desire, you get. Srila Gurudeva mentioned in the 29th October 2007 darsana:
« If any, all, are satisfied by them, then oh!..»
A top level sadhu is very rare. Still, such sadhus are always there. Because we are conditioned souls, our vision is defective. Although such a sadhu may come before us, we cannot see him. Therefore, one should not say that there are no sadhus. Instead, one should say, « I am a blind person. I cannot see a sadhu ».
Also, more often than not, new disciples will be content with any madhyama guru because a personal, closer relationship can been established and one can have more association and guidance.
So it depends on what one wants and also what one's sukrti allows one to get. A suitable arrangement will be made for everyone by Krishna. Srila Gurudeva said many times one gets a guru of different caliber according to his sukrti.
Honesty is the key
To be a madhyama-adhikari is not a disqualification for being guru as long as one is unambiguously honest. The simple solution to the most important question of adhikara is honesty. The system that Srila Gurudeva has recommended will work smoothly if:
(A) Acting gurus emphasize the need for higher association, and encourage their disciples to seek and find that
(B) Acting gurus represent themselves as followers of maha–bhagavata devotees and explain that whatever potency they have is by the grace of these great devotees.
If one is not highly qualified as an uttama-adhikari or elevated madhyama-adhikari , one should admit this fact openly whenever necessary. So the question which begs honest answers pertains to what one can give. If one has Krishna, he can give Him. Otherwise, he must admit that he is giving something less. Should one not be very careful do so, then it could be deemed to be duplicitous. One who is not chanting suddha-nama and is not self-realized
but takes the position of guru is cheating if he is not honest about his actual position.
New devotees often lack the tattva-siddhanta to make distinctions themselves between the different adhikaras and can only observe the formalities of initiation. For this reason, honesty of one's position is essential, especially to those
whom would accept one as guru.
The madhyama gurus should have perfect integrity and honesty. Ruthless honesty on their part must always be there. If they are committed and vigilant to that quality, then really, there should be no problem. Where is the conflict or dilemma if honesty is there? Because, one is not in fact even a madhyama-adhikari without that…
Their honesty is also that, in all humility, they must themselves honor and worship the uttamas they may perceive around them and with honest sincerity be constantly seeking those higher souls for nourishment, guidance, encouragement and blessings. We have been taught that a madhyama-adhikari will always see this as his top priority and enthuse others to see the need to do the same.
In our sanga, we have always said that the ISKCON gurus couldn’t progress unless they were taking siksa from
Srila Gurudeva or some other high-class sadhu. It seems that “shoe” now fits us all.
“A pure devotee under the guidance of another experienced devotee can obtain all the results, even at present.”
(SB 1.10.27 P Departure of Lord Krsna for Dvaraka)
Anyone who takes on the service of giving diksa, should avail himself of the personal siksa from “another
«The second-class devotee, even though he cannot support his position with sastric reference, can gradually become a first-class devotee by studying the sastras and associating with a first-class devotee. However, if the second-class devotee does not advance himself by associating with a first-class devotee, he makes no progress…” (CC,Madhya 22.71 purport)
With regards devotees going outside of our sanga for initiation in their search for a maha-bhagavata, or for a higher siksa–guru, wouldn’t it be great if we could be so non-sectarian in our approach that as a society we could easily accommodate them and not feel threatened or uneasy by it? We should be fore-runners and accommodate such
eventualities. If our centers, groups and leaders are firmly situated in our philosophy and our relationship with Srila Gurudeva, we can easily absorb such situations. Vaisnavism is not narrow nor sectarian but broad-minded.
We have to reconcile the idea that our devotees should listen to our own sannyasis, because they transmit Srila Gurudeva's mood and particular presentation of our acaryas' teachings, with the legitimate search for high sadhu-sanga and suddha-nama.
A few last words
(For the cynical, skeptical, doubtful, or the fence-watcher)
You can read again for yourself the details of the darsanas and morning walks wherein Srila Gurudeva told that all qualified sannyasis can initiate.
You don’t have to recommend anyone as a diksa–guru if you don't feel comfortable to. If someone asks you who you recommend, you can tell them to pray for an uttama-adhikari, and that you don’t recommend any name because you don’t want to interfere, that it is between them and Krsna, that Krsna will arrange according to the aspiring disciple’s spiritual destiny.
It is important to always glorify Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada and always tell new people that they are the main spiritual guides of all the devotees in our sanga.
You can speak about the difference between the 3 kinds of devotees.
At the same time, when new people tell you they are already initiated by one of our sannyasis, or will be initiated by one of them, you can express something obviously nice about their guru. You don’t have to say they're uttamas or anything and you don’t have to tell them to have faith or not have faith. You can be an encouraging friend.
Don't worry! Srila Gurudeva said he had faith!
"You should not be worried. Those who are sannyasis, they are preaching my mission everywhere…I think they will not deviate like ISKCON sannyasis. I have faith. So I want that they should do, [those] who are qualified. And thus our
parampara should go on… Don't have any doubt and worry, what I'm telling, they should follow. They should not think, 'I am guru'.” (Govardhan darasana, 2007)
Anyway, the reality is as it is. We have to face and live with what is our present reality in the aftermath of Srila Gurudeva's physical departure. There are many “new gurus” and there will be more, and it is inevitable that there are many different levels and types: some high class, some medium class and inevitably some of lower standard.
Give the new gurus the benefit of the doubt. Srila Gurudeva said that they shouldn’t think they are gurus and that he had faith that they would send their disciples to a higher-level sadhu when one will manifest. That will be the test. Give them some time before judging them.
The very end
I hope this paper has at least partially fulfilled its purposes. Reading it, some will have felt that I am writing in a very conservative way, which may even be deemed as critical. And that I am too much on the side of caution. Others will have felt that I am not enough…
In answer to the first, I will say that I'd rather err on the side of caution than unquestioningly condone everything, but that I am very optimistic about the future of our sanga, as long as we follow some simple and obvious guidelines. To the others, I will say that I am precisely not unquestioningly going along with the flow, and that I stress the importance of these very guidelines.
This being said, I don't want to_ and we shouldn't_ minimize the very valuable service offered by those devotees who are qualified, among those who are taking recently the responsibility to accept disciples and guide them. They are satisfying the desire of Srila Gurudeva and our guru–varga and bringing happiness to many souls by bringing them closer to the fold of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, through which they can access the Lord's most merciful dispensation of mercy to date.
If there is any value in this paper, it is coming from my merciful holy masters, and the input of my god-brothers and one sister; if there is anything bad, it is coming from me. If I have unintentionally hurt or offended anyone, I take shelter of your kindness to please forgive me. I am yet to transcend my pitta–dosha dominated nature…
Please bless me that I may understand properly the desires of our holy masters, especially Srila Gurudeva, and contribute in fulfilling them.
Aspiring for the mercy of the Vaisnavas, with love and affection, your servant, Bv Suddhadvaiti