FAQ on guru

I find that the guru is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the Caitanya tradition. I decided to put together an FAQ that should help readers in their journey on the bhakti path. I do not cite scripture here, for that, the interested reader is referred to other articles on this site.

Q. What is the guru’s function?

A. To teach scripture.

Q. Where is this stated?

A. Study the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.

Q. What is the guru’s mercy?

A. His teachings of scripture.

Q. What does the guru speak from his lotus mouth?

A. Lotuses do not come out of his mouth. What is supposed to come out is scriptural teachings.

Q. Where does the guru’s authority come from?

A. Scripture.

Q. Isn’t the guru Hari Himself?

A. No and yes. No, because He is not Hari. He is Hari’s devotee. Yes, because he passes on Hari’s teachings in the parampara. So because he does the function of Hari, he is considered Hari.

Q. What does it mean to worship the guru’s lotus feet?

A. It does not mean continuously offering flowers to them. The guru won’t be able to go anywhere! What it does mean is that one should humbly receive the teachings in the parampara, have faith in them, and act upon them. Humbly receiving knowledge from the guru is what ‘serving his feet’ means.

Q. But isn’t everything the guru’s mercy? What can we do with our own effort?

A. The guru’s mercy, again, is his passing on of the knowledge in the parampara. If we don’t heed them, what is the use of those teachings? There is no meaning to the institution of guru then. The teachings are mercy, but we have to receive the mercy by acting on them. So our effort is also needed. Otherwise what does it mean to do sadhana?

Q. There is no other mercy?

A. The guru’s prasadi garland, etc. has been mentioned as mercy in some places. That is ok. But the main mercy is the teachings and acting upon them. There are no shortcuts.

Q. Can the guru’s mercy not purify our heart?

A. The guru does not glance into our heart with his gaze and clean it. The guru has no superpowers, only superman has those. The guru teaches concepts. The guru changes our worldview. This way, the guru makes us qualified to perform bhakti.

Q. It seems like this minimizes the guru’s position.

A. Feel free to ignore what I am saying. I have seen many people fall into such magical thinking and then complain about how bhakti has not worked for them. It is not bhakti’s fault nor the guru’s fault. People have their head in the clouds. Best to come back to earth.

Q. What books are foundational in the Caitanya tradition?

A. The Sandarbhas and the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.

Q. What if my guru does not teach the Sandarbhas.

A. That is a question for your guru, not me.

Q. But what about other writings? There are so many books.

A. All other books must be interpreted in the light of the Sandarbhas. There may be books that gurus use to teach the essence of the Sandarbhas. If they are consistent with the Sandarbhas, I see no problem.

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24 replies »

  1. I’ve heard a few folks in Vaisnava circles say that a guru’s qualification/adhikaara is not as important as the disciple’s shraddha in his/her guru. Is this true?

    Certainly one should be humble when towards one’s guru. However, shraddha over qualification would seem to indicate a cult of personality type of thinking.

    • Not true. The guru’s qualification is expertise in shastra. The disciple must have sraddha in sastra. Check the article on sastriya sraddha and how it is nirguna on this site.

      If the guru is not sastriya, that means does not teach sastra, then it is a cult of personality.

  2. Radhe Radhe. What about diksha and giving mantras to the disciple? Certainly the sadhaka must exert great effort to make progress and not just sit back and be lazy. It seems like Jiva Goswami is alluding to something mystical when he quotes the Tattva Sagara;

    Just as bell-metal is turned into gold by an alchemical process, human beings become twice-born by the process of dīkṣā.

    Also there is this from Anuchedda 283

    Dīkṣā is described in the Āgama:

    Learned exponents of the Absolute declare that the process by which the teacher imparts divine knowledge to the disciple and eradicates all sins is known as dīkṣā or spiritual initiation. Therefore, submitting oneself before one’s teacher and offering everything to him, one should accept a Vaiṣṇava mantra in accordance with the standard initiation procedure.

    The HBV supposedly mentions similar ideas but I was not able to verify them. I wonder is the HBV I have access to has a different numbering system than others. For instance I saw reference to this verse. “Diksha is that religious undertaking which bestows divya-jnana or transcendental knowledge and destroys papa (sins), papa-bija (seed of sin), and avidya (ignorance) to the root.” (HBV)

    Have you covered these passages elsewhere?

  3. You say that the Foundational Books in the Caitanya Tradition are the Sandharbas and Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. MY QUESTION IS: Why did Srila Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, present BG, SB and CC? For us to buy it and dispose of it into the garbidge can? Please?

    • I don’t like the language- keep it civil. BG and SB are shastra. But each sampradaya has their own understanding of these books. The Sandarbhas and BRS teach us the meaning of these books. Without them we would have no unique way of interpreting these books and there would be no Chaitanya sampradaya. The sandarbhas are a systematic study of the Bhagavta. CC is explaining the Sandarbhas by interweaving the concepts in Sri Caitanya’s life

  4. What are you going to do if I do not keep my language “civil”? Are you going to stop answering my questions?

  5. Sorry, but I am not finding the rules for commenting on this blog. Where to find it? Please?

  6. I just found it and just read it, the rules for commenting on this blog. Thank you for teaching me how to “keep it civil, my language”. ANOTHER QUESTION: Srila Prabhupada didn’t present the Sandharbas. MY QUESTION IS: Does this mean that Srila Prabhupada failed his followers as a Guru, who, in accordance with your understanding, should know and teach sastra? Please?

      • No, I do not! But if the Sandharbas are of such an importance for Lord Caitanya’s Movement, in order for us to understand BG and SB, as you say, why is it that Srila Prabhupada, being an empowered representative of Lord Caitanya, didn’t present at least a small version of the Sandharbas?

      • Good, so you agree with me that the Sandarbhas are the foundational books of the Caitanya sampradaya. That is all that I stated in the FAQ.
        I am not a member of ISKCON. I am a member of the Gadadhara parivara. You ask me about the Gadadhara parivara and I can answer. If you ask me about ISKCON, I cannot. Just like I cannot answer questions about Sri Vaisnavism or Christianity or Islam – it is not my area of expertise.
        Since you agree with me on this point, I suggest you take your question to your guru or other ISKCON members.
        Thank you

    • Ok, allow me to ask you, then, about Gadadhara parivara, being you a member: Where can I find detailed information about “Gadadhara parivara”? I would like to compare your area of expertise with ISKCON and the Mission of my Guru Maharaja, who is not a member of ISKCON. My Guru Maharaja is Narayana Maharaja, Founder-Acarya of IPBYS (International Pure Bhakti Yoga Society). Please? P. S. Allow me to tell you that I do appreciate your “bhaktitattva.com” mission. It is a matchless gift, related to what is being offered to the international community of followers of the Caitanya sampradaya. Thank you very, very much, for such an outstanding pure devotional service. Hare Krishna!

      • Please visit jiva.org . There Sri Babaji has posted a lot of information about our parivara. The word Gadadhara is for Srila Gadadhara Pandita Goswami, Sri Caitanya’s confidential associate. Our parivara started from him.

      • Yes, I’ll visit it. If I may, 3 more questions: 1.What is the English translation for the word “parivara”? 2. Does your “parivara” have temples in Europe? and 3. Who is Sri Babaji? Please?

  7. My God! Thank you for answering my questions so promptly. Yes, I will email Malati didi and I will visit the wikipedia link you just sent me, related to Sri Babaji. Three more questions: I am feeling that some kind of friendship just started between both of us, because of our exchange, based on questions and answers. MY 3 QUESTIONS ARE: 1. Do you believe in devotional-online friendship? 2. Are you willing to accept me as your online student by this process of questions and answers, related to your blog and 3. If it is not too indiscreet: where are you based? Vrindavan? Is Vrindavan the place where you live and preach and run your blog? Please?

    • I am very busy currently so it is difficult to commit to this. I think you can ask Malati didi your questions, and you can also attend Babaji’s lectures on the bhagavata purana which are every day and open to the public. I am not based in Vrindavan.

      • I see. What about answering my questions related to the articles in your bhaktitattva.com blog? Are you still going to answer them? Please? I do promise that I will not ask too many because of you being very busy. Please?

      • Thank you very, very much and all glories to your pure devotional service. Your most undeserving servant, Vijaya Krsna dasa, from Portugal (The 9 Portuguese Azores Islands, where I live and preach. You are welcome to visit. It would be an honor. Hare Krishna!!)

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