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Bhaktivedanta Academy for Spiritual Education Srila Prabhupada
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Transcendental knowledge is received through Guru parampara, the chain of disciplic succession beginning from God, or Krishna. If one does not take to the path of disciplic succession, it is not possible for one to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead: sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nirphala matah. This series will cover the Acharyas of Brahma Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya from Krishna to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acharya of ISKCON.


naivopayanty apacitim kavayas tavesa
brahmayuñäpi kåtam åddha-mudaù smarantaù
yo ’ntar bahis tanu-bhåtäm açubhaà vidhunvann
äcärya-caittya-vapuñä sva-gatià vyanakti

O my Lord! Transcendental poets and experts in spiritual science could not fully express their indebtedness to You, even if they were endowed with the prolonged lifetime of Brahmä, for You appear in two features—externally as the äcärya and internally as the Supersoul—to deliver the embodied living being by directing him how to come to You.

Uddhava to Krishna,Srimad Bhagavatam – 11.29.6

The Supreme Lord is the original guru, spiritual master and all spiritual masters are His representatives. Specifically, the role of Spiritual master is executed by the Lord through His first expansion, Lord Balarama or Lord Nityananda or through His internal potency Srimati Radharani. Srila Prabhupada says ‘In all the ancient literatures of devotional service and in the more recent songs of Çréla Narottama däsa Öhäkura, Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura and other unalloyed Vaiñëavas, the spiritual master is always considered either one of the confidential associates of Çrématé Rädhäräëé or a manifested representation of Çréla Nityänanda Prabhu.’

The Supreme Lord descended as Matsya, or the fish incarnation to bestow His grace and instructions on King Satyavrata. The following prayers offered by King Satyavrata to Lord Matsya in the twenty fourth chapter of the eighth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam wonderfully reveal Krishna’s role as the Supreme spiritual master.

( The paragraphs in italics are the translations of the verses followed by Srila Prabhupada’s purports)

King Satyavrata said: By the grace of the Lord, those who have lost their self-knowledge since time immemorial, and who because of this ignorance are involved in a material, conditional life full of miseries, obtain the chance to meet the Lord’s devotee. I accept that Supreme Personality of Godhead as the supreme spiritual master.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is actually the supreme spiritual master. The Supreme Lord knows everything about the suffering of the conditioned soul, and therefore He appears in this material world, sometimes personally, sometimes by an incarnation and sometimes by authorizing a living being to act on His behalf. In all cases, however, He is the original spiritual master who enlightens the conditioned souls who are suffering in the material world. The Lord is always busy helping the conditioned souls in many ways. Therefore He is addressed here as paramo gurur bhavän. The representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who acts to spread Kåñëa consciousness is also guided by the Supreme Lord to act properly in executing the Lord’s order. Such a person may appear to be an ordinary human being, but because he acts on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme spiritual master, he is not to be neglected as an ordinary man.

In hopes of becoming happy in this material world, the foolish conditioned soul performs fruitive activities that result only in suffering. But by rendering service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one becomes free from such false desires for happiness. May my supreme spiritual master cut the knot of false desires from the core of my heart.

For material happiness, the conditioned soul involves himself in fruitive activities, which actually put him into material distress. Because the conditioned soul does not know this, he is said to be in avidyä, or ignorance. Because of a false hope for happiness, the conditioned soul becomes involved in various plans for material activity. Here Mahäräja Satyavrata prays that the Lord sever this hard knot of false happiness and thus become his supreme spiritual master.

One who wants to be free of material entanglement should take to the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and give up the contamination of ignorance, involving pious and impious activities. Thus one regains his original identity, just as a block of gold or silver sheds all dirt and becomes purified when treated with fire. May that inexhaustible Supreme Personality of Godhead become our spiritual master, for He is the original spiritual master of all other spiritual masters.

There are various processes for self-realization, such as karma, jïäna and yoga, but none of them is equal to the process of devotional service. As gold and silver can be freed from all dirty contamination by being put into a fire but not merely by being washed, the living entity can be awakened to his own identity by performing devotional service (yat-sevayä), but not by karma, jïäna or yoga. Cultivation of speculative knowledge or practice of yogic gymnastics will not be helpful.

The word varëam refers to the luster of one’s original identity. The original luster of gold or silver is brilliant. Similarly, the original luster of the living being, who is part of the sac-cid-änanda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], is the luster of änanda, or pleasure. Änandamayo bhyäsät. Every living entity has the right to become änandamaya, joyful, because he is part of the sac-cid-änanda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], Kåñëa. Why should the living being be put into tribulation because of dirty contamination by the material modes of nature? The living entity should become purified and regain his svarüpa, his original identity. This he can do only by devotional service. Therefore, one should adopt the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is described here as guror guruù, the spiritual master of all other spiritual masters.

Even though we may not have the fortune to contact the Supreme Lord personally, the Lord’s representative is as good as the Lord Himself because such a representative does not say anything unless it is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu therefore gives a definition of guru. Yäre dekha, täre kaha ‘kåñëa’-upadeça: [Cc. Madhya 7.128] the bona fide guru is he who advises his disciples exactly in accordance with the principles spoken by Kåñëa. The bona fide guru is he who has accepted Kåñëa as guru. This is the guru-paramparä system. The original guru is Vyäsadeva because he is the speaker of Bhagavad-gétä and Çrémad-Bhägavatam, wherein everything spoken relates to Kåñëa. Therefore guru-püjä is known as Vyäsa-püjä. In the final analysis, the original guru is Kåñëa, His disciple is Närada, whose disciple is Vyäsa, and in this way we gradually come in touch with the guru-paramparä. One cannot become a guru if he does not know what the Personality of Godhead Kåñëa or His incarnation wants. The mission of the guru is the mission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead: to spread Kåñëa consciousness all over the world.

Neither all the demigods, nor the so-called gurus nor all other people, either independently or together, can offer mercy that equals even one ten-thousandth of Yours. Therefore I wish to take shelter of Your lotus feet.

As a blind man, being unable to see, accepts another blind man as his leader, people who do not know the goal of life accept someone as a guru who is a rascal and a fool. But we are interested in self-realization. Therefore we accept You, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as our spiritual master, for You are able to see in all directions and are omniscient like the sun.

A materialistic so-called guru instructs his materialistic disciples about economic development and sense gratification, and because of such instructions the foolish disciples continue in the materialistic existence of ignorance. But Your Lordship gives knowledge that is eternal, and the intelligent person receiving such knowledge is quickly situated in his original constitutional position.

My Lord, You are the supreme well-wishing friend of everyone, the dearmost friend, the controller, the Supersoul, the supreme instructor and the giver of supreme knowledge and the fulfillment of all desires. But although You are within the heart, the foolish, because of lusty desires in the heart, cannot understand You.
O Supreme Lord, for self-realization I surrender unto You, who are worshiped by the demigods as the supreme controller of everything. By Your instructions, exposing life’s purpose, kindly cut the knot from the core of my heart and let me know the destination of my life.

Sometimes it is argued that people do not know who is a spiritual master and that finding a spiritual master from whom to get enlightenment in regard to the destination of life is very difficult. To answer all these questions, King Satyavrata shows us the way to accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the real spiritual master. The Supreme Lord has given full directions in Bhagavad-gétä about how to deal with everything in this material world and how to return home, back to Godhead. Therefore, one should not be misled by so-called gurus who are rascals and fools. Rather, one should directly see the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the guru or instructor. It is difficult, however, to understand Bhagavad-gétä without the help of the guru. Therefore the guru appears in the paramparä system. In Bhagavad-gétä (4.34) the Supreme Personality of Godhead recommends:

tad viddhi praëipätena
paripraçnena sevayä
upadekñyanti te jïänaà
jïäninas tattva-darçinaù

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” Lord Kåñëa directly instructed Arjuna. Arjuna is therefore tattva-darçé or guru. Arjuna accepted the Supreme Personality of Godhead (paraà brahma paraà dhäma pavitraà paramaà bhavän [Bg. 10.12]). Similarly, following in the footsteps of Çré Arjuna, who is a personal devotee of the Lord, one should accept the supremacy of Lord Kåñëa, as supported by Vyäsa, Devala, Asita, Närada and later by the äcäryas Rämänujäcärya, Madhväcärya, Nimbärka and Viñëusvämé and still later by the greatest äcärya, Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Where, then, is the difficulty in finding a guru? If one is sincere he can find the guru and learn everything. One should take lessons from the guru and find out the goal of life. Mahäräja Satyavrata, therefore, shows us the way of the mahäjana. Mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù. One should surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and learn from Him about the spiritual world and the goal of life.

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