Srila Giri Maharaja – “A guru should not adopt the thinking of his disciples.”

Srila Govinda Maharaja once said to me, dismissive of something one of his disciples was thinking, “What does a disciple know?”

The spiritual master is worshiped with these words:

nikuñja-yūno rati-keli-siddhyai
yā yālibhir yuktir apekṣaṇīyā
tatrāti-dākṣyād ati-vallabhasya
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam

“The spiritual master is very dear, because he is expert in assisting the gopis, who at different times make different tasteful arrangements for the perfection of Radha-Krsna’s conjugal loving affairs within the groves of Vrndavana. I offer my most humble obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Sri Sri Gurv-astaka, 

After Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance some of my Godbrothers, who had been told by Srila Prabhupada to perform the function of guru, wondered: “Now that I have been made guru, does it mean I have attained this position: that I am assisting the gopis by making arrangements for the most intimate pastimes of Sri Sri Radha Govinda?”

Somehow, the obvious answer was not obvious to them, even though the obvious answer had already been given by Srila Prabhupada:

Prabhupāda: Nikuñja-yūno ratikeli-siddhyai  yālibhir yuktir apekṣaṇīyā. So the ultimate goal of the spiritual master is that he wants to be transferred to the planet of Kṛṣṇa, where he wants to associate with the gopīs to help them to serve Kṛṣṇa. Some, some of them are, some of the devotees, spiritual master, they are thinking of becoming assistants to the gopīs, some of them are thinking to be assistants to the cowherds boy, some of them are thinking to be assistant to mother Yaśodā or Nanda, and some of them are thinking to the servants of God. Or some of them are thinking how to become a flower, tree, a fruit tree or a calf or a cow in Vṛndāvana. There are five kinds of mellows: śāntadāsyasākhyavātsalya and mādhurya. The… Everything is there spiritual. That I shall describe next. Cintāmaṇiprakarasadmasu. So in the spiritual sky, the land is spiritual, the tree is spiritual, the fruit is spiritual, the flower is spiritual, the water is spiritual, the servant is spiritual, the friend is spiritual, the Lord is spiritual and His associates are spiritual. Everything. Therefore oneness, Absolute Truth, everything absolute.”

—A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Lecture at Upsala University—Stockholm, September 9, 1973

“The ultimate goal of the spiritual master is that he wants to be transferred to the planet of Kṛṣṇa, where he wants to associate with the gopīs to help them to serve Kṛṣṇa.” This is the thinking of a bonafide guru. His ultimate goal is to achieve such a position in the service of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. He is not thinking “I have achieved such a high position.” He never thinks like that. Rather, he is thinking, it is a position he aspires to, he “wants” it, just as he is training his disciples to aspire to that goal: that one day, when his divine service aspiration is attained, he will serve the gopis under the guidance and direction of his guru.

Learning the ABC’s

Before any advanced study or thinking, we must learn the ABC’s of devotional service. We must approach the service of Krishna in a systematic way, under the guidance of a bonafide guru. Otherwise, what has been given to us as the unsullied, original Absolute Truth will be transformed into a substance that misleads us and moves us towards degradation.

“Whether you give the absolute religion in figures or simple expressions, or teach them by means of books or oral speeches, the ignorant and the thoughtless must degrade it.  

”     It is indeed very easy to tell and swift to hear that Absolute Truth has such an affinity with the human soul that it comes through it as if intuitively.  No exertion is necessary to teach the precepts of true religion.  This is a deceptive idea.  It may be true of ethics and the alphabet of religion, but not of the highest form of faith which requires an exalted soul to understand.  It certainly requires previous training of the soul in the elements of religion, just as the student of the fractions must have a previous attainment in the elemental numbers and figures in Arithmetic and Geometry.  “Truth is good,” is an elemental truth which is easily grasped by the common people.  But if you tell a common patient that God is infinitely intelligent and powerful in His spiritual nature, he will conceive a different idea from what you entertain of the expression.  All higher Truths, although intuitive, require previous education in the simpler ones.  That religion is the purest which gives you the purest idea of God, and the absolute religion requires an absolute conception by man of his own spiritual nature.  How then is it possible that the ignorant will ever obtain the absolute religion as long as they are ignorant?

”     When thought awakens, the thinker is no more ignorant and is capable of obtaining an absolute idea of religion.  This is a truth, and God has made it such in His infinite goodness, impartiality, and mercy.  Labour has its wages and the idle must never be rewarded.  “Higher is the work, greater the reward” is a useful truth.  The thoughtless must be satisfied with superstition till he wakes and opens his eyes to the God of Love.  The reformers, out of their universal love and anxiety for good, endeavor by some means or other to make the thoughtless drink the cup of salvation, but the later drink it with wine and fall to the ground under the influence of intoxication, for the imagination has also the power of making a thing what it never was.  Thus it is that the evils of nunneries and the corruptions of the Akhras proceeded.  No, we are not to scandalize the Saviour of Jerusalem or the Saviour of Nadia for these subsequent evils. Luthers, instead of critics, are what we want for the correction of those evils by the true interpretation of the original precepts.”

—Bhakti Vinoda Thakura, The Bhagavata Speech

While the concept of devotional service in love to Sri Krishna is easy to grasp (“It is indeed very easy to tell and swift to hear that Absolute Truth has such an affinity with the human soul that it comes through it as if intuitively.”), it must be practiced with a tenacious diligence to the methods and disciplines imposed by the spiritual master (“No exertion is necessary to teach the precepts of true religion. This is a deceptive idea.”). “Labour has its wages and the idle must never be rewarded. ‘Higher is the work, greater the reward’ is a useful truth.” Thus, Srila Sridhara Maharaja has told us “No risk, no gain. Greatest risk, greatest gain.”

The definition of sraddha is given in the Caitanya-caritamrta: “Faith is the firm conviction that by serving Krsna, all other purposes are automatically served.” No risk, no gain. Greatest risk, greatest gain. Krsna reassures us, “I am everywhere – there is no need to be afraid at all. Just realize that I am your friend. I am all in all, and you are Mine. To believe this is your only fare for the journey to the land of faith.” (The Loving Search for the Lost Servant)

Some weeks ago a disciple of Srila Govinda Maharaja visited our Math. He was living in an ISKCON temple due to circumstances he explained this way “I had no other recourse. My fiancee did not want me to chant Hare Krishna. I could no longer live with her. I could no longer afford the overhead of the apartment, utilities, car and so on. I called the leader of one of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Maths offering to serve there. But he told me he had no beds available, so I could not go there. I went to the ISKCON temple and they offered me the position of temple commander and gave me a room to stay in. So I live there and I am happy there. It was Krishna’s arrangement.” I did not agree that his explanation was proof that Krishna wanted him to serve under the direction of an ISKCON guru. I then asked him “Who is the acharya of that temple?” He looked puzzled by the question. I then asked him “What acharya is directing your service?” I don’t recall exactly the details, but the conversation continued along these lines: 

He answered “Govinda Maharaja.”

Me: Oh, he is the acharya of that temple?

Him: No

Me: Who is the acharya of that temple?

Him: Srila Prabhupada

Me: Oh, Srila Prabhupada is still present and he is living there and directing all the seva? You answer directly to him, no one else?

Him: Well, no. There is a temple president, I guess he is the acharya. He directs my seva.

Me: He is an ISKCON guru?

Him: No.

Me: Then how is he the acharya? The acharya must be one of the ISKCON gurus. Who is the guru who initiates new persons?

Him: There are many gurus. A new person can choose from many gurus.

Me: The quality of prasadam is determined by the quality of the acharya who is directing the seva of the Deities. Which acharya is directing the seva of the Deities.

Him: I guess that’s me, I am the acharya because, as temple commander, I direct who will make the offerings to the Deities.

Me: Oh, now you are the acharya. And how did you become the acharya? If a new person wants initiation, you will initiate him?

Him: No.

Me: To whom will you direct new persons for initiation?

Him: I don’t direct them to anyone. Everyone can decide for themselves whom to accept as their guru.

Me: Then you, who was initiated by Srila Govinda Maharaja some twenty years ago feel no interest that a new person should be initiated in the same line as your guru?

Him: If they take initiation in the line of Srila Prabhupada, it is the same thing.

Me: You see no difference between the ISKCON gurus and your guru, Srila Govinda Maharaja?

Him: No.

Me: If they are the same, why is one group called ISKCON and the other Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math? If they are the same, why do they not have the same name? Ford and Mercedes both make automobiles. But their cars are not the same. If they were the same, they would have the same name. Otherwise, if one company made exactly the same car as another company, they would be guilty of patent infringement, stealing the property of another.

The quality of our service is dependent upon who the service is going through, the mediator. If you say there is no difference between the quality of Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON and that of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, the founder of SCSM, I would not argue your point. But you renounced your connection with an ISKCON guru to take initiation from Srila Govinda Maharaja. Therefore, you must have seen some difference between the two.

Now, some twenty years later, you think you have no better understanding about who is qualified to be a guru than a new person joining the temple, so you don’t feel an interest to direct them to any particular guru? Any guru will do? I don’t understand that thinking.

On the point of not going to the SCS Math, because it had no bed for him, I quoted this line: samit pani shrotriyam brahma nishtham and explained the meaning; it is not the duty of an acharya to supply a bed or any other material thing for a disciple. The duty of an acharya is to supply relevant instruction on spiritual life, not supply so-called material needs. To that he responded “No. Srila Prabhupada supplied beds and rooms for his disciples. Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja did also.” I then told him of a time I visited Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s Math in the early 80’s, when there were no beds or rooms for all the visiting devotees. I had no bed. He said “But at least you had a room.” No, I had no room either. I slept on the veranda of the Natha Mandira, the equivalent to sleeping on someone’s porch, where there was a roof, but no walls. Srila Sridhara Maharaja told us of one of his first visits to Srila Saraswati Thakura’s Gaudiya Math in Mayapura, where he slept on the veranda with only a blanket. That was not uncommon, even after being initiated. Perhaps, even for his sannyasis, who often slept on the floor. This is, by the way, the tradition for brahmacharis and even sannyasis:

Therefore two things must go on in parallel lines. One side, a person should cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness and, another side, he should try to give up all the unwanted things. That will help him. You cannot continue both the things. Just like when a person is diseased, he’s given medicine. At the same time, he has to act, not to take this, not to take that. That is the way of treatment. Not that whatever you like, you can eat; whatever you like, you can do, at the same time you become spiritually advanced. This is all nonsense. Tapasā brahmacaryeṇa [SB 6.1.13]. One has to practice tapasya. Tapas. Tapas means a little inconvenience, voluntarily accepting inconvenience. Just like brahmacārī lies down on the floor. A sannyāsī also, they follow the same practice as far as possible. (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Lecture: 721101SB.VRN)

Samit pani does not mean it is the duty of the spiritual master to provide for the material necessities of his disciples. Just the opposite, the disciple is to supply the necessities for his service to the spiritual master:

   Samitpani means that the necessary materials will be taken by the disciple. He won’t go to trouble his own guru. With his own bed, baggage and everything he requires he will go to the spiritual master, not to show some kindness to him, that I have come to give you some name and fame, etc.(Guardian of Devotion)

What is considered by many to be our beginner’s book gives further stress to the point:

At that time, taking the responsibility on his own shoulders, without giving any trouble to the guru, and at risk of poverty, ill-feeding, and so many other hard-ships, he will approach the guru. It is a free transaction. Not that he will give something to gurudeva, but he will collect what is necessary for sacrifice, for education, and at his own risk he will approach the spiritual master. (The Search for Sri Krishna)

Srila Govinda Maharaja relates some of his early history in service to Srila Sridhara Maharaja. We don’t find that he came to Srila Sridhara Maharaja expecting his guru to serve him by supplying him with varies material necessities. Rather, his example shows his determination to serve his Divine Master over a period of many years, by doing whatever was required of him. One such duty was to expand the only living accommodation available at the time, a grass hut, into a temple for the Deities and accommodations for many devotees. By the time of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s disappearance he had accomplished these things in a glorious way.

    Srila Govinda Maharaja: Yes. Although Guru Maharaja’s health was not so good he would still go on these tours. You would be surprised to hear that at that time no qualified person was in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math who could maintain his Mission. When he was 55 years old Srila Guru Maharaja made a will. He made me the Sevaite and Acharya; [Bhakti Saranga] Goswami Maharaja, one thatched house, then a second, then the building of bricks, mud, and plaster, and after that gradually came the other buildings. The year I went to Badarikasram we collected 5,000 rupees and on returning I proposed to Srila Guru Maharaja that we shall make a Temple. Srila Guru Maharaja said, “With only 5,000 rupees what shall you be able to make?” By the desire of Srila Guru Maharaja I then called Jajavar Maharaja. He came and Madhusudan Maharaja also came. It was Gaura purnima time, and they went preaching for the festival to be held here. At that time a donor came: Kisori Mohan Das Vairagya was his name, it is on the first of the marble plaques beside the Mandir. With his promise to give money for the Temple, Srila Guru Maharaja started the construction. I don’t have a clear memory of historical dates but it was maybe 1955. Kisori Babu then gave maybe ten or twelve thousand rupees – a lot of money at that time.

    At first the raised Deity room and roof were finished but there was no veranda. Then the veranda came, after which Srila Guru Maharaja installed there the Deity. I can remember that the first abhisek of the Deity was in the old building. The Deity therefore must have first been installed there.

    Question: When the Temple was only a temple room with no veranda, where did the devotees do bhajan?

    Srila Govinda Maharaja: The devotees held bhajan in a thatched shed in front of the Temple, like a small Nat Mandir. It was made of bamboo and corrugated tin sheet. Another person, a lady, also gave some money towards the Nat Mandir. A little later when Kisori Babu left his body, only the ground floor of the Temple had been completed. In order to raise funds to continue building, some devotees of Srila Guru Maharaja made further collections in addition to the annual parikrama tours by train and the Badarikasram pilgrimage. We continued those tours every year from 1953 until 1979. After Srila Swami Maharaja’s disappearance when the Western devotees started coming, I no longer had the time to make the parikramas. Also some money started coming in from other sources, so for various reasons we stopped the parikramas. We are very few devotees here, and mainly it was due to a shortage of time that the parikramas were stopped.

    Question: How long did it take to build the Temple?

    Srila Govinda Maharaja: The Temple took twenty years to build, and when it was completed there was still no Nat Mandir. Around 1975 a lady devotee of Guru Maharaja promised 5,000 rupees and we started the construction of the Nat Mandir. Up until close to the time of the completion of the Temple there was only one other building of bricks: the building of Srila Guru Maharaja. The Nat Mandir was built after 1975 as was the goshala, a cowshed, by my present house. This building where I now stay was made also around that time. This was not originally to be my house but it was intended to be the kitchen.
. . .
   In the very early days of Sri Chaitanva Saraswat Math, Satish Prabhu stayed here. Nobody wanted to stay without a roof even, but Satish Prabhu happily stayed here and he helped Srila Guru Maharaja to make the thatched house. He was the very first person to come and stay on the land after Srila Guru Maharaja purchased it.

    Guru Maharaja himself planted the compound hedge and he did much other physical labouring work around the Math. I also helped Srila Guru Maharaja with the labouring duties in the Math compound.

—Srila Govinda Maharaja, Golden Reflections

Srila Sridhara Maharaja was content to live in a “thatched house” and Satish Prabhu was willing to serve him without even having the comfort of a roof over his head. “Guru Maharaja himself planted the compound hedge and he did much other physical labouring work around the Math.” What was some of the “labouring work” Srila Sridhara Maharaja did? He plowed the fields, mended fences and whatever else was called for, as any dhama basi (resident of Krishna’s holy abode) would do. He saw himself as the servant of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharva Govinda Sundara and no service to Their Lordships was too menial that he was not prepared to do it himself. Naturally, he would expect others to do likewise. A few, like Srila Govinda Maharaja, did and for that they received the greatest fortune imaginable; they were recognized as dedicated servants of their guru. In the case of Srila Govinda Maharaja he was seen as a “fanatic to his guru.”

Those that waited for Srila Sridhara Maharaja to offer them a bed and a room in exchange for their service are probably still waiting. I doubt such persons ever got the chance to serve, with full surrender and devotion, the Rupanuga Dhara, the one upholding the Rupanuga conception.

“But we want to be cheated. We want to be cheated. We want something sublime very cheap. That means we want to be cheated. If you want very nice thing you must pay for it. “No. I shall go to a store, Sir, I can pay you ten cents, you give me the best thing for it.” How can you expect for ten cent? If you want to purchase some valuable, if you want to purchase gold, then you have to pay for it. Similarly if you want perfection in yoga practice, then you have to pay for it like this. Don’t make it childish affair. That is the instruction of Bhagavad-gita. If you make it childish affair then you’ll be cheated. And so many cheaters are waiting to cheat you and take your money and go away. That’s all.”

—A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Lecture: Bg 6.13-15—February 16, 1969, Los Angeles

No doubt there are many disciples, like the one I alluded to above, that conceive of the guru in a particular way, the wrong way, as one who can supply him with what Srila Prabhupada alluded to as that which can be purchased from the dime-store. The guru’s thinking is very different from that. He does not want to distribute that which is very cheap and can be obtained in any common marketplace. He should not adopt such thinking from his disciples. Rather, “That mentality should be curtailed.” It is the duty of the guru to correct the wrong mentality of his disciples. If he cannot correct it, the disciple may wander here and there at is will, but the guru is not required to give him a bed and a room.

Harikeśa: When you originally were speaking about Vṛndāvana, you mentioned that Vṛndāvana would be a place for those people who have become a little disturbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or burned out, we call it, from so much activity, that he comes here and gets rejuvenated. Is that still…

Prabhupāda: That is a fact, but provided he is devotee. If he’s not a devotee then he will go away, here and there, here and there. That is the habit. And a devotee is satisfied anywhere. A devotee is not that “I’ll go to Vṛndāvana, then I’ll be satisfied.” Nārāyaṇaparāḥ sarve na kutaścana bibhyati [SB 6.17.28]. I did not go to your country taking Vṛndāvana with me. I had to stay in places where in the refrigerator there is meat. And I was cooking. When opened it I saw, “Here is meat. All right, what can be done? Hare Kṛṣṇa.” That’s all.

Akṣayānanda: But actually you did take Vṛndāvana with you.

Prabhupāda: So if I would have stuck to Vṛndāvana, “No, no, I cannot go anywhere, leaving Vṛndāvana.” No, we can go to hell if there is Kṛṣṇa’s service.

Harikeśa: So is there some time that maybe somebody could stay here when he comes in that frame of consciousness?

Prabhupāda: No, no, it is… Not that. It should be now restricted. Not that anyone comes and whimsically goes away. This should be restricted.

Gopāla Kṛṣṇa: These devotees just create a disturbance, Śrīla Prabhupāda. They don’t want to be engaged and everybody copies them and the whole atmosphere gets…

Prabhupāda: No, no.

Akṣayānanda: A lot of devotees think… They come here… Therefore work is not necessary. Simply chanting and being in Vṛndāvana is nice. That’s wrong.

Prabhupāda: No, no. Chanting, but there is expenditure. Who will collect this twenty-five thousand? It is increasing. I can maintain them provided they are actually serious about making progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Not that some lazy fellow will come, and because he has come to Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa-candra has become very much obliged to him. Kṛṣṇa-candra had no other friend. He has come from somebody. That mentality should be curtailed.

“Krishna’s arrangement” means Krishna’s desire, Krishna’s will. “It was Krishna’s arrangement that I came to be temple commander in an ISKCON temple.” I have heard many Christians proclaim such things. They say they are in communion with Jesus, walking with him, talking with him and, thereby, doing his will. It is uncommon that a devotee would adopt such ideas and think “Krishna is directly instructing me to go here and there. What looks like aimless wandering to you, is not that at all. I am carrying out Krishna’s will.” Maybe. Who can say it isn’t? To me it’s difficult not to think of such behavior in the terms Srila Prabhupada described: “If he’s not a devotee then he will go away, here and there, here and there. That is the habit. And a devotee is satisfied anywhere. A devotee is not that ‘I’ll go to Vṛndāvana, then I’ll be satisfied.'”

A disciple should think “My guru is in such a high position. Krishna is directly instructing him and he is following that direction. He is so far above me. Just see, he has already attained what is inconceivable to me: nikunja-yuno rati-keli-siddhyai… he is serving the Divine Couple in the most intimate ways, ways that are inconceivable to me. That is the position of my guru. he is so exalted.”

But a guru is a disciple first and foremost. Therefore, he shows the symptoms of a disciple in the most perfect way possible, as “the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead.” 

Only out of His immense compassion does the Personality of Godhead reveal Himself as the spiritual master. Therefore in the dealings of an ācārya there are no activities but those of transcendental loving service to the Lord. He is the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead. It is worthwhile to take shelter of such a steady devotee, who is called āśrayavigraha, or the manifestation or form of the Lord of whom one must take shelter.

If one poses himself as an ācārya but does not have an attitude of servitorship to the Lord, he must be considered an offender, and this offensive attitude disqualifies him from being an ācārya. The bona fide spiritual master always engages in unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By this test he is known to be a direct manifestation of the Lord and a genuine representative of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu. Such a spiritual master is known as ācāryadeva. Influenced by an envious temperament and dissatisfied because of an attitude of sense gratification, mundaners criticize a real ācārya. In fact, however, a bona fide ācārya is nondifferent from the Personality of Godhead, and therefore to envy such an ācārya is to envy the Personality of Godhead Himself. This will produce an effect subversive of transcendental realization.

As mentioned previously, a disciple should always respect the spiritual master as a manifestation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, but at the same time one should always remember that a spiritual master is never authorized to imitate the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. False spiritual masters pose themselves as identical with Śrī Kṛṣṇa in every respect to exploit the sentiments of their disciples, but such impersonalists can only mislead their disciples, for their ultimate aim is to become one with the Lord. This is against the principles of the devotional cult.

—Cc. Adi 1.46 : PURPORT

The cheater guru portrays himself as nirbheda-brahmanu-sandhana, one who is liberated and has achieved the highest stage of oneness with the Absolute Truth (I and God are one. Therefore, my thinking and actions are non-different from His). Sri Krishna Chaitanya, the supreme guru of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas showed something completely different. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed Himself as one always engaged in krishnanu-sandhana, the search for Sri Krishna. The perfect followers of Sriman Mahaprabhu, the six goswamis of Vrndavana, exhibited the same symptoms. Thus, in his Sri Sri Sad-gosvamy-astaka, Srinivasa Acarya wrote about them: he radhe vraja-devike ca lalite he nanda-suno kutah. Kutah means “where are you?” They were always searching for the Divine Personalities, Sri Radha, Sri Lalita Devi and Sri Krishna. They were not thinking “Oh, I am such a big devotee, look at me, I am serving Sri Sri Radha Madhava during Their most intimate pastimes (nikunja-yuno rati-keli-siddhyai).

A bonafide disciple will try his utmost to always see his guru as the topmost devotee, one who is engaged in the highest service of Sri Sri Radha Govinda. A bonafide guru will never think of himself, or portray himself, as one who is such an exalted devotee. He will show himself as being on the path of krishnanu-sandhana, the search for Sri Krishna. If he accepts disciples he does so when he sees the same symptoms in them; thinking, “Here is a sincere seeker, searching for Krishna. I have already begun that search. I have learned something about the best method of searching from my Gurudeva. I will share that knowledge with my disciples and together we will search for Krishna, following in the footsteps of my Spiritual Master.”

A disciple will think so many things about his guru, all very high and exalted such as: “My guru is the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead.” The bonafide guru will encourage this thinking by his disciples, that is his duty, but he will never cheat his disciples by adopting their thinking about him. He will not adopt the thinking “I am the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead.” He will always think “I am among the most unqualified servants of my guru. But for his grace I have no hope of ever attaining to the service of Sri Sri Radha Krishna.” The guru will not cheapen the service of Godhead by claiming to have already attained it. No! Service to Godhead is something that is very, very high, extremely rare, and valuable beyond measure. It is so high, that whatever exalted position his disciples may think he has attained the guru will think it is not so. It is above him:

First understand the degree of purity in Krsna consciousness. The followers of form are only imitationists; they want only to exploit Mahaprabhu and not to serve him. They are our worst enemies. They are traitors; they have taken the garb of Mahaprabhu’s sampradaya, and they are saying something bogus. This is cheap marketing; they are extensively selling adulterated things very cheaply. They have no inner necessity to attain the purest thing (pujala ragapatha gauravabange). Although he was such an exalted Vaisnava, our guru maharaja never presented himself as a great devotee. He always used to say, “I am a servant of the servant of the Vaisnavas.” That was his claim. And he would say, “The higher devotees are my guru, they are so exalted.” First come and practice all these things, and then you can hope to reach the goal. It is not so easy, or so cheap. “Out of many liberated persons, a pure devotee of Lord Krsna is extremely rare.” (koti-mukta-madhye ‘durlabha’ eka krsnabhakta).

Sri Guru and His Grace

And, in Srila Prabhupada’s inimitable (not possible to imitate) style:

Journalist: I think an awful lot of our readers, and an awful lot of people in the United States, are terribly confused with the many people who claim to be gurus and gods and who pop up in this country, one after the other after the other, and they say that—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: I can declare that they are all nonsense.

Journalist: I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little bit.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: I can say, furthermore, they’re all rascals.

Journalist: For example, the famous one who sells meditation mantras?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: He is rascal number one. I say it publicly.

Journalist: Could you explain, give me a little background on that, and why, because our readers—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: From his behavior I can understand he is rascal number one. I do not want to know about him, but what he has done makes it obvious. But the wonderful thing is that people in the Western countries are supposed to be so advanced—how are they befooled by these rascals?

Journalist: Well, I think that people are looking for something, and he comes along—

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, but they want something very cheap—that is their fault. Now, for our disciples, we don’t give anything cheap. Our first condition is character—moral character. You see? Unless one is strictly following moral principles, we don’t initiate him, we don’t allow him in this institution. And this so-called guru has been telling people, “Just do whatever you like. You simply pay me thirty-five dollars, and I’ll give you a mantra.” You see? So people want to be cheated, and so many cheaters come. People do not wish to undergo any discipline. They have got money, so they think, “We shall pay, and immediately we’ll get whatever we want.”

—Los Angeles, December 30, 1968: A CBS television news reporter interviews Śrīla Prabhuphupada

I have written several times above “a guru should not adopt the thinking of his disciples.” In actual fact, the guru does not adopt the thinking of his disciples. One who is really a guru, has already adopted a way of thinking, it is the thinking of his guru. He is satisfied with that thinking and trains his disciples to adopt the same way of thinking.

Swami B.K. Giri