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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guru Tattva

Sādhu Bābā forbade his disciples to accept any śikṣā-Gurus and preached that Guru is one. I absolutely accept that but I have felt guilty about not being able to live up to that. Not that I have ever placed any other sādhu than Bābā on the altar to do pūjā to, or that I have ever addressed anyone else as Gurudeva or so, but I did go around and consult quite a few persons since Bābā ended his manifest pastimes. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī teaches in Bhakti Sandarbha (238) :

śrī gurvājnayā tat sevanāvirodhena ca anyeṣām api vaiṣṇavānāṁ pūjanaṁ śreyaḥ anyathā doṣaḥ syāt. yathā śrī nāradoktau - gurau sannihite yastu pūjayed anyam agrataḥ. sa durgatim avāpnoti pūjanaṁ tasya niṣphalam

“It is good to worship other Vaiṣṇavas only if it is on the order of Sri Guru and does not contradict his service. Otherwise it is a fault, as is said by Śrī Nārada: “Whoever worships others in front of the Guru attains a bad destination and his worship will be fruitless.”

Recently I decided to compile a collection of glorifications of the Guru for those sceptics who believe it is not necessary or important to accept one, and as I immersed myself in the ācāryas’ comments on the relevant verses, particularly the verses about the 24 Gurus in the 11th Canto, I found the answers and consolation to my conscience problem (about having consulted so many others) too:

labdhvānugraha ācāryāt tena sandarśitāgamaḥ
mahā-puruṣam abhyarcen mūrtyābhimatayātmanaḥ

“Having attained the mercy of the ācārya and having been shown the scriptures by him one should worship the Supreme Lord in the image of his choice.” Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī comments: anugraho mantra-dīkṣā-rūpaḥ. asyaikatvam eka-vacanatvena bodhyate “The word ācārya is in singular case. The mercy is bestowed in the form of initiation.” (Srīmad Bhāgavata 11.3.48)

Although Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.9.31 (na hyekasmād gurur jñānaṁ susthiraṁ) seems to say one cannot get full knowledge from one single Guru alone, all commentator-acaryas have said this does not mean one should erect a forest of śikṣā-guru-pictures on one’s altar -

Śrīdhara Swāmī comments:

jnāna-pradaṁ gurum eveti jñāna-pradaṁ gurum ekam eva vakṣyati, mad-abhijñaṁ guruṁ śāntam upāsīta [bhā.pu. 11.10.5] iti. uktaṁ ca, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam [bhā.pu. 11.3.22] iti.

"The word jñāna-pradam guru, or the Guru who bestows divine knowledge, is in singular case in verses 11.10.5 and 11.3.21. »

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s Krama Sandarbha comment:

nanv eka eva yogyo guruḥ kartavyaḥ. tasmād eva sa-parikaraṁ jñānaṁ setsyati. kiṁ vā, matāntara-jnā evānye praṣṭavyāḥ. kiṁ gurv-ābhāsair vyāvahārika-padārthair ity āśankyāha—na hīti. ekasmān mukhyād guror labdhaṁ supuṣkalaṁ susthiraṁ yaj jnānaṁ tad api na syāt na sampadyate. kutaḥ? tatrāha—brahmeti. tat-tan-matena mati-bhaṅgād ity arthaḥ. tasmān mahā-gurūpadiṣṭa-mata-poṣāya tad-viruddha-mata-nirasanāya ca sva-buddhyā mananārthaṁ vyāvahārika-padārthā eva gurutvena sambhāvitāḥ, na tu kāpilādi-matāntara-sthāpakā iti bhāvaḥ

« Actually one should surely accept one single qualified Guru and perfect one’s knowledge through him. Should one then inquire from teachers who have differing opinions? Why is it then recommended that one learn from many so-called spiritual masters appearing in the forms of ordinary material objects? The Avadhuta replies to this that even if one receives steady and profuse knowledge from a single, major Guru, it cannot be accomplished by hearing from him alone. That is made clear in the second half of the verse – though brahman is unique, it is sung of by the seers in many different ways.” By hearing so many different opinions our purpose and resolution is ruptured. Therefore while hearing all these different teachers (by observing all these ordinary objects) one should use one’s discriminating intelligence and due reflection to nourish and strengthen the opinion of the great teacher (one’s own Guru) and to refute opposing views. Consulting so many teachers should not serve to establish opposing views like those of Kapila and others."

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments:

nanu mad abhijñaṁ guruṁ śāntam upāsīta [bhā.pu. 11.10.5] iti, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijnāsuḥ śreya uttamam [bhā.pu. 11.3.22] ity ādy uktibhya eka eva gurur āśrayaṇīyo’vagamyate. nāpi śvetaketu-bhṛgu-pramukhair bahavo gurava āśritāḥ. satyaṁ mamāpi mantropadeṣṭā gurur eka eva upāsyo vartate. kintūpāsanāyām ānukūlya-prātikūlya-dṛṣṭāntībhūtā ete padārthāḥ parāmṛśya gurū-kṛtā ity anvaya-vyatirekābhyāṁ me śikṣā-gurava evaite jneyāḥ…… śikṣā-gurūṇāṁ tu bāhulyam eva prāyo jnāna-dārḍhya-prayojakam ity āha—na hīti......

“From two other Bhāgavata-verses mentioned before and after (11.3.21-22 and 11.10.5) it is clear that one should take shelter of one single Guru alone. Even great sages like Śvetaketu or Bhṛgu did not take shelter of many Gurus. Truly, only the Guru who gave me my mantra (the dīkṣā-guru) is worshipable for me. śikṣā-Gurus with their direct and indirect teachings can surely serve to point out what factors are favorable and unfavorable for my worship, though. Accepting many instructing teachers is done for strengthening one’s knowledge.”

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda’s ṭīkā on Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.29.34:
niveditātma mat-svarūpa-bhūtāya man-mantropadeśakāya gurave – „Surrender to me means surrendering to the Guru who instructs in My mantra (the dīkṣā-guru) and who is My very form.”

In other words, other sādhus and material objects that teach us something true, are all just manifestations of our one and only beloved Śrī Gurudeva. Along with these comments all the other Guru-verses in the 11th canto, 11 in total, speak of the Guru in the singular case.

This is just a synopsis. The full compilation has been posted on my website, under the name ‘The glories of (the one) Guru’, at the linktab ‘Articles’.


  1. I think in the end we have to use our own “god ”given or if you are not comfortable with that term, use “ nature” given , guru inspired intelligence to arrive at the truth that we are comfortable with if we have no way of knowing what our own guru’s positions are.

    And I will explain my point by giving 2 scenarios.

    First scenario: Even if we have a physical Guru he/she can't be with us all the time to clear up things that maybe be confusing for us. So do we go to any guru or use our “god” given intelligence or guru inspired intelligence to answer our own query ourselves? If our guru is still manifest then is it alright to go to another guru or advanced Vaishnava? If yes, we still have to make a judgement call ourselves: is that Guru's answer reasonable or is it in alignment wth my own Guru's position? What if we are faced with a situation where time is of the essence. Surely we will have to depend on our god given guru inspired intelligence, won’t we?

    Second scenario, if we don’t have a physically present guru or as in my case have never had the fortune of physical association with him, what do I do? I go to you. But if you cant show me a direct proof that our guru’s view is the one you are telling me and in my heart I disagree with your views, what do I do? Go to a guru? If I do, I’m back to square one, discern the truth by my god given intelliegence, hopefully guru inspired though.

    Based on the scenarios above, I think if we are humble and sincere in our quest for the truth the Guru will speak through our own intelligence to discern what the truth is and is not and thus it all comes back to ONE and ONLY Guru.

    I hope my understanding does not greatly deviate from our acharyas.

    Radhe Radhe

  2. Yes discriminating intelligence, common sense, a virtuous conscience and prayer to the Guru for guidance, also in snap decision making.

    I go to you. But if you cant show me a direct proof that our guru’s view is the one you are telling me and in my heart I disagree with your views, what do I do?

    Trust me. As Baba did not allow any recording there is no evidence of any of his teachings I have broadcast on this site and on If you trust me I have also no objection if you ask any of our siblings for confirmation. Baba also said that the Gosvamis' books are to be consulted for anything he might not have discussed or expressed his verdict on.

  3. I really appreciated this post Advaitdas Ji. As you know, our gurudev departed not so long after giving us mantra. Often when people hear of this they are quick to say, "then you need to find a siksha guru." Those words never appeal to us though. Gurudev so overwhelmed us with his love and captured our hearts that it would be impossible to think of calling anyone else "gurudev."


  4. That's the spirit! Did you see the full version of the essay on my site?

  5. Advaitadas:
    Trust me. As Baba did not allow any recording there is no evidence of any of his teachings I have broadcast on this site and on

    I need to edit this about there being no evidence other than my accounts - I do have a huge collection of letters and mp3-recordings of other eye-witnesses of Sadhu Baba, but one needs to know Bengali to understand them, of course.

  6. "advaitadas said...
    That's the spirit! Did you see the full version of the essay on my site?"

    Actually, I have reading it for the last several minutes, but yet to finish it. I really enjoy it!

    This topic brings to mind a question. I wonder how someone typically regards their bhek guru? I know our gurudev had a picture of his bhek guru on his altar and one on the wall of his room. I never discussed this with anyone before. Have you heard anyones views on this subject?


  7. That's a tough question for me to answer because we do not practise bhek, but I suppose it would be the best to take that from the diksa guru as well. If that were not possible, because the diksa Guru has already expired, that would still not make the bhekh-Guru a second Guru.

  8. Thanks Advaita. Now I understand guru tattva.

  9. Dandavat pranams Sri Advaita Das prabhuji,

    I read the comment about one verse in the Gita about guru worship. In my opinion the whole gita centers around guru worship. A bold statement I know but there is some sense to my madness. We have to consider that there are two types of gurus, vyasti guru and samasti guru. Vyasti guru is the manifestation of guru for a particular person or group of persons. Samasti guru is the total of all gurus combined namely Sri Krishna. In the Gita Krishna speaks as the guru of Sri Arjuna but also to the hearts of all the devotees. Sri Krishna is not a manifestation of guru at that specific point, he is the real samasti guru. Therefore it is very rare to find a picture of the vyasti guru on the altar in a traditional gaudiya math. Because Sri Krishna is for everyone and the vyasti guru is a relative manifestation of the absolute. Of course it is alright if you still want to place a picture of the vyasti guru on you're own altar. And you can always get siksa from an other bonafide vaishnava who is also a vyasti guru. But I also agree that an altar should not become a place with pictures of all the people that you meet during you're lifetime who speak to you're heart. Bottom line is that everything centers around the samasti guru Sri Krishna. I hope this will contribute something to the very interesting discussion.

    You're servant,

    Arun Kumar Das

  10. I am not sure at which conclusion you wish to arrive here, Arun. It is not that the samasti Guru is a replacement for the vyasti Guru. Shastra says, after all:

    prathamaM tu guruH pUjyaH
    tataz caiva mamArcanam
    kurvan siddhim avApnoti
    hy anyathA niSphalaM bhavet

    « First the Guru is to be worshipped, then Me (Krishna). Then perfection will be attained and not otherwise.’

    In Bhakti Sandarbha (237, quoted in the pdf on my site) Jiva Gosvami says one should worship Krishna, but those who wish special perfection should worship the Guru. Krishna is already on the altar anyway, in His deity form.