His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
(founder of the Hare Krsna movement)
by Purujit Dasa
Lord Sri Krsna becomes very pleased when His devotee is being praised. He is pleased even more than when the devotees praise Him directly. So one should not minimize the value of the auspicious ceremony called Vyasa Puja organized for glorification of the spiritual master. Yet, this is not all in all we have to do in order to glorify our spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada says:
You can eulogize your Guru Mahārāja, but you have to learn it and face the public and be strong to defend yourself. That is success. Not by praising your Guru Mahārāja. You'll praise your Guru Mahārāja. That is not very difficult. But be victorious to the opposing elements. Then you will praise your Guru Mahārāja nicely. At home, you can praise your Guru Mahārāja, and Guru Mahārāja be satisfied, "Oh, my disciples are praising me." That is not very.... That is good. Respectful. That is the qualification. But you have to fight. Then your Guru Mahārāja will be glorified.
Conversation on Roof -- December 26, 1975, Sanand
What are the opposing elements to the spreading of Krsna consciousness movement? The list is endless, but they can be all put under one unifying category, which can be understood from Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantra:
namas te sārasvate deve gaura-vāṇī-pracāriṇe
“Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvatī Gosvāmī. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.”
This is the sum and substance of Srila Prabhupada's mission -to defeat the philosophy of impersonalism and voidism and establish the sublime philosophy of acintya abheda-bheda tattva of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It is just like watering the root of a tree. If we are able to defeat the philosophy of impersonalism and voidism, then all other problems that face our movement will be understood in their proper perspective.
Voidism and impersonalism are both different versions of the Mayavada philosophy. While in the case of voidism, the denial of God is honestly admitted, the impersonal philosophy claims that although we are all God, we have come under the control of maya, which is a denial of God in a disguise. The proponents of such a doctrine however fail to explain how it is possible for God, who is the supreme absolute and unchanging to be conquered by maya. Srila Prabhupada challenges:
“The last illusion, the last snare of māyā to trap the living entity, is the proposition that he is God. The living entity thinks that he is no longer a conditioned soul, but God. He is so unintelligent that he does not think that if he were God, then how could he be in doubt? That he does not consider. So that is the last snare of illusion."
Bg. 18.73 purport
Blind man thinks everyone else is blind and because the Mayavadis are conditioned they think that when Krsna comes into this world, He becomes subjected by the laws of material nature, falls into maya (illusion) and acquires a material body just like them. The reality is however different. It is the conditioned soul’s perverted vision of Krsna’s body which is tinged by illusion, not that Krsna’s transcendental body itself is an illusion. Srila Prabhupada explains:
Certainly the transcendental body of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not perishable. He is just like the sun, and mayā is like the cloud. In the material world we can see that there is the sun and that there are clouds and different stars and planets. The clouds may cover all these in the sky temporarily, but this covering is only apparent to our limited vision. The sun, moon and stars are not actually covered. Similarly, māyā cannot cover the Supreme Lord. By His internal potency He is not manifest to the less intelligent class of men.
Although the cloud is the energy of the sun and in one sense same with the sun in quality, there’s a quantitative difference in the sense that the cloud is covering only an insignificant portion of the sun. The sun is so much more powerful that it can evaporate the cloud at any moment. Actually, the cloud is not covering the sun at all. Simply our limited vision of the sun is obstructed. Similarly, Sri Krsna can never be covered by maya. Only our vision of Sri Krsna can be influenced by maya. In one of the purports, Srila Prabhupada elaborates on this point:
The energy emanated from the Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests in two ways—as an emanation from the Supreme Lord and as a covering of the Lord's face. In Bhagavad-gītā it is said that the whole world is illusioned by the three modes of material nature, and thus the common conditioned soul, being covered by such energy, cannot see the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The example of a cloud is very nicely given. All of a sudden there may appear a big cloud in the sky. This cloud is perceived in two ways. To the sun the cloud is a creation of its energy, but to the ordinary common man in the conditioned state, it is a covering to the eyes; because of the cloud, the sun cannot be seen. It is not that the sun is actually covered by the cloud; only the vision of the ordinary being is covered. Similarly, although māyā cannot cover the Supreme Lord, who is beyond māyā, the material energy covers the ordinary living entities. Those conditioned souls who are covered are individual living entities, and He from whose energy māyā is created is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In another place in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, in the First Canto, Seventh Chapter, it is stated that by his spiritual vision Vyāsadeva saw the Supreme Lord and the material energy standing behind Him. This indicates that material energy cannot cover the Lord, just as darkness cannot cover the sun. Darkness can cover a jurisdiction which is very insignificant in comparison to that of the sun. Darkness can cover a small cave, but not the open sky. Similarly, the covering capacity of the material energy is limited and cannot act on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is therefore called vibhu. As the appearance of a cloud is accepted by the sun, so the appearance of the material energy at a certain interval is accepted by the Lord. Although His material energy is utilized to create the material world, this does not mean that He is covered by that energy. Those who are covered by the material energy are called conditioned souls. The Lord accepts the material energy for His material pastimes in creation, maintenance and dissolution. But the conditioned soul is covered; he cannot understand that beyond this material energy there is the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is the cause of all causes, just as a less intelligent person cannot understand that beyond the covering of the clouds there is bright sunshine.
What is true about Krsna can be also applied to his pure devotee. A pure devotee cannot be influenced by material nature as he is under the protection of Krsna’s divine nature. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita:
O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.
Srila Prabhupada explains this verse in the following way:
The first sign of the mahātmā is that he is already situated in the divine nature. He is not under the control of material nature. And how is this effected? That is explained in the Seventh Chapter: one who surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, at once becomes freed from the control of material nature. That is the qualification. One can become free from the control of material nature as soon as he surrenders his soul to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the preliminary formula. Being marginal potency, as soon as the living entity is freed from the control of material nature, he is put under the guidance of the spiritual nature. The guidance of the spiritual nature is called daivīṁ prakṛtim, divine nature. So, when one is promoted in that way-by surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead-one attains to the stage of great soul, mahātmā.
Also he mentions in another purport:
A pure devotee of the Lord does not live on any planet of the material sky, nor does he feel any contact with the material elements. His so-called material body does not exist, being surcharged with the spiritual current of the Lord's identical interest, and thus he is permanently freed from all contaminations of the sum total of the mahat-tattva.
The problem is that as the conditioned souls think of Krsna to be under the subjugation of material nature, they think his pure devotee is under the control of material nature as well. Srila Prabhupada confirms:
Foolish people consider Krsna a human being, and they consider Lord Krsna's pure devotee an ordinary human being also.
C.c Madhya lila purport 22.51
The mentality which generates the idea that the spiritual master is controlled by material nature is considered by the Vedic literatures to be hellish (naraki buddhi). Anyone who thinks that a pure devotee is under the control of material nature is fit to reside in hell. It is a very serious offence.
Padma Purāṇa clearly states:
"One who thinks the Deity in the temple to be made of wood or stone, who thinks of the spiritual master in the disciplic succession as an ordinary man, who thinks the Vaiṣṇava in the Acyuta-gotra to belong to a certain caste or creed or who thinks of caraṇāmṛta or Ganges water as ordinary water is taken to be a resident of hell."
If we study how the puffed up conception of one’s being God enters, we can see that the root is an offense to a Vaisnava, namely to consider his body to be controlled by material nature.
“Impersonalist Mayavadis, who have no relationship with Krsna, who cannot take to devotional service, and who simply engage in material arguments to understand Brahman, regard devotional service to Krsna as karma-kanda, or fruitive activities. According to them, devotional service to Krsna is but another means for attaining dharma, artha, kama and moksa. Therefore they criticize the devotees for engaging in material activities. They think that devotional service is maya and that Krsna or Visnu is also maya. Therefore they are called Mayavadis. Such a mentality awakens in a person who is an offender to Krsna and His devotees."
C.C Antya 8.27
Prabhupāda: … to consider guru's body as material, that is also wrong.
Dr. Patel: I read somewhere that you have got to take guru as God from this point of view, that he's ātmā. You are worshiping God...
Prabhupāda: No, no. This is Māyāvāda.
Morning Walk -- February 23, 1974, Bombay
Prabhupāda: Why do you distinguish between guru's ātmā and guru's body?
Dr. Patel: But the body... But the body's not guru!
Prabhupāda: That is Māyāvāda. That is Māyāvāda.
Morning Walk -- February 23, 1974, Bombay
Because the Mayavadi thinks the pure devotee spiritual master is under the subjugation of material energy, naturally his conclusion is that the pure devotee spiritual master is depending on various material circumstances to guide his disciples properly. In other words, the Mayavadi says that the material circumstances forced the spiritual master to instruct in a particular way and because the material circumstances might be different now, it is not necessary to follow the instruction of the spiritual master. In this way the Mayavadi is able to mix in his materially concocted ideas into spiritual life. As soon as he establishes incompleteness of the spiritual master, he has a justification to fill up the gap with his own opinions and thus becomes a so-called successor to the spiritual master. One is thus sure to differ from the opinion of the spiritual master.
One who interprets the divine sound, or śabda-brahma, by his imperfect sense perception cannot be a real spiritual guru, because, in the absence of proper disciplinary training under the bona fide ācārya, the interpreter is sure to differ from Vyāsadeva (as the Māyāvādīs do). Śrīla Vyāsadeva is the prime authority of Vedic revelation, and therefore such an irrelevant interpreter cannot be accepted as the guru, or ācārya, howsoever equipped he may be with all the acquirements of material knowledge.
SSR 2b: The Absolute Necessity of a Spiritual Master
When disciples do not stick to the principle of accepting the order of their spiritual master, immediately there are two opinions. Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation. There is no scope for adjusting spiritual advancement to material ideas.
To avoid such a Mayavadi confusion, we should more carefully study the nature of transcendence itself. The following verse is fundamental in this regard:
The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete. And because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped -as a complete whole. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete by itself. And because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
Because the spiritual master is the representative of the Lord, his nature is similar to God’s. He is not the Supreme Godhead, but because he acts on behalf of the Supreme Godhead, he should be respected on the same level with the Supreme Godhead.
Although I know that my spiritual master is a servitor of Sri Caitanya, I know Him also as a plenary manifestation of the Lord.
Every living entity is essentially a servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the spiritual master is also His servant. Still, the spiritual master is a direct manifestation of the Lord. With this conviction, a disciple can advance in Krsna consciousness. The spiritual master is nondifferent from Krsna because he is a manifestation of Krsna.
According to the deliberate opinion of all revealed scriptures, the spiritual master is nondifferent from Krsna. Lord Krsna in the form of the spiritual master delivers His devotees.
The relationship of a disciple with his spiritual master is as good as his relationship with the Supreme Lord. A spiritual master always represents himself as the humblest servitor of the Personality of Godhead, but the disciple must look upon him as the manifested representation of Godhead.
Let us now analyze the different parts of the sloka in the Sri Isopanisad one by one:
1. The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete.
The spiritual master, who is the representative of the Personality of Godhead is therefore also perfect and complete. This is the difference between a bona fide spiritual master and an imposter.
Imposter’s knowledge is material and therefore incomplete and limited, whereas guru’s knowledge is eternal, complete and unlimited. It does not depend on the material circumstances.
If we take the instruction of God and His representative as temporary, then he is not representative, He is not God. Whatever is spoken by God and His representative, that is eternal. You cannot change by your whims.
Interview with Mike Darby
June 30, 1976, Wheeling, W. Virginia
It is for this reason that we do not necessarily need the physical presence of the spiritual master. If we are sincere, his teaching itself is complete to bring us to perfection and does not depend on whether the spiritual master is present or not. The physical presence of the spiritual master becomes an absolute necessity only if the spiritual master’s teachings are material, or in other words they change according to the material circumstances. Srila Prabhupada mentions an example of such a bogus relationship in the following purport:
There is a type of spiritual master and disciple much advertised in this age of Kali. It is said that the master injects spiritual force into the disciple by an electrical current generated by the master, and the disciple begins to feel the shock. He becomes unconscious, and the master weeps for exhausting his store of so-called spiritual assets. Such bogus advertisement is going on in this age, and the poor common man is becoming the victim of such advertisement. We do not find such folk tales in the dealings of Śukadeva Gosvāmī and his great disciple Mahārāja Parīkṣit. The sage recited Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in devotion, and the great King heard him properly. The King did not feel any shock of electrical current from the master, nor did he become unconscious while receiving knowledge from the master. One should not, therefore, become a victim of these unauthorized advertisements made by some bogus representative of Vedic knowledge. The sages of Naimiṣāraṇya were very respectful in hearing about Mahārāja Parīkṣit because of his receiving knowledge from Śukadeva Gosvāmī by means of ardent hearing. Ardent hearing from the bona fide master is the only way to receive transcendental knowledge, and there is no need for medical performances or occult mysticism for miraculous effects. The process is simple, but only the sincere party can achieve the desired result.
SB 1972 1.12.3 purport
Therefore Īśopaniṣad informs us that pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam eva avaśiṣyate. If you take the whole energy of Krsna from Krsna, then still, the whole energy is there. But you will be surprised nowadays. Modern Gods... There are so many modern Gods; I do not wish to name. But one modern God, he gave his power to his disciple, and the, when he came into consciousness, then he was crying. The disciple inquired from the guru, "Why you are crying, sir?" "Now I have finished everything. I have given you everything. I have given you everything; therefore I am now finished." That is not spiritual. That is material.
Bombay, January 17, 1975
The whole understanding of what initiation is and who the spiritual master is and what is the relationship between the disciple and the spiritual master becomes thus perverted. Instead of enlightening the disciple with transcendental knowledge by which he can become free from the material entanglement, the pseudo-guru makes the disciple depended on his material body. He claims that his body emanates a mysterious electrical current by which the disciple becomes miraculously enlightened automatically. Thus all disciples must receive the current personally from the body of the pseudo-guru. This is however a misunderstanding of what a spiritual relationship is in the first place:
The instruction given in my books is supposed to be personal instruction. When we read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, it is understood that we are receiving personal instructions of Krsna. No physical barrier is there in the case of spiritual affairs. It is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhoksaje
``The supreme occupation (dharma) for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendental Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted in order to completely satisfy the self.''
Letter to: Dhrstaketu:
14 October, 1973
We may add that such pure devotional service besides being unchecked by material circumstances is non-different from Krsna as it is His internal potency. Srila Prabhupada explains:
The penance by which one can see the Personality of Godhead eye to eye is to be understood as devotional service to the Lord and nothing else because only by discharging devotional service in transcendental love can one approach the Lord. Such penance is the internal potency of the Lord and is nondifferent from Him.
Sb 2.9.23 first edition
Therefore to say that devotional service can be checked by material circumstances means that Krsna can be covered by maya. Srila Prabhupada speaks of such adulterated devotional service in the purport to the ahaituky verse from the SB 1.2.6:
Material existence is temporary, illusory and full of miseries. There is no happiness at all. There is just the futile attempt to get rid of the miseries, and temporary cessation of misery is falsely called happiness. Therefore, the path of progressive material enjoyment, which is temporary, miserable and illusory, is inferior. But devotional service of the Supreme Lord, which leads one to eternal, blissful and all-cognizant life, is called the superior quality of occupation. This is sometimes polluted when mixed with the inferior quality. For example, adoption of devotional service for material gain is certainly an obstruction to the progressive path of renunciation. Renunciation or abnegation for ultimate good is certainly a better occupation than enjoyment in the diseased condition of life. Such enjoyment only aggravates the symptoms of disease and increases its duration.
SB 1972 1.2.6 purport
Therefore, a so-called disciple who is hankering for so-called personal instruction is actually not approaching the guru to understand how to get out of the material clutches. His idea of a guru is that guru is a pet, or in other words an instrument to fulfill his sense gratification. This only aggravates his material disease. It is of no wonder that his so-called relationship of getting material benefits from the guru is checked when the spiritual master physically departs. He is not serving the guru, he is serving his material motive. That is why his service has to stop at a certain point. Just as anything material, such devotional service is temporary.
There are three divisions of Kṛṣṇa conscious men. In the third class are those who have no faith. If they are engaged in devotional service officially, for some ulterior purpose, they cannot achieve the highest perfectional stage. Most probably they will slip, after some time. They may become engaged, but because they haven't complete conviction and faith, it is very difficult for them to continue in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We have practical experience in discharging our missionary activity that some people come and apply themselves to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness with some hidden motive, and as soon as they are economically a little well-situated, they give up this process and take to their old ways again.
2. And because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped -as a complete whole.
Because the spiritual master is completely perfect, all emanations from him, such as his disciples or his organizations are perfectly equipped as a complete whole. Provided the members are following the instructions of the spiritual master, naturally his organizations are identical with Krsna and therefore with the spiritual master as well.
So if we work sincerely, the Krishna Consciousness Movement is non-different from Krishna.
(Letter to Yasomatinandana 1976)
When we speak of organization however it means disciples. The organization is simply to facilitate the preaching of the disciples. Without disciples, who repeat the words of the spiritual master, the organization is just an empty shell, which at that point becomes different from the spiritual master. The spiritual master expands through his devotees into an organization because they follow his instructions and thus the movement expands.
GBC means now they should tour very extensive. That is the first principle, the GBC. Not sit down (in) one place and pass resolution. No, they must be active. They must act like me. As I am old man, I am traveling all over the world. Now to give me relief, the GBC members... I shall expand into twelve more so that they can exactly work like me. Gradually they will be initiators. At least first initiation. You must make advance. That is my motive. So, in that way I want to divide it in twelve zones. And we have to make more propaganda throughout the whole world.
Conversation with the GBC -- May 25, 1972, Los Angeles
So one who is spreading kṛṣṇa-upadeśa, simply repeat what is said by Kṛṣṇa, then you become ācārya. Not difficult at all. Everything is stated there. We have to simply repeat like parrot. Not exactly parrot. Parrot does not understand the meaning; he simply vibrates. But you should understand the meaning also; otherwise how you can explain? So, so we want to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Simply prepare yourself how to repeat Kṛṣṇa's instructions very nicely, without any malinterpretation. Then, in future... Suppose you have got now ten thousand. We shall expand to hundred thousand. That is required. Then hundred thousand to million, and million to ten million.
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.13 -- Māyāpur, April 6, 1975
The disciples are also gurus by repeating strictly whatever they have heard from the spiritual master.
To answer your last point, one who teaches can be treated as Spiritual Master. It is not that after we become initiated we become perfect. No. It requires teaching. So if we take instruction from them, all senior godbrothers may be treated as guru, there is no harm. Actually, you have only one Spiritual Master, who initiates you, just as you have only one father. But every Vaisnava should be treated as prabhu, master, higher than me, and in this sense, if I learn from him, he may be regarded as guru. It is not that I disobey my real Spiritual Master and call someone else as Spiritual Master. That is wrong. It is only that I can call Spiritual Master someone who is teaching me purely what my initiating Spiritual Master has taught.
Letter to: Sri Galim — Delhi 20 November, 1971
If a child says: “This is a microphone.” and if an adult says: “This a microphone.” there is no difference in the information. This is parampara. It's about the conclusion, the instruction, not about the person who instructs. It is by the instruction we can ascertain who is in a bona fide line of succession or not.
Narada was the Spiritual Master of Vyasadeva, and Arjuna was Vyasadeva's disciple, not as initiated disciple but there was some blood relation between them. So there is connection in this way, and it is not possible to list all such relationships in the short description given in Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Another point is that disciplic succession does not mean one has to be directly a disciple of a particular person. The conclusions which we have tried to explain in our Bhagavad-gita As It Is is the same as those conclusions of Arjuna. Arjuna accepted Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we also accept the same truth under the disciplic succession of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another. This is an axiomatic truth. So there is no difference of opinion of understanding Krishna between ourselves and Arjuna. Another example is that a tree has many branches, and you will find one leaf here and another leaf there. But if you take this leaf and the other leaf and you press them both, you will see that the taste is the same. The taste is the conclusion, and from the taste you can understand that both leaves are from the same tree.
Letter to: Kirtanananda — Los Angeles 25 January, 1969
I have heard how the new devotees are all executing their devotional services very enthusiastically and with sincerity and humility. Yes, I have asked them to take instruction from you, one of their elder Godsisters. Whatever you have learned—you are one of the old students—whatever you have gathered by experience, you must hand them over to the new students. This is called parampara.
Letter to: Malati — Los Angeles 6 March, 1970
Actually, if the guru teaches Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then he may be in lesser degree, but he's accepted as guru. There is no question of rejection. Because Kṛṣṇa is actually jṣāna. One who teaches Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, "One has to know Kṛṣṇa, one has to surrender to Kṛṣṇa," this kind of teaching is required. And if the guru says that "I am Kṛṣṇa. Everyone is Kṛṣṇa," then, "daridra-kṛṣṇa, daridra-nārāyaṇa," he is not a guru. He's not a guru. He's misguiding. Misguiding. Avaiṣṇavo gurur na syāt. This is the shastric injunction. Ṣaṭ-karma-nipuṇo vipro mantra-tantra-viśāradaḥ. A... Generally, a qualified brāhmaṇa becomes guru. That is natural. Brāhmaṇa is the head of the society. So he is... And without becoming brāhmaṇa, nobody can become guru. That is also fact. Because brāhmaṇa means brahma jānātīti brāhmaṇaḥ, one who knows Brahman, Brahman. So guru must be a brāhmaṇa, mean a qualified brāhmaṇa, not born-brāhmaṇa, so-called brāhmaṇa. Qualified brāhmaṇa. So still, brāhmaṇa's qualification, ṣaṭ-karma, paṭhana pāṭhana yajana yājana dāna pratigraha. So śāstra says that ṣaṭ-karma-nipuṇo vipraḥ. If one vipra is quite expert in executing the six kinds of business, and mantra-tantra-viśāradaḥ, and very well known in the Vedic mantras and hymns and everything complete, but if he is avaiṣṇava, if he is not Vaiṣṇava, he does not know viṣṇu-tattva, or kṛṣṇa-tattva, then he cannot become spiritual master. Avaiṣṇavo gurur na syād vaiṣṇavaḥ śva-paco guruḥ. But if a Vaiṣṇava, one who knows viṣṇu-tattva, kṛṣṇa-tattva, even if he's born in the family of śva-paca, the dog-eaters, caṇḍāla, he can be accepted as guru. So the real test is whether the guru is a Vaiṣṇava, whether he know the science of Kṛṣṇa. That is also confirmed by Caitanya Mahāprabhu:
kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā sei 'guru' haya
[Cc. Madhya 8.128]
A... It doesn't matter what he is, whether he's a sannyāsī or a gṛhastha or a brāhmaṇa or a su..., born in brāhmaṇa family or... It doesn't matter. Yei kṛṣṇa-tattva. Anyone who knows Kṛṣṇa, he can become guru, not others. So that is the statement of the śāstras. Avaiṣṇava cannot become guru.
Bhagavad-gītā 7.1 -- Ahmedabad, December 13, 1972
Therefore there’s no reason to minimize the position of bona fide disciples. They should be treated with respect and they can teach us also.
You speak of pure devotee, that he is saktyavesa avatara, that we should obey him only—these things are the wrong idea. If anyone thinks like that, that a pure devotee should be obeyed and no one else, that means he is a nonsense. We advise everyone to address one another as Prabhu. Prabhu means master, so how the master should be disobeyed? Others, they are also pure devotees. All of my disciples are pure devotees. Anyone sincerely serving the spiritual master is a pure devotee, it may be Siddhasvarupa or others, a-Siddhasvarupa. This must be very clearly stated. It is not only that your Siddhasvarupa is a pure devotee and not others. Do not try to make a faction. Siddhasvarupa is a good soul. But others should not be misled. Anyone who is surrendered to the spiritual master is a pure devotee, it doesn't matter if Siddhasvarupa or non-Siddhasvarupa.
Letter to: Tusta Krsna — Ahmedabad 14 December, 1972
To say that no one is guru, only Prabhupada is guru is a mayavada tendency and it only reveals the motivation of such an individual to be a guru himself.
Bhāgavata: He said, "You are your own guru," Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Prabhupāda: Yes. That is...
Devotee: I have heard him.
Prabhupāda: You see? Kṛṣṇa says, tad vijṣānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet... [MU 1.2.12]. Tad viddhi praṇipātena [Bg. 4.34]. He says, "Everyone is guru." Just see. "Everyone is guru." Then why you are instructing? Why you are becoming guru?
Dr. Patel: He's not becoming guru of anybody.
Prabhupāda: No, no. Why does he say that "You do this"? That is guru. Guru means one who orders. That is guru. That means you reject all other gurus... That means... He means to say that "You reject all other gurus. Accept me guru." That's all.
Morning Walk -- March 23, 1974, Bombay
You have to accept guru this way or that way. You need a guru for everything. We might not officially call them gurus, but there are so many people who gave us instructions in our life and we have benefited from them. There’s no such a thing as being without a spiritual master at any stage of our life. We simply have to consider who the bona fide spiritual master is, not whether we should accept someone or not.
So your question is without spiritual master. Without spiritual master you cannot be, at any stage of your life. You may accept this spiritual master or that spiritual master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that "by reading Bible," when you read Bible that means you are following the spiritual master represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ. So any case, you have to follow a spiritual master. There cannot be the question without spiritual master. Is that clear?
Madhudviṣa: I mean like we couldn't understand the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā without your help, without your presentation.
Prabhupāda: Similarly, you have to understand Bible with the help of the priest in the church.
Lecture -- Seattle, October 2, 1968
Even if the gurus are not liberated, provided they follow the instructions of the liberated, they can be accepted as spiritual masters.
At the present moment it has become fashionable to disobey the unimpeachable directions given by the ācāryas and liberated souls of the past. Presently people are so fallen that they cannot distinguish between a liberated soul and a conditioned soul. A conditioned soul is hampered by four defects: he is sure to commit mistakes, he is sure to become illusioned, he has a tendency to cheat others, and his senses are imperfect. Consequently we have to take direction from liberated persons. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement directly receives instructions from the Supreme Personality of Godhead via persons who are strictly following His instructions. Although a follower may not be a liberated person, if he follows the supreme, liberated Personality of Godhead, his actions are naturally liberated from the contamination of the material nature. Lord Caitanya therefore says: "By My order you may become a spiritual master." One can immediately become a spiritual master by having full faith in the transcendental words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and by following His instructions.
Generally the spiritual master comes from the group of such eternal associates of the Lord; but anyone who follows the principles of such ever liberated persons is as good as one in the above mentioned group. The gurus from nature's study are accepted as such on the principle that an elevated person in Krishna Consciousness does not accept anyone as disciple, but he accepts everyone as expansion of his guru. That is very high position, called Maha-bhagavata. Just like Radharani, sometimes thinks a subordinate of hers as her teacher, to understand devotion of Krishna. A person who is liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as guru and acharya by strictly following the disciplic succession.
Letter to: Janardana — New York 26 April, 1968
Yet the initiating spiritual master remains the complete balance. Our Godbrothers can help us, but the initiating spiritual master does not depend on them. If I can benefit from someone’s association, why not take it? But my Godbrother is never equal to my spiritual master. My relationship with the spiritual master remains always complete. I simply have to follow the instruction. This is the meaning of the current link. The current is available for anyone and everyone. It is only up to the individual to hook up and preach.
They promised before me to follow the principles. If they are not, then they are not allowed to initiate, but if they are actually following, then they are allowed. These things should be raised in our next meeting in Mayapur and decided.
My point is that even if somebody does not go in one line with the rest of the godbrothers, he can remain separately, but it does not mean that he may disobey the principles that I have laid down. So long as one follows the principles, he continues to be my disciple.
Letter to: Madhudvisa: — Bombay 7 November, 1975
If Kirtanananda Maharaja speaks what I speak, then he can be taken a siksa guru. Guru sastra sadhu. The spiritual master is one, that is a fact. Kirtanananda Swami may be taken a sadhu not spiritual master, or as instructor guru. I don't think he is saying anything against our principles, so what is the wrong?
You have written that the devotees here say that you cannot know me, but only Kirtanananda Maharaja can know me. But, if Kirtanananda is a disciple and he can know me, and you are also a disciple, why you cannot know me?
Letter to: Satyabhama, Paramananda — New Vrindaban 20 July, 1974
The Bhaktivedanta Lives In Sound Society is an international organization of Hare Krsna devotees practicing and teaching bhakti-yoga(the essence of religion) under the direct guidance of His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is the last link to the ancient unbroken chain of disciplic succession(parampara) originating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna Himself. Although His Divine Grace has departed physically from this world in 1977, the members of the society hold him to be still transcendentally present in his instructions.