His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
the Hare Krsna movement)
His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
the Hare Krsna movement)
The initiating spiritual master must be an uttama-adhikari
by Purujit Dāsa
Traditionally, ācārya must comment on the Vedānta-sūtra otherwise he is not recognized. In the past all the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas were vastly learned scholars who understood Vedānta philosophy fully, for unless one knows Vedānta philosophy he cannot be an ācārya. To be accepted as an ācārya among Indian transcendentalists who follow the Vedic principles, one must become a vastly learned scholar in Vedānta philosophy, either by studying it or hearing it.
For example, Śrīla Prabhupāda has shown his vast knowledge of the Vedānta by giving a commentary on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is the essence of the Vedānta-sūtra written by the author of the Vedānta-sūtra itself, Śrīla Vyāsadeva. But this is not enough. He must be also conversant with all the other systems of philosophy. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:
Theism in complete is explained in the Vedānta-sūtra whereas in other system of philosophical speculations, practically no importance has been awarded to the ultimate cause of all causes. One is there expected to sit on Vyasa Asana after being conversant with all the systems of philosophy so that one can present fully the theistic views of Bhagwat in defiance of all other system.
(SB 1.1.7 purp.)
The duty of a successor ācārya is to highlight from the scriptures what is to be followed for a particular time period. Śrīla Śrinivāsa Ācārya has sung:
lokānāṁ hita-kāriṇau tri-bhuvane mānyau śaraṇyākarau
vande rūpa-sanātanau raghu-yugau śrī-jīva-gopālakau
Śrīla Prabhupāda explains:
The six Gosvāmīs, under the direction of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, studied various Vedic literatures and picked up the essence of them, the devotional service of the Lord. This means that all the Gosvāmīs wrote many scriptures on devotional service with the support of the Vedic literature.
(Cc Madhya 1.33 purp.)
The Vedic literature is also called śruti and smṛti are the supplementary scriptures that explain the śrutis. The smṛtis cannot be changed, but different instructions are given for different times. In Kali-yuga for example, the smṛti order is kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgah paraṁ vrajet "Simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, or Lord Kṛṣṇa's name, one is liberated and goes back home, back to Godhead."[SB 12.3.51]. So we have to do that. A physician gives a medicine and says "In the morning you take this medicine and in the evening you take this medicine." Similarly, the smṛti instructions are given according to the time. The medicine is prescribed according to different times. The qualified physician does not recommend a change of treatment. Neither do we take medicine according to our whims. Similarly, the śruti-smṛti cannot be changed, but they recommend different processes for different times. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains this co-relation between śrutis and smṛtis in the following conversation.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Can anyone change...
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: ...the rules of conduct as regarded in the smṛtis?
Prabhupāda: Nobody can change. Nobody can change. But rules and regulation for different times, different circumstances are there in the śruti-smṛti. We have to take it. You cannot change.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: And who will sanction that application?
Prabhupāda: Yes. Just like Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He said. He's authority. He's ācārya.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: The ācārya must sanction for the particular time and place.
Prabhupāda: Yes. We are following the footprints of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It is not whimsical. You have to follow the authority in all circumstances. You cannot avoid. That is illegal. It will have no power.
(Answers to a Questionnaire from Bhavan's Journal -- June 28, 1976, Vrndavana)
Such a task is therefore exclusively reserved for an uttama-adhikārī, a devotee on the top most platform of spiritual advancement. In his book Nectar of Devotion, Chapter Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that a first class devotee can very nicely present conclusions with perfect discretion and can consider the ways of devotional service in a decisive way. This is significant. For example, in the Bhagavad-gītā, Arjuna at one point requests Kṛṣṇa:
buddhiṁ mohayasīva me
tad ekaṁ vada niścitya
yena śreyo 'ham āpnuyām
My intelligence is bewildered by Your equivocal instructions. Therefore, please tell me definitely which instruction is most beneficial for me.
In a prelude to the Bhagavad-gītā, many different items were explained by Kṛṣṇa unsystematically. A more definite ascertainment of the path was needed for action and understanding. Arjuna wanted to clear up these apparently confusing matters so that any common man could accept such path and not make any mistake. Although Kṛṣṇa had no intention of confusing Arjuna by any jugglery of words, Arjuna could not follow the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness—either by inertia or by active service. Therefore, by his questions he was clearing the path of Kṛṣṇa consciousness for all students who seriously want to understand the mystery of the Bhagavad-gītā. The Bhagavad-gītā was meant for the saintly kings (rāja-ṛṣis) because they were to execute its purpose in ruling over the citizens. This is where dry academics fail because theirs is only superficial understanding and although they quote it, they do not know the actual meaning of the Bhagavad-gītā. They cannot afford any particular solution on how to act in devotional service. Therefore a sincere disciple should always try to ascertain how to act practically in devotional service. He should not be satisfied by mere theoretical understanding of things. In this particular instance, Arjuna tries to understand definitely what course of action he should undergo after hearing instructions that appear to be contradictory to him. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:
"A Kṛṣṇa conscious person has realized knowledge, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, because he is satisfied with pure devotional service. By realized knowledge, one becomes perfect. By perfect knowledge one can remain steady in his convictions, whereas by mere academic knowledge one is easily deluded and confused by apparent contradictions."
When apparent contradictions arise, the general people's determination to act in devotional service becomes hackneyed. The first class devotee therefore gives conclusive knowledge and resolves these contradictions on the basis of śāstra. He does not exclude one statement of the śāstra in favor of other (ardha-kukkuṭī-nyāya), but explains both of them in the proper context and establishes a harmonious siddhānta, or a conclusion. A description of such a first class devotee, who is able to point out the direction for the general mass is given in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. It is said there:
yaḥ svānubhāvam akhila-śruti-sāram ekam
adhyātma-dīpam atititīrṣatāṁ tamo 'ndham
saṁsāriṇāṁ karuṇayāha purāṇa-guhyaṁ
taṁ vyāsa-sūnum upayāmi guruṁ munīnām
Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto him who is the spiritual master of all sages and the son of Vyāsadeva, who, out of his great compassion for the gross materialists desiring to cross over the darkest region of material existence, said the most confidential supplement of the cream of Vedic knowledge after having personally assimilated the same by experience.
This śloka refers to Śukadeva Goswami, who is the speaker of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śukadeva has heard the Bhāgavatam from Śrīla Vyāsadeva and elaborated on it after he thoroughly assimilated it. Thorough assimilation means that by realizing the essence of the scripture, the bona fide ācārya is able to explain it to varieties of different people in various circumstances. It is not that the ācārya changes the meaning of the śāstra to present something new just for the sake of it, in order to attract attention. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains:
"Personal realisation does not mean that one should attempt to show the vanity of one's own learning trying to surpass the previous Acharya. He must have full confidence in the previous Acharya and at the same time he must realise the subject matter so nicely that he may be able to present the matter just for the particular circumstances in a suitable manner. The original purpose of the text must be maintained. No interesting meaning shall be screwed out of it and yet it may be presented in an appreciable manner for the understanding of the audience."
Sometimes the commentaries of the ācāryas are themselves scriptures. They give practical advice on how to act in devotional service to the Lord. This is very difficult to determine at times. Lord Kṛṣṇa says:
kiṁ karma kim akarmeti kavayo 'py atra mohitāḥ
tat te karma pravakṣyāmi yaj jñātvā mokṣyase 'śubhāt
Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all misfortune.
One cannot ascertain the ways of religion simply by imperfect experimental knowledge. Actually, the principles of religion can only be laid down by the Lord Himself. Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaṁ (SB 6.3.19). No one can manufacture a religious principle by imperfect speculation. Śrīla Prabhupāda notes:
"The authors of these scriptures are not ordinary human being with four disqualifications of conditioned life. And as such there is no possibility on the part of such liberated authors to commit mistakes, inconsistencies, cheating the public or imperfection."
(BTGPY16c: Anomalies of "Geeta Press" Gorakhpur)
In the conditioned state, our knowledge is subjected to many deficiencies. The difference between a conditioned soul and a liberated soul is that the conditioned soul has the above mentioned four kinds of defects. Due to these defects the neophytes are struggling to remain in the practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and they sometimes fall down. In the Nectar of Devotion, Śrīla Prabhupāda defines the neophyte devotee as follows:
"The neophyte or third-class devotee is one whose faith is not strong and, at the same time, does not recognize the decision of the revealed scripture. The neophyte's faith can be changed by someone else with strong arguments or by an opposite decision."
(NoD 3-1970: Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service)
The first class devotee however does not fall down due to his thorough assimilation of transcendental knowledge. How do we know whether we have fully assimilated the knowledge given to us by the spiritual master? That is explained in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.2: sadyo hṛdy avarudhyate 'tra kṛtibhiḥ śuśrūṣubhis tat-kṣaṇāt. As soon as a person applies culture of knowledge, namely, attentive and submissive aural reception to the messages of the Bhāgavatam, the Supreme Lord is thus established within his heart. In other words, the assimilation of the Bhāgavatam brings us to a stage where we can see Kṛṣṇa not figuratively, but directly face to face. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains:
"...an intelligent person, by thoughtful discretion, can believe in the assurance of the great sage Vyasdeva and give a patient hearing to the message of Śrīmad Bhagwatam in order to realise directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
(SB 1.1.2 purport)
One must be anxious to hear about the transcendental message. And this qualification of hearing with interest is the prime qualification for assimilating transcendental knowledge. Therefore if one becomes very eager to hear the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from the bona fide source of the spiritual master, he can be immediately lifted to the position of a paramahaṁsa (uttama-adhikārī) and see the Lord face to face. Śrīla Prabhupāda however states that such eagerness is hardly present in the neophyte devotee:
"A neophyte devotee has very little taste for hearing from the authorities."
How can a neophyte devotee then see Kṛṣṇa face to face and what to speak of commenting on the scriptures? That is not possible. Only a first class devotee can take up the post of the initiating ācārya. This is confirmed by Śrīla Prabhupāda also:
"The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class."
(Cc Madhya 24.330)
"One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikārī."
(NoI: verse 5)
"Unless one is a resident of Krishna Loka, one cannot be a Spiritual Master. That is the first proposition. A layman cannot be a Spiritual Master, and if he becomes so then he will simply create disturbance."
(Letter to: Mukunda -- New Vrindaban 10 June, 1969)
"...he is not a liberated person, and therefore, he cannot initiate any person to Krishna Consciousness."
(Letter to: Janardana -- New York 26 April, 1968)
There is further evidence of this conclusion in the following śloka of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in connection with the Lord being impregnated into the womb of Devakī by the process of dīkṣā. It is said there:
tato jagan-maìgalam acyutāṁśaṁ samāhitaṁ śūra-sutena devī
dadhāra sarvātmakam ātma-bhūtaṁ kāṣṭhā yathānanda-karaṁ manastaḥ
Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devakī. Devakī, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Kṛṣṇa, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.
In his commentary on this verse Śrīla Prabhupāda notes:
"We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devakī not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by dīkṣā, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one's own heart."
(SB 10.2.18 purp.)
We should especially take note of the words "carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one's own heart". The Lord is already in the heart of everyone, but the Vaiṣṇavas and the brāhmaṇas actually perceive and see Him always in ecstasy. A description of such a devotee is given in the following śloka.
bhavad-vidhā bhāgavatās tīrtha-bhūtāḥ svayaṁ vibho
tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni svāntaḥ-sthena gadābhṛtā
My Lord! devotees like your goodself are themselves holy places in person. Because you carry with you, within your heart, the Personality of Godhead and as such you render all places into a pilgrimage.
This was spoken by Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭira in connection with Vidura Mahātmā. Vidura was always feeling the presence of the Lord everywhere, he was seeing everything in the potency of the Lord and the Lord in everything and he had no desire in life save and except to serve the Personality of Godhead. The Personality of Godhead is always with such pure devotees because of their unalloyed service, which is without any tinge of fruitive action or utopian speculation. Such devotees are able to rectify a polluted atmosphere of any place. All these descriptions indicate that mentioning of a devotee discussed in this particular śloka refers to a first class devotee. Śrīla Prabhupāda confirms this in a class on the same śloka:
"So human society, there must be some religious process; otherwise, it is animal society. And in every religion there is recommendation to go to the place, holy places of pilgrimage. This is one set up. Another set up is that bhāgavatās tīrtha-bhūtāḥ. Those who are devotees, they are themselves mahā-bhāgavata. They are first-class devotee."
(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.13.10 -- Geneva, June 1, 1974)
Śrīla Prabhupāda in the purport to this verse also mentions that such "pure devotees hear from the authorities and chant, sing and write of the glories of the Lord".
Another consideration is that since the disciplic succession becomes lost due to the influence of the time factor (sa kāleneha mahatā yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa (Bg 4.2), the spiritual master must be tri-kāla-jña (seer of the past, present and future). He must be situated beyond the purview of material time in order to rectify the deviation of the line caused by the very same time factor. Śrīla Prabhupāda notes:
"Those who have reached the highest perfectional stage of mystic power and can see everything in the past, present and future are called tri-kāla-jñas. Similarly, the devotees of the Lord can see everything clearly that is in the revealed scriptures."
(SB 3.11.17 purport)
The position of such a pure soul is described in connection with Yamarāja:
manasaiva pure devaḥ pūrva-rūpaṁ vipaśyati
anumīmāṁsate 'pūrvaṁ manasā bhagavān ajaḥ
The omnipotent Yamarāja is as good as Lord Brahmā, for while situated in his own abode or in everyone's heart like the Paramātmā, he mentally observes the past activities of a living entity and thus understands how the living entity will act in future lives.
Śrīla Prabhupāda comments:
"One should not consider Yamarāja an ordinary living being. He is as good as Lord Brahmā. He has the complete cooperation of the Supreme Lord, who is situated in everyone's heart, and therefore, by the grace of the Supersoul, he can see the past, present and future of a living being from within. The word anumīmāṁsate means that he can decide in consultation with the Supersoul."
Similarly, by seeing past, present and future, an uttama-adhikārī is fully competent to find the best means to propagate Kṛṣṇa consciousness and guide numerous souls.
As already mentioned the ācārya is in direct relationship with Kṛṣṇa. He sees Him directly, not figuratively, but face to face. This is confirmed in the śloka of the Bhagavad-gītā where Kṛṣṇa says to Arjuna: "I explain you the science because you are my devotee and my friend." One must be a devotee to comment on the Bhagavad-gītā. At the same time he must be a devotee in direct relationship. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains this in his introduction to the Bhagavad-gītā As It Is:
"...Bhagavad-gītā is especially instructed to Arjuna, the devotee of the Lord, the direct student of Kṛṣṇa. And not only that, he is intimately in touch with Kṛṣṇa as friend. Therefore Bhagavad-gītā is understood by a person who has similar qualities like Kṛṣṇa. That means he must be a devotee, he must be in relation, direct relationship with the Lord...Everyone has got a particular relationship with the Lord and that particular relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. At the present status of our life we have not only forgotten the Supreme Lord, but also we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of many, many millions and billions of living beings, each and every living being has got a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarūpa. Svarūpa. And by the process of devotional service one can revive that svarūpa of oneself. And that stage is called svarūpa-siddhi, perfection of one's constitutional position."
(Bhagavad-gītā Introduction -- February 19-20, 1966, New York)
Here Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that svarūpa-siddhi is the perfection of one's constitutional position. It is not the neophyte stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness but the top most platform.
"When you are liberated, you will understand in which way you are related with Kṛṣṇa. That is called svarūpa-siddhi. But that is attained when you are actually perfect in devotional service."
(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.3.16-17 -- Gorakhpur, February 10, 1971)
It is thus a completely faulty idea to say that a neophyte devotee can comment on the Bhagavad-gītā or other Vedic scriptures or give dīkṣā. Kṛṣṇa wanted Arjuna to become an authority on the science of the Bhagavad-gītā, because Arjuna was a top most devotee, in a direct relationship with Kṛṣṇa. This is the position of the successor ācārya. When the ācārya writes, the Lord directly dictates to the devotee the contents of the transcendental literature. It is not the ācārya's speculation! There are several statements in this regards:
"The secret in a devotee's writing is that when he writes about the pastimes of the Lord, the Lord helps him; he does not write himself. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (10.10), dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ yena mām upayānti te. Since a devotee writes in service to the Lord, the Lord from within gives him so much intelligence that he sits down near the Lord and goes on writing books."
(Cc Ādi 8.39)
"The Personality of Godhead, being situated in everyone’s heart, specifically gives a devotee intelligence to describe Him. It is therefore understood that when a devotee writes or speaks about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is dictated by the Lord from within. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā, Tenth Chapter: to those who constantly engage in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, the Lord, from within, dictates what to do next in order to serve Him."
"Because mother Śacī was feeling separation from Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, she thought she was dreaming that her son had come to her. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, however, wanted to inform her that actually it was not a dream. He actually came there and ate whatever His mother offered Him. Such are the dealings of advanced devotees with the Supreme personality of Godhead. As stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā:
santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram acintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
"I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Śyāmasundara, situated within the heart of the devotee." (Brahma-saṁhitā 5.38) Pure devotees realize dealings with the Lord on the transcendental plane, but because the devotees are still in the material world, they think that these are dreams. The Lord, however, talks with the advanced devotee, and the advanced devotee also sees Him. It is all factual; it is not a dream.
(Cc Antya 3.31)
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Goswami explains:
ei grantha lekhāya more ‘madana-mohana’ āmāra likhana yena śukera paṭhana
Actually Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta is not my writing but the dictation of Śrī Madana-mohana. My writing is like the repetition of a parrot.
(Cc Ādi 8.78)
śrī-rūpa-hṛdaye prabhu śakti sañcārilā
sarva-tattva-nirūpaṇe ‘pravīṇa’ karilā
By entering the heart of Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu empowered him to ascertain properly the conclusions of all truths. He made him an experienced devotee whose decisions correctly agreed with the verdicts of the disciplic succession. Thus Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī was personally empowered by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
"The principles of devotional service are only apparently under the jurisdiction of material activity. To be rightly guided, one must be personally guided by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. This was the case with Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvāmī and other ācāryas."
(Cc Madhya 19.117)
Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the difference of communication with Kṛṣṇa between a minor devotee and a highly elevated devotee here:
Interviewer: ...I'm curious with respect to the way Kṛṣṇa communicates with you, whether it's in a similar kind of way that He gives you your necessities.
Bali-mardana: In other words, when you decide that someone is to be in charge of a particular temple does Kṛṣṇa tell you that this person should be in charge.
Interviewer: Or do you by judging him say this person is qualified.
Prabhupāda: Yes, because a devotee always consults Kṛṣṇa and He gives order.
Interviewer: It's a more direct communication.
Prabhupāda: Yes. And He gives order.
Rameśvara: Because intelligence, our philosophy is that intelligence comes from Kṛṣṇa. So if I have some...
Interviewer: And your philosophy is that your daily necessities come from Kṛṣṇa as well.
Rameśvara: Yes, try to understand. Suppose my intelligence sees that this person is qualified, that means Kṛṣṇa has told me.
Prabhupāda: No, not necessarily, Kṛṣṇa will tell directly. A devotee always consults Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa tells him, "Do like this." Not figuratively.
Interviewer: Does that apply then to other kinds of decisions and other kinds of activities as well?
Prabhupāda: Everything. Because a devotee does not do anything without consulting Kṛṣṇa.
Bali-mardana: But that applies to a very greatly elevated soul, that is not an ordinary person.
Prabhupāda: That is, therefore the minor devotees, they consult the spiritual master.
(Interview with Newsday Newspaper -- July 14, 1976, New York)
The minor devotees, who have not yet realized their svarūpa-siddhi, nor are in direct communication with the Lord must therefore consult the spiritual master.
How can one then understand various statements by Śrīla Prabhupāda, where he states that devotees situated on lower stage of advancement can also accept disciples? Aren't they also initiating spiritual masters? We submit two particular statements in this connection:
"The second-class devotee accepts disciples from the section of third-class devotees or nondevotees. "
(SB 2.3.21 purp.)
"A neophyte Vaiṣṇava or a Vaiṣṇava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance."
(NoI: verse 5 purp.)
To understand this apparent contradiction in Śrīla Prabhupāda's statements, we should further examine the position of a śikṣā-guru (instructing spiritual master). There are two types of śikṣā-guru: one who is liberated and one who is not yet liberated but who can give relevant instructions being guided by a liberated spiritual master.
"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."
(SB 4.18.5 purp.)
"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)
Śrīla Prabhupāda referred to his disciples on numerous occasions as śikṣā-gurus, although they might not have been necessarily liberated perfected devotees:
"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."
(Letter to: Satyabhama, Paramananda — New Vrindaban 20 July, 1974)
"Regarding your question about the husband becoming the Spiritual Master of the wife, anyone who can give instructing in spiritual life is treated as Spiritual Master. There are two kinds of Spiritual Master, initiator and instructor. So the husband can help the wife as instructor."
(Letter to: Himavati -- Los Angeles 24 January, 1969)
Devotee: So what is our position towards Sai? This is where, brings great confusion in the minds of the devotees. Immediately they ask.
Devotee (2): Because they used to accept him as spiritual master, so now, now that's all finished...
Devotee (2): ...so, what is their relationship...?
Prabhupāda: Let, let Sai accept me as spiritual master, and you remain Sai's disciple, but be initiated properly. Or it is Sai's duty to deliver all his followers to me. That will be very nice. As he has surrendered all his money, similarly, he can surrender all his followers.
Devotee (3): It's like in the army.
Prabhupāda: Huh? Yes. And then it is very good -- for him and for his followers.
Devotee: He wrote this fall about that to the devotees. "Shaved heads. Now we are all disciples of Prabhupāda. I can no longer treat you externally as my disciples, because of the negative reaction I will incur [indistinct]. If you are internally attached, that is fine. Please me by serving Prabhupāda and his devotees. Prabhupāda must first okay my taking on disciples. He may or he may not. I will follow his orders. He tells me to kill you all, I will kill you."
Prabhupāda: [laughs] That's nice. Very, very good letter. That's very good. So I shall write to him.
Prabhupāda: Śikṣā-guru or dīkṣā-guru. Initiated..., initiator master and instructor master. So you can treat him as your instructor master. That is allowed.
(Room Conversation about Siddhasvarūpa -- March 21, 1971, Bombay)
This conversation is of particular significance. Here Śrīla Prabhupāda says: "...let Sai accept me as spiritual master, and you remain Sai's disciple, but be initiated properly." and later on: "That is allowed." Just a little history: Sai was a self-styled yoga guru from Hawaii who already had a group of disciples when he became attracted to the principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness as taught by Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda did not see a "discipleship" of his former students as an obstacle, which he also expressed in a letter to Sai two months earlier:
"The problem that your followers want to accept you as guide in spiritual matters is not objectionable if they are sincere. If they have sincere faith in you, it may not be disturbed, rather it can be fully utilized. My main purpose is to propagate the teachings of Lord Caitanya or Krishna Consciousness. I am not after recruiting some disciples; but for preaching work we want some assistants and if somebody offers voluntarily his service it is welcome. So the best thing will be that you become a regular disciple of me and you can teach your followers in the same principles."
(Letter to: Sai -- Allahabad 8 January, 1971)
But such relationship of non-liberated śikṣā disciples and non-liberated śikṣā-gurus however is not to be taken on the same level as the relationship one has with his ever-liberated dīkṣā-guru. In his book Easy Journey to Other Planets Śrīla Prabhupāda describes such a guru as a "monitor". Sometimes in school, a teacher leaves the classroom due to some urgent business and he selects one student to supervise the other students in the teacher's absence. Similarly, a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī may become a preliminary guide to other devotees if he strictly follows the principles of the dīkṣā-guru.
"A devotee who believes that the holy name of the Lord is identical with the Lord is a pure devotee, even though he may be in the neophyte stage. By his association, others may also become Vaiṣṇavas."
(Cc Madhya 15.106 purp.)
Such a relationship often changes. Progress in devotional service is not stereotyped. It depends solely on the individual devotee's degree of sincerity. If one is very sincere he can advance very swiftly in a short time and if one is not serious he cannot advance even after many lifetimes of regulated practice. It is then quite possible that such Vaiṣṇavas who associate with the sincere neophyte devotee may also sometimes surpass him. For example, Dhruva Mahārāja's mother who instructed her son to search out Viṣṇu in the forest was considered to be his śikṣā-guru. However, in the forest Dhruva Mahārāja took shelter of a fully realized spiritual master Nārada Muni and by his mercy advanced to the top most perfectional platform surpassing his mother to the extent of finally delivering her back home, back to Godhead. This is more elaborately described in the 4th Canto. Therefore, whether one has the good fortune of having guidance of more advanced devotees or not, one must be always guided by an uttama-adhikārī devotee.
"A neophyte and intermediate devotee should always be anxious to hear the mahā-bhāgavata and serve him in every respect."
(Cc Madhya 16.74 purp.)
"The second-class devotee, even though he cannot support his position with śāstric reference, can gradually become a first-class devotee by studying the śāstras and associating with a first-class devotee. However, if the second-class devotee does not advance himself by associating with a first-class devotee, he makes no progress."
(Cc Madhya 22.71 purp.)
One can get guidance from various kaniṣṭha-adhikārī or madhyama-adhikārī devotees, learning from one or the other at various times, but if one does not hear sufficiently from an uttama-adhikārī and is not ready to surrender to him, he cannot reach to the perfection of life.
"Dīkṣā means divya-jñānaṁ kṣapayati iti dīkṣā.[?] Which explains the divya-jñāna, transcendental, that is dīkṣā. Di, divya, dīkṣāṇām. Dīkṣā. So divya-jñāna, transcendental knowledge... If you don't accept spiritual master, how you'll get transcen... You'll be taught here and there, here and there, and waste time. Waste time for the teacher and waste your valuable time. Therefore you have to be guided by an expert spiritual master."
(Room Conversation -- January 27, 1977, Bhuvaneśvara)
Although one may have various śikṣā relationships with devotees of various degrees of advancement and these relationship might break in due course, the relationship with one's initiating spiritual master does not change. Śrīla Prabhupāda states:
"A devotee must have only one initiating spiritual master because in the scriptures acceptance of more than one is always forbidden."
(Cc Ādi 1.35 purp.)
The initiating spiritual master is one because he is always situated on the top most platform of devotional service and he never deviates. Only such spiritual master we should fully surrender to.
"Indeed, the advanced uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava devotee should be accepted as a spiritual master. Everything one possesses should be offered to him, for it is enjoined that one should deliver whatever he has to the spiritual master. The brahmacārī in particular is supposed to beg alms from others and offer them to the spiritual master. However, one should not imitate the behavior of an advanced devotee or mahā-bhāgavata without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded.
(NoI: verse 5 purp.)