What is a guru?

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – Founder Acarya International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

A GURU IS A TEACHER. In most serious fields of endeavor, when we become serious about learning we will naturally seek out a teacher.

Spirituality is no exception. The timeless Vedic literature of ancient India informs us that one must approach a spiritual master in order to be successful in aquiring spiritual knowledge.

But just what is a genuine spiritual master and how should such a master be approached? That is explained in following verses from the Vedic literatures: “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” In order to learn transcendental science, it is essential that one approach the bona fide spiritual master (guru) in disclipic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth.

Transcendental knowledge derives from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. It descends in an unbroken chain called the disciplic succesion.

A genuine spiritual master has absorbed fully what his spiritual master, or guru, has taught. A genuine guru is part of a historical succession of teachers, and his teachings should not deviate from the teachings of his predecessors. Further a genuine guru’s teachings must be confirmed by the teachings of the great sages as well by the holy scriptures. This is a three-way check-and-balance system known in Sanskrit as guru, sadhu and sastra.

A guru must also be fixed in transcendence, be fully conversant with scriptual knowledge, and be a completely devoted, selfless servant of God.

One might question whether or not a line of teachers can accurately pass-on a spiritual message from one person to another over a long period of time without change or addition. The answer is that it is possible, in the same way a mailman delivers mesages unchanged and untampered with. Transcendental knowledge is transmitted only by a thoroughly honest spiritual master, and one whose teachings are confirmed by sadhu and sastra.

Further qualifications of the bona fide spiritual master have been detailed in the books of great Vedic scholars, which enable us to easily determine who is a spiritual master and who is not.

Pure Vedic knowledge in the line of disciplic succession is transmitted the same way one might receive a mango from a number of men sitting on the branches of a mango tree: The man at the top picks the fruit and it is passed down carefully from one man to the next until it reaches the man on the ground, unchanged and intact. Similarly, pure spiritual knowledge is thus imparted to us through the bona fide line of disciplic succession.

Srila Prabhupada was the greatest spiritual master in this millennium. In 1965, at age 69 he traveled alone to America on a freighter to begin spreading Krishna Consciousness worldwide. With the help of his young devotees and his unyielding faith in Lord Krishna he fulfilled the five hundred year old prophecy of Lord Chaitanya that the name of Krishna would be heard worldwide.

He will be remembered as the most important personality of the twentieth century. He opened hundreds of temples and initiated thousands of devotees. To learn more about Srila Prabhupada click here to go to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust homepage. They have all of his books available and some very good biographies of him as well.