Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Guru-Tattva

February 27th, 2001 | No Comments

Q. In every Eastern tradition, the guru figures prominently. His or her role is mentioned in Aesthetic Vedanta. My question is, if the guru is not considered God, as guru is in many other Hindu traditions, what is in the criterion that one must meet to act in the capacity of Guru in your particular tradition?

A. Our acarya, Sri Jiva Goswami, has described three classes of siddhas qualified to serve in the capacity of guru.

1. Bhagavat-parsada-deha-prapt, those who have attained their spiritual form in Krishna’s Lila, having given up their material body. Such gurus rarely appear in this world. They have two feet in the spiritual world and extend one here.

2. Nirdhuta-kasaya, those who, although residing in the material body, have no material desire. They have one foot in the material world and extend one to the spiritual world of Krishna’s lila.

3. Murcchita-kasaya, those in who’s heart a slight trace of material desire remains owing to the influence of the mode of goodness (sattva-guna). In this type of siddha-mahatma, desires, although present, remain dormant due to engagement in spiritual practice and due to the grace derived from such practice that these desires cannot act. Eventually they are completely eradicated at their root (samskara). Such siddhas have two feet in the material world, but their eyes are fixed on the spiritual world.

Q. Is it advisable for partners in a marriage to have gurus from two different Vaisnava lineages? For example, one partner from the Gaudiya lineage the other from the Sri sampradaya of Ramanuja. Is it acceptable for a husband and a wife to have different gurus in general, and what are the chances of success spiritually and otherwise?

A. Association should be svajatiya, like minded, for the best results. Marriage may or may not work when partners have different gurus. If the couple respect one another’s ideals and are in a religious mode of practice, the marriage can be successful to some extent. However, if spiritual practice intensifies and develops from religious life into experiential spiritual life, the couple will have much less in common. Each will hunger for company that is svajatiya to help them intensify their practice. Within the Gaudiya lineage, the notion of svajatiya extends to include the diverse spiritual emotions for Krishna that arise in the purified heart. Thus those who develop a taste for vatsalya-bhava (parental love of God) will not associate intimately with those who aspire for madhurya-bhava (conjugal love of God).

Q. Is it harmful to one’s spiritual development to have more than one spiritual teacher in the following circumstances: two teachers are in the same spiritual tradition, but they are not ‘godbrothers’ and neither one of them is the student of the other. Possibly they are like spiritual ‘cousins’. A student feels benefit from hearing from both of them. From the student’s perspective, their differences seem more insititutional than philosophical. Due to long distances, the student is not in a position to associate in person with either, or to join any institution they may head, but only seeks their guidance through books, the internet, etc. What should the student do? Is it OK to hear from both teachers?

A. If you find in your heart that you are benefiting spiritually from this, then you already know the answer. At the same time, it is wise to seek external confirmation as you have done. Remember this: formalities aside, the most important guru is the one who helps you the most.

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