Nector of Instructions
If one reads Srila Prabhupada’s books carefully, they should come to the conclusion that the post of initiating guru must be reserved only for the uttama adhikari. Let His Divine Grace’s instructions clear the fog on this matter in all of our hearts. We should not water down the definition of what an uttama adhikari is to justify one’s becoming an initiation guru. As His Divine Grace often says, “First Deserve, Then Desire”.
Nectar Of Instruction, Text 5
“One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krishna, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation [diksha] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.
In order to intelligently apply the sixfold loving reciprocations mentioned in the previous verse, one must select proper persons with careful discrimination. Srila Rupa Gosvami therefore advises that we should meet with the Vaishnavas in an appropriate way, according to their particular status. In this verse he tells us how to deal with three types of devotees—the kanishtha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari. The kanishtha-adhikari is a neophyte who has received the hari-nama initiation from the spiritual master and is trying to chant the holy name of Krishna. One should respect such a person within his mind as a kanishtha-vaishnava. A madhyama-adhikari has received spiritual initiation from the spiritual master and has been fully engaged by him in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. The madhyama-adhikari should be considered to be situated midway in devotional service. The uttama-adhikari, or highest devotee, is one who is very advanced in devotional service. An uttama-adhikari is not interested in blaspheming others, his heart is completely clean, and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Krishna consciousness. According to Srila Rupa Gosvami, the association and service of such a maha-bhagavata, or perfect Vaishnava, are most desirable.”
Srila Prabhupada here says the uttama-adhikari’s heart has become completely clean and he has attained the realized state of unalloyed Krishna Consciousness. Thus, one should not claim himself or others to be uttama adhikari’s unless they have become perfect in Krishna Consciousness.
One should not remain a kanishtha-adhikari, one who is situated on the lowest platform of devotional service and is interested only in worshiping the Deity in the temple. Such a devotee is described in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.47):
arcayam eva haraye
pujam yah sraddhayehate
na tad-bhakteshu canyeshu
sa bhaktah prakritah smritah
“A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple, but who does not know how to behave toward devotees or people in general is called a prakrita-bhakta, or kanishtha-adhikari.”
One therefore has to raise himself from the position of kanishtha-adhikari to the platform of madhyama-adhikari. The madhyama-adhikari is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46) in this way:
baliseshu dvishatsu ca
yah karoti sa madhyamah
“The madhyama-adhikari is a devotee who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the highest object of love, makes friends with the Lord’s devotees, is merciful to the ignorant and avoids those who are envious by nature.”
This is the way to cultivate devotional service properly; therefore in this verse Srila Rupa Gosvami has advised us how to treat various devotees. We can see from practical experience that there are different types of Vaishnavas. The prakrita-sahajiyas generally chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, yet they are attached to women, money and intoxication. Although such persons may chant the holy name of the Lord, they are not yet properly purified. Such people should be respected within one’s mind, but their association should be avoided. Those who are innocent but simply carried away by bad association should be shown favor if they are eager to receive proper instructions from pure devotees, but those neophyte devotees who are actually initiated by the bona fide spiritual master and are seriously engaged in carrying out the orders of the spiritual master should be offered respectful obeisances.
In this Krishna consciousness movement a chance is given to everyone without discrimination of caste, creed or color. Everyone is invited to join this movement, sit with us, take prasada and hear about Krishna. When we see that someone is actually interested in Krishna consciousness and wants to be initiated, we accept him as a disciple for the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. When a neophyte devotee is actually initiated and engaged in devotional service by the orders of the spiritual master, he should be accepted immediately as a bona fide Vaishnava, and obeisances should be offered unto him. Out of many such Vaishnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Krishna consciousness movement. Such a Vaishnava should be accepted as an uttama-adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought. “
Another qualification of the uttama adhikari is given here. Many devotees like to use this definition to indicate that they or others are uttamas, but the uttama has to meet all of the qualifications. One cannot randomly select one criteria of the uttama and assume they or others have reached that platform. As Srila Prabhupada stated in the beginning of this purport “one must select proper persons with careful discrimination“.
Later in the same purport:
“…When a person realizes himself to be an eternal servitor of Krishna, he loses interest in everything but Krishna’s service. Always thinking of Krishna, devising means by which to spread the holy name of Krishna, he understands that his only business is in spreading the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. Such a person is to be recognized as an uttama-adhikari, and his association should be immediately accepted according to the six processes (dadati pratigrihnati, etc.). Indeed, the advanced uttama-adhikari Vaishnava 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 brahmacari 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 maha-bhagavata without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded.“
Here is the more detailed description of the uttama adhikari. He has realized himself to be an eternal servitor of Krishna. Fully realized and only interested in spreading the Kcon movement. A firm warning given here by Srila Prabhupada as if He is making a prediction: Do not imitate the behavior of an maha-bhagavata, an uttama, a fully self realized soul, or one will eventually become degraded. We have seen this happen over and over again. So unfortunate we couldn’t understand and heed this warning back in 1977. Srila Prabhupada is going to conclude this extremely important purport with crystal clear statements.
“In this verse Srila Rupa Gosvami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanishtha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari. The devotee should also know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaishnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaishnavism. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava 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. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master.”
Here Srila Prabhupada repeats his instruction that he gave in the very beginning of this purport ie: “one must select proper persons with careful discrimination” with: “Srila Rupa Gosvami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama adhikari”.
We should also know our own position. In other words, don’t imitate. If your not an uttama don’t pretend that you are. Don’t pretend to be an uttama and therefore don’t think about initiating/accepting disciples unless you are. Then he says that those on lower platforms can initiate, BUT it should not be done as the disciple will not advance very well. Why? Because those kanistha’s and madhyama’s who are initiating cannot give one sufficient guidance.
Then comes the concluding instruction: “THEREFORE A DISCIPLE SHOULD BE CAREFUL TO ACCEPT AN UTTAMA-ADHIKARI AS A SPIRITUAL MASTER”.
It’s very important to note that Srila Prabhupada has concluded his last sentence in the above Nectar of Instructin purport with the word “THEREFORE.” Srila Prabhupada gives His definition of the word “therefore” in a Srimad Bhagavatam class in Los Angeles on August 25th, 1972:
“…So “therefore.” The word is “therefore.” “Therefore” means after concluding something, then we say “therefore.” When we talk, when we argue, when we come to the conclusion, then we say “therefore.” Or when our argument is strong, then we say “therefore.” So this “therefore” means that one is firmly convinced.”
So when Srila Prabhupada concludes with the word “therefore”, it means he is “firmly convinced” that only an uttama adhikari should give initiation. So the point has been made completely clear by His Divine Grace. “THEREFORE, A DISCIPLE SHOULD BE CAREFUL TO ACCEPT AN UTTAMA ADHIKARI AS A SPIRITUAL MASTER.”
Our business as followers of His Divine Grace is to follow His instructions cent percent. This is undoubtedly one of the most important instructions His Divine Grace has given us. How can one break this vital instruction and expect to make progress in Krishna Consciousness? Here He clearly instructs that the kanistha and madhyama adhikaris cannot give diksha. This is His written word. Where does He give permission for a kanistha or madhyama to accept disciples?
He has stated the same thing in many different places. Here are a few:
“So we have to follow the acarya. Then, when we are completely, cent per cent follower of acarya, then you can also act as acarya. This is the process. DONT BECOME PREMATURE ACARYA. First of all follow the orders of acarya, and you become mature. Then it is better to become acarya.” “So there will be no scarcity of acarya, and people will understand Krishna consciousness very easily. So make that organization. Don’t be falsely puffed up. Follow the acarya’s instruction and try to make yourself perfect, MATURE. Then it will be very easy to fight out maya.”
From a class in Sri Mayapura Dhama:
“So for that there are so many practices, regulative principles, mentioned here. The first thing is hamse gurau mayi bhaktyanuvritya. This is religion. Adau gurvasrayam. If you do not get a qualified guru, then everything is bogus. If you, by good fortune, if you get the association of a guru, qualified hamsa, paramahamsa… Paramahamsa guru means sannyasi’s last stage is paramahamsa. Kuticaka, bahudaka, parivrajakacarya, and paramahamsa, these are the different stages. When one takes sannyasa, he lives outside the village in a kuti, in a cottage, and the family members goes and delivers him the food, because he is not practiced. So in the beginning, he keeps up this association of neighborhood or family, but he is not practiced. He therefore lives outside the village, and if somebody gives some food, he eats. Then when he becomes experienced, then he does not accept food from one, either his own home or one home. He takes foodstuff from many homes: “Give me a little piece of capati.” So somebody gives half, because they are also not overburdened. If they have to deliver, so many sannyasis come, and sumptuous food, then how the grihastha will provide? Therefore though… They do not overburden. There may be other sannyasis, therefore little only. Madhupuri. The Gosvamis practiced this madhupuri in Vrindavana. They lived, but they would take little only from the house. This is called bahudaka. Then when he has practiced more, he travels all over the world, parivrajakacarya. And when he is fully experienced, then, in spiritual life and everything, then he is paramahamsa. So one must find out a guru who is paramahamsa. Neither kuticaka, nor bahudaka, nor parivrajakacarya. Paramahamsa. So in the Caitanya-caritamrita also, Lord Caitanya says, guru-krishna-kripaya paya bhakti-lata-bija [Cc. Madhya 19.151]. This bhakti-lata-bija can be obtained through the mercy of guru and Krishna. Here Rishabhadeva, who is incarnation of Krishna, therefore He says mayi, hamse gurau mayi. You cannot jump over Krishna. “Well, I know Krishna. I shall go to Krishna directly, without guru.” There are many rascals, they say like that. No, that is not possible. First of all guru, then Krishna. Hamse gurau mayi, bhaktyanuvritya.”
SB Class 5.5.10-13 Vrndavan November 1976:
“Your book should describe the characteristics of the bona fide guru and the bona fide disciple. Then, before accepting a spiritual master, one can be assured of the spiritual master’s position. Similarly, the spiritual master can also be assured of the disciple’s position. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, should be described as the worshipable object, and you should describe the bija-mantra for the worship of Krishna, as well as that for Rama and for other expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Padma Purana, the characteristics of the guru, the bona fide spiritual master, have been described:
maha-bhagavata-sreshtho brahmano vai gurur nrinam
sarvesham eva lokanam asau pujyo yatha harih
maha-kula-prasuto ‘pi sarva-yajneshu dikshitah
sahasra-sakhadhyayi ca na guruh syad avaishnavah
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. The first-class devotee is the spiritual master for all kinds of people. It is said, gurur nrinam. The word nrinam means “of all human beings.” The guru is not limited to a particular group. It is stated in the Upadesamrita of Rupa Gosvami that a guru is a gosvami, a controller of the senses and the mind. Such a guru can accept disciples from all over the world. Prithivim sa sishyat. This is the test of the guru.
In India there are many so-called gurus, and they are limited to a certain district or a province. They do not even travel about India, yet they declare themselves to be jagad-guru, the guru of the whole world. Such cheating gurus should not be accepted. Anyone can see how the bona fide spiritual master accepts disciples from all over the world. The guru is a qualified brahmana; therefore he knows Brahman and Parabrahman. He thus devotes his life for the service of Parabrahman. The bona fide spiritual master who accepts disciples from all over the world is also worshiped all over the world because of his qualities. Lokanam asau pujyo yatha harih: the people of the world worship him just as they worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All these honors are offered to him because he strictly follows the brahminical principles and teaches these principles to his disciples. Such a person is called an acarya because he knows the principles of devotional service, he behaves in that way himself, and he teaches his disciples to follow in his footsteps. Thus he is an acarya or jagad-guru. Even though a person is born in a brahminical family and is very expert in performing sacrifices, he cannot be accepted as a guru if he is not a strict Vaishnava. A guru is a brahmana by qualification, and he can turn others into brahmanas according to the sastric principles and brahminical qualifications. Brahmanism is not a question of heredity. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.35) Sri Narada Muni tells Maharaja Yudhishthira what a brahmana is. He states that if brahminical qualifications are observed in kshatriyas, vaisyas or even sudras, one should accept them as brahmanas. In this regard, Srila Sridhara Svami has commented: samadibhir eva brahmanadi-vyavaharo mukhyah, na jati-matradity aha—yasyeti. yad yadi anyatra varnantare ‘pi drisyeta, tad-varnantaram tenaiva lakshana-nimittenaiva varnena vinirdiset, na tu jati-nimittenety arthah: “The most important criterion for deciding whether to deal with someone as a brahmana or as a member of another varna is the presence or absence of self-control and similar brahminical qualities. We should not judge primarily according to superficial characteristics like birth. This is stated in the verse beginning yasya [SB 7.11.35]. If the qualities of one varna are seen in someone born in another, he should be designated according to the varna of his qualities, not that of his birth.”
There is a similar statement made by Nilakantha, a commentator on the Mahabharata: sudro ‘pi samady-upeto brahmana eva brahmano ‘pi kamady-upetah sudra eva. “Although one may be born in a sudra family, if he is endowed with the brahminical qualities, beginning with sama [control of the mind], he is to be accepted as a brahmana. Although one may be born in a brahmana family, if he is endowed with the qualities beginning with kama [lust], he is to be considered a sudra.” No one should present himself as a brahmana simply on the basis of being born in a brahminical family. One must be qualified by the brahminical qualities mentioned in the sastras, particularly the Bhagavad-gita (18.42):
samo damas tapah saucam kshantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam brahma-karma svabhava-jam
“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness—these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.”
Unless one is qualified with all these attributes, he cannot be accepted as a brahmana. It is not a question of simply taking birth in a brahmana family. In this regard, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura remarks that Narottama dasa Thakura and Syamananda Gosvami, although not born in brahmana families, are accepted as bona fide spiritual masters because they were brahmanas by qualification. Personalities like Sri Ganga-narayana, Ramakrishna and many others, who were actually born in brahmana families, accepted Narottama dasa Thakura and Syamananda Gosvami as their spiritual masters.
Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 24.331:
“The maha-bhagavata is one who decorates his body with tilaka and whose name indicates him to be a servant of Krishna by the word dasa. He is also initiated by a bona fide spiritual master and is expert in worshiping the Deity, chanting mantras correctly, performing sacrifices, offering prayers to the Lord and performing sankirtana. He knows how to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead and how to respect a Vaishnava. When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru. However, if one is highly qualified but is not a Vaishnava, he cannot be accepted as a guru. One cannot be a brahmana unless one is a Vaishnava. If one is a Vaishnava, he is already a brahmana. If a guru is completely qualified as a Vaishnava, he must be accepted as a brahmana even if he is not born in a brahmana family. The caste system method of distinguishing a brahmana by birth is not acceptable when applied to a bona fide spiritual master. A spiritual master is a qualified brahmana and acarya. If one is not a qualified brahmana, he is not expert in studying the Vedic literatures. Nana-sastra-vicaranaika-nipunau. Every Vaishnava is a spiritual master, and a spiritual master is automatically expert in brahminical behavior.