Our Disciplic Succession:
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj  Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj  Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj  Bhagavan Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad
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Nam-guru and Mantra-guru


Student: I have heard that one has an eternal connection with the Spiritual Master who first initiates one into the chanting of the Hare Krishna mahamantra (Hari-nam-guru). Does he have a similar connection with the Mantra-guru?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes. We may see it as similar, with a slight difference.

Student: Some devotees who took Hari-nam initiation from Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad later took their gayatri mantra initiation from one of his disciples. Can you explain the distinction between the two initiations and how a disciple should view his relationship with two different Spiritual Masters?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The first importance should be given to the Nam-guru, or the Guru who initiates one into the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna, and second to the Guru who gives initiation into the gayatri mantra. The Diksa-guru, initiating Spiritual Master, must be shown respect, and then all the other disciples of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. First, honour must be shown to Prabhupad, who is the Nam-guru, the Guru of the Guru, the second honour will go to the Diksa-guru, and then to the rest, accommodating all. They should all be recognised according to their status.

Mantra: circle within a circle

Jiva Goswami has written that the Name of Krishna is the principal thing in the gayatri mantra. Within the mantra, there are also so many other words, but the Name is the most important. If the Name of Krishna is taken away and replaced with some other name, the whole thing will be rotten. This is the decision of Jiva Goswami. The Holy Name of Krishna is all-in-all. The Holy Name of Krishna is there in the gayatri mantra, and so many other words are couched there. But if Krishna's Name is taken away and replaced with the name of Siva, then the whole thing will go to Siva. The Holy Name is the all-important factor.

The Holy Name of Krishna is so important that even the gayatri mantra may not be necessary. It is said:

no diksam na cha sat-kriyam na cha purascharyam manag iksate
mantro 'yamrasana-sprg eva phalati sri-krsna-namatmakah

(Padyavali: 29)

"One need not undergo all the purificatory processes, or follow the six ritualistic ceremonies mentioned in the Vedas for pious life; one need not even take initiation into the gayatri mantra. If one simply chants the Holy Name of Krishna without offence, everything will be successful." The Holy Name of Krishna is the most important consideration. The gayatri mantra may not even be necessary.

We accept the mantra only to help the Nam-bhajan, the worship of the Holy Name. Otherwise, it may not be necessary at all. It has been judged in such a way. The Name alone can do everything for a person. It is full and complete. The mantra helps us to do away with the aparadhs, offences, and the abhas, or hazy conceptions in our bhajan. The mantra comes to help us only so far.

An example is given of larger and smaller circles. The Holy Name of Krishna is the larger circle. It extends from the highest to the lowest. The mantra circle is a smaller circle within the larger circle. The mantra cannot reach to the lowest point. The Holy Name can extend itself down to the lowest position. The mantra gives us entrance into liberation, and then the Name carries us further. This is the nature of our connection with the mantra and the Name.

The Name extends to the lowest position, to the chandalas and yavanas. Everyone can receive the Name. But everyone is not eligible for the gayatri mantra. Only after one has reached a developed stage can the mantra be conferred upon him. And the mantra's jurisdiction will be finished when liberation is attained. In the Chaitanya-charitamrta (1.7.73):

krsna-mantra haite habe samsara mochana
krsna-nama haite pabe krsnera charana

"The Krishna gayatri mantra liberates one from repeated birth and death in this world; the Holy Name of Krishna gives one shelter at the lotus feet of Krishna." The gayatri mantra helps us achieve liberation, and then the mantra retires. After giving us liberation, the mantra is finished. But the Name will continue all along, from the lowest to the highest. In chanting the Name, there is no mention of any petition—it is an address only. We should not chant with the mentality that, "I want this." We must simply chant the Name spontaneously. That will encourage good will in us. So, because the function of the mantra is limited, but the Name is all-important, the Nam-guru will be honoured first, and next, the Mantra-guru, and then the other Vaisnavas.

Godbrother Gurus

Student: How should a devotee who has taken second initiation from a godbrother regard his godbrother— as godbrother or Guru?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: It is inconceivably, simultaneously, one and different. Generally that godbrother will be seen as Guru, according to the disciple's present stage, but if the disciple transcends and goes to his previous history, then he will see him more as a godbrother. But generally, in his present stage, he will see him as Guru, and in the background, godbrother.

Student: You said the Hari-nam continues after the liberated condition. So, does the Gayatri-mantra-guru continue any activity with the devotee beyond the point of liberation?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: When he returns to the spiritual world, even the chanting of the Holy Name will be in the background, and the function of performing other services will come in the foreground. When one enters the Lord's domain, he will be given some function there in the service of Krishna, and that will be very conspicuous and prominent. At that time, the Name will be in the background. When one goes to a particular group in a particular rasa, like sakhya-rasa, then he will be given a specific duty under a group leader like Subal, or Baladev. His service will have the first importance, and the Name will be in the background, helping, energising. And there all will be seen as Guru but still, there is a hierarchy. It is a family life. The Guru's Guru is there, but the disciple will work under his own boss who has his boss. He will receive direction from his immediate superior. In this way the hierarchy is there, and the disciple will gradually be transformed by that sort of function. Everyone is under some servitor, and their immediate duty will be to attend that servitor and his orders.

Student: Many devotees cannot understand how it is that someone can have two Gurus.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: That is because they are situated in a formal position, but when they enter into the substantial spiritual realisation, they will not have such a grievance because they will see what is Guru. Guru means one who has come to give Krishna consciousness. The formal difference will be reduced when one can catch the very substance of the teachings for which the Guru is respected. When one is intimately connected with the thread of divine love which the Guru comes to impart to us, he will accept it, wherever it comes from. He will see it as a friendly relation, not antagonistic, but cooperative.

Although separate in figure, at heart both of the Gurus are the same because they have a common cause. They have not come to fight with one another; they have come to fight only with the agents of Satan. If we can recognise the real thing for which we are approaching the Guru, then we will understand how to make the adjustment in our relationship with the Siksa-guru, Diksa-guru, and Vartma-pradarsak-guru.

We are infinitely indebted to all our Gurus. We are helpless. What can we do? They are benevolent, they are infinitely gracious, they are my guardians. I may have many guardians; they are to look after my welfare, they have not come to destroy me.

Student: Krishna descends with His associates, friends, and paraphernalia. Is this true of the Guru also?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes, but his associates were mostly recruited; very few may be his eternal company.

Self-effulgent and self-evident

Student: How will we recognise the Guru if he appears before us in another form or in a different body?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya argued that Sri Chaitanyadev could not have been an incarnation. Gopinath Acharya told him, "You do not know the sastra."

"No, no", Sarvabhauma said. "In the scriptures it is mentioned that the Lord does not appear in Kali-yuga, but only in three ages and is therefore known as Tri-yuga."

Gopinath Acharya replied, "You think that you know so much about sastra, but in the Srimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata, there is direct mention of the Avatar of Kali-yuga. Have you no knowledge, no recognition of that?"

Sarvabhauma, apparently defeated, said, "You go and take prasadam, and afterwards come and teach me."

Then Gopinath said, "Not by the dint of one's study or intelligence can one understand God, but only through His grace."

athapi te deva padambhuja-dvaya
prasada lesanugrhita eva hi

(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.14.29)

Then Sarvabhauma said, "You say that you have that grace, and I do not? What is your reasoning behind this? You say that you have the grace of the Lord, because you say that He is an incarnation. And because I can't give recognition to that, I have no grace? What is the proof of this?"

Gopinath Acharya replied:

acharya kahe,—"vastu-visaye haya vastu-jnana
vastu-tattva-jnana haya krpate pramana"

(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 6.89)

"It is evident that I have the grace of the Lord, because I know Him, and that you have not, because you deny Him."

The answer to your question is given here. Our own inner experience, our internal satisfaction, our connection or acquaintance with reality is the real evidence; nothing external can give any real proof.

Our Guru Maharaj gave the example that if one is born in the darkness of a dungeon, and someone proposes, "Let us go to see the sun", then the prisoner will carry a lantern in his hand saying, "Oh, you will show me the sun?"

"Yes. Come with me. Leave your lantern behind. No light is necessary to see the sun."

"Are you trying to fool me? Nothing can be seen without the help of a light."

His friend will catch him and forcibly take the prisoner into the sunlight. "Do you see the sun?" And the prisoner will say, "Oh, this is the sun! By sunlight alone we can see the sun." One will have that sort of experience when he comes in connection with the truth. Neither calculation, nor evidence, nor witness, but only direct experience is proof that Krishna is there, like the sun.

In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is said, atmaparijnana-mayo: what to speak of Krishna, even the conscious unit is self-effulgent. A certain section says, "There is God. Surely He exists." Others say, "No, there is no God. He never existed." This quarrel is useless; still it will continue. In a particular section this argument will have no end. Those who have no eyes will be unable to see the sun. They will say there is no sun.

atmaparijnana-mayo vivado
hy astiti nastiti bhidartha-nisthah
vyartho 'pi naivoparameta pumsam

(Srimad Bhagavatam: 11.22.34)

["Persons without knowledge of the Supreme will argue whether this world is real or not. Their focus is always aimed at trying to understand the dualities of this material nature. Although such discussions are meaningless, for those who have turned away from Me, these arguments will never end."]

This misconception will continue for those who deny the existence of both the soul and the Supreme Soul. For those who have direct experience, however, there is no question: it exists! But for the owl section who cannot admit the existence of the sun, the sun does not exist. It is something like that. Our own realisation of a thing will be the greatest proof of its existence: vastu-tattva-jnana haya krpate pramana.

One may be born blind, but if somehow or other his eyes are opened, he will be astonished to see the particular aspects of the environment. But if one has no vision, he can see no colour or figure. Those who have vision will feel, "How can I deny the fact? I have seen it. I am feeling it, it is so magnanimous, so great, and so benevolent; I can't deny all these things. You are unfortunate; you cannot see." Some see, some cannot see. In the same place, one can see, another cannot. Those to whom Krishna wishes to reveal Himself can see Him; others cannot.

The universal form

In the assembly of the Kurus, when Krishna went to Duryodhan's party with a proposal for peace between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, Duryodhan thought, "Now we have our golden chance. If I can put Krishna in the prison house now, then the Pandavas will die broken-hearted, and there will be no question of fighting with them." The Kauravas also joined in the scheme, and they told Duhsasan, "Go and bind Krishna with this rope." Duhsasan came with the rope in his hand and tried to bind Krishna. Satyaki, Krishna's attendant, was there, and he furiously came at Duhsasan with a sword. Krishna peacefully caught hold of his hand, and began to manifest Himself in such a way that it perplexed Duhsasan.

When Duhsasan saw the universal form displayed by Krishna, he thought, "So many figures appear before me. On whom shall I put the rope? Who shall I bind down?" So many figures were displayed by Krishna in His universal form. On one side there was Baladev, and on another side stood Arjuna and so many revered rsis, chanting Krishna's Name. Duhsasan was perplexed. And Bhisma and Drona began to sing in praise of Krishna. Everyone thought, "What is this? This is a magnificent vision, with so many faces!" The whole atmosphere was filled with the divine spirit. Then, Devarsi Narad and so many rsis began to chant in praise of Krishna. And in this way Krishna manifested His universal form before the assembly.

Dhrtarastra was blind, but he could hear them all praising Krishna and thought to himself, "Some sort of wonderful thing is happening around me, but I can't see." And so, he prayed to Krishna. "O Lord, for the moment please remove my blindness. I would like to see Your great manifestation. Afterwards, You can make me blind again, but at least for the time being, remove my blindness." Krishna told him, "There is no necessity of removing your blindness. I say that you can see, and you can see." By the Lord's will alone, even physical blindness was no bar to seeing that great manifestation of Krishna. So, the physical eye can't see God; only the divine eye can see Him. And by the will of Krishna, the divine eye was temporarily given to Dhrtarastra. His blindness did not stand in the way of his vision, and he could see Krishna.

Ultrasonic sound

The ability to recognise divinity descends from above. We cannot see God with our mundane senses. What to speak of being able to see the infinite, our senses are so limited that our ears can only hear sound of a particular wavelength. We are told that the sun, the moon, and all the stars and planets are all revolving and creating a huge sound, but our ears cannot hear that high degree of ultrasonic sound. Nor can we hear subsonic sound with our ears. Our eyes are designed to catch only a particular wavelength of light. We cannot see either ultraviolet or infrared light. Our material senses are limited to a particular plane of perception.

Student: The Guru accepts the responsibility to take his disciples back to Godhead. So, when the Guru departs, how does the disciple maintain contact with the Guru?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: You see, it comes to the same point. Who is Guru? And why is he Guru? Guru, sastra, and sadhu are one and the same thing, and we have to appreciate that. Otherwise, should we think that our onward march will be guaranteed only by the vision of our eyes? The photo of our Spiritual Master is not our Guru, although the photo has some connection with the real Guru. The eye experience and the ear experience of a person is not the whole experience. The real experience is through the words, the idea that the Guru has given. That is Krishna consciousness.

If I have a real interest in Krishna consciousness, I have to adjust all other things accordingly. Otherwise, if I miss the real thing that the Guru came to give me, everything will be dull idol worship. To follow the form alone will be idolatry. There are so many human figures; why is he Guru? Because he is a mediator, a medium of divine knowledge. That is the criterion to be tested everywhere. Put this test anywhere and everywhere. What is the interest for which we came to Krishna consciousness? And what is Krishna consciousness? There is your Guru. He is Guru only because he is in Krishna consciousness, and there are different degrees of Krishna consciousness. So, we must not make much about the form.

A religious jungle

Student: Why are there so many different religions in the world?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: In the Srimad Bhagavatam Uddhava posed this same question, "Why in the name of religion are there so many 'isms' in the world. Will every 'ism' that is found here independently take me to the goal? Or is there any gradation?" Krishna told him, "When the creation began, I transmitted the truths of religion into the heart of Brahma, the creator, and from Brahma, that came to his disciples. But according to the different capacity of those disciples, what they received was a little changed when they delivered it to others. When I gave it to Brahma, that knowledge was one. Brahma told his disciples, and when they received it in the soil of their heart, it entered, but with some modification. Again, when they gave delivery to their disciples there was more modification." It became lost due to the vitiating nature of the mundane plane. One point is the difference in the receiver and another, in the succession.

So, gradually the truth was modified, and now we see that the religious world is a jungle. Some give stress on penance, some on charity, some this, some that. So many branches of religion have sprung up. And antagonistic, ascending opinions like atheism have also grown from the human mind to oppose those modified descending opinions. So, now we find there is a jungle.

Krishna appears now and then to reestablish the principles of religion: yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati. When religion becomes extremely degraded, Krishna comes again, or sends His representative, telling him, "Go and set it right."

There must be religious differences, but one who can catch the real internal meaning of the truth will be saved. Others will be misguided, and it will be a long time before they are delivered. Once having a real connection with a bona fide Guru, he won't be lost. In this way Krishna answered Uddhava's question in the eleventh canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, and it is quite intelligible. It is neither unreasonable nor dogmatic. If we are sincere, we won't be lost.

The lady and the mullah

Every disciple cannot catch the real spirit of the advice of the Guru. There is a story. A Muslim mullah used to explain the Koran regularly. In his audience one old lady used to take her seat in the corner, and as long as the mullah read the Koran, the lady would weep. Tears would run down her cheeks profusely, so much so that one day the mullah met that lady and asked her, "What do you find in my lectures that you are so much impressed with? Whenever I cast my glance at you, I find your eyes are shedding tears profusely. What do you find in my lectures that moves you so?"

To this, the old lady answered, "I had one she-goat, and her beard was just like yours. When she took her food, she would move her head on the grass just as you move your head. You remind me of my dear she-goat. She was very affectionate to me. I can't stand to think of her without shedding tears, and for that purpose, I come to see your lecture."

Krishna Himself came and went unrecognised by many. In the case of Jesus also, we find that Judas, one of His twelve disciples, was a traitor. Jesus said, disappointed, "The one who will betray me is amongst the twelve of you." So, should we think that because we have come to a great man, now we have attained everything, devoured everything? It is not such an easy thing. We have only a slight connection with the infinite, and we have to progress with that capital. To think that we have attained everything is rather the opposite feeling. One who is approaching towards the infinite will see, more and more, that he is nowhere. The symptoms will be the opposite. Still, of course, sometimes it is necessary to assert ourselves with courage, on the strength of our faith: "What I say is true."

Newton was told by his contemporaries, "You have reached the highest zenith of knowledge." He made such a marvellous discovery that the people in his time thought that he was sarvajna, a knower of everything. They thought that he had finished the whole world of knowledge. But Newton said, "I know better than you because I conceive that I am just collecting pebbles at the shore of the ocean of knowledge. I see that I am more learned than all of you because you say that I have finished all knowledge, but I know that the vast ocean of knowledge cannot be finished. I have only touched its shore. This much I know. So, that is also an assertion, that I know more than you, because I know that knowledge cannot be finished, and you say that knowledge is finished."

This is the nature of the infinite. One who is going to deal with the infinite must always be conscious of his weakness. Then only will he be able to draw light from the infinite. To understand the words of Gurudev is not very easy. Gurudev is infinite. In his words, he also deals with the infinite. We can't put it under limitation, thinking that we have finished what he wanted to give us. We are students, and we shall remain students forever.


⇐ Separation from Sri Guru

The Disciplic Succession ⇒


Surrender to Sri Guru
Initiation into Transcendental Science
Descent of the Revealed Truth
The Original Guru
God Consciousness vs Society Consciousness
"I Command You—Become Guru!"
The Initiating Spiritual Master
Separation from Sri Guru
Nam-guru and Mantra-guru
The Disciplic Succession
Instructing Spiritual Masters
The Land of Gurus
Servant of the Servant
Lives of the Saints
The Line of Sri Rupa
Explanation of Math Logo