The Mother Divine
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How To Approach A Spiritual Master
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada
(A lecture given in New York on August 14, 1966)
tad viddhi praeipatena
paripracnena sevaya
upadeknyanti te jianaa
jianinas tattva-darcinau

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.—Bhagavad-geta 4.34

KANEA ADVISES, “IF YOU WANT to know the transcendental science, just approach someone who knows it.” Praeipata means “surrender.” You must select a person to whom you can surrender yourself.
Nobody likes to surrender to anyone. We are puffed up with whatever knowledge we have. “Oh, who can give me knowledge?” And there is regular propaganda that for spiritual realization there is no need of a spiritual master. But the Vedic literature—Bhagavad-geta, Cremad-Bhagavatam, the Upaninads—says that there is need of a spiritual master. For example the Vedic Upaninads say, tad-vijïanarthaa sa gurum evabhigacchet: “If you want to learn the transcendental subject, you must approach a spiritual master.”

The first requirement is that you must be eager to learn the transcendental subject. Suppose I want to learn the art of music. Then I have to find a musician. Without having the association of a musician, one cannot learn the art of music. The same holds true for any art. If you want to become an engineer, you have to enroll in an engineering college or a technical college and learn there. Nor can one become a medical practitioner simply by purchasing books from the market and reading at home. That is not possible. You have to enroll in a medical college and undergo training and practical examination and so many things.

Similarly, if you want to learn Bhagavad-geta or any transcendental subject matter, Lord Kanea says that you must go to a person to whom you can surrender yourself. That means you have to check: “Who is the real person who can give me instruction on Bhagavad-geta or any Vedic literature?” Your search must not be whimsical. You have to search very seriously for a person who actually knows the subject. Otherwise, why surrender to someone? But since you have to find a person to whom you can voluntarily surrender, without finding that person your mission will not be fulfilled.

In the beginning of the Bhagavad-geta Arjuna was talking with Kanea just like a friend. But when Arjuna realized, “Our friendly talk will not make a solution,” he surrendered unto Kanea. Cinyas te ’haa cadhi maa tvaa prapannam: “I become a surrendered disciple unto You. Please instruct me in my duty.” This is the process.

Here Kanea advises, “If you want to learn Bhagavad-geta, then you have to go to a person to whom you can surrender.” But you should not blindly surrender. You must be able to inquire—paripracna. The next qualification is paripracna, “inquiry.” Without inquiry you cannot make advancement. A student in school who inquires from the teacher is intelligent. Even a child who inquires, “Oh, father, what is this? What is this?” is intelligent.

So inquiry is required, not only surrender—“Oh, I have found a very good spiritual master. All right. I have surrendered. Now all my business is finished.” No. You may have a very good spiritual master, but if you have no power to inquire, then you cannot make progress. Inquiries must be there. How do you inquire? Not to challenge. Not “Oh, I shall see what kind of spiritual master he is. Let me challenge him and put some irrelevant questions and talk nonsensically, this way and that way.” That kind of inquiry will not help. Paripracna means “inquiry on the point.”

And that inquiry should be sevaya, “with service.” Seva means “service.” One should not think, “Oh, I have inquired so many things from such and such person, and I have not rendered any payment or service, so I have gained.” No. Without service your inquiry will be futile.

So three requirements for approaching a spiritual master are given here: praeipata (surrender), paripracna (inquiry),and seva (service).

Praeipata means you must at least have the qualification to find a person actually qualified to give you real instruction. That qualification you must have. That remains on you.

Suppose you have to purchase some gold or jewelry. If you do not know where to purchase—if you go to a grocery shop to purchase a jewel—then you’ll be cheated. If you go to a grocery shop and ask, “Can you give me a diamond?” the grocer will understand, “Here is a fool. So let me give him something else.”
“Here. This is a diamond.”
“Oh. What is the price?”
The grocer can charge anything. And when you come home, your relatives will ask, “What have you brought?”
“This is a diamond. I bought it at the grocery shop.”
That way of finding a spiritual master will not do. You have to become a little intelligent, because without being intelligent one cannot make any spiritual progress.

The Vedanta-sütra says, athato brahma-jijïasa. Brahma-jijïasa means “to inquire about the supreme subject matter, Brahman.” That inquiry requires a qualification: atha. Atha indicates that those who have become experienced by the miserable life in the material world can inquire about the Absolute Truth, about spiritual life.

Similarly, the Cremad-Bhagavatam states, tasmad gurua prapadyeta jijïasuu creya uttamam. Uttamam means udgata-tamam, “transcendental.” Tama means “darkness.” Anything of the material world is in darkness, because this material world is dark. You know that the whole universe is dark and therefore there is need of sunlight, moonlight, electricity. Uttamam refers to that which is beyond this darkness—the transcendental subject, the spiritual subject. In the spiritual world there is no darkness.

Only one who wants to inquire about the spiritual world must find a spiritual master. Otherwise, there is no need of a spiritual master. For material improvement you don’t require a spiritual master. For that you can work just as so many people are working. That is prescribed.

But because you are interested in the subject of Brahman—the spiritual subject—therefore you require a spiritual master. That is clearly stated. Tasmad gurua prapadyeta: “Therefore one has to surrender unto the spiritual master.” Tasmat means “therefore.”
In any Vedic literature you’ll find the same instruction as stated in the Bhagavad-geta:
tad viddhi praeipatena
paripracnena sevaya
upadeknyanti te jianaa
jianinas tattva-darcinau

means jiane, or “a man in perfect knowledge.” One in perfect knowledge has perfect vision—not theoretical, but actual vision of the spiritual subject matter.

Tattva means “the Absolute Truth.” You’ll find in the Bhagavad-geta that Kanea is the supreme tattva, the Absolute Truth. Kanea says, manunyaeaa sahasrenu kaccid yatati siddhaye: “Out of many, many thousands of people, a few may try to get spiritual salvation.” Not everyone is expected to hanker after spiritual salvation. That hankering requires many, many years’ qualification. Then Lord Kanea says, yatatam api siddhanam kaccin maa vetti tattvatau: “Out of many perfected spiritualists, only some may know Me in truth.” First of all, out of many, many thousands of people, only some want perfection in spiritual life. Then out of those who have attained such perfection, one or two may understand Kanea.

The subject matter of Kanea is not easy. It is very difficult. But one can understand it very easily by following the process given in Bhagavad-geta:
bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yac casmi tattvatau
tato maa tattvato jïatva
vicate tad-anantaram

If you accept bhakti, devotional service, you can understand the difficult subject matter of Kanea very easily. Bhaktya mam abhijanati. Abhijanati means that you can understand perfectly. Yavan yac casmi tattvatau. Tattvatau means that you can understand the Absolute Truth as it is. And tato maa tattvato jïatva: after understanding the science of Kanea perfectly, you become eligible to enter the spiritual kingdom.

Lord Kanea says that after many, many births, when I am fully perfect in knowledge, I have to surrender to Him. “Then why not immediately surrender to Him? Why shall I wait for many, many births?” That is a very intelligent question. If surrender to Him is the end of perfection, then why not accept the perfection immediately?

But people are doubtful. Somebody asked me, “How long will it take to be perfect in Kanea consciousness?” I replied that Kanea consciousness can be had in one second, or it cannot be had in thousands of births and deaths. But if I understand the principle that after attaining full knowledge I have to ultimately surrender to Kanea—to become a mahatma, a great soul—why not immediately surrender to Kanea?

Most of us are not prepared to immediately accept Kanea as Supreme, or we have many doubts. Therefore, to drive away all our doubtful ideas, the castras, the scriptures—especially the Bhagavad-geta and the Cremad-Bhagavatam—are there. If we scrutinizingly study these two books, we can understand the science of Kanea very nicely, and our progress in Kanea consciousness will be definite.

Thank you very much.