Guru Does Not Always Mean Disciples


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 63, Vol 3, 2019

We examine further arguments that Dravida Dasa ("DD") of the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) offered to justify his change to the purport of Madhya-lila 7.130 in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (CC). All emphases added.

Must mean disciples

The original purport stated that:

"It is best not to accept any disciples."

To justify changing this, DD offered the following argument:

"After all, the whole context of this passage is about becoming a guru, which in ordinary parlance means taking disciples. Two sentences later we find this: "Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life.""
(DD, Email, 7/3/19)

"take Prabhupada's words directly from the ms. [short for "manuscript" – Ed.] after the passage in question, we have Prabhupada flatly saying >>It is best not to accept any disciples<<, and one sentence later saying >>Just become a spiritual master.<< Doesn't compute."
(DD, Email, 8/3/19)

Thus, because in this purport Srila Prabhupada speaks about one becoming a guru or spiritual master, DD claims that this must be referring to one who takes disciples, because he claims that the word guru in "ordinary parlance means taking disciples". Hence, the purport saying "it is best not to accept any disciples", according to him just "doesn't compute", and so the change is justified.

What passage actually states

Let us examine the passage to see exactly the type of guru being referred to, and whether it must mean "taking disciples", as DD claims. Below, all the quotes are from the undisputed parts of the purport to Madhya-lila 7.130 – and describe the person who is being asked to "become a spiritual master":

1) Someone who needs to be told to not act artificially and become puffed-up:

"One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking, "I am a first-class devotee.""

2) One who is materially contaminated and needs to be purified:

"one has to become purified at home by chanting [...] Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life."

3) One who must be restricted to staying in his home:

"does not need to change his location. [...] One has to learn humility and meekness at home, [...] One has to become purified at home".

4) Consistent with being restricted at home, the preaching is restricted to instructing friends and relatives:

"instruct relatives and friends in the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam."

5) One who spends most of one's time engaging in a non-Krishna conscious occupation:

"Nor is it necessary for one to change status. One may remain a householder, a medical practitioner, an engineer or whatever. It doesn't matter."

Not one who takes disciples

The context of the passage clearly refers to a contaminated, materially occupied neophyte being told to not be puffed up and who is restricted to acting as a preacher in his house only to those he already knows. In the CC itself, Srila Prabhupada explains that such a contaminated and restricted person is not a guru who accepts disciples, as the latter is the topmost devotee and unrestricted:

"There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class. [...] The guru is not limited to a particular group. [...] Such a guru can accept disciples from all over the world. Prthivim sa sisyat. 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. [...] Such cheating gurus should not be accepted. Anyone can see how the bona fide spiritual master accepts disciples from all over the world."
(Cc., Madhya-lila, 24.330)

The basic preacher guru

In the purport to Madhya-lila 7.130, Srila Prabhupada states:

"To protect His preachers, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given much clear advice in these verses of Caitanya-caritamrta."

He states "these verses", because the explanation in the purport of Madhya-lila 7.130 is a continuation of what is stated in Madhya-lila 7.128, just 2 verses earlier. Hence, the following quote will tell us exactly who the not-very-qualified, limited, preaching guru mentioned in Madhya-lila 7.130 is, because it refers specifically to Madhya-lila 7.128 – "Yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna'-upadesa":

"Yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna'-upadesa: "You become guru. No qualification required. Simply you repeat what Krsna has said." [...] Anyone can do it, even a child. (Laughs). Our Syamasundara's daughter. She was preaching, "Do you know Krsna?" [...] Even a child like Sarasvati, she can preach. [...] But these three words, that "Krsna is the Supreme Lord; you are servant; and chant Hare Krsna" bas, preaching complete. Very simple thing and the sublime instruction. Everyone can become guru by simply teaching these three words."
(Srila Prabhupada, Room Conversation, 26/1/77)

In this case, even a child can act as a guru, and the preaching is "complete" after simply repeating three things – "Krsna is the Supreme Lord; you are servant; and chant Hare Krsna". Thus, such a child "guru" is not formally accepting disciples by only passing on the basics. Hence, the "guru" being described by Srila Prabhupada in the changed purport to Madhya-lila 7.130 does not refer to the topmost, unrestricted devotee who is "taking disciples", as DD claims. Rather, it refers to anyone, including children, who do not take disciples, but just do some very basic, restricted preaching.


This failed argument from DD for justifying the book change – that guru in this case must mean "taking disciples" – just adds to all the other failed arguments from DD in the previous two articles, thus further emphasising the speculative nature of his book change. Analysis of the whole purport makes it clear that, even with the book change, this "become guru" order from Lord Caitanya, as repeated many times by Srila Prabhupada, is still not an order to become a diksa guru!

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