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Prīti Sandarbha (continued) - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Vaiśeṣika Sūtras of Kaṇāda with Praśastapāda Bhāṣya - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Sanskrit for Beginners by Gururaja
:star2: Bhakti-Ratna Course 4 - (Registration open) :star2:
Prīti Sandarbha (continued) - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Vaiśeṣika Sūtras of Kaṇāda with Praśastapāda Bhāṣya - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Sanskrit for Beginners by Gururaja
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Recognizing a Qualified Teacher
Guru Questions & Answers

Recognizing a Qualified Teacher

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Question: How does one find and recognize the correct guru for oneself?

Answer: Guru means a teacher. As regards to spirituality, guru means a spiritual teacher. A qualified teacher should have three qualities. The first is that he knows the subject well; the second is that he likes to teach, and the third is that he knows how to teach. The fourth is a result—he has studied the subject well. For example, if you want to learn Sanskrit, how do you recognize a good teacher? He must know Sanskrit well; he must be interested in teaching it and must know how to teach it. It also implies that he must have studied Sanskrit well. The same applies to any field you want to learn, including spirituality.

Question: Since there are many people who are thus qualified, how does a seeker discern who is right for him? Is there a process one should carry out to determine if the fit is right for both the guru and potential śiṣya? Are there things an aspiring seeker should look for? If it is intuitive, then how can one know if one is using one’s intuition versus one’s emotions, especially given how clouding emotions can be?

Answer: Before seeking a guru, you must ascertain yourself as being a qualified student. First of all, you must decide what you are looking for, and which path you want to follow.  You must be determined to study under a teacher. Generally, only the qualification of the guru is stressed. It is just assumed that the seeker himself is qualified. Once this is ascertained, then you must look for a qualified guru. “Guru” has become a mysterious word, but it simply means a teacher.

Therefore, you must look for a good teacher for your path. Do not judge a good teacher by external appearance, such as his age, the number of followers, the number of āśramas or temples, etc. The external things also have their importance, but they may also be misleading.  They are not independent criteria for a qualified teacher. Most important is that the guru must be well educated in the subject. This is not very difficult to find out. But it is also not very easy to know for a beginner. One way to check is that he himself must have studied under a guru. Self-study does not make one a great scholar. Our śāstras are written in Sanskrit, so a basic knowledge of Sanskrit is a must. And he must be willing to teach, otherwise his scholarship will not help you.

There are other qualifications that are not so easy to ascertain. He must have experience of his path. Mere theoretical knowledge is not sufficient. He must practice what he teaches. He must be of good character.  Finally, he should not be inclined toward material goals, such as money or followers.

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Question: When Kṛṣṇa chooses to present the jīva with a bonafide spiritual master, does this mean that the jīva itself has done nothing to make this happen? If so, does Kṛṣṇa only offer this to sincere jīvas? If this is the case, then it seems that mercy is not causeless, as the jīva needs to be sincere in looking for Kṛṣṇa. Please clarify my understanding of this matter.

Answer: Causeless means without a cause. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa’s or His devotee’s mercy can come without any action or qualification on the part of the recipient jīva. But mercy is not just a one-time affair. Mercy can come again. When it comes again, it may appear because of some action on the part of the jīva. Both are possible. Mother Yaśodā tried to bind Kṛṣṇa but was not successful. Seeing her laboring hard and sweating, Kṛṣṇas heart melted, and He became bound by His own grace. So, it is hard to say if Kṛṣṇa was bound by ropes or by grace or by both—dṛṣṭvā pariśramaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ kṛpayā āsīt sva-bandhane (SB 10.9.18).

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 Question: Can a guru forgive the sins of his disciples? Or only Kṛṣṇa? Does Kṛṣṇa do it through the medium of the guru? This question arose from a statement made by a Christian: “Jesus is not merely a guru; he can forgive the sins of his disciples.” Can a Vaiṣṇava guru be compared with Jesus who can also forgive sins, as per the Bible?

Answer: Yes, the guru as well as Krsna can absolve sins. Please refer to Gītā ślokas 18.66, 12.7, 7.14, 8.5.

The guru also absolves the disciple from sins; this is the very meaning of dīkṣā.

divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt kuryāt pāpasya saṁkṣayam
tasmat dīkṣā iti proktā deśikaistattva-kovidaiḥ

(Viṣṇu-yāmala, cited in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 2.9)

“Because it gives () divine knowledge and dispels all sins, the learned call it dīkṣā.”

There are many such references in śāstra.

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