The Role of the Institution in Choosing One’s Spiritual Master
HH BVPS Mayapur 2019
His Holiness Bhaktividyā Pūrṇa Svāmī lecturing in Śrī Māyāpura 2019

His Holiness Bhaktividyā Pūrṇa Svāmī Mahārāja: Something else? Yes, there is a hand, the unembodied hand.

Prabhu (behind a pillar): Recently we had a visiting sannyāsī and the discussion went into who is qualified to be Guru and how do you choose a Guru. So the contention was from my side that the institution that we are part of, which Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī said, 'Organized religion is a necessary evil,' but the contention was that you have to ask sadhus who is qualified to be a spiritual master.
But the contention of the sannyāsī giving the class was that this is revealed in your heart who is actually your spiritual master. So in the discussion after the class I asked myself, 'Well, suppose I see Bhakta Joe is very inspirational, so it seems that I want to take him as my spiritual master.' What is the role of the institution in choosing or helping the aspirant devotee choose a proper spiritual master?

HH BVPS Maharaja: Very knowledgeable pillar, I must say, very thoughtful. Yes, it even has an arm that it occasionally manifests. [Laughter] So, see it's always important that all these different aspects.... Ok, now I get it, this is the meaning of "Talk to the hand" [Laughter] Now I get it. Ok.

The idea is that you have all these various aspects, that's what vicāra does, it brings out all the various aspects, and so all the aspects are seen together. Depending upon the particular context, one may take prominence, but it's not that the others aren't there. Just like in the explanation of Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Vāsudeva, so They are in these four different forms because of four kind of moods that They have: dhīrodātta, dhīra-praśānta, dhīra-lalita and dhīrodhatta. But at the same time, each one of Them has all four, it's just a matter of for that taste Kṛṣṇa comes as this form to taste this particular mood specifically. And then it's not that any of them couldn't do, but the point is is He being who He is then He sticks to those elements.

So in here you have that aspect of the prominence. That you have all these aspects, but the thing is is, okay, yes, it is revealed in the heart, but you also have to know what is being revealed. You have to know what you are dealing with, so there must be some training, therefore the institution. The institution is there to see that the kind-of regulated practices and regulated knowledge is understood and imparted. So 'necessary evil' means that the necessity is because of the neophyte. The madhyamas don't require it so much, they cooperate fairly well, the uttamas, it's not necessary at all. I mean, we are talking on one level here. And so, it is necessary because you are dealing with neophytes, the evil is the neophytes themselves. It is not that the system itself is the problem, it is the system how it is used by the neophyte mentality. If the institution is used for one's own purpose, that's the evil. If it is used for its actual purpose of uplifting, going back to Godhead, then that is necessary. So you have to find the balance.

So in other words, based on what the vaiṣṇavas themselves feel is someone who represents the Paramparā, then Bhakta José from within the heart then may choose one. But otherwise if we leave it up to just anybody, then it can come up with all kinds of things. That's why the analytical science of the philosophy is there, otherwise people come up with all kinds of stuff very regularly.

Just like here, I was thinking this morning about the point of that we are transcendental, we are not the body, therefore we are not controlled by that. And on one platform that is correct, because the soul is liberated, so the soul is not bound by the rules of the body. But the point is is the body is bound by the rules of the body. That is what's left out of the equation. So the idea is, 'I am not bound by the rules of the body, therefore I am independent and I don't have to worry about authority.' Now, that starts to get just downright mundane. That's just the conditioning of one's background, that one has authority issues and has that independence issues. Because the point is is, yes, the driver is not the car, but when you drive down the street, because you are not the car, you don't have to follow the rules that apply to the car? That's just downright stupid. So we are not applying logic into the things.

So that's the whole point, is that the institution is to see that we actually catch these points, because otherwise then the mind, because we have been so trained as I am the controller and enjoyer, any loophole we find that proves I am, we are immediately going to take it. So the institution is there to see that in a very serial, "seriatomic" way we go through all the different things. So does that make some sense, my dear Pillar?

Prabhu (behind the pillar): Yes, that's very good answer. I spoke with that devotee afterwards, and he was still into that Prabhupāda said like this... how do we deal with that kind of logic? He had a number of quotes where Prabhupāda said that it is like this, it's revealed in your heart.

HH BVPS Maharaja: It is revealed in your heart, but you have to know... But so many things are revealed in the heart, that I feel like eating is also revealed in the heart. So now, what do I eat?

That's the point, without training, because you have to be able to combine, that's the point of acintya-bhedābheda-tattva, you have to be able to combine these things that may be seemingly contradictory, but they are not.

Prabhu: But it seemed to be that he was preaching kind of anarchy, maybe something should be done, maybe a whistle blown or something. Because it just didn't make sense in relationship to what I understood our society was about.

HH BVPS Maharaja: The point is is, who has established the institution? Means, we see that Rūpa Gosvāmī has established, Jīva Gosvāmī formalized it, it went on in that way, Bhaktiviṇoda Ṭhākura talked about formalization as Nāma-haṭṭa, that community development, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī formalized as a preaching machinery, Prabhupāda put the two of those together as ISKCON. So who is creating institutions here? We are not talking about some corporate management here. I mean, of course, some are, but the real point is is who has put this together? So why would we not take advantage of the institution's facilities in that natural, spontaneous attraction to Kṛṣṇa? Because otherwise we have proven since time immemorial that we haven't been spontaneously attracted to Kṛṣṇa, and what has been coming up within the heart hasn't been of great value.

So that's the responsibility of leadership, you see that who is there, let's say what Gurus are there, then they represent the society. Now, from amongst those hundred, two hundred personalities then this person can get revelation. But just on their own, then where is the authority for that revelation? Just that it was revealed in the heart is not enough. It has to be backed up. Just like Prabhupāda says, the incarnation is there, fine, but it has to be backed up by śāstra. If the śāstra doesn't say that this incarnation is coming at this time and this is the name of His father, then he is not an incarnation. So it is not enough.

Otherwise, if it's that, that I feel like, so I feel like doing all kinds of things. What happens if I feel like, if it is revealed in my heart that I will stand on my head and do the Maṅgala-āratika? Because standing on the head, then all the blood rushes to the head, the brain is really able to focus, so then I can really concentrate on the Deity when I am offering the āratika. So the difficulty is, it will come up like this, it will again give rise to the hippy element, we have to kind-of remember this, that is the background. Unless, of course, you are a little older, and then it is the Bohemians, that is even a little older.

So we want to avoid that, because that is their whole thing, it's all about what you feel, and the love, and this and that, which has a basis, it does have a correct element, but without the science then it becomes sentimental. So Prabhupāda says, your philosophy without religion is mental speculation, and religion without philosophy is sentiment. So we have to be careful about that. We have to have the balance. Is that ok, my dear Pillar?

Prabhu: Yes, it's very good, thank you, Hare Kṛṣṇa.

From Question and Answers after a class on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 5.10.19, Śrī Māyāpura Dhāma)

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