Degree of advancement of spiritual master?
Answer by His Holiness Romapada Swami
Does spiritual advancement depend on the degree of advancement of the spiritual master?
Question: Srila Prabhupada said in certain places that one should accept a spiritual master whose guidance will make one’s life perfect. Would it make any difference to one’s spiritual progress if the spiritual master one accepted was:
(A) At a different level of realization to, say, another spiritual master?
(B) Both coming from a bona fide disciplic succession.
Or does progress of the disciple depend more on one’s sincerity and the Supreme Lord within the individual heart can make up for any deficit on the part of the spiritual master in terms of his/her realization?
The qualification of a bona fide spiritual master is that he is a transparent representative of the predecessor acharyas within the disciplic succession, he must have received knowledge from his spiritual master in disciplic succession, and he must be strictly following those teachings by both prachar and achar.
It is also further recommended that one accept a spiritual master who is on the topmost platform of devotional service, i.e. an uttama adhikari. How we can identify such an uttama adhikari is explained by Srila Prabhupada in Nectar Of Instruction Text 5: essentially such a devotee is always engaged in serving Krishna’s interest 24 hours a day, having lost interest in everything else and having realized himself to be an eternal servitor of Krishna. (Please see NOI Text 5 translation and purport http://vedabase.net/noi/5/en)
Shastras do enjoin that before surrendering to a guru, it is the duty of the disciple to ascertain that the spiritual master is a pure representative based on the above mentioned scriptural standards, and to develop the confidence that ‘Here is a person unto whom I can fully surrender’; but it is beyond the disciple’s jurisdiction or ability to try to judge the degree of their realization or to compare two exalted vaishnavas. Doing so would be presumptuous and could easily become seriously detrimental to one’s own devotion.
Having surrendered to the spiritual master, he should be accepted as a confidential servitor and direct representative of Krishna. Srila Prabhupada, in fact, taught us that the guru is not many, there is only one guru since anyone who is representing the disciplic succession is essentially transmitting the same absolute message and descending mercy.
All spiritual perfection can be achieved by faithfully serving and pleasing one’s spiritual master. This is the mystery of disciplic succession.
Within all of this framework, we should understand that it is Krishna who is doing the delivering, not the jiva soul who is one’s spiritual master. If we take shelter of the system given by Krishna (and outlined above), all spiritual perfection will follow; this is not realization- of-guru specific. Once again, Krishna is the deliverer, and he has His agents or instruments through whom He acts.