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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Degree of advancement of spiritual master?

Saturday, 14 April 2018 / Published in Articles, Romapada Swami / 6,744 views

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

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.


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7 Responses to “Degree of advancement of spiritual master?”

  1. Bhadra Govinda Dasa says :

    Dear Maharaja,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. Al glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to your holiness.

    Maharaja please clarify your statement “.. it is Krishna who is doing the delivering and not the jiva soul who is one’s spiritual master.”

    Is it not “ is Krishna who is giving the liberation and not the jiva soul who is one’s spiritual master”

    “When a devotee is perfectly qualified in chanting the transcendental vibration of the holy name, he is quite fit to become a spiritual master and to deliver all the people of the world.”

    “A conditioned soul cannot deliver another conditioned soul. Only Krishna or His bona fide representative can deliver him. ”

    “Gaurangera bhakta-gane jane jane sakti dhare. The purport of this song is that the devotees of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are very powerful, and each and every one of them can deliver the whole world.”

    Your humble servant,
    Bhadra Govinda Dasa.

  2. Dulal Chandra dasa says :

    Although a new devotee may not have yet developed the fine discrimination to determine who is the uttama-adhikārī and fully qualified, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura in his commentary to Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.25 (satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido) has commented;

    “From excellent association of the devotees, stories of my pastimes become nectar for the ears. From inferior association there is only bhajana-kriyā, but the stories do not become nectar.”

    He goes on to say;

    “Thus from excellent association the stories cause anartha-nivrtti. Then those stories cause nistha. Those stories become directly realization (samvidah) of my great qualities (virya). Those topics then produce ruci: they are pleasing to the ear and heart. From the taste (josanat) of those topics, asakti (sraddha) and then bhava (ratih) for the Lord, who destroys material existence, appears. Then prema (bhaktih) follows in this order (anu). The bhakti explained by me now will be preached in the world following this sequence.”

    Initially the sādhaka may take shelter of a less qualified spiritual master due to immature discrimination and that spiritual master may be helpful for some time. But there may come a time when the guidance of a more advanced devotee is required and the throughly honest spiritual master will encourage his maturing sādhaka to seek further assistance (śikṣā) from one more advanced. That is the transcendental system as evidenced by various narrations in the sacred texts.

  3. govinda das says :

    I think this article should be considered in relation to Romapada Swami’s lecture entitled, “Who or what delivers the soul, from the position of conditioned to liberated?”

    20 minutes into the lecture he summarizes that there are five sources of divya-jnana: the diksa mantra, siksa, chanting the holy names, the bhakti processes and Prabhupada’s books.

    There are two ways to look at this:

    1. Regardless of the realization of the guru any of those five sources can deliver the devotee.

    2. Those five sources will only be effective in delivering the devotee if the devotee is under the shelter of a physically present self-realized guru. With this understanding, the diksa mantra, the siksa and the holy name must be received from the lips of the self-realized devotee. Further, the processes of bhakti must be practiced under the guidance of the realized guru, and Prabhupada’s books must be studied in the association of the realized guru.

    Option 1 appears to be Romapada Swami’s position, as he writes ” all spiritual perfection will follow; this is not realization- of-guru specific.”

    Option 2 WOULD be realization-of guru specific.

    To the best of my understanding, Gaura Govinda Swami taught option 2.

    For me, neither this article nor the video resolve the question.

  4. Pusta Krishna das says :

    Krishna personally gives the vital qualifications of His representative teachers BG 4:34.
    He advises the aspiring devotee to approach His devotee, to render service to him and to inquire submissively. The qualification of such representative is that he knows the Absolute Truth, as Krishna has personally revealed Himself to such devotee. Tattva-darshina. This is the qualification.
    If one has not been so blessed then if one poses as a guru, they must do so with utmost humility, always pointing to those true saints who are blessed by Krishna and can bless others with Krishna consciousness. Srila Rupa Goswami further delineates the necessary quality of such spiritual teachers. Vaco vegam….They must be able to tolerate the urges of speech, the mind, anger, tongue, stomach and the genital (sex urge). That is to say, they must be Goswami, master of the senses. Such brahma bhuta realized sages are take shelter of Krishna always and constantly. They have no other interest than Krishna’s interest. Now, If a diksha guru does not genuinely have the quality and qualification to represent Krishna and Krishna’s representative, then they have only two options. To pretend or to defer to the genuine acharyas. To defer is noble. In other words, if one is performing the role of diksha guru, they must enlighten the aspiring seeker to chant the Holy Names without commiting offenses. Their siksha will not necessarily be profound and inspiring, and so without envy for Krishna & without envy for the genuine bhaktas of Krishna, they must recognize the pure devotees, point the way to them always. That is what it means to say that one must follow in the footsteps of the Mahajanas. The mercy of the vaishnava IS the recognition that Krishna is accepting the seeker for His higher service. Otherwise, why would Krishna recommend that one approach His devotee to receive Krishna consciousness training?
    Pusta Krishna das

  5. Nimai Pandit dasa says :

    Dandavats to one and all,
    Hare Krsna.

    This purport by Srila Prabhupada, sums it all up:

    “…The stage of pure devotion is attained by sincerely serving a pure devotee of the Lord. The first condition of devotional service to the Lord is therefore to be a servant of a pure devotee, and this condition is fulfilled by the statement “reception of the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee who has also served another pure devotee.” That is the way of pure disciplic succession, or devotional parampara…”

    “…In other words, Lord Sri Krsna is the property of His pure unconditional devotees, and as such only the devotees can deliver Krsna to another devotee; Krsna is never obtainable directly. Lord Caitanya therefore designated Himself as gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah [Cc. Madhya 13.80], or “the most obedient servant of the servants of the Lord, who maintains the gopi damsels at Vrndavana.” A pure devotee therefore never approaches the Lord directly, but tries to please the servant of the Lord’s servants, and thus the Lord becomes pleased, and only then can the devotee relish the taste of the tulasi leaves stuck to His lotus feet. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that the Lord is never to be found by becoming a great scholar of the Vedic literatures, but He is very easily approachable through His pure devotee…”

    “…The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly, and by one’s doing so (by the good will of the devotee) the natural attraction for the service of the Lord will be revived…” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.23)

    This is not the whole purport, it is only three excerpts. Please read the whole purport and verse very wonderful.

    Your lowly servant,

    Nimai Pandit dasa.

  6. Nimai Pandit dasa says :

    Also in the Adi Purana it is stated:

    ye me bhakta-janah partha
    na me bhaktas ca te janah
    mad-bhaktanam ca ye bhaktas
    te me bhakta-tama matah

    “Those who are My direct devotees are actually not My devotees, but those who are the devotees of My servant are factually My devotees.
    (Adi Purana, quoted in Laghu-bhagavatamrta 2.6)

    It is by the mercy of the bonafide spiritual master that we may attain entrance into the association of the Supreme Lord.

  7. prabhupadasevaka says :

    "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."

    Srila Sanatana Gosvami (in his commentary to Hari Bhakti Vilasa) seems to directly disagree with the statement above. It is possible for an impure guru to derail a person's spiritual life. A so-called guru who is less than pure, may have material desires, and may engage his so-called disciples in serving his own desires for profit, adoration and distinction by creating big projects, making big buildings, in the name of preaching, in the name of Krsna. A pure person will think only of the welfare of the disciple and sacrifice his life for the welfare of the disciple, as His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada did. Such persons are very rare.

    So a spiritual seeker must take the guidance of ISKCON GBC very seriously, serve potential gurus very closely, living with them literally, know everything they do. One simple test of a guru is whether they always speak the truth – do they falsely praise someone in one venue and criticize them later, do they play politics rather than try to establish the truth, do they make compromises to the truth for getting things done?