By Mahatma das
What are your expectations for a guru? A psychologist to solve your emotional issues? A father to run to whenever you have a problem, or to replace the loving father you never had? Do you expect him to be someone who will always do what you need or want him to do, or make time for you whenever required? Do you expect him to be so self-sacrificing that he will give up his own needs for you? Do you expect him to answer every email you send within a few days, or even answer at all? Do expect to get enough of his love to feel complete? Do you want to write often about what’s going on in your life and heart, sometimes writing very long and detailed letters? And will you expect him to carefully read and contemplate every detail, and remember these details long into the future?
Do you see the guru predominately as one who gives and you as one who receives? Do you expect your guru to make you Krsna conscious without a sufficient amount of your own determined effort?
Do you expect him to be perfect, manifest ecstatic symptoms, be one of the leaders in Iskcon, have thousands of disciples or be special in other ways? (These are not qualifications of a guru).
Do you expect to be a special disciple, the senior disciple, the most loved disciple, the disciple he takes most advice from, the one who other disciples must work with or submit to, the one who controls the life of the guru? (These expectations can developed over time).
Do you expect him to teach more esoteric knowledge than Prabhupada taught?
If these or similar expectations are what you are looking for in a guru, you will find few, if any, gurus that see all of the above as their job description. In fact, you will find gurus that do not believe any of the above “qualifications” are part of their service.
So in choosing a guru you (of if you have already chosen a guru), you will need to be realistic about your expectations by finding out if the guru you are choosing (or have chosen) is able to fulfill your expectations. Don’t make to assumptions, but express your needs and see what he is willing and able to offer.
Also, consider if those expectations are realistic.
What can you definitely expect from a guru? He will be someone who directs you back to godhead, who takes responsibility for your spiritual life by guiding you through his writings, lectures, and possibly in person and through email and social media (depending on the guru), and who sees that you are spiritually taken care of and well situated in Krsna consciousness. He takes your karma and prays to Krsna for you. He sets an example for you. He is someone that is dedicated to Srila Prabhupada and firmly fixed in his spiritual practices and services. He connects you to Krsna, continually guides you through his teachings, and prays for your spiritual guidance. He always gives you shelter and accepts you back even after you disobeyed his instructions or left him. His life and teachings are your inspiration to continue day in and day out in Krsna consciousness. His service is your treasure. Again, if you expect more, ask him if your expectations are realistic for him to fulfill.
When a disciple didn’t follow Srila Prabhupada well and was having difficulty, he would say, “What can I do?” meaning I have given him all he needs to be Krsna conscious, but if he doesn’t take it there is nothing more I can do. It is the mercy of the guru that enables the disciple to advance. This mercy comes through following his instructions and serving him. Following and serving Srila Prabhupada and working cooperatively within Iskcon is also following your guru’s instructions. So when we serve in this way, Krsna is pleased. And this is the source of the mercy we get. It is by this mercy that we become Krsna conscious. Pleasing the guru is the secret of spiritual advancement.
It is dangerous to make assumptions. Just because you have certain needs, or you see some gurus fulfilling those same needs with their disciples, doesn’t mean your guru or the guru you choose will do the same, or can do the same even if he wanted to. Also, you may get lots of attention when the guru has few disciples, but not all gurus will perpetually have a small group of disciples. Dynamics may change over the years, and the relationship you have with your guru may change as well. Also your expectations may change as you progress in devotional service. But know that you can have siksa gurus that can fulfill needs that your guru may not have the time, tendency or capacity to fulfill.
In conclusion, don’t make assumptions about your potential relationship with your guru. Be clear about what you can expect and cannot expect, and how the guru’s tendency to adapt his service as disciples increase may alter what expectations he can fulfill in the future.