Excerpt from the book Sri Guru and His Grace by Srila Sridhar Maharaja.
Chapter 11, page 165 -171
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.9.31) it is stated:
na hy ekasmad guror jnanam
su-sthiram syat su-puskalam
"One certainly cannot get complete knowledge from only one guru." In the highest stage of devotion, we must see not only one guru; we must see that guru is everywhere. In the land of Krsna, all are gurus; our transformation should be towards that. Everything in the spiritual world, the entire environment is our guru and we are servants. To enter into Vaikuntha, or Goloka, means that on all sides we must see guru and pay our respects. There is gradation of course, but all are guru .
There are different classes of guru. All Vaisnavas are considered gurus. If the spiritual master gives even one letter to the disciple, what is contained there is infinite. The knowledge given by the spiritual master is infinite. To know and understand it fully, however, different sources are necessary.
In the highest position one can read devotion to Krsna from everywhere. If we can attain the proper vision, then everything will supply me inspiration towards the performance of our duties. Whenever Mahaprabhu saw a forest, he saw it as Vrndavana. Whenever he saw a river, he saw the Yamuna. Whenever he saw a hill, he saw it as Govardhana hill. In that highest stage, wherever we cast our glance, it will remind us about our Lord. They will teach us, they will press us to engage ourselves in service to Krsna. That is the duty of guru. Wherever we cast our glance, whatever we come in contact with will only excite us "Do your duty." That is guru. Our guru is whoever gives us impetus for the service of Krsna, whoever helps us to look towards the center. So, because every atom in Vaikuntha and Goloka will encourage us towards our duty, they are all our gurus. Gurus will be very amply available when we can raise ourselves to a higher level.
When we are in the lower stages of material conception, everything we see takes us away from the center by the out-carrying current. Whatever we see says "Oh, come and enjoy me." The invitation of enjoyment is found here in the lower level, and the inspiration of renunciation is also found in a particular stage. The impersonalists who desire salvation say "Whatever we find here is temporary. Reject it all!" But devotion is the positive side. From the side of devotion, everything will draw me towards the center, towards Krsna. And those who will help us in that way, are our gurus. Guru means "one who dispels the darkness of both enjoyment and renunciation . "
Krsna tells us not to particularize in one point (acaryam mam vijaniyan ). There are so many siksa gurus in the line, and it is our good fortune to see more gurus, to come to the stage where we see gurus everywhere. Everywhere we shall try to draw the hints of the auspicious presence of Godhead. Krsna says, "One who can see me everywhere, and everything in me is never lost to Me, nor I to him (yo mam pasyati sarvatra, sarvam ca mayi pasyati ). We shall try to see Him in every medium. Then our position is safe. Not to see guru is a dangerous position. But if we can see guru everywhere, advising us to concentrate our energy towards the service of God, then we'll be safe. Of course, there is also a specific vision of guru, from whom I can get the maximum immediate help. But ultimately, Krsna says, "I am the acarya, "See Me in him."
Jewel Within the Palm
Who is acarya ? One who knows how to give due respect to his own acarya. Baladeva Vidyabhusana has explained in one of his commentaries how both Rupa and Sanatana Goswami have shown Govinda to the world. He says that if one has a jewel in his hand, he can show the jewel in various ways by holding it differently. Rupa and Sanatana have each dealt in various ways with the jewel by the name of Govinda, who is always served by the Supreme Goddess of Fortune. They have both shown that high substance, Govinda, to the world just as a jewel within their palms.
So not only in the supreme goal of life, but in everything, our knowledge depends on more than one source. We mainly learn from one place, but this is verified and corroborated by many sources; then it comes to be proper knowledge. In the nyaya sastra, the codes of logic, the six processes of acquiring knowledge are mentioned: visaya, the thesis, samgaya, the antithesis, purva-paksa, cross-examination, mimamsa, synthesis, siddhanta, conclusion, and samgatih verification from different sources. After these six stages, something may come in the name of truth in this world. Any knowledge presupposes consultation with different sources, although mainly we can get it from one source. In the beginning we inquire about the truth, not from one, but from many sources. Then we concentrate to inquire from a particular higher source.
Our first connection with the truth comes from here and there in small quantities. First there is ajnata sukrti, unknown pious activities, then jnata-sukrti, pious activities performed in knowledge, then sraddha, faith, then sadhu sanga, the company with saints. In this way, we search for Sri Krsna. We inquire here and there. Many saints help us to a certain extent. Ultimately we go that spiritual master in whom we find the greatest possibility of learning the truth, and we surrender there.
Having accepted a spiritual master, one will find that his guru has so many disciples, and he will take from them also. His spiritual master will recommend some books for him. He will say, "Read Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam." That will also help us to get so many gurus through the books, where we will find many references and quotations from many gurus.
All Are Guru
All of them have their contribution, and ultimately we must understand that we have to enter into the land of the gurus. Everyone should be respected as guru that gives impetus to me to search for Krsna, to serve Krsna. They will all help to carry me to the center. And this is the most fortunate position: to see everyone, everywhere as guru, to see that no one is our servant and no one is indifferent to us. That is our highest fortune: to attain that highest spiritual environment where everyone is our guru. Here, everyone is our servant; even our father and mother. We want to draw something from everyone in this world of exploitation. And by renunciation everything is eliminated; it is a deserted position. If we are to enter into the land of eternal prospect, then we must learn to see that all are our guru and we are servants.
That they are all gurus means they are all our well-wishing guardians. In that plane, we shall imbibe help from everywhere. Their benediction and their grace will come from everywhere. They are all well-wishers, all guardians, they all guide us towards the highest attainment of our fortune. There cannot be any objection to that.
But still there is gradation, just as in the very existence of God there is gradation: Vasudeva, Visnu, Narayana, Dvarakesa, Mathuresa, Svayam Bhagavan Krsna--there are so many levels. Gradation is always there, according to our inner position. So, we must not be afraid.
Of course there is a time, when we are surrounded by an unfavorable environrnent, that the association of a real saint is very rare. In that stage, we may be warned not to mix with the Mayavadis, Buddhists, Sankarites, Naga babas, and so many other groups of so-called sadhus, so that we may not run hither and thither only to find a guru to get any advice. To save us from such unfavorable circumstances, to protect us, we are warned, "Don't try to see guru everywhere." In a particular stage, however, when we already have a taste for the real truth, we are taken to that plane where everyone is our guru, helping us advance towards our destination.
This caution is valuable in the beginning, because there are so many cheaters who want to devour us. At that stage, especially, to help us proceed towards the goal, we must exclusively concentrate on our guru, avoiding the Buddhists, mayavadis, atheists, and all those who wear red rags in the name of sadhus.
Still, in every sampradaya, or religious tradition, that trick has been used: "Only listen here. Stick to the words of your guru, the advice of your guru. Don't try to mix hither and thither, to run here and there to get advice. So many teachers are the enemies of your guru. They are not preaching the real truth." That warning is necessary in some stage. "Don't try to see guru everywhere, because in this world, so many men in the dress of sadhus are going on with their lower campaign." This warning should come in that stage.