This weekend I was teaching the ISKCON Disciple Course here in Zurich. I personally think it’s a very valuable course that gives a good insight in the whole Guru-Disciple relationship. `Selecting a Guru` is probably one of the most frequently discussed topics that raises a lot of questions. How does one select a Guru? How to find a Guru?
First of all it is good to ask ourselves: What am I looking for in a Guru? In other words, do I have the proper motivation to accept a Guru? I should also be clear about the qualifications of a bona-fide Guru. With all this considered, where do I start to search for a Guru? Maybe on the internet via google search? Most probably not! Ok, we may watch some youtube videos to hear different sadhus, but that can`t replace the experience of meeting a sadhu in person. Should one go to Mayapur or Vrindavana and try to associate with different sadhus? How do I know who is a bona fide Guru and who is not? Is there a list of ISKCON Gurus that I can choose from? 1
In some way the process is pretty simple. Krishna is present in our hearts as Caitya Guru, Paramatma. As soon as we start to really search for Krishna, when we cry before Krishna, `please help me to come closer to you!` Krishna will make arrangements and will send a bona fide Guru. This is what sastras tells us, how Sadhus explain it and how I personally experienced it. 2 The following conversation between Srila Prabhupada and the Irish poet Desmond O`Grady illustrates this point further:
Prabhupāda: Yes, the best friend is the spiritual master, because he saves from the blazing fire of confusion. That is best friend.
Desmond O'Grady: The problem is to find this friend. The problem is to find this spiritual master.
Prabhupāda: No, there is no problem. The problem is if you are sincere. Yes. That is stated. Because actually you have got problems, but God is within your heart.(..) Therefore God is called caittya-guru, the spiritual master within the heart. And the physical spiritual master is God's mercy. If God sees that you are sincere, He will give you a spiritual master who can give you protection. He will help you from within and without---without in the physical form of spiritual master, and within as the spiritual master within the heart. That is stated, īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ (BG 18.61) "The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine made of the material energy.“
Prabhupāda: The body is just like a machine, and the spirit soul is sitting on this machine, and God is there within the heart. So He is giving the direction "You wanted to do this. Now you go and do this." So if you are sincere, "Now, God, I want You," then He will give you directions, "You go and get it." This is the process. But if we wanted something else than God, then God will give you direction, "You go and take it." He is very kind. Īśvaraḥ sarva... I want to have something, and He is within my heart, and He is giving me, "Yes, you come here. You take this." So if that God can give direction to give you indication, "You go and take this," why not the spiritual master? First of all we must know. We must be eager to again revive our God consciousness. Then God will give us the spiritual master. 3
In other words, we may try to search for a Guru on our own, but ultimately we have to depend on Krishna. We have to cry before Krishna. Only He can help us to find a Guru. Not only in the heart is our Guru revealed to us. It is in the heart where we develop our relationship with Guru, and eventually, when Guru leaves his body, it is in the heart only where we maintain our relationship with him.
2 - Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya Lila 22.47
Krishna is situated in everyone’s heart as the caittya-guru, the spiritual master within. When
He is kind to some fortunate conditioned soul, He personally gives him lessons so he can
progress in devotional service, instructing the person as the Supersoul within and the
spiritual master without.
3 - Room Conversation, May 23,1974 in Rome