Statements by Çréla Prabhupäda on a Mutual Examination Period

1) “Unless one is prepared that ‘I am accepting somebody as my spiritual master. I must accept whatever he says,’ if there is any doubt, that ‘I cannot accept his words verbatim,’ then one should not accept him as spiritual master. That is hypocrisy. One must be first of all convinced. Therefore it is the duty of the spiritual master and the disciple to associate—that is the injunction of Sanätana Gosvämé—for some time, and both of them should study. The disciple should study “whether I can accept this saintly person as my spiritual master.” And spiritual master also will see “whether I can accept this boy, this person, as my disciple.” That is the way. But sometimes the time is reduced. That doesn’t matter. But the principle is this, that before accepting a spiritual master you can examine him, you can scrutinize him, but not after accepting him.” (Çréla Prabhupäda Initiation lecture, 13 July 1971, LA)

2) “First of all you find out the person, that one who is better than you. Then you submit. Therefore the rules and regulation are that nobody should accept blindly any guru, and nobody should blindly accept any disciple. They must behave, one another, at least for one year so that the prospective disciple can also understand, ‘Whether I can accept this person as my guru.’ And the prospective guru also can understand, ‘Whether this person can become my disciple.’ This is the instruction by Sanätana Gosvämé in his Hari-bhakti-viläsa.”

(Çréla Prabhupäda Bg 13.1-2 lecture, 25 February 1975, Miami)

3) “So therefore the process is before accepting a guru, one must hear him at least for one year. And when he’s convinced that “Here is actually a guru who can teach me,” then you accept him, guru. Don’t accept whimsically. This system now should stop that somebody’s coming for three days—“Prabhupäda, initiate him.” Why? First of all see whether he’s fit for becoming a disciple; then recommend. Otherwise, don’t recommend. Because the cheap recommendation is creating havoc. One is not fit for becoming a student, disciple, and he’s accepting discipleship, and after three days he’s going away. This should not be allowed. Therefore, in the Hari-bhakti-viläsa by Sanätana Gosvämé it is directed that the spiritual master and the disciple must meet together at least for one year so that the disciple may also understand that “Here is a person whom I can accept as my guru,” and the guru also can see that “Here is a person who is fit for becoming my disciple.” Then the business is nice.”

(Çréla Prabhupäda SB 1.16.25 lecture, 21 January 1974, Hawaii)

4) “First of all, you must find out a person who if you can surrender there. Tasmäd guruà prapadyeta. Tad viddhi praëipätena (Bg. 4.34). Praëipäta, surrender, that is required first. If you think somebody that he’s not worth surrendering, then don’t make him guru. Don’t make a fashion. First of all you test that “Whether I can surrender?” Praëipätena. Then try to understand.”

(Çréla Prabhupäda SB 7.6.2 lecture, 18 June 1976, Toronto)

5) “…acceptance of spiritual master must be selected, you see, after careful examination, just like one selects his bride or bridegroom after careful examination. And in India they are very careful because the marriage of the boys and girls take place under the guidance of the parents. So the parents very carefully see. So one has to accept a spiritual master whose guidance will make his life perfect. That is the relation between spiritual master and disciple. It is not a formality. It is a great responsibility both for the disciple and for the spiritual master.

(Çréla Prabhupäda BG lecture, 2.7-11 2 March 1966, NY)

6) “But if you want to know who is a spiritual master, then you have to test himwhether he is speaking exactly like the bona fide spiritual master. Çré Narottama däsa Öhäkura has explained about this, who is spiritual master. What is that? He says, sädhu çästra guru väkya, tinete kariyä aikya. If you want to advance yourself in spiritual science, then you have to test these three things. What is that? Sädhu, saintly person. Sädhu, çästra, scriptures, and spiritual master. Now suppose you want to know who is a spiritual master. Thenyou have to testwhether he’s speaking just like other saintly persons and whether he’s following scriptures. Sädhu çästra.So you have to test a spiritual masterby corroborating whether he is speaking according to the scriptural injunction, whether he’s speaking (according) to other saintly persons.”

(Çréla Prabhupäda TLC lecture, 25 September 1968, Seattle)

7) “Suppose you are going here. You are coming here to learn something. When you are convinced that “Swamiji knows the thing,” when you are convinced, then you accept. Then you ask for initiation. Otherwise don’t do it hesitatingly or knowing half. Therefore in the system it is enjoined that the spiritual master also observe the disciple at least for one year, and the disciple also studies the spiritual master at least for one year. So when both of them are convinced that “He can be my spiritual master” or “He can be my disciple,” then the relationship is established. We initiate our students.”

(Çréla Prabhupäda BG lecture 4.34-39, 12 January 1969, LA)

8) “It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the çästric injunctions. Çré Jéva Gosvämé advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.” (Çréla Prabhupäda, Caitanya-caritämåta, Adi 1.35 purport)

This last reference makes it clear that a real candidate is one who is serious and has studied çästra to the point of being able to recognize who is a genuine spiritual master; not that ISKCON should base its guru system on the uninformed neophyte. We would do better to lean towards a system that educates its aspirants. It is also obvious that such aspirants are the ones who then make the choice. Furthermore, the above condemnation of the acceptance of a spiritual master in terms of ecclesiastical convention casts a negative light on our present system. Finally, the last sentence places the onus on the aspirant to find out who is genuine and compatible.