91-016 ‘Necessity Of A Spiritual Master (BG 4.34)’ by HH Radhanath Swami, in Mumbai

November 16, 2012

tad viddhi praëipätena

paripraçnena sevayä

upadekñyanti te jïänaà

jïäninas tattva-darçinaù

(SB 4.34)


Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master.  Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him.  The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.



The path of spiritual knowledge is undoubtedly difficult.  The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself.  No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of the disciplic succession.  The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple.  No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders.  The Bhagavatam  (6.3.19) says, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord.  Therefore, mental speculations or dry arguments cannot help lead one to the right path.  Nor by independent study of books of knowledge can one progress in spiritual life.  One has to approach a bona fide spiritual master to receive the knowledge.  Such a spiritual master should be accepted in full surrender, and one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant, without false prestige.  Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of the advancement in spiritual life.  Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding.  Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective.  One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding.  In this verse, both blind following and  absurd inquiries are condemned.  Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries.  A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple.  Therefore, when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries become perfect.

BG: Chapter 4, text 34 is one of the most significant and important verses of all the scriptures of the world, because the basic principle by which spiritual knowledge can be understood, is herein explained.  In the Bhagvata Gita we find Arjuna.  He is a pure devotee of the Lord.  He is a nitya sidha.  He is not an ordinary living being.  Otherwise how is it that throughout his life he was personal friend and associate of Bhagvan  Sri Krishna.  Together they joked, together they played, together they had so many intimate discussions in Hastinapur, in Dvarka.  Went for many excursions together into the forest.  But Arjuna as the eternal servant of the Lord, was always ready to take any position to fulfill the Lord’s desire.  This is the quality of the pure servant.  A servant is not concerned with his own position, with his own prestige, with his own enjoyment.  He is only concerned for the satisfaction of his beloved Lord and master.   Very interesting, if we consider that Krishna says in the Bhagvata Gita that for kstriya (warrior), who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death.  But a devotee of the Lord is ready even to die, even to accept the position of worse than death through the service of his master.  Therefore, for Arjuna’s own free will, he allowed Krishna to put him in a state of complete confusion, complete bewilderment and utter ignorance.  Why?  Just so Arjuna could exemplify the position of each and every one of us in this world today.

“yad yad acarati sresthas

tat tad evetari janah

sa yat pramanam kurute

lokas tad anuvartate”

Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow.  And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.   Therefore, out of his great love for the Lord, Arjuna allowed  himself to be put in the most embarrassing condition of total ignorance and illusion.  He began to instruct Krishna, he was in such illusion.  He was telling Krishna what is to be done and what is not to be done, as he ordered Krishna ‘take my chariot between the two armies on this battlefield  of Kuruksetra.  He witnessed that on both sides of this great war there were friends, well-wishers, relatives and loved ones. This is always the greatest greatest conflict in one who likes  to make spiritual advancement.   It is a conflict that each  one of you here today must accept in your life, if you truly want to take to the spiritual path.  Let me put it in this way.  If there is no conflict then you are not on the spiritual path.  The conflict is that there are two sides.  There are those in illusion, those in ignorance, who propagate the worldly way of life:  be a normal person, enjoy your family life, go to the temple just  have darshan but no more than that.  That is all that is required in that.   After all life is meant to enjoy.  Do not become too much involved in spiritual life, because you  may lose everything, and besides that it is  not normal to be dedicated to God like that.  And then there are those on the other side, who are saying  “we are representing Krishna, we have come with this message:

sarva-dharmän parityajya

mäm ekaà çaraëaà vraja

ahaà tväà sarva-päpebhyo

mokñayiñyämi mä çucaù

Abandon all  verities of religion and just surrender to Me, I shall protect you from all sinful reactions, do not fear.  And on both sides we have friends, and on both sides we have  loved ones, and on both sides we have intimate family relations.  It is said in the Bible “you cannot serve two masters”.  You have to choose one.  But Arjuna tried to serve two masters.  He did not know what to do.  He did not want to commit offenses to even one of his friends and relatives on either side.  Therefore he decided “I will not fight this war at all,  If I take one side I have to kill my grand-father, m y teacher and so many other relatives and loved one.  And if I take the  other side, I have to destroy my own brothers.  Krishna I know one side is truth and one side is illusion, but it is too painful to disappoint those persons who think highly of me  on either side. Therefore Arjuna wanted to run from the battle.  Perhaps some of you have also met this same dilemma in your life.  In this world we have a huge army of the Kurus.  Actually the Kurus way outnumbered the Pandavas.   The Kurus and the Pandavas were both the relations of Arjuna.  The Kurus  had 11 akshyoni divisions of the soldiers and the Pandavas only had 7.  Those who are on the side of illusion  always outnumber to those who are on the side of truth.     That is the nature of this material world, especially in this age of Kali-yuga.  Therefore, it is said that you cannot please all the people all the time.   You can please some of the people some of the time.  But you will never be satisfied pleasing  some of the people some of the time.   Therefore if you simply please God, your life is perfect.   If you water the root of the tree your life will be prosperous in all respects.  So you see Arjuna, so kindly with such compassion and mercy in his heart, he was willing to accept the position of an ordinary ignorant person like us, just to teach us the right path, because that was the will be Krishna.  First of all Arjuna was arguing with Krishna:   no I am not going to fight this war, I know philosophy, I know scriptures, I know family tradition, I was born in India,  my father was a devotee, my mother is a devotee, we have Deity at our house, I know what is truth, relation, dharma of course.  And Krishna just stood silently.  He had nothing to say to such a false ego.   He convinced against the will of His same opinion still.  Until one comes to the point of being frustrated with his own egoistic ideas of what is truth, one cannot humble oneself submissively before the spiritual master.    But in due course of time we all become frustrated simply by the nature of this world.   So Arjuna, first he was speaking very boldly like a great  pandit: Krishna I know.  But all of his knowledge could not satisfy the emptiness in his heart.  So alas!


prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah

yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me

sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam


Arjuna said to Krishna that now I am confused about my duty.  I do not know what is to be done, what is not to be done.   I have lost all composure due to weakness.  My tongue is dry.  My hair are standing on end, tears are swilling  from my eyes, my limbs are trembling, I cannot even hold my Gandiva bow.  In this condition I surrender to You, please instruct me.  Then Krishna began His teachings of Bhagavad Gita  by putting Arjuna in his place.

asocyan anvasocas tvam

prajna vadams ca bhasase

gatasun agatasums ca

nanusocanti panditah

Arjuna you are speaking very learned words but in actuality you are a fool.  You are lamenting which is not worthy of lamentation.  Those who are wise, lament for neither living nor the dead.   Beginning of real spiritual life, we are not speaking of shadow of religiosity,  but we are speaking of the true path of dharma, it begins when we accept the position before our gurur that I am a fool.    No one likes to be called a fool, but a devotee loves to be called a fool when his spiritual master speaks.  Just like Srila Prabhupada when he first met his gurudev, he posed so many arguments: why Krishna consciousness is not practical when India was under the subordination of British?  Let us join the political movement to free our country.  And Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur explained to him, in so many ways you are a fool.  That Krishna consciousness is the prime necessity of life.  In fact Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur was such a great acarya, he went to such an extreme on philosophy that he said if your house is on fire, if the whole city is on fire, if the whole country is on fire, if the whole world is on fire, forget about putting the fire out just chant Hare Krishna, because the first is not really a problem at all.  What is temporary is going to burn anyway, no problem.  The only problem is that you have forgotten Krishna.  So Srila Prabhupada explained, that after he met his gurudev, that I was very satisfied to be defeated by my spiritual master.  If we want to know the truth, Krishna says, we much approach guru, inquire submissively and render service to him.   In this regard how much the Lord loves those who love those who are dear to Him.   That is really the true  essence of the relationship between the guru and disciple.   The father’s dearly beloved son has captured the father’s heart.  And whatever is dear to the son, whatever  loves the son, is most loved by the father.    Therefore, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whenever He appears in the guise of an ordinary human being,  He sets by his own example the necessity to accept a spiritual master with submissive humility.   Lord Sri Krishna accepted Sandi Pani Muni, would humble collect wood for him in the forest,  would massages his feet and legs at night, and would enquire submissively and would learn from him each day.  Of course what does Krishna have to know.  Krishna says in Gita

vedaham samatitinai

vartamanani carjuna

bhavisyani ca bhutani

mam tu veda na kascana


Krishna says “I know everything past, everything present and all things that are yet to come”.  I know all living beings but Me no one knows in full.  Krishna is all knowing- sarvagya. But just to show us by His own example, He accepts a guru, humbles Him selves and render service to him,  learning the A, B, Cs of the scriptures.

vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo

vedanta krd veda vid eva caham

Krishna says “I am t the author of all the Vedas”.   Yet Krishna is humbling Himself before His devotee, asking him please teach Me the Vedas.  Lord Ramachandra accepted the same position before the great saint Visvamitra Muni.

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