“The spiritual master can drive away all nescience, as the sun drives away darkness. Even though a person may be in full knowledge that he is not this body but is transcendental to the body, he still may not be able to discriminate between the soul and the Supersoul. However, he can know everything well if he cares to take shelter of the perfect, bona fide Krishna conscious spiritual master.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 5.16 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
The human birth is ideally the culmination of a long journey, spanning millions of years. There was time spent in different bodies, with some more advanced than others. There are nonmoving bodies, such as trees. There are moving ones as well. There is the additional distinction between those which have two hands and those which have four. The human birth is meant to be the last one, but it can only be so if there is a meeting with a specific person. He is known in Sanskrit as “guru,” and one way to define him is to say that he is the person who is responsible for our spiritual life.
Why should we respect our parents? What makes them worthy? What if we don’t think they are so great? Some parents are tough on their kids. Some are addicted to intoxication and some don’t provide enough to support the home. Why, then, should there automatically be respect?
Upon taking birth in the human species the individual assumes three debts. You owe a debt to someone if they do something for you. If someone helped me when my car was stalled on the side of the road, I at least owe them the courtesy of repaying the favor when called upon. If not for them, I would still be stranded.
One of the three debts is to the parents and forefathers. The justification for this debt is pretty obvious. Without our forefathers, we wouldn’t be in the present circumstances. Whatever those circumstances may be, they are enough to bring us into this world. At the very least the parents enable us to live. We had no other support after emerging from the womb. We were at the complete mercy of our guardians.
Another of the three debts is to the rishis. These are highly advanced intellectuals who expound on the science of self-realization. The bona fide guru is the person who follows in the footsteps of the rishis and initiates the human being into the spiritual science. The debt to the rishis is paid through studying the scriptures, but without the help of the guru it is impossible to fully understand the ancient works passed on from the beginning of time.
Entering spiritual life is indeed something momentous. After many births, through so many different species, an individual gets this rare opportunity. In the animal species the senses have full control. There is no such thing as renunciation. The human being has the intelligence to control the senses if they want. And this control is meant to help them better understand God and then to ultimately serve Him.
Matured spiritual life involves constantly associating with the Supreme Lord, who is a person. The guru can help us to get past the veil of transcendental light that prevents us from seeing God as He truly is. The guru is the via medium to the Supreme Lord, and through fulfilling this role they become most worthy of honor.
There are different ways to associate with God. He is so kind that He allows that association through the sound of His names. Therefore the guru teaches the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He teaches the individual to be always conscious of the all-attractive one. The name Krishna thus suits God nicely. The guru advises to stay away from maya, or illusion, and remain in Truth, or sat. This is for the individual’s benefit ultimately, as they find true happiness, the kind that is not available in material life.
The human birth is auspicious. The parents enable that birth to happen, making them worthy of respect. Initiation into spiritual life is the second and more important birth. The person who knows God is most fortunate, and without the guru this knowledge cannot be acquired. Therefore the person who is responsible for spiritual life becomes a godlike personality. They are appropriately addressed as gurudeva, and their glories know no end.
Since vision of the divine enabled to see,
Like a god is the guru to me.
Through forefathers and parents first,
Then initiation for more important birth.
Intelligence slowly to awaken,
Rebirth’s cycle quickly forsaken.
From guru God as all-attractive person to see,
Responsible for my spiritual life is he.