Bhakti Sandarbha 203: The Guru Should not be Greedy
This is a fairly short anuccheda and discusses the characteristics of the unqualified guru and what should be done in such a case.
The Guru Should not be Greedy
अत्र ब्रह्मवैवर्ते विशेषः—
वक्ता सरागो नीरागो द्विविधः परिकीर्तितः।
सरागो लोलुपः कामी तदुक्तं हृन्न संस्पृशेत्॥
उपदेशं करोत्येव न परीक्षां करोति च।
अपरीक्ष्योपदिष्टं यल्लोकनाशाय तद्भवेत्॥
A speaker can be of two types—with or without attachment. The one with attachment is greedy and covetous, and his words will not touch the student’s heart. Such a teacher gives instruction, but he does not test the student. Instruction given without testing leads to the destruction of society.
कुलं शीलमथाचारमविचार्य परं गुरुम्।
भजेत श्रवणाद्यर्थी सरसं सारसागरम्॥
A person who is eager to hear should accept a superior teacher whose speech is eloquent and who is an ocean of the scriptural essence, without consideration of his family, conduct or behavior.
सरसत्वादिकं च व्यञ्जितं तत्रैवान्यत्र—
कामक्रोधादियुक्तोऽपि कृपणोऽपि विषादवान्।
श्रुत्वा विकाशमायाति स वक्ता परमो गुरुः॥ इति।
The quality of speaking in such an eloquent manner is expressed elsewhere in the same Purāṇa:
The superior teacher is one upon hearing whom speak even a person full of desire and anger, or a dejected soul steeped in misery becomes cheerful and serene.
एवंभूतगुरोरभावाद्युक्तिभेदबुभुत्सया बहूनप्याश्रयन्ते केचित्। यथा (भा. ११.९.३१)—
Because a guru of this caliber may not be available, some people accept many gurus, desiring to learn logic and understand the differences between different schools, as Śrī Dattātreya said:
न ह्येकस्माद्गुरोर्ज्ञानं सुस्थिरं स्यात् सुपुष्कलम्।
ब्रह्मैतदद्वितीयं वै गीयते बहुधर्षिभिः॥
स्पष्टम्॥११.९॥ श्रीदत्तात्रेयो यदुम्॥२०३॥
The meaning here is self-evident .Knowledge obtained from only one teacher cannot be deeply rooted in one’s being nor can it nurture mature growth. Although Brahman, the Ultimate, is one without a second, It has been sung of by the sages in multifarious ways. (SB 11.9.31)
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
In the previous anuccheda it was said that the devotional mood (bhāva) and prowess (prabhāva) of a sādhu influence the one who associates with him. This is also true about his other qualities. That is why it is said that one should associate with a sādhu of good conduct.
samaiś ca samatām eti viśiṣṭaiś ca viśiṣṭatām
By associating with inferior people one’s intelligence becomes degraded. By associating with people of same caliber it remains unaffected, but by associating with specially qualified people, it also becomes so qualified. (Hitopadeśa 1.41)
Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī says that the qualities of a sādhu or guru reflect in the student like a gem (BRS 1.2.229). Therefore, the teacher should be of good conduct, otherwise his ill-character will influence the student adversely. Moreover, if a teacher is not realized himself and does not believe in the teachings he gives, they will not touch the heart of his student. For this reason, the sage Prabuddha said that the guru should be realized in the Truth, pare niṣṇātam.
There are professional speakers of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in Vrindavan and elsewhere who draw big crowds. But their lectures do not have much positive influence on the audience. This is because the speaker himself does not follow the teachings of the book. He uses it only for earning money and followers. He is like the spoon that is used to serve sweets: itself it does not know what the sweets taste like. In Vrindavan there are schools to train professional speakers of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
Another important point made here is that the teacher should also test the student. He should not give knowledge to an unqualified student. If he does that it will only bring ruination to the society because the unqualified student will misuse the knowledge for a material purpose. In the past gurus were very strict and would not teach anyone and everyone. They would make sure that the interest of the student was in bhakti alone and not profit. This would only be possible if the teacher himself was not covetous and greedy. There is a story about Rāmānujācārya that his guru refused to accept him as student no less than eighteen times. Narottama Dāsa Thākura was similarly refused by Lokanātha Gosvāmī for long time.
At present such strict testing of students is generally missing. Teachers are very eager to get students and there is much competition between them. Therefore the standard of bhakti has gone down in comparison to what it used to be fifty or sixty years ago.
If one cannot find a qualified guru as described in the previous and the present anucchedas then one should try to learn the truth from different teachers. Dattātreya is an example of this. He speaks of twenty-four gurus (SB 11.7-9). Of course, these were not human gurus who personally taught him anything in words. It was Dattātreya himself who learned from them through using his own intelligence on observing their behavior. He counted even insentient objects such as the earth and the air in his list of gurus. Such an example is not really meant to be emulated, especially by those on the path of bhakti. In bhakti one should have only one mantra- or dīkṣā-guru and study from him. If there are subjects that the dīkṣā-guru is unable to teach or if he is physically incapable of it, then one can study, with his permission, from other teachers who have a similar mood and are not inimical towards him.
Bhakti Sandarbha 202 : The Necessity of Guru : Different Types of Sadhus Give Different Types of Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 202: The two devotional proclivities and taking a Guru
Bhakti Sandarbha 201 : The Ananya Bhakta is Superior to the Jñānī Bhakta
Bhakti Sandarbha 200 : The Intermediate Devotee Renounces Karma
Bhakti Sandarbha 199 : Divisions of Devotees on the Basis of their Spiritual Practice
Bhakti Sandarbha 198 : Bhagavān is Bound to the Heart of an Uttama Bhāgavata
Bhakti Sandarbha 191-197 : More Characteristics of the Uttama Bhagavata
Bhakti Sandarbha 190 : Definition of a Neophyte Devotee