Definition of Bhakti
hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa- sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate
“Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. One is freed from all material designations, and one”s senses are purified simply by being employed in the service of the Lord.’
It is explained in Shrimad Bhagvatam-
Kinds of Devotional Service
|Kinds of Bhakti||Meaning||Devotees who attained perfection|
|2.||Kirtanam||Chanting the holy names of discussing the glories of Lord.||Shukadev Goswami|
|3.||Smaranam||Remembering the Lord.||Prahlada Maharaj|
|5.||Pada-sevanam||Serving the Lotus Feet of God.||Goddess Lakshmi|
|6.||Dasya||Carrying the order of the Lord.||Hanumana|
|7.||Pujana||Offering worship.||Prithu Maharaj|
|8.||Sakhi-jna||Accepting the Lord as friend.||Arjuna|
|9.||Atma-nivedana||Fully surrendering.||Bali Maharaj|
Characteristics of Pure Devotional Service
|Characteristics of Pure Bhakti||
|1.||Klesha-ghni||It brings relief from all kinds of material distress||All great sins are forgiven thus one has to face no reactions.
Five greatest sins are-
|2.||Shubha||It is beginning of all auspiciousness.||Because-
|3.||Moksha Laghutkari||It even derides the concept of liberation.||
|4.||Sudurlabdha||It is rarely achieved.||Because of two reasons.
|5.||Sandrananda-Visheshatma||It puts one in the transcendental pleasure.||Happiness is of three types.
|6.||Shri Krishnakarshini||It is the only means to attract Krishna.||Krishna says, By all of the following one cannot attain Me if there is absence of Bhakti.
Principles for Discharging the Devotional Service
Accepting a Spiritual Master
|1.||Guru-padashraya||Accept ‘Bona fide’ spiritual master.|
|2.||Diksha||Accept initiation from him.|
|3.||Guru seva||Serve and surrender unto him.|
|4.||Sad-Dharma-Shiksha||Receive instructions and knowledge of Dharma.|
|5.||Priccha||Make an inquiry.|
|6.||Sadhu-Marganugamana||Follow the direction given by spiritual master.|
Learning to surrender and respect
|1.||Bhoga-tyga||Prepare to give up all kinds of enjoyment for the satisfaction of Krishna.|
|2.||Yavat Nirvha||Be satisfied by whatever is sent by Krishna and hanker for no more.|
|3.||Krishna-tirth-vasa||Spent time in the place where Krishna is present. (Pilgrim or temple)|
|4.||Ekadashi upavasa||Observe fasting on Ekadashi.|
|5.||Go-vipr-vaishnava-pujana||Show respect for cows, vaisnavas, and sacred trees like the banyan.|
Process of Being Surrendered
There are two types of surrendering
1. Atma Nivedanam
- In Bhagvad-Gita, Chapter 18, text 66, Lord Krishna says, as soon as somebody surrenders unto Him, Krishna takes his charge and give him guarantee of perfection from all sinful reactions. He instructs so that devotee will make a quick advancement in his spiritual life. This self-surrender is called atma-nivedanam.
- Atma-Nivedanam is surrendering ourself to the supreme personality of Godhead and putting ourself under his shelter. If one achieves this platform, he always remembers that his only concern is to serve Lord Krishna.
- In Hari-Bhakti-Viveka, it is said, “My dear Lord, as a sold animal has no need to think about his maintenance or sustenance, so, because I have given up my soul to You, I am no longer concerned with my maintenance and sustenance.
- Sharanagati is surrendering our soul, mind, body, words and actions to the supreme person.
- When one serves everything, He forgets himself thus there is presence of complete love and perfect surrender.
|1.||To accept everything favorable to the Lord’s service.|
|2.||To reject everything unfavorable to the Lord’s service.|
|3.||To be firmly convinced that Krishna will give you protection.|
|4.||To accept Krishna as the Supreme maintainer.|
|5.||To depend on Lord and to feel inability to do anything without the help of Lord.|
|6.||To be meek and humble.|
Difference between Atma Nivedanam and Sharanagati
- ‘Atma Nivedanam’ and ‘Sharanagati’ are closely related but there is a subtle difference.
- ‘Atma Nivedanam’ means ‘I’ surrender to the Lord. But in ‘Sharanagati’, the feeling of ‘I’ is completely destroyed. A devotee thinks that “I am the property of Lord.” Not that “I’ am surrendering ‘myself’ to the Lord.”
- Thus, there is more intimacy in Sharanagati than Atmanivedanam.
Most important items of Devotional Service
|1.||Sadhu-sanga||Associating among the devotees.|
|2.||Nama-Kirtana||Chanting the holy name.|
|3.||Bhagvata-Shravana||Hearing of Shrimad-Bhagvatam.|
|4.||Shri-murtira-sevna||Worshiping the Deity.|
|5.||Mathura-vasa||Living in Mathura.|
Stages of Devotional Service
|2.||Sudhu-Sanga||Association with devotees.|
|3.||Bhajana Kriya||Practice of worship and execution of regulative principles.|
|4.||Anartha Nivritti||Cleansing of unwanted things from the heart|
|5.||Nishtha||Firmly fixed in Devotional Service|
|6.||Ruchi||Development of taste|
|7.||Asakti||Attachment to Krishna|
|9.||Prema||Pure love of God|
Classification of Bhakti
Aropa Siddha Bhakti
The devotee who practices Aropa Siddha Bhakti is called Aropita. He desires enjoyment, thus serves the Supreme Personality to fulfill his desires. It is also known as ‘Karma Mishrita Bhakti’ and ‘Saguna Bhakti.’ (Bhakti under the modes of material nature.) This type of Bhakti has no connection with pure Bhakti, it is incomplete and not yet matured. Nonthless, it is not Bhakti but seen as Bhakti as it includes servitude for Lord Krishna.
Sanga Siddha Bhakti
Sanga Siddha Bhakti is established when one associates other devotees. He is not actually a devotee but he follows all the regulative principles and qualities of devotee like tolerance, silence, non violence, simplicity etc. He has not yet developed constant love for Lord but He is favorable for future advancement and can achieve the platform of pure devotee.
Svarupa Siddha Bhakti
The one who has reached perfect mood of servitude and developed spontenious love for Lord Krishna, He is situated in the platform of Uttama Bhakti thus produces Savarupa Siddha Bhakti within the core of his heart.
One who is still practicing vaishnava principles and trying to elevate himself is known to be in this platform of Bhakti.
This is the way of sadhana-bhakti, the execution of devotional service according to the regulative principles. Gradually emotions intensify, and finally there is an awakening of love. This is the gradual development of love of Godhead for the devotee interested in Krishna consciousness. -Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 23.15
Vaiddhi Bhakti and Raganuga Bhakti
Raganuga bhakti can be done only when one is pure. But if one is not yet pure he should purify himself by following rules and regulations. Vaidhi bhakti means when one has do devotional service with some force but when one reaches Raganuga state one cannot survive without service. And serves to the Lord spontaneously.
“The paths of vaidhi and raganuga are known to be separate from each other. Engagement in these two forms of sadhana certainly awakens two distinct varieties of bhava.” (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.3.7)
By performing such regulated devotional service in awe and veneration(Vaidhi bhakti), one may go to Vaikuṇṭha and attain the four kinds of liberation.(Chaitanya Caritamrita 3.17)
One can achieve attention of Lord Krishna but not the spontaneous love or Madhurya Rasa by Vaiddhi Bhakti as it is said- “If consciousness which is infused with the mood of the gopis’ love for Sri Krsna is available anywhere, then buy it at once, without delay. The only price to get it is laulyam, an intense longing to obtain vraja-bhava. Without this divine greed, such love cannot be obtained even by performing pious activities (vaidhi-bhakti) for millions of births.
Bhava Siddha Bhakti
One who has succeeded in producing transcendental mellow or Bhava for Lord Krishna but still struggling to avoid Klesha (Distress) and Vighna (Impediments).
Prema Siddha Bhakti
“Bhava-bhakti is the first seed of love of Godhead. This emotional stage is there before one attains pure love. When that emotional stage intensifies, it is called prema-bhakti, or transcendental love of Godhead.” -CC Madhya 23.13
Symptoms of Bhakti
“‘When bhakti is executed on the transcendental platform of pure goodness (suddha-sattva), it is like a sun-ray of love for Krishna. At such a time, bhakti causes the heart to be softened by various tastes, and one is then situated in bhava (ecstatic emotion).” Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.3.1)
- Rolling on the ground
- Making loud noises
- Heavy breathing
- Not caring for public opinion
- Discharging saliva
- Roaring laughter
- he is anxious to utilize his time in Krishna’s service and does not like to be idle
- He is always reserved and per¬severant. H
- e is always detached from all material attrac¬tion.
- He does not long for any material respect in return for his service.
- He is certain of Lord Krishna’s mercy.
- He is always very eager to serve the Lord faithfully.
- He is very attached to the chanting of the holy names of the Lord.
- He is always eager to describe the transcendental qualities of the Lord.
- He is very pleased to live in a place where the Lord’s pastimes are performed, such as Mathura, Vrndavana or Dwaraka
Transcendental Mellows or Rasas
Meaning of Rasa
The particular loving mood or attitude relished in the exchange of love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called rasa, or mellow. The different types of rasa, when combined together, help one to taste the mellow of devotional service in the highest degree of transcendental ecstasy. Such a position, although entirely transcendental to our experience, will be explained in this section as far as possible, following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
Without relishing some sort of mellow, or loving mood, in one’s activities, no one can continue to perform such activities. Similarly, in the transcendental life of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service there must be some mellow, or specific taste, from the service. Generally this mellow is experienced by chanting, hearing, worshiping in the temple and being engaged in the service of the Lord. So when a person feels transcendental bliss; that is called “relishing the mellow.” To be more clear, we may understand that the various feelings of happiness derived from discharging devotional service may be termed the “mellows” of devotional service.
Types of Rasas
There are five primary Rasas
|5.||Madhutya Rasa||Conjugal love|
Each succeeding Rasa includes the previous Rasas. Example- Sakhya Rasa includes Dasya and Shanta. Similarly, Madhurya Rasa includes all other four Rasas.
Dasya and Madhurya Rasa
- In Vaikuntha, the supreme personality of Godhead Narayana is worshiped with awe and reverence. The devotee is conscious of the opulence of the supreme Lord thus there is an obvious mood of servitude.
- The devotees of Rama, although sometimes they also worship in the mood of friends (Sakhya) or parents (vatsalya), predominating mood in which Rama is worshiped is Dasya.
- Krishna is Avatari (origin of all incarnations) and Rasaraj (enjoyer of all the Rasas). Devotees being acknowledged of this serve the Supreme Lord, but the highest and purent devotees of Lord Krishna are spontaneously attracted to him and don’t serve him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead but as a friend, parent or a lover to give Him pleasure.
- In Vrindavana the prevalent mood is Madhurya, sweatness. The residents of Vrindavan are conscious of Krishna as God but they love him spontaneously, devoid of feeling of awe and reverence.
- A mood of a devotee takes many forms and may serve in many Rasas. A devotee may serve as a friend and also as a servant at different situation. Such change of mood is compared to the straw in the boiling milk. When milk starts boiling, it floats on the milk and when milk gets cold it again drawns.
- Such spontaneous love in Madhurya Rasa can be developed only by the special mercy of Krishna by the pure devotee.
- In simple words, Aishvarya/Dasya is the mood in which devotee serves the supreme with great awe and respect thinking himself very insignificant and worships by following all rules and regulations. In Madhurya Rasa, a devotee produces complete love which is beyond limitations and completely pure.
Devotees in the mood of Dasya and Madhurya
|Devotional mellows||Dasya Rasa||Madhurya Rasa|
|1.||Neutrality||The four Kumaras|
|4.||Parenthood||Vasudeva and Devaki||Nanda and Yashoda|
|5.||Conjugal love||Rukmini||Shrimati Radharani|
Potency of Bhakti
- The process of devotional service is sufficient to purify us. For purification purpose and for higher spiritual upliftment, no other process is required.
- By performing devotional service everyone is satisfied. Bhakti has extraordinary spiritual potency because Bhakti is nondifferent from Krishna Himself.
- Bhakti, devotional service to Lord Krishna, is the most powerful, pure, and exalted of all activities; it is the dynamic, variegated activity of the soul.
- “Glorious is that devotee who does not give up the shelter of his Lord, and glorious is that Lord who does not abandon His servant. If by chance a servant falls down and goes somewhere else, glorious is that master who captures him and brings him back by the hair.” ( Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya-lila 3.4.27–47)
- Kṛṣṇa consciousness begins on the platform of pure goodness. When the living entity is situated in viśuddha-sattva, transcendental to the three material modes of nature, he can perceive the form, quality and other features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead through his service attitude. The status of pure goodness is the platform of understanding, for the Supreme Lord is always in spiritual existence. Thus Bhakti is the highest for of Yoga.
- Bhakti is the only one reason because of which the supreme person leaves His transcendental abode to meet His devotees. Lord has sent the rope of bhakti to pull all the conditioned soul suffering in dark well of illusion, we should hold firmly.
“Thus learning the science of devotional service and practically engaging in the devotional service of the Lord, the devotee comes to the stage of love of Godhead. And by complete devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, the devotee easily crosses over the illusory energy, Maya, which is extremely difficult to cross. ” [Srlmad-Bhagavatam 11.3.33]
Eligibility of the Candidate
Lord says, “Somehow or other, If one is attracted to talks about Me and has faith in the instructions I have set forth in Bhagavad-Geeta, and if one is actually detached from material things and material existence, his dormant love for me (Bhakti) will be awakened.” It is also said,“Unless one is favored by a pure devotee, he cannot attain the platform of devotional service.”
Classes of Candidates
|1.||Arta||The distressed||The conditioned souls undergo tremendous discomfort and unpleasant situations. Distress is of three types-
|2.||Jigyasu||The inquisitive||‘Mumukshtava’ (inquisitiveness) makes human different from other species of less intelligent class. It leads one to ‘Nitya-Anitya-Vastu-Viveka’. (understanding of difference between temporary world and eternal God)|
|3.||Artharthi||The desirer of wealth||We all contain six types of opulences in some fraction of quantity. Krishna contains them in full. Thus one who wants to enjoy one of these surrenders to Krishna.
|4.||Jgnani||The one who is searching for knowledge of absolute||Material piety brings result of material sense gratification but as it is inevitably limited and temporary, one acquires realized knowledge, that he should find eternal refuge. Thus he ultimately reaches to Krishna.|
Why and When
It is said in Brahma Sutras, Samanvaya Adhyaya, Pada 1,
Now, therefore one should enquire about Brahman.
When this ‘Now’ will come in our life ? Thus the word ‘Now’ represents ‘When’.
- When person has properly studies Vedic literature, understood meaning
- Adhered to the principles of Vaishnava Dharma.
- Observed the vows of truthfulness
- Purifies mind, heart and intelligence
- Attained association of self realized souls
The word ‘therefore’ represents ‘Why.’ Why should we serve the Lord ?
- Because this world is Anitya-Vstu (temperory) but the supreme Lord is Nitya-Vstu or Chit-Vstu.
- Because serving Lord is the only occupation of the living entity.
- Because it is the only chance to be freed from Birth, Disease, Old-age and Death.
Devotees of Lord
Position of a Devotee
Pure devotees of the Lord are more powerful than the waters of the sacred river Ganges. One can derive spiritual benefit out of prolonged use of the Ganges waters. But one can be sanctified at once by the mercy of a pure devotee of the Lord. In Bhagavad-gītā it is said that any person, regardless of birth as śūdra, woman, or merchant, can take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord and by so doing can return to Godhead. To take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord means to take shelter of the pure devotees. The pure devotees whose only business is serving are honored by the names Prabhupāda and Viṣṇupāda, which indicate such devotees to be representatives of the lotus feet of the Lord. Anyone, therefore, who takes shelter of the lotus feet of a pure devotee by accepting the pure devotee as his spiritual master can be at once purified.
Pious activities bring about material opulence, but one cannot acquire devotional service by any amount of material pious activity—not by giving charity, opening big hospitals and schools or working philanthropically. Devotional service can be attained only by the mercy of a pure devotee. Without a pure devotee’s mercy, one cannot even escape the bondage of material existence.
Qualities of Devotee
One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me (Krishna)-he is very dear to Me.
He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anxiety, who is steady in happiness and distress, is very dear to Me.
A devotee who is not dependant on the ordinary course of activities, who is pure, expert, without cares, free from all pains, and who does not strive for some result, is very dear to Me.
One who neither grasps pleasure or grief, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things, is very dear to Me.
One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equiposed in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contamination, always silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and engaged in devotional service, is very dear to Me.
He who follows this imperishable path of devotional service and who completely engages himself with faith, making Me the supreme goal, is very, very dear to Me.
Duties of Devotee
|1.||Bow down to the Lord.|
|2.||Visit places of pilgrimage and temples of the Supreme Lord.|
|3.||Circumambulate the temple at least three times.|
|5.||Chant the Lord’s name softly to oneself.|
|6.||Chant the Lord’s name loudly in congregation.|
|7.||Smell incense and flowers offered to the Deity.|
|8.||Eat the remnants of food offered to the Deity.|
|9.||Regularly (once or twice daily) attend the arati offered to the Deity, as well as special festivals.|
|10.||Regularly look upon the Deity.|
|12.||Offer one’s dear most possessions to the Supreme Lord.|
|12.||Meditate on the Lord’s name, form, pastimes, etc.|
Platforms of Devotees
“A faithful devotee is truly eligible candidate for the loving service of God. According to one’s faith, one is classified as topmost devotee and intermediate devotee or an inferior devotee.”
|1.||Uttama-Adhikari||Topmost devotee||He does not see anyone as being against the Vaiṣṇava principles, for he regards everyone as a Vaiṣṇava but himself. The Stage of uttama-adhikārī is very rarely attained. He should not to be imitated|
|2.||Madhyama-Adhikari||Intermediate devotee||He is completely aware of the śāstric conclusion and has firm faith in his guru and the Lord. He, therefore, avoiding nondevotees, preaches to the innocent.|
|3.||Kanishtha Adhikari||Inferior devotee (neophyte)||He has firm faith but is not familiar with the conclusions of the śāstras.|
The offences should be avoided
1) To blaspheme the devotees who have dedicated their lives for propagating the holy name of the Lord.
2) To consider the names of demigods like Lord Shiva or Lord Brahma to be equal to or independent of the name of the Lord Vishnu.
3) To disobey the orders of the spiritual master.
4) To blaspheme the vedic scriptures or scriptures in pursuance to the vedic version.
5) To consider the glories of chanting Hare Krishna to be an imagination.
6) To give some interpretations to the holy name of the Lord.
7) To commit sinful activities on the strength of the holy name.
8) To consider the chanting of Hare Krishna as one of the auspicious ritualistic activities which are offered in the Vedas as frutive activities (Karma kanda).
9) To instruct a faithless person about the glories of the holy name
10) To not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy name and to maintain material attachments, even after understanding so many instructions on this matter. It is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting.
Lord of the Devotional Service
Krishna is the only Supreme.
Lord Krishna has 64 qualities among which the four qualities are not found in Lord Shiva and also not in Lord Shiva, what to speak of the demigods ?
- He is the performer of wonderful varieties of pastimes.
- He is surrounded by devotees endowed with wonderful love of Godhead.
- He can attract all living entities all over the universes by playing on His flute.
- He has a wonderful excellence of beauty which cannot be rivaled anywhere in the creation.
Krishna is not impersonal.
We should not take it for granted that just because we cannot see God with our eyes, the Lord does not have a personal existence. The Ishopanishad mantra refutes this argument by warning us that the Lord is “far away but very near as well.” The abode of the Supreme Lord is far, far beyond the material sky, and its distance cannot even be measured. But despite the Lord’s being so far away, He can at once, within less than a second, descend before us with a speed swifter than the mind or wind.
Krishna is the only goal of devotional service.
Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krsna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.
He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha [Arjuna], is sure to reach Me.
Reward of Devotional Service
Liberation is not the Goal of Devotional Service.
The great devotee Hanumān prayed:
- bhava-bandha-cchide tasyai spṛhayāmi na muktaye
- bhavān prabhur ahaṁ dāsa iti yatra vilupyate
“I do not wish to take liberation or to merge in the Brahman effulgence, where the conception of being a servant of the Lord is completely lost.”
Similarly, in the Nārada-pañcarātra it is stated:
- dharmārtha-kāma-mokṣeṣu necchā mama kadācana
- tvat-pāda-paṅkajasyādho jīvitaṁ dīyatāṁ mama
“I do not want any one of the four desirable stations. I simply want to engage as a servant of the lotus feet of the Lord.”
King Kulaśekhara, in his very famous book Mukunda-mālā-stotra, prays:
- nāhaṁ vande tava caraṇayor dvandvam advandva-hetoḥ
- kumbhī-pākaṁ gurum api hare nārakaṁ nāpanetum
- ramyā-rāmā-mṛdu-tanu-latā-nandane nābhirantuṁ
- bhāve bhāve hṛdaya-bhavane bhāvayeyaṁ bhavantam
“My Lord, I do not worship You to be liberated from this material entanglement, nor do I wish to save myself from the hellish condition of material existence, nor do I ever pray for a beautiful wife to enjoy in a nice garden. I wish only that I may always be in full ecstasy with the pleasure of serving Your Lordship.” (MM 4) In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also there are many instances in the Third and Fourth cantos in which devotees pray to the Lord simply to be engaged in His service, and nothing else
Types of Liberation
|1.||Salokya||Living on the same planet of the God.||In this liberation one gains residence on one of the Vaikuṇṭha planets where the Narayana forms reside.|
|2.||Sarsti||Having the opulence as much as of the God.||When one attains this liberation, he acquires the same opulences(wealth) as the Lord and lives in the Vaikuntha planets.|
|3.||Sarupya||Having the form similar to the God.||This liberation you get the same form as the 4 armed Lord Narayana and live in the Vaikuntha planets.|
|4.||Samipya||Having direct association of God.||In this liberation one becomes a personal associate of Lord and stay in His direct association. This liberation attained by devotees like Arjuna. He was always a friend of the Lord.|
|5.||Sayujya||Becoming one with God.||This is the liberation attained by yogis and jnanis. In this liberation one becomes one with brahmajoyti(the dazzling effulgence from the body of the Lord) or he becomes one with the Lord Himself by losing all individuality. Attaining this kind of liberation is not very hard, the enemies of the Lord such as Kamsa attained this liberation. Chaitanya Caritamrita explains that a devotee would rather go to hell than attain this kind of liberation. In hell we still have the opportunity to serve the Lord but when we become one with the Lord we commit an abominable action and become an offender at the lotus feet of the Lord.|
Super-exelance in Devotional Service
“Every living entity is eternally related to the Supreme Lord, and this relationship may be in any one of many transcendental humors. At the stage called asakti, attachment, a person can understand his relationship with the Supreme Lord. When he understands his position, he begins reciprocating with the Lord. By constant reciprocation with the Lord, the devotee is elevated to the highest stage of love of Godhead, prema.”
- brahmānando bhaved eṣa cet parārdha-guṇī-kṛtaḥ
- naiti bhakti-sukhāmbhodheḥ paramāṇu-tulām api
“If multiplied billions of times, the transcendental pleasure derived from impersonal Brahman realization still could not compare to even an atomic portion of the ocean of bhakti, or transcendental service.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.38)
Spiritual Master – The establisher of Devotional Service
Qualification of a Spiritual Master
In Cahitanya Charitmrita, Madhya lila, 8.128, it is said that-
kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya
“Whether one is a brāhmaṇa, a sannyāsī or a śūdra—regardless of what he is—he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa.”
In Shrimad Bhagvatam, 5.5.18, it is said that-
gurur na sa syāt sva-jano na sa syāt
pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt
daivaṁ na tat syān na patiś ca sa syān
na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum
One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.
Shrila Prabhupada says, There are many spiritual masters, but Ṛṣabhadeva advises that one should not become a spiritual master if he is unable to save his disciple from the path of birth and death. Unless one is a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa, he cannot save himself from the path of repeated birth and death. Unless one is devoted, he cannot give everything to the Supreme Lord. Unless one can do so, he cannot become a spiritual master, husband, father or mother.
Absolute necessity of Spiritual Master
It is said in Bhagvad Gita 4.34,
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
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.
In Svetashetar Upanishas 6.23, it is said,
yasya deve paraa bhaktir
yathaa deve tathaa gurau
tasyaite kathitaa hy arthah
prakaasante maha atmanah
Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and Spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically reavealed.
Initiation or Diksha
“Diksha (Accepting initiation from a bona fide spiritual master) is the process by which we can awaken our transcendental knowledge and vanquish the reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksha” (Bhakti-Sandarbha 283)
Duty of a disciple
It is said in Bhagvatam, 11.3.22,
tatra bhāgavatān dharmān
tuṣyed ātmātma-do hariḥ
Accepting the bona fide spiritual master as one’s life and soul and worshipable deity, the disciple should learn from him the process of pure devotional service. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, the soul of all souls, is inclined to give Himself to His pure devotees. Therefore, the disciple should learn from the spiritual master to serve the Lord without duplicity and in such a faithful and favorable way that the Supreme Lord, being satisfied, will offer Himself to the faithful disciple.
I have refered following books for compilation of this article.
Nectar of Devotions
Bhagvad Gita as it is
Veidic Philosophy for Students
Light of Bhagvata
Elevation to Krishna Conciousness
Mukunda Mala Stotra
Note– If you want to know more, Please do read Nectar of Devotion written by Shrila Prabhupada.