From Sri Bhaktyāloka
By Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode
Aspiring devotees should first take shelter of the lotus feet of a bonafide guru. Without taking shelter of a guru, one cannot achieve anything auspicious. There are two types of people — one having developed intelligence and one having undeveloped intelligence. Those whose intelligence is undeveloped are absorbed in the so-called happiness of this world. If by chance they get the association of a mahājana, then they also become intelligent. They consider, “How unfortunate I am! I’m always engaged in sense gratification. I’m passing my days hankering for material enjoyment.” This initial association with a great soul is also called association with the guru by hearing. By acquired good fortune, at this time faith is awakened. When faith is awakened, one endeavors for devotional service. Then it is essential for one to take shelter of the lotus feet of a guru. In this way by the influence of one’s previous good works, performed knowingly or unknowingly, persons with undeveloped intelligence become intelligent and take shelter of the lotus feet of a guru.
What type of guru one should take shelter of is explained in the śāstras: Someone who has conquered the six enemies beginning with lust, who is pure, who performs devotional service on the path of rāga, who is brahminical, who knows the clear path of the Vedas, whom sādhus can respect as guru, who is able to control the senses, who is merciful to all living entities, who is cultured, who is without duplicity, and who is truthful — such a householder is fit to be accepted as guru. All these qualities are considered in two ways. The principal quality of a guru is attachment to Krishna and detachment for what is not related with Krishna. All other qualities are secondary. That is why Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has said in the Chaitanya-caritāmrita (Madhya 8.127):
yei krishna-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya
Whether one is a brāhmana, a sannyāsī, or a śūdra — regardless of what he is — he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krishna.
If one possesses this principal symptom of a guru, then he is eligible to be guru, even though he lacks one or two secondary symptoms. Being a brāhmana and being a householder are counted as secondary symptoms. It is good if a person possesses these two secondary symptoms along with the principal qualification. But those who are defective in the principal symptom are unqualified to be guru, even though they possess the other two. As stated in Padma Purāna:
sarvesām eva lokānām asau pūjyo yathā harih
mahākula-pūto ‘pi sarva yajnesu dīksitah
sahasra-śākhā-dhyāyī ca na guruh syād avaisnavah
Among all human beings, the brāhmana who is a mahā-bhāgavata, or great devotee, is topmost and qualified as guru. He is as worshipable as Lord Hari. A non-vaisnava is never fit to be guru, even if he has taken birth in a great family, performed all sacrifices, and studied many branches of the Vedas.
After finding a qualified guru, a faithful disciple should serve him with firm conviction and without duplicity. After pleasing the guru, one should accept initiation and krishna-mantra. Those who are averse to taking initiation and only make a drama of kapata-kīrtana, duplicitous chanting, while advertising themselves as vaisnavas certainly cheat themselves. It is not the duty of materialistic persons to renounce the process of initiation because a few great souls like Jada Bharata did not take initiation. Initiation is a constitutional injunction for every birth of the living entity. If initiation is not seen in the life of a perfected soul, it should not be taken as an example. General rules are not changed because something happens to a particular person in a special situation. Sri Dhruva Maharaja went to Dhruvaloka in his material body — seeing that, should one waste time hoping for the same? The general rule is a living entity gives up his material body and goes to Vaikuntha in his spiritual body. General rules should be accepted by people in general. Whenever and whatever is desired by the Lord, who is full of inconceivable potencies, only that happens. Therefore, we should never transgress the general rules. After pleasing the guru by serving him without duplicity, one should receive from him instructions on the absolute truth and initiation into the chanting of the holy name of the Lord.