(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada)
Devotee: (translating) How can we come to understand perfectly the guru?
Devotee: How can we understand the guru perfectly?
Prabhupāda: How do you understand? When you go for treatment to a physician, how do you understand that "Here is a physician"? How do you understand? Tell me?
Devotee: (translating) He says by reputation. He says by the title and reputation.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Some way or other, you know that he is a physician. So similarly, you have to find out guru. Guru... First of all, who requires a guru? That is the question. Because guru is not a fashion... The... It is said in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta (SB 11.3.21): "On account of this, you should go to a guru." What is that account? Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam: "One who is very much inquisitive to know about spiritual affair, he requires a guru." Spiritual affair means that... We are in this material world. We are suffering. When the question will come in one's mind, "Why I am suffering?" that is spiritual. Just like an animal is being taken to the slaughterhouse. He cannot inquire, "Why I am being taken to the slaughterhouse?" But if a man is being taken forcibly, he'll protest, he will cry, he'll call crowd. Therefore human being can inquire about spiritual affair.
So when there is spiritual inquiry, then one requires a guru. And by going to guru, as it is stated, tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā (BG 4.34). One has to learn by surrendering, praṇipāta. So first of all there must be a strong impulse to inquire about the transcendental subject matter. Then one requires a guru. Not that to follow a fashion that one has guru. Ācāryavān puruṣo veda. Unless one becomes under the control of ācārya, he has no perfect knowledge. Therefore the Vedas says, tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (MU 1.2.12): "For understanding that transcendental science, one must approach a guru." And what is the symptom of guru? Samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham: guru means one who has complete knowledge of Vedic version; and not only that, he is a staunch or fixed-up devotee of the Supreme Lord. These are the qualification. The guru strictly follows the Vedic injunction and teaches the same thing to his disciple. That is guru.
So first thing is: one must be inquisitive to understand about the spiritual subject matter. Just like you have come here in this temple. You know that here nothing like political meeting is going on. Here something spiritual matter is being discussed. Therefore you have come. This inclination is the beginning of spiritual life. This is called śraddhā. Śraddhā means faith. So this śraddhā has to be developed further, and to develop this śraddhā, or faith, one has to associate with persons who are keeping with this faith. Therefore it is said, ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgaḥ (CC Madhya 23.14-15): "First of all faith, then to associate with persons who are devotees and faithful." In this way, when further development is done, then atha bhajana-kriyā, means the learning the process of devotional service.
(break) ... no gambling, no meat-eating. These are not wanted. In the beginning of life nobody smokes or nobody becomes intoxicated. It is learned by bad association. Similarly, it can be given up by good association. They are called anarthas. Anartha means unwanted bad habits. So when we are children, innocent, we have no bad habits, but as we grow and associate with bad company, we also acquire all these bad habits. So to give up all these bad habits means we have to associate with sādhus or devotees, saintly person. Then we can give it up. This is called anartha-nivṛtti, means giving up all unwanted bad habits. These things are not wanted. Nobody dies if he does not smoke or drink. Nobody dies. So artificially we learn it, so by good association we can give it up. So when we are purified out of all the bad habits, then we become fixed up in spiritual knowledge. So in this way we make advance in spiritual life, and at the last stage we become lover of God. This is the process, and one who teaches this process, he is guru. This is the definition of guru.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Mexico, February 11, 1975)