(Srila Prabhupada in the courtyard of 26 Second Avenue, New York 1966)
Prabhupāda: So according to Vedic system, one has to accept a spiritual master in order to make a solution of his life. In every step of his life the spiritual master guides him. He also makes question to the spiritual master and he guides him so that he will, his life, his progress of life, may be systematic. Now, to take such guidance means the spiritual master should also be a very perfect man. Otherwise, how can he guide? Now, here Arjuna knows that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the perfect person. So therefore he is accepting Him as śiṣyas te 'haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam: (BG 2.7) "I am just surrendering unto You, You self, Yourself, and You accept me as Your disciple because friendly talks cannot make a solution of the perplexity." Friendly talks may be going on for years together, but there is no solution. Here, accepting Kṛṣṇa as the spiritual master means whatever Kṛṣṇa will decide, he has to accept. One cannot deny the order of a spiritual master. Therefore one has to select a spiritual master whose order, carrying, you'll not commit a mistake. You see? Now, suppose if you accept a wrong person as spiritual master, and if you, if he guides you wrongly, then your whole life is spoiled. So one has to accept a spiritual master whose guidance will make his life perfect. That is the relation between spiritual master and disciple. It is not a formality. It is a great responsibility both for the disciple and for the spiritual master. And... Yes?
Young man: But if the disciple is in ignorance before...
Young man: ...how does he know which master to choose? I mean, because he doesn't have the knowledge...
Young man: ...to make a wise selection.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Yes. So the first thing is that one should be searching after a disciple, er, or searching after a spiritual master. Now, just like you search after some school. You search after some school. So when you are searching after some school, you must have at least some preliminary knowledge what a school means. You cannot search after a school and go to a cloth shop. If you are so ignorant that you do not know what is a school and what is a cloth shop, then it is very difficult for you. You must know, at least, what is a school. So that knowledge is like this: tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum eva abhigacchet, samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham (MU 1.2.12). The spiritual master is required for a person who is inquisitive to have transcendental knowledge. He requires a spiritual master. You see? So there is another verse in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam: tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam (SB 11.3.21). Tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta: "One should search after a spiritual master who is inquisitive about transcendental subject matter." So unless one is at least conversant with the preliminary knowledge of transcendental matters... That transcendental matter here you can see. Arjuna is perplexed, and now he wants a definite answer. This is the inquiry about transcendental subject matter. So every human being has to inquire. The inquiry must be there. What is that inquiry? That inquiry is that, preliminary, that every human being is suffering. A ignorant man... Just like a cat and dog or an animal. They are suffering, but they do not understand. Suffering they do not understand. Just like we have seen... Of course, here animals are slaughtered in slaughterhouse. In, according to Hindu system, of course, cow killing is not allowed. But there are meat-eaters. So according to Hindu system, if anyone wants to eat meat, he should take a goat. According to Hindu system, only goats and lambs can be killed for meat-eating, no other animals, no other animals. Cow is not... forbidden. Just like, in, in, the Hindus, they do not eat cow's flesh. And the Muslims, they do not eat, I mean to say, hogs. Hog's flesh they do not eat. They have got some sentiment. But meat-eating is also there in the Hindu society, but that is only by goat's meat or lamb's meat, generally goat. Generally goat. Now, these goats are sacrificed before a goddess Kālī, Goddess Kālī. So I have seen it, that one animal is being killed, slaughtered, and the, another animal, which will be slaughtered next, he's... It has been given some grass, and it is standing there. You see? It has no knowledge that "My next turn is mine," so it is not going away. So this is animal. This is animal. A human, human being, is not so fool. If there is sign that "Next time my killing is to be taken up," then he... At least he will protest or try to go away, something like that. But there is no such thing. So the distinction between animal and man is that that animal is not aware of the sufferings he is undergoing. There are sufferings both for the animals and for the man, but man is conscious. If a man is not awakened to his suffering, then he is in animal consciousness.
We should not forget that we are always under suffering. There are three kinds of sufferings. I don't say about this economic problem or... That is also another suffering. But according to Vedic knowledge—or it is a fact—there are three kinds of suffering. One kind of suffering belonging to the body and the mind... Now, suppose I am getting some headache. Now I am feeling very warm, I am feeling very cold, and so many bodily sufferings there are. Similarly, we have got sufferings of the mind. My mind is not well today. I have been... Somebody has called me something. So I am suffering. Or I have lost something or some friend, so many things. So sufferings of the body and mind, and then sufferings by the nature, nature. This is called adhidaivika, which we have to control. In every suffering we have no control, especially... Suppose there is heavy snowfall. The whole New York City is flooded with the snow, and we are all put into inconvenience. That's a sort of suffering. But you have no control. You cannot stop snow falling. You see? If some, some, there is wind, cold wind, you cannot stop it. This is called adhidaivika suffering. And the suffering of the mind and suffering of the body is called adhyātmika. And there is other sufferings, adhibhautika, attack by other living beings, my enemy, some animal or some worm, so many. So these three kinds of sufferings are there always. Always. And... But we do not want all these sufferings. When this question comes... Now here Arjuna is conscious that "There is a fight, and it is my duty to fight with the enemy, but there is suffering because they are my kinsmen." So he's feeling that. So unless a human being is conscious and awakened to the fact that we are always in suffering but we do not want all these sufferings... This question... Such a person is required to approach a spiritual master, when he is conscious. You see? So long he is animal-like, that he does not know that he's always in suffering... He does not know, he does not care, or he does not want to make a solution. And here Arjuna is suffering, and he wants to make a solution, and therefore he accepts a spiritual master. So when we are conscious of our sufferings, we are awakened to the suffering situation... Suffering is there. Forgetfulness or ignorance of suffering is no meaning. Suffering is there. But when one is very serious to make a solution of his suffering, then a spiritual master required. Just like Arjuna requires now a spiritual master. Is it clear? Yes. So that suffering is there. It does not require any education, simply thinking that, a slight thinking, that "I do not want all these sufferings, but I am suffering. Why? Is there any solution? Is there...?" But there is solution. All these scriptures, all these Vedic knowledge, everything... And not only Vedic knowledge... Now... Oh, why you are going to school? Why you are going to college? Why you are taking scientific education? Why you are taking law education? Everything is meant for ending our sufferings. If there was no suffering, then nobody would have taken education. You see? But he thinks that "If I am educated, if I become a doctor or if I become a lawyer or if I become an engineer, I will be happy." Happy. That is the ultimate aim. "I will get a good job, government job. I'll be happy." So happiness is the end of every, I mean to say, pursuance. So... But these mitigation of sufferings, they are temporary. Real suffering, real suffering is due to our, this material existence, these three kinds of suffering. So when one is conscious about his suffering and he wants to make a solution of this suffering, then there is necessary of a spiritual master. Now, if you want to make a solution of your sufferings, and you want to consult a person, now what sort of person you must meet who can end your all sufferings? That selection must be there. If you want to purchase a jewel, diamond, and very valuable thing, and if you go to a grocer's shop... Such kind of ignorance—you must be cheated. You must be cheated. At least you must approach to a jewelry shop. Jewelry shop, you see? So much knowledge you must have. So is that question solved?
Young man: Yes, yes.
Prabhupāda: Yes. The, the necessity of a spiritual master is for him who is conscious of his material suffering. If one is not conscious of his material suffering, then he is not even on the human being status. He's still in the animal status. Animal status, you see? Now, the modern civilization... The modern civilization is practically... They are evading, evading the real sufferings. They are engaged in temporary sufferings. But the Vedic system is Vedic knowledge. They are meant for ending the sufferings of.., for good, sufferings for good. You see? The human life is meant for that, ending all suffering. Of course, we are trying to end all kinds of suffering. Our business, our occupation, our education, our advancement of knowledge—everything is meant for ending suffering. But that suffering is temporary, temporary. But we have to end the sufferings for good. Suffering... That sort of knowledge is called transcendental knowledge, and if anyone is seeking after that transcendental... This Bhagavad-gītā is not an ordinary thing. It is transcendental knowledge. And now here the ground is prepared. Ground is prepared. Arjuna is conscious of his suffering, perplexity. Now he is seeking a spiritual master.
So the, the... We should take the position of Arjuna, disciple. When a disciple is serious about making, about making a solution of the suffering, then he requires a spiritual master. And what sort of spiritual master? Kṛṣṇa, the most perfect man, the most perfect man. So a spiritual master is representative of Kṛṣṇa. Of course, Kṛṣṇa is not present before us. But at least we must have a person as our spiritual master who represents Kṛṣṇa. And who can represent Kṛṣṇa? One who is devotee of Kṛṣṇa, in the line, disciplic succession. You see?
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, New York, March 2, 1966)