(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada and disciples)
"Spiritual master is... not that a particular man is spiritual master. Spiritual master is a truth. So what is that truth? The truth is saṁsāra-dāvānala-līḍha-loka-trāṇāya kāruṇya-ghanāghanatvam. The whole world is in the blaze of material pangs, threefold miseries. And a person who is authorized to deliver people from that material pangs, he is called spiritual master.
The example is given in this verse, saṁsāra-dāvānala. Dāvānala is the Sanskrit word. The English equivalent is forest fire. Just like in the forest in this part of the world there are sometimes forest fire, and government has arrangement to pour water from up. There are so many arrangement. But forest fire there is, a fact. And what is this forest fire? The forest fire... nobody has got any interest to set fire in the forest, but it takes place automatically.
And when the forest fire is there, all the animals within the forest, they become so much disturbed. They cannot escape. They die, especially the snakes. Because snakes are always envious, so they are first up to be burned into that forest fire. They cannot go very swiftly. Others, tigers and other beasts, they go away. But the snake, they crawl. They cannot get out. Mostly they burn.
So this example is given to this materialistic life as forest fire, because nobody wants any disturbance, but disturbance is created. Actually I am seeing, since I have come to this part of the world in 1965, so many boys are chased by the government draft board. You see? They belong to the independent nation, and formerly they are independent.
And what is this nonsense independence? You see? Simply nonsense. There is no independence. But we are thinking, 'I am independent.' 'Oh, that nation has become independent. I shall become independent.' Just like one of my students said he wanted to be independent and anarchist.
So these false notions, 'isms,' are going on. People are being misled. You see? Andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānāḥ (SB 7.5.31). Practical experience: In my country, India, I was also a student of Gandhi. In 1920 I joined the noncooperation movement and gave up my education, because Gandhi's program was to boycott the British educational institution. So most of the university students... I was also. I passed my final examination, B.A., but I gave up. I did not appear, and I joined this movement.
Fortunately, in 1922 I also met my Guru Mahārāja, and he, on my first visit, I do not know why, he told that, 'You should preach this Caitanya philosophy to the outside world.' I replied that 'We are dependent nation. Who will hear us? In the world, nobody hears any person who is coming from dependent nation, so we must have first of all independence.' A young man I was at that time, and I was also misled in so many ways. But my spiritual master saved me, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
So the spiritual master's duty is to save the living entities who are so much embarrassed by the forest fire. That is the duty of spiritual master. Saṁsāra-dāvānala-līḍha-loka: The whole world is blazing, and just like in the blazing fire of the forest, the animals are going here and there, and some of them are dying, the whole world is like that. And how that blazing fire can be extinguished?
You cannot send there this fire brigade, or you cannot get some pots of water and try to extinguish that wide fire. It is not possible. Then how to extinguish it? The extinguishing is possible when there is cloud overhead and there is incessant pouring of water. Then the forest fire extinguished. No artificial means, no scientific means. Fire brigade or this fire extinguisher, we have invented so many things, but when there is forest fire all these things are nonsense; nothing can be used.
The only use, means, is when there is pouring, incessant pouring of water from the cloud. But, that is made of God. That is not in your hand. You cannot produce cloud. Some arrangement of God's arrangement, the cloud, is there. Ghanāghanatvam. The example is given, 'Charitable just like the cloud.' Why this example is given? When cloud pours water, it is so sufficient that there is no comparison. But if you want to pour water, a bucketful of water, how long you will do it?
The spiritual master means he must be just like the cloud. How it is possible? It is possible. It is possible in this way, provided he follows the disciplic succession of spiritual master. Then it is possible. He must inherit the power from the superior source. Then it is possible that by his teaching, by his lessons, the forest fire which is burning within our heart, it can be extinguished, and the person who receives such spiritual instruction bona-fidely, he becomes satisfied. This is the process. So:
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam
[The spiritual master is receiving benediction from the ocean of mercy. Just as a cloud pours water on a forest fire to extinguish it, so the spiritual master delivers the materially afflicted world by extinguishing the blazing fire of material existence. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master, who is an ocean of auspicious qualities.]
Now, this spiritual master's succession is not very difficult. Of course, my students, they offer me so much respect, but all these respects are due to my spiritual master. I am nothing. I am just like peon. Just like peon delivers one letter. He is not responsible for what is written in that letter. He simply delivers. But a peon's duty is that he must sincerely carry out the order of the postmaster and deliver the letter to the proper person. That is their duty.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Montreal, August 17, 1968)