Reporter: I wondered how many people you think might have been taken in by fake gurus.
Prabhupāda: Practically everyone. There is no question of counting. Everyone.
Reporter: This would mean thousands of people, wouldn’t it?
Prabhupāda: Millions. Millions have been cheated, because they want to be cheated. God is omniscient. He can understand your desires. He is within your heart, and if you want to be cheated, God sends you a cheater.
(Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 2)
"According to scriptural codes, a teacher who engages in an abominable action and has lost his sense of discrimination is fit to be abandoned. Bhīṣma and Droṇa were obliged to take the side of Duryodhana because of his financial assistance, although they should not have accepted such a position simply on financial considerations. Under the circumstances, they have lost the respectability of teachers."
(Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 2.5, Purport)
"According to revealed scriptures, a teacher or spiritual master is liable to be rejected if he proves himself unworthy of the position of a guru or spiritual master. A guru is called also an ācārya, or a person who has personally assimilated all the essence of śāstras and has helped his disciples to adopt the ways."
(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.7.43, Purport)
"According to śāstra, the duty of the guru is to take the disciple back home, back to Godhead. If he is unable to do so and instead hinders the disciple in going back to Godhead, he should not be a guru. Gurur na sa syāt (SB 5.5.18). One should not become a guru if he cannot enable his disciple to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness."
(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 8.20.1, Purport)
Prabhupāda: So gurūn ahatvā. A devotee of Kṛṣṇa, if need be, if he's unqualified guru... Unqualified guru means who does not know how to guide the disciple. Guru's duty is to guide. So such kind of guru can be at least rejected. That is Jīva Gosvāmī's... Kārya-kāryam ajānataḥ. A guru who does not know what to do and what not to do, but by mistake, by mistakenly I have accepted somebody as guru, he can be rejected. By rejecting him, you can accept an actual bona fide guru. So guru is not killed, but he can be rejected. That is the injunction of the śāstra. So Bhīṣmadeva or Droṇācārya, certainly they were gurus, but Kṛṣṇa indirectly giving indication to Arjuna, that "Although they are in the position of guru, you can reject them." Kārya-kāryam ajānataḥ. "They do not know factually."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, London, August 5, 1973)
Prabhupāda: In the beginning you may commit some mistake, but when you study Bhagavad-gītā—who is sādhu, who is mahātmā, who is guru—then why shall we make, commit mistake again? If you have done mistake—you have gone to a rascal who is not Kṛṣṇa conscious— then when you read Bhagavad-gītā, you can understand. Why you are misled? Why you should be misled? If it is written on the road, "Keep to the left," why should you be misled and go to the right? Go to the left. Then you are not misled. So here it is said, mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ (BG 9.13). A mahātmā means who is always engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Why do you accept somebody as mahātmā who does not speak about Kṛṣṇa? Then you are misleading yourself. Sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ. Vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti (Bg. 7.19). Everything, direction, is there. Why you create your own mahātmā? If you want to be cheated, who can check you? That is your fault. In Bhagavad-gītā, it is clearly said,
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
That is mahātmā. Mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ, bhajanty ananya-manasaḥ (BG 9.13). Sādhur... Api cet sudurācāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk (Bg. 9.30). He's mahātmā. He's sādhu. We shall go to him. Why shall we go to a rascal? Simple directions. So if you are misled, if you are cheated, whose fault it is? But if you want to be cheated, who can check?
Even though somebody by mistake has gone to a rascal, the book is there. As soon as you find out, "Here is a rascal who does not know anything about Kṛṣṇa, and I have come to him," reject him. That is stated in the śāstra. Gurur apy avaliptasya kāryākāryam ajānantaḥ parityāgo vidhīyate. Even by mistake you have come to a rascal who does not know how to become guru, you can reject him. Why should you stick to him? Reject him. And by mistake I have come to rascal. Why shall I continue to accept him as guru? Cāṇakya Paṇḍita said, tyaja durjana-saṁsargaṁ bhaja sādhu-samāgamam: "Give up all rascals. Associate with sādhus." If you do not do that, that is your fault. Tyaja durjana-saṁsargaṁ bhaja sādhu-samāgamam. We have to mix with sādhu. Sādhu means who are twenty-four-hours engaged in Kṛṣṇa's service. Things are there. Why should you mix with asādhu? Then how can you understand? Ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgaḥ (CC. Madhya 23.14-15). If you have got little faith, then next business is to associate with sādhus.
(Srila Prabhupada Conversation, Bhuvanesvara, January 31, 1977)
"Srila Jiva Goswami has described in his Karamasandharvha that one should be anxious to accept a spiritual master who is bona fide in spiritual knowledge. And if need be one should relinquish the connection of hereditary spiritual master and accept a real bona fide spiritual master."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, July 3, 1968)
Reporter: Have you ever had people come to you who had previously been involved with a fake guru?
Prabhupāda: Yes, there are many.
Reporter: Were their spiritual lives in any way spoiled by the fake gurus?
Prabhupāda: No, they were genuinely seeking something spiritual, and that was their qualification. God is within everyone’s heart, and as soon as someone genuinely seeks Him, He helps that person find a genuine guru.
Reporter: Have the real gurus like yourself ever tried to put a stop to the false gurus—that is, put pressure on them to put them out of business, so to speak?
Prabhupāda: No, that is not my purpose. I started my movement simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. I chanted in New York in a place called Tompkins Square Park, and soon people began to come to me. In this way, the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement gradually developed. Many accepted, and many did not accept. Those who are fortunate have accepted.
Reporter: Don’t you feel that people are suspicious because of their experience with fake gurus? If you went to a quack dentist and he broke your tooth, you might be suspicious about going to another dentist.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Naturally, if you are cheated, you become suspicious. But this does not mean that if you are cheated once, you will always be cheated. You should find someone genuine. But to come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, you must be either very fortunate or well aware of this science. From the Bhagavad-gītā we understand that the genuine seekers are very few: manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye (BG 7.3). Out of many millions of people, there may be only one who is interested in spiritual life. Generally, people are interested in eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. So how can we expect to find many followers? It is not difficult to notice that people have lost their spiritual interest. And almost all those who are actually interested are being cheated by so-called spiritualists. You cannot judge a movement simply by the number of its followers. If one man is genuine, then the movement is successful. It is not a question of quantity, but quality.
(Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 2)