Here are a few more quotes from Srila Prabhupada with respect to the Uttama-adhikari question. The first one is from the Nectar of Devotion where Srila Prabhupada is discussing the symptoms of the first-class devotee. Please note the absence of any mystical qualifications in this description.
Nectar of Devotion Chapter 3, Eligibility of the Candidate for Accepting Devotional Service:
“Devotees may be divided into three classes. The devotee in the first or uppermost class is described as follows.
He is very expert in the study of relevant scriptures, and he is also expert in putting forward arguments in terms of those scriptures.
He can very nicely present conclusions with perfect discretion and can consider the ways of devotional service in a decisive way.
He understands perfectly that the ultimate goal of life is to attain to the transcendental loving service of Krishna, and he knows that Krishna is the only object of worship and love.
This first-class devotee is one who has strictly followed the rules and regulations under the training of a bona fide spiritual master and has sincerely obeyed him in accordance with revealed scriptures. Thus, being fully trained to preach and become a spiritual master himself, he is considered first class.
The first-class devotee never deviates from the principles of higher authority, and he attains firm faith in the scriptures by understanding with all reason and arguments. When we speak of arguments and reason, it means arguments and reason on the basis of revealed scriptures.
The first-class devotee is not interested in dry speculative methods meant for wasting time.
In other words, one who has attained a mature determination in the matter of devotional service can be accepted as the first-class devotee.”
Then in the Upadesamrita, Srila Prabhupada wrote, (Text 5, purport):
“When a neophyte devotee is actually initiated and engaged in devotional service by the orders of the spiritual master, he should be accepted immediately as a bona fide Vaishnava, and obeisances should be offered unto him. Out of many such Vaishnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Krishna consciousness movement. Such a Vaishnava should be accepted as an Uttama-adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought.”
Here he defines the Uttama-adhikari with no mystical qualifications.
From the Caitanya-caritamrita-Madhya-lila-lila 22. 65-66):
“One who is expert in logic, argument and the revealed scriptures and who has firm faith in Krishna is classified as a topmost devotee. He can deliver the whole world. “
“One who is expert in logic and understanding of revealed scriptures, and who always has firm conviction and deep faith that is not blind, is to be considered a topmost devotee in devotional service.”
No mystical qualifications are listed in these two verses. Rather we find that the criteria given are mostly visible and quantifiable. Esoteric criteria such as seeing Krishna are not mentioned and would be useless for all practical purposes, because the neophyte seeking a guru cannot ascertain who sees Krishna and who does not, except by sentiment or dogma. Therefore, we should stress the criteria in the above verses and not add to the confusion by presenting impractical and unscientific guidelines on the important matter of surrendering to guru as is found in the ISKCON community. We should place greater emphasis on surrendering to the process of devotional service than enthrallment with the Personality of the guru.
Who will decide who the devotee is? Is it solely up to the ritvik vadis to certify the Uttama devotee? Suppose some Uttama say that so and so Maharaja is an Uttama devotee, what will the ritvik vadis say? How will they prove or disprove the various claims? Their position lacks sastric support and on the practical level, it cannot be implemented. Better therefore to stick to the Sastra and accept our responsibility to discriminate carefully before making a choice in this matter.
The case for dealing with the ritviks is not as difficult as it seems once you appreciate that there are two separate issues,
- One philosophical,
- The other practical.
Pro-ritviks always blend the two, and by pointing up the difficulties in practical application, they conclude that the philosophy for ritvik-vada, (ritvik-understanding), is the alternative. This is poor logic. If a ritvik-vadi-lila approaches you, therefore, all that is required is a sober stance and an answer to the question,
“What is your philosophy regarding guru?”
In addition, insist on sastric support for the answer they give. Do not let them muddle your understanding of philosophy with so many facts, either real or manufactured. Insisting on a strict sastric answer to the question should dispel all cloud and murk surrounding this issue.
There is no precedent in our tradition where devotees accept as diksha-guru a Vaishnava who is no longer present.
The following verse is clearly speaking of a living guru, for whom else can we inquire from submissively?
Bhagavad-gita As It Is 4.34,
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”
One key reference on guru is in Srimad-bhagavatam 11.3.21,
“Any person who is seriously desirous of achieving real happiness, must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of a spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation and arguments and thus be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken complete shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters.”
In another one, in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is introduction, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
“This is not a very difficult process. However, one must learn it from an experienced person. [Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12],
‘One must approach a person who is already in the practice.’”
However, the dauntless ritvik-vadis insist on fabricating conclusions out of delicate evidence. For example, they see great support for their bogus notions in the following excerpt.
Morning Walk, Seattle, 1968):
“Can a Christian in this age, without a spiritual master, but by reading the Bible, and following Jesus’ words.”
“When you read the Bible, you follow the spiritual master. How can you say without? As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. That means that you are following the spiritual master. So where is the opportunity of being without spiritual master?”
“I was referring to a living spiritual master.”
“There is no question of whether the spiritual master is ‘living’ The spiritual master is eternal.”
Now, a question comes to mind,
“What to do ‘without the spiritual master’”.
Without the spiritual master you cannot be, at any stage of your life. You may accept this spiritual master or that spiritual master. That is a different thing. However, you have to accept.
When you say,
“Reading the Bible.”
That means you are following the spiritual master, represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ, not Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Therefore, in any case, you have to follow the spiritual master. There cannot be the question of “without the spiritual master”.
Therefore, the unfortunate ritvik-vadis want to mine gold out of this last sentence and the one where Srila Prabhupada says the spiritual master is eternal. However, one can argue with equal force, and with sastric support,
“You are following the spiritual master represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Jesus Christ”,
This is simply an endorsement of the parampara system, which is what it is. Prabhupada is not endorsing ritvik here. “Some priest or clergyman” is the guru, the link to Christ. It is not that everyone has to be like Jesus to be a guru. It is not that everyone has to be like Prabhupada to be guru either. One could be a simple, no frills, but sincere follower of Srila Prabhupada, and maybe have one or just a handful of disciples. He simply has to know the science of Krishna consciousness. The idea that to be guru one has to be like Prabhupada is a kind of Impersonalisum.
Unlike the stress ritvik-vadis like to put on Paramahamsa, Uttama-adhikari, and so on, the fact is that Srila Prabhupada stressed again and again that the only requirement is that one who knows the science of Krishna can be guru. He based this on Lord Caitanya’s words:
Sri Caitanya-caritamrita-Madhya-lila 8.128,
“It does not matter whether a person is a Vipra (learned scholar in Vedic wisdom) or is born in a lower family, or is in the renounced order of life—if he is a master in the science of Krishna; he is the perfect and bona fide spiritual master”
Srila Prabhupada purport Srimad-bhagavatam 8.19.2,
“Whether one is a Brahmana, a Sannyasi or a sudra, regardless of what he is; he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krishna.”
It is beyond any sane person’s comprehension, as how so many young women and men have come, and joined ISKCON. Considering so much media publicity, on the internet, and all verifiable. All this publicity, about the mad, illicit, and wicked fall of so many men, who were advertised by the ISKCON GBC, as fully qualified Uttama Vaisnava s, Paramahansas-Maha-bhagavatas; and bona fide gurus.