At the massive tent at Bombay, amidst 25,000 people, Srila Prabhupada, the guru and founder of the Hare Krishna movement signaled one of his disciples to get Richard (now Radhanath Swami) to the stage. Richard was astounded that he was being chosen to sit next to Srila Prabhupada on the stage. During the lectures, Richard heard a voice within his heart proclaim that Srila Prabhupada was his guru. But the mind couldn’t accept. Richard decided to keep travelling more to the Himalayas and search for his guru. Radhanath Swami writes that in the presence of Srila Prabhupada he felt to be in the presence of a spotless mirror; coming in the presence of such a spotless soul helped him see both the beauty and ugliness of his own inner life. His faith and doubts, virtues and sins, strengths and weaknesses were being revealed to him. It was both a joyful and a painful experience to be in the association of Srila Prabhupada.
Radhanath Swami has revealed to us through his lectures and writings that meeting a genuine spiritualist is not some sentimental or a feel good’ experience. A genuine spiritual preceptor, guru, speaks the truth and in his presence, a sincere aspirant feels an internal struggle; he comes face to face with his own impurities and the joy of being with a great soul is simultaneously accompanied by a sobering realization of one’s own shortcomings.
The primary quality of a guru is he connects all to God and himself is absorbed in service to transcendence. This knowledge of the Absolute Truth which the guru imparts is also not of the guru’s own making. A genuine guru receives knowledge from his own guru, who in turn receives it from his own spiritual master. In this the way the chain of bonafide spiritual masters reaches God Himself, who is the source of all spiritual knowledge. Radhanath Swami revealed to us once that the reason Srila Prabhupada’s presence invoked such deep spiritual experiences was his connection to this disciplic chain of gurus. Radhanath Swami also offers an interesting meaning of the word ‘guru’. In sanskrit language, ‘guru’ means heavy and therefore a real guru is heavy with spiritual knowledge.
Radhanath Swami guards his students that searching for a guru is not some leisure activity; getting a guru is not something like getting a pet. It’s not a fashion but rather a serious commitment to search for a guru and enquire from him submissively about spiritual subject matters.
Radhanath Swami also explains on the basis of scriptures that we should consider ourselves truly blessed if we can get the association of a genuine guru. It is by the Lord’s grace that a spiritual aspirant gets the shelter of a guru and then by the guru’s grace, a student begins to understand the deeper aspects of his relationship with God. Radhanath Swami also cautions people to not foolishly consider the guru to be the same as God. The guru is certainly a confidential associate of God and is worthy of all our reverence and respect. However it is unhealthy for our spiritual life to think that the guru is a substitute for God. Guru is a servant of God and we have to aspire to be the servant of guru’s servants. Radhanath Swami assures that cultivating this mood helps us also to become dear to God.