By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda
Who requires a guru? It is not a fashion that one has to accept anyone as guru. No. A person requires a guru when he is inquisitive, (tasmād gurum prapadyeta jijnāsuh), when he is very much eager to understand the spiritual shreya uttamam.
Uttamam. “Ut” means transcendental, and “tama” means darkness. This world is called darkness, or ignorance. So one who wants to transcend this position of ignorance and wants to know the transcendental subject, i.e. spiritual subject, brahma-jijnāsā, he requires a guru, not any other person […] So here is the inquiry, which Sanatana Gosvami makes (before Chaitanya Mahaprabhu), “You have delivered me from the clutches of material attachment. I was a minister, getting good salary, very nice post. So many aristocrats were offering me respect. So I think it was not necessary. My real necessity is to advance in spiritual consciousness. You have so kindly given me relief from this material concept of life. Now, according to Your desire, I have left everything. Therefore, let me know what my duty is?”
This is required. If anyone becomes disciple of a bona fide guru, then his duty is to ask from the guru what he can do to help the guru. That is required. So Sanatana Gosvami is giving us the example. Āpana-krpāte kaha ‘kartavya’ āmāra. Kartavya means duty. “Now what is my duty? I have left my so-called duty, ministership. Now I am interested in my real duty, so kindly speak to me what is my duty.”
Another question which Sanatana Goswami asked was, ke āmi: “Actually what I am?” ke āmi kene āmāya jāre tāpa-traya: “I do not want sufferings, but sufferings are forced upon me, three kinds of suffering: ādhyātmika, ādhibhautika and ādhidaivika.” This is knowledge.
Ādhyātmika means sufferings pertaining to the body and mind, ādhibhautika means sufferings offered by other living entities and ādhidaivika, sufferings offered by natural disturbances. There are three kinds of sufferings … there are so many sufferings which we do not want. Still, they are forced upon us. Therefore he said, kene āmāya jāre tāpa-traya: “These three kinds of miseries are always giving me trouble, and at the same time, I do not know what I am.”
Everyone is thinking, “I am this, I am that,” but he is suffering. These are very plain questions. So these questions should be put before the spiritual master, and he should get proper answer and act accordingly. Then spiritual life will be successful.
Unless we are interested in such questions, there is no need of wasting time to accept any guru or spiritual master.
[An excerpt from a lecture delivered on the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya Lila 20.100-104, in Bombay on November 3, 1975]