From Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmṛta, a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.
Question 1: Who will attain perfection (siddhī)?
Answer: Only those who follow the path of descending knowledge will attain perfection. Logical arguments are never permanently established, whereas the process of hearing from a bona fide source has been established since the beginning of time as the authentic process for achieving perfection. Only those who are engaged in hari-kīrtana twenty-four hours a day are able to attain perfection (siddhī).
* The process of acquiring knowledge by hearing from a bona fide guru in the succession of authentic spiritual masters is known as avaroha-pantha, or the descending path.
Question 2: Is it proper to consider many different people equal to your spiritual master?
Answer: No. A disciple should never disobey the spiritual master nor should he ever deride his transcendental message (śrauta-vāṇī), which has descended through the succession of authentic spiritual masters. He should not dishonour the spiritual master by considering many teachers to be as worshipful as him.
My śrī gurudeva is an endless reservoir of mercy. One drop of that mercy is capable of drowning me in the infinite ocean of transcendental ecstasy. Apart from this – that is, apart from receiving shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Absolute Truth Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is one without a second – there is no other genuine welfare for the living entity.
Śrīla Gurudeva used to tell me with great compassion, “You should give up your pride in your scholarly knowledge, in your purity, in your nobility and the like, and come to me. You do not have to go anywhere else. Whatever house, palace or mansion you must have; whatever intelligence, genius or talent you need; and whatever self-restraint or worldly renunciation you require, you will get; just come to me. Let me have the house, the palace, the scholarly qualifications – you should not chase after these things with such intelligence. You should never think that attaining such things is the purpose of life as other, common people do.
Question 3: What are the activities of saintly personalities?
Answer: The duty of saintly personalities (sādhus) is to completely destroy the demoniac mentality of the living entities, which has developed over many lifetimes. Sādhu means one who stands at the sacrificial altar ready to execute the sensuous, goat-like inclinations of the conditioned human beings with the sharp blade of his words. The sādhu never flatters anyone. If the sādhu is given to adulation and flattery, he is not our well-wisher; rather he is our enemy.
Vaiṣṇavas have no inclination to stay in bad company (asat-saṅga). Nevertheless, simply to bestow welfare, they approach those who are implicated in bad association, and through the weapon of their words make them abandon their demoniac propensities, thus bringing them into good association (sat-saṅga).
Question 4: What is śrī vigraha?
Answer: Śrī vigraha is the deity incarnation of the Supreme Lord (arca-avatāra). He is not a sculpture; rather He is Śrī Vrajendra-nandana Himself. One should perceive the deity and not a statue. Unlike the conditioned soul who inhabits a temporary body, the body and soul of the deity are non-different. The form of śrī vigraha is sat-cit-ānanda – full of eternity, knowledge and bliss – and of all the incarnations of the Supreme Lord, He is the most merciful.
Question 5: What is the topmost form of worship?
Answer: Among all goals (sādhya) and their respective means of attainment (sādhana), service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the darling son of Śrī Nanda Mahārāja, in the mood of conjugal love (mādhurya-rasa) is both the topmost goal and the topmost means to attain it. The very pinnacle of all forms of worship is to serve Him.
It is not that the damsels of Vraja accepted Him as their most beloved because they were enchanted by His opulence, for the damsels of Vraja are not even slightly attracted to that feature of Him. Rather, they have spontaneous love for Him. Their only desire is for Śrī Kṛṣṇa to be happy, and it is solely that immense, selfless desire that caused them to accept Śrī Kṛṣṇa as their most beloved.
Question 6: What is the easiest way to achieve a tranquil mind?
Answer: The mind can only be restrained by performing śrī kṛṣṇa nāma-kīrtana. When one follows the path of karma, jñāna, yoga and so forth, the mind may temporarily become stable, but it inevitably returns to a reactionary state; thus one falls again into an ocean of transience and agitation.
Question 7: Is it correct to accept disciples? Have you not accepted disciples?
Answer: We should not accept disciples; rather, we must become a disciple. That is, we must constantly remain engaged in serving śrī guru and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The Vaiṣṇavas (devotees of Viṣṇu, or Śrī Kṛṣṇa) see śrī guru in every object. If we become proud and see ourselves as a Vaiṣṇava, then it will no longer be possible for us to serve śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.
“I never do anything of my own volition, and I never will. I only do what Śrī Bhagavān wishes me to do.” Only one who thinks this way, free from the false pride of being the doer and constantly engaged in serving the Supreme Lord, can lead the living entities to their true well-being by awakening in them the inclination to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Hypocritically making a show by declaring “I am not the doer” is not enough. In fact, it is imperative to truly realize that in every situation, I am being impelled to act by the Supreme Lord.
I have not accepted anyone as my disciple. All those whom you consider to be my disciples are actually my guru-varga.
Question 8: How can we enter in the realm of bhajana?
Answer: To associate with someone means to accept something from them. I only accept what I have received from my śrī gurudeva; I do not accept anything from anyone else. I do not engage in any activity outside of the instructions of Śrī Gurudeva, just to fulfil the intentions of others.
We should not accept anything from someone for our own use. Whatever someone may offer us with love and devotion to be used in the service of śrī guru and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, we should accept respectfully and use it exclusively to serve the Supreme Lord. This alone grants us welfare. We will only gain entry into the realm of bhajana when we become aware of this secret: we should never look upon any object with the desire to enjoy it ourselves; rather, we should use every object to serve the Supreme Lord.
Question 9: Who is the true object of all service (sevya)?
Answer: Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the sole object of everyone’s service. He alone is the master of everything and everyone. He is the sole friend of everyone, the only son of every parent, and the only beloved of every girl. When Śrī Kṛṣṇa becomes manifest to someone as their worshipful master in order to accept their service, they automatically give up their service to everyone else.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the cause of all causes. He is the source of all-pervasive spirit (brahma), of the Supersoul within all beings and within every atom (Paramātmā), and He is the source of all forms of Godhead (viṣṇu-tattva).