Understanding Who Can Be Guru


In the Nectar of Instruction it is said, “A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world”…but nothing about being Krishna conscious. Generally we understand that the most important qualification to be a guru is being Krishna conscious, but in this verse, the theme being ‘who can be a guru,’ it is not mentioned. Why?


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We have to keep three points in mind:

  1. The Nectar of Instruction is a short book with only eleven verses. Unlike the Nectar of Devotion, Rupa Goswami does not try in this short book to give a comprehensive explanation of and argument for Krishna consciousness. He wrote the Nectar of Instruction for devotees who are practicing Krishna consciousness. Basic Krishna consciousness is assumed in the reader.
  2. Verse 1 must be seen as consistent and coherent with the rest of the book which makes it clear that a guru must teach about Krishna and the process of devotional service. Thus verses 2 and 3 mention bhakti. Verse 5 mentions Krishna for the first time, and also ‘Isha‘ the Lord. Verse 6 mentions the ‘bhakta.’ Verse 7 again mentions Krishna, and verses 8-11 explicitly speak of Krishna, Vraja, and the process of devotional service. So in context, verse 1 is clearly about Krishna consciousness.
  3. Verse 1 speaks of a necessary but not the only qualification for one who ‘can teach the whole world,’ which is what the Sanskrit literally says. Similarly, a guru should avoid the actions criticized in verse 2, and cultivate those praised in verse 3. A guru should also practice the loving exchanges of verse 4.
  4. A further qualification is given in verse 5, which explains the character of a devotee whom we should serve. Since it is understood that one should serve the guru, the guru should have the high qualifications mentioned in the last part of verse 5.

Thus, it is the entire Nectar of Instruction which ultimately defines the qualities of an advanced Vaishnava qualified to ‘teach the whole world.’