Who is a True Disciple?
A selection from a class delivered by His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.18.44 Bhubaneswar — April 18, 1995)
Sent in by Goloka Vṛndāvana Dāsa
One Indian poet has spoken of putra and mūtra. Putra means “son” and mūtra means “urine”. Both a son and urine come from the same genitals. If a son is an obedient devotee of the Lord he is called putra, or a real son; otherwise, if he is not learned and is not a devotee, a son is nothing better than urine. ⎯ (Śrīla Prabhupāda purport, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.18.44)
Similarly, the guru and disciple, the guru is the spiritual father and the disciples are his sons. He who cannot be a śiṣya, disciple is rejected. The disciple who understands Gurudeva’s desire and acts is a first class śiṣya. The disciple who doesn’t wait for guru’s order, who understands what Gurudeva wants and acts immediately is a first class śiṣya, disciple. The disciple who receives the order from guru then carries out that order, he is a second class śiṣya. The disciple who executes guru’s order irreverently is a third class disciple. When the guru orders him to do something he grumbles, “O, I have difficulties. I have some problem. I would have done it but now I have a problem, my health is very weak.” With such grumbling he acts. This is a third class disciple. It is not carried out with love. Then, the fourth one, he who refuses guru’s order, is rejected. He is like stool, stool is rejected. This fourth type is not a disciple at all. So tattva-ācāryas have said:
harau ruṣṭe gurus trātā gurau ruñṭe na kaścana tasmāt sarva-prayatnenagurum eva prasādayet (Aditya Purāṇa)
“If Lord Hari is displeased, Gurudeva can deliver him, but if guru becomes displeased no one can deliver him.” Then there is no place for you at all, everything is finished. Therefore, with utmost care the disciple should please guru, yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto ’pi.
Those persons whose consciousness is very low, completely covered with ignorance, nescience, they think guru is an ordinary human being, therefore sometimes they speak ill of guru, so they will take birth in the hog species for one hundred births. As long as Gurudeva is not pleased you should go on serving guru. If guru becomes pleased all the sinful reactions of that śiṣya are immediately destroyed. If guru becomes pleased, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva—all the demigods, munis, yogīs, they all become pleased and they will shower their mercy upon that person. Kṛṣṇa also says (Bhāg. 10.80.34): guru-śuśrūṣayā yathā— “I am never as pleased with the person who strictly follow the principles of brahmacarya, the principles of gṛhastha-āśrama, the principals of vānaprastha-āśrama as I am pleased with the person who serves guru faithfully and pleases him.” Śāstra says, if someone thinks the guru is an ordinary human being, and the mantra is only letters of the alphabet, that the deity is an idol, definitely he will go to hell.
In this Bhāgavata verse (11.17.27) Kṛṣṇa says:
ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān navamanyeta karhicit na martya-buddhyāsūyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruḥ
One should not think the ācārya-guru is an ordinary human being. If someone thinks like that, whatever mantra he has received from that guru will be useless. There will be no effect at all, and the devā-arcanā, the worship of the deity will never be effective, will never be perfect at all. Such a devotee cannot be a śiṣya and will be rejected. The disciple who is incorrigible, who cannot be corrected, who cannot tolerate or accept the discipline inflicted by guru, he cannot be a śiṣya at all. He should be rejected. He is like stool or urine. He refuses guru’s discipline, so he cannot be a disciple at all. In Bṛhad-viṣṇu-smṛti it is said, who is a true disciple.
Guru, sad-guru has the right to inflict discipline. Disciple means under discipline. Guru inflicts very severe, most severe discipline on the śiṣya and that is beneficial for you, thereby you will be purified. The goldsmith puts the gold into fire repeatedly and he hammers and beats it many times, then again he puts it into the fire, then when it heats up again he hammers it. He does it many times, thereby the impurities will all be burned out and the pure gold will come out. Similarly, guru inflicts discipline, more and more severe discipline on the disciple, he puts you in the fire so that whatever impurities are there in you will be burned to ashes, then only the purity will remain. One who can tolerate the severe discipline of guru and can accept it gladly is a real disciple. If you cannot accept it, instead you grumble, “O, Gurudeva is always scolding me, always beating me, hitting me, kicking me. I cannot tolerate it,” you are not a disciple at all. However, the disciple who accepts it gladly and never acts in such a way that will displease guru, he is a real disciple. He has full faith in the words of guru. He never acts in a displeasing way in spite of severe punishment inflicted on him. With his body, mind, speech, strength, wealth, whatever he has he serves guru and pleases guru— he is a real disciple, and he gets the mercy of guru, and within a very short time achieves perfection in life. He is the uttama śiṣya, the first class disciple. Otherwise without this understanding he cannot be a disciple.