Lord Caitanya says that one should always try to associate with saintly persons because if one establishes a proper association with a saintly person, even for a moment, he attains all perfection. Somehow or other, if one meets a saintly person and achieves his favor, then the whole mission of his human life is fulfilled. In our personal experience we have actual proof of this statement. Once we had the opportunity to meet Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja and on first sight he requested this humble self to preach his message in the Western countries. There was no preparation for this, but somehow or other he desired it, and by his grace we are now engaged in executing his order, which has given us a transcendental occupation and has saved and liberated us from the occupation of material activities. Thus it is actually a fact that if one meets a saintly person completely engaged in transcendental duties and achieves his favor, then one's life mission becomes complete. What is not possible to achieve in thousands of lives can be achieved in one moment if there is an opportunity to meet a saintly person. It is therefore enjoined in Vedic literature that one should always try to associate with saintly persons and try to disassociate oneself from the common man because by one word of a saintly person one can be liberated from material entanglement. A saintly person has the power, because of his spiritual advancement, to give immediate liberation to the conditioned soul.
The perfection of transcendental life can be achieved simply by touching the holy dust of the lotus feet of a holy man. In the Bhagavatam it is said that one must be blessed by the holy dust of the lotus feet of a mahat, a great devotee. As stated inBhagavad-gita, those who are great souls are under the spell of spiritual energy, and their symptom is that they are called mahat. Unless one is fortunate enough to have the dust of the lotus feet of a mahatma on his head, there is no possibility of perfection in spiritual life.
The system of disciplic succession is very important as a means of spiritual success. One becomes a mahat by the grace of his mahat spiritual master. If one takes shelter of the lotus feet of a great soul, there is every possibility of his also becoming a great soul. When Maharaja Dhruva asked Narada about his achievement of spiritual success, he replied to the king that spiritual success is not possible simply by following the rituals of religion or simply by converting oneself into a sannyasi or offering sacrifices as recommended in the scriptures. These methods are undoubtedly helpful for spiritual realization, but the real effect is brought about by the grace of a mahatma. In Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur's eight stanzas of prayer to the spiritual master, it is clearly stated that simply by satisfying the spiritual master one can achieve the supreme success in life, and in spite of executing all ritualistic performances, if one cannot satisfy the spiritual master, he has no access to spiritual perfection.
Because the common man is unable to control the senses and the mind, it is therefore his duty to seek the shelter of a great soul or a great devotee of the Lord and just try to please him. That will make his life perfect. A common man cannot rise to the topmost stage of spiritual perfection simply by following the rituals and religious principles. He has to take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and work under his direction faithfully and sincerely; then he becomes perfect, without a doubt.
Srila Rupa Gosvami has given directions, in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, on how to accept a bona fide spiritual master and how to deal with him. First, the desiring candidate must find a bona fide spiritual master, and then he must very eagerly receive instructions from him and execute them. This is reciprocal service. A bona fide spiritual master or saintly person always desires to elevate a common man who comes to him. Because everyone is under the delusion of maya and is forgetful of his prime duty, Krsna consciousness, a saintly person always desires that everyone become a saintly person. It is the function of a saintly person to invoke Krsna consciousness in every forgetful common man.
The bona fide disciple considers himself lucky to receive the message of Krsna consciousness by aural reception. One should be very inquisitive to hear with open ears from the authorized source of the bona fide spiritual master. How is one to receive? One should receive the transcendental message by aural reception. The favor of the spiritual master is not received through any other part of the body but the ears. This does not mean, however, that the spiritual master gives a particular type of mantra in exchange for some dollars and if the man meditates on that then he achieves perfection and becomes God within six months. Such aural reception is bogus. The real fact is that a bona fide spiritual master knows the nature of a particular man and what sort of duties he can perform in Krsna consciousness, and he instructs him in that way. He instructs him through the ear, not privately, but publicly. "You are fit for such and such work in Krsna consciousness. You can act in this way." One person is advised to act in Krsna consciousness by working in the Deity room, another is advised to act in Krsna consciousness by performing editorial work, another is advised to carry out Krsna consciousness in the cooking department. There are different departments of activity in Krsna consciousness, and a spiritual master, knowing the particular ability of a particular man, trains him in such a way that by his tendency to act he becomes perfect. Bhagavad-gita makes it clear that one can attain the highest perfection of spiritual life simply by offering service according to his ability just as Arjuna served Krsna by his ability in the military art. Arjuna offered his service fully as a military man, and he became perfect. Similarly, an artist can attain perfection simply by performing artistic work under the direction of the spiritual master. If one is a literary man, he can write articles and poetry for the service of the Lord under the direction of the spiritual master. One has to receive the message of the spiritual master regarding how to act in one's capacity, for the spiritual master is expert in giving such instructions.
This combination, the instruction of the spiritual master and the faithful execution of the instruction by the disciple, makes the entire process perfect. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur describes in his explanation of the verse in Bhagavad-gita, vyavasayatmika buddhih, that one who wants to be certain to achieve spiritual success must take the instruction from the spiritual master as to what his particular function is. He should faithfully try to execute that particular instruction and should consider that his life and soul. The faithful execution of the instruction which he receives from the spiritual master is the only duty of a disciple, and that will bring him perfection. One should be very careful to receive the message from the spiritual master through the ears and execute it faithfully. That will make one's life successful.