New York City – December 26, 1966:

If we know where to look, we can find out who's an authentic incarnation of the Lord, and who's not.

sarvajna munira vakya sastra 'paramana'
ama-saba jivera haya sastra-dvara 'jnana'

"The Vedic literatures composed by the omniscient Mahamuni Vyasadeva are evidence of all spiritual existence. Only through these revealed scriptures can all conditioned souls attain knowledge." Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 20.353)

WE SHOULD ALWAYS think that we are in the mode of ignorance. We are just trying to make progress from ignorance to goodness and then transcend. That is the process of spiritual realization. Nobody should think that he is perfect. We cannot be. Only God is perfect, and we are all imperfect. Even in our so-called liberated stage we are still imperfect. Therefore we have to take shelter of authority, because constitutionally we are imperfect.

Lord Caitanya says, ama-saba jivera haya sastra-dvara 'jnana.' For real knowledge we have to consult the scriptures, sastra. Sadhu-sastra-guru. Sadhu means a pious, religious, honest person. One whose character is spotless is called a sadhu. Sastra means scripture, and guru means spiritual master. These three are on an equal level. Why? Because the medium is scripture. The guru is considered to be liberated because he follows the scripture. The sadhu is considered to be honest and saintly because he follows scripture. Nobody can become a sadhu if he does not accept the principles of scripture. Nobody can be accepted as a guru, or spiritual master, if he does not follow the principles of scripture. That is the test.

tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham

"To learn the transcendental subject matter, one must approach a spiritual master. In doing so, one should carry fuel to burn in sacrifice. The symptom of such a spiritual master is that he is expert in understanding the Vedic conclusion and therefore he constantly engages in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." [Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12] Srotriyam means that one who has accepted the Vedic literature, the sastra, as guidance can be a guru. An extravagant upstart who makes some group and religious principles of his own cannot become a guru.

Guru Required

Lord Caitanya is replying to Sanatana Gosvami's inquiry about how to know who is an avatar. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that the medium is sastra and the direction is from the guru. We need the help of a guru to understand the scripture. Sometimes we find contradictions in the scripture. There is no contradiction, but because of my poor fund of knowledge I might think there is. I cannot understand. Therefore the assistance of a guru, a spiritual master, is required.

Lord Caitanya says that we have to see through the sastra whether or not a person is an incarnation. We should not blindly accept anybody as an incarnation, because there are, nowadays, numberless "incarnations."

In the next verse Lord Caitanya says,

avatara nahi kahe 'ami avatara'
muni saba jani' kare laksana-vicara

"An actual incarnation of God never says 'I am God' or 'I am an incarnation of God.' The great Vyasadeva, knowing all, has already recorded the characteristics of the avatars in the sastras." An incarnation never says, "I am incarnation of God." I have read a book about a big "avatar" in India. He was canvassing his students, "Do you now accept me as an incarnation? Do you now accept me as incarnation?" Perhaps you know. And the disciple was denying: "No." Then, after some time the disciple said, "Yes, I accept you."

Avatar Credentials

This is not an avatar. Here Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that an avatar does not canvass: "I am an avatar." A guru does not canvass. A sadhu does not canvass. Automatically, by their qualities, they become accepted.

Muni saba jani' kare laksana-vicara. The munis, those who are thinkers and are actually in the line of disciplic succession, see the symptoms and specify, "Yes, here is an avatar." What are the symptoms of an avatar? First, there is reference in the sastra, scripture, that in such and such time, such and such personality will come and he will be an incarnation of God. Even his father's name, his birthplace everything is written in the scripture. So we have to identify, laksana. The scripture will say that he'll act like this, he'll come like this, and so on. We have to analyze according to these criteria to determine whether someone is actually an avatar.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu never said, "I am an avatar." But from His symptoms, from His characteristics, later on great sages, great philosophers, decided that He's an avatar.

Here Sanatana Gosvami is trying to get Lord Caitanya to confirm that He's an avatar. The avatar of Krsna for this age, Kali-yuga, is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [11.5.32]: krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra parsadam. He is in the category of Krsna, but unlike Krsna His complexion is "non-black," akrsna. And He's always followed by confidential associates. Yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah. People who are intelligent will worship Him by the process of sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the names of God.

Su-medhasah refers to persons who have got good brain substance, not foolish persons. They can understand, "Oh, here is the avatar for this age." Lord Caitanya's appearance is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Mahabharata, the Upanisads, the Puranas. There are many explanations of His symptoms. But still many fools do not accept Him.

Accept or not, His work, His activities, His characteristics will be known, because God will be known. Take, for example, Lord Buddha. He is accepted as an incarnation in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Buddhism was patronized by Emperor Ashoka. So Buddhism was broadcast throughout the Far East, including India, and practically everyone became a Buddhist. Later on, Sankaracarya drove Buddhism from India.

The difference between Buddhism and Hinduism is that Lord Buddha did not accept Vedic authority. According to Hindu culture, if somebody does not accept the Vedic authority, then he's not an authority.

There are different philosophical parties in India. Generally, there are two parties: the Mayavada philosophers and the Vaisnava philosophers, or the impersonalists and the personalists. The Mayavadi philosophers say that God, the Supreme Absolute Truth, is impersonal. The Vaisnava philosophers say that in the ultimate end, the Absolute Truth is a person and He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.

That is the little difference between the two parties. They stick to their positions and fight by philosophical arguments. That has been going on for a very long time. But both of them belong to the sanatana Hindu dharma because both of them will talk on the Vedanta philosophy. They'll give different interpretations, but they cannot say, "We don't accept Vedanta." If they do, then what they say is at once rejected. One must give an interpretation of the Vedanta philosophy; then he'll be accepted as an acarya, or spiritual authority. One must be able to explain three books Vedanta philosophy, Bhagavad-gita, and Srimad-Bhagavatam then he'll be accepted as an acarya. These are the principles.

The impersonalists also accept the principle of avatar. They accept Krsna. Sankaracarya accepted Krsna: sa bhag-avan svayam krsna. To specify Krsna, Sankaracarya called Him devaki-vasudeva jatah: Krsna who appeared as the son of Devaki and Vasudeva. That Krsna.

Sankaracarya's Prayer

Sankaracarya has written a nice prayer about Krsna. The present followers of Sankaracarya cannot say that this is not composed by Sankaracarya. It is very famous.

bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
bhaja govindam mudha mate
samprapte sannihite kale
na hi na hi raksati dukrn-karane

Sankaracarya has made many prayers about Krsna, especially about His Vrndavana pastimes. He has worshiped Krsna in many ways. And this was his last composition of poetry. Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam bhaja govindam mudha mate. Mudha mate means "you fools." He was addressing the whole world: "You fools." Bhaja govindam: "Just become a devotee of Krsna. Just become Krsna conscious." Samprapte sannihite kale na hi na hi raksati dukrn-karane: "You are philosophizing. You are talking on grammar in this way and that way."

People want to establish imperson-alism from Bhagavad-gita by strength of grammar. Such nonsense they are. They want to understand God through grammar, as if God is so cheap that He can be understood through grammar. Therefore Sankaracarya specified, samprapte sannihite kale: "When death will catch you, your grammar will not save you. You fools. Please become Krsna conscious." That was the instruction of Sankaracarya. And he has especially mentioned Bhagavad-gita and Ganges water: "A little Ganges water and a little study of Bhagavad-gita will save you from many dangerous positions." So, because Krsna has the symptoms of bhagavan, God, even the so-called impersonalist Sankaracarya accepted Him as God.

Many others don't accept Krsna. The spiritual authority Sri Yamunacarya wrote a verse about such persons. Sri Yamunacarya, a great devotee, is considered to be the spiritual master of Ramanujacarya. He was a great king, and later on he became a great devotee. In the Ramanuja-sampradaya, there are twelve great authorities, and he's one of them. He has written a very nice verse in his Alavandaru about the atheistic demons. In the Vedic literature, those who are atheists are called demons, raksasas. The atheist Ravana, for example, was a great scholar in Vedic philosophy. He was the son of a brahmana, and he was very learned. His kingdom was so materially advanced that his capital was called golden. He was so rich. He was so great in every way in education, in opulence, in power. His only fault was that he was an atheist. Therefore he's called raksasa, asura. The only fault of all the asuras, demons, mentioned in the sastra is that they are atheists. Otherwise, they are very much advanced.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna describes the asuras:

na mam duskrtino mudhah
prapadyante naradhamah
asuram bhavam asritah

"Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me." As soon as one becomes an atheist oh, it is very difficult to convince him. Therefore our preaching should avoid the atheist class. Of course, if we do that, then we cannot find any theists. The present time is such that 99.9% of the people are atheists. So we have to take the risk of talking with atheists also. But generally it is advised that preachers should not talk to the atheist class because they simply argue. Their only point is to argue and waste your time. That's all. They'll never accept, however you may try to convince them with reason and argument.

Arguing Atheists

Here is the verse by Yamunacarya. It was written, say, about one thousand years ago. He says,

tvam sila-rupa-caritaih parama-prakrstaih
sattvena sattvikataya prabalais ca sastraih
prakhyata-daiva-paramartha-vidam matais ca
naivasura-prakrtayah prabhavanti boddhum

"My dear Lord, devotees like Vyasadeva and Narada know You to be the Personality of Godhead. By understanding different Vedic literatures, one can come to know Your characteristics, Your form, and Your activities, and one can thus understand that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance, the demons, the nondevotees, cannot understand You. They are unable to understand You. However expert such nondevotees may be in discussing Vedanta and the Upanisads and other Vedic literatures, it is not possible for them to understand the Personality of Godhead."

There are different kinds of auth-orities. The first is authorized sastra, scripture. The description of each avatar his characteristics and his work is mentioned there. Prabalais ca sastrair. Prabala means "very powerful." Vedanta philosophy is very powerful. Bhagavad-gita is very powerful. Srimad-Bhagavatam is very powerful. So we give evidences from these powerful sastras. Not only that prakhyata-daiva-paramartha-vidam mattais ca. We give the opinions of great stalwarts. Prakhyata means "very famous." Vyasadeva, for example. Who can be more famous than Vyasadeva? He's the compiler of all the Vedic literature. And Narada, the greatest rsi, sage. And Asita, Devala, Vasistha there are many stalwarts. Especially these twelve persons: Brahma, Narada, Lord Siva, the Kumaras, Manu, Kapila, Ja-naka, Prahlada, Bhisma, Bali, Sukadeva, and Yamaraja. These are authorities. So Sri Yamunacarya writes that even after hearing the evidences of the authorized scriptures, which are accepted by great stalwarts and sages and munis, still the atheistic persons will never accept God. They'll never accept. They'll simply go on arguing.

The Vedic process is that if something is mentioned in the Vedas and is accepted by the previous acaryas, then one must accept it. That's all. I don't have to bother with research. This is the simple process. Suppose I am fool number one. That doesn't matter. I may be a fool, but if I follow the previous authorized acaryas, then I am all right. A child may be innocent, but if he catches the hand of his father, then he's all right. He can walk. He can cross the street. In the Vedic process there is no research. What nonsense research can you do? You shall research about God? There is no such research. Research is not accepted in Vedic philosophy. You have to accept the authority. That's all.

Yamunacarya says, "My dear Lord, by understanding different Vedic literatures, one can come to know Your characteristics, Your form, and Your activities, and one can thus understand that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Krsna's character was certified by Bhisma. Bhisma was Arjuna's grandfather. So practically he was, in age, Krsna's grandfather. He was fighting on the battlefield, a great warrior. He's called pitamaha, Grandfather Bhisma. His character was spotless. Although he was living as a house-holder, he was more than any sage or any saint.

The history of Bhisma is that he was the son of the Ganges. The Ganges was his mother. His father, Maharaja Santanu, after the death of his wife wanted to marry again. At that time Bhisma was grown up. He was about twenty years old. But instead of getting the son married, the father was himself very much anxious to get married. So he selected a very beautiful girl, but she belonged to a low-caste family. Ksatriyas can marry girls from any caste. That is the injunction. They are not within the boundary of the caste system.

The girl was a fisherman's daughter. Maharaja Santanu wanted to marry her. Her father was very cunning.

Her father said, "No, no. I cannot offer my daughter to you. You are an old man. You have got your son. So I cannot offer her to you."

Maharaja Santanu was bargaining.

"No? Why? I shall give your daughter a palace. We shall enjoy so many years."

"No," the girl's father said. "I can offer you my daughter provided my daughter's son becomes the king after your death. Then I can offer her."

"Oh, I cannot agree to that, because my eldest son is living."

Bhisma understood. "My father wants to marry that girl, but the only impediment is that the father of the girl is making a condition that her son should be king, and my father is declining because I should be king."

Bhisma at once approached the father of the girl.

"What is your condition, sir?"

"This is my condition."

"All right, I shall not accept the kingdom of my father. Your daughter's son will be king. I agree to this."

"Oh, no. You may agree, but your son will claim the throne, because you are the proprietor, you are the prince."

"Oh, you think so? Then I shall not marry. Is that all right?"

Bhisma promised, "I shall never marry in my life. That's all right? Then marry your daughter to my father."

Bhisma was so pious and so strict. He was a brahmacari, a celibate, from the very beginning.

Bhisma glorified Krsna's character during Maharaja Yudhisthira's Rajasuya-yajna. The Rajasuya-yajna is a sacrifice performed by the world emperor. All the princes of the world are invited, and they recognize the performer as the emperor of the world. In that sacrifice, with all the princes present, Krsna was proposed to become the president of the assembly, although He was a young man. But the princes Sisupala and Dantavakra, who were very much against Krsna, objected: "Oh, Krsna cannot be selected. There are many others."

At that time Bhisma recommended, "Nobody present here is of spotless character like Krsna. When He was sixteen years old, He was surrounded by girls, but He had no sex desire. I am a brahmacari from my birth. I think I could not be such a restrained personality as Krsna."

Bhisma recommended like that. That is mentioned in the Mahabharata. So that is Krsna's character.

Sri Yamunacarya also mentions rupa, form. Lord Caitanya's form is mentioned as tvisa akrsna: by complexion He's not black. Similarly, everything about the avatars is mentioned. So Yamunacarya says, "Your character, Your beauty, and Your wonderful work are mentioned in sastras. You are accepted by great authorities. In spite of all this, those who are atheists will never accept You."

Thank you very much.