It is said that one's body is an inheritance from one's father, that the sins of the father are visited on the son, that in terms of progress we stand upon our fathers' shoulders. So many "truths" have defined the relationship of father to son; but at the ultimate issue, all these affairs of father-and-son are unreal, because they are material. This relationship, which seems so firm and certain, is actually just an illusion, because it is temporary. This is the conclusion of the great sages who have developed and passed down to us our knowledge of spiritual life. The real father is the spiritual master. One who is liberated from identification with temporary existence factually experiences that his "guru" is his spiritual father forever.

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami once explained the transcendental situation of father-and-son in a letter to one of his disciples: "You have accepted me as father, so I have also accepted you as my dear and real son. This relationship of father and son on the spiritual platform is real and eternal, while on the material platform such a relationship is ephemeral."

In the relationship of the bodily father, the son asks for something and the father gives. That is, something material is exchanged. If one is so fortunate, however, as to receive "second birth" by initiation under a bona fide spiritual master, then he receives the spiritual gift of eternal life through chanting the Holy Name of God. By chanting the Holy Name of God and hearing the scriptural teachings, the student can have his eyes opened from the blindness of material life. From the blessings of the guru-father, the disciple-son derives all knowledge of reality.

The most crucial thing to be learned, the first important gift of the spiritual master, is that we are eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of God, the Supreme Person. The true situation is not, as the bodily father may tell us, that we were created by him, according to his plans, and that we are thus his private investment or possession.

Actually, all beings live under the plan of Krishna, the Supreme Father. Individually fathers and sons alike we are coming here on our own, by a choice of free will we wander down the ages, taking various births among the 8,400,000 species of creatures, taking different bodies in life after life, living in different countries, on different planets, being born of countless different fathers all according to the works we perform. The Vedic scriptures say that if we lead pious lives we will be born into aristocratic, rich or beautiful families. The Bhagavad Gita specifically states that if we take up Krishna Consciousness or Yoga practice, but fail to execute it perfectly, then at the time of death we will be transferred to the higher or heavenly planets; and when the results of our piety are used up, we are again born on some earthly planet in the families of yogis, so that we can continue our spiritual progress.

To be born into the family of a brahmin or yogi should be very advantageous to spiritual life, but of course we can always spoil such an opportunity, just as a rich man's son can turn to idling and intoxication. This is why the term "born brahmin," and the whole latterday caste-by-birth system, is a misconception of the spiritual path. The qualities of a brahmin (intellectual or priest) or of a Kshatriya (soldier or statesman), etc., do not depend on material birth, and even the most lowly-born person can advance unimpeded to perfection simply by chanting in the association of a pure devotee.

In his letter to a disciple, my own spiritual master explains what the guru, the transcendental father, can do for his spiritual son: "Although I cannot give you anything as a father, still I pray to Krishna for your more and more advancement in Krishna Consciousness."

Through the spiritual master we learn the actual relationship that exists between God and the individual living entity. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is Father, Mother and Friend of all life, is usually approached by Christians as the Father, and is prayed to more or less as a Supreme Order Supplier. God is the Great Supplier of bread. This is, however, an elementary conception of the Personality of Godhead. Only through the grace of the spiritual master, who has very scientific, realized information about the Absolute, can we advance beyond the idea of God as no more than a material father, a supplier from whom we demand. To learn to love God as a friend and playmate-or even as a lover comes only through the process of devotional service to the spiritual master. To please the guru-father is the perfect way to liberation, happiness and still greater freedom in the service of Krishna.

It is also possible, of course, that the man who brought you into this world through the shelter of your mother's body could also impart to you the same spiritual instruction that is coming from the spiritual master. In such a case, he is not exactly a "material" father. When a devotee of Godhead marries, under the guidance of his spiritual master, his marriage is not material but spiritual. Such a marriage is not undertaken for sense gratification, but in the service of Krishna. The issue of such a union is not, therefore, comparable to the offspring of cats and dogs that is to say, productions of accident and lust.

It is said in the scriptures that no one should become a spiritual master, father or husband unless he can deliver his charge from the clutches of death. This means that unless he can free his disciples, his son or his wife from material consciousness he should not take on the responsibility of master or parent. The mission of the real father is to impart spiritual wisdom. We can say, then, that the father who brings a child into the world for Krishna conscious purposes is not material, as he is not operating in temporary, illusory consciousness, which is held to be the standard of material life.

An important example of such a transcendental father is the great saint Thakur Bhaktivinode, who appeared in India during the nineteenth century. A perfect example of productive, spiritual household life, Srila Bhaktivinode fathered 12 Krishna conscious babies, the most notable among them being Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, founder of the Gaudiya missionary movement. Bhaktisiddhanta was the guru of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, the spiritual master of the present Krishna Consciousness Movement. Just as anything-an airplane, money, talent, etc. can be used in the service of Krishna and thus made spiritual, so sex and fatherhood can work this way.

There is a question one may ask at this point. Since Lord Chaitanya, the incarnation of God who played the role of the perfect devotee, gave up his wife and only then took spiritual sons disciples what is the purpose of procuring only one, or even a dozen souls for the service of Krishna via the complicated and laborious method of material childbirth? If the only true sons are spiritual, why not adopt sannyas, the renounced order, at once and make many disciples? A.C. Bhaktivedanta

Swami has generally encouraged his students, both boys and girls, to marry and raise Krishna conscious children. He has said that, although we are canvassing for Krishna, we are after quality and not quantity. It is not by votes that one goes Back to Godhead. If a spiritual master can find one precious soul and carefully train him in Krishna Consciousness from the very start of life, then there is a very good chance for him to become a devotee or future spiritual master. In this way, to raise one individual in pure consciousness can benefit many people.

It should also be noted that one does not stop his personal service to Krishna by becoming a father or mother. Everyone serves Krishna, and every devotee, regardless of whether he is married or unmarried, can be a true guru in the style of Lord Chaitanya by simply persuading whoever he meets, anywhere in the world, to chant Hare Krishna.

It is stated in the Srimad Bhagwatam that in previous, more congenial ages, yogis or devotees would first attain spiritual perfection, and only then find a wife and produce some children. Their purposes for having children were: 1) to bring a fallen, conditioned entity into the world, and then to enlighten him so that he could develop love for God and transfer to the spiritual world at the time of death; or 2) to bring into the world a ray of Vishnu Himself to have a liberated, saintly child, as did Srila Bhaktivinode.

The ultimate perfection of such spiritual fatherhood is to be the instrument for the appearance of an incarnation of God. Such was the case of the yogis Kardama Muni and Devahuti, through whom Kapiladev, the Teacher of the sublime Samkhya Philosophy, entered this world. The mother and father of Krishna Himself achieved the ultimate in this perfection of parenthood. One devotee sings in this way to Nanda Maharaj, the worshipable foster father of the Supreme Lord: "People have taken shelter of the Vedic literature from fear of material life. Let them worship Sruti or Mahabharata. I am not going to do that. I shall worship Nanda Maharaj, because he has captivated the Supreme Lord into crawling as a child in his courtyard."

Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhyalila XVIII

And the Lord Gouranga [Chaitanya], while going to Vrindaban, made tigers, deer and birds on the way through the forest utter the name of Krishna, and intoxicated them with the ecstasy of Divine Love and they danced with Him.

"So the Lord went through the solitary forests and He sang the Holy Name "Krishna" all along. And the denizens of the forest-tigers and elephants-saw Him and they allowed Him to pass without any harm. And the Lord marched on in His deep ecstasy of love through them all.

"And on another day a more wonderful occurrence took place and lo! it was this: the Lord went to take His bath in a stream of the forest, and a whole herd of elephants came to drink water in the very same stream. The Lord was saying His prayers just then and the elephants stood before Him. The Lord saw them all and they, too, saw Him. And as the Lord saw them, He threw water at them, saying 'Chant the Holy Name Krishna! Krishna! O elephants!' And at that very same moment all those elephants whom the water touched jumped up and began to run about in ecstatic love, and chanted the Holy Name of Krishna all about. And some of the elephants acted more wondrously still, for they fell down on the ground and shrieked in sheer ecstatic love.

"And now some peacocks saw the Lord passing through the forest and they followed Him, uttering with His Holy Self the Name of Krishna, and danced in holy joy. And the Lord saw this and He uttered the Holy Name (Hari) more loudly still. And as the trees and creepers of the Jharikhanda forest heard His voice they were deeply pleased.

"And on another occasion as the Lord was passing through the forests singing loudly the song of the Holy Name, some does came near to His sacred Self. And they followed the Lord as He walked to His left and right, and the Lord saw this and was pleased. He rubbed their bodies out of love, and read out the following verse from the Holy Bhagwatam: 'Blessed are the does, for they marched along with the deer following our Holy Lord all along.' And the Lord said to them, 'Sing ye, O animals, the Holy Name of Krishna!' And as the Lord spoke thus, so the tigers and elephants and deer chanted the Holy Name and danced in ecstasy and wept in holy love."