Srila Prabhupada once paused during a lecture to ask if anyone knew the meaning of some lines from a Bengali song we sing every day: guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya, ar na koriho mane asa. Our temple songs are in Sanskrit or Bengali, and Prabhupada wanted his disciples to understand what they were singing. The translation of these lines is “Make your consciousness one with the words from the guru’s lotus mouth and have no desire but this.”

Desire is an important topic. Many philosophers, especially in the Indian tradition, know that desires lead to actions, which produce karmic reactions, which produce material bodies, through which the soul transmigrates, each body delivering varieties of suffering. Since desire ends in suffering, philosophers reason that desire must be extinguished. The recommended method for doing this is usually rigorous long-term meditation, which involves stopping all action.

While the theory sounds valid, it has problems. For example, when Arjuna tells Krishna he’d rather meditate than fight, Krishna replies that inaction is impossible because the soul is active by nature. With the soul present, the body seems independently active. But when the soul leaves the body at death, the body’s activities cease. So the soul is the active principle. And desire motivates the soul’s actions.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, demigods praying to Lord Krishna say that even when souls achieve liberation in the brahmajyoti, Krishna’s spiritual effulgence, their desire for activity forces them to reenter the material realm. Prabhupada often noted that many ascended yogis returned to open hospitals or perform similar welfare work. In the brahmajyoti one is supposed to be free of desire, no matter how good it might seem. But although the brahmajyoti is theoretically the place of ultimate peace, the soul cannot be peaceful without something to do. Even in the brahmajyoti, desires live on.

In contrast to other philosophers, Vaishnavas don’t see desire as the culprit. The problem is not desire per se, but desire separate from Krishna’s interests. The pure soul wants only Krishna’s satisfaction. In the theoretical view that everything is one, there’s no need for desire. And since the soul has desire, it can’t stay in the oneness of the brahmajyoti. But everything is not one. Krishna and each soul are unique individuals, and the soul’s desires exist in the context of its eternal relationship with Krishna. The loving relationship between Krishna and each soul is the fundamental principle of reality. Everything else including the soul’s desire grows from that eternal truth. Love, which includes the desire to satisfy the beloved, is the seed of existence.

We honor the Vaisnava guru as a pure soul fully in tune with Krishna’s desires. The guru’s words are sacrosanct for disciples because the guru guides them by teaching the philosophy of Krishna consciousness and engaging them in Krishna’s service. The guru’s words carry the disciple to Krishna.

We can see the practical application of these principles in regard to Srila Prabhupada. His only desire was to fulfill Krishna’s desire, expressed through the scriptures and the succession of previous gurus. Prabhupada’s sacred mission was to spread Krishna consciousness everywhere, and he engaged his disciples to assist him. His words directing the practical aspects of his mission are spiritual links to Krishna, just like his direct talks about Krishna and the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. His disciples, grand-disciples, and anyone else who accepts his spiritual guidance can take those words to heart and recover the state of pure desire in Krishna’s service.