“Hereditary gurus, or spiritual masters, have been accepted everywhere since time immemorial, but Prahlada Maharaja declined to accept such a seminal guru or take instruction from him. An actual guru is shrotriya, one who has heard or received perfect knowledge through parampara, the disciplic succession.” (Shrila Prabhupada, 7.5.31 Purport)
Human beings are rational; or at least they are meant to be. Even in the person who is totally immersed in their work from day to day, week to week, and year to year, during some period of downtime there is contemplation on the meaning to it all. What do they value the most? To where do they think the individual travels in the future? From where has everything in this magnificent creation come?
To that end there could be a variety of factors that influence the belief system. Like every living being, the human species has inherent intelligence. We know that a baby will likely grow into an independent adult who can walk and talk precisely because of the potential for the development of intelligence.
At the same time, there is the ability to influence. A person growing up in a certain part of the world speaks a certain language. The same kind of person placed in different surroundings at birth will likely speak another language fluently. A similar ability to influence exists with respect to resolving the most puzzling issues of an existence
1. My parents
In general conversation the Sanskrit word guru refers to the spiritual guide. The one who opens your eyes to beyond the physical. Going past the manifest world and understanding what is on the inside. Formal acceptance of such a person brings what is known as the second birth, with the first taking place when emerging from the womb of the mother.
Guru can also refer to the parents. They are the first teachers, in fact. They become authority figures through nature’s arrangement. If the parents pass on a certain belief system to the children at an early age, that recommendation carries tremendous weight. No matter what else a person may encounter later in life, they always have that foundation developed early on.
2. Teachers within the family
This is especially prevalent in Vedic culture. The family has their specific preceptor. Something like the concept of a family doctor, who may have treated up to three generations of patients within the same family, the guru is there to give guidance and instruction.
This teacher is very easy to accept, since there is no requirement to search. They likely won’t reject disciples new to appear within a family. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam we have the example of Shukracharya, whose very name references a connection through ancestry or heredity.
Leaders like Hiranyakashipu had their worldviews confirmed through Shukracharya’s teachings. He was the guru to the Daityas, which is a class generally demoniac in nature. They could use the excuse that their teacher sanctioned the belief system and so it must be the proper way.
3. Mental speculation
There is the case where the parents failed to provide direction. They were unsure of the purpose of life themselves, so what could they really teach the children? Let them have their freedom. Allow them to discover on their own.
An authority figure to lend support to a particular conclusion is lacking:
“Maybe the individual is simply a collection of chemicals. Perhaps there is no higher purpose to living. The believers are that way because of indoctrination and fear of the unknown. To eat, sleep and enjoy is the ideal objective since everything will end at the time of death.”
4. A bona fide spiritual master
Hiranyakashipu had a son who appeared to be diverging from the path. In essence, the child did not want any part of the family business. A few times there were clear instructions provided to the teachers.
“Make sure Prahlada learns about running a kingdom. He must put standard religious practices, sense enjoyment and material profit as the priority items in life.”
Yet every time the child returned to the father for assessment, it was the same old story. Prahlada was only interested in the science of self-realization. He considered the material way of life to be an embarrassment. A money-chaser would be better suited retreating to the forest and meditating on the Supreme Lord. People without such devotion were merely chewing the chewed, trying to suck any little bit of enjoyment left out of experiences already covered.
The influence here was a bona fide spiritual master. There were family teachers, sons to Shukracharya, but Prahlada did not accept them. He was polite about it. He did not throw a fit when sent to school. He did not try to physically remove the opponents from his presence. He listened to their instruction, but he had a superior understanding at the foundation.
Narada Muni was the accepted guru, who happened to give his association even before Prahlada was born. This is the best person to influence a belief system since they will show the path towards the actual truth, tattva. Their word is based on the highest authority, Shri Krishna, who is at the origin of any bona fide chain of disciplic succession.
Not living in condition isolated,
Possible by teacher to be indoctrinated.
Or from the family passed down,
Perhaps on speculation grounds.
By spiritual master the best,
Knowing atma the test.
Prahlada through Narada connection,
Not influenced by Daitya direction.