The following is a conversation chat between Purujit Dasa and a congregational member of the International Society for Krishna consciousness on the topic of initiation into Krishna consciousness.
A DEVOTEE: I am confused, if you could please clear it up for me. According to your understanding, do we take Initiation from the gurus in our succession, or do they simply initiate us on behalf of Srila Prabhupada?
PURUJIT: Ok, well there are two types of gurus. diksa guru (initiator) and a siksa guru (instructor). siksa guru is someone who instructs or initiates on behalf of the diksa guru. Srila Prabhupada for example received sannyasa initiation from his godbrother after his guru was already absent. Prabhupada says:
"Just like myself, I took initiation from my Guru Maharaja, but I took sannyasa from a Godbrother who is a sannyasi. So my original guru is that spiritual master who initiated me, but he's also a siksa guru. Like that. Teacher. "
(Discourse on Lord Caitanya Play Between Srila Prabhupada and Hayagriva -- April 5-6, 1967, San Francisco)
It is just like in school. there is a textbook written by some author. the author might not be present at the university, but there are teachers who have read the book themselves and can explain to the students nicely. Here in this conversation Srila Prabhupada explains this relationship between siksa gurus and a diksa guru:
Madhudvisa: ...cannot become a medical practitioner by simply reading the books. He must study under a medical practitioner. So in the case of your books, is it possible to become a devotee without actually having personal association with you? Just by reading your books?
Prabhupada: No, it is not that you have to associate with the author. But one who knows, if you cannot understand you have to take lesson from him. Not necessarily that you have to contact with the author always.
Devotee: Just like the textbooks are not written by the teachers; they're written by other professors.
Devotee: Usually you don't even meet the author.
Prabhupada: Simply one who knows the subject matter, he can explain.
Madhudvisa: But can your, would your purports, would that serve as explanation besides...
Prabhupada: No, no, anyone who knows the subject matter, he will be able to explain. Not necessarily the author is required to be present there. [break] ...to study from a medical man, I never said you have to study from the author. Or one who understood the author's purpose. Just like we are explaining Bhagavad-gita as it is. Not that one has to learn directly from Krsna. One who has understood Krsna, from him. That is parampara system.
Morning Walk -- May 21, 1975, Melbourne
So one who writes the books he is the diksa guru and those who instruct from the books are the siksa gurus provided they repeat what the diksa guru says.The key word here is when Srila Prabhupada says that if one cannot understand he should take guidance from one who knows. This shows that if one is capable he can become a devotee simply by reading Srila Prabhupada's books. Srila Prabhupada seems to confirm this in this exchange. If one does not understand, then there is no harm in approaching senior godbrothers for guidance provided they speak according to what Srila Prabhupada says. The important point is that Srila Prabhupada is the top authority in both scenarios.
Sudama: There also is the position of, or some question is raised as to how to actually follow the authority. What is the authority between...?
Prabhupada: Authority is your spiritual master. You do not know who is authority? Why this question is there? If one is initiated, then he accepted the authority. And if he does not follow the instruction of spiritual master, he is a rascal. He is defying the authority. That's all.
Sudama: The question also is there: the authority is the spiritual master, but the via media to the spiritual master... The position of... The difference between, like we were discussing in the automobile, of siksa and diksa-guru. There is sometimes...
Prabhupada: Then so siksa and diksa-guru... A siksa-guru who instructs against the instruction of spiritual..., he is not a siksa-guru. He is a demon. Siksa-guru, diksa-guru means... Sometimes a diksa-guru is not present always. Therefore one can take learning, instruction, from an advanced devotee. That is called the siksa-guru. Siksa-guru does not mean he is speaking something against the teachings of the diksa-guru. He is not a siksa-guru. He is a rascal.
Bhagavad-gita 17.1–3 – July 3, 1974, Honolulu
Please let me know if it is clear up to now before i continue more specifically about initiation
A DEVOTEE: Yes I think I am understanding. But there is one thing, I don't know if you will answer it when covering initiation. Should Prabhupada be considered our last Diksa Guru? His disciples should not become diksha gurus in his absence?
PURUJIT: ok so now let's talk about the definition of diksa. how do u understand diksa? you can tell me in your own words your definition however you understand it
A DEVOTEE: Okay. My understanding is limited, but as far as I've been taught is that a Diksa Guru's purpose is to link one up with the sampradaya and to instruct his disciples. And the Shiksa guru is there to educate us, but does not take disciples. Or a devotee can accept a diksha guru as his Shiksa guru if he has already taken Initiation from another guru.
PURUJIT: yes, but how does he link? what is that link with the sampradaya? how do you know that you are linked?
A DEVOTEE: My understanding is that it is primarily the audible transmition of the Holy Name from guru to disciple and secondarily through Yagya and receiving beads that the guru has chanted on.
PURUJIT: not exactly. for example you hear the holy name from some devotees on the street are they your diksa gurus?
A DEVOTEE: Haha, no 😅
PURUJIT: ah 🙂 so there must be a little bit more difference. although essentially you are right
A DEVOTEE: Enlighten me, Prabhu
PURUJIT: let's look at how Krsna defines the parampara in the Bhagavad-gita:
This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.
this is what Krsna says in the 4th chapter. the chain of disciplic succession is handing down the supreme science. it's a transmission of knowledge. you know that chanting of the holy name is the sankirtana yajna prescribed for this age. it is a sacrifice meant for this age
A DEVOTEE: I see
PURUJIT: now let's go to sloka where Krsna tells us to accept a spiritual master
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.
do you know this sloka?
A DEVOTEE: I do, yes
PURUJIT: ok great! now let's check the word for word
tat -- that knowledge of different sacrifices; viddhi -- try to understand; pranipatena -- by approaching a spiritual master; pariprasnena -- by submissive inquiries; sevaya -- by the rendering of service; upadeksyanti -- initiate; te -- unto you; jnanam -- knowledge; jnaninah -- the self-realized; tattva -- truth; darsinah -- the seers.
A DEVOTEE: Oh I see
PURUJIT: the truth we are supposed to learn from the spiritual master is the knowledge of the different sacrifices
A DEVOTEE: Tat
A DEVOTEE: Very interesting
PURUJIT: and upadeksyanti Prabhupada translates as initiates so this sloka refers to a diksa guru.the diksa guru initiates us with the knowlege or science of how to chant the holy name so this is very essential to understand about diksa. It is not a one time event but a process of awakening our transcendental knowledge
A DEVOTEE: I understand
PURUJIT: the holy name purifies our heart and manifests what is already there-transcendental knowledge of our realtionship with krsna so it is this science and knowledge which is essential about diksa and it is a process. you do not learn this in one day. prabhupada says:
Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing.
Press Interview -- October 16, 1976, Chandigarh
Srila Jiva Gosvami explains diksa in his Bhakti-sandarbha (283) as follows:
divyam jnanam yato dadyat
kuryat papasya sanksayam
tasmad dikseti sa prokta
"Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa." In his translation of the Upadesamrta of Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Prabhupada alternatively translates this verse as follows:
"By diksa one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life." From this we can see that diksa is not a one time event, but it is a gradual process. (this quote of jiva goswami is quoted and translated by srila prabhupada in Nectar of Instruction and Caitanya Caritamrta)
Another meaning of diksa is to explain or expand transcendental knowledge. Every successive acharya, or a diksa guru gives a contribution to the disciplic conclusion, something that no other acharya has presented before. This is what makes him a successor. Srila Prabhupada explains:
Diksa means... Di means divya. Divya means "transcendental." And ksa, ksapayati -- ksapayati means "explains" or "reveals," or "becomes enlightened."
Wedding of Prabhavati and Hari-nama -- July 9, 1971, Los Angeles
Diksa means from this divya-jnana. That is di. And ksa means ksapayati, "expands."
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.105 -- July 11, 1976, New York
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he wanted me to do something in this connection. He wanted from his all his disciples. Especially he stressed many times that "You do this. Whatever you have learned, you try to expand in English language."
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Appearance Day Lecture – February 21, 1976, Mayapur
Although the Srimad-Bhagavatam was spoken in four verses, it has ten characteristics, which will be explained in the next chapter. In the four verses it is first said that the Lord existed before the creation, and thus the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam includes the Vedanta aphorism janmady asya yatah [SB 1.1.1]. Janmady asya yatah is the beginning, yet the four verses in which it is said that the Lord is the root of everything that be, beginning from the creation up to the supreme abode of the Lord, naturally explain the ten characteristics. One should not misunderstand by wrong interpretations that the Lord spoke only four verses and that therefore all the rest of the 17,996 verses are useless. The ten characteristics, as will be explained in the next chapter, require so many verses just to explain them properly. Brahmaji had also advised Narada previously that he should expand the idea he had heard from Brahmaji. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed this to Srila Rupa Gosvami in a nutshell, but the disciple Rupa Gosvami expanded this very elaborately, and the same subject was further expanded by Jiva Gosvami and even further by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. We are just trying to follow in the footsteps of all these authorities.
Diksa, diksa. Di... Divya. There are two words, divya-jnana. Divya-jnana means transcendental, spiritual knowledge. So divya is di, and jnanam, ksapayati, explaining, that is ksa, di-ksa. This is called diksa, diksa, the combination.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.15 -- Auckland, February 22, 1973
So siksa guru also explains, true, but he does not bring any new revelation or a new discipline. He only teaches within the framework of what the diksa guru gave. The diksa guru is required when the knowledge becomes lost. Then he revives the disciplic succession by his new interpretation or a commentary.Srila Prabhupada comments on the sloka that I already showed you before from the GIta about disciplic successon as follows:
Certainly Bhagavad-gita was never meant for the demonic persons, who would dissipate its value for no one's benefit and would devise all types of interpretations according to personal whims. As soon as the original purpose was scattered by the motives of the unscrupulous commentators, there arose the need to reestablish the disciplic succession.
(Bg 4.2 purport)
The need for another diksa guru therefore arises when the science is lost, misunderstood etc., not necessarily by physical departure of the diksa guru.
A DEVOTEE: So why was it necessary for Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada to be a Diksha Guru?
PURUJIT: Yes every diksa guru has a specific mission. Srila Prabhupada explains:
So my Guru Maharaja's contribution is that he defeated these caste gosvamins.
His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada's Appearance Day, Lecture -- Los Angeles, February 7, 1969
Srila Prabhupada himself explains his unique contribution as a successor acarya in the following instances:
Guest (6): But every successive teacher has added some interpretations of the knowledge, no?
Prabhupada: First of all let him be successor.
Guest (4): You are the successor of somebody.
Prabhupada: Yes. Yes.
Guest (4): Yes. So you want to act something to get knowledge.
Guest (4): And what is your contribution, then? That is what we are asking. What is sama-darsi? Have you become sama-darsi?
Guest (6): You are teaching others to be sama-darsi...
Prabhupada: My sama-darsi is that why only the Hindus shall know Krsna? The world should know Krsna.
(Room Conversation -- January 18, 1971, Allahabad)
A DEVOTEE: I see, yet we see the Diksha gurus of Iskcon are merely teaching Prabhupada's commentary, so there is actually no real need for diksha?
PURUJIT: the diksa is already going on. prabhupada is giving diksa (transcendental knowledge) through his books. it is not a formal ceremony. now, it is simply a question whether we want to follow that diksa by submitting to his instructions. then we can be initiated formally on behalf of srila prabhupada by some senior Godbrother
A DEVOTEE: Thank you for informing for so attentively Prabhu. 🙇
PURUJIT: you are welcome 🙂 although everyone can be a siksa guru simply by preaching the same message, the order to become a diksa guru is given by Krsna Himself. It cannot be done by self-appointment. this order to be a diksa guru comes when Krsna detects that the knowledge is lost. Prabhupada writes:
Five thousand years ago it was detected by the Lord Himself that the disciplic succession was broken, and therefore He declared that the purpose of the Gita appeared to be lost.
(Bg 4.2 purport)
It is not up to us to say: oh now the previous guru is gone and his teachings are outdated, let me try to be a guru now 🙂 in the sastra we see that even exalted associates of Lord Caitanya would not take up the diksa guru position unless they are directly and specifically authorized by the Lord. It is mentioned in the Caitanya Caritamrta:
panditera thani cahe mantradi sikhite
pandita kahe, -- "ei karma nahe ama haite
ami -- paratantra, amara prabhu -- gauracandra
tanra ajna vina ami na ha-i 'svatantra'
"Vallabha Bhatta wanted to be initiated by Gadadhara Pandita, but Gadadhara Pandita refused, saying, "The work of acting as a spiritual master is not possible for me. I am completely dependent. My Lord is Gauracandra, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. I cannot do anything independently, without His order."
A DEVOTEE: Thank you Prabhu, my understanding is much more clear now. It is a little jarring however to see that Prabhupada's movement seems to be running on a misconception of the nature of Diksha and Shiksa.
PURUJIT: well it is very tempting to assume the position of a pure devotee, because a pure devotee should be worshipped as good as God. Here Srila Prabhupada explains how Krsna made Arjuna the authority on explaining the Gita and what is the qualification for such a guru:
Here the Lord clearly tells Arjuna that He is making him the first receiver of a new parampara (disciplic succession) because the old succession was broken. It was the Lord's wish, therefore, to establish another parampara in the same line of thought that was coming down from the sun-god to others, and it was His wish that His teaching be distributed anew by Arjuna. He wanted Arjuna to become the authority in understanding the Bhagavad-gita. So we see that Bhagavad-gita is instructed to Arjuna especially because Arjuna was a devotee of the Lord, a direct student of Krsna, and His intimate friend. Therefore Bhagavad-gita is best understood by a person who has qualities similar to Arjuna's. That is to say he must be a devotee in a direct relationship with the Lord.
this direct relationship means one must be on the highest stage of Krsna consciousness, an uttama adhikari. Only he can have a direct communication with Krsna. this is how he recieves the order from Krsna to become the next diksa guru. it is a very very elevated stage. we cannot see such communication with our blunt eyes. Prabhupada explains this stage here:
Arjuna was in a relationship with the Lord as friend. Of course there is a gulf of difference between this friendship and the friendship found in the material world. This is transcendental friendship, which cannot be had by everyone. Of course everyone has a particular relationship with the Lord, and that relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. But in the present status of our life, not only have we forgotten the Supreme Lord, but we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of the many, many billions and trillions of living beings, has a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa. By the process of devotional service, one can revive that svarupa, and that stage is called svarupa-siddhi -- perfection of one's constitutional position.
from this we can understand that the diksa guru must be at the stage of such svarupa siddhi where he is directly comunicating with Krsna and Krsna guides him how to write the next commentary. Srila Prabhupada writes:
One must first become a pure devotee by following the strict regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds daily, and when one thinks that he is actually on the Vaisnava platform, he must then take permission from the spiritual master, and that permission must also be confirmed by Krsna from within his heart. Then, if one is very sincere and pure, he can write transcendental literature, either prose or poetry.
(Adi 8.73 purport)
One who is not authorised by the Lord cannot become the spiritual master. Srila Sukdeva Goswami is the authorised spiritual master and as such he was inspired dy the Lord to appear before Maharaj Parikshit just to instruct him the teachings of Srimad Bhagwatam.
So any activities of the Vaisnava, they should always pray to the previous acarya, "Kindly help me. Kindly..." This is, Vaisnava is always thinking himself helpless, helpless. And begging help from the previous acarya.
Just like in Caitanya-caritamrta you will find, the author, at the end of every chapter:
sri rupa-raghunatha-pade yara asa
caitanya-caritamrta kahe krsnadasa
His every line, he is thinking of Rupa-Raghunatha, previous acaryas. "So let me surrender to the gosvamis and they will help me how to write." You cannot write. That is not possible.
(Bhagavad-gita 1.20 -- London, July 17, 1973)
Unless one is fully qualified in Vaisnava behavior and authorized by superior authority (the Supreme Personality of Godhead), one cannot write Vaisnava literatures or purports and commentaries on Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita.
(cc mad 24.326 purport)
Except God no body can establish the principles of religion. Either He or a suitable person empowered by Him can dictate the codes of religion.
(SB 1.3.43 purport)
One cannot write on spiritual matters without being blessed by Krsna and the disciplic succession of gurus. The blessings of the authorities are one's power of attorney. One should not try to write anything about Vaisnava behavior and activities without being authorized by superior authorities. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita: evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh.
(cc mad 24.345 purport)
When Krsna says in the already mentioned sloka 4.34 that the self-realized spiritual master can impart knowledge unto us, because he has seen the truth, it should be taken literally. He has seen the truth and that truth is Krsna. He can see Him face to face. Only such a person can become a diksa guru. One must be on the highest platform of devotional service:
The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class.
(Madhya 24.330 purport)
One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari.
(NoI: verse 5)
Unless one is a resident of Krishna Loka, one cannot be a Spiritual Master. That is the first proposition. A layman cannot be a Spiritual Master, and if he becomes so then he will simply create disturbance.
(Letter to: Mukunda -- New Vrindaban 10 June, 1969)