Important Questions About Gurus

Q: You mentioned in your video, diksha refers to getting the mantra and shiksa refers to getting instructions on how to chant it…

Dīkṣā means acceptance into the educational process (aka “sādhana”) of a given school. This acceptance is accomplished by giving the student the school’s study materials (mantra and śāstra)

Q: We already got the mantra from some devotee, we may not even remember whom. Would a formal initiation ceremony benefit us?

Hearing a mantra from someone on the sidewalk is a haphazard dīkṣā at best. Real dīkṣā should be intentional. The person giving it should be recognized by the school as worthy of evaluating whether a candidate is worthy of being inducted into the school. And the induction should be done deliberately.

Just hearing a mantra doesn’t mean I am inducted into the school that uses the mantra. Induction into a school involves being given their mantras, but simply hearing their mantras doesn’t mean you have been inducted into their school.

Q: Siksha guru plays more significant role than diksha guru?

Dīkṣā is the beginning of śīkṣā. The aren’t two different things, and generally its best if the dīkṣā guru is also the primary śīkṣā guru.

But if for some reason the primary śikṣā guru is different from the dīkṣā guru, then yes, the śīkṣā guru is practically more important – for dīkṣā is the beginning of śīkṣāśīkṣā is the main process, dīkṣā is the beginning (“initiation”) of it.

Q: In the current scenario, the siksha gurus who guide us daily are mostly not authorized by the ISKCON institution to give diksha. In this case, should one aspire to receive dīkṣā initiation from the diksha guru of one’s siksha guru, based on the assumption that since his siksha guru is so great, the diksha guru must be great as well – because a deer cannot give birth to a lion?

If you feel that a person represents a school very authentically and deeply, and want to be joined to the school via that person – but that school (or a branch of it in this case)  does not agree that the person is worthy – you will have to figure out who is wrong: you or the branch of the school. Either your opinion of that person is wrong, or your opinion of the value of that school-branch is wrong. If you decide that the branch is wrong, then leave the branch. If you decide the person is wrong, leave the person. If the person will not induct / “initiate” you, then ask that person what to do (after all, you are their student).

Q: The diksha gurus authorized by ISKCON are often too busy having thousands of disciples, and may not have time to talk to his disciples directly. Most of the instruction comes through others, the councillors or siksha gurus. In such a situation, how will the formalities of initiation help a practicing devotee?

If the dīkṣā guru is authorized by an empowered branch of the school to accept you as a member of the school, then you are accepted. If that dīkṣā guru is too busy to instruct you carefully he or she would assign you to an appropriate śīkṣā guru, and would not interfere with the instruction you receive there, knowing his practical limitations. If he or she does not entrust you into the care of a śikṣā guru then the dīkṣā guru is not sincere, for they do not truly desire to benefit the disciple.

Such people should be corrected, and if that is impossible, they should be renounced.

Q: Can one person have more than one guru?

An individual should accept one school, or at least one at a time. It generally difficult to attend two schools simultaneously. Therefore there should be need for only one successful dīkṣā (per school, at least) So, basically, there should only be one dīkṣā guru per disciple. But everyone in the universe and everything should become our śikṣā guru. We should have multiple śīkṣā gurus, infinite śikṣā gurus, but there should be order and priority amongst them. The dīkṣā guru would ideally be the śīkṣā guru of highest order and priority. Others further along in our own school are other high-priority śīkṣā gurus. Others from other schools, or just random people and animals are also śīkṣā gurus, but their teachings are understood in context of the teachings of the higher-priority śikṣā gurus.

Śrī Krishna Dās Kavirāja therefore says, “vande ‘haṁ śrī guroḥ, śrī guruṁ vaiṣṇavamś ca” which means “Obeisance to my guru (singular, dīkṣā guru), and also to my gurus (plural, śikṣā gurus), especially the Vaiṣṇavas (the highest-priority śikṣā gurus).

Vraja Kishor

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