When the guru is mostly inaccessible to disciples, isn’t initiation just a rubber-stamp?
Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath
Question: Question from Dr.Nidhi Bansal, when the spiritual master is mostly in accessible to the disciple, because the spiritual master is too busy, has too many disciples, and often is not in good health. So doesn’t initiation becomes merely like a rubber stamp ? we can’t take a , its a very difficult even to get an appointment to meet the spiritual master for a few minutes , what to speak to explaining of personal problems we have and take guidance. At the same time it is said that if you don’t guidance from the spiritual master then what is the use of taking the initiation from the spiritual master, And sometimes it is said that we can take the guidance from the disciples of the spiritual master m, but where is the personal …. of the spiritual master, and how will we develop attachment to the spiritual master, if we don/t get guidance from him doesn’t get association of his. How exactly should we decide whether to take initiation and from whom to take initiation.
Answer: No we should not reduce guru to only a person, there is guru tatva, , the guru tatva is actually a manifestation of Krishna, Krishnam vande jagad gurum, so , Krishna manifests in various manifestations to guide us back to Him, and as Chaitanya Charitamrita explains, the path padarshak guru, the siksha guru, the diksha guru, they all are manifestation of Krishnam and in one sense they are not different, Of course they are different in the sense that we will have only one diksha guru whereas we can have many siksha gurus, but the point is that we shouldn’t reduced the guru tatva to the diksha guru alone. the diksha guru is the person who gives us initiation, who gives us the mantras, who officially formally connects us with the sampradaya, but our connection with the sampradaya is not limited to the guru . We can consider the sampradaya to be like a university and for the student to get access to the facilities of the university, the student has to be admitted to the university and the person who does that admission is vitally important in that sense, but it may well be that that that person may not be one guiding the student in the studies throughout the university life. So for example now, if somebody decides to do doctorate in a particular university , at that time there might be one department , of some very senior authority, who decides, which candidate to take or not, and then the approval is signed over there, but after wards depending on the specific interest of that particular student, and depending on the availability of the guiding staff, some other professor may become the PhD guide, and at the practical level, the student may learn much more from that PhD guide than from the person who admitted to the university. So we should not reduce the guru tatva to only to the person who gives the diksha. From a practical point of view we will in our devotional life that often we hear and learn from many devotees. apart from our spiritual master also. and that is true not just in today’s times, but even in Prabhupada’s ties and even before traditionally. So if we look at Prabhupada’s times, yes at that time there were not so many devotees, and no many devotees were so advanced, and even the senior most devotees are often at the most ten years old in Krishna consciousness. but then devotees got inspiration from them also, devotees heard, the new devotees who came they heard from them also, and heard from Prabhupada also , and they continued in their devotional; service. So even in that time at a practical level didn’t get the association of Prabhupada, and yet we see that many of the devotees in ISKCON, who are leaders now, who are , if we observe their lives, if we observe their talks, if we observe their dedication, we can understand , they have attained exalted level of devotion. So many of them nay not have had any personal interaction with Prabhupada also. Still they have made advancement. So from a philosophical point of view and from practical point of view, from philosophical point of view , we should not reduce the guru tatva to guru. we can get guidance from multiple sources and we should understand that it is the same guru tatva who is giving guidance. Just as I said in the university, the students can learn from any places. And also from the practical point of view we see that we learn from many people apart from guru also. so all those , and that also happened during Prabhupada’s times also and that happened in the past also,. if we see, look at Chaitanya charitamrita time, Advitya Acharya took initiation from Madhavendra Puri, Madhavendra Puri was a considered as a travelling preacher, was a travelling person, he was not into preaching so much, he was more of a ……………pramhansa, was detached from the world. So there is not much mention of say, Advaitya Acharaya sending letters to Madhvendra Puri to take guidance and they are regularly meeting and having counselling session. Now we can say that Advaitya Acharya is already, he himself is mahavishnu and he does not need guidance. that is not the point, the point is, that how the spiritual master system work. So at that time traditionally there could be two kinds of spiritual masters, there were sanyasis who would be travelling, and they would come to a particular place, they would give some talks and people would become inspired and people would take initiation from them and then they travelled along so how the people would continue in their devotion would largely depend largely on their own determination in practice, and often they would hear from others also. Every village every town every city had its own local saints and they would hear from them and they would get inspiration from them and they would grow in their spiritual life. So spiritual culture and spiritual progress was never restricted to one person. So now ysya prasada bhagavad prasad,………….without the spiritual master’s mercy we cannot make advancement. Now but again we need to understand the spiritual master’s mercy is not limited to serving him directly or hearing him exclusively, because his mercy is not his independent mercy. he is channeling Krishna\’s mercy and that mercy can come to us from many sources. so when we say yasta pradan na gatih kutopi, it is the mercy of the guru tatva that is without which we have no hope, but the guru tatva can manifest through many people. So I would say that the most important thing for us is to understand properly the guru tatva and then understand how the process of initiation will work in our life. Now as far as , so in principle it is not that we need a association and guidance directly from the guru to be able to make spiritual advancement. So we can make spiritual advancement if we follow the process of devotional service and we learn and get guidance from multiple persons. Of course , for major decisions in our lives we do need guidance from one authority and if we can get guidance from spiritual master it is the best, now ISKCON if we see is , till now, not a very old organization from the point of view of religion and history of religion, its just forty years old , and the various structures are evolving , so one guru having many disciples , thousands of disciples, its not possible at a practical level for the guru to give attention to all of them and that’s why spiritual master has representatives, so there may be counselors or there may be other appointed representatives from whom we can take guidance, and if they are , they have been practicing devotional service well for a sufficient amount of time then often their guidance can be very valuable for us in our devotional service, and if we can get inspiration from such guidance, we should see that as actually the spiritual master is only offering us guidance, so as far as getting personal association, when we are talking about the spiritual master and self, then its not that the spiritual masters association is limited to vapu, they we have to meet and speak physically and talk with the spiritual master, there are more and much more important is vani, we have to hear from the spiritual master, and now a days we can hear from the internet when spiritual master is giving classes in different places, we can also hear the recordings, and that way we can stay in touch with the vani and even more important again is the principle, that the spiritual master is also manifesting Krishna’s mercy, so Krishna is present in our heart and |Krishna is present in guru , sadhu, and Shastra. Sadhu doesn’t necessarily refer to the previous Acharya, sadhu also refer to the current other spiritual other spiritual masters and other spiritual teachers also,. So through all of them we can get guidance. So is initiation just like a rubber stamp. we could say that, at one level ok, who ever got me admitted into the university that person just did the rubber stamp and after that I had no interaction with that person. no, but once I got into the university , and that person sanctioned my entry into the university, I was able to learn so much. so that way , similarly once we, get into the Krishna consciousness movement , we hear from so many devotees, and we learn so much. now if we find that we are some how not able to gel with the representatives of the spiritual master, with the counsellor or with some other devotee , we don’t feel that this counsellor is representing my spiritual master properly and that’s why we cannot get inspiration, then we can change the counsellor also, its not that , that the counsellor is not a guru and if we find ourselves in some way uncomfortable or incompatible with he counsellor, changing the counsellor is not a big thing, we can do it in a graceful way, we don’t have to disrespect or criticize the counsellor, but we can just do it in a sensitive respectable way, focusing on our needs and seeing how our needs can be fulfilled. so for example if I happen to be more intellectual person, then I need somebody who will give intellectual answers and intellectual presentations, then I will choose someone like that. and I am more of person to person , person, that means I like more personal interactions m just the more human interactions, then I might find somebody like that from whom I might get inspiration, In general we should not be pressurized to take initiation from a particular person, just because everybody else is taking initiation from that person, or just because in that area everybody is initiated from that particular guru, so I have to get initiation from that person only. We do now all this I have said, this does not meant to minimize the importance of spiritual master. Still hearing from the spiritual master and knowing about the spiritual masters activities and understanding the mood and appreciate that mood and wanting to participate that mood, all those are very important for us. So there may be in ISKCON, what you could call as big gurus, who have thousands and thousands of disciples , and there could be again to use a more of a jargon type of word, small gurus who have few disciples, now its not that if we take initiation from big guru , we will make big advancement, if from small guru, then small advancement, if we feel inspired from someone who is , who does not have many disciples but who is giving individually time for disciples, and we feel inspired by that , then we can take initiation from that spiritual master also, we don’t have to be pressurized by the local temple devotees about from who we should take initiation from. at the same time, it is now that just because the particular spiritual master gives a lot of time to his disciples, that in and of itself, will guarantee spiritual advancement. Because ultimately the spiritual advancement depends on our inspiration and our application It does not depend just on how much time we spend with or spiritual master, there might be some glamor associated with spending time with spiritual master, but we should not be carried away by such glamourous consideration. Oh I got one hour of my spiritual master , i spent so many hours with my spiritual master, that may be yes, if somebody is able to spend time like that and get that much association, that is fortunate, but that itself is not the sign of spiritual advancement. That should e the impetus for committing oneself to the process by which one makes spiritual advancement. So essentially we should decide from whom we take initiation based on our personal inspiration. Who inspires us the most. and now we shouldn’t as I said , in one extreme, we should not have practically unrealistic, and philosophically unnecessarily expectation that we have to have one to one guidance with our spiritual master, at the same time, we should not be carried away by the pressure from the devotee community that you have to take initiation from this person only. We focus on OK , by hearing from whom by whose example do I get the most inspiration, to apply myself for the process of bhakti, and we can take initiation from that person, and as I said initiation is formalization of our connection with the gurutatva but it is not the restriction of our connection of our guru tatva. So we are practicing bhakti even before we are initiated and that practice e of bhakti does not go in vain, we do spiritual advancement in that also, but we further get connected with sampradaya in the formal way when we are initiated, the important thing is that we connect with Krishna and the guru formalizes the connection, but the guru does not restrict the connection, and the connection through the guru is not the , as I said, not the only connection. Guru connects us with the whole sampradaya, and ultimately, the sampradaya provides facility to practice devotional service, so who ever inspires us to practice devotional service more enthusiastically from that person we can take initiation from.