May 26, 2008 at Gita Nagari Dhäma
Brahma Samhita prayers are very powerful mantras. We have chanted them for the purification of our consciousness, for purification of the atmosphere and to invoke auspiciousness upon this auspicious occasion.
In our Vaisnava tradition, there are samskaras, and diksa is the most important of all. Samskaras are not only to mark the stages of life but to make impressions while moving to reach our destination/goal/gati/path back to Godhead.
Vows taken at any time, particularly vows taken at the time of initiation, are very important. It is useless to make vows
that we do not intend to keep. Certainly when we make vows we intend to keep
them, and even when some difficulty arises - we keep our vows. To assist us in
upholding our initiation vows, there is spiritual strength which we can derive from
the blessings of the Deities, the Vaisnavas and the
disciplic succession. If we humbly reach out to receive strength from these
merciful sources, we will not only have the strength to uphold the vows but
also to make further steps towards
Meaning of Initiation
In Canto 11 of Srimad Bhagavatam, there is discussion between Mahäräja Nimi and Sage Prabuddha, where Sage Prabuddha describes the initiation into disciplic succession. tasmäd gurum prapadyeta jijnasuh sreya uttamam sabde pare ca nisnatam brahmany upasamasrayam
tasmäd gurum prapadyeta
tasmäd means ‘therefore’.
One must prapadyeta – take shelter
and surrender unto a bonafide spiritual master.
In the language of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the essence of
initiation is ‘to submit’, like tad viddhi pranipatena. Pranipat
means submission. The material position is the opposite – declaring
independence. We have our national celebrations for declaring independence from
one government unto another, one nation unto another. The false sense of
independence from Krishna is the primordial ‘misuse of our freewill’: “I do not
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
sreya means long-term
uttamam means ultimate topmost long-term benefit.
When one is inquisitive (jijnasuh) about
what is my ultimate long-term benefit and what should I be doing with this
valuable human form of life - that is the principal qualification which
precipitates submission. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur says that initiation
marks that submission. Prior to initiation, there is also submission. Submission
is not a one-time event but a process. Following initiation is an ongoing *deepening*
of that submission. Submission means there are instructions which
The criterion for determining from whom I should accept instructions or unto whom I should submit is as follows.
säbde pare ca nisnatam
A qualification of guru is säbda; guru is that person who has firm grasp of the knowledge of the scriptures and pare ca nisnatam. ‘I can come with my doubts to this person, will all my lack of clarity, and receive from him freedom from my doubts, thus clearing the obstacles from my path.’
And the character and quality of this person is that he is detached from the worldly considerations. These material attachments blind one from the actual message of the scriptures and from its application in a proper way.
Initiation means that the aspiring disciple must come to the position of submission to the guru whose qualifications have been described.
In the purport of the sloka following Sage Prabuddha’s lesson to King Nimi, an explanation is given by Srila Jiva Goswami wherein he says that before intiation we are in a dream-like state. By guru’s mercy we are awakened to our real life from that dream-like state, just like the soul’s entering the body gives it life. Similarly, Srila Jiva Goswami instructs, the spiritual master is likened to the jiva of the body. The soul is the life of the body, so also, in the second life (dvija) which results from this initiation, the spiritual master and the instructions of the spiritual master constitute the life of the second life. As in our first birth, there is mother and father, in the second birth, the mother is Vedas and the father is the spiritual master. The spiritual master presents the teachings of the Vedas and we open our heart to the teachings of the Vedas so that they can enter within us. The seed of Vedic teachings grows within us into a mature stage (just like a child in the womb).
A very important thing (like to have soul within the body, without which
there is no life; it is death!) for spiritual life is this link with the
entire disciplic succession, through the immediate representative or link.
The immediate link connects to the entire succession of links that connect untimately to
Instructions for the Initiation Candidates
The weekend we have spent in Gita Nagari has been focused upon the Siksastakam Verse 3, which is one powerful instruction. Particularly for the initiation candidates here, ‘Take this instruction of Caitanya Mahäprabhu, string this verse on the thread of the holy name and wear it constantly’ so that by taking those instructions of Caitanya Mahäprabhu, it’s having been repeated so many times as we heard in this weekend, it can become an ornament that you wear. This ornament is to decorate the sincere soul.
When Krishna sees his loving devotees surrendering
The essential gift of Caitanya Mahäprabhu is
the holy name. In one sense we can say that the holy name for us is
everything. How can we chant the holy name in such a way that there is
taste for the holy name and we can experience our eternal relationship with
Chanting of the Holy Name – The Most Auspicious Activity
There is one more nice instruction that I want to read from Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 6. Srila Sukadeva Goswami is answering Mahäräja Parékñit question about
how persons can become free from the sufferings of their misdeeds and what one
could do about past sins. The theology of Srimad Bhagavatam instructs us that the means is the chanting of
the holy name. Srimad Bhagavatam
states it, gives the example of Ajämila and describes
the Visnudutas speaking it, Yamaräja
speaking it and now Srila Sukadeva Goswami speaking about it again. So it should be very
clear. Here is Srila Sukadeva Goswami’s
statement – tasmät sankirtanam
visnor jagan-mangalam amhasäm mahatäm api kauravya
(SB 6.3.31) My dear
King, the chanting of the holy name of the Lord is able to uproot even the
reactions of the greatest sins. Therefore the chanting of the sankirtana movement is the most auspicious activity in the
entire universe. Please try to understand this so that others will take it
seriously.” Take the concluding remark within Srila Sukadeva Goswami’s statement here
as another instruction for you all, on your intiatiation
day. There is nothing beyond chanting the holy name, it is the utmost.
Srila Sukadeva Goswami is
such an authority that Vyäsadeva and Närada came, sat and heard Srimad
Bhagavatam from him. And Srila Sukadeva
Goswami’s states -- there is nothing higher than
this. The same is the gift of Lord Caitanya. That process which knows
nothing higher takes one to the position, likewise, where there is nothing
higher – Goloka Vrindavana,
the realm of eternal loving exchange with
Setting an Example
This is another nice instruction. When we are hearing about the glories of the holy name, and explanations how to receive fullness of the holy name, please try to understand such glorifications such that others will take it up. How is that done? Others will take it up by the inspiration of those who are taking it up! That is how it works. If we say one thing and do another thing, it is called duplicity. Let us somehow keep aside duplicity. Not only profess the chanting of the holy name, but understand it, receive it and strive to live this trnäd api sunicena verse. By so doing, naturally others will take it up. Others will naturally feel that it is such a nice message, but even more so: look at the message when you see some people who are more tolerant than tree, humble than a blade of grass, devoid of all sense of false prestige and offering respects to others! You do not find that in the material world, rather we find the opposite. If someone finds even something that resembles it, they see them as a saint.
The process of Submission to the Spiritual Master
The Chändogya Upanisad declaration äcäryavän puruso veda is describing what is proper shelter. Taking shelter of the gurus’ instructions means that the instruction is not separate from the person. Not to leave the instructions to the side, somewhere on a shelf, like an abandoned book. Instructions are the person, what the person wants to give is expressed within their instructions. Instructions have the particles of mercy that give us access to the ability to carry out the instructions and *then* the knowledge of the Vedas become illuminated in our heart. That is how this process of submission works. The reactions and the dust become clear and one can experience the whole effect that Caitanya Mahäprabhu describes in Siksastakam Verses 1 and 2.
This is initiation into chanting of the holy name. Chant the holy name carefully, guarding against the offenses.
1. SB 11.3.21
tasmäd gurum prapadyeta jijnäsuh sreya uttamam
säbde pare ca nisnätam brahmany upasamäsrayam
tasmät—therefore; gurum—a spiritual master; prapadyeta—one should take shelter of; jijnäsuh—being inquisitive; sreya uttamam—about the highest good; säbde—in the Vedas; pare—in the Supreme; ca—and; nisnätam—perfectly knowledgeable; brahmani—(in these two aspects) of the Absolute Truth; upasama-äsrayam—fixed in detachment from material affairs.
Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.
According to Srila Sridhara Swami, the word säbde
refers to the Vedic literature, and pare refers to the Supreme Personality of
Godhead. The bona fide spiritual master must be nisnätam,
deeply experienced in authorized Vedic literatures and in practical
understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Without scriptural
knowledge and practical realization of the Personality of Godhead, a so-called
guru will be unable to dissipate the doubts of his disciples and therefore
unable to execute the function of bringing the sincere student back home, back
to Godhead. The symptom of realized understanding of the Vedas and
Within the material world one is certainly attracted to becoming a great intellectual, a powerful politician, the loving father of many beautiful and affectionate little children, a most honored welfare worker or a highly admired and successful businessman. But none of these material positions have a permanent basis, nor do they afford permanent happiness, because they are all based on the primary misunderstanding by which one identifies himself with the material body.
Anyone can readily experience that he is not the body but consciousness. Even if one loses a limb of his body, he does not cease to exist as a conscious entity. Ultimately, the entire body is lost at the time of death, and the living entity acquires a new body. The preliminary understanding of one's identity as consciousness is called self-realization. But beyond this elementary knowledge is the elaborate subject matter of how the soul came to exist within the cycle of 8,400,000 material species of life. And if the living entity is not the material body but consciousness, he must ultimately have an original status on a higher platform.
Punishment implies reward
also; a powerful man who can punish is also able to reward. Therefore, the
existence of punishment for the living being, who is
forced to take a miserable material body subject to birth, old age, disease and
death, also logically implies the existence of a reward for him. Although we
mistakenly consider material sense gratification the ultimate reward of life,
material happiness is actually another type of punishment, since it entices one
to continue rotating in the cycle of birth and death. In the Western countries
violent prisoners are placed in solitary confinement whereas well-behaved
prisoners are sometimes allowed to work in the warden's garden or library as a
reward. But any position in prison is ultimately a punishment. Similarly, the
existence of higher and lower categories of material sense gratification does
not explain the living entity's ultimate reward, which must constitute the
natural antithesis of the punishment of material existence. That actual reward
is an eternal life of bliss and knowledge in the
A bona fide spiritual master is one who is expert in all of these subject matters, not by his personal imagination or speculation but by mature understanding of the authorized Vedic literatures, which are the literary manifestation of the causeless mercy of God. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (9.3).
apräpya mäm nivartante
"Those who are not faithful on the path of devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of foes, but return to birth and death in this material world."
Therefore the spiritual master must awaken the disciple to the eternal existence of devotional service. The example may be given that in the early morning a mother may enter her child's room to wake him up so that he can attend school. The child does not want to get up, but the loving mother forces him to get up and sends him off to school to be educated. Similarly, the bona fide spiritual master awakens the sleeping soul and sends him to the gurukula, or the äsrama of the spiritual master, where he can be trained in perfect knowledge.
If the disciple has doubts
about the value of
yäre dekha, täre kaha '
ämära äjnäya guru hanä tära ei desa
"Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhägavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land." (Cc. Madhya 7.128) Only by the order and authority of the Supreme Lord one can become a spiritual master, not by one's own so-called erudition.
The duty of the bona fide
guru is to connect the disciple to
If one does not become a
lover of Krishna, his connection with
mahätmänas tu mäm pärtha
daivim prakrtim äsritäh
jnätvä bhütädim avyayam
Those who are actually great
souls have surrendered to the internal potency of the Lord and can similarly
connect others to the internal pleasure-giving potency. A mahätmä
is described in Bhagavad-gita as follows: väsudeva sarvam iti sa mahätmä sudurlabhah [Bg. 7.19].
"He knows Me to be the cause of all causes and
all that is. Such a great soul is very rare." It is to such a spiritual
master, who has reached the mature understanding that Väsudeva
is everything, that one must surrender. According to Sri
Närada Muni, yo vidvän sa
gurur hariù: such a great
soul is to be considered the external manifestation of Krishna Himself.
äcäryam mäm vijäniyän
"One should know the äcärya to be My self and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods." (SB 11.17.27)
According to Srila Viswanath Cakravarti Thakur, if a spiritual master cannot destroy his disciple's
doubts by superior knowledge, the disciple will gradually become despondent in
spiritual life. Because a bogus guru cannot actually give Krishna to the
disciple according to the principle of rasa-varjam raso 'py asya,
the disciple will again become attracted to material happiness, not having
achieved the bliss of
Further symptoms of the bona fide spiritual master are given in the Upadesämrta (1) as follows:
väco vegam manasah krodha-vegam
etän vegän yo visaheta dhirah
sarväm apimäm prthivim sa sisyät
"A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world." Srila Viswanath Cakravarti Thakur has stated, upasamäsrayam krodha-lobhädy-avasé-bhütam: a bona fide spiritual master cannot be under the control of ordinary anger, greed and lust.
According to Srila Bhaktisiddhänta Saraswati Thakura, one who has understood the futility of material
existence can approach a bona fide spiritual master. In the two previous verses
the futility of earthly and heavenly sense gratification has been described.
Now, the natural conclusion is that one who has understood this should approach
a bona fide spiritual master. The bona fide spiritual master broadcasts the
sound vibration from the spiritual planets called Vaikuntha.
The inhabitants of the spiritual planets, headed by the Supreme Personality of
Godhead Himself, are certainly not deaf and dumb; they are in constant
communication through unlimited transcendental bliss and knowledge. And the
bona fide spiritual master can transmit this sound vibration of bliss and knowledge
to his disciple. Just as a radio broadcasts mundane news, the bona fide guru
broadcasts the news from Vaikuntha. This is confirmed
by Narottama däsa Thakura: golokera prema-dhana, hari-näma-sankirtana.
The spiritual master also transmits to the disciple the holy name of
2. SB 6.3.31
tasmät sankirtanam visnor
mahatäm api kauravya
tasmät—therefore; sankirtanam—the congregational chanting of the holy name; visnoh—of Lord Viñëu; jagat-mangalam—the most auspicious performance within this material world; amhasäm—for sinful activities; mahatäm api—even though very great; kauravya—O descendant of the Kuru family; viddhi—understand; aikäntika—the ultimate; niskrtam—atonement.
Sukadeva Goswami continued: My dear King, the chanting of the holy name of the Lord is able to uproot even the reactions of the greatest sins. Therefore the chanting of the sankirtana movement is the most auspicious activity in the entire universe. Please try to understand this so that others will take it seriously.
We should note that although Ajämila chanted the name of Näräyana imperfectly, he was delivered from all sinful reactions. The chanting of the holy name is so auspicious that it can free everyone from the reactions of sinful activities. One should not conclude that one may continue to sin with the intention of chanting Hare Krishna to neutralize the reactions. Rather, one should be very careful to be free from all sins and never think of counteracting sinful activities by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, for this is another offense. If by chance a devotee accidentally performs some sinful activity, the Lord will excuse him, but one should not intentionally perform sinful acts.