Initiation Lecture

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 Krishna.


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

(SB 11.3.21)


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 want Krishna to be in the center.” Guess then who then becomes situated in the center – “Me Me Me Me!” Pranipat is affirmatively submitting to Krishna and keeping Him in the center of our lives. ‘Krishna is my life and soul. His instruction is my life and soul. My intelligence is to accept Krishna’s intelligence and hence I surrender to Krishna.’


jijnasuh sreya uttamam

sreya means long-term benefit. sreya 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 are Krishna’s instructions, coming through the disciplic succession. Instructions are like the rope that Krishna is sending our way, to pull us out of the ocean of material existence, or lowered within a deep dark well in which we are stuck, to pull us out – rescuing us from being far apart from our natural position, again to our safe and healthy position. One should accept those instructions as one’s life and soul. Srila Viswanath Cakravarti Thakur describes: Accepting the instructions of the spiritual master as one’s life and soul is the key success in spiritual life.  Accepting the instructions of the spiritual master gives one fixed intelligence vyavasayatmika  buddhi. Krishna gives intelligence for how to reach Him -- dadämi buddhi-yogam tam yena mäm upayänti te – in response to our willingly submitting to the instructions of the spiritual master as our life and soul.


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.’


brahmany upasamäsrayam

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 Krishna. If links of the chains are broken, it cannot take to Krishna. While the submission is to the most immediate representative, our consciousness should be that on the other end of the chain is Krishna! Thus the whole disciplic succession is accepting us as their representatives, as their children in the Gaudiya Vaisnava family, Lord Caitanya’s family, in a formal way. The spiritual master represents the father of that second birth. This is what happens through the process of submission and acceptance at the time of initiation.


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 to Him, Krishna decorates the devotee with nice qualities. There are 26 qualities of a devotee identified in the scriptures and Srila Rüpa Gosvämi says that 25 of the 26 qualities are tatastha laksana (marginal characteristics) and the key one is Krishna eka saranam – surrender unto Krishna, taking full shelter of Krishna and submitting at Krishna’s lotus feet. We surrender unto Krishna through the disciplic succession, otherwise we cannot even find Krishna’s lotus feet what to speak of surrendering unto Him! We are left, lost in the wilderness, calling out like the peacocks.


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 Krishna in the form of His holy name? Siksastakam 3 has been the instruction of this entire weekend’s activities, so now on your initiation day take this as your instruction from your spiritual master, the disciplic succession and Lord Caitanya – enter deeply into the message and the mood of Siksastakam Verse 3. Continue throughout your life the cultivation and continued submission to this instruction, so that you can enter into the proper exchange of loving dealings with the vaisvavas, so that you can one day serve Krishna through His holy name with deep attachment, and in this mood go on serving Srila Prabhupäda’s mission for your lifetime.


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 viddhy aikäntika-niskrtam (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 Krishna.


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.


Thank you very much.






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 Krishna is upasamäsrayam. In other words, the bona fide spiritual master is one who has retired from the glittering illusions of materialistic society, friendship and love.

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 kingdom of God, where there is no punishment. The kingdom of God is Vaikuntha, or unconditional pleasure. There is no punishment in the spiritual world; it is a place of ever-increasing pleasure.

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).


asraddadhänäh purusä

dharmasyäsya parantapa

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 Krishna consciousness, the bona fide spiritual master must dissipate those doubts by superior knowledge. One who himself doubts the authority of Krishna or Vedic knowledge cannot become a bona fide spiritual master. On the other hand, kibä vipra, kibä nyäsi, südra kena naya/ yei Krishna-tattva-vettä, sei 'guru' haya: [Cc. Madhya 8.128] any human being from any social or economic status can become a bona fide spiritual master if he knows the science of Krishna. Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu said,


yäre dekha, täre kaha 'Krishna'-upadesa

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 Krishna. A scholar or meditator has no potency to connect another living being with Krishna if that scholar or meditator himself is not connected with Krishna. Although many sports fans attend gymnastic competitions and applaud at the exhibition of difficult calisthenic feats, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not such a gymnastic spectator, and He does not applaud the calisthenics exhibited by foolish persons in the name of yoga. Nor is the Supreme Personality of Godhead impressed by mediocre attempts at philosophical speculation, since the Lord has already given His own opinion in Bhagavad-gita (srnu me paramam vacah). The word of Krishna is paramaà vacaù, the last word in knowledge. And Krishna says, yaj jnätvä neha bhüyo 'nyaj jnätavyam avasisyate: "When you know this knowledge there shall remain nothing further to be known." Krishna has also referred to His knowledge as räja-vidyä, the king of all knowledge.

If one does not become a lover of Krishna, his connection with Krishna takes place indirectly, through the illusory potency of the Lord. The idea that one can attract the Supreme Lord through mere gymnastics or foolish speculation on the Absolute Truth is certainly a product of mäyä. One who is connected to Krishna through His external, illusory potency can serve only as a material master to connect his so-called disciples to the same illusory energy. On the other hand, in Bhagavad-gita (9.13) it is said,


mahätmänas tu mäm pärtha

daivim prakrtim äsritäh

bhajanty ananya-manaso

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. Krishna states this also:


äcäryam mäm vijäniyän

nävamanyeta karhicit

na martya-buddhyäsüyeta

sarva-devamayo guruù


"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 Krishna's association. Such a weak disciple of a weak spiritual master will gradually become hopeless and discouraged in his attempt at self-realization and will again become fascinated by the temptations of illusion, such as women, money and so-called intellectuality based on speculation and imagination.

Further symptoms of the bona fide spiritual master are given in the Upadesämrta (1) as follows:


väco vegam manasah krodha-vegam

jihvä-vegam udaropastha-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 Krishna, which is nondifferent from Krishna Himself. The bona fide guru informs his disciple that every living entity is qualitatively one with the Supreme Lord but quantitatively different and thus engages the disciple in the loving service of the Lord. Because the living entity is qualitatively one with the Lord and is part of Him, there is an eternal loving relationship between them. And because the living entity is quantitatively different, that relationship is eternally one of service. According to Srila Bhaktisiddhänta Saraswati Thakura, even though one may have the good fortune to accept a bona fide, highly qualified guru, if one maintains a taste for fruitive activities or mental speculation one's advancement will be checked. But if a serious student surrenders to a bona fide spiritual master there is absolutely no impediment to the transmission of perfect knowledge and bliss in the devotional service of the Lord.


2. SB 6.3.31


tasmät sankirtanam visnor

jagan-mangalam amhasäm

mahatäm api kauravya

viddhy aikäntika-niskrtam



tasmättherefore; 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.