Found in Sanga, Sanga 2002.

Q. Please forgive me but I have a question which has been bothering me for some time and I feel guilty about asking it.

Srila Prabhupada initiated me into Krishna bhakti in 1970. Since then I have fallen but some time ago I was privileged to meet another Gaudiya guru who impressed me. I was immediately drawn to him and to sit in his presence reminded me so much of the times I sat with Prabhupada.

My question is as one who is fallen and not worthy to call himself a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, would I be committing an offense if I asked for initiation from this guru? Is it possible to be reinitiated by another guru? I do not feel worthy of the name that was given to me.

Maybe I am committing an offense by even thinking of the question.

A. I think you should open your heart about this matter to the particular guru you were drawn to. Otherwise, in general your feelings are understandable. Guru is one.

About this principle Sridhara Maharaja has said:

“Guru means one who has come to give Krishna consciousness. The formal difference will be reduced when one can catch the very substance of the teachings for which the guru is respected. When one is intimately connected with the thread of divine love, which the guru comes to impart to us, he will accept it, wherever it comes from. He will see it as a friendly relation—not antagonistic, but cooperative. Although separate in figure, at heart both of the gurus are the same because they have a common cause. If we can recognize the real thing for which we are approaching the guru, then we will understand how to make the adjustment in our relationship with the siksa guru, diksa guru, and vartma-pradarsaka guru. We are infinitely indebted to all our gurus.”

So from your fallen position Sri Krishna has sent another devotee acting in the capacity of a siksa guru to help pick you up. In my opinion there is no need for you to be initiated by him, but allow him to help you to realize the full import of initiation though his instruction and example. You may want to hear the mantra again from him in the context of his explaining its significance. If he feels this will help you, follow his lead.

Q. I am a practitioner and teacher of trika/kundalini yoga for thirty years. I studied under Swami Rudrananda in the lineage of Muktananda and his guru Baba Nityananda. I want to take sannyasa from a credible lineage. Does your lineage offer sannyasa initiations?

A. Yes, I do give sannyasa, but we are Vaisnavas, not Saivites. So I give Vaisnava sannyasa or veda/bhakti sannyasa, and not jnana sannyasa aimed at attaining mukti. Our ideal is prema over mukti, which is a by-product of prema. If you read my Gita commentary and feel comfortable with the precepts of our lineage, I would encourage you to meet personally with me. I do have some students who were formally affiliated with Swami Rudrananda, Swami Muktananda, etc.

Q. I was wondering about the need for initiation. If someone were to chant gayatri, japa, and engage in all the other practices, could they make progress without a guru? You provide instruction (siksa) for many people. Could one without formal initiation ask questions of you, read scripture, practice sadhana, and make honest progress?

A. Previously the diksa mantras were not available to anyone other than through the guru. Now they can be found in books that are widely circulated. However, these books also stress the importance of initiation. Even in a formal sense initiation is important if one expects to be considered a member of a particular lineage. One may read medical books, but that does not qualify one to perform medical services without being recognized by the medical institution.

It seems quite natural that one who receives instructions from a spiritual teacher and takes them to heart would want to offcially become his disciple. This should be the natural and happy progression of one who takes siska from a guru.

Furthermore, in the optimum the guru is not merely someone who passes on a mantra to another. He has footing in reality. He is heavy (guru), rooted in the ground of being. He appears before us as a practitioner to teach us by example, and he is acquainted with the plane of perfection as well. As we progress though the practice he prescribes, the malady of material desire gradually subsides and our healthy life begins to manifest. When we are materially diseased Sri Guru is involved with us as if a practitioner himself, and in our healthy life he remains involved with us as well.

Q. What is more important, our practice or the grace of the guru?

A. The two are inseparable.

Q. In my readings I have noticed that there is obviously an inherent potency in the sacred gayatris and mantras and some efficacy in their chanting. If the gayatris and mantras have some potency of their own independent of the sadhaka then what is this potency?

A. The principal element in any Krishna mantra or the corresponding gayatri mantra is the name of God found within it. Although, unlike other mantras, Krishna mantras are always activated and empowered due to their containing names of Krishna, one will not be able to derive the full effect of these mantras without receiving them from Sri Guru because such mantras will not be inclined to reveal themselves to those who try to circumvent their distributing agent. Just as when you receive a sample computer program you cannot get the entire benefit of the program until the marketers give you full access, similarly one can get something from any Krishna mantra, but for the full effect to manifest requires that one receive it from a proper source and learn from such a guru how to chant it, etc.

Q. Gopa-kumara chanted his mantra with no formal instruction from his guru and still attained Goloka Vrindavana. What then is the relationship between the efficacy of a sacred mantra and the sadhaka’s understanding of its meaning?

A. Although not initially, eventually Gopa-kumara of Brhat-bhagavatamrta did receive instructions regarding his mantra. Generally the guru will impart various instructions to the disciple at the time of giving him the mantra. However, only by chanting it and embracing other requisite practices can one realize the fruit of the mantra. If the sadhaka has comprehensive theoretical knowledge about the significance of his mantra, for the most part that will help him to chant it effectively, but this is not an absolute necessity. However, he must know how many times to chant it, at what times, under what conditions, etc. to get off the ground.

Q. As a practical consideration, I wonder why some devotees have made little spiritual progress in comparison to others while chanting the same potent mantras? I wonder how much of this results from a lack of sincerity or some other consideration?

A. The background of a person can also influence their rate of advancement. Bijaya Kumara and Vrajanatha of Jaiva Dharma advanced rapidly through the various stages of practice because they came from the backgrounds of knowledge and inquisitiveness as opposed to the backgrounds of material distress and material aspiration. Advancement also involves cleansing the heart, and this cleansing implies the removal of one’s karma. Karmic reactions are removed gradually beginning with those that have not yet manifested, the stockpile of karmic reaction lying in seed. The effects of this cleansing may not always have any visible manifestation. Offenses play a large role in stunting one’s spiritual progress. Every case is unique.

Q. What will result from the chanting of the sacred mantras for one who has no faith in their efficacy or little understanding of their purpose?

A. The mantra is to be given to the faithful. If by chance it falls into the hands of those without faith, it may awaken faith over time if chanted regularly.

Q. In the Bengali Vaisnava tradition there is a meditation where a serious practitioner is given an esoteric identity within the realm of Vrindavana by his or her guru. Usually the identity is that of a manjari, a young girl who assists in the play of Radha and Krishna, but it could also be a friend of Krishna. The practitioner meditates on this “reality” and the goal is to enter permanently into it at one point. This experience is considered to be the highest reality, the cosmic drama, the eternal spiritual play of Radha and Krishna. What is your understanding of this practice?

A. What you refer to represents the higher culture of raganuga-bhakti. The key words are “serious practitioner.” When a serious disciple on the raga-marg develops interest in a particular bhava, he approches his guru. The guru then makes an assessment as to whether his disciple’s interest is based on genuine understanding. If he determines that his disciple’s interest is genuine, he will guide the disciple, often by giving him a prototype of a spiritual form (not the actual form) to employ in visualization/meditation. This prototype or blueprint will gradually be filled in with advanced practice such that one’s actual eternal role in Krishna lila will manifest. The prototype of the siddha deha is described in scripture.

The above system, however, has been abused in the past, and reformers of the tradition have stressed revelation of the details of one’s spiritual form though the power of kirtana, as opposed to elaborate techniques of visualization/meditation that are difficult for novices. In this scenario, spontaneous visualization/meditation develops in advanced stages and thus one’s spiritual form is internally cultivated.

Q. Does such practice also exist in the Sakta tradition? Can Devi be worshipped in a similar way? If it does not exist in the Sakta tradition, does such a practice exist in the Saiva tradition in connection with Parvati and Siva?

A. This is not a part of any Devi or Siva sect. One of the reasons for this is that most of these sects have liberation (sayujya mukti) as their sadhya (goal), and there is no eternal lila to take part in when one attains sayujya mukti.

Q. What is the significance of the spiritual name one receives at the time of initiation? Is this one’s name in the spiritual world?

A. The has devotee has two bodies, a practicing body (sadhaka deha) and a spiritual perfect body (siddha deha). The name given at the time of initiation is relative to one’s sadhaka deha. This body with its developing mental orientation to Krishna seva must be identified appropriately. It is no longer the purely material body of a conditioned soul. Mahaprabhu Sri Caitanya told Srila Sanatana Goswami Prabhupada that a devotee’s sadhaka deha is not material, vaisnava-deha ‘prakrta’ kabhu naya ‘aprakrta’ deha bhaktera ‘cid-ananda-maya.’

Initiation takes time to complete. When it is completed, the sambandha-jnana one receives at the time of initiation and thereafter is realized, and the devotee—sadhaka deha and all—becomes God-like in nature, diksa kale bhakta kare atma-samarpana sei-kale krishna tare kare atma-sama.

While at this time the sadhaka deha is fully engaged and thus God-like, the devotee’s siddha deha is still under cultivation. A female sadhaka deha may have a corresponding male siddha deha, etc. So the two, sadhaka deha and siddha deha, have their own names. The name, etc. of one’s siddha deha is revealed in due course as the sadhaka deha undergoes spiritualization.

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