Srila Prabhupada – oh guru
I would like to start by looking at the qualifications of siksa and diksa gurus in ISKCON. There may be a tendency to exaggerate the qualities of one’s guru in an attempt to reconcile in one’s mind the exalted nature of the guru described in the sastra with the position of one’s own guru, thinking that if he is a guru, he must be at the highest level of Krishna consciousness.
Of course, he may be at this level, but Prabhupada repeatedly pointed out that the ability to see Krishna face to face, to be in the pastimes of Krishna, to be a messenger from the spiritual world, to be in direct contact with the Oversoul, to be all-knowing, etc. – all these are not necessary qualifications of a guru, because a madhyama bhakta (a devotee in the second stage of bhakti ) can also be a guru if he truthfully explains and follows the teachings of his spiritual master and previous Acaryas.
Prabhupada said that one who is a good follower becomes a good leader. One who repeats the message as he heard it without adding or subtracting anything, one who strictly follows the practice of Krishna consciousness, and one who devotes his life to spreading Krishna consciousness and teaching people this science – such a person is a guru.
It is extremely important to understand these characteristics so as not to be confused about the position of the guru in ISKCON and not create factions like “only my guru is a real guru”. It will also help us recognize that following Prabhupada’s instruction that everyone should become a guru ( diksa or siksa ) is a necessary service available to sincere devotees who do not deviate. Therefore, all of us, although we may feel that we are useless and do not have any good qualities, can be able to lead and save conditioned souls if we sincerely accept the order to become gurus.
Whether we understand the term “guru” as siksa or diksa guru is not so important in this discussion. Of course, I do not intend to underestimate the special position of diksa gurus, but I want to emphasize that gurus of both categories should have the same qualifications.
I would like to clarify that in this article I am using the term siksa guru in the context of a rather formal guru-disciple relationship, and not in the sense of a superficial relationship in which one sometimes receives advice from another devotee, and occasionally listens to his lectures or reads him. books. In other words, I am using the term here to describe a relationship in which the devotee regularly receives guidance in his Krishna consciousness and strives to follow and serve his siksa guru (although the term siksa guru can certainly be used in less formal ways).
Also, I use the pronoun “he” for diksa gurus, as at the time of this writing the GBC is still discussing the possibility of allowing women to become initiating gurus. This, of course, does not mean that a woman cannot be a siksa guru. There are women in ISKCON who have siksa disciples who seek initiation from them. There are also many female devotees all over the world who actively give advice and guidance to other devotees and thus act as siksa gurus. I do not touch on this topic in this newsletter, but I would like to clarify this point since in this article I write about the guru only in the masculine form.
Some Misconceptions About Guru Tattva
Due to a misunderstanding or incomplete understanding of the guru-tattva, unhealthy practices sometimes take place in the guru-disciple relationship. Below I will give some examples.
You don’t recognize your guru
The uninitiated devotee receives regular guidance from one who acts as a siksa guru and the relationship develops well. Then the siksa -disciple decides to take initiation from another guru – not because there are any problems with the siksa -guru, but because the student does not fully understand that his siksa -guru can be (or really is) his the main guru and therefore could be (or should be) his diksa guru. He may not understand this if he thinks that a guru is only one who is already approved as an initiator, or if he thinks that real (or “best”) gurus must have many disciples, they are sannyasi .or in some way different from his siksa -guru. This misunderstanding is not uncommon, and it shows that sometimes a devotee, for the reasons mentioned above (or for other reasons), may not be able to recognize who his guru really is.
In the above scenario, it may happen that the devotee’s attention will now be more focused on his diksa guru and less guided by his siksa guru. This does not always mean that the devotee will get worse, but sometimes it does. In other words, when choosing a diksa guru, one should not make the mistake of diminishing one’s connection with the siksa guru.
You are not comfortable changing gurus
For example, a devotee who is a candidate disciple of a well-known ISKCON guru may meet another devotee who gives him more time and guidance than this diksa guru cannot give him. Thus, a very close relationship develops between the guru and the disciple, which the devotee thinks is extremely valuable to him. In some cases, this relationship becomes deeper and more rewarding than the relationship he has with his supposed diksa guru. Accordingly, accepting diksa from one’s siksa guru (if the siksa guru wishes to initiate him) would be a natural step forward. However, again, the student may not recognize this person as a potential diksa guru or not know that you can accept him as your new diksa guru and still maintain the relationship of the diksa with the diksa guru from whom he previously wanted to receive initiation.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why a person might feel uncomfortable changing the choice of a diksa guru:
- each person in a certain region chooses a diksa guru from a certain group of gurus. Since one has looked upon these devotees as gurus since the early days of one’s devotional service, one feels that it would be wrong, disrespectful, socially unacceptable, or even insulting not to take initiation from one of them (especially if everyone else is doing it);
- devotees from the region where the candidate resides are predominantly disciples of one or two gurus, so he feels that he will not get as much support (or feels that he will not be part of the “family”) if he takes diksa from that guru, who has few or no disciples in that region;
- he has a good or long relationship with prominent diksa gurus from his region, although he may have little personal contact with them;
- he feels it would be insulting to tell the guru he once wanted to take diksa from that he has changed his mind and now wants to get diksa from someone else. It’s not really offensive, and it’s not uncommon. If this happens, the devotee should ask the guru from whom he previously wanted to take initiation for permission to receive diksa from another devotee. In this way, he will receive a blessing to establish a new relationship.
In addition to the above, there may be other reasons. Of course, it is possible to get diksa from a well-known local guru, whose disciple one originally wanted to become, and still have a close relationship with his siksa guru – perhaps even closer than with his diksa guru. I certainly do not mean to say that there is anything wrong with choosing a well-known guru, but such decisions should be made with full knowledge of the guru-tattva, both in terms of philosophy and in terms of how the institution of the guru should function harmoniously. in ISKCON.
You only want to listen to your guru
What other problems arise from a misunderstanding of the guru- tattva? One problem is that devotees only want to hear from their guru. Of course, a person should be willing to listen to their guru, but the situation is unhealthy if the disciples are very active in their guru’s programs when he is in town, but rarely attend other temple programs or activities when he is not.
Certainly, Srila Prabhupada did not want this to happen in ISKCON.
The Essence of a Guru
In The Nectar of Devotion (1.1.74), Rupa Goswami says, ” adau gurv-ashrayam,” that is, at the beginning of spiritual life one should take shelter of a guru. The main aspect of taking refuge is to ask the guru and follow his instructions. The main function of a guru is not to give initiations, but to provide guidance. Of course, initiation is important, but as I mentioned in the first part, a person must take refuge with a guru and act under his guidance, even if he feels that he is not yet ready for formal initiation.
We advance mainly through the instructions of the guru, namely by following these instructions. Therefore, it is important to note that in our disciplic succession, many guru-disciple relationships that are present in the parampara are actually siksa relationships.
Prominent role of siksa guru
There are several other common situations in ISKCON that are different in nature from those described above, but they are similar in practice. In these situations, the siksa guru plays or could play, a significant role in the devotee’s life if he maintained such a relationship. For example:
- the diksa guru ceases to strictly follow the principles of Krishna consciousness;
- diksa guru leaves ISKCON;
- the diksa -guru leaves the body;
- the student studies something in depth under the guidance of someone other than his guru;
- the disciple works closely with another senior devotee, especially if he is a guru;
- The diksa guru and disciple have little contact or interaction (for geographic or other reasons) and the disciple needs regular guidance from a senior devotee.
Siksa and Diksa are equal
So, I would like to re-emphasize the main idea I am trying to convey: a devotee can take shelter of a siksa guru in the same way that he takes shelter of a diksa guru. The importance of the role that the diksa or siksa guru will play in a disciple’s life will depend on individual circumstances. Sometimes we see that the siksa -guru-disciple relationship develops so naturally that to deny this relationship would be regrettable as well as disrespectful on the part of the disciple or the siksa.-guru. If a devotee looks at the person from whom he is receiving guidance as a guru and treats him as a guru, then it would be good (and right) to acknowledge that a long-term siksa relationship exists (or is desirable) and that the person appreciates and wants to support them.
If there is anything I can do to help you better understand these topics, please email me.