In this newsletter, I conclude our discourse on guru-tattva and cover the subject from the guru’s point of view. I humbly hope that in doing so I am speaking on behalf of other gurus, both diksa and siksa (including curators, mentors, and teachers), and thus represent their vision and spiritual experience as well.
I wish you always think of Krishna,
Guru’s point of view
I lead many devotees who are not ready for initiation or who are not even thinking about initiation yet. I see how, through our association over a period of time, their willingness to accept guidance, disclose their problems, “take refuge” and put into practice what I have to offer helps them a lot. I see how this guide will enable many of them to be qualified to take initiation someday.
Does this mean that they should someday become my initiated disciples? That’s a good question.
First, let’s understand that I may not necessarily be the only person from whom they receive regular instruction or with whom they have such a close relationship. Because a person can have a lot of siksa. As a guru, he can often receive guidance and inspiration from many sources. One should never feel that this is wrong and thus deprive oneself of the wonderful guidance one can receive from many senior devotees in ISKCON. If we see the unity of the guru and understand that Krishna is the guru and that the guru represents Krishna and Prabhupada, then we see the unity of all the gurus in the kind of instructions they give and in their desire to help us develop in Krishna consciousness. In this sense, we must be ready to accept instruction from many and take shelter of any devotee who inspires us, even if he or she is not a diksa guru or even plans to become one.
Therefore, to the question “Should those who take shelter of a siksa guru eventually receive initiation from him?” there is no right or wrong answer. Receiving initiation from a guru is a matter of personal choice. For example, let’s say a guru is instructing someone and that person is making good progress but is simultaneously receiving guidance or inspiration from several other devotees, including some diksa gurus. After many years, during which he mainly received guidance from one guru, would it be considered wrong if he ever told him that he became a disciple of such and such a guru who promised to give him initiation in six months?
As I said before, this is normal and it happens quite often.
This may be somewhat abnormal in the case where the siksa relationship is actually stronger and more rewarding than the relationship with the chosen diksa guru. At this point, the siksa guru may ask the student if the decision was made due to pressure or for reasons that are not fundamental to the choice of diksa guru (of course, if the siksa guru does not give diksa, such a choice is necessary).
Who is my guru?
Get siksa from many sources. If you do this for a certain period of time, it will become more and more obvious to you that one of these devotees in a special way inspires you, helps you, guides you, resonates with your heart, motivates and strengthens your faith, and desire to surrender. As a rule, this will be the person from whom you ask for initiation (provided that he gives initiations).
For devotees who are in the process of deciding who to go to for diksa, and for those who help devotees make those decisions, I would like to offer some useful insights from real life in ISKCON. I offer these points, not as absolute criteria for choosing a guru, but rather as aspects to consider when choosing a siksa guru.
How often will you see your guru?
Perhaps your guru lives or travels in parts of the world that are far from where you live and rarely if ever, comes to where you live. In other words, is it important for you to have regular face-to-face contact with your guru, or is email and online classes sufficient (if he emails and lectures online)?
Can you correspond with him regularly?
Maybe your guru is too busy or has too many disciples for you to receive regular personal guidance. In this matter, you also need to consider how often you will need personal guidance. Of course, some gurus may give such instructions through their senior disciples, whose communication is more accessible, or some devotees may receive such guidance from others and be pleased with it. However, some devotees may feel disconnected from their guru (or even feel neglected) when he is unable to give them personal instruction on a regular basis.
Can you help him in his ministry?
It is important for some devotees to have direct service to their guru. If this is important to you, consider whether you will have the opportunity and potential for this?
Also, consider whether he is highlighting projects (or working on projects) that are not relevant to your ministry. Perhaps he is emphasizing the importance of a ministry that you are not interested in and in which you are not inclined to participate. For example, is he focused on developing varnashrama and working on farming projects, while you are naturally inclined to develop preaching programs in big cities? Will his emphasis on these specific projects make you feel guilty about not working on his projects, or even perhaps undermine your desire to do your own ministry?
Does his approach to Krishna Consciousness match your worldview?
Does he tend to be very traditional, strict, formal, etc. in his approach to teaching or practicing Krishna Consciousness (other aspects of his personality that you can add to this list: philosophic, scientific, too soft, too demanding, etc.)? In other words, does his nature and style of preaching Krishna Consciousness fit well and are compatible with your nature and understanding and how you approach spreading Krishna Consciousness?
Do his actions match your idea of a guru?
Do you have an image of an orthodox guru, and therefore is it possible that you will find it difficult to follow a guru who does not adhere to these standards? This issue can also be approached from the other side. Does he adhere to standards that you feel are too formal, strict, outdated, or orthodox and thus do not resonate with you?
You may think these considerations are mundane, but Bhaktivinoda Thakur, quoting Sanatana Goswami’s advice that guru and disciple should observe each other for a year, says that part of this observation process is to determine if the guru and disciple are suitable. each other. It may be that some disciples find it difficult to accept the instructions or opinions of their gurus for some or all of the above reasons. These are realities that we need to be aware of.
Related to the list above is the issue of expectations. A disciple may have certain expectations at the time of choosing a guru or receiving initiation – expectations that the guru either cannot meet (which no guru can meet), or may subsequently become difficult or impossible for the guru due to circumstances. Therefore, it is important that both the guru and the disciple are clearly aware of these expectations.
It is important to know that the guru’s failure to meet some of these expectations that you observe is not simply due to his nature or certain limitations (he will not spend time counseling female disciples, solving family problems, etc.). Expectations may be based on your misunderstanding of the guru’s position.
Some future disciples, as I have already explained, have a stereotyped (read “wrong”) understanding of the position of their guru and therefore may feel disappointed in the future to learn that their guru is not a maha-bhagavata, who directly talks to Radharani, does not have extraordinary abilities, does not show signs of ecstasy, may not understand the subtleties of the race, etc.
One of the original eleven gurus in ISKCON told us that his first disciples glorified him by saying, “He takes prasadam with Radharani.” After several gurus fell and ISKCON devotees became more aware of who a guru is and is not, this glorification changed to: “Thank you Gurudeva for consistently following the regulative principles.” It came to be understood that the main qualities of a guru are to be obedient followers of one’s guru and to be a good example of one’s guru’s teachings.
Attributes or person?
Often, in addition to establishing a personal connection with the guru, the devotee establishes a connection with the essential attributes of the guru: the many disciples, books, programs, etc. that the guru has. This inspires some devotees. It gives them what they want and needs. They feel protected by a large family of disciples and feel that some or all of the programs developed by the gurus are helping them. For others, those who need more personal contact, it is better to find a guru who can give them more personal guidance.
On the other hand, sometimes a devotee may choose a guru who has many disciples in order to avoid a deep personal connection with him and thus become less accountable to his guru. This, of course, is not a basis for choosing a guru.
Today, some devotees, looking back at the time they accepted their guru, understand that their choice was not so much personal as social – sometimes they even accepted a diksa guru to the detriment of recognizing their deep relationship with one of the siksa gurus. In retrospect, they realize that at the time they could not have realized or acknowledged that their siksa guru was indeed a real guru, a person who played – and could continue to play – a significant role in their lives, if only they recognized the importance of these relations.
You may ask, “Should I definitely take diksa from the siksa guru who gives me the most meaningful guidance?” Ultimately, each situation is different and may have its own advantages or disadvantages. However, Srila Prabhupada does say that usually, a siksa guru becomes a diksa guru.
In the last three newsletters, I have brought you to an important dynamic in the development of the guru-disciple relationship and have presented different points of view on the subject for your consideration. There is no division into black and white here. Sometimes all it takes to have an excellent position in Krsna consciousness is simply to accept a mature devotee as one’s guru, knowing that he is heavily engaged in devotional service; have access to his lectures; feel his mercy by following his instructions; to be engaged in service, and also to have a good sanga.
Srila Prabhupada asked all of his disciples to become gurus and make disciples themselves, whether siksa or diksa. Devotees accept the position of the guru as service to him, service to ISKCON, and service to their disciples. The success of this service depends on following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and passing those instructions on to others. At the same time, you yourself need to set an example of how to follow these instructions. Every bona fide guru does this and is, therefore, able to bring his disciples to the lotus feet of Krishna. However, as one of my godbrothers said, “Every pot has its own lid.”
As far as I am concerned – and I believe I am speaking for other gurus as well – all the good qualities that you see in us (however successful we may be or however magnificence we may be) we have acquired through mercy of Prabhupada. Failure to follow his instructions will turn us into ordinary people, fighting with their minds and feelings, trying to squeeze some happiness out of this world. Therefore, any glorification of Prabhupada’s disciples who have become gurus is a direct glorification of Srila Prabhupada, and any service offered by him is Prabhupada’s service. Prabhupada wanted his disciples to be glorified. He said that the more famous they become, the more famous he becomes. And, of course, they are worthy of glorification, because they serve Prabhupada, the most glorified.
If I can help you understand these topics better, please email me.