Initiation and Beyond

Feb 5 2022 - Krishna Talk 239

(Produced from a lecture by Srila B.G. Narasingha Maharaja on 7th November 1996 at Rupanuga Bhajana Ashram, Vrindavan)

Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī has defined dīkṣa in his Bhakti Sandarbha as follows —

divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyātkuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam
tasmāt dīkṣeti sā proktādeśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says the following about this verse—

Experienced scholars have explained the meaning of dīkṣa or spiritual initiation in this way—dīkṣa is the process through which transcendental knowledge is imparted by the preceptor to the disciples. As a result the disciples previous bad tendencies are crushed. Through dīkṣa all previous commitments are cleared and one gets the light of new life and relationship with the transcendental lord. Dīkṣa or initiation is a process by which we are given a noble connection with the Absolute Center, and at the same time, our previous commitments are all finished. It is an inner awakenment of life that brings divine knowledge. That wealth is there within us, but it is suppressed. Dīkṣa means discovering one's inner wealth and getting relief from all outward obligations.

So he explains the aspects of dīkṣa and summarises them as discovering one's inner wealth and getting relief from outward obligations. One of the understanding of getting relief from outward obligations is that your karma is finished. All kinds of material work and activity is karma. So dīkṣa initiation is the beginning of our spiritual life, a spiritual awakening showing a higher prospect. When we come to something higher, we automatically leave that which is lower. This is a standard of any school student. Every year they pass exams and go to the next grade. Progress means acceptance and rejection, i.e. accepting something higher while leaving the lower platform. It is an inner awakening of proper knowledge.

Initiation — A Prospect

Initiation does not mean simply to get the beads and a beautiful name. That's all well and good, but if the other substantial things are not there, then those beads will just grow mould. That mould will also be in your heart. Today there are many people who think initiation is the end. But It is the beginning of the way. It is not the end. It is only a prospect. Its like moving into an area where there's a lot of wealth. There is a country where you can’t reside unless you're a multimillionaire. Everybody in the country is a multi millionaire. So somehow or other, if you get there, the prospect of you becoming very wealthy is great. The prospect is there. But all who go there may not become rich. So initiation is a noble prospect that you are put in connection with. But so much will have to come from our side, the disciple, in order to progress.

Stages of Awakening

Initiation means a new life and awakening. Actually, initiation takes place in two parts — harināma and then mantra dīkṣa. So the awakening is not just theoretical, that we get knowledge and we are awake. It is a process. Although at initiation, we feel some enlightenment because Kṛṣṇa takes notice of every step that we make, and initiation is a big step. One step towards Kṛṣṇa and He makes many steps towards us. But generally, the awakening is over a period of time.

First, there's śravaṇa-daśā, where we have to hear. You hear various conceptions. If you're coming from the material world, you have to do a lot of hearing. If you are born in a devotee family, then you've already heard even without listening, but now you really have to listen. There is a difference—hearing and listening. I'm always telling someone to do something, but the person doesn't hear me. He says he has a hearing defect. But I tell him, “No, no, you just have to learn how to listen. Your ears are perfectly good.” Listen means to pay attention. You have to know how to give attention, acute attention. It's a subtle energy that you have an ability. You have to cultivate attention. If you give attention, perfect memory follows it naturally.

It's like sometimes you meet somebody, “Oh, hello, what's your name?” They say, “Bob,” You're not paying attention and you didn't hear it. It happens all the time. It happens so much that if you remember somebody's name in the business world while meeting people then they are surprised that you remembered their name. That's like so exceptional because people don't care. They're not serious when they ask the question. It's just, “How are you? What's your name?”, but without seriousness. When the answer comes they don't pay attention. They hear it, but they don't pay attention. I'm showing an example from the material world, but here in Kṛṣṇa consciousness also, hearing may be going on, but how serious are we? And then how much attention do we give to what we hear? If we're serious, then we give attention to what we hear, and it takes root within our heart.

The second stage is called varaṇa — acceptance. “Oh yes, this is the way.” This is repeated thousands of times throughout our life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. You are constantly hearing the truth, constantly accepting higher and higher revelation, and making progress. Progress goes like this, by hearing and then accepting.

After acceptance there is sādhana daśā, means putting into practice. The house is on fire, and you accept that. You see smoke everywhere. But then you just sit there and burn to death in the house. We've been told, not to do things that leads to suffering. We hear, we understand, but we don't practice, and eventually suffer. We must practise what we hear and accept as the truth. This is called sādhana. When we practice, we are lead to realizations. This stage is called āpana daśā.

Then prāpana daśā, which means sweet taste of reality. It's all theory before that. We're working on a theory. I'm also working on a theory, maybe not the same theory you are working on right now, but we're all working on a theory. We go through higher and higher theories as we progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We have a goal. We attain that goal. Along with that comes a higher prospect and advancement. But just prior to reaching the next stage, it's all a theory. How can you go forward on a theory? You have to have faith, and faith has to increase. Faith is there at the beginning, at the middle, and it is there at the end also.

The Need to Advance

When we come to a stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then we can actually do something. But prior to that, we are dependent on our guru. We are almost a kind of burden. Some householders who are part of our mission in South India have sons and daughters who are fifteen or sixteen years of age. They are able to do a lot of things because in that age they can assist. But then there is another bunch, the seven, eight, and nine year olds, who can't do much and you don’t really expect them to do much. All the burden is on the parents. But when they get a little older, then they can actually serve. We are doing service from the beginning. But when one advances to a particular level, then we can really do some service for the guru. Therefore, the disciple should understand that he has to make advancement. However that’s not something we can make on our own. We can only qualify to be promoted, but we have to endeavour for that very seriously, very attentively, very enthusiastically.

Previous Connections Unmaintainable

When Mahāprabhu came back from Gaya after receiving harināma, immediately, an ocean of bhāva began to move within Chaitanya Mahāprabhu. He couldn't adjust with his grammar studies and His students. He had so many students who felt fortunate to learn from him. He was the greatest boy-scholar of Nadia. But he completely trashed them and just started preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness and chanting “Gopī! Gopī! Gopī!” to the point that they were ready to beat their own teacher with sticks. They even complained to their elders about this.

So the previous connection will be lost when you've really got the dīkṣa. When the awakening is there, when the connection is there, when the sincerity is there, when really the faith is there. When these things are actually there in substance, then you will forget your previous connections. They’re lost forever. You will not be able to maintain them, and neither does Kṛṣṇa want you to maintain them. However, if you don't care, then you're not sincere. If you wish to keep those previous connections, you can have them. They may capture and conquer you, but you'll never have Kṛṣṇa. At best you may have His shadow. But the shadow of Kṛṣṇa is not desirable, and it is not what we are searching for. Shadow is only an illusion.

You Get What You Deserve

In the beginning the search is on for a guru. The first search is the search for Śrī Guru. Jīva Goswāmī mentions in his Bhakti Sandarbha that if one has a bogus guru, he has no sympathy for that person. He doesn’t want to be bothered, because that person has no faith in the śāstra (sa prathamata eva tyakta-śāstro na vicāryateanuccheda-238). If he had faith in the shastra, he would have been guided and not be lost. It also means you get what you deserve.

If you are a true seeker, then although Kṛṣṇa is engaged eternally in His pastimes, He has unlimited capacities, and without even paying attention He will immediately recognize any sincere soul in this world who wants to approach Him. He doesn't have to keep looking like the police to find the criminal or like a hawk in the sky trying to find something. Just automatically, He knows. And as soon as one is sincere, He reciprocates. So one has to be sincere.

If you don't have real sincerity, then whatever you get is just what you deserve. That’s actually what you were searching after. “Cheaters and the cheated.” People are cheated because they don't want the real thing. They are willing to accept something less and they ignore the scriptures. So he says, if you have come to the wrong side, then I have nothing to say. Primarily, he is talking about māyāvādī gurus. If you come to accept them as your preceptors then he says he has nothing to do with you. Because in no way does the śāstra suggest that one must hear from someone who preaches an impersonal conception.

The Guru-Disciple Relationship

The Guru may be very elevated but even after all endeavours, the disciple may remain nowhere and no transformation takes place inside him. It is possible. But if the disciple is sincere and the guru is qualified, there will be transformation. There will be an inner awakening. There will be all the things that we have heard from the scriptures, from the sādhus, from our gurus.

But if either part of the process is defective, if either one is not properly situated, sincere or qualified, then the transmission will not take place. If the receiver radio is broken, then the radio transmitter may be broadcasting a program, but there is no sound due to the broken receiver. On the other hand, we may have a very nice receiver, but if the broadcasting signal is very weak then we cannot hear, and we cannot catch the message. So both things are required. Qualified guru and qualified disciple.

A search is going on. Just as in the spiritual world, Kṛṣṇa is searching for Radharani, and Radharani is searching for Kṛṣṇa. They're searching for each other within their pastimes. Similarly, a sincere soul searches for the guru. He wants to have that connection, a guide to lead him.

And what is the guru looking for? This question arises. Na dhanaṁ na janaṁ na sundarīṁ — Wealth, following, association with the opposite sex, these are not what he is looking for. A guru should not look for a wealthy disciple, or a disciple with a political position in the government, or someone from a particular type of family/caste and so forth. He should be looking for sincerity within the disciple. And within the sincerity, he looks for śraddhā. Śraddhā is the qualification within the disciple. The qualification to look for in the disciple is śraddhā. And the qualification of the guru is that he must know the science of Kṛṣṇa which is a broad topic in itself.

Science of Kṛṣṇa is a great ocean. No one knows it’s limit. Even Kṛṣṇa himself doesn't know the limit of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If anyone knows the limit of that, it is Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. And He goes to such a limit that we cannot understand where He has gone and what He is feeling. That is called mahābhāva—the highest limit of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The highest limit of attainment is found in Him.

But in general, there are many who know the science of Kṛṣṇa amongst whom you are looking for your guru. Many people know the science of Kṛṣṇa, but you find within yourself an awakening, which corresponds to your śraddhā. You may find many that are highly learned and respectable. You may find some encouragement there. But in your guru, you will find a special quality of encouragement.

Guidance from Sādhu and Śāstra

In the beginning, in order to find guru, you need to have some concept. You will get that from two places — hearing from the scriptures, or from those that are wholly dependent on scriptures, and your heart within. If you go wholly with your heart, you might fall in a ditch. I often say that actually, one doesn’t even have a heart until one gets to the stage of ruci. All you've got is a lot of anarthās just wrapped in a ball that pumps blood. But when you pass through the stages, achieving anartha nivṛtti, coming to niṣṭhā—being really fixed, and you get some ruci, a real taste, then you actually have a heart that you can start listening to. Caitya-guru is certainly guiding a little in the beginning, but we will have to heavily depend upon the śāstra, the sādhus, or the Vaiṣṇavas for proper guidance.

Plurality of Gurus

Initially you will think that your guru is the best, that there are none like him. But everyone thinks that of their guru. Someone can also think that others may think like that, but in reality, his own guru is the best. That narrow mentality is expressed in the statement—āmār guru jagad-guru. But the higher devotees tell us ‘śrī gurūn,’ and it indicates a plurality.

When someone just tries to understand everything through their guru thinking that he is everything and there is nobody else, such a person very rarely advance, and unfortunately, they usually end up making offences because there are other devotees, there are other Vaiṣṇavas. So it is necessary to have a plurality of vision. But first, you have to have a singularity of vision. You'll never know the real plurality of guru and what's what unless you are a fully surrendered person at the lotus feet of your guru. Otherwise, you won't really come to know.

And there’s another saying, “Many gurus means no guru.” This means somebody is going around everywhere, hearing from everybody, which means they are with nobody. First, we want to see an adherence to a particular point on a line, then from there we will come to the broader conception.

There is a standard. Sometimes people follow a line other than the line of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, like the sahajiyas, the Vaiṣṇava offenders, the māyāvādīs etc. Māyāvādīs and sahajiyas are also a type of offenders. Then there are those who are deviated from the philosophy, like the Nityānanda-vamśa and Advaita-vamśa. Amongst the sons of Advaitācārya there were three sons who properly followed and three who deviated. Similarly, amongst the sons of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura there were those in the line and those who were outside the line. Those outside, even though they were highly learned and renounced, still a deviation in the higher attainment was noticed in them. We are following Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in the line of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.

The Real Measure of Association

Where shall we find friendly association? There are different temples, large and small, poor and rich. There are a varieties of devotees. But simply the personal behaviour is not all in all. In one place, we may find that there is struggle, that the devotees are not so advanced. But with proper assessment that may be the best place to make friendship and association. Another place, people may be really mellow, really happy, and so many nice things, but it may not be the place to make friendship or have association. You cannot decide on the basis of those external things.

One place may be very rich, with many devotees who think the mercy of Kṛṣṇa is measured by how much you have collected this summer, or how much cost you are setting aside, or how many rings guruji has, etc. The mercy is being measured by material wealth. But that is not the actual measure.

There is what we call bhakti-siddhānta—the siddhānta of bhakti, the truth, the tattva, which is sometimes called the axiomatic truth, the eternal flow of truth. That's what we're looking for. And in Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and his followers, there is such a superior quality of truth that no other saṁpradāya, even other Vaiṣṇava saṁpradāyas can come anywhere near matching His conceptions. And in the followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the six goswāmīs and their disciplic succession which comes to this modern world through Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura — that is the purest and most pristine flow of the truth.

Therefore, the measure is from there. Actually, the measure is not from our Śrīla Prabhupāda, the measure is not from Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja either. The measure is from the lotus feet of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhakura. Śrīla Puri Mahārāja, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, our Śrīla Prabhupāda, they are his representatives and disciples.

The Disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura

In the time of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta there were people like our Śrīla Prabhupāda, or our Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, or Śrīla Keśava Mahārāja. If you knew them personally or looked into their history, they were not hippies, they were not drug addicts, they were not previously mlecchas, or fallan souls of this world, like we were. Many of them descended along with Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta to assist in his mission. Our Śrīla Prabhupāda had to bang with a hammer for 12 years, “You are not the body.” Still, people think they are the body. They think he was his body, and they spend all the time pouring water over his body in the form of his deity and not following his instructions. So heavy body consciousness is there in the Western countries.

You may know what you're not, but you also have to know who you are. Just to say you are an atma is also not enough. But when somebody is totally engrossed in body-mind consciousness, or intellectual consciousness, Śrīla Prabhupāda had to devote so much time for that kind of preaching. And he used to lament some time, “I long for the day when I will be able to sit in Vṛndāvana dhāma and discuss the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa with my disciples.” He yearned and longed for the day.

Once here in Vṛndāvana he told us to go on a picnic; to go out in Vṛndāvana, sit under a tree and cook some capātīs, have some bhajan with the devotees, read the Kṛṣṇa book, etc. He was just in such a nice mood, “Go there and marvel at Kṛṣṇa's pastimes. See the beauty of Vṛndāvana, but don’t simply enjoy yourself.” But those days rarely came.

Once he told Śrīdhara Mahārāja, "What can I do? I am alone. I have no one to talk to." We had so many to talk to, but about what? Just about practical management, BBT loans, Dainikvāṇī printing, all kinds of things like that. But the things that is hard even to talk about, who was qualified to talk with him? No one was there. Him and Śrīdhara Mahārāja spent years of their lives together talking about the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Kṛṣṇa līlā, the inner meanings of Kṛṣṇa’s words in the Bhagavad Gītā, and that way they were relishing many things.

During the time of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, he was surrounded by people like our Śrīla Prabhupāda in many ways. Many had contributed and rendered services long before any of us were even born. They had come and served their guru and gone from this world before I was even born. But yet we are thinking we are the only devotees, that our guru is the only devotee. Of course, we are his disciples. But to say we are always the best, this is not the fact.

To Recognize a Vaiṣṇava

In one place, Śrīla Śrīdharaa Mahārāja said we should learn how to recognize the agents of Kṛṣṇa, that we should welcome them, and deal with them very nicely. What is the state of affairs now? They can’t recognize the agent of Kṛṣṇa if he comes to their temple on a world tour. They try to cancel his visa and throw him out. The result is that all of such persons become completely disqualified. Who is a Vaiṣṇava? Only a Vaiṣṇava can recognize a Vaiṣṇava.

When Mahāprabhu came to Kṛṣṇa's birthplace at Mathura, He was dancing in ecstasy. There were so many people seeing Him, but they did not have the connection, the spontaneous love of God. Then there was one brāhmaṇa who on seeing Mahāprabhu, fell at His feet and started dancing in ecstasy with Him. Seeing his mood, Mahāprabhu immediately felt the person’s connection. After the kīrtana, Mahāprabhu was very eager to know about his connection. The brāhmaṇa informed that he was a disciple of Mādhavendra Puri. Mahāprabhu became jubilant and honoured him. So, if you have the real connection, then you have real love. Prabhupāda said, "It takes one to know one." A Vaiṣṇava, a pure devotee, or a paramahaṃsa.

This should be the standard. You have to know how to recognize and then recognize them. There is a way. Śrīdhara Mahārāja says that one should welcome them whatever the case may be. One should not say “My society! Your society!” Who cares for any society? The only people who would care is the government. The only name for us is the gauḍīya saṁpradāya. That is what we are interested in. If somebody is from outside of that, then we may have some reservations. But when someone is within the saṁpradāya, we should welcome them, until proven otherwise. There may be rascals in the saṁpradāya, and you may see by the result.

The real stage of your advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is that you can recognize a Vaiṣṇava, and not just by how one looks. We have to look deeply within the subject. Looking deeper into the subject we are mortified to find out that sahajiyaism, māyāvādism, and thousands of karma-miśra bhaktas or karmīs have entered the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. There are so many karmīs who work to enjoy the results of their work, and offer only a little bit to Kṛṣṇa. That is not a real devotee. There are standards of devotional service and we have to know what they are in order to pick the right association.