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Guru and Initiation
- an answer for our time -

offered at the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya
the Pancha Tattva of Lord Caitanya
by Damodara dasa - and - Rukmini-Devi dasi
~ Gaura Purnima, 2004 ~

(modified 05/06/04)

harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha

"Chant the Holy name, chant the Holy name, chant the Holy name.
In the Kali yuga, there is no other way, no other way, no other way."

(Brhan-naradiya Purana, 38.97)


There is a most disturbing trend presently manifesting in the Krishna Consciousness movement, which is creating confusion over the issue of Guru and Initiation ...

- The Background -

"... disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion."
(Srila Prabhupada - letter to Dinesh, 1969)


There are two types of guru: siksa ("shiksha") -and- diksa ("diksha") ...

A siksa-guru is one who is a transparent medium, offering pure information and knowledge of spiritual value, as given by his/her spiritual master.

A diksa-guru is a self-efflugent, pure devotee of Lord Krishna, empowered to conduct ritual brahminical initiation, and accept disciples - thus becoming their eternal spiritual master.

Diksa (often called "2nd initiation") is not the same as hari-nama, (often called "1st initiation"). Hari-nama (often called "1st initiation") is actually a kind of Rite of Acceptance into the Krishna Consciousness movement. At this time, the student is ritually given the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, beads, and a spiritual name while admitting their full intention to surrender to that guru as his/her spiritual master.

Actual diksa initiation is the ritual investing of certain applicable brahminical gayatri-mantras, intended to help deepen and expand the student's spiritual growth and experience of Krishna consciousness. Further, the initiating guru accepts the recipient - in their entirety* - as his or her own worshipful disciple. The disciple fully surrenders to, and accepts the guru as his/her eternal spiritual master - "as good as God" because that guru, Lord Krishna's pure and empowered representative, can take the disciple directly back to Godhead.

* "In their entirety" means everything, including the disciple's accumulated karma. It is at this time that the devotee's karma may be absorbed by the spiritual master, giving the devotee a "fresh beginning." The actual word used is khadati which means: "(to) eat, gnaw, chew, devour." While the karmic "slate" may be wiped clean at this time, the disciple might still continue to experience some effects from the previous karma - much as the blades of a fan continue to spin for a little time after the plug is pulled.

It must be understood that one should never take diksa with a focus of their intention on this "karmic cleansing." To do so is to offend the true nature of diksa as well as the spiritual master. Such karmic amelioration is completely at the merciful choice of the spiritual master and Lord Krsna.*

- An Apparent Schizm -

"Well initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge... knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing."
(Srila Prabhupada - press interview, Chandigarh, 10/16/76)


The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) -vs- the Rtvik ("ritvik") concepts of diksa-guru and initiation are opposing sides of a presently controversial subject. While they are actually mutually exclusive viewpoints, they appear to be simply the same idea, with opposite conclusions.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

ISKCON's approach promotes the idea that any ISKCON devotee in good standing within the organization, who chooses to become a initiating guru and spiritual master may do so essentially unhindered Ö provided they are not challenged or actively disapproved by their Governing Body of Commissioners (GBC). Working under the auspices of the ISKCON organization, they are essentially "corporate" gurus.

Those who receive diksa initiation from ISKCON's gurus are considered to be their disciples, often placing Srila Prabhupada "in the background" (if anywhere at all) of their spiritual lives.

- - - - - - - - - - -

The Rtvik conclusion is based upon the documentation that Srila Prabhupada's intentions are apparently that any of his sincere disciples may pass both hari-nama & diksa to others on his behalf, acting only as a kind of "proxy" for him.

Those who receive hari-nama & diksa from Rtviks are Srila Prabhupada's disciples, placing him "in the center" of their spiritual lives.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It is our only intention here to expose one single erroneous premise presently infecting both the ISKCON and Rtvik systems (to various degrees) ... and exactly what that means to all of us, at this point in time.

- A Most Disturbing Trend -

"The chanting Hare Krishna is our main business, that is real initiation. And as you are all following my instruction, in that matter, the initiator is already there."
(Srila Prabhupada - letter to Tamala Krsna dasa, 19 August, 1968)


Both the ISKCON and Rtvik ideas of Guru and Initiation are being used by an alarming number of adherants to fanatically promote one spiritually treacherous myth ...

- that one must be initiated, in order to successfully pursue Krishna consciousness -

A most disturbing trend, is that many interested people are being told the chanting of -

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare ~
Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Rama Rama, Hare Hare

- is, by itself, "impotent" unless one has been initiated.

This premise is nothing more than nonsense - and nothing less than a spiritually dangerous offense against the transcendental, incomparably all-powerful holy Name of God.

In his Purport on the Hare Krishna mantra Srila Prabhupada declares the unqualified power and efficacy of sincerely chanting the Lordís holy Name for reviving our inherent Krishna consciousness.

His Purport is spotless, and cannot be refuted by any reasonably sane Krishna devotee. To discount it, is spiritual suicide. To convince others to discount it, is spiritual murder.

- The Illusion of Guru and Initiation -

"A neophyte Vaishnava, or a Vaishnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance.

"Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari (an absolutely pure devotee of Lord Krsna) as a spiritual master."

(Srila Prabhupada - Purport: Nectar of Devotion, Text 5 emphasis is ours)


Since Srila Prabhupada has left our material vision - one must be very cautious in considering taking initiation from any presently-available "guru" - especially if that guru insists that the recipient become his or her own worshipful disciple.

If a person claiming to be a guru - an actual spiritual master - is not an utterly pure devotee of Lord Krishna, as Srila Prabhupada is, there can be devastating karmic & spiritual consequences to both the guru and the initiate.

Numerous post-Prabhupada "spiritual-master gurus" have manifested their inability to handle the spiritual weight of such a role, by devastating "fall-downs" from spiritual life - and even worse consequences.

Because of the transcendental ties binding guru and initiate, every person who takes initiation from such spiritually unprepared, materially-tainted "spiritual masters" suffers severe reactions due to these "fall-downs" etc.

This has been well-proven by the (literally) thousands of good-hearted, pious devotees who have left the Krishna Consciousness Movement altogether, after losing their "gurus" to the allurements of Maya-Devi (material illusion, personified).

- Where Does This Leave Us Now? -

"Sometimes a diksa-guru is not present always. Therefore one can take learning, instruction, from an advanced devotee. That is called the siksa-guru."
(Srila Prabhupada - lecture - Bhagavad-gita 17.1-3, Honolulu, 07/04/73)


There have been many times throughout history, during which there has been no available diksa-guru. It is at such times that sincere devotees must be tolerant, taking full shelter of the holy name and of the empowered shiksa guru, while trusting in the unimaginable mercy and compassion of Lord Krishna to make all things right.

With Srila Prabhupada no longer physically-available to give diksa - we are in a controversial, and often confusing situation in regards continuing our spiritual lineage through the ritual initiatory process.

We are mercifully blessed with Srila Prabhupada's presence as the self-effulgent jagat-guru for this time, in his incomparable writings. As he promised, he will (and does) live forever in his books!

Srila Prabhupada conducting an initiation

"Initiation is a formality. If you are serious, that is real initiation. My touch is simply a formality. It is your determination. That is initiation."
(Srila Prabhupada - morning walk, Seattle, 02/10/68)


Of course, it is your choice ...

You can take any kind of Initiation from any kind of guru or initiator you choose - ISKCON, Rtvik, or otherwise.

However, we strongly encourage you to very carefully study, contemplate, pray and chant Hare Krishna, before making such a momentous choice.

Remember, itís your eternal spiritual life.


"Initiation does not mean that it is a ceremony and it is finished, no. It is progressive. It is progressive just like education is progressive.

"So in the first beginning, ceto darpana marjanam, just to cleanse oneself from the understanding of material identification, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.

"So at least for one year chanting regularly, observing the rules and regulation, one comes to the platform of spiritual platform. And then, another initiation, this is called diksa.

"That is also diksa, that is first process.

"This diksa, second process is not very essential. The essential is to chant.

"In this age there is no need of this second initiation, but those who are going to [should] be recognized as properly initiated, so this second installment was introduced by Sanatana Gosvami."

(Srila Prabhupada - lecture 05/21/68)


neither Damodara dasa or Rukmini-Devi dasi have any control over,
nor do they endorse any pop-up or embeded advertisements appearing on this website