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Wednesday, August 02, 2006


On Vilāsa-kuñja, Mādhavānanda Dās wrote an excellent article on the relativity of the dīkṣā-paramparā  Indeed, we in the first generation of Western Traditional Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism have over-emphasized it mainly because we were taught such over-emphasis by the senior Vaiṣṇavas we consulted at the time. At that time, in my zeal I hardly noticed that Sādhu Bābā did not really emphasize it all that much, though he did note that such a paramparā should be there. I found this entry in my Indian diary, December 1982:

"I try to incite Bābā to saying something about the value of an unbroken guru paramparā. Bābā reacts coolly. He does not seem to find it as important as I do, since I was educated in an institution without paramparā and just left that place half a year ago. After I insist several times he finally says: guru paramparā yadi ṭhik ṭhik nā thāke bhajane siddhi hobe na “If Guru-paramparā isn't exactly there you cannot have success in bhajan”.

I said it before and I will say it again - many devotees with an unbroken dīkṣā-paramparā, both Indian and Western, have fallen down and are falling down, so certainly taking dīkṣā in an unbroken paramparā is not a hocus-pocus-wave-the-magic-wand-and-u-r-instantly-siddha magic. It takes surrender to attain siddhi and nothing less than that. I also agree that those who insist that 'all-you-need-is-dīkṣā-paramparā' can be classified as kaniṣṭha adhikārīs - arcāyām eva haraye pūjāṁ yaḥ ś bhakta prākṛta smṛtaḥ (SB 11.2.47) Those who believe only in ritual (which dīkṣā basically is) worship of Hari are mundane devotees." So Sādhu Bābā said one should take dīkṣā,  Haribhakti Vilāsa and Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu say we should take dīkṣā, but there is obviously more to it than just that.

Concerning dīkṣā vs śikṣā-guru - one should recognise the dīkṣā-guru in the teachings of the śikṣā-guru and never worship the śikṣā-guru separately. Those who quote S.B. 11.9.31 to prove that one can have many gurus should read Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda's comment on it:

"One must worship a single Guru who knows Me, as is said in the 3rd chapter of the 11th Canto: "Surrender to a Guru and ask him about the highest welfare." Even Śvetaketu and Bhṛgu did not take shelter of many Gurus. Surely the only worshipable Guru is the one who instructs in My mantra. One can, however, consult śikṣā-gurus to find out what is favorable and unfavorable to one's upāsanā. Hence only to strengthen one's knowledge this verse says that there are many śikṣā-gurus. Gentle people only take learned and wise men as śikṣā-gurus  There are many sages like Gautama who follow different opinions but I will only seek those teachers who are similar minded to me."

Link to Vilasakunja deleted 13-1-11, site went offline.


  1. Very interesting post Advaita-ji, thanks.

  2. Is diksha basically ritual? Isnt that exactly what all the discussions about parampara are all about? If diksha is basically ritual there would be not much difference between diksha in a broken or unbroken parampara. But if more is involved, e.g. something like shaktipat, then the issue of an unbroken line becomes very important.

  3. I have to say that this appears to be an issue that preoccupies many people, especially 'freshies' who come straight out of IGM. Even though I am not as senior as some people here I have to say that this issue preoccupied me too. I guess we all have our memories of arguing with IGM proponent sin various forums. Hilarious now, when you sit back and think about it.

    Since I've kept myself away from Gaudiya forums and all for some months, the break has allowed me to meditate on a few pressing issues, this one included. I have come to realise that, in the context of my own spiritual development to use an example, the diksa-issue is only important in the sense of choosing one's guru. There are those who have had bad experiences with gurus in IGM and there are those who have been frightened away by the horror stories told by the former people.

    For me, I'd say that the real issue is choosing a guru. Intellectually, it is important to know if the guru comes in a bona-fide diksa-paramparas but it is not important as such because the really important crux of the issue relates to the guru's capability and the diciple's commitment. That is why I have not taken shelter of a guru because I am just biding my time, praying to Mahaprabhu because I've picked up "hints" from the histories that it is Mahaprabhu's favour that finds you your ideal guru. So that is the important thing, a qualified guru. Not a diksa-parampara, although that has its own obvious merits.

    On another note, coming in a recognised diksa-parampara does not guarantee the spiritual qualification of the guru, but that is another topic that was discussed on GD a while back. I wonder if that issue is also relevant here?

    For the record, if anybody else is reading, "Gaurasundara das" is a pen-name.

  4. I think this sentence needs some elaboration:

    "So SAdhu BAbA said one should take diksa, Haribhakti Vilasa and Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu say we should take diksa, but there is obviously more to it than just that."

    'More' means, as Gaurasundar says, a qualified Guru AND a qualified sisya. However I did not mean to say that the Guru can be qualified and have NO unbroken diksa and/or siksa parampara. Both should be there.

  5. Yadupati: Please explain what you mean with shaktipat? Transferral of divine energy perhaps? My Sanskrit dictionary says just 'prostration of strength'. At any rate, if you read the post carefully you will see that I dont say that diksa is just a ritual, but there is much circumstantial evidence that diksa ALONE, also in an unbroken parampara, has not been sufficient to bring siddhi to the sadhaka or even to protect the sadhaka from a complete falldown. The bottom line of the post was that diksa should still be taken in an unbroken succession. On top of that, I also believe that the siksa parampara should be unbroken in the sense that the current siksa should be identical with that of the Six Gosvamis, without breaches, omissions, contradictions or additions.

  6. Perhaps the "shaktipat" thing is meant along the lines of 'sakti sanchar' term used by Sri Ananta das Babaji in the matter of discussing diksa, i.e.: 'infusing' the disciple with the goods.

  7. I fully agree with both Advaitadasji's and Gaurasundaradasji's remarks. Thanks.

  8. a few additional notes:

    Shaktipat in some Tantrik traditions (eg Muktananda Swami) means the transference of divine energy onto the disciple, usually by touching or rubbing the third eye chakra (can also involve the rubbing of genitals with certain guru's). But it can also be taken in a more general sense of transference of divine energy or grace.

    In the context of parampara I am thinking of the unbroken line as a pipeline or conduit through which the divine energy, or Grace, can flow. A broken pipeline doesnt really work all that good.

  9. Yadupati: "means the transference of divine energy onto the disciple, usually by touching or rubbing the third eye chakra (can also involve the rubbing of genitals with certain guru's)."

    Cute example of an unbroken diksa parampara..........

  10. Ha ha,well, whatever... There are NO unbroken parampara's anyway.
    Not before Mahaprabhu that is. Do we have to get into that Fifth Sampraday discussion again?

  11. Dear Advaitaji, you intimated to me that I am welcome to comment here, so I am taking the liberty to do so.

    In relation to Saktipata (a rather complex subject) the motif of (the) pipeline is inadequate. Abhinavagupta explains in the Tantraloka 4.33-85 (also 5.97) that though in the process of initiation there is always someone who performs the initiation, the ‘other’ can indeed be the Guru residing in the Heart, who may appear in a vision or a dream. In fact it is precisely this type of Guru (one who receives such an initiation), known as the “spontaneously-perfected” teacher (samsiddhika-guru), on account of his being initiated by the Goddess from within, who appears to have been preferred by Abhinavagupta and the Kaula tradition TL 4.40.

  12. Aran-ji, thanks for your note on Abhinavagupta. I only read his Gitarthasangraha in which saktipata (in the meaning of divine grace) is only mentioned once (VII,12,13).

    I apologize sincerely for introducing extraneous subject-matter (tantra, shaktipat)into the discussion about diksha-parampara and so creating some confusion.

    In the four vaishnava sampradaya's the indwelling Guru/God ess is not taken into account in the formal diksha as far as I know. So the metaphor of the (broken) pipeline has some relevance then, I suppose?

  13. "since I was educated in an institution without a parampara"

    Dear Advaita das,

    Though with my limited knowledge and feeling for devotional subjects, I detect in all your articles a lot of insight and to me you seem really sincere in your spiritual quest.
    I personally draw my inspiration to perform bhajan from numerous individuals in the Gaudiya Math and a few friends I have in Iskcon. But I also hold in high esteem some of "the traditional gaudiya vaisnavas", who are following a very similar path. Difference is there in the emphasize on "the esoterical".

    Over a number of years I studied most of the ideas, controversies and differences of opinion in our
    tradition in broadest sense. And of course it wasn't difficult to find controversies. Our religion like any other created quite a few. The cause being mostly ego, unchanneled sexual desires and stupid people being on a platform posing as guru, to cut it short.

    And concerning the differences of opinion that exist between the sincere seekers of the truth, sometimes it is very easy to harmonize them and sometimes it is indeed better to stick to your own clan, and let it be.

    In this case I felt it necessary to light out and start my comment with a part of a sentence of your article.
    The parampara-discussion in the light of Srila Bhaktisidanta Saraswati Thakur and his father Bhaktivinode is not necessary to hold again right now. I more or less know where you stand in this matter. Although the parampara in this line is indeed kind of zigzag, like Krishna Himself, and therefore we call it conveniently bhagavat-parampara, the diksa-part is very much present there as well, hidden.
    Hidden only because it is badly explained to newcomers in Iskcon and western newcomers in Gaudiya Math. These newcomers had to find out years later, when they where no longer newcomers, that the line in which they took initiation needs further explanation, diksha and siksha are sometimes parallel, sometimes not, and not all the pictures of all our teachers where present on the parampara-floor of the altar. Choices were made, otherwise we had to put a complicated spagetti-diagram on the altar. It was simplified to make it easier to understand, but the essence was never lost. Choises were made and some senoir traditional Gaudiyas classified that choices as wrong. Some understood them and appreciated them, taking the broader perspective into account.
    Nontheless some western ex-newcomers felt cheated years later. That combined with bad experiences in a community that calls everything outside its scope evil,that fears critisism and became totalitarian in some places, makes it for such a person easy to completely reject it altogether. You, Advaita, are not such a man, you hold more nuanced views on things.
    Still, I think Iskcon should be given the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the institute will drift off, maybe not, but there is some beautiful people in there who are able to carry the torch of love to the next generation.
    You can question wether the tone of preaching of Bhaktivedanta Swami is the tone that should be used by everybody, you can question some of the contents of His comments if you feel it necessary and you are free to disagree.
    But nobody can question his sincerity in following the order of his Guru and his attempt to please Him. Every Vaisnava must be able to recognize at least that. Is there parampara ? OF COURSE THERE IS !!


    lovingly and supportingly

  14. Dear Advaita das,

    Let me add one little anecdote to further explain my point. As you and I originate from The Netherlands and you know how most of our parents go at great lenght to let us believe in "Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet". It is actually a whole conspiracy of adults including primary school teachers, TV-channels, toy-shops and the ones we trust most, our parents.
    All of that to make minors believe that if they are obedient, they get candy (pepernoten) and a game-boy and if they are disobedient they get beaten-up by a black man (Zwarte Piet met de roe) and transported to Spain in a sack. The whole arrival of Sinterklaas with his black servants is being displayed on national TV. Some adult Germans and all Flamish Belgians are also involved in this conspiracy. All children are shitting in their pants, but on national TV they are laughing, fearing punishment if they don't.

    When I was about six years old the whole conspiracy unraffled, with logic I concluded that I was cheated. But how big this conspiracy was !! I confronted my mother and she admitted to the gigantic lie.

    So I continued to question everything I was made to believe..... de Kerstman, de Paashaas.... Yes, my mother said........ all is false. I continued Klaas Vaak, Dikkertje Dap, Jezus Christ, God...... all is one big conspiracy to get me to obey. I will never believe anything anyone tells me anymore !

    There is a parallel with some western traditional Gaudiyas. They fellt cheated by the Parampara represented on the Iskcon altars. They are calling it an incomplete, false presentation of the truth, hold together by a big conspiracy started by Srila Bhaktissidhanta Saraswati Prabhupad. That is than usually followed by a few offences, that I will not repeat on your respected site.
    The fact is that usual this attitude is the result of a completely understandeble development in their spiritual quests. Of course this does not apply to everybody, but I personally know quit a few (ex-neophyte)initiates today, who strongly believe for example that Gaur-Kishore Das Babaji Maharaja is initiated by Bhaktivinode Thakur. Because the altar says it like that. Their concern has been book-distribution, not book-reading.
    You can just imagine the devastation, when they find out the truth. To at that point confront them with Bhagavat-parampara theory is too late. Their faith has been broken and if they than meet somebody completely averse to Bhaktissidanta Sarawati Thakur, they are likely to believe everything this aparadhi says in His disadvantage. Like I threw away Jezus, together with De Paashaas.

    So although sometimes our paths are parallel and sometimes not, I think our tone should always be mild and in defense of The Pure Devotees who are trying hard to bring us to a higher level. If any neophyte traditional Gaudiya aspirant is bad-naming Srila Bhaktissidhanta Sarawati Thakur, he should be corrected by the senoir ones, like you.

    And although most of you are from a tradition that predates the Appearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur, it is only logical that your preference goes to each of your respective and respected lines of thought. That doesn't make the bhagavad-parampara, which inpires hundreds, of less value. It is of great value this day and age, when properly explained though.


    Lovingly and supportingly