Posted 30 March 2009: 1) MYTH: “Diksa (spiritual initiation) can only take place when the spiritual master is present on the planet since he needs a physical body in order to absorb all the new disciple’s karma (sinful reactions).
BUSTED: As interesting as the above restriction to the transcendental process of diksa sounds, it was never once mentioned by Srila Prabhupada, and since he is our ultimate authority we can only conclude it is speculation. Furthermore:
Srila Prabhupada taught that the spiritual master would sometimes suffer bad dreams or sickness when accepting a disciple’s karma, but never once did he say that without such physical manifestations diksa was not possible.
If it was essential for Srila Prabhupada to be physically present in order to absorb his disciple’s karma, then that would mean that any of his disciples who may have performed even one sinful act since he physically departed is doomed to remain in the material world.
Srila Prabhupada accepted that Lord Jesus Christ could give liberation to his followers:
“Actually, one who is guided by Jesus Christ, he’ll get liberation, certainly.”
(Room Conversation, July 4th, 1972, recorded in Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers)
And yet Lord Jesus has not had a physical body in which to suffer such symptoms for over two thousand years. Ultimately it is Lord Krishna who absorbs all the sinful reactions, not the spiritual master:
“The poor spiritual master is kind and merciful enough to accept a disciple and partially suffer for that disciple’s sinful activities, but Krishna, being merciful to His servant, neutralizes the reactions of sinful deeds for the servant who engages in preaching His glories.”
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.9.5, purport)
2) Myth: <”According to the pancaratrika (1) system the Guru must be physically present at the initiation ceremony.” (Bhaktividya Purna Swami claimed this on the GBC sponsored video “Disciple of My Disciple”).
BUSTED: Yet again the above “injunction” is never once mentioned in the entire, vast cannon of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, and can therefore be safely discarded. If this were true, then thousands of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples were never properly initiated since he did not physically attend many of the initiation ceremonies, as the following letter proves:
“At your recommendation I have consented to give second initiation to both Sriman Traidas and his wife Pramada. (…) First of all you must secure one tape of me reciting Gayatri(2) mantra. (…) Then you must hold a fire yajna for the two devotees as you have seen so many times before. Then let them each hear the tape through the right ear, privately and individually (…) Then you can get the thread on Traidas’s body.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Danavir, Nairobi, 27th September, 1971)
(1) Devotional regulations required for Deity worship and initiation
(2) Special mantra given at the time of second initiation
3) MYTH: “Pariksa (mutual testing and examination) between the Guru and disciple, an essential pre-initiation procedure, can only take place if they physically meet.”
Since Srila Prabhupada did not physically meet many thousands of his initiated disciples, this cannot be an essential aspect of the initiation process. In most cases Srila Prabhupada delegated this examination of the prospective disciple to his Temple Presidents or some other representative. It was their responsibility to make sure new candidates for initiation were strictly following for a minimum of six months for first initiation. This approach is sanctioned in Srila Prabhupada’s books:
“In our Krsna Consciousness Movement the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars of sinful life [...] In western countries especially we first observe whether a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles (…) In this way the disciple renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representative for at least six months to a year.” (Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, 24.330, purport)
Generally the newcomer would examine Srila Prabhupada by studying his books.
4) MYTH: “We must hear the gayatri mantra, and spiritual knowledge in general, from the lips of the spiritual master. Therefore the Guru must be physically present in order to initiate disciples.”
BUSTED: This idea comes from quotes such as the following:
“When one’s knowledge of mantras is received from the lips of the bona fide spiritual master, one’s mantra is considered pure…”
(Hrdyananda dasa Goswami’s translation and purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 11.21)
As we saw Srila Prabhupada instruct above: “First of all you must secure one tape of me reciting Gayatri mantra.” So, whilst no one is denying that hearing directly from the lips of a pure devotee would be good, we can also conclude that listening to a tape must be sufficiently potent, or else why would Srila Prabhupada have sanctioned this as part of general initiation procedure within ISKCON? Srila Prabhupada also placed great emphasis on the distribution of his books, and equated “reading” such books with “hearing” directly from the spiritual master:
“Reading or hearing from the realized person there is no difference…”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Punjabi Premanand, 16th April, 1976)
“These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rupanuga Das, 19th October, 1974)