Diksa, Siksa, and Sri Guru

By Swami Tripurari

Rupa Goswami begins his delineation on the angas(limbs) of sadhana-bhakti thus:

gurpadasrayas tasmat krsna diksadi siksanam

One must take shelter of sri guru, receive diksa and siksa from him.

So first we shall sit with the guru, hear from and observe him while he simultaneously observes us. Then diksa follows and is further supported by siksa. While the diksa and siksa gurus are one in purpose, the sastra tells us their function is different. The diksa guru imparts the mantra, within which is contained our relationship with Krishna in seed form. The siksa guru or gurus water that seed with relevant instructions.

In the classic case, the diksa guru is also the siksa guru and he plays the most prominent role in the spiritual life of the disciple. However, it is possible that a siksa guru other than the diksa guru may play the most prominent role in a disciple’s spiritual life, especially if the siksa guru is more qualified than the diksa guru. The latter case is exemplified in the life of Thakura Bhaktivinoda wherein his siksa guru, Jagannatha dasa Babaji, played a more important role than did his diksa guru, Bipina Bihari Goswami.

The diksa guru is a manifestation of Madana-mohana vigraha in the sense that he gives sambandha-jnana in the form of diksa, over which the deity of Sri Madana- mohana presides. The sambandha-jnana is one. It involves the conceptual orientation to the Gaudiya Vaishnava metaphysical worldview and includes the imparting of the diksa mantra. Part of that worldview is knowledge of one’s relationship with Krishna. Again, this is present in the mantra. Thus imparting the mantra is likened to the planting of a seed. The seed is singular, and there is no need to plant it twice.

Still, the seed needs to be cultivated and thus there is the need for siksa. The siksa guru is a manifestation of Govindadeva, the presiding deity of abhidheya-jnana, or the knowledge pertaining to the cultivation of the seed. While sambandha-jnana involves a conceptual orientation, abhidheya-jnana involves that which naturally follows from that orientation: the subsequent activity, which in this case is bhakti.

In one sense the classic examples of these two manifestations of guru in our tradition are Sri Sanatana and Rupa Goswamis. Sanatana Goswami has written Brhat-bhagavatamrta, a conceptual orientation to the world of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It is a survey of the interior landscape that orients us to the world of spiritual possibility in consideration of our present position. Rupa Goswami, on the other hand, has written Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which delineates the nature of bhakti, or that activity that naturally follows from the sambandha-jnana.

The sambandha is static, whereas the abhideya is dynamic. For example, what the world is, what the jiva is, what God is, and how they are related does not change. This is sambandha-jnana. How to cultivate bhakti, while one in principle, varies with regard to details.

The two gurus are one in the sense that they fully represent Krishna. Madana-mohana and Govindaji are one. The two gurus differ, however, with regard to their function. Again, the function of the diksa guru is singular. He gives the mantra. The function of the siksa guru, on the other hand, is plural; he gives instructions. The siksa guru waters the singular seed and more than one siksa guru can perform this function.

Of course, one could legitimately ask, “Is not the imparting of instructions on sambandha-jnana also a form of siksa?” The answer is obviously “yes,” which, while extending the meaning of siksa to include such instructions, restricts the meaning of diksa to the actual imparting of the mantra—no small thing. Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami describes the imparting of the mantra thus: “Just as in a homeopathic globule the outer figure cannot show what medicine is there, so it is with sound—the name Krishna. The one who delivers this, his will is there within. So Krishna, from the mouth of a sadhu, and the Krishna from the mouth of an ordinary person are not one and the same. What the idea behind this sound is, from where it comes, its origin, is it in Vaikuntha, in Goloka, in what rasa, and so on? Gradually the sound will take you there, to that place. The sound, Vaikuntha nama grhanam, the name, must come from the infinite world not any mundane origin.”


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4 Responses to Diksa, Siksa, and Sri Guru

  1. According to Pancharatra regulations only a grhasta brahmana can give diksha. This regulation was thus abandoned by Mahaprabhu who stated that a sannyasi or even a sudra can be guru if he knows the science of Krishna.
    So, the “tradition” of Vaishnavism before Mahaprabhu was supposed to be following the Pancaratra regulations and as such grhasta brahmanas were the spiritual masters of society. This changed with Mahaprabhu, along with the whole concept of initiation which in essence requires no formal rite or ceremony if in fact a connection of substance has been established.

    For example, Srila Prabhupada gives an example of how initiation actually works in the story of the Buddhist teacher who met Mahaprabhu in South India.

    When the big bird came and snatched the plate and dropped it on the head of the Buddhist and was knocked-out, Mahaprabhu told his followers to chant Hare Krishna in his ears to bring him back.

    Srila Prabhupada explains that when Mahaprabhu told these followers of the Buddhist to chant Hare Krishna in the ear of their teacher that he initiated them at that time and that when they in turn spoke the Holy Name into the ear of their teacher that THEY initiated him.

    There are even mass initiations as Sankirtan parties traverse the universe performing Hari-nama Sankirtan.

    Srila Prabhupada says “Dīkṣā actually means initiating a disciple with transcendental knowledge by which he becomes freed from all material contamination.”.

    This alludes to the giving and receiving of knowledge which as we know can be done at a distance by reading the words or hearing the recordings of the spiritual master.

    Many devotees today are still trying to pass off the old school Pancharatra regulations as the hard and fast rule, but Mahaprabhu superceded those external considerations in favor of a disciplic succession of substance over formality.

    • I believe you take this too far with regard to how to proceed. We should follow the example of BSST, SP, SSM. etc.. They accepted initiation and they gave initiation, even while stressing what it constitutes in essence. Find a guru of substance and accept diksa or be one and give diksa.

      • I would never be one to say we don’t need a nose as long as we can breathe. Like Sridhar Maharaja said that actually life can be sustained without a nose as long as one can continue to get air. But, it is always much nicer and more beautiful to have a nice nose. If the nose is missing it is not a very pretty thing. However, Sridhar Maharaja did give that example and I see it for myself in that way.

        We don’t want life without a nose. We all want that lovely nose which provides the breath of life with such beauty and purpose.

        So, I am talking of essence, but I would be the last one to minimize the value of a more advanced devotee who can teach us all we need to know to attain perfection even if all the books in the world got destroyed.

        However, we all know how important it is for the Vaishnavas to study very deeply, visualize and meditate upon all the great books like Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavat and Goswami literature.
        We all know that there is a vast treasure house of spiritual gems there and that collecting those gems will make our hearts shine like millions of suns.

        Everything has it’s purpose and Vaishnava gurus have a very important purpose. But, so does the Bhagavatam. We need both.
        One without the other is unnecessary and therefore improper.

  2. I like this simple, thorough and convincing summary of roles and relations of siksa/diksa gurus.
    Your explanation of mantra as the seed of sambandha that doesn’t need to be planted more than once is direct and logical. “The seed is singular, and there is no need to plant it twice.”
    However, I can foresee a conflict in the life of a devotee over Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s statement that “The one who delivers this, his will is there within.”
    If a siksa guru becomes more prominent in a disciples life, won’t the disciple want the mantra from the siksa guru? If the siksa has bestowed some abhideya-jnana and possibly a glimpse of one’s prayojana, isn’t it possible that either more mantras will be bestowed or at least the principle sampradaya mantras that one received at diksa would take on more meaning from the siksa guru such that the disciple wants HIS/HER mantra?

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