Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

<< What is a Śikṣā-guru? >>

PART ONE - The Tradition of Śikṣā-guru
What is a Śikṣā-guru?

1. A śīkṣā-guru is one who gives śīkṣā — according to tradition
In answering the question, what is a śīkṣā-guru, I am hesitant to reply the obvious: “One who gives śīkṣā.”


Because I want to emphasise the process of śīkṣā as much as its content, its effect on the disciple as much as his right to receive it.

While Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “The spiritual master who instructs the disciple about spiritual matters is called the śīkṣā-guru,”(20) he also explains the etiquette(21) of śīkṣā. Part of that etiquette has been included in my definition of śīkṣā(22) by the words “ever-consistent instructions;” other parts of the tradition will be described later.(23)

To summarise: adherence to the tradition of śīkṣā is as integral to being a śīkṣā-guru as giving instruction. I would therefore qualify the meaning of śīkṣā-guru by saying: the śīkṣā-guru is one who gives śīkṣā — according to Vaiṣṇava tradition.(24)

2. The śīkṣā-guru should be given due respect
The śīkṣā-guru may be either liberated or not liberated.(25) In either case, he who gives transcendental knowledge, should be respected as guru,(26) the best among gurus,(27) and non-different from the Lord.

Vaiṣṇavas are individuals. Therefore the quality and quantity of gurus’ guidance(28) and commitment(29) to their disciples vary. In the same way, the quality and quantity of disciples’ worship of, and commitment to, their gurus also vary. In any case, the instructor must always be seen as guru, a worshipable superior,(30) the external manifestation of the Supersoul.(31) If he is not the dīkṣā-guru, still he must be seen as equal to him in tattva.(32)


20Kṛṣṇa Book, chapter 2.
21For instance, “śīkṣā-guru does not mean he is speaking something against the teachings of the dīkṣā-guru. He is not a śīkṣā-guru. He is a rascal.” (Bhagavad-gītā lecture, Honolulu, July 4, 1974)
22See the previous section.
23See the next section, “Who can be a śīkṣā-guru?”
24In the following quote, Śrīla Prabhupāda indicates that there is etiquette in how śīkṣā should be transmitted by a śīkṣā-guru: “If K speaks what I speak, then he can be taken a śīkṣā-guru.” (Letter, July 20, 1974)
25“There are two kinds of instructing spiritual masters. One is the liberated person ... the other ... invokes the disciple’s spiritual consciousness by means of relevant instructions.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi 1.47, purport)
26“He who opens my eyes with transcendental knowledge is my master birth after birth.” (Prema-bhakti-candrikā 1.3)
27“The person who bestows transcendental knowledge upon the members of all the spiritual orders of society is one’s ultimate spiritual master. Indeed, he is as good as My own self.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.80.32)
28See Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.44–48.
29This subject is discussed in detail in The Śikṣā-guru, Part Three.
30See Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.17.27.
31“One should know the instructing spiritual master to be the Personality of Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa manifests Himself as the Supersoul and as the greatest devotee of the Lord.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi 1.47)
32Prabhupāda writes, “There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating and instructing spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offence in the discharge of devotional service.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi 1.47, purport)
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