Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

<< The Tradition of Śikṣā >>

Vaiṣṇava tradition(1) maintains that a devotee can have only one dīkṣā-guru. But he can have many śīkṣā-gurus, chosen, theoretically, from a broad Vaiṣṇava community.

PART FOUR - Summary and Conclusions
The Tradition of Śikṣā

The theme of this paper spotlights why Śrīla Prabhupāda forbade ISKCON devotees taking śīkṣā outside the Society (what then to speak of dīkṣā).

Etiquette, however, compels śīkṣā-gurus (regardless of their spiritual status compared to that of the dīkṣā-guru) to portray themselves as the representative of the dīkṣā-guru, the great ācāryas, and, in the case of an institution (such as ISKCON), the founder-ācārya. Like the branches of a tree, which are dependent for sustenance upon those greater branches to which they are connected, śīkṣā-gurus see themselves as branches connecting a disciple to other larger branches — the initiator and the founder-ācārya.

This is the etiquette — an ideal that has become more obscure with each passing year of Kali-yuga. Why? Narahari Sarakāra writes:

“During this Kali-yuga, when the time of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Lord Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu’s transcendental pastimes become unmanifest, Their Lordships become the object of transcendental research and discussion. At that time all levels of devotees including uttama-adhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī, and kaniṣ±ha-adhikārī shall always be in anxiety and it will be at all times. They shall almost feel uncertainty in their hearts regarding the correct understanding of the eternal truths of devotional service.”(2)

History shows that, in addition to this philosophical confusion, personal motivation, envy, politics and deviation from Lord Caitanya’s teachings enter the spiritual sphere,(3) polluting relationships among Vaiṣṇavas.(4)


1In Śrī Kṛṣṇa-bhajanāmṛta 6, the author writes, “Following in the footsteps of these great spiritual authorities I shall explain the clear transparent conclusions of the scriptures in their concise, condensed form, with some detailed explanations.”
2Śrī Kṛṣṇa-bhajanāmṛta 3–4.
3Immediately following Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s disappearance, deviant Vaiṣṇava sects sprang up. By the time of Viavanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism had been eclipsed by the misbehaviour and deviations of these sects, a phenomenon that recurred in Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s time. Other Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas share a similar history under the common influence of this age, Kali-yuga.
4Kṛṣṇa-bhajanāmṛta (59–61) discusses these qualities in a bewildered Vaiṣṇava guru, who is not to be abandoned until he refuses to be rectified. In other words, these qualities may appear in Vaiṣṇavas.
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