Question: I have a question on guru-paramparā. I was thinking that the inner meaning of ācārya-paramparā is the core message or the Truth. I am following the essential principles, like molding my life to chant 32 or 64 rounds daily, offering reasonable respects to all Vaiṣṇavas, whoever they are in any sampradāya without entering into any debate, listening to a śikṣā-guru on a regular basis, further molding my life in the lessons on humility, glorifying Rādha and Shyāma, etc. Do I still need to take dīkṣā from a guru? Or can I go on in my life without officially taking dīkṣā? It feels sectarian to do so.
Answer: Your thinking about the “inner meaning” of ācārya-paramparā being the core message or the Truth is wonderful. My question to you, however, is: Without a guru, how do you understand the “core message or the Truth?” It is great if one can understand the core message after taking dikṣā from a genuine guru and studying under him but to understand it on one’s own is the greatest wonder. Gītā 2.29 says, “Some consider the self as amazing, some speak of it as amazing, and some hear of it as amazing, while others, even after hearing of it, cannot comprehend it at all.” In SB 11.22.10, Kṛṣṇa even says to Uddhava that by oneself, one can never understand the core message.
That a person can attain the Truth without a dīkṣā-guru is beyond my imagination. How can a person with a conditioned mind even understand the Truth without a guru? What is the test of one’s own understanding? A conditioned mind will extract some Truth from śāstra according to their conditioning, as your good self has extracted it. You may counter by saying that you have heard it from a śikṣā-guru. That is also your own extraction because you have accepted that person as your śikṣā-guru who confirms your point of view. Otherwise, if you can have a śikṣā-guru, why would you be so averse to dīkṣā? If taking a śikṣā-guru does not make you sectarian but taking dīkṣā does, then all it means is that you have a śikṣā-guru who confirms your views. Then such a guru is not really your śikṣā-guru because you are not learning from him. In the name of śikṣā-guru, we want a “confirmation guru.” This is the reason that a śikṣā-guru is acceptable, because you can reject what you do not like about his teachings. At the same time, we say that there is no difference between śikṣā-guru and dikṣā–guru, so if I have a śikṣā-guru, there is no need of a dīkṣā-guru. Moreover, if I do not agree with my śikṣā-guru, I can give him up and take another one without much difficulty. But in this whole process, you are just following your own mind and not śāstra. Śāstra is very clear that you should take dīkṣā and without dīkṣā, bhakti does not even begin. You want to follow your mind but at the same time get the result described in śāstra. If you want to get the results described there, you have to follow śāstra.
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You have to understand what is service. It means you do activities for the pleasure of the person you are serving. Service is that your intention is that you want to please the person you serve. It is not that I want to gain something from it. Service itself is its own reward. If you are trying to get something then it is not really service. If it has any other motive then you can say it looks like service, but it is not really.