Guru in ISKCON

Published on March 12th, 2024 | by


What is Initiation?

This seems like a simple question since so many devotees have taken initiation. But I have asked a few devotees and they seem not to really understand what is real initiation. So this is my humble attempt to try to understand what is real initiation.

It seems that initiation is two fold, but that’s when we look at it from the material point of view. First we have the initiation ceremony or ritual. The ceremony seems fairly simple to understand that it is a formality of the guru accepting the disciple and the disciple accepting the guru.

That is, of course, a very serious commitment and never to be taken lightly. Now we must ask what does formality mean?

I use the word formality because a devotee asked Srila Prabhupada “how important is formal initiation?” And Srila Prabhupada said “formal initiation means to accept officially to abide by the orders of Krsna and his representatives, that is formal initiation.”

Also Srila Prabhupada said “initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge. Initiation is a formality. Just like you go to school for knowledge and admission is formality, that is not a very important thing.”

So now we have a glimpse of what is the ritual or formality or initiation. So now we must ask what is beyond this; what is real initiation. To try to shed some light on this, let’s examine some purports by Srila Prabhupada from the Caitanya Caritamrta.

First He says the spiritual master awakens the sleeping living entity to his original consciousness so that he can worship Lord Visnu.

This is the purpose of diksa or initiation. Initiation means receiving the pure knowledge of spiritual consciousness. [Madhya-Lila 9.61,purport]

Second He says diksa actually means initiating a disciple with transcendental knowledge by which he becomes freed from all material contamination. [Madhya-Lila 4.111, purport]

So it seems that real initiation deals with the giving of transcendental knowledge from the guru and the receiving of transcendental knowledge by the disciple. And also important and which binds the initiation and fulfills the commitment is our sincerity, determination and our submission to the guru.

Also to understand initiation further, Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati one said: “Submission to the Absolute is not real unless it is also itself Absolute. It is on the plane of the Absolute that the disciple is required to submit completely to the good preceptor. On the material plane, there can be no such thing as complete submission.” So now it seems that we must also understand that this real initiation is absolutely on the transcendental platform.

So from this we can see what is real initiation. When I ask myself who is giving me this transcendental initiation, the answer keeps coming up Srila Prabhupada. I recommend that you ask yourself the same question.

So in closing we must pay all obeisances to the savior of the universe, Srila Prabhupada, for His purports of transcendental knowledge.


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12 Responses to What is Initiation?

  1. Danielle Tiletnick says:

    I received initiation years ago. My japa beads were stolen and some other of the altar supplies that were given to me as gifts went somewhere too. I spent days and weeks looking for them and years have passed and I still do not know what to do1… HELP,HELP HELP PLEASE!

  2. Priya says:

    Hare Krishna prabhuji,
    Can we chant hare Krishna maha mantra even if we are not a member of iskcon?

    • Hare Krishna Priya

      Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is for everyone. ISKCON is a small sectarian group. Krishna is God for everyone. So certainly you can chant Hare Krishna anywhere, everywhere, in any condition of life.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  3. Jeffrey says:

    I m interested in Krishna Consciousness, but lot of obstacles. I want to serve, preach and please Krishna, but i have got no one to help me. I want to join ISKCON and practice Hinduism.Do I need Initiation from a Guru to learn the Vedic philosophy?

    • Krishna consciousness is NOT Hinduism. You need to read Prabhupada’s books and find out what Krishna consciousness actually is and find out who is actually a qualified guru. Otherwise you will get cheated by one of the many bogus cheating gurus who will exploit you, take your money, and not be able to give you any spiritual advancement at all.

      Unfortunately the current time there are a huge number of cheating gurus and it is practically impossible to find a real guru, except for Srila Prabhupada who is living in his books. So read Srila Prabhupada’s books, the answers to all your questions are there.

  4. Hrishikesh Nath says:

    Hare Krishna Prabhu,
    Please accept my humble obeisances.
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    I have still many confusions with regards to initiation. How can I receive the a spiritual name. What is the difference between taking a formal initiation and not taking one. Prabhu, I really want a spiritual name. And how can I get one. Can I chose a spiritual name for myself or is there any process.

    • We have to wait for Krishna’s mercy. It it not very important, formal initiation. So many total demons have got spiritual names and never dream of surrendering to their spiritual master or Krishna. So it is far better to actually surrender to Srila Prabhupada and serve him and not have a spiritual name or formal initiation that these demons who just make some show accepting initiation from some rascal guru who they never intend to surrender to and never intend to follow his instructions, just to get a spiritual name and some status. So the main thing is we need to become Krishna conscious and be engaged in serving Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. And then just let Krishna make whatever arrangements He wants to make in our lives…

  5. Ram Raghav says:

    I accepted gayatri diksha from a vaishnava(from madhva sampradaya) and then read srila prabhupada’s baghavad gita and was enlightened and shown the way of vaishnavism. Afterwards i went and got somewhat of a ritvik initiation(what madhvacharya set up) and became madhva’s and the ritvik’s disciple(the ritvik is my guru and he shows me madhva and we both accept madhva as our guru). But the only instruction i got from that sampradaya was very very little(The basics of krishna consciousness as taught in baghavad gita). Now when i look back i realise that srila prabhupada gave me almost all my knowledge and turned me towards vaishnavism. which was my true initiation, the ritual with very little knowledge or the Knowledge srila prabhupada gave me before that?

  6. Sean says:

    I have a question about chanting. We see chanting in various religions across the globe, from Christianity to Islam to Sikhism to Buddhism, etc. Everyone in these religions has the possibility of experiencing bliss. Is this because without knowing it, they are connecting to Krishna, albeit indirectly?

    • Hare Krishna Sean

      The principle of chanting the name of God is universal. And you will find this process of glorifying the name of God and chanting the name of God in so many religions. So Krishna is one of the many names of God. If the people chant the name of God as it has been revealed to them in their own scriptures this is also chanting the name of God and the transcendental potency of the name of God is also there. So anyone connecting to God through any bona fide religious process that is actually aiming at God is practicing Krishna consciousness. There are nine processes of bhakti: hearing, chanting, remembering, offering service, worshiping in the temple or church, offering prayers, serving, surrendering everything–mind, body, words. So every religion has at least some of these items which the followers of that religion practice regularly.

      So the other religions are all Krishna consciousness but it has been presented according to a certain group of people at a certain time and at a certain place. But time destroys everything and all ‘religions’ including the current manifestation of Krishna consciousness as we see it in ISKCON is suffering from the effects of time. Time destroys everything gradually. So it is very difficult to find any group of religious people who are actually seriously following the basic principles taught by the founder of that religion.

      For Krishna consciousness the very fundamental basic principles that are so important that Srila Prabhupada requires his disciples to take a solemn vow before many witnesses are: following the four regulative principles [no illicit sex life, no meat eating, no gambling and no intoxication] and chanting at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra daily. It sounds like a simple thing but today it is very difficult to find a group of ISKCON devotees who are all actually seriously even following these simple basic principles very strictly. What to speak of all the other do’s and don’ts that are necessary to actually really seriously advance in spiritual life.

      So anyhow the answer to your question is that the chanting of the names of God is a universal principle and you will find it in every religion and Krishna knows what you are intending and if you are intending to call out to Him and you use the name in your language which refers to Him then He is intelligent enough to know that you are calling Him…

      But still the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is specifically potent to counteract all the pernicious effects of this Kali-yuga. So please chant Hare Krishna and be happy!!

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