Initiation Into Spiritual Life

BY: SUN STAFF - 7.6 2023

Written by HDG Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in December, 1928, and published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani).

The ceremony of diksha or initiation is that by which the spiritual Preceptor admits one to the status of a neophyte on the path of spiritual endeavour. The ceremony tends to confer spiritual enlightenment by abrogating sinfulness. Its actual effect depends on the degree of willing co-operation on the part of the disciple and is, therefore, not the same in all cases. It does not preclude the possibility of reversion on the novice to the non-spiritual state, if he slackens in his effort or misbehaves. Initiation puts a person on the true track and also imparts an initial impulse to go ahead. It cannot, however, keep one going for good unless one chooses to put forth his own voluntary effort.

The nature of the initial impulse also varies in accordance with the condition of the recipient. But although the mercy of the good preceptor enables us to have a glimpse of the Absolute and of the path of His attainment, the seed that is thus sown requires very careful tending under the direction of the preceptor, if it is to germinate and grow into the fruit-and-shade-giving tree. Unless our soul of his own accord chooses to serve Krishna after obtaining a working idea of his real nature, he cannot long retain the Spiritual Vision. The soul is never compelled by Krishna to serve Him.

But initiation is never altogether futile. It changes the outlook of the disciple on life. If he sins after initiation, he may fall into greater depths of degradation than the uninitiated. But although even after initiation temporary set-backs may occur, they do not ordinarily prevent the final deliverance. The faintest glimmering of the real knowledge of the Absolute has sufficient power to change radically and for good the whole of our mental and physical constitution and this glimmering is incapable of being totally extinguished except in extraordinarily unfortunate cases.

It is undoubtedly practicable for the initiated, if only he is willing, to follow the directions of the preceptor that lead by slow degrees to the Absolute. The good preceptor is verily the savior of fallen souls. It is, however, very rarely that a person with modern culture feels inclined to submit to the guidance of another specially in spiritual matters. But the very person submits readily enough to the direction of a physician for being cured of his bodily ailments. Because these latter cannot be ignored without consequences that are patent to everybody. The evil that results from our neglect of the ailments of the soul is of a nature that paralyses and deludes our understanding and prevents the recognitions of itself. Its gravity is not recognized as it does not apparently stand in the way of our worldly activities with the same directness as the other. The average cultured man is, therefore, at liberty to ask questions without realizing any pressing necessity of submitting to the treatment of spiritual maladies at the hands of a really competent physician.

The questions that are frequently asked are as these: 'Why should it be at all necessary to submit to any particular person or to subscribe to any particular ceremony for the purpose of realizing the Absolute Who by His nature in unconditioned? Why should Krishna require our formal declaration of submission to Himself? Would it not be more generous and logical to permit us to live a life of freedom in accordance with the principles of our perverted nature which is also His creation. Admitting that it is our duty to serve Krishna, why should we have to be introduced to Him by a third party? Why is it impossible for one to serve Sri Krishna directly?' It would no doubt be highly convenient and helpful to be instructed by a good preceptor who is well-versed in the Scriptures in understanding the same. But one should never submit to another to an extent that may furnish a rascal with an opportunity of really doing harm. The bad preceptor is a familiar character. It is inexplicable how those gurus who live in open sin contrive nevertheless to retain the unquestioning allegiance of the cultured portion of their disciples.

Such being the case, can we blame any person who hesitates to submit unconditionally to a preceptor, whether he is good or bad? It is of course necessary to be quite sure of the bonafide of a person before we accept him even tentatively as our spiritual guide. A preceptor should be a person who appears likely to possess those qualities that will enable him it improve our spiritual condition.

Those and similar thoughts are likely to occur to most persons who have received an English education, when they are asked to accept the help of any particular person as his spiritual preceptor. The literature, science and art of the West, body forth the principle of the liberty of the individual and denounce the mentality that leads one to surrender to however superior a person his right of choosing his own course. They inculcate the necessity and high value of having faith in oneself.

But the good preceptor claims our sincere and complete allegiance. The good disciple makes a complete surrender of himself at the feet of the preceptor. But the submission of the disciple is neither irrational or blind. It is complete on condition that the preceptor himself continues to be altogether good. The disciple retains the right of renouncing his allegiance to the preceptor the moment he is satisfied that the preceptor is a fallible creature like himself. Nor does a good preceptor accept any one as his disciple unless the latter is prepared to submit to him freely. A good preceptor is in duty bound to renounce a disciple who is not sincerely willing to follow his instructions fully. If a preceptor accepts as his disciple one who refuses to be wholly guided by him, or if a disciple submits to a preceptor who is not wholly good, such preceptor and such disciple are, both of them, doomed to fall from their spiritual state.

No one is a good preceptor who has not realised the Absolute. One who has realised the Absolute is saved from the necessity of walking on the worldly path. The good preceptor who lives the spiritual life is, therefore, bound to be wholly good. He should be wholly free from any desire for anything of this world whether good or bad. The categories of good and bad do not exist in the Absolute. In the Absolute everything is good. We can have no idea in our present state of this absolute goodness.

(To be continued…)