What is Initiation?

Gaudiya Darshan: 1 October 2015

Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains the definition of dīkṣā.

What is dīkṣā?

divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam
tasmād dīkṣeti sā proktā deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ

The spiritual specialists say it is the process through which spiritual knowledge is imparted. Divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt: new knowledge, new estimation about the environment, about the world, awakens in one’s heart. A new angle of vision arises within. What we saw was false. It was māyā. Now we want to realise what is reality.

Kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam: the reactions that were due to me for my activities resulting from my false calculation, these are cleared off. Pāpa means the reaction I acquired because of my false estimation and transaction with the environment. That is cleared when I get a real estimation of the environment, of the world outside. This is the result of dīkṣā, divya-jñān [divine knowledge]. Not knowledge from my narrow standpoint but from the standpoint of the most wide view. I see with my narrow selfish outlook, but I must get rid of that false notion of selfish enterprise and replace that with the proper and true estimation of the environment, of the world outside. Accordingly, we shall learn to interact with the world. This is dīkṣā. By doing that, we are to understand what is the nature of the world we are living in.

I am not a master of what I see. I am not the monarch of all I survey. This is totally wrong. It is down right falsehood. But there is a monarch. I am not that monarch, but there is a monarch, and I am within His survey. “I am monarch of all I survey.” No. I am not the surveyor. Rather, I am an object being surveyed. The world is being surveyed, and I am a part of the world. I am also being surveyed by the monarch of the world. And what is the result of that survey? To know that and go on accordingly, to learn to go on according to the instructions of the surveyor proper, the absolute surveyor, that is dīkṣā, divya‑jñānam.

What is divine knowledge? Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvaṁ (Īu: 1): not only it is false that I am the owner, but no one is owner. There is only one onwer, and that one is not myself. The master of the whole is God, the Lord, Kṛṣṇa. Not only does the world belong to Him, but we also belong to Him. This is knowledge.

What are we? We are slaves to the master of the world. Divine knowledge means to feel that this is the truth.

jīvera svarūpa haya kṛṣṇera nitya dāsa
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 20.108)

[“The soul is by nature an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa.”]

I am very small and insignificant. My condition is very pitiful. I have to create mercy, help, from the higher for my misguided life, my misunderstood life. All these things are to be dealt with every day. This is the purpose of getting dīkṣā, divya-jñān. Divya-jñān means to do away with our local experience and to invite the perspective, the estimation, of the centre and the surveyor from the centre. What is what? Divine knowledge means to be introduced newly to the environment, to forget my previous estimation and to invite a new estimation about  things and go on accordingly, control my conduct accordingly. What we see around us has an owner. It is not ownerless, and I am not the owner. I am not the owner of what I survey, and at the same time, no one like myself is the owner either. There is one owner, and He is also my owner. Now, how to go on? It is a mathematical calculation: this is His property, and I am also His property. I am His servant, and this is His substance. So, according to the master’s will, I am to deal with everything. That is, I am to serve. The Lord is to be served, not to be enjoyed, and His things are also to be served, not to be enjoyed. That will be the deduction. That will be deduced from divya‑jñān. I am a serving unit in this world.

I cannot take to the side of renunciation either. I have no right to renounce. A slave cannot go on strike: “I won’t do the work.” You are bound to do your duty. Neither can you go on with the work according to your own whim, nor can you go on strike, saying, “I won’t cooperate.” Only one side is open: you have to discharge your duty. If you do not do that, then you commit offence, and offences are punishable. So, you will be punished. The fact is so stark. The reality is so cruel.

We have no independence of our own. We must not think that we are an owner. We cannot think that we are the owner of our own self and that according to our will we can deal with our environment. No. You are duty‑bound to treat your environment in a particular way: in a reverential and serving way. Then, you are normal. Otherwise, you are abnormal and you are to be punished. That is aparādha, offence. Sevā [service] is neither bhoga nor tyāga, neither enjoyment nor renunciation. We have no right to enjoy and no right to renounce, to not cooperate. Only one side is open: to serve. We are to face this cruel reality.

At first, it may seem to be rough, cruel, but if we can understand the underlying purpose in it, then we shall gradually find, “This is the one and only key to a happy life.” We should not engage in self‑aggrandisement with the help of others. Wanting to live on others’ energy is insulting. It is cowardice, and it is improper. Or because we cannot utilise something only for our selfish purpose, we must leave it—that is also not honourable or justifiable.

We are living together. So, we must have some sort of duty towards the environment. I cannot see myself as a thing cut‑off from the environment. In an organic whole, the parts are correlated. So, we also have a correlation with our environment, with all things on all four sides. This is natural. We are a part of an organic whole, and we have got our respective duty to one another just as one part of our body has some duty to discharge for the whole of the body and through that performs a duty to every part of the body.

Neither the tyāga like that of the jñānīs, the Buddhists, and the Śaṅkārites, neither their formula or estimation is right, nor are the exploitationists: “Whatever I see is for me; I am the monarch of all I survey.” That view is also not true. We have to understand this deeply. Someone may be a good scholar but be perplexed or nonplussed by this. Intellect is not sufficient to make us understand all the difficulties of this life. Independent reading of the scriptures cannot impart us the necessary light to understand the things contained in the scriptures.

yāha bhāgavata paḍa vaiṣṇavera sthāne

(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Antya-līlā, 5.132)

Mahāprabhu says, “Go and study the Bhāgavat from a Vaiṣṇava. Try to get the angle of vision from him.”

tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ

(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 4.34)

[“Learn divine knowledge through surrender, enquiry, and service. Those who know and see the truth will teach it to you.”]

āchāryavān puruṣo veda
(Chāndogya-upaniṣad: 6.14.2)

“You must have an Āchārya if you want to study the revealed scriptures.”

You can’t study alone, independently. Not in an empirical way will you be able to understand. Only by the descending method it is possible. Divine knowledge comes in a descending method, and it does not depend on our literary education. “A literate man will understand more, and an ordinary illiterate person won’t be able to understand spiritual truth.” This is not true. The illiterate can understand, and the literate may fail to understand. It is independent of worldly scholarship. Only praṇipāt [surrender], paripraśna [enquiry], sevā, a serving attitude, will help. These things are necessary to be illuminated by the higher revealed truth. Through Guru and Vaiṣṇava, it will come down to my heart and then to my brain, but really it will come down to my soul. The soul will be awakened, and the soul’s body will grow. We will see the soul come out from bondage.

Divya-jñān, dīkṣā, means all these things: to engage oneself in the quest of the revealed truth through a particular process. Praṇipāt, parispraśna, and sevā—surrender, honest inquiry, and serving attitude—we can acquire that sort of knowledge and understanding in this way, and we are to adjust ourselves accordingly to catch the benefit of dīkṣā.

It is not a mere formal thing. It is not that only we shall repeat the mantram we receive. The mantram wants to say something to us. The mantra has its meaning. The mantra wants to say something to us and asks us to do that, and we have to do that. Then, we will get the desired result. Then, the purpose of dīkṣā will be fulfilled. Mere repetition of a few technical sounds does not complete dīkṣā. Dīkṣā means knowledge is transmitted, and you must utilise that sort of knowledge in favour of your realisation of higher life, your real life, your proper life, your eternal life, your life after death, your life after so many deaths. This will continue: it is eternal knowledge. It is eternal knowledge of the eternal soul about eternity. The knower, the known, and the knowing—these three things are all eternal. You will find yourself: “I am an eternal part of this world, and I have a part in eternity also. An eternal relationship is there, and from that relationship, so many functions and activities are presupposed. They should be done.” This sort of duty should be discharged. This is dīkṣā, divya-jñān. Divya means ‘not mundane’; it means supernatural, transcendental.


divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam
tasmād dīkṣeti sā proktā deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ

“Because it imparts divine knowledge and destroys sin, the expert teachers of the scriptures call it dīkṣā.”