By Vidura Mahatma das
Often enough we hear the question “How do you know Srila Prabhupada has accepted you as a disciple?” when we preach that Srila Prabhupada is the current, living initiating (diksa) guru for the Hare Krishna movement. The question stems from a misunderstanding of the role and nature of the spiritual master. The spiritual master’s purpose is to guide society to surrender to Lord Krishna through devotional service; his instructions are centered around that purpose. The bona fide spiritual master gives appropriate instructions which the entire world can take advantage of.
Srila Prabhupada has defined the guru-disciple relationship very clearly and in such a way that the question as to knowing whether one has been accepted by him as a disciple seems invalid altogether. Consider the following quotes.
“A disciple means who voluntarily agrees to be disciplined by the spiritual master.” (Lecture 2/11/75)
“Initiation is a formality. If you are serious, that is real initiation. My touch is simply a formality. It is your determination, that is initiation.” (“BTG #49)
“So diksa means the initiation to begin transcendental activities. That is called initiation. Therefore we take promise from the disciple that “You chant so many times,” “Yes, sir.” “You observe these rules and regulations,” “Yes, sir.” That is initiation. He has to observe; he has to chant. Then everything comes automatically.” (Lecture SB 6.1.15 — February 22, 1973)
“One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding.” (Bg 4.34 purport excerpt)
It is quite apparent that Srila Prabhupada’s acceptance of a disciple has only to do with the disciple’s execution of his discipline or instructions. The decision really comes down to the disciple to make. Srila Prabhupada has so mercifully made himself available with “arms wide open” through his books to anyone who takes up his discipline:
“Thus it is the duty of the ācārya to publish books that will help future candidates take up the method of service and become eligible to return home, back to Godhead, by the mercy of the Lord. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, this same path is being prescribed and followed. Thus the devotees have been advised to refrain from four sinful activities—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling—and to chant sixteen rounds a day. These are bona fide instructions.” (SB 10.2.31 purport)
“In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop.” (Letter — 22/11/74)
“Every one of you must regularly read our books at least twice, in the morning and evening, and automatically all questions will be answered.” (Letter — 24/01/70)
In a broader context, let us recall the example Arjuna set for us in submitting himself before Lord Krishna as a disciple:
“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” (Bhagavad-gita As It Is (Original, Unrevised) 2.7 Translation)
It is significant that Arjuna has submitted himself a disciple of Lord Krishna. From Arjuna’s example we see that approaching a spiritual master is no different from surrendering to Lord Krishna. Is there any question of Krishna not accepting one who has surrendered unto Him? We have Krishna’s promise in the Bhagavad-gita that once we surrender unto Him, He shall deliver us from all sinful reaction (Bg 18.66). The same applies to the spiritual master:
Hanumān: One thing he’s saying, this gentleman, and I would like to know, is your successor named or your successor will…
Prabhupāda: My success is always there. Yes. Just like the sun is there always. It may come before your vision or not. The sun is there. But if you are fortunate, you come before the sun. Otherwise you remain in darkness. Sun is open to everyone. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement—Kṛṣṇa is open to everyone. But if you are fortunate, you come to the light. If you are unfortunate, do not. That is your choice. Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja [Bg. 18.66]. You do it. Now it is your choice. You surrender to Kṛṣṇa or don’t surrender. That is your business. We are canvassing everyone, “Take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and you’ll be happy.” Now it is their business to take it or not to take it. But he can come. (Room Conversation — February 12, 1975, Mexico)
As soon as we surrender to the spiritual master, to Srila Prabhupada, by deciding to abide by his instructions and discipline, there is no question of him not accepting us because – like Krishna – Srila Prabhupada has assured us in his purports and teachings that by our genuine desire in executing his instructions, his blessing of spiritual understanding is automatically there.
When facing the question of knowing whether Srila Prabhupada has accepted one as a disciple, Srila Prabhupada answered this question again by the practical arrangement he implemented for his institution. How did any disciple early in the movement know whether they had been accepted by Srila Prabhupada as a disciple? For the majority of initiated disciples, this understanding was there without any direct confirmation or letter from Srila Prabhupada himself. It was the system Srila Prabhupada implemented which confirmed one as a disciple of Srila Prabhupada: local authorities recommending one for initiation based on the observance of the discipline being followed by that devotee for at least 6 months. By 1977 this process had fully depended on the discretion of these observing representatives of Srila Prabhupada. Yet there was no question as to whose disciples the newly initiated devotees were. The only difference in todays circumstances is that Srila Prabhupada is not “physically” present. But this cannot be a legitimate factor because 1) Srila Prabhupada does not support such a crucial factor and 2) on the contrary, Srila Prabhupada teaches that the presence of the spiritual mastere should be considered in terms of vani or instruction and not physical presence, vapuh. Therefore, especially in regard to initiation, there is no legitimate difference between todays circumstances and when Srila Prabhupada was “physically” present.
Srila Prabhupada is acting on behalf of Krishna – he is Krishna’s representative. When Krishna promises to deliver us from all sinful reaction as we surrender unto Him, it should be understood that Srila Prabhupada will also deliver us from all sinful reaction – on behalf of Krishna – as we surrender unto Krishna via Srila Prabhupada by following his instructions. Following in the footsteps of Arjuna, we should openly submit ourselves as disciples of Srila Prabhupada and beg for his instruction. Srila Prabhupada’s original books are available today and it is up to us whether we want to take instruction from them.
Reporter: Who will succeed you when you die?
Srila Prabhupada: I will never die!
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!
Srila Prabhupada: I will live forever from my books and you will utilise. (Interview, Berkley, 17/7/75)