The living Guru "physical spiritual master"
and the process of diksha initiation

Quoted from Pada Blog 22. July 2008:

By Abhasraya dasa

In a lecture from January 13th, 1969, Srila Prabhupada states:

"So although a physical body is not present, the vibration should be accepted as the presence of the Spiritual Master, vibration. What we have heard from the Spiritual Master, that is living."

Paramahamsa: My question is, a pure devotee, when he comments on Bhagavad Gita, someone who never sees him physically, but he just comes in contact with the commentary, explanation, is this the same
Please The Genuine Sad Guru  Srila Prabhupada -- Moroseness Immediately Disapears!

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You can associate with Krsna by reading Bhagavad-Gita. And these saintly persons, they have given their explanations, comments. So where is the difficulty?

(Srila Prabhupada, morning walk, Paris 11/6/74)

The post is long and is mostly a compilation of quotes from Srila Prabhupada. I got value out of reading the quotes and bringing them together in one place.

After compiling the quotes, I read a question and answer session with Gour Govinda Swami. I'd like to reproduce what I read, below:

Questions and Answers

Devotee 1: Sabda-brahma is Krishna in sound vibration?

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes. One has to hear. It is not that, "All right, tapes are there, I'll hear the recorded tapes." Sabda-brahma will never descend.

Devotee 2: It doesn't descend through transmission of tape?

Gour Govinda Swami: No, no.

Devotee 2: Only when you are personally sitting there with a pure vaisnava?

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes. Now in this material scientific age so many techniques are there. People, say, "No more teacher are required. We'll teach through television." Nonsense. Sabda-brahma will never descend.

Devotee 3: What if one is a disciple of a bonafide guru, then later on that guru stops his lila. What should one do?

Gour Govinda Swami: Lila is always there:

    adyapiha sei lila kare gaura-raya,
    kona kona bhagyavan dekhibare paya

    (Cb. quoted in Bhaktivinode Thakur's Navadvipa Mahatmya Pramana-khanda)

Gauranga's pastimes are still going on. People say, "Oh Gauranga Mahaprabhu has disappeared." One who is very fortunate and has vision he can see how gaura-lila is going on.

Devotee 3: That means that guru is always there?

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes. He is always there. His lila is going on.

Devotee 3: I may think, "I have already taken the dust of the lotus feet of my guru. Now he is not here. So I don't need that dust anymore."

Gour Govinda Swami: Darsana is there. The guru is always there if you have the eye to see. If you are a sat-sisya you can always see how the guru is present.

Devotee 4: How can we see guru?

Gour Govinda Swami: Blind man! If you are endowed with that vision you can see.I never lost sight of my guru. I see my guru is always there. Therefore I cannot say,"nitya-lila-pravistha". It is so painful to me. No! He is here.

Devotee 4: Do you have to be a pure dovotee to see a pure devotee?

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes! That vision is required. If you have no vision then you are a blind man.How can a blind man see? The object is there. What is required to see the object? The first thing is the eye. Next is light. You may be endowed with vision, but if there is no light, how can you see? Can you see in the darkness? Therefore two things are required, first vision and then light. Even if you are endowed with eyes, if there is no light then you can't see. What is that light? The enlightenment by the mercy potency. If you are devoid of that, how can you see?

Devotee 5: Anarthas are like clouds in front of the eye?

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes, Yes. Anarthas are like clouds covering the sun. The eye is covered.

Devotee 2: Can one see guru appearing in different forms, or is he coming in dreams?

Gour Govinda Swami: He may come in a dream. He has different forms also, just as Krishna has different forms. Krishna has so many manifestations. Therefor we have described in our book Sri Guru-vandana about samasti-guru and vyasti-guru.

Devotee 6: What are those kind of gurus?

Gour Govinda Swami: Guru Krsna-rupa hana sastrera pramane (Cc. adi-lila1.45} -- scripture describes that it is Krishna who appears as guru.

Krishna is one. Guru tattva is also one. Guru is one, but he appears in different, different, forms. That is samasti-guru. The particular forms such as Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami, Srila Bhakitisiddhanta, this person and that, this is vyasti-guru.

Devotee 3: When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati left, guru was still there?

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes.

Devotee 3: Guru is always present?

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes, always present.

Devotee 3: Because guru is non-different from Krishna we understand that to be a guru is not an easy thing. So why is it said that someone maybe on the level of kanistha or madhyama and be guru?

Gour Govinda Swami: All are gurus. There is kanistha-guru, madhyama-guru, uttama-gurus. Divisions are there. What you deserve you get. Krishna knows what you deserve so He makes an appropriate arrangement for you.

Devotee 7: Some devotees are not accepting guru now. They are saying, "I'll just accept sastra."

Gour Govinda Swami: How can you understand sastra?

Devotee 7: But we have seen, as in Russia, that some devotees have only gotten books and they are now chanting, worshiping the deity, and preaching.

Gour Govinda Swami: You cannot understand. In sastra, mantra is there. Nama is there. But unless it comes out from the lips of sad-guru, Sri Guru, your chanting will never be effective. The potency will never be there.

Devotee 7: But they say that smrti-sastra is coming from the lips of vaisnavas, so we are hearing smrti.

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes. This is how sastra manifests. When is comes out from the lips of sad-guru, Sri Guru, then it manifests. Though sastra is there, by itself it will never manifest to you. It's a question of manifestation.

Devotee 7: Other persons say that we can hear from the commentaries of the vaisnava-acaryas.

Gour Govinda Swami: For that reason it is said,

    bhaktya bhagavatam grahyam
    na buddhya na ca tikaya

Srimad Bhagavatam can only be understood by bhakti, not be dint of one's intelligence or by reading commentaries. (Cc.24.313)

You cannot understand Bhagavata by taking help of the tikas, commentaries. So many commentaries are there. One may think, "Yes, I am a scholar. It is all written in Sanskrit. I know the language so I can read and understand it." No! You can only understand Srimad Bhagavatam by bhakti. You cannot understand Bhagavata by dint of your material scholarship, learning, intelligence, or by taking the help of the commentaries. No, no. Hear from acarya and then you can develop bhakti. Unless you hear, how can you understand just by reading? You cannot understand. Grantha-avatara will never manifest to you. You will only see paper, and black and white. Nothing else.

Devotee 7: Then what is the meaning of the brhad-mrdanga-sankirtana? Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati has said that our kirtana is brhad-mrdanga-sankirtana, the printing press.

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes. That will inspire you. Just one book distributed spreads so far. First you read the book and then one friend says, "Oh, let me read it." Then he lets someone else read it. In this way it sprads so much. The sound of the mrdanga only goes rom here to there. But the brhad-mrdanga spreads so far. That will inspire you. You will think, "Who is the source? Let me go and see and hear from him."

Devotee 7: So first you hear and then if you read the same thing in the sastra...

Gour Govinda Swami: Yes. It is only in Kali-yuga that books are required.. In other yugas there are no books. Just by hearing once they would never forget. But in this yuga, if I ask you to repeat what you have heard after the class, how much can you repeat? You will have already forgotton ninety to ninety-five percent. Only five percent you may be able to repeat. Books are required. Therefore Vyasadev came and wrote books. In other yugas there are no books. They will help you remember, "Oh yes. I have heard. Now it is here."

Devotee 7: In your book Sri Guru-vandana, you have described this flow of nectar as padma-madhu.You said that it comes to a devotee who is a sincere hearer. So someone who is very sincere to hear from guru and serves guru, he may get that nectar even though he may not have physical contact?

Gour Govinda Swami:
You should be greedy. Physical contact is required. You must hear directly, not just by listening to tapes. Sabda-brahma will never descend through a tape. One must hear from a physically present Sri Guru.

In a lecture from January 13th, 1969, Srila Prabhupada states, that physical contact is NOT required:

"So although a physical body is not present, the vibration should be accepted as the presence of the Spiritual Master, vibration. What we have heard from the Spiritual Master, that is living."

In the purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.47, Srila Prabhupada writes:

"However, the disciple and spiritual master are never separated because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani (words). Physical presence is called vapuh. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master."

In a small book, "Elevation to Krishna Consciousness", Srila Prabhupada writes:

"Some people complain that when they pray to God they do not feel His presence. We should know that this is due to our incapacities, not God's. There are two conceptions of presence--the physical conception and the vibrational conception. The physical conception is temporary, whereas the vibrational conception is eternal. When we enjoy or relish the vibration of Krsna's teachings in Bhagavad-gita, or when we chant Hare Krsna, we should know that by those vibrations He is immediately present. He is absolute, and because of this His vibration is just as important as His physical presence. When we feel separation from Krsna or the spiritual master, we should just try to remember their words of instructions, and we will no longer feel that separation. Such association with Krsna and the spiritual master should be association by vibration, not physical presence. That is real association. We put so much stress on seeing, but when Krsna was present on this earth, so many people saw Him and did not realize that He is God; so what is the advantage of seeing? By seeing Krsna, we will not understand Him, but by listening carefully to His teachings, we can come to the platform of understanding. We can touch Krsna immediately by sound vibration; therefore we should give more stress to the sound vibration of Krsna and of the spiritual master--then we'll feel happy and won't feel separation."

When I first came in contact with Krsna Consciousness, I was new and open. Over time, I absorbed and internalized various ideas. I've since started to let go of some of the ideas that I had previously internalized. It feels amazing.

In a lecture that I think is from July 16th, 1971, Srila Prabhupada states:

"But the difficulty is that they mix up something. Just like you have tasted sweet rice, paramanna. And if somebody mixes some sand with it... The paramanna is very good, but because it is mixed with some sand particles it is spoiled. You cannot take. This is practical. Similarly, the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, teachings of Lord Krsna, is very simple. But the rascals put some sand particles. That is the difficulty. Spoils the broth, spoils the everything."

"So this process should be avoided, mixing sand with the sweet rice. This rascaldom should be avoided. Then you can, everyone can distribute nicely."

"Because I am not adulterating the sweet rice with sand, people are tasting it very nice. So you also follow the same principle. Don't try to adulterate. Present it as it is. And people will like it. There is no difficulty."

Some of what I internalized during my period of closer contact with the ISKCON organization was crippling, and seemed to act as a filter through which I viewed Srila Prabhupada's teachings. In many ways my understanding during those early days of contact with Krsna Consciousness was purer and less distorted, even though I hadn't read or heard as much of Srila Prabhupada's teachings. It is only now, years later, and after having read and heard more, that I finally give myself permission to honor, value and give voice to the perceptions, gut reactions and realizations that I experienced in those early days. The funny thing is that much that I've read and heard over the years in Srila Prabhupada's teachings, since 1995/96, seems to confirm the original gut reactions that I had when I first encountered Krsna Consciousness. It's like coming full circle.

I've heard and read that Srila Prabhupada told a story about a music school. I've searched on the Internet a bit, but have not yet found the actual quote of Srila Prabhupada telling the story. I'll relate the story from memory, the way that I remember it being told to me by another person. If someone has the actual quote, I would be very happy to read it. Anyway, here goes:

There was a music school. The music school accepted students. If the students had no previous musical training, then the school charged a certain fee. If the student had previous training, the school charged a higher fee.

Why? One might think that the school should charge less for a more experienced student. After all, that student already had learned many things, and had perhaps even mastered some basics. The way I remember the story being told to me, the school charged a higher fee for experienced students because they would have much to unlearn, and this would take time and effort on the part of the teachers. The experienced music students might have picked up all kinds of ideas and habits that would make it harder for them to absorb what the music school wanted them to learn. Profound stuff. As the saying goes "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

Along the same lines, I found the following quote in 2006 and I resonated with it:

"When we run into people who are speaking (or writing)'s easier to nod wisely, rather than saying...'Could you explain this in more detail?' Ask people questions, be naive, seek clarification...put your own point of view across. This sounds rather obvious, but fear of asking questions and voicing one's opinions due to the idea that 'Well, I'm a beginner, so I don't have anything to contribute,' does tend to hold people back. In my experience, beginners tend to come up with the most...interesting ideas...precisely because they have not yet assimilated other people's fixed notions of what you can and cannot do.

"Another issue which is related to 'Beginner's Mind' is that we are often reluctant to acknowledge what we do know, and the value of our own experience, particularly...when we encounter those who have been doing...for much longer. We all have things we can offer each other. Sharing experiences may be somewhat of a cliche, but it's nonetheless a true one."

I wasn't originally attracted to Srila Prabhupada and the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness primarily for lofty philosophical reasons. It was almost an animal thing. It was instinctive, intuitive, naive, trusting, a gut feeling, an attraction, a curiosity. It was experiential. It didn't make sense. I imagine that it might be like what salmon feel when they sense that it's time to swim upriver to spawn.

I wasn't thinking: "This person (Srila Prabhupada) is a bonafide representative of a long line of teachers stretching back to God himself." It was more like: "Go towards this. It's good for you. Don't be scared." There was an animal quality to it. Imagine a fox stuck in a trap chewing off its own leg in order to get free. Imagine a beaver swimming frantically towards the surface of the water, from deep below, in order to catch a life-giving breath of air. It wasn't a very "heady" thing.

Even when I wasn't sure how to reconcile Srila Prabhupada's teachings with what I had learned up to that point, I was still attracted. It felt like something inside was pushing me forward, and it still feels like that something continues to push me forward today.

I look back on where I was then and where I am now, and I can see that I was in a bad state. Over the past 12 years Srila Prabhupada's words have been influencing and shaping my world view. The words had a potency. I listened to the words and how I viewed the world began to change. The words didn't simply pass through me, they embedded themselves in my mind. I began to internalize some of them, and those words became part of the voice of conscience.

Is that sabda? Is that how sabda works?

In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 1.7.8, I found the following excerpt:

"Srimad-Bhagavatam is so made that one becomes at once engaged in the path of self-realization simply by hearing the topics. Although it is especially meant for the paramahamsas, or those who are totally engaged in self-realization, it works into the depths of the hearts of those who may be worldly men. Worldly men are all engaged in sense gratification."

Further along in the same chapter, in the purport to verse 22, I find this excerpt:

"The spiritual master is the mercy representative of the Lord. Therefore, a person burning in the flames of material existence may receive the rains of mercy of the Lord through the transparent medium of the self-realized spiritual master. The spiritual master, by his words, can penetrate into the heart of the suffering person and inject knowledge transcendental, which alone can extinguish the fire of material existence."

Is that sabda?

In a lecture from March 22nd, 1974, Srila Prabhupada states:

"The spiritual knowledge, brahma, brahma-vidya, sabda-brahma, the Vedic knowledge... Just like in the Bhagavad-gita, the words written in this book, Bhagavad-gita, although it appears like ordinary letters, they are not like that. It is Vedic vibration."

On February 23rd, 1974, in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada states:

"Sound is produced by the ether. So many sounds we are hearing. If you simply remember this sloka of Bhagavata, that sabda, any sound... Hare Krsna sound is transcendental. That's all right. But if you don't like Hare Krsna sound, you take any sound, any sound is also... That is coming from the original sound. Simply it is covered by maya."

In a lecture on Srimad Bhagavtam 3.25.19, given on November 19th, 1974, in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada states:

"So that light is given by guru. Ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya. That light is given not by bringing one torchlight, but jnananjana-salakaya, the light of knowledge. The light of... Jnananjana-salakaya. Caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah. Guru's business is to give you light by knowledge. Then you understand. Tasmad gurum prapadyeta jijnasuh sreya uttamam [SB 11.3.21]. How the jnana, knowledge, light is given? Sabde pare ca nisnatam brahmany upasamasrayam. This is the guru's system, guru's symptom, what is guru. Sabde pare ca nisnatam. He has completely assimilated the Vedic essence of life. That is called guru. And what is sabda? Sastra, or Vedas. Sruti-sastra. Sruti means Veda, knowledge. Veda means knowledge."
In a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 3.25.15, given on November 15th, 1974, Srila Prabhupada states:

"...Krsna is present in the sound. This potaka, He is also present there. Sabdah khe. The sabda, or the sound, Krsna says, that 'I am the sound.' So Krsna is present everywhere."

In a lecture on Bhagavad Gita 16.8, given in Tokyo on January 25th, 1975, Srila Prabhupada states:

"So God is speaking Bhagavad-gita. Just like reading, Krsna is speaking. So hear it, God speaking, the sound. The devotees are chanting Hare Krsna, that is God, that sound is God, sabda-brahma."

There's also a quote from the purport to SB 10.2.18, where Srila Prabhupada specifically uses the term "diksa", and which I've noticed some people bring attention to on the Internet:

"As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva's mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one's own heart."

In a lecture from July 29th, 1968, Srila Prabhupada states:

"This is called initiation. Or initiation from the very beginning.  This is called diksa. The Sanskrit term is called diksa. Diksa means... Di, divya-jnanam, transcendental knowledge, and ksa, iksa. Iksa means darsana, to see, or ksapayati, explain. That is called diksa."

From a room conversation, from January 27th, 1977, in Bhubaneswar, we have the following exchange:
Pradyumna: Guru-padasrayah. "First one must take shelter of the lotus feet of a spiritual master." Tasmat Krishna- diksadi-siksanam. Tasmat, "from him", Krishna- diksadi-siksanam, "one should take Krishna-Diksa, initiation, and Siksa.
Srila Prabhupada: Diksa means divya-jnanam ksapayati iti diksa. Which explains the divya-jnana, transcendental, that is diksa. Di, divya, diksanam. diksa. So divya-jnana, transcendental knowledge... If you don't accept a spiritual master, how you'll  get transcen... you'll  be taught here and there, here and there, and waste time. Waste time for the teacher and waste your valuable time. Therefore you have to be guided by an expert spiritual master. Read it.
Pradyumna: Krishna- diksadi-siksanam.

Srila Prabhupada: Siksanam. We have to learn. If you don't learn, how you'll make progress? Then?

As time goes on, I come across quotes from Srila Prabhupada that seem to validate my early experiences, realizations and gut reactions. It's intuitively satisfying.

"Diksa means... Di, divya-jnanam, transcendental knowledge, and ksa, iksa. Iksa means darsana, to see, or ksapayati, explain. That is called diksa." (Srila Prabhupada, lecture, July 29th, 1968)

"You must get another birth, through the initiation of the spiritual master, diksa. Diksa means initiation. Di means divya jnanam, and ksa means ksapayati. From the day of initiation, you simply get spiritual knowledge, transcendental knowledge." (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.16.1, in Los Angeles, on December 29th, 1973)

"Then you can say 'Yes, I know everything' Diksa. Diksa, initiation, diksa, this Sanskrit word, diksa, means divya-jnanam ksapayati ask from spiritual master with service and surrender the transcendental knowledge. The more you ask, you become a man of knowledge." (Srila Prabhupada, Morning Walk 11th June 1974)

"So initiation means, the Sanskrit word is diksa. Diksa, divya jnanam ksapayati iti diksa. Divya-jnana." (Srila Prabhupada, initiation lecture, June 17th, 1976)

"By diksa one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life." (Srila Prabhupada, Nectar of Instruction, purport to verse 5)

"Diksa means divya-jnanam ksapayati iti diksa. Which explains the divya-jnana, transcendental, that is diksa. Di, divya, diksanam. diksa. So divya-jnana, transcendental knowledge..." (Srila Prabhupada, room conversation, January 27th, 1977, in Bhubaneswar)

"Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa." (Srila Prabhupada, CC Madhya-lila 15.108, purport)

"This is the purpose of diksa, or initiation. Initiation means receiving the pure knowledge of spiritual consciousness." (Srila Prabhupada, purport to CC Madhya-lila, 9.61)

"The eternal bond between disciple and spiritual master begins from the first day he hears. just like my Spiritual Master. In 1922 he said in our first meeting, 'You are educated boys, why don't you preach this cult.' That was the beginning, now it is coming to fact. Therefore the relationship began from that day." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Mother Jadurani, September 4th, 1972)

Sabda. Hearing. Receiving transcendental knowledge, divya-jnana. Knowledge penetrating into the heart and causing change in the person.  Interests gradually changing. In a lecture in Hyderabad, from December 10th, 1970, Srila Prabhupada states:

"And in 1933 I was officially initiated, and my only qualification was when I was introduced to my Guru Maharaja for initiation, so Guru Maharaja immediately said, 'Yes, I shall initiate this boy. He is very nice. He hears me very patiently. He does not go away.' So that was my qualification. The high standard of philosophy which he was speaking at that time, practically I could not follow what was, he was speaking, but still, I liked to hear him. That was my hobby. Whenever... I was asking that 'When Guru Maharaja will speak?' So he took it very seriously."  

Sabda penetrates and makes an impression. A samskara. Srila Prabhupada's instructions help to shape and train the person, to create samskaras in the person.

In a lecture that Srila Prabhupada gave on Lord Ramacandra's Appearance Day, in Hawaii, on March 27th, 1969, he states:

"Sudra means one who has no training. Sudra has no samskara. Samskara means training."

"That was the system. There was no school fee. There was no problem how to send a boy to the school. Samskara. Now he's trained up."

"And formerly also, by his birth, everyone was considered sudra, but there was training, Samskara. At the present moment, there is no samskara, there is no training. The training is only for earning livelihood. No other training."

In a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.21, given in Honolulu, on May 21st, 1976,  Srila Prabhupada states:

"Dvija means twice-born. First-born by the father and mother, and the next birth is dvijah, means by the father, spiritual master, and the mother, Vedic knowledge. This is called second birth. Samskarad bhaved dvijah. Samkara means purificatory process."

In a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.16.1, in Los Angeles, on December 29th, 1973, Srila Prabhupada mentions samskara in the context of training and reformation:

"Dvija means samskara, reformation, to mold the character. That is called samskara. Just like you can train even a tiger, even an animal, to dance according to your desire. That is practical. So you cannot train a human being to become a brahmana? With such intelligence? But there is no such training. They are simply training all cats and dogs. But the Vedic civilization takes this opportunity of human being, to make him perfect in his life."

In a lecture from June 29th, 1976, Srila Prabhupada seems to be discussing samskara in the context of spiritual knowledge and education. Interestingly enough, Srila Prabhupada also uses the word "gradually":

"Samskara... The real aim is to bring the rascal to the platform of knowledge. That is called samskara. Janmana jayate sudra. By birth everyone is the same, sudras, means without any knowledge. But the samskara means sudra, rascal, without any knowledge of spiritual life, to gradually bring him to the spiritual platform. That is called samskara. And samskarad bhaved dvijah. That is essential. The human life is the opportunity for understanding what he is and what is the aim of his life. The aim of life is back to home, back to Godhead. We are part and parcel of God. Somehow or other we are in this material existence. So aim is again come to our spiritual life, spiritual existence, where there is no struggle for existence, blissful, happy life. Because actually we want happiness, blissful life. That is not possible in the material world. That is in the spiritual world. That is the aim. So every human being should be given chance. That is real education. That is called samskara."

Below are more excerpts from lectures by Srila Prabhupada, where he states some interesting things about samskara. In the first three quotes, one of the words used in connection with samskara is "knowledge". Two of the quotes also include the word "education". One quote includes the expression "gradual process":

"So janmana jayate sudrah samskarad bhaved dvijah. Birth. Birth is not all, everything. The culture, samskara. Samskara means culture. One has to take his birth, rebirth, by culture, by education, by knowledge." (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.12-13, July 29th, 1966)

"Janmana jayate sudra. Everyone is born sudra. Then? Samskarad bhaved dvija. Dvija means this samskara. This samskara… By gradual process of cultivation of knowledge, of behavior, of rules and regulations, one becomes a dvija. Dvija means twice-born." (Srila Prabhupada, brahmana initiation lecture with Professor O'Connell, May 6th, 1968, Boston)

"That reformation required, samskara, reformation, enlightenment, cultural life. That cultural life culminates when one actually becomes a brahmana, Vaisnava. That is real cultural life. Not by birth but by cultivation of knowledge, education, advancement, spiritual knowledge, one comes to the platform of brahmana." (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.20, October 31st, 1972, Vrndavana)

"Samskarad bhaved dvijah. By samskara, by the reformatory process, one is initiated -- that is called dvija, dvitiya-janma." (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.21, July 5th, 1975, Chicago).

In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 10.13.53, Srila Prabhupada writes something that I found interesting in relation to samskara:

"As for samskara, or reformation, this is possible by good association, for by good association one develops good habits, and habit becomes second nature. Therefore, bhakta-sane vasa: let people have the chance to live with bhaktas. Then their habits will change."

Good association. Being in the company of Srila Prabhupada. Being affected by that good company. Associating with the words and teachings. Internalizing those teachings and feeling them begin to change one's life. Feeling the teachings impress themselves inside you. Reading as hearing. Books as recorded sound vibration.

From a letter that Srila Prabhupada wrote to Rupanuga Prabhu, on October 19th, 1974:

"Anyone who reads the books that is also chanting and hearing. Why distinguish between chanting and book distribution? These books I have recorded and chanted, and they are transcribed. It is spoken kirtanas. So book distribution is also chanting. These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing."

Books. Sabda.

"So there is nothing to be said new. Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books. Now you try to understand it and continue your endeavour. Whether I am present or not present it doesn't matter." (Srila Prabhupada, arrival conversation, May 17th, 1977, Vrindavan)

"In my books the philosophy of Krsna 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." (Srila Prabhupda's letter to Brahmarupa Prabhu, November 11th, 1974)

"After 80 years, no one can be expected to live long. My life is almost ended. So you have to carry on, and these books will do everything." (Srila Prabhupada, room conversation, February 18th, 1976)

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada when you're not present with us, how is it possible to receive instructions? For example in questions that may arise...

Srila Prabhupada: Well the questions are answ...answers are there in my books.

(Srila Prabhupada, morning walk, Los Angeles, 13/5/73)

"So utilize whatever time you find to make a thorough study of my books. Then all your questions will be answered." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Upendra, 7/1/76)

"Every one of you must regularly read our books at least twice, in the morning and evening, and automatically all questions will be answered." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Randhira, 24/01/70)

Receving guidance, sabda, both from inside and from outside.

"The Paramatma, the Supersoul, Krishna as Supersoul, is sitting within your heart along with you. And as soon as, by the instruction of the scripture and direction of the spiritual master, you begin sincerely
something, the Paramatma, from within you, He'll speak, 'Yes, now you are right.'
" (Srila Prabhupada, Cc. Lecture. NY 1966)

"Being present in everyone's heart, the Lord gives the living entities the CONSCIENCE whereby they can accept the Vedas and the spiritual master. In this way the living entity can understand his constitutional position and his relationship with the Supreme Lord." (Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 20.125, purport, emphasis added)

"So spiritual master is external manifestation of God. God is within and without. Within, He is Supersoul. He will give you... If you are sincere, He will give you good counsel, 'You do like this.' You'll get dictation from within. That requires advancement of spiritual life. Then you get from within dictation. So God is helping from within and without. Within, as Paramatma, and without as spiritual master. Both ways." (Srila Prabhupada, Conversation, April 1st, 1969)

"This is the system of receiving instructions from the Supersoul. Externally He is not to be seen, but internally He speaks to the devotee. That is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita -- the Lord dictates from
within one who is sincerely engaged in His service, and the Lord acts in such a way that such a person can ultimately attain the supreme goal of life.
" (Srila Prabhupada, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Ch. 23)

"Don't feel yourself to be alone because Krishna is always with you. Krishna is always with every living entity as Supersoul, and to His devotee especially He talks and gives instructions how to attain the
perfectional stage of meeting Him. So don't feel alone.
" (Srila Prabhupada, Letter to Ananda 1969)

I read an article on the IRM website a while back that I found interesting in connection with Srila Prabhupada's use of the expression "physical spiritual master". I did an Internet search for those words and I found the following quotes.

The first is from a conversation from May 23rd, 1974:

"Therefore God is called caittya-guru, the spiritual master within the heart. And the physical spiritual master is God's mercy. If God sees that you are sincere, He will give you a spiritual master who can give you protection. He will help you from within and without, without in the physical form of spiritual master, and within as the spiritual master within the heart."

The second is from a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.4, from May 28th, 1974:

"Because Krsna is situated in everyone's heart. Actually, He is the spiritual master, caitya-guru. So in order to help us, He comes out as physical spiritual master. And therefore saksad-dharitvena sama... Spiritual master is representative of Krsna. Krsna sends some sincere devotee to act on His behalf, and therefore he is spiritual master."

The third is from a lecture on Bhagavad-Gita s It Is, verse 4.34, given in New York on August 14th, 1966:

"These are Vedic injunctions. So Krsna, He is within our heart. Hrdy antah- sthah. Therefore, as soon as we become a little inclined towards Krsna, then from within our heart He gives us favorable instruction so that we can gradually make progress, gradually.

"Krsna is the first spiritual master, and when we become more interested, then we have to go to a physical spiritual master. That is enjoined in the next verse."

I find it interesting that in the above quotes the expression "physical spiritual master" is spoken in the context of a internal guidance (caitya-guru) vs. external guidance.  Srila Prabhupada is not Krsna, he is not Supersoul. His instructions are available to us in physical form (tapes, mp3s, books, videos, etc.) The information that we receive internally, intuitively, instinctually, can be checked externally with Srila Prabhupada's teachings, creating a feedback loop.

Sabda can be received internally and confirmed externally. It can be received externally, and it will resonate internally. If Krsna is guiding the jiva, he then speaks internally in the heart the same thing that he externally speaks to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita. No?

The following quotes are probably familiar to many readers here, but I re-read them this morning, and got value from it. I wanted to share them as part of this post. There's a lot of them:

"Physical presence is immaterial. Presence of the transcendental sound received from the Spiritual Master should be the guidance of life. That will make our spiritual life successful. If you feel very strongly about my absence you may place my pictures on my sitting places and this will be source of inspiration for you." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Brahmananda and other students, 19/1/67)

"But always remember that I am always with you. As you are always thinking of me, I am always thinking of you also. Although physically we are not together, we are not separated spiritually. So we should be concerned only with this spiritual connection." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Gaurasundara, 13/11/69)

"So we should associate by vibration, and not by the physical presence. That is real association." (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on SB, 68/08/18)

"Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarsavati Thakura Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the last day of December 1936, I still consider his Divine Grace to be always present with me by his vani, his words. There are two ways of association - by vani and by vapuh. Vani means words and vapuh means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but Vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, one must take advantage of the Vani, not the physical presence." (Srila Prabhupada, CC, Antya 5 Conclusion)

"Therefore we should take advantage of the Vani, not the physical presence." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Suci Devi Dasi, 4/11/75)

"I shall remain your personal guidance, physically present or not physically present, as I am getting guidance from my Guru Maharaja." (Srila Prabhupada, room conversation, Vrindavan, 14/7/77)

"It is sometimes misunderstood that if one has to associate with persons engaged in devotional service, he will not be able to solve the economic problem. To answer this argument, it is described here that one has to associate with liberated persons not directly, physically, but by understanding, through philosophy and logic, the problems of life." (Srila Prabhupada, SB 3.31.48. purport)

"I am always with you. Never mind if I am physically absent." (Srila Prabhuapda, letter to Jayananda, 16/9/67)

Paramananda: We're always feeling your presence very strongly, Srila Prabhupada, simply by your teachings and your instructions. We're always meditating on your instructions.

Srila Prabhupada: Thank you. That is the real presence. Physical presence is not important.

(Room Conversation, Vrndavana, 6/10/77)

"You write that you have desire to avail of my association again, but why do you forget that you are always in association with me? When you are helping my missionary activities I am always thinking of you, and you are always thinking of me . That is real association. Just like I am always thinking of my Guru Maharaja at every moment, although he is not physically present, and because I am trying to serve him to my best capacity, I am sure he is helping me by his spiritual blessings. So there are two kinds of association: physical and preceptorial. Physical association is not so important as preceptorial association." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Govinda Dasi, 18/8/69)

"As far as my blessing is concerned, it does not require my physical presence. If you are chanting Hare Krsna there, and following my instructions, reading the books, taking only Krsna prasadam etc., then there is no question of your not receiving the blessings of Lord Caitanya, whose mission I am humbly trying to push on." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Bala Krsna, 30/6/74)

"'Anyone who has developed unflinching faith in the Lord and the Spiritual Master can understand the revealed scripture unfolding before him'. So continue your present aptitude and you will be successful in your spiritual progress. I am sure that even if I am not physically present before you, still you will be able to execute all spiritual duties in the matter of Krsna Consciousness, if you follow the above principles." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Subala, 29/9/67)

Devotee: sometimes the Spiritual Master is far away. He may be in Los Angeles. Somebody is coming to Hamburg Temple. He thinks "How will the Spiritual Master be pleased?"

Srila Prabhupada:
Just follow his order, Spiritual Master is along with you by his words. Just like my Spiritual Master is not physically present, but I am associating with him by his words.

 (Srila Prabhupada, SB Lectures, 71/08/18)

"Just like I am working, so my Guru Maharaja is there, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Physically he may not be, but in every action he is there. To serve master's word is more important than to serve physically." (Srila Prabhupada, room conversation, Vrindavan, 2/5/77)

"So that is called prakata, physically present. And there is another phrase, which is called aprakata, not physically present. But that does not mean, Krsna is dead or God is dead. That does not mean, prakata or aprakata, physically present or not present, it does not matter." (Srila Prabhupada, lectures SB 73/12/11)

"So, spiritually, there is no question of separation, even physically we may be in far distant place." (Srial Prabhupada, letter to Syama Dasi, 30/08/68)

"I went to your country for spreading this information of Krsna Consciousness and you are helping me in my mission, although I am not physically present there but spiritually I am always with you." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Nandarani, Krsna Devi and Subala, 3/10/67)

"We are not separated actually. There are two - Vani or Vapuh - so Vapu is physical presence and Vani is presence by the vibration, but they are all the same." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Hamsadutta, 22/6/70)

"So in the absence of physical presentation of the spiritual master, the Vaniseva is more important. My Spiritual Master Sarsavati Goswami, may appear to be physically not present, but still because I try to serve his instruction, I never feel separated from him." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Karandhara, 22/8/70)

"I also do not feel separation from my Guru Maharaja. When I am engaged in his service, his pictures give me sufficient strength. To serve master's word is more important than to serve him physically." (Srila Prabhupada, letter to Syamasundara, 19/7/70)

The next two exchanges also seem relevant to the topic of how sabda is transmitted. Again, I assume that many here know these quotes already, but I got value out of re-reading them today, so I'll share them.

Narayana: So those disciples who don't have the opportunity to see you or speak with you...

Srila Prabhupada: That he was speaking, vani and vapuh. Even if you don't see his body, you take his words, vani.

Narayana: But how do they know that they're pleasing you?

Srila Prabhupada: If you actually follow the words of Guru, that means he is pleased. And if you do not follow, how can he be pleased?

Sudama: Not only that, but your mercy is spread everywhere, and if we take advantage, you told us once, then we will feel the result.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

(Srila Prabhupada, room conversation, 21/7/75)

Madhudvisa: Is there any way for a Christian to do without the help of a Spiritual Master. To reach the spiritual sky through believing the words of Jesus Christ and trying to follow his teachings?

Srila Prabhupada: I don't follow.

Tamala Krishna Goswami: Can a Christian in this age, without a Spiritual Master, but by reading the Bible, and following Jesus's words, reach the ...

Srila Prabhupada: When you read the Bible, you follow the Spiritual Master. How can you say without. As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. That means that you are following the Spiritual Master. So where is the opportunity of being without Spiritual Master.

Madhudvisa: I was referring to a living Spiritual Master.

Srila Prabhupada: Spiritual Master is not question of ... Spiritual Master is your question is "without Spiritual Master". Without Spiritual Master you cannot be at any stage of your life. You may accept this Spiritual master or that Spiritual master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that 'by reading Bible', when you read Bible that means you are following the Spiritual Master  represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ.

(Morning Walk, Seattle, 2/10/68)

Hare Krsna.

I had no idea how easy it would be to please Guru and get his blessings. It took me twenty eight years to understand this clearly. My journey to realize this started the very first day I received science of self realization in 1980. Being in the material world I was naturally morose. No one is genuinely happy in the material world. When I read one paragraphs I was so ecstatic. My moroseness just lifted off and I knew I was in touch with someone who also knew God like I knew that Jesus Christ also knew God. Years before when I surrendered myself to Jesus I had a similar experience of all moroseness being lifted off and being raised in spirit to experience a unspeakable joy of soul that is utterly unspeakable.

Now I see this is all related to pleasing the bona fide Guru. With reading one verse in Srila Prabhupada's book I was experiencing a similar joy of soul. It was so intense and I felt I had struck Gold or God. I walked immediately down to the Hare Krishna temple and peeled off all my material possessions in exchange for a new simple devotee life consisting of dotie, kurta, three vegetarian meals and plenty of pots to blissfully wash all day.

Now looking back I was so naive. I know that if I would have had the right information of why I was so blissed out I would still be ecstatically serving Srila Prabhupada in full loving bliss to this day as I am doing now again! That's ok its water under the bridge. My austerity of finding and losing this greatest of all treasures many times over in this life is hopefully going to save some of those who read this article from having to go through dregs like I had to.

 At the time I did not know that there were basically two types of individuals who are attracted by the pure devotee. One type when they connect with Srila Prabhupada they just naturally love him and want to serve him for nothing other than it makes them so happy and blissed out. I was one of those. The other type that came to Srila Prabhupada are those with a different motive. They see wealth and power by this gaining his association. They see it as a great opportunity to benefit financially, gain honor and followers who will worship them when the guru leaves the planet. Those types were the ones who took the power after he departed. They are the ones I shortly was instructed worship as bona fide acaryas!


Advice to a bhakta by PADA

Haribol prabhu. I am sorry that there is not much going on with formal ritvik initiations. And for that matter: not too many formal ritvik centers exist to train up new ritvik devotees. My main idea nowadays is to encourage folks wherever they are to simply focus on Srila Prabhupada's books, lectures, mp3 discs, tapes etc. and take shelter of the pure devotee as best we can. Krishna knows how difficult it is for us exiled castaways, thus He will certainly reward us for remaining faithful under these austere conditions.

Reading his books, accepting his orders, that is in my opinion de facto initiation, even if we are scattered at the moment. And the reason for this situation is simply, not too many of us "protested the hijacking" as you very nicely put it.

Worse, many folks acquiseced if not compromised with the hijackers in order to get a piece of the stolen booty, then again a larger number of folks have pretty much simply given up on spritual practice and they just went away and never contributed to fighting the hijacking of their church. And they complain when they see my stuff that this is all "politics" and in sum they have no idea that the Gita is telling us to fight injustice, they never understood the siddhanta. So we are left with little infrastructure.

My advice for the moment is to try to keep centered on Prabhupada and he will accept you as his disciple thereby, he said that those who accept his books are initiated already (they are getting the divyam jnanam which is the essence of initiation). We are gradually forming up an alternative society, but it is taking time. I hope this helps. I have a few friends on the Prabhupada farm in North Carolina, run by Madhuha prabhu. That is about the nearest connection to yourself. ys pd

Please also see:
Srila Prabhupada on Vapuh Versus Vani