The Bhagavata Parampara And Diksa
Posted June 18, 2003
There seems to be widespread misunderstanding of the Bhagavata Parampara conception of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura as well as a misconception that it supports the idea that one need not take initiation from a contemporary or "living guru". It has even been suggested that certain acaryas listed in the Bhagavata Parampara may not have accepted mantra diksa from one of their contemporaries but there is no information whatsoever to support this contention.
In some cases there is little knowledge of the diksa gurus of some of the Bhagavata Parampara acaryas listed in Bhagavad Gita As It Is but there is also no information implying that any of them did not take diksa from a contemporary guru. Sanatana Goswami's diksa guru is not mentioned in Bhagavad Gita As It Is but elsewhere in a number of books we find his diksa guru listed as Vidya Vacaspati, said to be a contemporary of Sanatana Prabhu, with whom he would stay from time to time in order to study scriptures. (Bhakti Ratnakara 1.598-9)
Other diksa gurus not listed in relation to Bhagavata Paramapara acharyas are Yadunandana acarya, the diksa guru of Raghunatha dasa Goswami; Radharaman Chakravarti, the diksa guru of Visvanatha Chakravarti; and Radha-Damodar Goswami, the diksa guru of Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Vipina Goswami, not Jagannatha Das Babaji, was the diksa guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. There is no precedent of any of the acaryas listed in the Bhagavata Parampara foregoing diksa or accepting diksa mantra from an acarya who had already departed. Even Mahaprabhu accepted diksa from a contemporary, in spite of the fact that he was Krishna Himself and had no need of diksa.
Although there is considerable mystery involved, diksa, in simple terms, is the planting of the seed of spiritual realization and siksa is the watering of that seed. Generally the diksa guru is also the siksa guru, or one of any number of siksa gurus, and his siksa nourishes the diksa. Diksa and siksa are meant to complement one another; thus Prabhupada writes: "There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating [diksa] and instructing [siksa] spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service. (CC Adi 1.47) And: "There is no limit, however, to the number of instructing [siksa] spiritual masters one may accept (CC Adi-lila 1.35)."
Although diksa is all-important, the Bhagavata Parampara of Bhaktisiddhanta seems to stress siksa even more. Bhaktivinoda writes: "The initiating spiritual master (diksa-guru) shows his causeless mercy by giving his disciples instructions in chanting the mantra. By so doing, he points the disciples in the direction of the truths pertaining to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. I consider the numerous instructing spiritual masters (siksa-gurus) to be more important, for they show more mercy by training the sadhakas in all the essential aspects of sadhana-bhakti." (Kalyana-kalpataru)
"To better understand the siksa guru parampara of Bhaktisiddhanta and its validity, one must first consider the state of the Gaudiya sampradaya in his time. The degradation that the tradition suffered from at the time included various diksa lineages that, although stemming originally from one of the liberated associates of Sri Caitanya, had become little more than a means of material livelihood for their so-called gurus."
"Bhaktisiddhanta's siksa guru parampara involved weaving his spiritual lineage out of the fabric of substance rather than formality. Considering the condition of the prominent diksa paramparas, he placed in his line all of the universally acknowledged maha-bhagavatas appearing at one time or another in the various diksa lineages. Thus his line crossed all of the lineages of the time and united them while dismissing them as well. He made a line of siddhas and claimed that connection to all of them was the right of all sincere followers of Mahaprabhu. Their teaching (siksa) and adherence to it was the binding force of the sampradaya." (Swami B.V. Tripurari: Sri Guru Parampara)
Acaryas are listed in the Bhagavata Parampara because of their contributions to the cause of Mahaprabhu and are compared to the highest peaks in a transcendental mountain range or to great leaders of spiritual science whose work for the sampradaya set them apart from the rest. They are the Newtons and Einsteins of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, whose contributions were built upon the foundational work of the spiritual scientists who went before them. The Bhagavata Parampara of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura connects us with all the great Gaudiya Acaryas whose teachings are the property of all those who sincerely and substantially follow them. The Bhagavata Parampara does not advise one to forego diksa from a qualified contemporary acarya, but by example teaches the opposite: that is, to find a qualified Vaisnava and take diksa and siksa.
Further information can be found in my editorial entitled "The Bhagavata Parampara".