Diksha and Siksha guru
By Krsna Caitanya Dasa
Submitted by Hardik
Diksha is the formal process of initiation through which the disciple receives the maha-mantra and gets connected with the disciplic succession. Siksha means education. Any one who gives spiritual instructions based on the revealed scriptures should be revered as a siksha-guru. Typically a diksha-guru is also the siksha-guru, but a devotee could and probably will have more than siksha-guru from whom he has received instructions.
Each individual member of the sampradaya distributes the message of Godhead according to time, place and circumstance, and each one of them is worshipable. Therefore, in the first verse of Caitanya-Caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami offers his respects to his spiritual masters - in plural, "I offer my respectful obeisances unto the spiritual masters, the devotees of the Lord, the Lord's incarnations, His plenary portions, His energies and the primeval Lord Himself, Sri Krishna Caitanya."
The position of the diksha-guru is unique, since he is the one who accepts the disciple into the sampradaya (disciplic succession), initiates him into the chanting of the maha-mantra and instructs the disciple. However the scriptures clearly enjoin that it is the duty of the sincere devotee to inquire from those who are more advanced. Therefore the focus on the diksha-guru is by no means exclusive. Quite the contrary the siksha-gurus are assisting the diksha-guru in enlightening the disciple, and they should also be accorded with the same sense of gratitude and submission. Their functions is to guide the conditioned soul, back home, back to Godhead. Thus, the initiating and instructing gurus are equal and identical manifestations of Krishna, although they have different dealings.
One and many:
A devotee must have only one initiating spiritual master because in the scriptures the acceptance of more than one is always forbidden. There is no limit however to the number of instructing spiritual master a devotee may accept.
The physical proximity of the initiating spiritual master and his disciple may be curtailed due to several reasons. The initiating spiritual master may be traveling, living else where or may have left his body. Even when the spiritual master is in physical proximity, the primary service of the disciple is to follow his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual master and his instructions. Actually the words spoken by the spiritual master (vani) are more important that his physical presence (vapu), since they exist eternally. A sincere disciple serves these instructions with the help of other devotees who are qualified to understand and interpret these instructions.
Thus all the siksha-guru are actually helping the disciple follow the instructions of his diksha-guru. In that aspect they should be accorded the same respect and gratitude that one would render to his own initiating spiritual master. A classic example is that of the three great Vaisnava saints, Narottama dasa Thakura, Shyamananda Pandita and Srinivasa Acarya.
All three had different initiating spiritual master, but on the orders of these gurus they became disciples Jiva Goswami and took extensive instructions from him.
Another example is in ISKCON, where the current generation of devotees are taking initiation for disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Thus while they worship their initiating spiritual master as their diksha-guru they also worship Srila Prabhupada as their siksha-guru.
Who is a siksha-guru?
Anyone, even a non-liberated souls, who acts as a well wisher and gives instructions becomes a siksha-guru. In case of Dhruva Maharaja we see that his mother Suniti advised him to seek the shelter of Vasudeva. Even though he was later initiated by Narada Muni, Dhruva Maharaja gave his mother all the respect accorded to the status of a guru.
Similarly, Caitanya Mahaprabhu once received instructions from a very young boy of five years, on the chanting of the holy name and immediately accepted him as his guru. Thus He personally exemplified the mood of a devotee in accepting instructions.
The primary qualification of the siksha-guru is that his instructions are in accordance with the sadhu-shastra-guru, and that he is your well wisher. If one receives contradictory instructions that are not in compliance with this three-way check then such instructions should be summarily rejected. However a bona-fide siksha-guru, much like the diksha-guru, is only interested in the spiritual advancement of a devotee and will clarify or customize the instructions of the diksha-guru.
Devotees who focus on their initiating spiritual master to the exclusion of everyone and everything else may well be hindering their spiritual progress. Krishna mercifully sends many of His devotees to guide the souls lost in the material world. They are all intimate associates of the Lord and non-different from Him. While a devotee will take initiation from one of these qualified associate, he should also take full advantage of the association from the others, offer them all respects and accept their instructions to strengthen his service to guru and Krishna.