Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 09.01.2014, evening, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday) 

Shrila Rupa Goswami gives a list of 64 principles of devotional service:

“The first is accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide spiritual master. Second: becoming initiated by the spiritual master and learning from him how to discharge devotional service. Third one: obeying the orders of the spiritual master with faith and devotion. Fourth: following in the footsteps of the great acharyas (teachers) under the direction of the spiritual master. And the fifth: inquire from the spiritual master how to advance in Krishna consciousness.”[1]

So, the first five of these 64 elements of bhakti are focused on guru. And these first five principles are very positive: do this, do this, do this. They don’t say ‘don’t do that, don’t do that’. Let’s analyze a little bit these suggestions.

What does it mean to accept the shelter of the lotus feet of a spiritual master? You might think that this means to be fully connected to him. But then why is there the second principle that you should be initiated by him? There must be a difference between the two levels. First level is that ‘I accept him’. And the second level is that ‘he accepts me’. Do you see the difference? That means to establish your contact more and more. To take the shelter of a saintly personality is open for all. There are not so much requirements to do that. But to be initiated – that’s a different case. There are some requirements.

So, what happens if we take the shelter of a saintly teacher? That act will open the door for us. And what does it mean to be initiated? That means you are empowered to practice fully in this school. This is the meaning of being initiated. You become a full member, so to say. Of course it doesn’t mean that before you were not a full member. Because it doesn’t depend on the formal ritual, but it depends on the level of acceptance and surrender. Just to give you one example. In the times of Shrila Prabhupad there was one lady candidate who waited to being initiated by Shrila Prabhupad. But meanwhile she died in an accident. So, the devotees were very upset, disturbed: “Now what happened to her! She didn’t receive her initiation, what is her future?” And then Shrila Prabhupad said: “She returned home, back home, back to Godhead.”

Nevertheless initiation is like an official agreement, an official stamp on our connection. Therefore it is suggested: find a spiritual leader, take his shelter and try to receive initiation. So, do you see the difference between the two levels? At the same time, as it was mentioned before in the text, initiation is not the end of the story. That means that you were accepted in this school of thought, you are a fully recognized member of these spiritual studies and practices, but your diploma will come later.

And how to obtain our diploma? For that we have to follow the third – to obey the orders of the spiritual master – with faith and devotion. This is the real requirement. Therefore initiation means commitment. What can you say if the guru says: “The moon is made of ice.”? You have to say: “Yes, Gurudev!” All right – once we exercised our surrender. But the next time the spiritual master sees the full moon, he will declare: “Ah, this full moon looks like made of cheese.” Then what can you say? “Yes, Gurudev, it looks like!”

But apart from jokes, what do I want to say? Sometimes the teachings and the instructions of the master are just beyond our capacity to grasp. Because we are so stubborn in our own perspective. If somebody comes with a completely different conception of the same thing, it’s very difficult to say ‘yes’. But this third level is not blind following. Because there were the previous levels – to accept the shelter and to receive initiation. And what does it mean to accept the shelter – I have examined. I have examined myself – this is the best. Usually we examine the guru – this is also necessary. But let’s examine ourselves. This is the main point – ‘If I fit into this picture?’ To take the shelter means ‘Yes, I’m happy in this shelter. I like it, I can take it, this is for me.’ And then by entering this initiated relationship, both sides declare very strongly: “Yes, I belong to you and you belong to me.” So initiation is like a sacrament. Sacraments are very important in life. This is like an official license. And would you like to take a taxi with a driver with a new license? He has just changed the sign on the top of the car from L to T. Would you enter happily, with peaceful heart such a taxi? No, we need the expertise. Official license is there, now you can drive, but my opinion is: until you crash your car the first time you are not experienced in driving.

What will make our official license – initiation – valid? If we also take the experience – in faithfully discharging instructions of the spiritual master. You can see how these different steps are necessarily following one another.

(to be continued)

[1] Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 6


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