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Good Reply Prabhuji
when you are reading srila prabhupad's books, it means he is your spiritual teacher. Prabhupad himself said those who read his books regularly are to be considered initiated (ref. here). Guru comes in many ways - books, videos, audios, multiple persons (shiksha gurus) - if you are sincere ... please pray to Lord Sri Krishna to give guidance, if you're sincere you'll experience miracles, eagerness is required , also it's good to have personal contact with a senior devotee but you will have to pray for it
Maybe the word 'master' means - the one who forces us to do something ! Bat if he/she advices us he/she will be the true guru?! Maybe the western traditions are slightly different then eastern ones ?! In general, if one is forced [ or because of fear of punishment] to do something good, it makes it less valuable ?!
this notion of a master being 'strict' - it may work for some people, but others may run away - which is not what we want. A master can sit with the disciple, understand his problems, offer tips and give him confidence that he can wake up & attend the arati on time, and the same goes for all other challenges as well ... this has been my personal experience
It is okay , we can practice, even many others do practice and probably our elders do too. having a guru is a plus point, you will directed with right path .
i too practice alone. it is hard to control our mind and focus on our aim. sometimes i too get distracted. But we have to try to focus on our aim.
I started reading Gita and im learning many things day by day.
agreed, association makes it easy to maintain discipline. what about people who live far from temples & who are not from vaishnav families ? how will they get chance for initiation ? i don't mean to argue but Lord's arrangement varies from person to person - prabhupad initiated many disciples by writing letters - not physically present also ! He said - "An expert acharya always knows how to adjust rules of shastras according to time, place & circumstances." i'm sorry if i'm hurting your beliefs, please trust me that's not my intention, thanks
for the record, prabhupad also performed initiation ceremonies with fire sacrifice according to shastric rules. pamho. AGTSP
As others already replied, if you're studying Srila Prabhupada's books and can grasp the essence of what he is trying to convey, then you are as good as any of his serious disciple (not exaggerating, although of course you can't initiate and all). Everything else said by others are simply variations of the Bhaktivedanta Purports. So relax. You'll do fine. Besides, if you're sincere enough, Krishna will help you fully. (Source: personal experience)
Dont we all practice bhakthi without the spiritual master at the start? Srila Prabhupad dint start to offer initiation before turning the hippies into krsna devotees. He gave them krsna first.
By his books, Prabhupad is already our siksha guru and will always be (even to all the past, present and future maharajas in iskcon)... Between siksha and diksha is how we cultivate and act on the instructions from Prabhupad's purports...
Over time, krsna will see the dedication and determination in everyone and provide His unlimited mercy by sending a guru or guiding us to one.. but yet, the devotee need not be formally initiated to receive this mercy... Krsna can accept a devotee even without any qualification... All krsna needs is love... and love needs no qualification...
I am not saying dont get initiated or approach or take shelter of a spiritual master... It is said that through Krsna once gets guru and through guru one gets krsna prem...
tad viddhi pranipatena
upadeksyanti te jnanam
Ekalavya wanted drona to be his guru he even made a status of drona and practised archery before it.
Even Karna wanted drona to be his guru..
these two disciples were not accepted by guru drona.
Notice that it should be two way.
Sp books are learning understanding...no doubt he is greatest teacher.. Even Sri Krishna is called Jagadguru.
You can make bramha ji or narad ji or Sri Chaitnaya mahaprabhu or even any of the 6 goswamis' as ur guru. and read their literature.
But ...the fact is ..guru should also accept u as shishya.
To get qualify for that.. we may read the SP books ( Shiksha guru).
after u take the test and pass the test u get a degree from a diksha guru.
Is initiation a must?
Well, In Vaishnavism or Bramhanism.. the person has 2 births. brahmin is called a brahmin only after his thread cermony ( UPANAINA ritual done).
until then bramhaana is only a shudra only.
That is why we say a Bramhana has got 2 births. ( he is called DWIJA) DWI Means two. ja- janams.( lives).
In Vaishnaism.. we have 3 births.. ( now a days) in olden days it was only 2.. as upanaina ( thread ceremony) was mixed with guru diksha ceremony.
1. birth by parents.. 2. birth when we r done upanina ( sacred thread when gayatri mantra is receited into the ears of the bramhana.
3. guru acceptance.
Bramha ko jaanene wale ko bramhmin kehte hai.. ( the one who learns and understand bramhan) gayatri mantra makes him see .. reality of world...
The Gayatri is considered as the essence of the Vedas. Veda means knowledge, and this prayer fosters and sharpens the knowledge-yielding faculty. As a matter of fact the four core-declarations enshrined in the four Vedas are implied in this Gayatri mantra.
Once gayatri mantra is given thread ceremony is completed and then only u are eligible to get a diksha from a guru.
which is the final step of initiation.
If u are born brahmin also u have to undergo thread ceremony and diksha from guru ji.. to be qualified to be called as Vaishnava.
simply we read books...today we follow tomorrow lazy to follow today we chant tomorrow we don't..
we are trying to become perfected.. we r aspiring to be devotees.. we eat meat and drink but we also chant.. we have onion garlic but we also do chanting.. ( IT IS OKAY TO CHANT AS U ARE ASPIRING DEVOTEE as SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING).
will it work?
Srila Prabhupada requested that candidates for second initiation sit an exam based on several of his main books: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Sri Isopanishad, The Nectar of Instruction and The Nectar of Devotion (Rupa Goswami’s Upadeshamrita and Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, respectively). He also required that they be conversant with his ‘small books’ such as The Perfection of Yoga and Krishna Consciousness, the Topmost Yoga System.
IT MEANS THAT WE NEED TO READ ALL BOOKS BECOME PERFECTED AND GET TESTED IN THEM.. AND GET A DEGREE ( initiation).
There are 2 steps.
first initiation: the promise that u give to the guru that u read all books , u are chanting 16 rounds and following regulative principles.
second step is --Being offered the Gayatri mantra and other Pancharatrika mantras
This makes u a qualified Vaishnava.