|"Diksa mantras in general retire at the stage of svarupa siddhi,
whereas Krsna nama does not. At this stage mantra-mayi upasana,
meditation on a still picture of the lila, turns to svarasika,
absorption in the continuous flow of the lila."
Q. During Harinama initiation, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila
Prabhupada often gave their disciples initiated names that corresponded
to the first letters of their legal names. What is the spiritual
significance of this practice?
A. For Hindus, the date and time of day that a child is born suggests a
suitable syllable with which a child's name should begin. This is an
astrological consideration. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta generally chose a
name for spiritual initiation that began with the same syllable as
one's birth name. He himself was an astrologer, and he seems to have
felt that the astrologically appropriate first syllable for a child's
name had some religious value. Most of his followers have followed his
system of choosing a name for initiation that begins with the same
syllable as one's birth name, even when the birth name was not chosen
in consideration of astrological insight. However, this system for
choosing an initiated name is not one that must be followed in all
circumstances. Indeed, we can find many exceptions even within the
mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Another system
involves choosing a name that will be appropriate for Gaura-lila. Of
course both of these systems can be combined as well.
Q. I took diksa from a guru who later rejected his position as guru.
Should I continue the process of bhakti yoga depending on the sastras
and the diksa I already have or should I accept another guru?
A. If your guru has given up serving you in the capacity of guru, then
for all intents and purposes you do not have a guru. Furthermore, it is
questionable as to how well situated your guru was in the past to
provide much in the way of comprehensive spiritual guidance to you.
Therefore, I highly recommend that you seek out a qualified guru and
Q. Must the disciple have the same spiritual sentiment (rasa) as the
A. It is best if one's own ideal is the same as that of one's guru.
Indeed, on a deeper level, this is often why one is attracted to a
particular guru in the first place--because the guru embodies the
spiritual sentiment the disciple is destined to realize. Sri Guru is
saksad 'hari, directly representing Krsna, but more importantly he or
she embodies a particular loving transcendental sentiment for Sri
Krsna, kintu prabhor ya priya eva tasya. However, sometimes we find
that a disciple realizes a different spiritual sentiment than that of
his or her guru, as in the famous case of Syamananda Prabhu. No harm.
Such is God's will.
Q. When I die I would like to be reunited with my Guru and render
service to him in the nitya lila (spiritual world). How should I go
about trying to attain this goal? Will I have to cultivate this mood
A. Your attitude should not be to resume your services to your guru in
the nitya lila as much as it should be to continue to serve your guru
here and now. Follow your guru by becoming a saranagata. The drama of
Krsna lila is enacted on the stage of saranagati. Surrender manifests
in sadhana bhakti, and then appropriate longing follows with ruci and
carries one into bhava bhakti. Bhajana is most appropriate in the
higher stages of sadhana bhakti and bhava bhakti.
Q. Visvanatha Chakravarti says that one should chant the gayatri mantra
at tri-sandhyam, or the three junctions of the day. However, at work or
school I often can't find a suitable place to meditate and end up
chanting my mantras inattentively in order to fulfill this obligation.
Other Gaudiya sects chant gayatri without holding a sacred thread or
chant their mantras on a mala because they don't wear a thread,
regardless of time of day. So my question is how important is the
instruction of chanting gayatri at tri-sandhyam?
A. Visvanatha Cakravarti appeared in a brahmana family, and it seems
from his Gurvastakam that he combined his sandhya-vandanam with his
guru mantra and guru gayatri, etc., as we do. Otherwise, observing
sandhya-vandanam is a brahminical duty and thus pertains to the Brahma
gayatri and not necessarily the other diksa mantras and gayatris.
However, the practice of mantra dhyana at the three sandhyams is an
excellent practice. It requires that three times daily one stop to
meditate, observing the sun's movements and thinking of the sun as a
symbolic representation of God. This mandates a change of lifestyle for
most. The idea is that the sun represents God because without it we
could not survive. The sun speaks loudly to us every day, but we do not
hear its message. Those with very deep experience of life tell us, ayur
harati vai pumsam udyann astam ca yan asau: "With the rising and
setting of the sun, everyone's life is being taken away, except, that
is, for one who is engaged in glorifying Krsna."
At any rate, it is hard to change one's lifestyle in a society that
does not lend to it, but still we should try. One does not necessarily
need to chant the diksa mantras on a thread if it is inconvenient, but
one should not chant in a way that is less than meditative if one
expects to derive any benefit from chanting. Therefore, a practical
adjustment of tri-sandhyam could be to chant one's first mantra session
after rising and bathing, and then chant a second time before leaving
for work. Leaving for work, although in the forenoon, takes the sadhaka
into the day, so to speak, following Krsna into the forest. That is the
beginning of what could be construed as one of three major blocks of
time in one's daily routine, the first being early morning, followed by
leaving the house for work, followed by one's return home for the
balance of the day. Using this method one could fulfill the obligation
to chant gayatri at three junctions of the day and not have to do so in
a situation that is not conducive to meditation.
Q. Why do some Gaudiya sects teach that there is no need to chant Guru
and Gaura mantras?
A. In Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Guru mantra and gayatri, Gaura mantra and
gayatri, Nityananda mantra and gayatri, etc., are not always given by
the guru, but the Gopala mantra and kama gayatri are. These are the
main diksa mantras for Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Other mantras and gayatris
are primarily for seva puja, but we should chant them as instructed by
our Gurudeva, knowing that there are others who may have been
instructed differently. This leads to another discussion concerning the
liberty of the acarya. For example, the guru mantra and gayatri given
by our acarya, Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, are different
from those found in the writings of Gopala Guru Goswami and Dhynacandra
Goswami, who collected them from various scriptures. The bija given by
Srila Saraswati Thakura is different in that it lends to conceiving of
Sri Guru in any of the four primary sentiments of Vraja, as opposed to
only madhurya rasa. It is also a meditation on Sri Guru's absorption in
the Vraja lila (krsnanandaya), as opposed to gaura lila (gaurapriyaya).
Not all Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept Gaura mantra and gayatri as eternal,
nor do all Gaudiyas acknowledge an aprakata nitya lila of Gaura. There
is a lot of disagreement out there. We respectfully disagree--as do the
majority of Gaudiya lineages--with those who say that one should not
chant Guru and Gaura mantras.
Q. Is there a time when one should give up chanting Brahma Gayatri?
A. Many meanings can be derived from Brahma gayatri. If the mantra is
guru-given, there is no need to discontinuing chanting it unless its
efficacy is reached or the disciple cannot chant it for some particular
reason. Otherwise, diksa mantras in general retire at the stage of
svarupa siddhi, whereas Krsna nama does not. The mantra is a petition
in which the name is couched. At this stage mantra-mayi upasana,
meditation on a still picture of the lila, turns to svarasika,
absorption in the continuous flow of the lila. The realization of the
mantra's import retires the necessity to chant it. However, diksa
mantras are often still chanted even at this advanced stage. This is
discussed in Brihat-bhagavatamrita.
Editors note: More information on this subject can be found in the
The Magic of Diksa
Diksa Mantra and Nama Prabhu
Brahma Gayatri and the Sacred Thread
Women Diksa Gurus
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