Should we accept a living guru instead of a deceased guru?
A devotee (Name hidden) asked like this:
“Hare Krishna, A very important question. Must the guru be one of the guru’s in Iskcon or can the Guru be also from another Brahma Sampradaya or some other vaisnava sampradaya?
Is taking Diksha from a living guru a condition (but not a guarantee) to get liberation and go back to Krishna loka? If i serve Prabhupada as my guru and follow all the rules and regulations that Prabhupada told us to follow and I do not take Diksha from a living guru now, can i get then liberation or is it completely impossible to get libeartion without taking a living guru.
I am waiting for your answers. Hare Krishna”
Though there are many articles by many in forums, I like to give a balanced suggestion in this matter of accepting a living guru or deceased guru. Though this reply is common for all sampradhayas and sanathana dharma, let me take the path of Krishna as the example.
First of all, we are expected to accept a guru for the following reasons:
(1) To take the responsibility for our elevation in devotion.
(2) To guide us to cross the hurdles in our path of devotion and make us successful in achieving the mercy of Lord Krishna.
(3) To purify us from our karma and thus make us pure to be eligible to be accepted by Krishna.
(4) To receive a manthra to recite and get the mercy of Lord Krishna.
(5) To get linked in a sampradhaya that has a certain sets of rules and recommendations.
To get the above things, we need a living guru.
Let us see whether these requirements can be fulfilled by following only the guru who has left this world:
(1) Of course, Srila Prabhupada has said that he is living in his books. No doubt in this. However, the humans have a tendency. They will find it difficult to follow the advices given in the books. As far as devotion is concerned, we are all like just elementary school students. Can an elementary school student study his class 2 or 3 studies through a correspondence course just by reading some books? They need a school to make admissions and a teacher to teach them by knowing his strengths and weaknesses.
(2) Studying through books alone is practically impossible for children. We too must consider ourselves as children in devotion. This humbleness is the prerequisite in devotional practices. If a guru helps us to follow the books and also gives a support of trouble shooting in our devotional practices, we can advance in devotion fast. Therefore, to fasten our devotional practices effectively without hurdles, a guru can help us.
Since the deceased gurus can’t personally hear our queries and help based on our request, we can take the writings of the deceased guru as a base and follow the customized advicces of a living guru.
Therefore, in the above aspect, we need a living guru.
(3) To purify the devotees from the contamination of karma, we need the system of diksha. Of course, I personally do not like to hand over my karma to a guru and make him to suffer. That is why, I hesitated to take diksha for years after accepting shelter from a guru (That is also equal to getting diksha. Just a step away). Personally, I am very kind hearteed and in my day to day life, I only have sacrificed for others, but, I am very careful to not make others to suffer because of me. Therefore, after shelter, I seriously hesitated to accept diksha. Why should I be a selfish to allow my guru to suffer because of accepting me? Only I have to face the reactions for my karma that was willfully done by me in the past. Therefore, I do not personally agree with this point of handing over our karma account to a guru. Some say that the guru is empowered to bear the karma of his disciples. But, we, the devotees are expected to avoid desiring for even Goloka. We should leave everything to Krishna’s discretion without making any demands from Him. If this is so, why can’t we show the same approach in a guru also? In my opinion, a disciple should feel and cry for his guru because he has entrusted his karma to that guru. Being a guru is not an easy play. It is really a tough experiment taking care of the elevation of hundreds of disciples. Hence, being a very kind hearted devotee, I too hesitated to take the next step and I was prepared to face my own karma instead of making my guru to suffer.
However, this is the system. If you do not have any objection in handing over your karma to a guru, you can get diksha from him. If you do not want him to face the heat of your karma, you can just follow him and his advices. But, still you need a living guru though you do not take the diksha ceremony.
A guru is mercifully prepared to bear the heat of our karma. However, whether to do that or not is to be decided by you. The conclusion is: Scriptures allow a devotee to accept diksha from a guru if both that guru and the disciple mutually wish to accept each other. It is said by the scriptures that a guru faces the effects of the karma of the disciples.
(4) Next point is receiving the manthra from a guru. This is a valid point. It is the unanimous verdict of the scriptures that though a manthra itself is effective in purifying the devotees, it will be more effective if it is received from a guru. Because, in this kaliyuga, we are diverted from our devotion through many glares arranged by maya. Therefore, following a manthra independently may have more disturbances. When we accept the same manthra from a guru directly, we are personally given that manthra by that guru that makes it more effective.
Krishna too advices in Bhagavad Gita to surrender to a guru and humbly enquire him. Though Krishna did not mention the system of diksha and manthra, we should note that He recommends us to atleast surrender to a guru and be inquisive in a humble manner.
Therefore, the concept of surrendering to a guru is recommended by Krishna Himself in Bhagavad Gita. The system of DIKSHA is just making the surrender OFFICIAL like getting officially admitted in a school. Nothing else. If we accept a guru in a formal ceremony, it gives a seriousness in following the instructions from that guru and Krishna.
(5) Next point is getting connected in a lineage. When we follow the devotion alone, we are depending on only our efforts. Whereas, when we get connected in a sampradhaya of a guru – disciple lineage, we get the blesssings and support of the entire lineage of gurus and acharyas. This will make our elevation fast. We always need the blessings of senior vaishnavas to get elevated in devotion. We can get the same when we get connected in a guru-disciple lineage.
Instead of having no guru, having a guru is better and positive. Many ask what to do if a guru falls from his status. In case a guru falls, the disciples are never affected and they are always protected by Krishna. Only that guru has to face the consequences for his fall down. Not the disciples.
However, accepting a living guru will be helpful in getting a customized support and advices from that guru. Since a guru cares us, we get enormous strength and boost to grow fast in devotion.
Like in a material education we accept a teacher’s support, we can accept a guru for spiritual awakening and growth. There is no need for any issues in this matter.
Everyone if us already have a guru from whom we lernt about Krishna. No one is there without a guru. They are called siksha gurus because they taught about Krishna to us. Making them our diksha guru or not in a formal ceremony depends on your preparedness. But, we can’t refuse the concept of living guru – atleast a siksha guru.
Take the prominent Acharya as eternal guru for us. Accept a living guru who accepted that prominent Acharya’s lineage. Let that Acharya be the prominent personality and eternal siksha guru. Let this guru be the direct guide for you.
Accepting a living guru is existing in almost all sampradhayas. In SRI sampradhaya, though Sri Ramanuja is the prominent Acharya, the disciples accept the JEERS as their guru. In Advaita, there is a living acharya as successor whom the disciples accept as guru. In advaita lineage, the living guru appoints his successor even when he is alive. When a guru dies, in future, the devotees accept his successor. In some sampradhayas, though an Acharya did not recommend a successor, the devotees can follow the system recommended by the administrative set up of that sampradhaya.
But, before selecting a guru, select one after sufficient evaluation and preparations. Do not succumb to any pressures. If your heart NATURALLY has an inclination towards a guru, accept him. If you choose to accept diksha in a formal ceremony, accept it. If not prepared to go for formal diksha ceremony, atleast follow a guru by heart and serve him in possible ways. But, do not discourage the guru – disciplic lineage that is followed by almost all sampradhayas.
Finally, just accepting diksha in a formal ceremony alone is not sufficient. Unless you follow the rules and regulations suggested by your guru after diksha, that diksha has no meaning. Diksha means initiation. Initiation means, START OF SERIOUS DEVOTIONAL PRACTICES. It is not the final step. It is just the start of our serious devotional journey. Just taking diksha will not be sufficient. Following the instructions of your guru is the most important to go back to Krishna.
Hope this exhaustive article written without a bias, will help you.