- Namita Purohit
- Life Stages
Imagine yourself in a big city you’ve never been in before. Suppose you want to find the post office. How would you do it? Would you start walking around guessing which way to go? You might. But if you were really serious about mailing your package, you’d approach a local and get directions. Spiritual life is like trying to find a post office in a strange city. We can waste our time speculating, trying to follow our instinct, or we can get serious and admit that we don’t know where we’re going and that we need to find someone who does. This is the first genuine step in spiritual life.
Spiritual teachers help us progress faster. They share wisdom and instruct us on how to apply it in our modern-day context. They can see (if we let them) what we’re doing wrong, and can help us improve. Such teachers, or gurus, can be recognized by two main qualites. Firstly, they are conversant in the science of God. They have received spiritual knowledge from an authentic line of teachers and are able to communicate it in a relevant way without changing or compromising the essence. Secondly, their knowledge isn’t just theoretical or speculative. A spiritual master isn’t just a philosopher or theologian, but someone who has genuine experience of the things they speak about. They possess an enthusiastic, dedicated and unwavering conviction to selflessly serve, which ultimately comes from their intimate relationship with God.
First and foremost we owe an immense debt of gratitude to Srila Prabhupada. His books, lectures and life teachings, bring us closer to Krishna. As the founder and spiritual guide of ISKCON, he is the instructing guru of all devotees. Srila Prabhupada also emphasized the importance of personal guidance and support of the devotees around us.
There are two main types of guru:
Siksa-guru: Someone who regularly instructs and inspires us on our journey to Krishna. We can have numerous siksa-gurus, often devotees in the community. They are spiritual guides whom we respect and trust, and who amplify the voice of Krishna within our heart. Some temples may have a system of mentorship that connects you with someone who can act as a siksa-guru and from whom you can gain support, regular feedback and advice.
Diksa-guru: The teacher who formally initiates us into the spiritual tradition. The primary vows made at the time of initiation are to follow the four regulative principles and complete sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna chanting every day. Initiation is not a ritual but a grave matter to be entered into with great care. The diksa-guru officially connects us to the disciplic succession that begins from Krishna, and we accept him as a direct representative of God. Some people are suspicious of investing their faith in ‘fallible’ humans and instead decide to depend on their own conviction, logic and experiences. This is unfortunate because they miss out on the invaluable inspiration, wisdom and encouragement that can be gained from establishing this saintly connection.