ISKCON Laws on initiation

This page contains additional quotes from Srila Prabhupada and current ISKCON laws regarding initiations.

Appendix 1      Additional Quotes

“We have only to execute the order of the spiritual master …”

We have only to execute the order of the spiritual master, preach Krishna consciousness and follow in the path of the Vaishnavas. The spiritual master represents both Lord Krishna and the Vaishnavas; therefore by following the instructions of the spiritual master and by chanting Hare Krishna, everything will be all right.

Purport Srimad Bhagavatam 4.23.7

“There must be this training college ..”

As soon as one comes to me for becoming disciple, I place before him that “You have to give up all these habits.” When he agrees, then I accept him. And therefore I have got some selected, trained-up men. So there must be this training college, institution, and proper training according to the shastra. Then there is possibility of changing the whole situation.

Conversation with Governor — April 20, 1975, Vrindavana

Lesson 5     Guru-padashraya

Offering should be made to the spiritual master with heart and soul…

A disciple should serve the spiritual master as a menial servant, and whatever he has in his possession should be dedicated to the spiritual master. pranair arthair dhiyä väcä. Everyone has his life, his wealth, his intelligence and his words, and all of them should be offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the via medium of the spiritual master. Everything should be offered to the spiritual master as a matter of duty, but the offering should be made to the spiritual master with heart and soul, not artificially to gain material prestige…

Srimad Bhagavatam 7.7.30-31

Affection for the spiritual master and following the instructions of the Spiritual Master

You should understand that when you sat at the fire sacrifice upon your initiation, you made a vow to the Spiritual Master at that time. So, you should not break these vows. You say that you appreciate the association of devotees but how will you withstand the material attraction? If you are not chanting Hare Krishna offenselessly and regularly? Affection for the spiritual master and following the instructions of the Spiritual Master is the same. My instruction is that all of my disciples must attend the mangala arati and chant 16 rounds daily.

This life is very flickering. At any moment you may die so we must cling very close to the instruction of higher authorities, the spiritual master and Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-gita.

Letter to: Radha-Kanta — Vrindaban 20 August, 1974

This is tug of war

This is tug of war. So don’t be afraid of mäyä. Simply enhance chanting and you’ll be conqueror. That’s all. …We are not afraid of maya because Krishna is there. Yes. Krishna says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhakta pranasyati [Bg. 9.31]. You just declare, “My devotee will never be vanquished by maya.” Maya cannot do anything. Simply you have to become strong. And what is that strength? Chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare loudly. Yes.

Bhagavad-gita 3.6-10 — Los Angeles, December 23, 1968

Lesson 12             Presenting One’s Guru

We are not instructing our disciples to chant my name

Just like, we are not instructing our disciples to chant my name “Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Swami.” No. They’re chanting Hare Krishna. hari-tvena samasta-sastrair uktah – “Guru is respected as good as Krishna.” But that does not mean I shall teach them to go and chant my name, “Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Swami.” What is this? We are teaching, “Chant Hare Krishna.” Harer nama, harer nama…

Srila Prabhupada morning walk, 29 March 1974, Bombay.

Repeatedly advertise that one is a devotee of Mahaprabhu

It is not enough to repeatedly advertise that one is a devotee of Mahaprabhu by saying, “I am Gaura’s! I am Gaura’s!” Rather, those who follow the practices taught by Mahaprabhu are understood to get the results of being the Lord’s follower.

Srila Jagadananda Pandit, Prema-vivarta 8.

If transaction is perfect from both sidesthen Krishna consciousness is very, very easy.

One must be serious to understand, and he must approach a qualified mahätmä guru. Then his business will be, transaction will be very nicely done. This is Vedic process. … if the transaction is perfect from both sides, from the disciple’s side and guru’s side, then Krishna consciousness is very, very easy.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.29,  Vrindavana, August 10, 1974

 

 

Appendix 2

 

Mandatory Qualifications of Diksha guru in ISKCON

ISKCON Law 6.2.1 GBC 2010 Resolutions

Must have been an initiated disciple for at least ten years.

Must have been strictly following the four regulative principles, regularly attending the morning program, and chanting sixteen rounds daily, and have otherwise remained in good standing for the previous ten years.

Must not exhibit tendencies toward behavior contrary to Vaisnava moral principles.

Must be free from the following undesirable qualities: Attachment to kamini-kancana, sex objects and wealth Pratistha, false prestige and personal ambition Nisiddhacara, behavior contrary to Vaisnava principles Kuti-nati, diplomatic or duplicitous behavior

Puja, the desire for personal worship

Labha, mundane profiteering.

Must have excelled in preaching activities.

Must exhibit proficiency in knowledge and understanding of sastra.

Must preach without concoction and strictly according to the parampara, with sastric knowledge grounded firmly in siddhanta, or conclusive truth.

Must be effective in practical preaching and counseling.

Must have no loyalties that compete with or compromise his loyalty to Çréla Prabhupäda, to his teachings, and to ISKCON.

Must show understanding of and dedication to Çréla Prabhupäda’s mission with a strong

commitment to maintaining and increasing book distribution and other ISKCON projects. Must recognize the GBC as the ultimate managing authority in ISKCON, support the GBC system, and follow the GBC.

Should be engaged full-time in devotional service in an ISKCON center or other ISKCON-

approved preaching program.

Within the previous ten years at a minimum, must not have engaged in serious criminal activities or been responsible for:

A financial impropriety that put significant funds or other assets at risk

Risking legal consequences through the improper handling of funds and assets under his/her control

Causing a loss of significant funds through unauthorized actions

Any other act of moral turpitude, as defined in the ecclesiastical discretion of the GBC, and/or the legal jurisdiction in which the candidate resides

An additional requirement is attendance of the Guru Seminar.

Discretionary Qualifications:

Spiritual degrees – Bhakti Sastri, Bhakti Vaibhava, and Bhaktivedanta (when available) – shall be a strongly recommended qualification for being granted no objection status to serve as a guru in ISKCON.

Should be nothing in his character, conduct, or circumstances to give rise to doubt about his ability to follow the code of conduct for gurus.

Should not be involved in any abnormal personal situation. An example of such a situation would be a disrupted or anomalous family life which could distract a guru from his guru duties or otherwise prove a disturbance to him or his followers.

Should always be responsible, conscientious, and honourable in ordinary dealing

Appendix 3

Standards of Conduct for Gurus in ISKCON

Must always set the highest example for all devotees.

ISKCON Law 6.4.3

Must guide his disciples to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions as taught and followed in ISKCON.

Must protect and nourish the faith of all ISKCON devotees in their guru, in Srila Prabhupada, and in Sri Krisna.

Must encourage newcomers’ faith in ISKCON and protect the faith of existing members.

Must not give initiation until the approval process has been fully completed. Must not canvass for disciples.

Must allow all uninitiated devotees full freedom to exercise their right to accept initiation from the guru of their choice.

Must allow uninitiated devotees who have preliminarily taken shelter of him the full freedom to change their minds on their choice of initiating guru.

Since the guru-daksina received by an ISKCON guru is the property of ISKCON, it must be used for the benefit of the Krishna consciousness movement. All guru-daksina must be kept in a special account, preferably an ISKCON account, with at least two signatures, and accurate account records must be kept.

It is prohibited to require a prospective disciple to make a minimum donation or other financial commitment as a prerequisite to be accepted for initiation.

Gurus shall minimize the number of devotees engaged in their personal service and in their traveling entourage. Gurus shall not personally engage single members of the opposite sex, or married members of the opposite sex without their spouse, in direct personal service, and should never be alone or in a solitary place with them as ordained by sastra.

 

6.4.3.2 Standards in Relation to the GBC Body

Must respect the GBC as Srila Prabhupada’s chosen successor as the ultimate managing authority of ISKCON and maintain a respectful serving attitude towards the GBC.

As a guru in parampara from Srila Prabhupada he must follow Srila Prabhupada in order to work in ISKCON. Therefore, he must accept the GBC Body as his authority and follow the directives of the GBC.

Must submit to any disciplinary sanctions imposed by the GBC Body, including not initiating new disciples.

6.4.3.3 Standards in Relation to GBC Zonal Secretaries

Must act under the supervision of and in coordination with GBC Zonal Secretaries.

Must not change his residence without consulting the local GBC Zonal Secretary beforehand, since such a move may affect the temples and devotees.

Must disclose financial records to the GBC Secretariat on an annual basis.

6.4.3.4 Standards in Relation to ISKCON Spiritual Authorities

Must cooperate with and be accountable to the local ISKCON authorities.

Must not initiate any devotee who has not received proper recommendation from the appropriate ISKCON spiritual authority.

Must instruct disciples and other devotees to cooperate with ISKCON authorities and to follow proper etiquette in case some disagreement arises.

Must maintain amicable working relationships with ISKCON authorities and not undermine them in any way.

Since temple presidents and project leaders are fully responsible for engaging the devotees in their charge, must not discuss changes in service, location or ashrama with a disciple without first consulting the disciple’s local authority.

6.4.5 Sanctioning of Gurus by the GBC

The GBC Body may apply any of the following sanctions against a guru for misconduct.

6.4.5.1 Warning (or Censure)

If a guru is found deviating from or neglecting spiritual practices, but the deviation or negligence is not very severe or habitual, or if a guru is transgressing the approved standards and guidelines for guru behavior (such as canvassing for disciples, etc.) the guru should be warned (or censured) confidentially.

6.4.5.2 Probation

If the warnings are not heeded, or if the deviation or neglect of spiritual practices are of a more serious nature, or if the transgressions of guru codes of behavior are serious and habitual, the guru may be put under probation with specific conditions which regulate his guru functions (including temporary withdrawal of authorization to initiate new disciples). In addition he may be given general recommendations or specific activities to perform as part of a program for his rectification and eventual reinstatement.

6.4.5.3 Suspension

If a guru blatantly ignores the terms of probation, or repeatedly breaks one or more of the regulative principles, or acts in a manner which seriously and harmfully disregards existing ISKCON or GBC policies, or leaves his ashrama of sannyasa without authorization, or leaves the association of devotees and the ISKCON movement, or completely deviates from standard sadhana, he may be suspended. If a guru is suspended he cannot give initiation, nor maintain an absolute shiksa position in relation with his disciples, nor be introduced as a spiritual master, nor perform his guru functions such as receiving guru-puja or the acceptance of daksina.

6.4.5.4 Removal

If a guru becomes openly inimical to Srila Prabhupada or ISKCON; or otherwise acts demonically; or becomes an impersonalist (mayavadi); or preaches the unauthorized philosophy of apasampradaya groups against Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s principles; or blatantly and consistently defies ISKCON and GBC policies; or if a guru’s attachment to sense gratification is serious, prolonged, or hopeless, then, as per shastric injunction, he shall be removed from his position as diksha or shiksa-guru.

Appendix 4

Qualifications for Initiation in ISKCON (Relevant Excerpts)

7.2 RESPONSIBILITY OF CANDIDATE FOR INITIATION

It is the personal responsibility of candidates for initiation to correctly choose, by the exercise of their own intelligence, a particular devotee as spiritual master. Candidates for initiation should accept initiation from a spiritual master only after developing firm and mature faith in that devotee and in his ability to take them back to Godhead. Sadhu, shastra, and guru are the authoritative references to apply in ascertaining the level of advancement of a devotee. Receiving official ISKCON guru approval signifies that the devotee has successfully completed the authorization process set forth in ISKCON law, and that in the judgment of certain senior devotees the candidate measures up to the standards and guidelines given in ISKCON law. However, such approval is not automatically to be taken as a statement about the degree of God-realization of the approved guru, and it is not intended to replace the intelligent discrimination of the candidate.

7.2.1 FIRST (HARINAMA) INITIATION 1 QUALIFICATIONS FOR FIRST INITIATION

1.1 One Year Preparatory Period

In order to receive first initiation one must have been engaged favorably in devotional service, strictly following the four regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds a day, for at least one year without interruption.

ISKCON devotees shall instruct new members to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada and to receive guidance, training and assistance from those who are practically and directly instructing them in Krishna consciousness. ISKCON members shall choose when and from whom they wish to request initiation. They must focus their attention on Srila Prabhupada as the Founder-Acarya and as their preeminent siksha guru.

After having established a solid relationship with His Divine Grace’s vani, and after a minimum of six months of strict sadhana, they may accept an authorized ISKCON devotee as a prospective diksha guru, and after a subsequent minimum of six months, accept vaishnava diksha from him or her. It should be understood that the purpose of siksha and diksha within ISKCON is to strengthen the devotee’s relationship with Srila Prabhupada in terms of fidelity, attachment, and affection.

Upon deciding from whom to take initiation, after receiving permission from that guru, and after notifying the local Temple President or relevant authority, the candidate should begin to worship that guru as his spiritual master, chanting his pranama-mantra. After chanting the pranama mantra of their diksha guru, all grand-disciples and future generations should chant at least the first of Srila Prabhupada’s pranama mantras while offering obeisances as a means of respecting the Founder-Acarya. Actual initiation may take place only after a minimum six-month period from the date shelter was accepted by the prospective guru and the local Temple President or relevant authority was notified.

1.4 Devotees Residing Within Temple Communities

In addition to satisfying the above requirements, devotees residing in temple communities must, during the one-year preparatory period, regularly attend the full morning program. 1.5 Devotees Residing Outside of Temple Communities Devotees who do not live in a temple community and who cannot come daily to the temple programs may be initiated provided they have regular morning programs at home or attend regular morning programs at the nama-hatta center.

1.6 Pass Examination

Before a devotee can be permitted to formally take shelter of a particular ISKCON spiritual master and be subsequently recommended for initiation, he or she must demonstrate a basic understanding of Srila Prabhupada teachings by answering an oral or written test administered by the Temple President or other recommending authority.

In the event that a candidate for initiation who has formally accepted shelter from a spiritual master subsequently decides to aspire for another ISKCON guru, this must be communicated to both gurus as well as the local authorities. The continuous six month period required before initiation would begin from the time of formal acceptance by the new guru.

Before a candidate can receive first initiation, the prospective guru must receive a formal written recommendation from the appropriate ISKCON spiritual authority, as determined by the candidate’s situation.

One-year Wait Between First and Second Initiation

To be qualified to receive second initiation, a first-initiated devotee must have been steadily engaged in favorable devotional service, chanting sixteen rounds a day without fail, and strictly following the four regulative principles for a period of at least one year from the time of receiving first initiation. In addition, the candidate must have regularly attended a morning program, whether in a temple, preaching center, nama-hatta center, or at home.

Two-year Wait for Those Who Fall Severely

A devotee who, after receiving first initiation, falls severely from the spiritual standard by neglecting or forsaking his initiation vows in a serious way or by rejecting the association of ISKCON devotees for a prolonged time, shall, after he returns to normal practice, be required to wait for at least two years before being given second initiation.

Examination Option of Initiating Guru

It is the responsibility of the initiating guru to determine the fitness of his disciple for brahminical initiation. To help do this, he may require his disciple to pass a suitable examination.

4.2.6 Formal Recommendation for Second Initiation

  1. 1. The guru of a candidate for second initiation must receive a written recommendation from the appropriate ISKCON authority. The appropriate authority is determined in the same manner as described above for first initiation.

7.2.4 Initiation Only from Approved Gurus

ISKCON members who in violation of ISKCON law take initiation from gurus who have not been approved to initiate in ISKCON shall not be permitted to serve within ISKCON. If the non- approved guru has an institution or ashrama outside ISKCON, then, according to standard etiquette, his disciples should serve within the institution of their guru and should not serve within ISKCON. (This rule does not apply to persons who were already initiated before they became ISKCON members.)

However, the GBC Body also acknowledges that there may be exceptions to this general rule.

Ultimately, local ISKCON authorities have the right to determine whether or not a person may live or serve in the centers under their jurisdiction. In respect to the above concerns, at their discretion they may also choose to restrict a certain individual’s contact with ISKCON.

Prior Initiation by Non-Bona Fide Gurus

Persons who have taken initiation from non-bona fide gurus before becoming members of ISKCON should follow the injunction of Srila Jiva Gosvami that such a useless guru, a family priest acting as guru, should be given up, and that the proper, bona fide guru should be accepted.

7.3 Guidelines 7.3.1 Unauthorized “Initiation” Ceremonies

In cases where the formal guru-disciple relationship has not been properly sanctioned by procedures given in ISKCON Law, no ISKCON member shall engage in giving any of the elements of the initiation ceremony—such as giving a devotional name, giving sanctified chanting beads, or neck beads, or participating in some ceremony or ritual of commitment in any number or combination — to other devotees in ISKCON or it’s congregations, with the stated or unstated purpose or effect of creating the resemblance of a formal guru-disciple relationship.

When such unauthorized activities have already taken place:

  1. a. All participants should be informed that no initiation has taken place, nor has any binding pledge leading towards initiation been made.
  2. b. The junior devotee in the transaction should seek to establish a relationship with an authorized initiating guru in whom he can place full faith.

All devotees must cease using any names given, if any.

8.2.1.5 Resident Devotees Normally Initiated in ISKCON

Devotees who live and work within ISKCON must be initiated in ISKCON except if someone was previously initiated by a recognized sampradaya who afterwards wants to join and serve in ISKCON under the approval and direction of the local GBC.

15.4.1 Initiation of Congregational Devotees

Congregational members shall be subject to the same standards for initiation as stated in ISKCON Law on initiation and for acceptance of Guru. ISKCON Law states that the local Temple or Regional Authorities must recommend the congregational candidate. However this shall be done in the same manner as any other qualified devotee. If a local authority considers a candidate for initiation not qualified, then the candidate should be informed what needs to be done in order to become qualified according to ISKCON Law. It shall be prohibited to require a minimum donation or financial commitment or other requirements not mentioned by Srila Prabhupada or ISKCON Law. As already mentioned in ISKCON Law, an individual guru is under no obligation to initiate a devotee because a proper recommendation has been given.

Appendix 5

Rejection of a Fallen “Guru” (ISKCON Laws)

N.B.: The following laws are based on Sri Krishna Bhajanamrita, by Sri Narahari Sarakara Thakura (an associate of Sri Caitanya), Bhakti-sandarbha by Srila Jiva Goswami, and Jaiva- dharma by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thākura, in addition to the writings of Srila Prabhupada.

6.5.1.1 When a Fallen Guru May Be Rejected

If it is ascertained either by the admission of the guru, or by the testimony of irrefutably reliable witness(es) that the guru was fallen at the time of initiation, then the disciple has a legitimate reason to reject him and take re-initiation from a bona fide spiritual master.

6.5.1.2 When a Fallen Guru Must Be Rejected

6.5.1.2.1 Hopelessly Entangled in Sense Gratification

If a guru has become hopelessly entangled in sense gratification, and it has been established by reliable testimony or by his own admissions that he has been regularly violating the regulative principles of Krsna consciousness, and if there is virtually no hope for his rectification, then the disciple should reject him and may accept re-initiation.

6.5.1.2.2 Takes on Demoniac Qualities

If the spiritual master takes on demoniac qualities and becomes inimical to ISKCON, he should be rejected and the disciple may take re-initiation.

6.5.1.3 When Not to Reject a Fallen Guru

If a guru is engaged in sense gratification, violating one or more of the regulative principles, but there is hope that he can be rectified, then his disciples should not reject him but should allow time for such rectification to take place, and they should take shelter of Śrīla Prabhupāda and senior Vaisnavas as śiksa-gurus.

6.5.1.4 When a Suspended Guru May Be Rejected

A disciple of a suspended guru who has severely lost his faith in his spiritual master, or who has developed an offensive mentality towards him, and who is unable to regain his faith, even after hearing many instructions in the matter, may take permission from the spiritual master for release to accept a different initiating guru. The devotee should act in consultation with his local GBC representative. If the suspended guru withholds his permission, then the disciple may seek permission from the GBC Body.

6.5.1.5 “Guru Ashrayafor Guidance

Devotees whose initiating spiritual master has fallen down should take guidance from the GBC papers entitled “Guru Ashraya” and “Questions and Answers About Reinitiation.” These papers also present ISKCON’s guidelines on the importance of taking shelter of a spiritual master and the role of śiksa-guru.