True Initiation


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 66, Vol 2, 2020, Interactive

"Many thanks for the wonderful magazine. Took my niece for her first temple visit yesterday (which she loved) and found Srila Prabhupada waiting for me when I got home! I will be giving it close attention this weekend. I particularly want to learn more about what Srila Prabhupada said about chanting and following the principles being the true initiation. A great comfort to those of us who were too young or ignorant to find him when he was here in person. Now we rely on his wonderful books. Keep up the good work."
- Elizabeth Wittig, Watford, UK

Editor replies:

You are correct in your conclusions regarding what constitutes "real" or true initiation:

"Initiation is a formality. If you are serious, that is real initiation. If you have understood this Krsna philosophy and if you have decided that you will take Krsna consciousness seriously and preach the philosophy to others, that is your initiation. My touch is simply a formality. It is your determination. That is initiation."
(BTG, Search for the Divine, emphasis added - as are all emphases within BTP Interactive)

"The chanting of Hare Krishna is our main business, that is real initiation. And as you are all following my instruction, in that matter, the initiator is already there."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 19/8/68)

"So when this faith is created, then actually the initiation begins. [...] So this firm conviction is the beginning of initiation. [...] So initiation means to be engaged in that Brahman activities. [...] So adau sraddha, when one becomes firmly convinced that "By becoming Krsna conscious or being engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krsna, my life is successful, life will be successful," that is the beginning of Krsna consciousness, or initiation."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 29/7/68)

"A disciple means one who is always following the orders of the spiritual master. So I instruct my disciples to refrain from four prohibitions, namely no eating of meat, fish or eggs, no illicit sex life, no taking of intoxication, including tea, coffee, cigarettes, etc., and no gambling. Besides that my students must chant sixteen rounds of japa-mala of Hare Krsna mantra daily. So if you are able to follow these principles without fail, then you are as good as my disciple."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 11/8/72)

This seriousness, determination, chanting, firm conviction and following strictly constitutes actual or real initiation. This real initiation, which has already taken place, may then be formalised by one officially agreeing to continue in this way:

"Well, initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge... knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing."
(Srila Prabhupada Interview, 16/10/76)

Devotee (2): "How important is formal initiation?"
Srila Prabhupada: "Formal initiation means to accept, officially, [...] I shall do whatever you say." This is initiation, official acceptance of the job. That's all."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 22/2/73)

Thus, formal initiation merely formalises the real initiation that already exists – rubber stamps it, if you like – rather than being responsible for suddenly creating it from nothing. And this formalisation of the initiation itself takes place simply on being accepted by one's guru, and not by any ceremony. This is made very clear in the July 9th, 1977 directive for ISKCON, wherein Srila Prabhupada gives the initiation system for ISKCON, by signing the following order:

"these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative. After the Temple President receives a letter from these representatives giving the spiritual name or the thread, he can perform the fire yajna in the temple as was being done before."

Therefore, not only has real initiation already taken place before any formalisation, but the formalisation itself – "the newly initiated devotees", as stated above – has also already taken place before the ceremony has even been performed, just due to being officially accepted.


Return to Initiation / Discipleship Index

Return to IRM Homepage


Please chant: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare.
And be Happy!