Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Profound Interview

My fellow writer, Madhava Smullen, is writing an article for ISKCON News ( on the phenomenon of gurukulis (second generation devotees of Krishna) who have received formal initiation. He interviewed me and quite a few others via e-mail.

His questions have prodded me to reflect deeply upon the commitments I have made.

Who initiated you?
Radhanath Swami

Where and when did you get initiated?
Alachua, Florida, May 31st, 2010

What age were you when you got initiated?

What were your full names before and after initiation?
My name before initiation was Bhakti lata bij, and after initiation my name became Bhakti lata.

Please explain in a detailed, thoughtful way why you made the decision to get initiated.
        I often hear parallels between marriage and initiation - both are very grave steps in life that involve very profound vows. Of course, marriage is more of a common phenomenon, something that humans can universally relate to, so I'll start from there. So one may ask, why get married? Why make those vows when you can just live lives together as a very committed couple? I have come to the conclusion that there is something about taking those profound vows in front of the world and in front of God that gives the couple the strength to weather the storms.

In very related respects, I was born to devotee parents who gave me a spiritual name at birth. I have followed the four regulative principles my whole life, and Radhanath Swami loves me unconditionally, whether I would have ever received initiation from him or not. So one may wonder - why take that formal step of initiation? For me, it was about committing to those vows in front of the world and in front of God. The vows of initiation are so powerful that sometimes I feel chills to meditate upon them. Those vows carve and shape my life, and give me a safe place to fall. Receiving initiation is like marriage in the sense that now I belong to someone, now I can rest my soul, knowing that I am connected to a family who can carry me in the fiercest of spiritual storms.

What major and subtle changes have there been in your life now that you are initiated? What do you think initiation will continue to change in your life?
        The most profound change I experience is the peace I feel in my heart. I feel settled. I feel grounded and sure and safe. I feel strong - I no longer am only accountable to myself, I am accountable to my spiritual master, to Srila Prabhupad, to all of the devotees. That accountability gives me great strength to set an example for others. I feel that initiation will continue to change my life by giving me the sureness and strength to offer every breath of my life in service, knowing that it shall be offered in the right direction, like water not just poured upon any soil, but soil with seeds underneath.

Why do you think gurukulis have typically been slower about getting initiated? Do you think that is changing now, and if so why?
          I sense that gurukulis have been slower about receiving initiation because they're already immersed in Krishna culture. What's the point in making such heavy vows when one is already IN the flow, chanting, doing service...?

         But the biggest reason for the slower movement towards initiation, I believe, is chanting 16 rounds. It's a huge commitment. For me, getting to the point of actually steadily chanting 16 rounds every day has been the greatest challenge of my entire life, and it still is. I chant a lot slower than even most people, so it takes me around 3 hours every day. And although gurukulis love to chant in kirtan - sometimes for 24 hours straight! - there's something very austere about chanting japa for us. Several years ago, Radhanath Swami once gently commented to me (after I had told him yet again that I was still struggling with chanting), "Yes, you gurukulis would rather feel sincere about japa all the time, or not chant at all."

        I think the trend towards initiation amongst gurukulis is growing, but only very slightly. In my experience, most gurukulis ask this question: "Why initiation?" and usually don't feel very satisfied with the answer.

A question and a concern that the older generation often have is, will gurukulis step up and continue this movement when they are gone? Do you think more gurukulis getting initiated means positive things for the future of the movement?
         I'm not sure if initiation will address the issue of succession. But I do know that where powerful vows of commitment are made, vigor and strength naturally follow. I personally find it incredibly inspiring to witness my peers take to this process so seriously. It gives me hope that my own children shall take to this process naturally as well. That yes, Krishna Consciousness is the nature of the soul, and the process that Srila Prabhupad has given us is complete.


David Garvin said...

Mataji, you are perhaps the only initiated devotee who got a shorter name upon initiation! :-)

Mahasundari Madhavi dasi said...

Love this! I am excited to read this article on ISKCON News.

I really liked your comparision to Marriage and Initiation. I make a similar comparision too. Another analogy that I give is that initiation is like getting a degree from a University. It is formally accepting that you know the process and an authority certifying that you know it. You can have all the knowledge but until you get it authorized, it may not really be helpful.

Thanks for sharing :)!

Anonymous said...

You have such a deep & eloquent way of expressing your insights.I enjoy your blog & find that although twice your age, you are a wonderful example & teacher~~ Thank you. Hare Krsna. Deborah

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for writing this wonderful blog :). I pray and hope that many spiritual seekers are inspired by your blog and take to becoming initiated.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.