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Blessing-Seeking




 

Presently, members of ISKCON generally use the term authorization, nomination or no-objection when discussing the procedure for devotees accepting the service dékñä-guru. Although we do not find çästric evidence for bureaucratic entities granting authorization to gurus, we do find evidence that devotees who are ordered to begin an important service first take the blessings or permission of senior Vaiñëavas. For example, when Çréla Kåñëadäsa Kaviräja Gosvämé was ordered to write the Caitanya-caritämåta, he took the permission of the senior Vaiñëavas, his gurus and the Deity as well. Kaviräja Gosvämé did this because it was considered standard Vaiñëava etiquette. And at that time and place, this etiquette was well-established within Gauòéya Vaiñëava society. But today, in our Society, these etiquettes are not so well-established. Therefore ISKCON has institutionalized the process of blessing-seeking.

 

It is a principle of Vaiñëava etiquette that one receives blessings or permission from senior Vaiñëavas before performing an important service. This is, however, specifically for the benefit of the prospective guru himself, not for the organization. Blessings provide spiritual protection and security to keep one free from Mäyäs influence. Therefore it should be highly recommended that all prospective spiritual masters take advantage of Vaiñëava blessings and approach those senior Vaiñëavas with whom they have a relationship. In this way, the blessings become meaningful and potent.

 

Çréla Kåñëadäsa Kaviräja Gosvämé, on his own volition, took blessings or permission from the leading Vaiñëavas in Våndävana before taking up the service of writing the Caitanya-caritämåta:

 

a) I took permission from Çréla Våndävana däsa Öhäkura by praying at his lotus feet, and upon receiving his order I have attempted to write this auspicious literature.

 

PURPORT: Çréla Kåñëadäsa Kaviräja Gosvämé took permission not only from the Vaiñëavas

and Madana-mohana but also from Våndävana däsa Öhäkura, who is understood to

be the Vyäsa of the pastimes of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu. (Caitanya-caritämåta Ädi-lélä 8.81)

 

Mahäräja Pratäparudra, on his own volition, took the permission of the devotees before massaging the legs of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu:

 

b) Following Särvabhauma Bhaööäcäryas instructions, the King had given up his royal dress. He now entered the garden in the dress of a Vaiñëava. Mahäräja Pratäparudra was so humble that with folded hands he first took permission from all the devotees. Then, with great courage, he fell down and touched the lotus feet of the Lord. As Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu lay on the raised platform with His eyes closed in ecstatic love and emotion, the King very expertly began to massage His legs. The King began to recite verses about the räsa-lélä from Çrémad-Bhägavatam. (Caitanya-caritämåta Madhya - lélä 14.6)

 

To refer to the process of seeking blessings as an act of Vaiñëava etiquette does not trivialize it. Rather, it exalts it:

 

My dear Sanätana, although you are the deliverer of the entire universe and although even the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you, it is the characteristic of a devotee to observe and protect the Vaiñëava etiquette. Maintenance of the Vaiñëava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee. By observing the etiquette, you have satisfied My mind. (Caitanya-caritämåta Antya-lélä 4.129-130, 132)

 

It is consistent with our tradition that a prospective guru asks for the blessings or permission of senior devotees before starting to take disciples. Our present system has institutionalized a process of senior devotees voting or offering no-objection to prospective gurus. But we do not find that this institutionalized blessing-seeking process is mentioned by guru, sädhu or çästra as the way that one is authorized to become a guru.

 

This system has been created to enable some institutional oversight. The institutional oversight of prospective gurus is needed, but it can be performed in a different way as we shall suggest later. The very first point to understand is how a devotee is actually authorized or empowered to assume the service and role of a spiritual master in Gauòéya Vaiñëavism and in our ISKCON movement.

 





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