In spiritual quest, deeksha, initiation, holds a very important place. Its special ceremonies are carried out under special conditions. Buddha and Mahavira used to give initiation. How many types of initiation are there? What is their significance and use and why are they needed?
A little talk on initiation will be useful. For one thing, deeksha, initiation, is never given; initiation takes place, it is a happening. For example, a person stays with Mahavira and it takes years for his initiation to take place. Mahavira tells him to stay, to be with him, to walk with him, to stand in such a way, to sit in such a way, to meditate such a way. Then a moment comes when the person is fully prepared. Then Mahavira is only the medium. Perhaps it is not proper even to say that he is the medium – rather, in a very deep sense he remains only a witness and initiation takes place in front of him.
Initiation is always from the divine, but it can happen in the presence of Mahavira. Now the person to whom it is happening sees Mahavira in front of him, but the divine he cannot see. It happens to him in front of Mahavira so naturally he becomes grateful to Mahavira – and this is fitting also. But Mahavira does not accept his gratitude. He can only accept his gratitude if he acknowledges that he initiated him.
So there are two types of initiation. One is that which happens and which I call “right” initiation, because in this you establish your relationship with the divine. Then your journey through life takes a new turn: you become someone else now; you are no longer the same that you were; everything within you is transformed. You have seen something new. Something new has happened to you, a ray has entered you, and now everything within you is different.
In the real initiation the guru stands aside like a witness and he can confirm that initiation has taken place. He can see the full process but you see only half. You can only see what is happening to you; he sees that from where the initiation takes place. So you are not a complete witness of the happening; all you can say is that a great transformation has taken place. But whether initiation has taken place or not, whether you have been accepted or not, that you cannot say for certain.
Even after you are initiated you will still wonder, “Have I been accepted? Have I been chosen? Have I been accepted by the divine? Can I now take it that I am his? On my part I have surrendered, but has he taken me to him?” This you cannot know at once. You will come to know after some time, but this interval can be long also. So the second person, whom we call the guru, can know this because he has watched the happening from both the sides.
Right initiation cannot be given, nor can it be taken. It comes from the divine; you are merely the recipient.
Now the other type of initiation, which we may call false initiation, can be given as well as taken. The divine is completely absent there; there is only the guru and the disciple. The guru gives, the disciple takes, but the third, real factor is absent.
Where there are only two present – the guru and the disciple – the initiation is false. Where three are present – the guru, the disciple and he from whom it takes place – everything changes. This giving of initiation is not only improper but also dangerous, fatal, because in this illusion of initiation right initiation cannot take place. You will merely live under the illusion that initiation has taken place.
A seeker came to me who had been initiated by someone. He said, “I have been initiated by such and such a guru and I have come to you to learn meditation.”
I asked him, “Why then did you take initiation? And if you did not even attain meditation, what have you obtained from your initiation? All you received is clothes and a name. If you are still seeking meditation, then what is the meaning of your initiation?”
The truth is that initiation can only happen after meditation. Meditation after initiation has no meaning. It is like a man who proclaims that he is healthy and still he knocks at the physician’s door and asks for medicine. Initiation is the acceptance obtained after meditation. It is a sanction given of your acceptance – a consent. The divine has been advised of you and your entrance into his realm has happened. Initiation is only a confirmation of this fact.
Such initiation is now lost, and I feel it should be revived again: initiation where the guru is not the giver and the disciple is not the recipient – and the giver, God. This can be; this should be. If I am a witness to someone’s initiation I do not become his guru. Then his guru is the divine. If he is grateful it is his business. But to demand gratefulness is senseless and to accept it is meaningless.
Gurudom, the web of the so-called gurus, was created by giving a new form to initiation. Words are whispered in the ears, mantras are given, and anybody initiates anyone. Whether he himself is initiated is also not certain; whether the divine has accepted him is not known. Perhaps he too has been initiated in the same manner. Someone had whispered into his ears, he whispers into someone else’s, and this one in his turn will whisper into someone else’s ears again.
Man creates lies and deceptions in everything – and the more mysterious a happening the more deceptions there are, because there is nothing substantial to show as proof.
I intend carrying out this method also. About ten or twenty people are preparing for it. They will take initiation from the divine. The others who are present will be the witnesses, and their work will be to confirm whether the initiation has been accepted by the divine; that is all. You will experience but you will not be able to recognize at once what has taken place. It is so unfamiliar to you, how will you recognize that the thing has happened? Confirmation can be made by the presence of the enlightened one. This alone is the basis of its evaluation.
So the supreme guru is the paramatman – God only. If the gurus in between would step back initiation would be easier, but the intermediary guru stands fixed. His ego exults at making a god of himself and displaying himself. Many kinds of initiations are given around this ego. They have no value, however, and in terms of spirituality they are all criminal acts. If some day we should start punishing spiritual criminals, these should not go unpunished.
The unsuspecting seeker takes it for granted that he has been initiated. Then he goes about with pride that he has received his initiation, that he has received his mantra, and that all that was to happen has happened to him. So all his search for the right happening stops.
When anyone approached Buddha he was never initiated immediately; sometimes it took years. Buddha would keep on postponing by telling him to perform this practice and that. Then, when the moment came, he would tell him to stand up for initiation.
There were three parts to Buddha’s initiation. One who came for it went through three types of surrender. First he said, “I surrender unto Buddha – Buddham sharanam gachchhami.” By this he did not mean Gautam Buddha; this meant surrendering himself to the awakened one.
Once a seeker came up to Buddha and said, “I surrender unto buddha.” Buddha listened and remained silent.
Then someone asked him, “this man says, ’I surrender unto buddha,’ and you were only listening to him?”
Buddha replied, “He is not surrendering to me, he is surrendering to the awakened one. I am a mere excuse. There have been many buddhas before me, there will be many after me. I am just an excuse. I am just a peg. He is surrendering himself to the awakened one, so who am I to stop him? If he surrenders to me I shall certainly stop him, but he has said three times that he is surrendering himself unto the awakened one.”
Then there is the second surrender which is still more wonderful. In this the person says, “I surrender myself to the assembly of the awakened ones – Sangham sharanam gachchhami.” Now what does this assembly mean? Generally the followers of Buddha take it to mean Buddha’s assembly, but this is not the meaning. This assembly is the collective gathering of all awakened ones. There is not only one Buddha who has become awakened; there have been many buddhas before and there will be many buddhas after who will awaken. They all belong to one community, to one collectivity. Now the Buddhists think this term means an association of Buddhists, but this is wrong.
The very first invocation, in which Buddha explains that the seeker surrenders himself to the awakened one and not to him as a person, makes everything clear. The second invocation makes it all the more clear. In this the person offers himself to the community of awakened ones.
First he bows down to the awakened one who is right there in front of him. As he is right there it is easy to approach him, to talk to him. Then he surrenders himself to the brotherhood of the awakened ones that have awakened since long and whom he does not know, and to those who will awaken in the future and whom he does not know. He surrenders to all of them and he proceeds a step further towards the subtle.
The third surrender is to dhamma – religion. The third time the seeker says, “I surrender unto the dhamma – Dhammam sharanam gachchhami.” The first surrender is to the awakened one, the second is the brotherhood of the awakened ones, and now the third surrender is to that which is the ultimate state of awakening – to the dhamma. That is, to our nature, where there is no individual, no community; where there is only the dhamma, the law. He says, “I surrender unto that dhamma.”
When these three surrenders were completed then only the initiation was recognized. Buddha was only a witness of this happening. This was not a matter of mere repetition. When these three were completed – and Buddha could see whether they had been completed – only then was the individual initiated. Buddha remained a witness to the happening.
So later on also Buddha would tell the seeker, “Do not believe what I say just because I am an awakened one; do not believe what I say just because I am famous or because I have many followers or because the scriptures confirm it. Now only believe what your inner understanding tells you.”
Buddha never became a guru. At the time of his death, when he was asked for his final message, he said, “Be a light unto yourself. Do not go after others; do not follow others. Be a light unto yourself. This is my last message.”
Such a person as Buddha cannot be a guru. Such a person is a witness. Jesus has said many a time, “On the final day of judgment I shall be your witness.” In other words, on the last day Jesus will testify, “Yes, he is a man who had striven to become awakened. This man wanted to surrender to the divine.” This is talking in symbols. What Christ meant to say is also this: “I am your witness, not your guru.”
There is no guru; therefore, beware of the initiation where someone becomes your guru. The initiation where you become immediately and directly connected with the divine is a unique initiation. Remember, in this initiation you have not to leave your house and go away, you have not to become either a Hindu or a Mohammedan or a Christian, nor are you required to be tied to someone. You remain where you are in your full freedom; the change will take place only from within.
In the false type of initiation you will be tied to a religion: you will be a Hindu or a Mohammedan or a Christian. You will be a part of an organization. Some belief, some religious order, some dogma, some person, some guru, will catch hold of you and they will kill your freedom.
That initiation which does not bring freedom is no initiation. That initiation which gives you absolute freedom is alone the right initiation.
From In Search of the Miraculous, Discourse 21
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