Initiation Mantras in Our Paramparā (04/07/11)
Dear Śrīpāda_______ Mahārāja,
My daṇḍavat praṇāmas.
Yes, I remember my short visit to your āśrama very well, and I have often felt the desire to return there someday and have further talks with your holiness. I liked your āśrama and your association very much. In fact i will be in Europe for 3 weeks in April and, if possible, I will try to visit you for 1 or 2 days.
May I ask your help regarding this? What is your opinion about the status of twice-born ones? Should there be any difference in mantras, initiation rites or colors for the different varnas or according to the temperament of the persons concerned? Should a ksatriya-type chant different mantras than a Brahmin? If so, can you help me with these mantras?
For our time period, I do not think that different mantras are necessary based on the temperament of the individual because our paramparā-mantras are meant for the students of rāga-mārga. If they are not suited for the temperament of rāga-mārga, then the question could arise if they are qualified for dīkṣā-mantras at all? We are initiating them into what? Not varṇāśrama! Our mantras are not for that. Our mantras are essentially for rāga-mārga and rūpānuga-bhajana.
Everyone has to begin somewhere and therefore after chanting the mahā-mantra for sometime (years), I have in the past sometimes only given guru mantra/gāyatrī and caitanya-mantra/gāyatrī to the devotees depending on their status. Sometimes giving Brahma-gāyatrī with that, sometimes not – and then giving the remaining mantras when they are more qualified. and sometimes not giving the remaining mantras…all depending on who they are, and what their service and level of advancement is etc. All are not one.
In the classic Hindu period, ‘twice born’ in the varṇāśrama system of initiation usually only meant receiving the Brahma-gāyatrī, not other mantras. Paramparā Vaiṣṇavas were a different story and according to the sect and the Deity they worshipped, there were appropriate mantras. Since we are in the line/paramparā of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, we have a set group of mantras for the twice-born, but there too there are differences between various groups of Mahāprabhu’s followers, and between men and women.
If we were only trying to establish varṇāśrama, then possibly the brāhmaṇa type person, the kṣatriya type person and the vaiśya person would only need to receive Brahma-gāyatrī. Śūdras do not need any mantras. The mantra for the śūdra is “hard work” (sevā) and everyone can chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. But nowadays, from the sannyāsī/brāhmaṇa down to the field-worker, everyone has the same mantras in the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement. Is it reasonably so? I think not. We should especially remember that our Gopāla-mantra and Kāma-gāyatrī are rāga-mārga (mādhurya-rasa) mantras, and as such they are probably not suitable for everyone.
Therefore, unless I see that a person really has the temperament for śāstra, Deity worship, philosophy and the subtle aspects of devotional service, I do not give them our paramparā-dīkṣā-mantras. They just go on chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. I do not think that our dīkṣā-mantras are for everyone, but Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is. But if you think about it, 99% or more of the people in this world are śūdra by nature. We often mistake passion for being a kṣatriya and business minded for a Vaiśya – but that is a mistake. A kṣatriya and a vaiśya are much more than that. Most of everyone’s temperament is actually that of a śūdra – having a house, eating, family, possessions, etc.
In Gauḍīya Maṭha, the women do not receive the Brahma-gāyatrī. They only receive the Guru, Caitanya and kāma mantras and gāyatrī as well as Goplāla-mantra. We have a guru-mantra and a guru-gāyatrī, a caitanya-mantra and a caitanya-gāyatrī etc. but we call the whole thing “gāyatrī” for the sake of convenience. The more details we seek, the more complicated it gets.
Just a side note: In Manu-saṁhitā it is mentioned that when greeting a brāhmaṇa one should inquire how goes his study of śāstra and the performance of yajṇa (for a Vaiṣṇava we should inquire how goes his bhajana/sevā). For a kṣatriya we ask about his kingdom, a vaiśya about his wealth and a śūdra about his health. The śūdra is only concerned about his body, and thus his health. But in today’s world, we even approach our guru and first inquire about his health. So times have changed.
Also our Sārasvata-paramparā, the guru-mantra and guru-gāyatrī are different from other followers of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The bīja-mantra ‘aiṁ’ is used by us since the time of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura whereas the ‘śrīṁ’ bīja is used by other sects. Also, there are two variations of our guru-mantra within in the Sārasvata-paramparā. And our guru-gāyatrī is completely different than other sects. Most of this has been briefly explained in our Gāyatrī book.
The thread is different between Iskcon and the rest of the Gauḍīya Maṭha and all other paramparās also have some difference in thread and meaning. Iskcon has 6 strings and we have 9 strings. Iskcon has no explanation behind the number of strings in their brāhmaṇa threads, other than that’s the way they purchase it in Loi Bazaar in Vṛndāvana. On the other hand, our 9 threads have direct significance in relationship to śuddha-bhakti, as does our sannyāsa daṇḍa.
The number of times one chants his daily gāyatrī and how he/she chants also differs in our paramparā. Some chant 10 times each line and others chant 12 times, etc. Some devotees, as in the case of Śrīla Purī Mahārāja’s disciples, chant several other mantras in between each line of gāyatrī while they chant. Taking them at least 20 minutes or more to say gāyatrī in the morning, afternoon and evening (a total of one hour per day). The Rāmānuja paramparā sometimes chant gāyatrī 100, 500 or a 1000 times a day. And the sannyāsīs of Madhvācārya do not wear a thread and do not chant gāyatrī at all. They just chant Oṁ. So there are many different systems according to what the ācārya of any particular sect has established.
It seems there are no hard and fast rules, but it also seems that not just everyone and anyone should be adding, taking away or adjusting our mantra tradition. Otherwise, in the future there will be no standards at all.
Sannyāsa mantra is also of 2 types within our Sārasvata-paramparā, and in the case of my sannyāsa disciples, they are given other rāga-mantras/gāyatrīs to chant along with their standard gāyatrī. When taken together, myself and my disciples have mantras/gāyatrīs and adjustments from Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, Śrīdhara Mahārāja, Purī Mahārāja and our Prabhupāda. We chant differently than almost anyone else. Our mantras, when taken together, are like no other in our paramparā and give us a specific sense of identity and our place within the paramparā. You may also find such a thing necessary, but my humble advice is not to arbitrarily make adjustments without deriving them from higher Vaiṣṇavas. And where do we find ‘higher Vaiṣṇavas’ today?
There is actually so much more to say on this topic for an email, so we will keep something for the future when we can meet and talk in person.
Hoping this meets you well.