Do you have disciples?
Yes. As of April 2013, I was given permission by GBC to initiate.
Are you also a siksa guru and what does that mean?
For different reasons, there are devotees who cannot get all the guidance they want or need from their diksa gurus, and they look for guidance from another senior devotee. There are others who are initiated and not daily chanting 16 rounds or always following all the regulative principles, but who want and need the guidance of and close relationship with a senior devotee to guide them. Some devotees were initiated by gurus who are no longer strictly following Krsna consciousness, and they are not looking to be initiated again. What they want is to take guidance from another devotee. And there are devotees who are not yet ready for, or are thinking about formal diksa, but who recognize the need for guidance and benefit of accepting a senior devotee as their siksa guru.
The main thing to understand is that the essence of the guru/disciple relationship is siksa. Diksa is a one time event, whereas siksa continues throughout the life of the relationship.
Because I teach various workshops, I offer to continue to help devotees go further in the areas I teach. This is a typical student/teacher relationship. We may stay in touch for a short time or for several years. It may also develop into something more formal or long term and develop into a serious siksa or diksa relationship.
Also, there are many devotees whose only connection with me is by reading my newsletter or blogs. I am happy to offer my assistance to devotees in whatever ways I can best help them.
How is a siksa guru relationship similar and how is it different from the relationship one has with their diksa guru?
It can be very similar. As I said, it depends on the needs and desires of the devotee. Some devotees only need guidance with a particular problem, while others prefer to have the long term guidance and connection – perhaps throughout their entire life – and thus see and relate with another senior devotee as their guru exactly in the same way they see and relate with thier diksa guru (or if they are not initiated, see and relate to a siksa guru as they would relate to a diksa guru).
And some devotees just need a senior devotee to be a friend or big brother.
How should a disciple see a siksa guru?
Prabhupada said one can have only one diksa guru but can have many siksa gurus. It’s possible that at some point in a disciple’s life, a siksa guru may play an equal, or even more fundamental role in a disciple’s life than a diksa guru. Some see Srila Prabhupada as their primary guru. Some see their diksa guru as everything. Some experience that their siksa guru has tremendous impact on their life.
We can’t legislate how someone sees and deals with another senior devotee. Plus, as a devotee advances, his dealings and relationships with his various gurus may alter. Legislating relationships is artificial.
I am open to offer my guidance to those who request it and open to reciprocate with their desires and needs for a relationship that is either formal or informal. How they eventually see and deal with me will depend on different factors. However it develops, it should develop naturally.
But shouldn’t everyone see Prabhupada as their primary guru?
Everyone should see Prabhupada as their primary guru. We may think devotees would do better to focus their attention primarily, or entirely, on Srila Prabhupada, and for some this is true. But often, contact with a guru who is physically present is vital to a devotee’s spiritual growth, and helpful in taking further shelter of Srila Prabhupada.
But we don’t see formal siksa guru disciple relationships happening much in Iskcon
Iskcon is young. It’s true that prominence is given to the diksa guru disciple relationship. Yet, our tradition is full of deep and meaningful relationships between siksa gurus and their disiciples and followers. As Iskcon matures, it will become more common to find formal siksa guru/ disciple relationships.
For various reasons, many qualified devotees will not accept diksa disciples. But this doesn’t mean devotees shouldn’t avail themselves of the shelter that these senior devotees are still willing to offer. I especially encourage devotees who don’t feel ready for initiation to find a senior devotee who can be their siksa guru/mentor/guide. It will be of tremendous help to them.