Accepting a spiritual master

Krishna Himself instructs Arjuna, “My dear Partha, one who claims to be My devotee is not so. Only a person who claims to be the devotee of My devotee is actually My devotee” (Adi-Purana)and "Just try to hear the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth." (Bhagavad-gita 4.34). It is clear from these statements that one must approach Krishna through His devotee, or in other words, that one should accept a spiritual master.

Accepting a spiritual master, taking initiation from him, enquiring from him, serving him with humility and obeying his orders are so important for spiritual advancement that Srila Rupa Goswami counts them as the first five principles of devotional service. One cannot advance in Krishna consciousness without accepting a spiritual master and following his instructions.

One may accept any devotee who inspires him as a spiritual guide. However, one may take initiation within ISKCON only from the devotees who have been designated to give initiation by its managerial authority, the GBC.

Initiation is not a formality or ritual. It is an eternal relationship between spiritual master and disciple which is being re-confirmed anew. A sacred vow of submission, service and learning on the part of the disciple binds him/ her with a spiritual master who provides guidance as to how to go back to Krishna’s eternal service. One should not base his choice of a spiritual master on any material considerations. If one prays sincerely, Krishna will send a spiritual master with whom one can rediscover this eternal relationship.

Please refer to Initiation Guidelines for ISKCON laws regarding initiation.