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By the Hindu or Buddhist devotees, the pattern of intentional language is viscerally understood; though none but the scholars among them could or would hazard speculations about the origins of intentional language, it is, as it were, unconsciously operational with them. The same, of course, holds for mantra. In a critical study like ours, therefore, it was necessary to establish the status of mantra and of intentional language, before proceeding to the fundamental routine of the Tantric devotees' career, diksa or initiation.
The word diksa is defined as 'preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony, undertaking religious observances for a particular purpose and the observances themselves (Atharvaveda and other Vedic passages); dedication, initiation (personified as the wife of Soma in ggveda); any serious preparation as for battle; self-devotion to a person or god, complete resignation or restriction to, exclusive occupation with. The underlying root is diksa to 'consecrate, dedicate', and it may be a rare desiderative of diksa to grow, to increase, to be able, to be strong'.
The word diksa" is used in all Indian vernaculars and is one of common though slightly sophisticated religious parlance every-where, but it retains its connotation as 'spiritual initiation' only, in the modern languages, the other meanings being no longer covered by the word in any of the languages.
The dictionary omits the most important aspect of diksa, how-ever, i.e. that its content must be a mantra of some sort, or that a mantra must be part of its content. A person may be initiated into the use, say, of a manclala, a yantra, or into the performance of a yajila (ritualistic sacrifice), but along with it a mantra is invariably imparted. Herein lies an important difference between diksa and abhisekha 'anointment' for the latter never requires the conferring of a mantra on the neophyte.
The notion and the practice of diksa is common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism alike; tribal groups who were listed as 'animists' and do not belong to any of the three high religions also employ a sort of diksa, probably in emulation of their Hindu surroundings; the Todas of the Nilgiris in south India impart a regular mantra to their sons, in analogy to the upanayana (investiture with the sacred thread) ceremony of the twice-born Hindus; instead of the Gayatri, a mantra commencing with 'UM' is given to the boy, in the Toda language.
In the state of Mysore (Chikmaghlur District), there is a shrine on top of a mountain, called `Dattatreyapitha', i.e. 'mound of the sage Dattatreya', who was, of course, a Hindu seer, connected with the worship of the Trimurti (Brahma, Vispu, Maheivara). The local story goes that due to some quarrels among the officiating priests, a Muslim sufi, Baba Qalandar Shah, was asked to look after the mound; the tradition was then kept alive, and a Muslim mahant (abbot) has been in charge of the Pitha up to this day. He is chosen by his predecessor and trained by him; he gives him diksa after the training is completed and although I did not succeed in recording the mantra used by the present Muslim mahant, it was quite clearly a mixture of garbled Sanskris and Arabic. Also, the devotees visiting the shrine arc blessed by the mahant, with an invocation containing elements of both the languages there is `0M' and Tismilliihr in the lengthy mantra. Along with it, the mahantgives `prasaa' in exactly the same manner as Hindu priests do.
The notion of diksa provides us, as a semantic by-product so to speak, with a definition of a guru for a guru is one who has received diksa from one or more gurus, is capable of conferring, and has actually conferred diksa on another person or persons. All other qualifications spiritual maturity, age, renown, learning, etc. are marginal to guru-hood. lithe question 'who is a guru?' is put to any practising Hindu, he will usually say 'one who gives diksa '. As we shall see a bit further down, the formal conferring of diksa is not always regarded as prerequisite of guru-hood yet it is implicit even when there is no formal act.
The types of diksa correlate with the adhikdra or 'specific entitlement' of the conferee. A person receives the diksa of the divine form or principle which he is fit to worship or approach. One and the same mantra may be used in various diksas, according to the spiritual adhikara of the adept and to the purpose of the initiation. Thus, the Mrtymijaya-mantra is used for initiation into the worship of iva-Paiupati; into the worship of Ardhandrigvara, i.e. the hermaphrodite form of iva; into the worship of the goddess as in the Mahanirvana Tantra; for removing illnesses (or, rather, for initiating a person who wants to achieve the capacity to cure illnesses); among the Viraiaivites of Mysore, to initiate a jangama, a Viragaivite monk, into the Order of Lingiyats; and to initiate a person into miscellaneous aivite and; -ikta rituals.
The study of adhikara-bheda is part of the daily schedule in almost all monastic training institutions in India. What the students learn are chiefly the laksanas or 'signs' by which to recognize what person is capable for a particular rite, as also what kind of meditation, etc., is likely to yield proper results for a particular aspirant.
I shall now list some important categories of diksa.
The distinction made by some Indian author between 'group' and 'individual' initiation is not really functional, because diksa is strictly a one-to-one interpersonal process between one guru and one disciple. The fact that several persons are frequently initiated at a time does not mean that a 'group' diksa is involved; it is usually done for convenience's sake, especially if the guru is a famous and well-sought-after teacher who consents to give diksa to hundreds of people every year. What actually happens in such cases is that he assembles those whom he regards as having the same adhikara; he then gives them the common instruction jointly; but, subsequently, each of the aspirants comes up to him separately and he whispers the latter's particular mantra into his ear; but this is no 'group' diksa. The Hindu and the Buddhist alike distinguish very sharply, though perhaps not in a formulated manner, between group instructions, individual instructions, and diksa, which is always a one-to-one affair. Group and individual instruction (upadda) may seem, to the outsider, very similar to a formal ; but it is never the same. Upadeia does not have the spiritual power of diksa nor has it any charismatic function. In the whole history of diksa, there has actually been only one known case where something like a genuine group diksa took place. That was when the medieval founder of the Visistadvaita School, Sri Ramanuja, proclaimed the man from NAMO NARAYANAYA' to all the peope assembled at the riraligarn shrine, flouting the injunction of his own guru to keep the mantra secret and to impart it only to deserving and well-tested individuals. The Sthalapurana then says 'the ciairya thus gave diksa to all the hundreds, all the hundreds were thus initiated at once'. Similar stories are told about Ramanuja's Bengali counter-part ri Caitanya Deva, the famous Vaisnava reformer. The Caitanya Caritiimrtal narrates how the saint initiated thousands at the threshold of the jagannaha Temple in Puri (Orissa); but the narrative is a complete analogy to the Rima-nuja episode and it seems almost beyond doubt that it is a copy, whatever the authenticity of the former story had been. Learned Hindu opinion rejects any such possibility, for individual conferring of diksa is felt to be part of its definition. What has been said about mantra" holds, mutatis mutandis, for diksa as well.
Writer – Agehananda Bharti