Srila Giri Maharaja – “Age for Initiation, Real Education, Controlling Lust”

Date: 6/4/17

Dear Sriman Jagadananda dasa,

Please accept my blessings and well-wishes in remembrance of my Divine Masters.

Please see this lowly servant offering his most humble obeisances at your lotus feet.

Yes, I am seeing you as such and appreciate your carefully constructed phrase expressing your sentiments with regard to yourself and your spiritual master. It is very sweet and appropriate.

I pray all is well with you. Please forgive the late reply. I haven’t an internet connection in the house yet so I have to wait until my day off to visit the internet cafe.

I understand the transition from your old job at the internet cafe to your new one will make it a little more difficult to access the internet. On the subject of your new job I will offer some friendly advice in the realm of sreya and preya:

There are two things: śreya and preya. I have discussed all these thing many times. Preya means immediately very palatable. That is called preya. And śreya means ultimately good. Suppose if you take some palatable foodstuff, it may be very palatable to you… There are many examples. Just like smoking. Smoking. Everyone knows, the scientists, the doctor, they declare, “This is a nonsense thing. It should be avoided.” They advertise even in the packet also. But people still smoke. But that is called preya. That is called preya. Preya means immediately very nice. And śreya means when one gives it up, “No, it will keep my health nice.” That is śreya. Try to understand what is śreya and preya. Another example: just like a child he wants to play whole day. Even Kṛṣṇa was playing with His friends. Mother Yaśodā had to call Him thrice, four times, then He would come back. So that is the nature of children—they want to play whole day and night. But that is not preya, er, that is not śreya. The mother, the parents, take care, “My dear boy, come here, take your bath, change your dress, take your food. It is already late.” So he does not know that these things are śreya. He wants to play. Just try to understand śreya and preya.

Now you have much better income than previously, but somehow you managed to live on the previous smaller amount. The natural tendency is to immediately enjoy with the larger money you are getting, that is preya. It is good that you will get some relief from the burden of managing your expenses on your previous small income, but it will be wise to take advantage of your larger income to save some portion for a future rainy day, that is sreya.

I am a little on the center line being distressed about your recent injury and following your instruction to laugh with you (or for you) about the situation. Perhaps if it were an ordinary person or someone I didn’t know and love I would find it more comical. (I don’t know what that says about me, however that’s the case.) You are no ordinary person. I do pray you are healing well and this never happens again.

I will address these points more fully in the near future when I have more time.

For now, I am sending the above and below so you don’t think I have forgotten your email or questions.

As far as my injury goes, it has been healing and the affected ribs seem to be nearly back to 100% function with little to no continuous pain or pain while laughing, sneezing, breathing, etc.

Your sympathy for my condition is appropriate. At the same time, do not be misled into thinking the body of the spiritual master is material. When Krishna appears in the form of a Deity we will be misled if we believe what our eyes tell us, that we are seeing a material form. Our material senses always deceive us in such matters. Therefore, they are not reliable. Faith, when properly directed, is the most reliable instrument for seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, etc. Maha prasada may seem to taste like bhoga, but it is not. As with the preceding examples, the body of the spiritual master appears to be material, but it is not.

As I wrote above, I will say more later. However, if you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to ask them.

Siddhartha is now 6 years old and I was thinking it is time to begin to prepare him for initiation when your Divine Grace sees fit. He is familiar with Krishna, the Maharashtra and watches the Indian cartoon “Little Krishna”. Please instruct me on what I should be teaching him.

Yes, you should prepare Siddhartha for initiation but I still think he is a little young. I am thinking seven years old is an appropriate age in many cases, but each must be considered individually. If you recommend him for initiation you must accept responsibility to see that he chants at least four rounds of japa daily. So, before recommending him, you should feel confident he is able to do that and will do it. That is more of a factor than age, as children develop at different rates. I’m sure Srimati Malini Devi spends more time with Siddhartha so she may also have to take responsibility for his chanting. You should both feel comfortable and confident that Siddhartha will be able to follow the vows he will accept at a young age.

When I first joined the Dallas ISKCON temple it was the principal guru-kula for the entire Mission. I saw how all ages of children behaved and what Srila Prabhupada expected of them, their teachers and their parents. I don’t recall the youngest age at which the children were accepted for initiation but I think between five and seven is reasonable. But being in guru-kula means there was a fairly strict regimen imposed by the teachers and followed by a large group of children who were encouraged by seeing their classmates of all ages following more or less the same daily routine which included attending the Deity’s aroti two or more times per day with chanting and dancing in kirtan, prasadam several times per day (as appropriate to the children’s age), regular times for chanting japa with children of the same age, study of the scriptures, etc. There was also time for play.

There was not much difference between the routine of the youngest and the oldest children except that the youngest would require more rest, more play time and more frequent times for taking prasadam.

Classes could contain children of all ages, with adults as teachers. Everyone was expected to attend mangal-aroti and morning Bhagavad Gita class. Children of five and up could be seen in these classes, if I remember correctly. By seven or so I think they were pretty capable of chanting the BG shlokas, first word by word, then line by line, then the entire shloka, with the rest of us.

Krishna Book was read often, either to the children, or by them, and they could often be overheard talking with each other about Krishna’s pastimes, which they heard from Krishna book and sometimes acted out in their play.

The system Srila Prabhupada introduced for teaching was: the adults would teach all the children and the oldest children would help teach the younger ones. In this way there were also many examples to follow. The oldest children could follow the good example of the adult devotees, the next younger group could follow the example of the next older, and so on.

From my memory, Srila Prabhupada said very young children, up to five years old, should be treated like kings. One should spare the rod and spoil the child. Whatever they want (within reason) should be given to them. They could eat as much as they want, sleep as much as they want, play as much as they want, etc. After five, more and more regulation and discipline should be gradually introduced. Importantly, Srila Prabhupada emphasized that all this should be accomplished with obvious affection from the teachers or parents. Obviously.

My memory was correct:

From the beginning of life means… Actually, our life begins at the age of five years. According to Cāṇakya Paṇḍita’s nīti, it is said that the boys, the children, should be given complete freedom to do anything he likes up to five years, not more than that. Lālayet pañca-varṣāṇi: “Up to five years a child should be given all freedom.” Never mind however miscreant he may be. But from five years to fifteen years—that means a period of ten years—tāḍayet. Lālayet pañca-varṣāṇi tāḍayet daśa-varṣāṇi: “You should give all freedom to your child for five years, and then, next ten years, you should be very strict, very strict, so that the child may be very much afraid. And as soon as he attains sixteen years of age, then you should treat him like friend, not, I mean to say, so strictly.” These are the moral instruction by Cāṇakya Paṇḍita. — Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.6.1 — San Francisco, March 6, 1967

So Prahlāda Mahārāja says, kaumāra ācaret prājño dharmān bhāgavatān iha [SB 7.6.1]. “My dear friends, from the beginning of your kaumāra age, as soon as you are on the age of ten years,”… Of course, he was preaching when he was five years old. Actually, education begins, that is the Indian system, from five years. Up to five years, the children are not bothered with any kind of education. They play and become free. But as soon as he is five years old, he’s sent to the school. — Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 7.6.1-2 — Stockholm, September 6, 1973

Srila Prabhupada was asked about giving the children comic books like the ones you refer to. He did not approve unless the pastimes portrayed in them were accurate with respect to our shastras. At the time, forty years ago, he didn’t see much good in the comics as they often exaggerated, misconstrued or, in some other way, deviated from accurate representations. The same was true of movies, which sorely disappointed. Srila Prabhupada derided the “farcical Narada”, a character played by an obvious homosexual in a movie about Lord Ramachandra. He took his cue from Srila Saraswati Thakura:

Dramatic performances were enacted during the presence of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, but the players who took part in such dramas were all pure devotees; no outsiders were allowed. The members of ISKCON should follow this example. Whenever they stage dramatic performances about the lives of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu or Lord Kṛṣṇa, the players must be pure devotees. Professional players and dramatic actors have no sense of devotional service, and therefore although they can perform very artistically, there is no life in such performances. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to refer to such an actor as yātrā-dale nārada, which means “farcical Nārada.” Sometimes an actor in a drama plays the part of Nārada Muni, although in his private life he is not at all like Nārada Muni because he is not a devotee. Such actors are not needed in dramatic performances about the lives of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Lord Kṛṣṇa.

— Cc. Adi 10.13

Srila Prabhupada also derided a popular black and white movie about the pastimes of Sriman Mahaprabhu wherein Mahaprabhu is portrayed in an overly sentimental way. Unfortunately, these two movies, specifically singled out by Srila Prabhupada as detrimental to our progress, have gained popularity among many devotees who mistake them for something actually helpful and instructive.

If you have access to comic books, movies, etc. that offer accurate representations of shastric events, there is no harm. But please be careful as many of these things appear very nice but actually undermine a true concept of reality.

It is better to read or view obvious fiction than to read or view items that appear to convey reality (such as the Lord’s pastimes), but actually undermine it by introducing elements of illusion which always confuse and bewilder the conditioned soul.

The world around us is constantly bombarding us with sexual images which cannot help but agitate and provoke the conditioned souls to engage in abominable acts of lust. The shastras condemn such images and provocations of all sorts. Srila Prabhupada spoke rather openly about sex life, even when children were in the audience. But the message was always the same; avoid it like the plague. He also drove home the harm that arises from illicit sex.

Images of gambling, meat eating and intoxication are easier to impress upon children as representing sinful and harmful behavior as they are external to us. Images promoting promiscuity (illicit sex) abound in modern society and require us to constantly avert our gaze from them. Young boys should be educated in the practices of brahmacharya “The vow of brahmacarya is meant to help one completely abstain from sex indulgence in work, words and mind – at all times, under all circumstances and in all places.”

One has to practice controlling the mind and avoiding all kinds of sense gratification, of which sex life is the chief. In the rules of celibacy written by the great sage Yājñavalkya it is said:

karmaṇā manasā vācā
sarvāvasthāsu sarvadā
sarvatra maithuna-tyāgo
brahmacaryaṁ pracakṣate

“The vow of brahmacarya is meant to help one completely abstain from sex indulgence in work, words and mind – at all times, under all circumstances and in all places.” No one can perform correct yoga practice through sex indulgence. Brahmacarya is taught, therefore, from childhood, when one has no knowledge of sex life. Children at the age of five are sent to the guru-kula, or the place of the spiritual master, and the master trains the young boys in the strict discipline of becoming brahmacārīs. Without such practice, no one can make advancement in any yoga,whether it be dhyāna, jñāna or bhakti. One who, however, follows the rules and regulations of married life, having a sexual relationship only with his wife (and that also under regulation), is also called a brahmacārī. Such a restrained householder brahmacārī may be accepted in the bhakti school, but the jñāna and dhyāna schools do not even admit householder brahmacārīs. They require complete abstinence without compromise. In the bhakti school, a householder brahmacārī is allowed controlled sex life because the cult of bhakti-yoga is so powerful that one automatically loses sexual attraction, being engaged in the superior service of the Lord.

— Bg 6.13-14, Purport

The sex impulse is born with the body of every living entity and, as children mature to puberty and beyond, they require proper education on this matter and reminders to exercise constant active restraint to avoid its pitfalls.

Sex life is permissible within certain limits, to produce auspicious children:

dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu
kāmo ’smi bharatarṣabha

I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O lord of the Bhāratas [Arjuna].

Therefore, because there is no outright ban on sex life (as there is for meat eating, gambling and intoxication) it may be easier to rationalize excuses for engaging in acts that are contrary to religious principals. Especially if the principals are not clearly understood or, more likely, they are misconstrued, as many popular religions do.

The whole environment is promoting the indulgence of lusty desires. Fortunately for us, our scriptures are very instructive on this matter:

Bg 3.37

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa
mahāśano mahā-pāpmā
viddhy enam iha vairiṇam


śri-bhagavān uvāca — the Personality of Godhead said; kāmaḥ — lust; eṣaḥ — this; krodhaḥ — wrath; eṣaḥ — this; rajaḥ-guṇa — the mode of passion; samudbhavaḥ — born of; mahā-aśanaḥ — all-devouring; mahā-pāpmā — greatly sinful; viddhi — know; enam — this; iha — in the material world; vairiṇam — greatest enemy.


The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.

Bg 3.38

dhūmenāvriyate vahnir
yathādarśo malena ca
yatholbenāvṛto garbhas
tathā tenedam āvṛtam


dhūmena — by smoke; āvriyate — is covered; vahniḥ — fire; yathā — just as; ādarśaḥ — mirror; malena — by dust; ca — also; yathā — just as; ulbena — by the womb; āvṛtaḥ — is covered; garbhaḥ — embryo; tathā — so; tena — by that lust; idam — this; āvṛtam — is covered.


As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, the living entity is similarly covered by different degrees of this lust.

Bg 3.39

āvṛtaṁ jñānam etena
jñānino nitya-vairiṇā
kāma-rūpeṇa kaunteya
duṣpūreṇānalena ca


āvṛtam — covered; jñānam — pure consciousness; etena — by this; jñāninaḥ — of the knower; nitya-vairiṇā — by the eternal enemy; kāma-rūpeṇa — in the form of lust; kaunteya — O son of Kuntī; duṣpūreṇa — never to be satisfied; analena — by the fire; ca — also.


Thus the wise living entity’s pure consciousness becomes covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.


It is said in the Manu-smṛti that lust cannot be satisfied by any amount of sense enjoyment, just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel. In the material world, the center of all activities is sex, and thus this material world is called maithunya-āgāra, or the shackles of sex life. In the ordinary prison house, criminals are kept within bars; similarly, the criminals who are disobedient to the laws of the Lord are shackled by sex life. Advancement of material civilization on the basis of sense gratification means increasing the duration of the material existence of a living entity. Therefore, this lust is the symbol of ignorance by which the living entity is kept within the material world. While one enjoys sense gratification, it may be that there is some feeling of happiness, but actually that so-called feeling of happiness is the ultimate enemy of the sense enjoyer.

The guru-kula provides the guidance, education and practice needed to help children develop the proper knowledge and practices to help avoid the natural inclinations of the conditioned soul which lead to his continued entrapment within the material environment.

Where there is no guru-kula it is the duty of the parents to provide the same education:

SB 5.5.18

gurur na sa syāt sva-jano na sa syāt
pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt
daivaṁ na tat syān na patiś ca sa syān
na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum


One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.

It is always the responsibility of parents to deliver their dependents from the cycle of samsara. Public education has taken it upon itself to apply the opposite principal; to fully enmesh its students in the web of illusion. Thus, Srila Prabhupada has called these public schools slaughterhouses. Therefore, if at all possible, I advise devotee parents (or any religiously minded parents) to home-school their children if they cannot be sent to a spiritually centered school.

The so-called modern progressive society, with its progressive state, is actively engaged in a war to subdue, subvert and destroy what is real progressive life, the journey of the soul from the conditioned to the liberated state of consciousness. The systems they have set up to accomplish their task are almost all-encompassing. They can enslave the body, but they cannot enslave the souls of those who choose the path of liberation. The duty of parents is to actively promote the path of spiritual liberation (Krishna consciousness) to their children by making every attempt to counteract the destructive influence of the mundane environment to crush all such efforts.

I intended to limit my email to some brief remarks. Each brief explanation invariably requires another brief explanation to explain it. No wonder then, that we understand ourselves to be eternally students, never finished professors.

I pray this finds you well in all respects. Please convey my blessings and well-wishes to Srimati Malini Devi dasi and your children.

Swami B.K. Giri