One sishya said to me, “Since taking deeksha is a personal (spiritual) commitment of a bhakta to the Lord, we should leave it to the individual.”
I responded, saying that deeksha is more than a personal (spiritual) commitment of an individual to the Lord. It is declaring one’s commitment to the Lord as well as to the mandali. By taking deeksha in the presence of the mandali, the bhakta is receiving the blessing and approval of the mandali, and joining as the member of the body of the Lord. At the same time she also throws a challenge to the rest of the mandali to take responsibility for her holistic growth. Both the mandali and she make a commitment to each other. She as an individual should give her contribution to the sustenance and growth of the mandali and the mandali should do the same for her.
It is like a marriage ritual where two families make a commitment to each other to uphold a new union and welcome each other into their larger families. The actual marriage ritual plays an important part, but the more important element is the commitment of the families.
I know this isn’t the best illustration, but it highlights my point. Deeksha is more than just a personal spiritual commitment.
In another context I also said that ‘sanskar’ is different from ‘deeksha’. Many sanskars (life-cycle events) are done when the individual need not understand or make any commitment, such as ‘namakarana’ or ‘anna prasana’ to the child. Even the ‘thread ceremony’ done to boys is done for the sake of society rather than any personal desire or understanding of that boy.
On the other hand, most ‘deekshas’ require a (clear) understanding along with a personal commitment. That is why ‘Guru deeksha’, ‘acharya deeksha’ and ‘sannyasi deeksha’ are done only to adults and not to children.
Of course some Buddhist monks are made when they are small children. Similarly in the Sankarachara tradition, the next successor is often chosen when the boy is a teenager. But in honouring their tradition we have no right to question or challenge them. In our case when a bhakta wants to take ‘guru-deeksha’, we prefer her to be grown enough to understand it. That is why we never encourage giving deeksha to children or even teenagers. But if any parent feels they should give deeksha to their children early, it is left to them and we cannot force our view on them. But considering our Indian values, since deeksha requires some (clear) understanding and commitment, it is better allow the boy or girl to take that decision on her own.
Involving the wider family (by their participation) is good where there is some scope for it. But that too should be left to the individual family to decide. For example, if the parent already hurt and conveyed a wrong message to their parents by taking ‘Christian Baptism’ through a Pastor that too under a denominational Church, then however they explain their parents won’t understand that their grandchild is now receiving ‘guru-deeksha’ as a Hindu bhakta of the Lord. If the parents are mature enough to understand this, after seeking the genuine change in their children’s life (gharwapasi) that s/he ‘repented and now remain as a Hindu but bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath’ then with their permission and consent a parent can arrange the deeksha of their child along with the mandali with the presence of their parents.
But in the name of not remaining NOT hidden before their Hindu relatives if an individual openly proclaims that s/he is going to ‘receive baptism, through a Pastor that too in a denominational church’ but try to claim to remain as a ‘Hindu bhakta’ s/he is not going to help anyone – neither the Hindu relatives nor the church. There is no point of claiming ‘it is between me and the Lord’. If so, it is better to go to a bathroom, lock the door and pour water on your head and become a bhakta as it is your personal commitment to the Lord. Deeksha is neither romance nor mysticism that happens between two individuals.