Should initiation be the beginning of spiritual life or a step that we should take further down the line? Is initiation the beginning of our spiritual lives or is it the result of our spiritual life?
We have to be careful of basing conceptions on English translations of Sanskrit words. In English, to initiate is to begin. The Sanskrit word diksa, however does not convey precisely the same idea. Diksa means “preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony, or life.” In that sense it is a beginning, an initiation. But one takes a vow, and one must be prepared to keep one’s word. In fact, the word devotee comes from the Latin “de-voto,” “of-vow.” So one becomes a devotee by keeping a vow. In ISKCON initiation candidates must follow the 16 rounds/4 principles for at least two years before diksa. Of course one must have a mature self-understanding to realistically take on a lifetime vow. Conclusion: diksa is a type of beginning, but also the fruit of previous practice.