The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else. This propensity is present in every living being. Even an animal like a tiger has this loving propensity at least in a dormant stage, and it is certainly present in the human beings. The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy. At the present moment the human society teaches one to love his country or family or his personal self, but there is no information where to repose the loving propensity so that everyone can become happy. That missing point is Krsna.”
-- Nectar of Devotion
In this essay, I am making a humble attempt to venture into one of the most important aspects of Vaisnava philosophy. That is, the absolute requirement for the spirit soul to ultimately repose their inherent loving propensity in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, rather than improperly and unsatisfactorily directing their loving affection towards those who are incapable of providing the quality of happiness the soul is hankering after. Anything less than pure transcendental loving service will only cause the spirit soul to experience frustration and ultimately a feeling of betrayal. The sense of deep disappointment experienced when pursuing pleasure through so-called loving relationships within this material world may easily result in the spirit soul’s loss of faith and hope of fulfilling this need for love by taking shelter in devotion toward God and/or his bonafide pure representative. Such despair can cause the spirit soul to abandon the search for happiness on the path of truth and enlightenment.
To find oneself in the fortunate circumstance of having a Spiritual Master who is an undisputed maha-bhagavata uttama adhikary is truly rare. Considering the auspiciousness of this occurrence, it would be considered a great loss if we allowed anything to threaten our ability to develop this opportunity to its full potential. Yet there is a dilemma experienced by today’s newcomers. On one hand, they have an undeniable need to thoroughly understand the Science of Krsna Consciousness so they can make the correct choices, as both Krsna and Maya present their alternatives. Srila Prabhupada has created a prodigious wealth of perfectly explicit spiritual literature, along with a well defined sadhana program, to assist them in this process. On the other hand, the sincere newcomer has to struggle with a bodily tendency to hanker after a personal “in the flesh” relationship in which to repose their unfulfilled loving propensities. In Srila Prabhupada’s physical absence, the searchers are encouraged to seek shelter from a personality who is admittedly not on the same level of advancement as Srila Prabhupada, yet he is purporting to be one of those exclusively linked up to the Acarya. The risk, naturally, is that the neophyte is expected to evaluate for himself the level of spiritual advancement and the degree of sincerity of the prospective guru.
The need to receive personal instruction from a representative of the Acarya is felt by many to be a necessity, and this need is strongly communicated via peer pressure. This idea that all followers of Krsna Consciousness require a living diksa guru to link them to the sampradaya has been the propaganda of the leaders of corporate ISKCON for the last 20 years. However, there are those who feel differently. Many of us believe that the connection to the present Acarya can be legitimately made by studying His teachings and with the aid of His more experienced disciples, who are willing to take a teaching role but humbly refrain from assuming a position approximating that of the Acarya, namely that of diksa guru.
After years of analysis, the debate on the guru/disciple relationship within ISKCON seems ultimately to come down to the subtle and subjective emotion of what is claimed to be the genuine “loving feelings” experienced by the disciple for their diksa guru and, of course, vice versa. In this essay, I am attempting to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of this truly amazing phenomena. Whenever I have presented my objections to the present ISKCON interpretation of the philosophy regarding the qualifications and definitions of guru, particularly diksa, all participants in the present initiation system have consistently presented as the final conclusive evidence supporting their arguments the fact that this loving feeling genuinely exists:
“It is there, and that is that. What can we do....we both feel this way?”
WE’RE IN LOVE
The intense, intimate emotions that spontaneously manifest between the guru and the disciple appear to be natural and are therefore hard to deny. The real question is whether these loving feelings are material or spiritual. The experiencing of these loving emotions is enough to assure both parties, as well as many of the onlookers, that this relationship is both legitimate and unchallengable. Those committed to such a relationship strongly and sometimes violently resist any attempt from outsiders to meddle in the dynamics between them, especially if there is some suggestion that the relationship is unauthorized or the guru is unqualified.
Srimad-Bhagavatam, 7.5.31, Translation
“Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.”
“Gurus, teachers, who are simply interested in this material world are described in this verse as andha, blind. Such blind men may lead many other blind followers without true knowledge of material conditions, but they are not accepted by devotees like Prahlada Maharaja. Such blind teachers, being interested in the external, material world, are always bound by the strong ropes of material nature.”
Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi lila 4.171, Translation
“Therefore lust and love are quite different. Lust is like dense darkness, but love is like the bright sun.”
THE MYSTERY OF LOVING DEVOTION
Below I have taken the liberty to extract statements from the writings of two devotees "in good standing", both of whom consider themselves bona-fide diksa disciples of my Godbrothers. They recently felt moved to challenge my critical proclamations that their beloved gurus have erroneously assumed the diksa guru position. Their heartfelt pleas did not fall on deaf ears. I can honestly say it was never my intention to disturb their firm faith nor cause their spiritual loving affections in Sri Gurudeva to waver. These souls have reposed their authentic loving devotion in an approved personality of their own choice, with the reassuring blessings of ISKCON’s GBC, “the ultimate managing authority”. This governing body has clearly stated that their initiating procedure is exactly what Srila Prabhupada authorized.
From a devotee’s recent letter:
“I was therefore very disappointed and hurt to see your sentences about my Guru Maharaja, Jayapataka Swami. I wish you wouldn't lump him in with others, whom you feel continue to perpetuate the zonal acarya model....Please don't think that I'm simply a naive, starry-eyed disciple. I'm almost 40 years old and have never lived in an ISKCON temple (or been financially dependent on ISKCON). I have a career....and took 11 years to find a guru and then another 9 years before asking him for initiation. At no point did Jayapataka Maharaja try to pressure me to do anything. He was patience personified during my *very* slow move toward becoming more Krsna Conscious. He has always listened to me, respected what I had to say, encouraged me in my service, and supported me when I've asked for it.”
Another letter from the same devotee:
"All the gurus have confessed that they are not as absolute as they once projected themselves to be". I find that to be irrelevant. I am not following Jayapataka Maharaja because he is "absolute". I am following him because he is a sincere follower of Srila Prabhupada and is faithfully carrying out Srila Prabhupada's instructions. Most of all, I asked Jayapataka Maharaja to initiate me because he inspires me more than anyone else in my Krsna Consciousness.”
Letter from another devotee:
“We understand the desire of Lord Caitanya, therefore we are eager to be the servants of the servants, knowing that this is what will bestow Krsna's mercy upon us. Since the day one of you, somewhere in the world, put us in touch with Krsna, we became indebted and wanted to help you in your service. With the time that relationship with some of you turned into love, the key to enter in the mood of Gauranga. That is a complete personal experience, that cannot be instituted, nor understood by dry logic. Some may say is sentimentalism, but that is their misfortune, for a person unable to bear this emotion for his karma/siksa/diksa guru is devoid of the mercy of the True guru behind them all: Lord Nityananda. Not a single blade of grass moves without the sanction of Krsna, what to speak of the relationship between two Jivas that are trying sincerely to serve Him. This is mystical affair, and for that reason it has been very attractive to us since day one, and we want to share it with everybody. That is what Srila Prabhupada did with you, and was transmitted to us in different degrees, in different circumstances, by different individuals. That's Krsna's overwhelming variegatedness, His inconceivable potency.”
Letter from a third devotee:
“Thank you for your sincere attempt to show the truth, although it is so confusing for many of us. I as a disciple, have put all my faith in my spiritual master for the last eight years. I have learned to serve him, love him and trust him as Krsna's pure devotee, my connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I don’t want to be a blind follower and that is why I appreciate so much your letter, but I need to believe (probably for my mental and spiritual sanity) that there is something mystic and sacred that can't be destroyed in the relationship guru-disciple. That very very deep love, appreciation and commitment that one has in the heart for the spiritual master is something not so easy to give up. I miss my spiritual master very much and I don't know if I will ever see him again. I understand he may have done mistakes, but none of us is perfect, we are all trying, some more successfully than others. I owe my spiritual master the strength to go through the most terrible test in my life and the strength to be alive today struggling in this hellish material world. Maybe if we try to see the good side of the persons (although sometimes is very difficult), and understand that we are all sick, then maybe someday we are going to be able to feel some love and trust among the devotees, and be able to speak our hearts and ask for help when we need it. My spiritual master accepted me as I am, and showed me he had no expectations from me, and I don't think I can find any other person like him, even if he is not perfect or if he doesn't fit within ISKCON.”
The above expressions are what I would call a display of “inconceivable loving expressions”. These heartfelt emotions are undoubtedly mysterious, although they spontaneously manifest within all human intimate relationships, regardless of the cultural or spiritual milieu. The commonly used phrase “love is blind” best capsulizes this seemingly whimsical phenomena which, although often observed, is so little understood that it is called “blind”. Srila Prabhupada told an interesting story in a lecture on the Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.11, on June 10, 1969 in New Vrindaban, that depicts this theme:
“Padma-locana means very beautiful, lotus-eyed. But one mother has got a child who is born blind. Out of her love she has given the name Padma-locana, “lotus-eyed.” You see? So that she can give because she loves the child. Even he is blind, that’s her whim. “My boy, my child is padma-locana.” Similarly, this “mahatma,” this title you can give to any person you like, but it has a meaning, “mahatma.” So that meaning, “mahatma,” is explained in the Bhagavad-Gita . Mahatmanas tu ma partha daivea prakatim asritau. Mahatma means who is not under the material energy, but he is under the spiritual energy. And what is the symptom that one is under the spiritual energy? That he has no other business except executing Krsna consciousness.”
Interestingly, Srila Prabhupada compares this blind love principle to persons in India who loved their political leaders so much that they erroneously gave them the title of “Mahatma” regardless of the fact that they did not have the qualifications, just as the blind child did not have the quality of sight but the loving mother called him “lotus-eyed”. People involved in infatuating attachment for another embodied being tend to irrationally set aside their common sense and reason. The obvious shortcomings of those they love are ignored, in fact, they assign exaggerated qualities and titles. This mentality is easily exploited by unscrupulous cheaters.
NECTAR OF DEVOTION
A learned Vaisnava understands that the loving propensity is an inherent quality of the jivatma, and, as such, he is constantly in search of a secure repository for this natural loving proclivity. The precarious material nature causes the illusioned, insecure soul to seek shelter in temporary mundane relationships which appear to be sensually beneficial, rather than recognize the hankering of the soul to reconnect with their original “lover”, Krsna. We often hear the statement that Krsna loves us more than we love him, yet we seldom consider that the intrinsic aspect of all loving relationships is free will. So that we have at least an opportunity to exercise our free will in relationship to Krsna, He makes available the practical option of surrendering to His direct representative, the guru, or shastra (scriptures) that explains and encourages the searcher to repose their loving propensity in the Supreme Lord. Krsna arranges to provide the seekers of the world with sadhu (preachers) who encourage humanity to take shelter of the present acarya. Unfortunately, even these divine arrangements are exploited by unscrupulous pretenders who pray on naive, sentimental seekers.
The yuga avatara, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, empowered His direct disciples, the Six Goswami’s of Vrindabin, to present the essential knowledge required for sincere seekers to be guided through the labyrinth of illusionary philosophies. The material world is full of cheating impostors who tempt the uneducated spiritual seeker to repose their faith and love in them rather than in Krsna and His bonafide acarya. The bonafide representatives are dedicated to the distribution of this information and challenge those who exploit the intrinsic nature of the soul, especially those in the guise of pure devotees.
“Our love can be fully satisfied only when it is reposed in Krsna. This theme is the sum and substance of The Nectar of Devotion, which teaches us how to love Krsna in five different transcendental mellows. Our loving propensity expands just as a vibration of light or air expands, but we do not know where it ends. The Nectar of Devotion teaches us the science of loving every one of the living entities perfectly by the easy method of loving Krsna. Bhagavad-Gita says that a little advancement in bhakti-rasa can save the devotee from the greatest danger—that of missing the opportunity for human life. The rasas derived from our feelings in social life, in family life or in the greater family life of altruism, philanthropy, nationalism, socialism, communism, etc., do not guarantee that one’s next life will be as a human being.”
“Nectar of Devotion”, Preface
SOCIAL DOCTRINE IN THE WEST
Krsna Bhaktas recruited from the western countries have been culturally conditioned into western philosophical mindsets that are extremely difficult to transcend unless the devotees are aware of the tendencies that stem from this contamination. Srila Prabhupada was very concerned about addressing the main philosophical deviations of western philosophers, beginning with Charles Darwin, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, et al.
Arrival Conversation, Los Angeles, June 20, 1975
“Therefore in your country, Western country, the so-called big, big philosophers, scientists, they could not do anything tangible, because they are hovering on the mental plane.”
To understand how the west’s philosophical deviations are mirrored in ISKCON’S present day policies on guru and initiation, let us briefly examine the broad picture of social doctrine and the institution of familial love in the western world.
With the European advent in the 1800’s of the doctrine of individualism and the artistic and intellectual movement of romanticism, society was introduced to many adverse misconceptions which undermined the definition of the family as well as the family’s position within the community at large. Previously, the family took much more responsibility in seeing that young family members passing into adulthood made wise choices regarding a marriage partner. The philosophers of this time, however, encouraged everyone to exercise their individual autonomy, especially when it came to choosing one’s life partner. This demand for romantic self-determination has been glorified in contemporary literature and popular music to an exaggerated extent over the last two hundred years. Logic, reason and common sense cannot be relied upon in understanding the dynamics involved in the strange mating games that manifested as these philosophies were implemented. Today, the coming-of-age ritual that commonly takes place throughout an individual’s teen years can result in a great deal of stress, and the detrimental effects can haunt them for their entire lives. Young adults conditioned by western culture become overwhelmed by the influence of uncontrolled sex desire (mode of passion). Consequently, they are practically uncontrollable by their parents and teachers, what to speak of other responsible members of the community. We see the predictable negative results: unwanted pregnancies, abortions, extreme mental anxiety, lack of interest in education, frustration leading to violence, etc. The many direct destructive ramifications are ultimately rooted in bogus philosophies which have been accepted as truth by society in general. All this unnecessary disturbance must simply be tolerated by families, governments and communities, and these integral institutions are forced to deal with the aftermath of materialistic philosophies which irrationally romanticize the concept of passion and ignorance, and masquerade them as perverted reflections of loving relationships.
Room Conversation with Dr. Christian Hauser, Psychiatrist,
September 10, 1973, Stockholm
Prabhupada: “Yes. Yes. We are taking away a person from the illusionary stage to the real stage of Krsna consciousness.”
Dr. Hauser: “But it also seems to me that you have, by gaining this consciousness, you can skip a lot of hard work that it takes in ordinary analysis or in a group therapy...”
Most of the social ills prevalent in modern society have their origin in the homes of unqualified and many times incompatible ignorant couples. These frustrated families are struggling under the heavy influence of the modes of ignorance and passion, and their confusion is further compounded by deep-seated philosophical misconceptions. These dysfunctional relationships in turn produce very disturbed children who present a heavy burden to society, as they tend to mirror the dysfunction they grew up with, enter into adulthood, and perpetuate a viscous circle.
The modern sectarian governments embrace the humanitarian and empirical philosophies which strongly advocate the freedom of the individual over and above the need for society to function smoothly. The making of major decisions in life, like the choice of one’s lifelong marriage partner and one’s occupation, is a right demanded by the young adult. However, the root of most of society’s problems essentially comes from dysfunctional family environments which breed children incapable of making the correct choices. In his preaching, Srila Prabhupada addresses these types of problems:
“Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers”, February 28, 1972
Srila Prabhupada: “But people are gradually descending from human society to animal society. They are forgetting marriage. That is also predicted in the sastras. Dampatye bhirucir hetuh: in the Kali-yuga (the present age of quarrel), eventually there will be no marriage performances; the boy and the girl will simply agree to live together, and their relationship will exist on sexual power. If the man or the woman is deficient in sex life, then there is divorce. So, for this philosophy there are many Western philosophers like Freud and others who have written so many books. But according to Vedic culture, we are interested in sex only for begetting children, that’s all.”
Bob: “Presently, in America, that’s a radical concept.”
REGULATION THROUGH VARNASRAMA
It is an accepted fact that any government today, well meaning as it may appear, which would go about trying to solve the social ills by legislating how these “loving marital relationships” should function would certainly receive a tremendous backlash of protest from those attached to the concept of individualism. The spirit soul’s desire for independence from the Supreme Authority is the essential purpose behind the material world’s manifestation and continued existence. The divinely designed Vedic or Varna Asrama model has as one of it’s main pillars a strict policy of regulation on intermarriage between the different varnas and contact with the opposite sex within the asramas. This policy is in place so as to maintain the purity of the overall system, which can ultimately only be accomplished by strict control of the marriage system. Although there is a recognition of the loving propensity inherent within the very nature of the unique spirit soul, it is understood that in this material atmosphere, where the illusioned jiva is conceiving itself to be the material body, this propensity can easily be misplaced and exploited. This is especially true during adolescence, when the influence of the mode of passion predominates. The loving propensity is transformed into lust. If lusty desires are frustrated, they manifest as anger. Having a lot of angry youth on the prowl is certainly problematic for any community. Coincidentally, ISKCON also has a large contingency of angry youth who feel cheated and are looking for answers.
Interestingly, we humans are willing to apply Vedic principles to the science of animal husbandry. Most breeders take extreme care to see that the procreation of livestock is controlled in such a manner as to ensure that the offspring embody many of the good qualities that the owner finds desirable. But within the human population, there is little or no attempt made to adopt the same principles of regulation. Srila Prabhupada was very orthodox in His opinion of how civilization should strictly follow the Vedic model, regardless of popular opinion.
Bhagavad-Gita 1.32-35, London, July 25, 1971
“Therefore according to Vedic civilization, it is the duty of the parents to get the sons and daughters married so that they will have family attraction, they will be established, they will be organized, things will go nicely. If there is no family attraction, no responsibility, then the things will not go nicely. This is the basic principle.”
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.15.25-26, Los Angeles, December 4, 1973
“One should not become, try to become father, one should not try to become mother if the parents cannot save the child from imminent death. That is the responsibility. And who is that father? Who is that mother? This is Vedic civilization. My Guru Maharaja used to say that “I am a sannyasi. I am not married, neither I am meant for marrying. But if I can produce Krsna conscious children, I can marry hundred times.” That is the responsibility. Don’t produce cats and dogs; produce Krsna devotees. Then you’ll marry. Otherwise don’t marry. This is Vedic injunction. Marriage is not meant for sense gratification. Marriage is meant for producing nice children, Krsna devotees.”
Wedding Ceremony and Lecture, Boston, May 6, 1969
“That is civilized way. Because in the civilized society there is marriage ceremony. According to Vedic system, the father and mother’s responsibility is for the child unless they are married. It is the duty of the parents to see that the girl and the boy is married by the supervision of the parents. That is the Vedic way of civilization.”
Heavy responsibilities were placed upon the father, who would have to find the best possible match for his daughter. The father would utilize the science of astrology and his search for the best husband for his daughter would have to stay within the boundaries of his Varna. The Vedic gurukula system of education was staffed by highly qualified brahmins who were astute observers of the personal characteristics of their students, and could suggest the best counterparts for marital union. In the well functioning extended family of the Vedic model, everyone was involved in seeing that all members of the family were cared for throughout their whole life. The heads of these families assumed the responsibility to see that every family member was properly initiated into the institution of marriage and the spiritual system of guru/disciple. Success of the individual, family, community and nation depended upon these serious arrangements, which lead to healthy, well functioning loving families where the children were adjusted and loved. This resulted in peaceful communities. Such a mode of goodness approach is looked upon as draconian today but is, in fact, the common sense answer to many of the social problems we are struggling with in our present culture.
LEGISLATING THE HEART’S DESIRE
How are the realities of modern society mentioned above similar to the present situation with ISKCON’s present diksa guru policy? Modern governments are handicapped by the influence of bogus philosophies, and the proponents of these theories prevent authorities from taking affirmative action in dealing with the serious social problems. ISKCON, on the other hand, founded by the present Acarya representing the Six Goswami’s of Vrindabin, the direct disciples of the yuga avatara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, should not be so paralyzed by confusing philosophical inconsistencies. Yet the authorities within ISKCON have not even tried to address the problems involving our own youth, the first generation of whom have been practically lost. Srila Prabhupada had high hopes for the children of His disciples, and expected them to be properly trained, their talents and propensities developed so they could take over His society. That program has proven to be a complete failure.
Even worse than the situation with our lost children is the seeming lack of comprehension on the part of the GBC as to how to apply the philosophy to the sacred principle of spiritual initiation. The human form of life is the only vehicle which can accommodate the spirit soul’s intrinsic desire to repose its original loving feelings with the ultimate lover, Lord Sri Krsna. Through the human form of life, the loving propensity is directed by the intelligent class of men, the Brahmins, towards the ultimate goal of life, pure devotional service. This goal can only be obtained by the aspiring devotee who comes in contact with a pure devotee, one who has already obtained this cherished goal. Srila Prabhupada explains in His preface to “Nectar of Devotion”:
“In the primary stage a child loves his parents, then his brothers and sisters, and as he daily grows up he begins to love his family, society, community, country, nation, or even the whole human society. But the loving propensity is not satisfied even by loving all human society; that loving propensity remains imperfectly fulfilled until we know who is the supreme beloved. Our love can be fully satisfied only when it is reposed in Krsna.”
Modern governments try to see to it that the children eventually grow up to be responsible citizens and good family members. They are frustrated because they lack understanding of the ultimate aim of the human form of life. ISKCON was created by it’s Founder to allow it’s participants the opportunity to achieve this ultimate goal. It is understood that Srila Prabhupada, as the Acarya, is the only personality with the qualifications to take the follower into this sacred realm of “raganuga bhakti”, which makes it possible to repose all one’s love in Krsna. Just as a citizen must, step-by-step, transfer their love from family to society to country and then to humanity at large, so also the aspiring bhakta, under normal conditions, must progress from the kanista to the madyam to the uttama platforms. To accommodate this step-by-step progress, Krsna, in His Visnu expansion as Ksirodaksayi, “Supersoul” within the heart of the living entity, arranges that the sincere seeker contact the necessary representative “teacher/guru” of Krsna, who will take them to the next step. Just as the father tries his best to see that the daughter is betrothed to the best young man so that the girl is properly protected, so the siksa guru takes the responsibility to see that the disciple is transferred to someone who is capable of giving the bhakta further instruction, so that his progress will be uninterrupted.
Within ISKCON there is confusion as to the role or responsibility of the organization towards the newcomer, and it is Srila Prabhupada ’s role in the equation that seems not to be understood. Srila Prabhupada has been given the title of Founder/Acarya, maha-siksa, maha-bhagavata. Srila Prabhupada ’s writings are toted as the single most important link to the sampradaya, and as such, the only means to reach the upper echelons of Krsna consciousness. It is the role of the diksa guru and their relationship with Srila Prabhupada and the teachings that seems to be controversial. The argument made by the GBC and ISKCON supporters is for the absolute requirement of all newcomers (those still in the neophyte stage) to actively seek out their eternal diksa guru amongst the choices offered by the institution. The diksa guru’s responsibility is to accept the burden of all the sinful reactions of their disciples. The GBC seem to interpret this unburdening of one’s sins to be a paramount necessity, without which there will be no tangible progress made by the uninitiated bhakta....even though there are many authoritative shastric statements advising that the potency of chanting the holy names, hearing the pastimes, and associating with the pure devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will purge one of the reactions of one’s sinful activities. Are all these proclamations contingent on being initiated?
With this politically motivated philosophical interpretation as the basis of their law (seen below), the GBC feel that they need not take any direct responsibility for assuring that those ISKCON members who have gotten a “non-objection certification” and are thus freely accepting disciples in a diksa capacity are actually embodying the necessary qualifications for such a heavy responsibility. There is no direct sastric verification that devotees on the conditioned platform can accept disciples, let alone their sinful reactions. There are only some vague excerpts from conversations with Srila Prabhupada, taken out of context and used as evidence, yet this extremely exalted position of diksa guru is handed out liberally by ISKCON authorities. It is done so with little or no consideration for the potentially serious ramifications, both to the illusioned guru and their so-called disciples.
2.2. Responsibility of Candidate for Initiation
It is the personal responsibility of candidates for initiation to correctly decide, by the exercise of their own intelligence, to surrender to a particular devotee as spiritual master. Candidates for initiation should accept initiation from a spiritual master only after developing firm and mature faith in that devotee and in his ability to take them back to Godhead. Sadhu, sastra, and guru are the authoritative references to apply in ascertaining the level of advancement of a devotee. Receiving official ISKCON guru approval signifies that the devotee has successfully completed the authorization process set forth in ISKCON law, and that in the judgment of certain senior devotees the candidate measures up to the standards and guidelines given in ISKCON law. However, such approval is not automatically to be taken as a statement about the degree of God-realization of the approved guru, and it is not intended to replace the intelligent discrimination of the candidate. [weasel clause]
The above GBC mandate states that this most serious decision is completely up to the uneducated neophyte, who from a spiritual standpoint can be accurately compared to a teenager in today’s western society. I think it is also fair to compare today’s parents to ISKCON’s GBC, as both are basically declaring that they cannot assume responsibility for their dependent’s heavily committed involvement with either their diksa guru or marriage partner. Both parties put the onus on the equally inexperienced, easily infatuated individual for making their own discriminatory choices in this regard. The “parental” responsibility is abdicated regardless of the fact that this is one of the most important decision of their “spiritual child’s” life and a mistake could have devastating repercussions, not only for the individuals directly involved, but also for the family and the society. The ramifications of this irresponsible behavior on the part of the natural authorities in both scenarios have created serious problems: divorce, abortion, child neglect and abuse, etc. Many miseries are suffered because those who are handicapped by a concocted philosophy.
The degree to which ISKCON’s problems with diksa guru and disciple are rooted in the same societal conundrum may be further debated, but the similarities are certainly obvious. In the case of ISKCON, clearly the concerned parties are philosophically handicapped due to following a philosophical conclusion which is not in line with that of the sampradaya acaryas. They cannot, therefore, properly educate their dependents, and their dependents cannot exercise their free will with full understanding. In both scenarios the authorities are attempting to appear wise and knowledgeable to their dependents. They are, in reality, confused about the essential philosophical truth concerning the actual purpose of their great opportunity in having the human form of life, which affords them the option of surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead under the guidance of His pure devotee. With this cloudy mentality, the searchers understandably lack the right perspective when evaluating the pre-requisites of their future protectors, especially when the siksa guru position is undermined and de-emphasized in lieu of what seems to be the more politically powerful diksa guru alternative.
LAWS BORNE OF IGNORANCE
The GBC have tried to enshrine in ISKCON law their very superficial institutional pre-requisites for disciples of Srila Prabhupada who are in “good standing” with the power elite of corporate ISKCON, and are approved to assume the exalted position of a diksa guru. At first glance, the wording of the statement creates the appearance of their sincere concern for the individual’s freedom of choice. The pandits within the GBC refuse to take responsibility, however, to make any discrimination based on sastric analysis which is clearly outlined within Srila Prabhupada’s translations on the essential sastras left by the Six Goswamis of Vrindabin. Their approval is obviously structured far more on party loyalty and good political connections within the institution’s powerful bureaucracy, and the non-objection rule simply allows them to reward their specially favored loyal members or exclude those who do not hold the party line, especially on controversial philosophical positions. To absolve the GBC of any responsibility, they then ask the newcomer to rely on their own shallow reservoir of knowledge (sastra), and their superficial relationships with senior devotees (sadhu), when making the final choice of an eternal diksa guru.
Because there appear to be many contradictory quotations surrounding Srila Prabhupada’s definitive position on the pre-requisite qualifications for someone accepting the diksa position, the neophyte bhakta has to put their faith wholly in ISKCON, accepting their politically motivated rational for allowing minimum qualification personalities access to this crucial post. This policy has resulted in many mistakes and miscalculations, culminating in devastating outcomes which have undermined the GBC’s credibility and has created a generation of disappointed candidates who, like children in a divorce, are seriously damaged. The society’s ability to function as a viable preaching mission is seriously hampered. Other non-initiating Godbrothers become disturbed, as many of them were, in a sense, “family members” or unappreciated defacto siksa gurus who were involved in recruiting, training and advising the neophytes (their siksa disciples). The family name becomes tarnished by the embarrassing and irresponsible exploits of the “fallen gurus”. All this, because an overly ambitious individual wants to “take disciples” for less than ideal reasons, and other individuals want to fulfill the desire to be included in the “herd” where they can receive their eternal spiritual name and can now point to a diksa guru as their savior.
The saddest aspect of this scenario is that it is all so unnecessary. There is a traditional method designed by the divine personalities to deal with circumstances such as those providence has placed us in....if we could only humbly and honestly accept that none of us are pure devotees of the Lord. Granted, Srila Prabhupada was an Acarya of unprecedented majesty, but in the little time Krsna made Him available to us, with the previous impious conditioning of the followers, and with the frantic activities surrounding the ISKCON lila, there wasn’t enough time, place or circumstance to produce qualified diksa gurus. Instead, what we were involved in was a transcendental lila that saw the creation of a miraculously vast storehouse of transcendental knowledge. The Acarya’s request was non-different than that of the yuga avatara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: distribute this mercy made available by Krsna’s arrangement -- via His pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada -- throughout the world with great enthusiasm. The quality and quantity of the enthusiasm is proportionate to the distributors’ correct understanding of the essence of the teachings of Lord Caitanya which is passed on to him by his Guru Maharaj.
The concocted argument made by ISKCON is that, in order to carry out this transcendental command, the newcomers need to align themselves with the sampradaya via diksa initiation, or they will not be benedicted with the mercy. That is an overly simplified, out of context conclusion in the sense that the mercy of the Acarya (the true undisputed link to the sampradaya) is made abundantly available by studying His copious teachings and following His clear and direct orders to cooperate together with other followers to distribute the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Why take the chance of disturbing the preaching mood by creating unnecessary distraction, and risk loosing the eager recruits who have come forward to assist by sticking to this contentious and dangerous diksa guru policy? The answer we receive is similar to the answer we would get from a teenager who wants to get sexually involved before being qualified to properly maintain the resultant children....we are in love!
This foolish policy of minimum qualification diksa gurus has now been enshrined within the “sastra-like” ISKCON laws, just as a secular state sets minimum qualifications to govern the marriage relationship. In both cases, the laws are born out of ignorance of the absolute truth, and out of passion to enjoy a relationship that offers immediate sense gratification, and they result in irresponsibility. Both scenarios have far reaching repercussions to society as a whole, and both are the cause of and the result of the breakdown of family.
There is no longer an atmosphere of “Srila Prabhupada ’s family” as there was within the temples prior to 1977. Newcomers then “took birth” in a relatively functional family. The members were cooperating together in the mood of love for their father/guru, everyone was conscientiously going about doing his business (service), most were strictly following an uncompromising spiritual program and were willingly giving up their independence by cooperating with Srila Prabhupada ’s appointed authorities.
PROTECTING THE INNOCENT
Once one enters into the irreversible relationship of diksa guru/disciple, there is a great deal of emotional turmoil involved if one party decides to remove themselves from the arrangement. Social stigma is often brought to bear in an attempt to maintain these unions, even if one of the participants feels that they were ill-prepared, misinformed, cheated, or simply too young and foolish when they agreed to enter the relationship. The need for stability and the fear of setting a precedent gives the society or institution the justification to put great pressure on all parties to maintain the relationship, regardless of whether or not it is fulfilling its intended purpose. To prevent a disappointing outcome, everyone involved should be well informed in advance, free from the influence of the mode of passion, unemotional, rational, unmotivated and level headed.
As long as the vulnerable participant (the disciple) is unprotected or left to determine their own fate as it relates to accepting a diksa guru, there will be a tendency for exploitation. In ideal circumstances, the siksa guru should act as the well informed and concerned advisor, and assume some responsibility for helping the neophyte to choose. Naturally, this can only be accomplished if there truly exists a loving relationship between the siksa guru and his disciple. The existence of the bonafide sampradaya, with the acaryas and their written statements, will also serve to assist the spiritual aspirant in their search for the absolute truth and provide shelter free from exploitation, if that relationship is given room and encouragement to manifest.
Krsna promises in the Bhagavad-Gita to protect the sincere seeker by providing access to the pure devotees who have unalloyed love for the Book Bhagavata. The free will of all embodied beings is never taken away by Krsna, although the influence of the stringent laws of material nature make it difficult for the conditioned soul to exercise this option. Therefore, the maha-bhagavatas, by their very nature, try their level best to provide as much assistance to the fallen souls as is within the power given to them by the Lord. By preaching the message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu they are lighting up the bhakti-marga. This path will lead the sincere seeker through the minefield of material adversity and safely to the other side. Constant supervision is provided by the Book Bhagavat, who provides pure knowledge of the spiritual options to those who have been properly trained to take shelter. Unfortunately, there are too few such qualified personalities present within the material world. When a maha-bhagavata appears and makes His presence known, then it is incumbent upon the follower/disciple to broadcast and preserve the pure teachings so as provide those coming after with a lifeline to real freedom. Whenever there is an attempt on behalf of ill-motivated individuals to exploit these pure teachings for selfish reasons, then such conspirators should be challenged regardless of the resistance.
"Every service has some attractive feature which drives the servitor progressively on and on. Every one of us within this world is perpetually engaged in some sort of service, and the impetus for such service is the pleasure we derive from it. Driven by affection for his wife and children, a family man works day and night. A philanthropist works in the same way for love of the greater family, and a nationalist for the cause of his country and countrymen. That force which drives the philanthropist, the householder and the nationalist is called rasa, or a kind of mellow (relationship) whose taste is very sweet."
“Nectar of Devotion”, Preface
Even in the everyday world, the social workers and police have a great many problems administering justice on behalf of the innocent because of the artificial attachment that develops within the dysfunctional family unit. Suffering family members have been convinced that the authorities and well-wishers are there to do harm rather than help. When attempting to protect the weaker party in a domestic dispute, policemen often find that the abused party will turn on the them, siding instead with the abuser. Charged emotions borne of violence and tragedy become a volatile brew which presents a danger to those attempting to help. Preachers representing the Lord and his pure representatives are faced with this same dilemma, and have met with violent resistance in the execution of their duties. Such an atmosphere is further exacerbated when the contentious issue is the philosophy and actions of one’s own Godbrothers. This is especially true if they have taken on the mantle of diksa guru and have surrounded themselves with loving disciples, who reinforce their philosophical conclusion that the diksa responsibility is not exclusive to very advanced devotees, but can be embraced by any sincere disciple of a bonafide guru who has left his physical body.
In mundane society, anyone who reaches the required age is entitled to marry at their whim and accept the daunting responsibility of raising children. In the same way, ISKCON laws regarding acceptance of the position of diksa guru are based on minimum qualification standards. To justify their abdication of responsibility, ISKCON has re-written Vedic philosophy. They are now forced to be like modern materialistic society, and must deal with the results of their dysfunctional diksa guru/disciple relationships, just as society must struggle with the fallout from divorce, child abuse, family violence, and neglect. The many unqualified devotees given the post of diksa guru over the last 20 years have found it impossible to maintain even the bare minimum qualifications defined by ISKCON’s own injunctions. The GBC’s pre-requisites for aspiring diksas are far below the spiritual qualifications enunciated by both Vaisnava sastra and the present Acarya. The problem of attrition of many of ISKCON’s members who participated in the initiation program by becoming disciples of these diksas is now becoming critical. And in absolute reality, this is far, far more serious than divorce or the shattering of families in mundane society. Much of the attrition is undoubtedly due to the diksa guru’s spiritual neglect of his disciples, his being exposed by nonsensical activities, and his being generally unable to maintain the false profile. Without the expected loving attention, the necessary training, and engagement in the proper type of service, many disciples have become overwhelmed by material desires. Their need to repose their loving propensity in someone who will reciprocate is understandable and necessary. This is the basic principle of the guru concept. Krsna vows to reciprocate with the bhakta, but Krsna remains beyond the range of our limited sense perception, therefore He manifests as the guru and the deity form. At the feet of his bonafide guru, the innocent devotee finds shelter and protection.
THE LAST SNARE
For the first ten years after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, ISKCON introduced the “zonal- acarya” initiation system which instantly gave the geographical guru hundreds and in some cases thousands of disciples to reciprocate with. There was a conscious effort from most of these imitation acarayas to eclipse the present Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, by focusing the loving attention of their eager disciples, as well as Srila Prabhupada’s own disciples, exclusively on themselves as the direct representative of the entire sampradaya, going back to Lord Sri Krsna. But unlike the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada, who established all the sadhana programs, wrote all the books, and set-up the complete training program, these new institutional acaryas could not even maintain a simple program of initiating, traveling, preaching, and maintaining connection with their disciples. Most of them depended upon the institution (the temples) to do the difficult work of daily recruiting, engaging and reciprocating with the disciples. Temple leaders became like baby-sitters for the new disciples of the absent diksas. This turned out to be a thankless task, and most of the Godbrothers who were involuntarily relegated to this position simply left corporate ISKCON so as to tend to their seminal families, where there still remained some loving affection. They, too, were looking for reciprocation of their loving affections from what in reality was their siksa disciples. This real relationship was artificially replaced by the jet-set absentee diksa guru.
These dysfunctional circumstances lead to many horrific situations involving the physical and sexual abuse of neglected children, exploitation of unprotected women, and the abandonment of innocent disciples by their beloved diksa gurus. Over 20 diksa gurus, one for every year since Srila Prabhupada departed, have left Srila Prabhupada ’s service under a cloud of suspicion, leaving behind thousands of disillusioned disciples who were cheated into reposing their loving propensity in the wrong person. This pretense of being Krsna, the Supreme Personality, rather than being the loving humble servant, is the cause of everyone’s incarceration within the material world. The struggle existing within the material atmosphere, where all the jivas are trying to exert their domination over the other jivas, creates a hellish condition. The desire to become a diksa guru and be treated as good as God by the disciples is the last snare for the aspiring Vaisnava. The conundrum is that those who least desire to be diksa’s are the most qualified to take on this heavy responsibility. Krsna is more inclined to help the helpless than those who are in illusion thinking that they are highly qualified. Actually no one is capable of assuming this burden without Krsna’s assistance.
In the end, each sincere seeker will have to realize that unalloyed love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not a cheap commodity. We are finally asked to pay the greatest price -- our false conception of independence. I honestly believe that the motivation amongst my Godbrothers to enter into the sacred realm of giving diksa was born out of the desire to be independent of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada tested everyone’s love for Him many times during his manifested Lila, and even more afterwards. Srila Prabhupada is a very heavy guru. He demanded complete obedience to His desire. We all felt the burden of love, and for many it was too intense. Many were, in fact, relieved when He departed. The atmosphere had already been contaminated before Srila Prabhupada departed. The society was infiltrated by many activities that would not meet Srila Prabhupada’s approval. Not only were the leaders aware that this was the case, but many of the older disciples knew within their hearts that Srila Prabhupada would be disappointed if He was made aware of details.
“Every action for His satisfaction” used to be our motto, and capsulated the loving feeling between the bonafide guru and genuine disciple. It was the duty and responsibility of every disciple to question their activities in relation to whether or not Srila Prabhupada would approve. Many were prepared to turn over this heavy responsibility to the institutional heads rather than developing their own eternal individual relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Unalloyed love requires the lovers to reciprocate free from the expectation of material reward, and the pleasure experienced by the recipient is reward enough for the loving provider of service. If Krsna is pleased, then all His parts and particles will be pleased. When Srila Prabhupada is pleased, then ISKCON should be welcomed by the general population in society. We have instead created terribly bad public relations. Our children should be pleased and happy, but we all know this is not the case. We should all be working cooperatively together to spread the glories of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya. This Srila Prabhupada said was the test of our love for Him, and this we are certainly not doing. Devotees are in love with the idea of loving Srila Prabhupada, but in reality the results prove otherwise.
Disciples and followers of the so-called bonafide representatives of Srila Prabhupada display their love in words and in ceremonies, and in some activities that they find pleasing to themselves, but seldom do you see the intensity of sacrifice that Srila Prabhupada instilled in many of His sincere disciples. Out of love, Srila Prabhupada was willing to take the risk of pushing and testing His followers. Those disciples not blind in their love were aware, and therefore able to reciprocate.