nama om visnu padaya krsna presthaya bhutale
srimate bhaktivedanta swamin iti namine
namaste sarasvate deve gauravani pracarine
nirvisesa sunyavadi pascatya desa tarine
Many disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami who are concerned about the contentious philosophical issues presently facing our spiritual community have spent considerable time focusing on the aspect of Srila Prabhupada's Plan that involves the greatest controversy - the issue of initiation. My purpose in writing this paper is to suggest another equally important point of focus, on what I perceive to be the real final instruction... "Please cooperate with one another for the sake of all the suffering fallen conditioned souls."
Srila Prabhupada left all His disciples full facility for spreading Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's sankirtan movement throughout the world. His Perfect Plan for preaching and participating in Krsna consciousness depended upon His disciples working cooperatively together under the guidelines he set forth during his lila. Most of the framework was in place, but there was a much broader and deeper vision yet to be implemented. Srila Prabhupada's vision was clearly explained in the volumes of literature which He miraculously produced during his short 12 year ISKCON lila. The difficult challenge facing His neophyte disciples was how to work cooperatively, not only to maintain what he had left us, but to expand on the many aspects that had not yet manifested. The big hurdles were the influence of the modes of nature, compounded by the age of Kali (quarrel and hypocrisy). If we are honest, we will admit that we have not done a very good job of fulfilling this mandate. I am certain Srila Prabhupada is not too pleased with what has taken place over the last 20 years since He handed over the reins to his senior disciples.
It is not too late, on this centennial year, to take an audit of the assets and liabilities and make some necessary changes. The first and most obvious contributing factor to disunity from the beginning (1977) has been the attempted institutionalization of the eternal initiation process. I assume everyone is familiar with ISKCON's sordid history since the Founder/Acarya entered into maha-samadhi, so I won't make this paper voluminous by going over the embarrassing details. The main result is that these concocted experiments have seriously eroded the single most important ingredient to success, the "cooperative preaching spirit".
What Did Srila Prabhupada Really Want? As I attempt to advance my Krsna consciousness, I am continually faced with the controversy surrounding Srila Prabhupada's intention as to how His preaching mission was to function after He entered into maha-samadhi in November 1977. In the minds of most of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, there has been a slow but steady increase of doubt in what they once considered their exalted leaders. Have they ever really known what Srila Prabhupada's instructions and desires were? These uncertainties have increased as we see the retraction of one position paper after another, along with apologetic admissions of devastating philosophical misinterpretations. All these misrepresentations of our philosophy were made by ISKCON's elite GBC leaders, who are trying to present themselves as the "ultimate managing authorities".
The errata started immediately after Srila Prabhupada's departure with the infamous uttama adhikary hoax, coupled with the zonal acarya system debacle. Even after an attempted correction of this initial contamination with the so called "guru reform" movement of the mid-eighties, there have been numerous re-adjustments to the GBC's philosophical speculations on how Srila Prabhupada wanted His disciples to fulfill his desires for mutual cooperation, for the sake of maintaining the preaching momentum that he so expertly orchestrated before his physical departure. Regardless of how many adjustments and alterations the GBC make, the intended results have not been forthcoming. The preaching spirit in North America, the birth place of ISKCON, is slowly but surely waning. Temples are closing as the full-time dedicated preachers leave or are absorbed into the bulging bureaucracy. This bureaucracy has replaced the local, once dynamic temple communities which were thriving during Srila Prabhupada's manifest lila. Presenting themselves collectively as the present Acarya, the GBC's conception of cooperation is that everyone should blindly obey them and not question. They do not understand that everyone, including them, should unquestioningly follow the actual present Founder/Acarya, Srila Prabhupada. They have proven that they don't have a clear idea of what Srila Prabhupada wanted, but they continue to beg for more time to try new variations on their original mistake.
The pressure is building, as an ever increasing number of disgruntled exiles are coming to realize what a golden opportunity they have left behind by removing themselves from the many spiritual benefits their Spiritual Master's society offered. Once outside the confines of the authoritarian influence of the "ultimate managing authority", many disenfranchised disciples are trying to come to grips with why they felt compelled to remove themselves from their spiritual home. Even within the ranks of the senior managers, loyal members have, over time, lost their unswerving faith in the autocratic decree that the GBC is unquestionably the absolute authority on all matters of both management and philosophy, practically on the same level as the Founder/Acarya, Srila Prabhupada. They, more than anyone else, are well aware of the spiritual immaturity of most of their fellow members. But for anyone, including a full time member, to seriously challenge the GBC's authority as being unquestionably correct is viewed as tantamount to doubting the Founder/Acarya, and is therefore grounds for excommunication. A dreaded fate.
Investigation and Hypotheses Some of the more serious disciples, once free from the intimidation of their institutional superiors, have been driven to launch their own research into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the months prior to Srila Prabhupada's departure. Due to their persistent efforts, previously restricted letters, tapes and documents have gradually become available for close inspection by scholars outside ISKCON's inner management circle. These serious investigators have had the opportunity to closely examine both the content of documents and the transcripts of taped conversations. The objective of their exhaustive endeavors was to determine the mood of Srila Prabhupada during those last few months prior to His glorious departure, in hopes of uncovering some clues as to what He actually expected to take place after he ended his manifest lila. These outside researchers were handicapped by their lack of resources, available only to those within the organization. They also had to be able to withstand being overwhelmed by the influence of material nature on account of their separation from the shelter of their Spiritual Master's community asramas. The shocking reality of having to individually support oneself, and in many cases one's family members, after having spent many years cloistered in the communal atmosphere within ISKCON, caused many devotees to become side-tracked into career building or business development. They thought at first these activities were temporary, but soon discovered the entangling nature of the material world. Such passionate endeavors exposed the neophyte disciples to the contaminated association that Srila Prabhupada was trying to protect His disciples from by creating his asramas communities.
From all the struggle and chaos, there have emerged a few determined individuals who have fully applied their intelligence to the question of discovering Srila Prabhupada's actual desires and intentions for His disciples' involvement in His preaching movement. These struggling pandits have manifested a variety of believable hypotheses based on a certain amount of tangible legal evidence, which they have backed up with philosophical justification found in Srila Prabhupada's teachings. Initially, their challenging theories were not taken seriously, nor looked upon kindly, by the powerful disciples who usurped the position of acarya. These very early pioneers of protest were disciples like Yasoda nandana dasa, Pradhumna dasa, Kailasa Candra dasa, and Jadarani devi dasi, to mention a few. One can always tell who the pioneers are...they are the ones with the arrows in their back. Unfortunately, these courageous challengers were so vehemently vilified by the zonal acarya dominated GBC that even though many of their predictions and philosophical analyses were proven to be accurate by the passing of time, to this very day most of them are unwelcome in ISKCON, and are still feared by the surviving, still powerful original gurus.
The State of the Revolution The question that must be asked is why haven't the rebel philosophers' theories gained widespread acceptance and support from the thousands of disenfranchised disciples who have departed from their Spiritual Master's asrama? This question deserves our serious exploration. One of the most important factors hampering the consolidation of support is that these widely disbursed pandits don't fully agree on some of the important issues, primarily the philosophy surrounding the "initiation" controversy. Even within ISKCON there is no definition of the diksa initiation procedure that is accepted by all.
There seem to be two unifying themes shared by most opponents:
1) Strong disagreement with ISKCON's "minimum qualification - maximum puja" policy as it applies to diksa gurus. This policy has been doggedly maintained throughout the 20 year period, with periodic adjustments and alterations, none of which were satisfying to most of the outsiders. There appear to be two main branches of divergent thought amongst the outside protesters. This does not include those who have taken shelter from one of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers, who seem to be content to ignore what is going on within ISKCON.
2) The belief that Srila Prabhupada has to be given far more emphasis, and returned to His rightful position as the Founder/Acarya. The GBC's present definition of it's powers under the banner of the "ultimate managing authority" is far beyond what Srila Prabhupada intended it to be. In fact, they have collectively usurped the position of acarya. Not having the spiritual potency nor the charisma of the Founder/Acarya, they have instead replaced Srila Prabhupada with a bulging bureaucracy.
On one side of the spectrum there are a few pandits, along with their followers, who are proposing the return to the original system of initiation which was in place during most of Srila Prabhupada's manifest ISKCON lila. This philosophy has been coined the "Rtvikvada system" by the opponents within ISKCON, although the participants prefer to call themselves Prabhupadanugas. The Prabhupadanugas have a relatively small group of totally convinced supporters, but those who hold tightly to their beliefs are evangelically dedicated to promoting their strongly held vision, which they are prepared to defend with well developed arguments backed by carefully researched legal evidence.
On the other side (and in between), there are many other sincere seekers who are attempting to come up with theories that sidestep some of the more contentious philosophical arguments presented by both the hard-line ISKCON pandits and the convinced Prabhupadanugas. All sides have been producing papers and documents, trying to refute one another's philosophical position. But what is confusing is that both groups are practically presenting the same legal evidence -- the July 9th Rttvik appointment letter and the so-called appointment tape. Neither side seems to be winning significant ground based on their philosophical arguments nor their presentation of endless quotes from Srila Prabhupada's teachings, which are countered by other quotes or different interpretations of the same quotes.
While there have been numerous papers, there has been only one actual face-to-face debate, held in San Diego in 1990. This debate was censored by ISKCON because the conclusion reached in the debate was that there needed to be an investigation into allegations of conspiracy and/or cover-up of essential convincing evidence. This evidence would be required to thoroughly sway most devotees to the Prabhupadanuga's way of thinking. Even though there have been further fall downs of those trying to maintain the elevated posts of diksa guru, the GBC have not been willing to investigate the charges brought against them, which is in itself suspicious but not surprising.
Since that debate, there has been a discouraging lack of real dialogue between these uncompromising parties. Most of the concerned onlookers are resigned to a hope against hope attitude. The audience witnessing this subtle war of words has repeatedly heard the philosophical justifications and forensic analysis of evidence presented by both parties. Everyone now seems to be either bewildered, or to have tentatively sided with one side or the other depending upon their personal bias or what is most convenient for them to get along with. Few have truly been convinced or enlivened enough by the logic or reason of either side to be able to successfully argue the case themselves. In the final analysis, the current stand-off is due to a lack of concrete "class A" physical evidence. In other words, there is an absence of actual clear, non-ambiguous statements by Srila Prabhupada referring directly to the issue of initiation within ISKCON after His physical departure. That is what seems to be missing. And that is why the protesters must resort to the conspiracy theory. If the existing evidence was truly obvious, then it wouldn't have to be collaborated by the alleged missing tapes and/or documents.
ISKCON has the assets, and possession seems to be nine-tenth's of the law. The majority of ISKCON's membership wants to believe that their leaders are correct. People believe what they want to believe. The disciples of the leaders are intimidated by the dreaded "guru aparadha elephant", which they fear is ready to trample their creeper into the dust. The GBC just have to sit tight in their well fortified castles, and keep the drawbridge up. Occasionally they depute an empowered messenger to go out and make a pretense at being concerned, but basically their policy is to ignore the rabble rousers and maintain a strict censorship policy, under the guise of protecting their innocent disciples. This has been their modus operandi from day one. If the many opponents cannot find a unified position that can appeal to a majority of the grassroots, then they have to tolerantly resign themselves to individually preaching their ideas to whomever will listen, and depend upon Krsna, in the form of the time factor [Kala], to gradually expose, embarrass and thus eventually weaken the opposition's power base. Still, many devotees are becoming increasingly restless as they watch their Spiritual Master's assets slowly depleted, while they wait for Krsna to straighten it all out. The opposition's most powerful weapon is the sastric injunctions which warn spiritual aspirants about the premature assumption of spiritual positions beyond their level of advancement. This manifestation of the cheating propensity eventually deteriorates the pretender's character and qualities, until they crack under the pressure to maintain a false profile.
The hope that some new and convincing evidence will miraculously surface is growing dim. This need for hard legal evidence is required because most devotees are too neophyte and unwilling to analyze the character and activities of their leaders, who are presenting themselves as being on a high level of devotion. These high spiritual platforms are described in authorized Vaisnava sastra, left to us by the Goswami's of Vrindabin and translated by Srila Prabhupada, such as "Nectar of Devotion" and "Nectar of Instruction". An honest examination of the scripture reveals the truth about the symptoms manifested by one on such an advanced level, but no one seems to be empowered enough to successfully present this proof. In their frustration to expose these pretenders, many are compelled to resort to the conspiracy theory.
The Conspiracy Theory According to this theory, there has been a deliberate concealment of conclusive evidence by those who stood to benefit greatly by having this proof go missing. Those who are daring enough to expound such accusations of a conscious and deliberate collusion are not converting many of the undecided to their way of thinking. Consequently, there is no pressure on ISKCON to do an in-depth investigation into the allegations. There is slim hope that some member of the conspiracy will unexpectedly, out of a sense of guilt, confess to such an abominable plot, except perhaps on their death bed. For most, this is a long way off. To think that those who are suspected as the most likely conspirators would have been so negligent as to leave any clear evidence un-destroyed is also wishful thinking. The discovery of missing tapes of conversations and/or documents is simply unlikely. By and large, those who have had negative experiences in the past with the suspected members of the secret conspiratorial group are the ones most likely to believe this concept.
The American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, might have believed such a hypothesis. He wrote: "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members à The virtue in most requests is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs".
The rank and file followers of Srila Prabhupada have a hard time with this accusation of conspiracy, for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the original men who could have orchestrated such a scheme are still active ISKCON gurus, with many disciples. In fact, those who have fallen away dramatically had the least opportunity to have master-minded such an arrangement. One would think that the conspirators would have been those who were the first to be punished by Krsna. But most devotees cannot entertain such a speculation, as devotees are, by nature, respectful and kind towards all living entities, what to speak of their leaders of long standing. Even though their trusting propensities have been repeatedly exploited over the past 20 years, it is still unlikely that most devotees will accept a conspiracy theory.
I'm sure by now almost everyone has heard, at one time or another, all the suspicious indications, including the testimony of Gauri dasa Pandit, who reports on a conversation he attended which was taped, but this recording has not been handed in to the archives. We can add to this Tamal Krsna Goswami's confession to Yasoda nandana dasa in Vrindabin, just before Srila Prabhupada's departure. And, Tamal Krsna Goswami's repeated confession, years later at the Topanga Canyon asrama, points to a cover-up plot in many minds. But Tamal Krsna Goswami never confessed to being part of a conspiracy, just to being mistaken about Srila Prabhupada's intention. It is also highly suspicious that so many potential Srila Prabhupada disciples were supposed to be initiated prior to Srila Prabhupada's departure by the newly appointed Rttvik's, but very few were actually initiated. Instead, they were left to become disciples of one of the new zonal acaryas. While a general lack of faith in the GBC leaders, especially due to their display of un-Vaisnava like behavior during the dark ages of the zonal acarya period, has led many to believe that it was possible for them to do such a dastardly deed, the fact remains that the majority are unconvinced.
Srila Prabhupada....Vague? I am, like all my Godbrothers, a self-confessed conditioned soul. I make mistakes (bhrama), have a misunderstanding of reality (pramada), a cheating propensity (vipralipsa), and imperfect material senses (karanapava). But insofar as all the proposals made so far are simply the opinions of other personalities under the modes of nature, I suppose my analysis has some merit and is worth presenting. After a great deal of careful study and reflection, I am tending to believe that Srila Prabhupada was purposely vague about what should take place after He left us. I anticipate that many will initially react to this hypothesis with a degree of skepticism. It seems to portray Srila Prabhupada as being very uncaring, even impersonally callous. This impression is not befitting of such a magnanimous personality, who was a kindly father figure to His many disciples. Why would Srila Prabhupada consciously do such a seemingly cruel act as to leave us sons and daughters to fight it out amongst ourselves?
Regardless of whether Srila Prabhupada expected confusion and disagreement to take place, as a result of what appears to be lack of clear direction that is exactly what did happen, and it is continuing to this day. The GBC would like us to believe that such confusion is to be expected after the departure of the acarya, and they've now got it straightened out and everything is just fine. But for 90% of the original disciples who were part of the movement 20 years ago, and who are no longer participating, the confusion obviously continues. The cry for a solution is increasing, and patience is running out. Even if a diabolical conspiracy plot took place, to date Krsna has not seen fit to expose the scheme. Plot or no plot, we have to find a solution as quickly as possible. We are all growing older, and our opportunity to cooperate together is fading away
Along with all the other investigative research that is being directed towards uncovering the truth, we must also consider this option: perhaps Srila Prabhupada had a very good reason why He did not wish to be pinned down by his disciples, who were only too anxious for him to specify exactly what his plans were for ISKCON after his departure. From the very conception of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada was preparing for His eventual departure. The threat of His body failing was an unavoidable, looming reality, even on His first journey to America and shortly after his arrival. In the last year of His physical presence, the likelihood that Krsna was preparing to wind up Srila Prabhupada's manifest lila was obvious. Srila Prabhupada had managerially done what His guru Maharaj had instructed. He had established the GBC body according to his Spiritual Master's instructions. He had given specific instructions as to how He expected the GBC to function, and had dutifully been in attendance at all the annual Mayapura meetings, going over all the resolutions. He had instructed the GBC members on how He expected them to perform their duties throughout the year. He specified exactly what the dynamics between the temples and the GBC should be. Srila Prabhupada's undeniable emphasis was always on the writing of His books. There are so many letters and purports which clearly state that Srila Prabhupada wanted to be given time to finish the Srimad Bhagavatam before He was taken by Krsna. This "nirjana" situation was never provided by His disciples. The fact that Srila Prabhupada felt compelled to continue His traveling, and did not feel confident enough to leave the management to the GBC, indicates that he was not satisfied with their ability to keep everything running smoothly without his constant supervision.
Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.28.34 Purport There were also conversations shortly before Srila Prabhupada departed that clearly show that He was not feeling that his disciples were qualified to accept the responsibility of running his worldwide preaching mission, regardless of who had sent them...Krsna, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, or Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Somehow Srila Prabhupada had been sent all these eager, young, ignoble disciples to assist Him in his momentous preaching work. Srila Prabhupada had enthusiastically accepted this burden of responsibility and responded by doing everything within his power to train and engage these disciples in devotional service to Lord Caitanya. The results speak for themselves. But without Srila Prabhupada's expert loving leadership and constant supervision, what would happen to these passionate neophytes was now up to Krsna to decide. No amount of material arrangements would prevent the inevitable. The polemic mentality so prevalent in this age of Kali, and so often evinced by his disciples, would surely continue after his departure.
"Actually, the entire world should be divided among such disciples. Everyone should be engaged in preaching the cult of Krsna consciousness. In other words, when disciples are grown up and are able to preach, the spiritual master should retire and sit down in a solitary place to write and execute nirjana-bhajana. This means sitting silently in a solitary place and executing devotional service. This nirjana-bhajana, which is the silent worship of the Supreme Lord, is not possible for a neophyte devotee. Srila Bhaktisiddh_nta Sarasvati Th_kura never advised a neophyte devotee to go to a solitary place to engage in devotional service. Indeed, he has written a song in this connection: du±÷a mana! tumi kisera vaisnava
prati±÷h_ra tare, nirjanera ghare,
tava hari-n_ma kevala kaitava
"My dear mind, what kind of devotee are you? Simply for cheap adoration you sit in a solitary place and pretend to chant the Hare Krsna mah_-mantra, but this is all cheating." Thus Bhaktisiddh_nta Sarasvati Th_kura advocated that every devotee, under the guidance of an expert spiritual master, preach the bhakti cult, Krsna consciousness, all over the world. Only when one is mature can he sit in a solitary place and retire from preaching all over the world. Following this example, the devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness now render service as preachers in various parts of the world. Now they can allow the spiritual master to retire from active preaching work. In the last stage of the spiritual master's life, the devotees of the spiritual master should take preaching activities into their own hands. In this way the spiritual master can sit down in a solitary place and render nirjana-bhajana."
I have heard censures of Srila Prabhupada from a number of unrealized sources stating that Srila Prabhupada was aware of the questionable tendencies of some of his highest appointed representatives, but still he did not remove them from their powerful administrative positions. Instead, he appeared to sanction their activities by allowing them to remain in power, even placing their names on the July 9th Rttvik appointment letter and/or assigning them to the GBC body. To accuse Srila Prabhupada of not being fully aware of the character of His closest disciples is certainly an absurd, if not offensive, opinion. Anyone close to Him will testify that he had incredible perception. He could easily see through everyone's guises and could expose everyone's real motives and intentions. This is the art of an accomplished preacher, and is certainly the quality of a maha bhagavata acarya.
Srila Prabhupada had given all the instructions He could with whatever preaching opportunities were made available to him. He had made all the spiritual arrangements possible (both subtle and gross), and it is highly unlikely that He would make drastic last minute changes, which was never his policy. Besides, who was more qualified at the time to stand as replacements? So, the no change policy was requested and cooperation was the instruction. Books are the basis, Preaching is the essence, Utility is the principle. All can be accomplished by cooperation together for the sake of pleasing the Spiritual Master. But there was one very significant, unavoidable change - Srila Prabhupada was missing from our mundane vision. He was not personally present to supervise His power intoxicated super neophytes on the GBC.
Krsna states in the Bhagavad-Gita that anyone who knows in truth the nature of His appearance and activities never has to take birth again in this material world. We can assume that it is extremely difficult to understand Krsna in truth. Those who are blessed with the association of a pure devotee will alone have the opportunity to hear His realized elucidation's. These faithful followers will have all of the mysteries of Krsna's activities clearly illuminated, but that doesn't mean the novice disciple, after hearing from the Spiritual Master, immediately fully realizes all there is to know about God's appearance and activities. Full realization comes from years or even lifetimes of service and surrender. So, who amongst us is sufficiently advanced enough to fully realize the transcendental activities and pastimes of the shaktavesa avatar, Srila Prabhupada? Those who are willing to accept the superficial writings of Satsvarupa Goswami's "Lilamrita" are simply cheating themselves. Satsvarupa Goswami has tried to cheat everyone by making the exaggerated claim that he was spiritually qualified and authorized to present Srila Prabhupada's pastimes, while at the same time he and his friends were falsely proclaiming themselves to be instant uttama adhikaries and surrogate acaryas for Srila Prabhupada. If they fully understood Srila Prabhupada's pastimes, then why did they make such a serious "mistake" as to think they merited the exalted position of acaryas, without any proof of their being sanctioned to accept that exalted position? Common sense dictates that on one hand being the biographer of a shaktavesa avatara, and on the other falsely usurping his position, is an impossible contradiction. We have heard the phrase that one drop of urine spoils a whole vat of milk. Well there were many drops of urine found in the biography. If one wants to understand the level of advancement needed to be an official biographer, then I refer them to the statements and qualifications of Krsna das kaviraj, the author of the Caitanya-caritamrita. To authoritatively and accurately write about the pastimes of the Lord and His pure devotees is a serious matter, taken on only by those who are fully qualified and authorized. Srila Prabhupada even forbade us from going to his Godbrothers for philosophical advice, because He felt that these highly advanced Vaisnava sannyasis had not fully realized the pastimes and activities of Srila Bhaktisiddanta Saraswati, and consequently did not have a complete mastery of Vaisnava philosophy. Now, we ignoble neophytes are faced with the task of understanding Srila Prabhupada's intentions and activities without succumbing to the cheating propensity. Following is Srila Prabhupada's definition of the cheating propensity:
Sri Isopanisad, Introduction Certainly, there are almost as many misconceptions of Srila Prabhupada as there are followers. The activities of a pure devotee are inconceivable to the conditioned soul. But at the same time, disciples are expected to anticipate the Spiritual Master's wishes and desires. The disciple accepts that there must be a common sense reason behind every activity of the Spiritual Master."
"The third defect is the cheating propensity. Everyone has the propensity to cheat others. Although a person is fool number one, he poses himself as very intelligent. Although it is already pointed out that he is in illusion and makes mistakes, he will theorize: "I think this is this, this is this." But he does not even know his own position. He writes books of philosophy, although he is defective. That is his disease. That is cheating."
Elevation to Krsna Consciousness, Chapter 1
"There are so many instances of this cheating propensity. There are also many examples of teachers who actually know nothing but put forth theories in words like "perhaps" or "it may be," while in actuality they are simply cheating their students.
Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.4.5 One good indication that Srila Prabhupada could have been purposely vague can be found in the statements He made on a number of occasions that his spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati, did not appoint any of His disciples to head up the Gaudiya Matha, nor did He declare any of them to be on a spiritual platform qualifying them to take diksa disciples. Over the months prior to Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati winding up His manifest lila, He did not discuss such matters. This was a disappointment to the senior disciples who were anticipating some appointment or approval.
"The word anucar_• is also significant, for it indicates that Lord Siva's disciples were always ready to sacrifice anything for Lord Siva. All of them could understand the desire of Siva, who did not want Sati to go alone. Anucar_• means "those who can immediately understand the purpose of their master." Anucar_• principle is the test of a disciples understand of the Spiritual Master's wishes and his spontaneous desire to please the Spiritual Master. Srila Prabhupada instructed us to cooperate together therefore anything that was detrimental to the principle of cooperation should be rejected."
The Gaudiya Matha The message Srila Prabhupada most consistently emphasized to His disciples was the importance of following in the footsteps of the previous Acarya. He attributed His great success to his ability to strictly stick to this principle throughout his life. To help understand why Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati felt compelled to refrain from getting into details of a managerial nature before His departure, perhaps a quick history of the Gaudiya Matha is appropriate and can give us some clues. I was given this thumbnail outline by an old friend, with whom I attended Srila Prabhupada's asrama in the early 70's. After Srila Prabhupada's departure he became disillusioned with the likes of Bhavananda Swami, and went to associate for many years with Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers. I present here an edited version of his statements, as I feel the original version reflected Srila Prabhupada in too relative a light, and could therefore be taken as offensive. But for this discussion, the comments are historically interesting:
"Sridhar Maharaja was in the party of Ananta Vasudeva (Bhaktiprasad Puri Maharaj), but he was not the only one. Most of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's disciples aligned with Ananta Vasudeva over Tirtha Maharaj (Kunja Babu), who was seen by most to be nothing more than a manager, not a spiritual leader. This above history indicates that none of the senior disciples actually knew the true nature of the activities of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, therefore they could not maintain the preaching spirit nor cooperate together in a successfully coordinated preaching effort. As the story goes, Ananta Vasudeva experienced a very hellish fall-down (no wonder) and the Matha completely broke up into small un-cooperative factions. We can also see why Srila Prabhupada didn't wish us to go to Sridhara Swami, especially about matters concerning the functioning of an institution. Sridhara Swami was a "form breaker", not a form maker (these were his own words). In other words he experienced the traumatic events after Srila Bhaktasiddanta Sarasavati departed and blamed the institution as being the contributing factor. If you believe that Srila Prabhupada instructed the GBC to go to Sridhara Maharaj for advice, then you are indicating that Srila Prabhupada wanted to purposely break up His mission. Who would believe that theory? Then why did the GBC go across the river and unauthorizedly seek advice from such a personality? I am at a loss to answer that question, and so are the GBC, judging from the fact that we still have heard no explanation.
The amazing thing is that the so-called GBC which Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur established was purely for the management of the Math: all three members, Paramananda, Kunja and Ananta Vasudeva were brahmacaris; indeed Kunja may have been a householder. Kunja had close followers, and with good reason. He was one of Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's first disciples and participated in the early formation of the Math. He was a good businessman and he made arrangements for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur to undertake preaching activities, organized the first Calcutta center, etc.
Ananta Vasudeva was a younger brother of Bhakti-pradipa Tirtha, a disciple of Bhaktivinoda Thakur who was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's first sannyasi. He was a brilliant scholar who also had organizational talents. He was a leading figure in the publication of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's books. The reason he was not a sannyasi was probably because of these responsibilities. The Math (or at least the sannyasis) as a whole voted democratically that Ananta Vasudeva should be made acharya. This included Sridhara Maharaja. When Kunja Babu and his followers rebelled, the shock was felt throughout the Math. Our Srila Prabhupada was as far from the halls of Gaudiya Math power as any outsider of ISKCON today. Sridhar Maharaj and others left the Gaudiya Math not so much because of the internal friction, but because of a deep felt need to express their individuality and to make their own disciples in the intimacy of their own organization.
Our Srila Prabhupada supported his effort to remove himself [Sridhara Maharaj] as is proved by his working cooperatively with Sridhar Maharaj in the 40's and then later with Kesava Maharaj. The splintering in the Gaudiya Math became evident when Ananta Vasudeva started to criticize some of the teachings in the Gaudiya Math which were, he felt, at variance with the writings of the six Gosvamis. Ananta Vasudeva was affected by the acrimony resulting from the split in the movement precipitated by Kunja Das. Kesava Maharaj had led an attack on the Caitanya Math in the early 1940's in which a couple of brahmacaris were supposedly killed. Ananta Vasudeva thought that these things were the result of basic flaws in the institutional concept itself, which he felt promoted the seeking of labha, puja and pratistha. Money and power corrupt... He insisted that all his disciples cease preaching activity and study the Bhakti Sandarbha. He especially criticized the use of texts like Gaudiya Kantha Hara, which give scriptural quotations for various philosophical positions, but which do not present the arguments. The quotations were used as a polemic weapon, without a deep understanding of the nuances involved.
Ananta Vasudeva and Sundarananda Vidyavinoda eventually came to the conclusion that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's diksa was invalid, and he advised all his disciples to seek initiation elsewhere. Many of them did, and some became leading Vaisnavas in Vrindavan. Puri Maharaj sealed his infamy in Gaudiya Math circles by getting married and moving himself to Braj. He never took any more disciples, though he participated in the editing and publishing of the most authoritative and complete edition of the Gosvamis works that has ever been produced. Needless to say, when our Srila Prabhupada talks about guru-bhogi, he refers to Kunja Babu and guru-tyagi about Ananta Vasudeva. Sridhara Maharaja established his independence from both groups very early on. He gave sannyas initiation to Kesava Maharaj. Srila Prabhupada had been a friend of Kesava Maharaja and was his initiating sannyasi."
All these Godbrothers of Srila Prabhuapda were blessed with auspicious birth, and most of them continued throughout the years of confusion to strictly follow their sannyasa vows. They were great Vaisnava scholars, capable of reading the scriptures written by the Goswamis in their original script. Yet with all these amazing good credits in their favor, they still could not understand and/or accept the true nature of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's last and final instructions. We see what became of the individual leaders' devotional life, what to speak of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's Gaudiya Math. Who am I to judge the individual ramifications experienced by my Spiritual Master's contemporaries, but I can say that I am desperately trying to prevent that happening to me.
The Cheating Propensity Did Srila Prabhupada understand, after witnessing the quick deterioration of His Spiritual Master's mission, that regardless of what type of initiation system he authorized, the lower nature and neophyte condition of his senior men would continue to manifest after his departure and create deviation and the resulting chaos? His senior men had demonstrated to him time and time again that they couldn't be trusted to follow his lucid instructions regarding how he wished the GBC to function. Nor could they come up to the standard he set for qualified Rttvik acaryas, what to speak of coming to the madhyama level required of a genuine diksa guru who is qualified to accept all the sinful reactions of his disciples. This excerpt from a Mayapura Morning walk during the 1976 annual GBC meetings indicates how Srila Prabhupada was feeling about His appointed leaders:
Morning Walk, February 4, 1976, M_y_pura Srila Prabhupada repeated the word "rascal" six times in one paragraph, describing those disciples who delude themselves into thinking they are more advanced than they actually are, and thus rationalize giving up the order of the Spiritual Master to chant 16 rounds on their japa beads on the excuse of being so advanced that they don't require to adhere to this order.
Prabhupada: "They are all in the material world, karmis. Karma-kanda, ritualistic ceremonies. Prahlada Maharaja has described them. What is that very word used? And meaning is "one who cannot control their senses." Avijita-indriya. Ajitendriyanam, ajita, "one who could not conquer the senses," they are called karmis. Ajitendriyanam. So all these penances, silence, meditation, then studying the Vedic literature, and so many things are there. Prahlada Maharaja, in one word he says, "They are meant for ajitendriyanam, one who could not conquer over the senses, for them." And for a devotee, one who is actually pure devotee of Krsna, he is sa gunan samatityaitan. Not that a tiny devotee can claim that he has overcome the influence of this world. No. This is called paramahamsa. Sa guaan samatityaitan. Not that because you have taken to devotional..., you have become immediately. The process has begun immediately, curing process. But we should not think that we have become perfect. That is wrong. Yajna-dana-tapan-karma na tyajyam. Therefore you must follow the regulative principles. As soon as you become a rascalù"Now I have become advanced. I don't require to chant sixteen rounds. I can do whatever I like"ùthen he has gone to hell. Upstart, immediately he becomes paramahamsa. He's a rascal. He was given the path of becoming paramahamsa. One is admitted in the school, he must learn, and one day he will become M.A. But simply by entering in the school, if he says,"I am M.A.," that is rascaldom. This is a chance. To become jitendriya is very difficult task. But it is easy if he immediately becomes a pure devotee. Anyabhila±ita-snnyam: "Everything make zero, all desire, except Krsna consciousness." That is wanted. But that does not become very easily done. One has to try very rigidly; then he'll be paramahaasa. Therefore amongst the devotees, there are three grades: kanistha-adhikari, madhyama-adhikari, and uttama-adhikari. So if the kanistha-adhikari thinks that "I have become uttama-adhikari," then he's a rascal. He's a rascal. If he wants to imitate the uttama-adhikari, then he's a rascal."
They are cheating themselves and they try to cheat others into agreeing with them. A society of the cheaters and the cheated. They all wanted their Godbrothers to think, "Oh! You are so advanced, Prabhu!" If you can institutionally integrate this cheating process into something like a "zonal acarya system" then why not! It makes the cheating business that much easier and you soon forget that you are actually cheating. You eventually convince yourself that you are bonafide.
Another type of self deception commonly found in aspiring devotees is when they hear verses such as the one below from the Bhagavad-Gita 4.9, and they think, "Oh, I know all about Krsna's birth and activities. I've read Srila Prabhupada's Krsna book and heard other relevant information from Srila Prabhupada's teachings. Srila Prabhupada is a bonafide guru. I must be guaranteed to be going back to Godhead." Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krsna warn us that liberation from material bondage is not at all easy. In other words, knowing in truth about the activities of Krsna and His pure devotees is not simple or easy. It takes a lot of intense work, sacrifice, austerity, tolerance, etc. One needs to manifest all the qualities of a pure devotee to understand the pure devotee. This is the challenge Srila Prabhupada has put before us. He has given us all the knowledge, all the tools, showed by example, pointed the way and is willing to communicate through the heart, through His books, tapes, pictures and pastimes to those who take the time to get to know Him. The strong influence of the mode of passion blocks the transcendental airwaves, even if the devotee is performing devotional service in the mode of passion within the Spiritual Master's preaching mission. The mode of passion is not found in the mood of a pure devotee, so one cannot stay fixed on serving the Spiritual Master while influenced by raja guna. It is only when one is fully absorbed in giving pleasure to the Spiritual Master that one can never fall into illusion, never make mistakes, never cheat anyone, and always have perfect knowledge.
Bhagavad-Gita, 4.9 Translation
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna."
"One who can understand the truth of the appearance of the Personality of Godhead is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the kingdom of God immediately after quitting this present material body. Such liberation of the living entity from material bondage is not at all easy. But the devotee, simply by understanding the transcendental nature of the body and activities of the Lord, attains the abode of the Lord after ending this body and does not run the risk of returning to this material world. He who accepts this truth on the strength of the authority of the Vedas and of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and who does not waste time in philosophical speculations attains the highest perfection stage of liberation. Simply by accepting this truth on faith, one can, without a doubt, attain liberation."
Love Is Always Tested Those who participated in Srila Prabhupada's manifest lila can recall having a fleeting taste of what it would be like to be a pure devotee. Just occasionally, under ideal conditions, we got the taste: ecstatic kirtans, fantastic lectures, preaching to a very receptive person, sumptuous prasadam, beautiful deities, and so on. It was these experiences that kept us going day after day, in hopes the gaps between these ecstatic moments would get shorter and the transcendental experiences would get longer. There was an overall attitude that if we followed the program, chanted our rounds, ate plenty of prasadam, stuck to the four regulative principles, performed service to Srila Prabhupada under the guidance of the Temple President, then we would very quickly be eligible to go back to Godhead. This would be true if we could have maintained this program throughout our entire life, and for most, beyond into the next lifetime.
There is no question that without the manifested presence of the acarya, the challenge becomes greater. The more one advances, the more subtle maya becomes. And love is always tested. The test of our love for Srila Prabhupada is how we disciples cooperate together so as to give Him pleasure. What is Srila Prabhupada's greatest pleasure? To see the sankirtan movement progressing steadily forward, just the way He had set it up, perfectly. Whatever our humble role in the perfect preaching plan of the maha-bhagavat may be, we must find a way to continue on in our relationship with Srila Prabhupada. We must do this not only as a matter of duty, but out of love. That is our surrender, that is our test. It requires knowing clearly and accepting whole-heartedly our part in the transcendental drama, and humbly making the necessary adjustments if there are obvious indications that we have been making mistakes or miscalculations in our service. This applies especially to those who have accepted a highly responsible position within the preaching mission.
Krsna always forewarns sincere devotees when they are going off track. Sincerity means strictly following the basic program set down by the Spiritual Master, such as chanting rounds, following principles, reading his books regularly, offering all food to the Spiritual Master and Krsna, etc. The goal is always remember Krsna, never forget Krsna. But to accomplish this lofty objective requires a great deal of mercy and a tremendous amount of effort. Srila Prabhupada's mercy comes in many forms, primarily His books, but also His society where disciples have shelter to protect them from the age of Kali, facility to engage in the type of service they are inclined to, whether it be preaching, deity worship, cooking, art, music, drama, or management. All this devotional activity must be performed within a community setting. Srila Prabhupada was very concerned about the welfare of the communities surrounding his asrama/temples that were dedicated to the worship of Sri Sri Radha Krsna and to preaching their glories. He was anxious to expand this concept by helping to organize Varna asrama. He tried to establish a properly functioning spiritual administration system based on his successful method of expanding the preaching: temples, GBC, Holy places of pilgrimage like Vrindabin and Mayapura, the BBT with it's publishing and art department, farming communities emphasizing simple living based on cow protection, festival programs such as Rathyatra, Gaura purnima, Govardhana puja, Janmastami, gurukulas for training Vaisnava preachers. All this was for his faithful followers, His disciples, their families, and the many generations that will naturally manifest.
To say that Srila Prabhupada didn't tell us what to do after He departed is misleading. Srila Prabhupada told us everything that we need to continue on unhampered in our Krsna consciousness, as well as how to keep up the momentum of the sankirtan movement. Srila Prabhupada is perfect and complete, so what he left behind is complete. It is we disciples who are not perfectly connected to the Perfect Plan. The degree to which we are disconnected is the degree to which we are perplexed. The degree to which we are bewildered determines the magnitude of our problems. And we have to admit that there are many problems facing all of us, both individually and institutionally.
The activities of the Lord and his pure representatives are difficult to understand for the conditioned souls. A pure soul has not yet manifested who can accurately compile the transcendental pastimes of the maha acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Even in the absence of complete comprehension we have to continue trying to serve in a humble state of mind. It is not a matter of a "wait and see" mentality, "when the pure devotee manifests he will tell us all the truth". This is a childish attitude. We have to grow up and have the faith and confidence in the Spiritual Master's promise that all will be revealed in due course of time. We have to surrender to follow His instruction to cooperate, putting aside our own selfish ambitions, and consider that our own ideas and opinions are always subject to be influenced by illusion, regardless of how important they seem to us. By adopting a humble mentality for the sake of synergy, we will achieve a coordinated preaching effort and our results will thus be pleasing to Srila Prabhupada. If Srila Prabhupada is pleased, then the truth will gradually manifest within the hearts of those who are pure and simple.
On-going Debate There will always be differences of opinion. Certainly an issue as significant as initiation is contentious, and our sense of urgency to settle it quickly is understandable, but we should all realize how dangerous it can be to embrace the wrong philosophical conception. There can be serious ramifications, as Jiva Gosvami quotes from the Narada Pancaratra: yo vakti nyaya-rahitam anyayena srnoti yah
tav ubhau narakam ghoram vrajatah kalam aksayam
"Both he who teaches dishonestly and he who learns dishonestly,
will go to hell for a long time." (BhaktiS 238)
Other amateur theorists from both sides of the spectrum have taken a microscope to the conversations with Srila Prabhupada, and the documents generated primarily in the months just prior to His entering samadhi. It would be incomplete of me not to comment upon what is presented by both sides to be the conclusive evidence substantiating what they feel to be their absolute position. I am claiming that neither side has absolute evidence [proof A] to substantiate their positions. Both sides have amongst their exponents many sincere devotees, but they all fall into the category of conditioned souls who, by definition, are subject to the limitations imposed on those under the influence of the modes of nature. I am also a self-confessed neophyte. I admit that I am presenting a hypothesis, and might be expounding some incorrect conclusions, but I know of no other way to go about uncovering the truth than to discuss it in the public forum. I feel it is my duty to make my thoughts public in hopes of generating responsive dialogue, and debating the issues "threadbare". I know no other way to resolve my dilemma and clear up my confusion and doubts. This, to me, is what association with devotees means, and it my best hope of coming closer to a complete understanding of what Srila Prabhupada wants. In fact, I believe this is what He does want, an open and honest discussion amongst his sincere disciples as to what the Spiritual Master actually instructed us to do in His absence.
The ability to be humble and open-minded enough to listen to one another's realizations and understandings is the essential ingredient to bringing about the cooperative mood that everyone is seeking. As long as there is constructive dialogue going on around the contentious issues, then all the other important day to day preaching activities, that we all completely agree on, can simultaneously go on unimpeded by controversy and quarrel. Even if we successfully resolve the initiation issue, there will be many other problems that merit thoughtful and respectful dialogue amongst the qualified brahmins.
Srila Prabhupada wanted to train up some qualified brahmins. The best of the brahmins were to be on the GBC, which was intended to be a brahminical body rather than the ksatriya/vaisya concoction that is now in place. They would then be inclined and qualified to discuss amongst themselves contentious subjects that effect the well being of the society, and take advice from other brahmins and experts in various fields of knowledge. They would travel and instruct those Vaisnavas who were managing the various communities, seeing that they understood Srila Prabhupada's Plan and were implementing it properly. Brahmins must avoid being embroiled in political/economic affairs so their intelligence will not become polluted. Srila Prabhupada, even in His exalted capacity as Acarya, tried to stay aloof from the day to day activities of managing the society. Srila Prabhupada kept a very strict brahminical program throughout His manifest lila.
Perhaps Srila Prabhupada could see that whatever direction he gave the leaders, the process would be contaminated by their polluted consciousness. Hypothetically, if the leaders had maintained the guru by proxy program (Rttvik), they may not have become so intoxicated, so quickly. Even prior to Srila Prabhupada's departure we saw a great deal of abuse of power, as well as a tendency amongst the leaders to have "their men" blindly follow their program rather than Srila Prabhupada's program. Were the goings on in New Vrindabin Srila Prabhupada's conception, or Kirtanananda's twisted scheme? Was it Srila Prabhupada's idea to introduce the "change up" as part of the sankirtan technique? I could continue to list the devious concoctions which were going on before Srila Prabhupada departed, all without His sanction. Srila Prabhupada plan's was relegated to the "bhakta program". Did Srila Prabhupada know? Yes! to the degree that Krsna wanted him to know, but could He force his disciples to surrender to following his strict program? Could Srila Prabhupada order His disciples to get out of the mode of passion? Could Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu have prevented Kala-Krsna dasa from falling down without taking away his minute independence of free will? Could Krsna prevent the Battle of Kuruksetra, or the Pandava's being cheated out of their kingdom and sent to the forest, or the young sons of the Pandavas being murdered in their sleep? Krsna had His reasons, and Srila Prabhupada had His reasons. Simultaneously one and different.
What happened after Srila Prabhupada ended His manifest lila happened ultimately by Krsna's sanction, for a good reason. We must try to discover what that reason was and learn from it. There will undoubtedly be many valuable lessons for the future Vaisnavas, who will certainly carry on the mission of Srila Prabhupada, as it was predicted by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to continue for thousands of years. Every town and village will know of Lord Caitanya's sankirtan movement and hear the chanting of the maha mantra. In this lifetime, we had a brief opportunity to associate with of one of Lord Caitanya's chief lieutenants, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. His pastimes and activities are difficult to understand, especially the days prior to His disappearance. The same holds true for Lord Caitanya's disappearance, what to speak of Lord Sri Krsna and the Yadhu dynasty's departing lila.
All sincere disciples of Srila Prabhupada wish to see the temples re-populated with qualified, dedicated devotees. We all want enthusiastic sankirtan programs to be going on in full swing, with book and prasadam distribution. We want the farming communities to regain their once thriving and prosperous atmosphere. There are so many programs started by Srila Prabhupada that are floundering on account of this stubborn, dogmatic, arrogant mood of insisting that whatever conclusions the "authorities have arrived at " (whatever camp they are in), they are absolutely correct and any other party holding another idea is certainly composed of demons in disguise as devotees. This puffed up attitude is a symptom of what I have coined as AIDS, the Acarya Imitation Disease. A conditioned soul who tries to cheat others by making claims that they are absolute seers of the truth, although they can't exhibit a fraction of the 26 qualities found in a pure devote, is inflicted with this dreaded disease.
To the best of my ability to understand, when I listen to the so-called appointment tape, the impression I get is that Srila Prabhupada is purposely and intentionally evasive and ambiguous. He refused to be pinned down. He doesn't seem to want to discuss these issues that are being presented by his disciples. His answers to their questions appear purposely terse and open to interpretation. He answered accurately, generally, and ambiguously. This stood out for me when I listened to the tape: "He becomes the disciple of my disciple, just see. His grand disciple. Some of His statements seem to support the continuation of the already existing program of "stand-in representatives", yet in the same conversation Srila Prabhupada says something that seems to support the theory that his disciples will take their own disciples as regular gurus. What is a regular guru?
Everyone agrees that during His lila, Srila Prabhupada was consistently clear when He wanted to make his wishes known. He would go to extremes to make sure that all His disciples understood exactly what he wanted them to understand. Srila Prabhupada could not be fooled, deceived, hoodwinked, or cajoled. Srila Prabhupada was completely aware of everyone's true intentions, and could accurately diagnosis the level of advancement of His disciples, regardless of their profile or administrative position. Everyone's nature was transparent to Srila Prabhupada. As an external representative of Paramatma, Srila Prabhupada was kept fully informed of what was present within the heart, regardless of how an individual may appear to others.
Srila Prabhupada could easily have said: "You eleven (with names) are appointed by me to become genuine diksa gurus and give genuine initiation -- although you have not attained the highest realization, you have become completely fixed-up and trained up in my service." But he never clearly spelled anything like this out. It would have been simple for Him to have said something very concrete like this -- but he didn't.
Srila Prabhupada could have said: "All of you, my governing body representatives, you are qualified to recognize and select who will be initiating disciples after I leave."
Srila Prabhupada could easily have included one more sentence in the Rttvik appointment letter stating categorically that He expected that this system would continue after his departure. He could have stated that after He departed he wanted all those on the list to assume the position of uttama adhikaries and become acaryas in their respective zones. He could have written that all his disciples could become less than perfect diksa gurus and accept many disciples. How difficult would that have been? Who thinks that Srila Prabhupada would allow his leading secretary to stand in the way of letting his desires be known to all his disciples? Srila Prabhupada could have bypassed any obstacle that maya put in his path, that I am sure of. I do not find it difficult to accept that Srila Prabhupada purposely left us to figure out the truth by researching through His books and discussing amongst ourselves until we were satisfied that all aspects of His plan were understood and accepted by most of the disciples, so that the preaching programs would not be adversely impacted.
Of course, it is always easier to be told what to do then being left to figure things out on our own. The philosophy of Krsna consciousness provides the answers to all conceivable questions, and Srila Prabhupada repeatedly instructed us to read His books. Still, we are left with many questions for which the answers are not immediately evident, most notably the questions surrounding initiation. It is conceivable that in being purposely vague, Srila Prabhupada gave us one last, great gift by forcing us to delve deeply into the philosophy for answers. To understand the complex issues surrounding initiation, we are required not only to read, but to think deeply and discuss long. The latter surely requires cooperation. I believe that those who steadfastly apply their intelligence to this dilemma and listen closely to the differing opinions of their Godbrothers will eventually gain realization on this matter.
Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to read His books thoroughly, and all his instructions on every subject were clearly mapped out for anyone and everyone to see. But in reality, very few of His passionate disciples, from the top down, were seriously studying his books. If they had been, they certainly wouldn't have made so many mistakes nor permitted those above them to cheat them into thinking they understood the philosophy, when actually they were bewildered. It requires a particular atmosphere to properly absorb the knowledge contained in Srila Prabhupada's books. That mood wasn't there in most temples, as the hyped-up leaders whipped everyone into a passionate frenzy, doing what they determined to be the most important work, which by and large was making money. There was never enough time set aside for study and discussion of the philosophy. Most devotees had a difficult time staying awake in Srimad Bhagavatam classes. The evening Bhagavad Gita classes were eliminated as time went on. The leaders used the vyasasana as a political podium rather than what it was meant for, primarily because that was all they thought about all day. They didn't take the time to read and study.
The false notion that all newcomers have a need and a right to be given diksa initiation after only six months to a year in the asrama was never mentioned or emphasized by Srila Prabhupada. Granted that during Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON lila that was his "wartime" strategy. We were all given special mercy and powers so we could assist the maha bhagavata to perform His pastimes, which meant being put on the streamlined, no frills training program, then sent out to the preaching fields. All those who joined just before the lila ended were causelessly benedicted by the Rttvik appointment letter, and were therefore eligible for diksa from Srila Prabhupada without question. Why those initiations didn't take place as instructed needs to be closely examined. After His departure, all newcomers could have been easily instructed and convinced to seriously consider Srila Prabhupada as their siksa guru, the Founder/Acarya of ISKCON , the shaktavesa avatara, an eternal associate of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Book Bhagavata etc. According to our tradition, there is no great detriment to one's spiritual advancement to be put in this extremely auspicious circumstance. Srila Prabhupada himself accepted the position of a siksa disciple for over seven years before he took diksa initiation from an uttama adhikary. I'm certain there wouldn't be complaints from the new recruits. Let us be honest and admit that the pressure was coming from the over anxious top brass, who almost madly wanted to try out the guru/acarya profile. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
The Fine Art of Cooperation Is it too late to reverse this "mistake"? Can we start again? Do we have any choice? Let us at least begin discussing the possibility and studying our options, and not just at a passionate meeting hurriedly put together in Mayapur over a few day period. If it takes years, what is the rush, so long as we begin immediately? Srila Prabhupada is going to be known for the next 10,000 years. We can make some interim transitional plan so that the preaching continues and expands. The secret to bringing about "cooperation" is that everyone must have a forum in which to be respected and properly heard. There must be no secrets. Everything must be out in the open. The judicial system must be open. There must be freedom of the press and access to all information. There must be systems in place so that corruption can be quickly and efficiently rooted out in a civilized manner. There must be accountability from all, especially the leaders. There must be a constitution [siddhanta] with detailed descriptions of the responsibilities of the leaders, especially those on the GBC body, and definitions of how the GBC should function according to Srila Prabhupada's plan. These are the things we should be rushing to accomplish. Once they are in place, we will be in a position to discuss and eventually solve the initiation issue as our realizations permit.
Resolving the initiation issue will take a great deal of realization. What is the minimum qualification for one giving diksa initiation? How and by whom can the level of advancement be properly analyzed? Can ISKCON function properly with other diksas involved, or should they be made to start their own mission? Is it beneficial for a dedicated siksa disciple of Srila Prabhupada to consider not taking diksa from anyone other than Srila Prabhupada? If he decides to consider himself both a diksa and siksa disciple, is that a sastric transgression? Will Srila Prabhupada benedict any serious follower according to his level of surrender, or will He only consider whether they have been initiated formally as a diksa disciple? The questions are endless and answers are difficult to arrive at, especially for those performing devotional service under the influence of the mode of passion, and especially for those in a bureaucratic position. My brahminical friend, Kundali dasa, in his analysis of the psychological and sociological ramifications of being influenced by passion, has proposed a brahminical advisory body to the GBC as a solution, but this is not my understanding of Srila Prabhupada's Plan. He wanted the GBC itself to be the brahminical body. Being in these powerful institutional positions is extremely intoxicating and addictive, so much so that to give these positions up voluntarily is nearly impossible. On the other hand, we cannot compromise with Srila Prabhupada's plan and hope to be successful.
So this is the dilemma. Initiation is not the real issue. The real issue is power, or the fear of losing power. Being a big diksa guru with thousands of disciples, being a long time member of the GBC, controlling vast amounts of money and manpower - these things are so addictive for a conditioned soul who still has the desire to be God within their heart. Let us be honest and address that problem head on, rather than being side-tracked by the constant bickering over the guru issue. The devotee who feels he is unqualified to be a guru is likely to be the one who is qualified, and he who believes himself qualified is not. There are so many quandaries to resolve before we can consider ourselves to be perfectly following Srila Prabhupada, individually or institutionally, and the same principles apply to both. In the meantime, we can collaborate with one another by all exclusively worshipping the Founder/Acarya, Book Bhagavata, Shaktavesa Avatara, Srila Prabhupada, who will never fall down and never cheat us. Whether one sees Srila Prabhupada as the diksa or siksa guru, there is not much difference to us neophytes. The mercy is there to the degree one surrenders to lovingly serve Srila Prabhupada's desires.
I encourage those who oppose these ideas to please speak up publicly, and explain why this approach cannot be implemented, and where my thinking is incorrect. Where are the sastric problems, other than the diksa definition? I am challenging others to refine/redefine their opposing positions. I am not trying to defeat anyone else's position, I am simply looking for a tangible solution so that I can again commit myself to being part of Srila Prabhupada's cooperative preaching program. I am imperfect. I cannot expect to go out and start my own society, attract and train all those with whom I'll have association. I need association with enthusiastic Godbrothers, but I will not participate in a cheating scheme based on falsely promoting conditioned souls as bonafide diksa gurus within the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. It just isn't honest. I have been given an opportunity to live a simple, brahminical lifestyle and preach on the Internet, so I am relatively all right, but my preference is to live within an open, free Vaisnava community dedicated to serving Srila Prabhupada, and to ensure that opportunity for the many others who are scattered to the winds.
When challenged, the standard response from the ISKCON leadership is that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to cooperate with the GBC. This manipulation of Srila Prabhupada's instructions is a ruse. By its very definition, cooperation requires that both parties put aside their differences for the sake of a higher cause. The principles of cooperation are not much different than those of a loving relationship. Free will is an important ingredient. In other words, one party can't force or legislate the other to cooperate, or else! This should be especially true in a society such as ISKCON, where the leaders (who should be the most dedicated members) are depending upon the free labor of the society's participants to bring about the successful execution of their desired goals - which shouldn't be different than those of the Founder/Acarya.
As cooperation requires a higher degree of advancement, or a greater percentage of qualities which are exhibited by a pure devotee, it is especially incumbent upon the more advanced leaders to create a cooperative atmosphere rather than putting the onus on the newcomers to be surrendered participants in the cooperative arrangement. Out of love for the Spiritual Master, as well as for all living entities, the true devotee will tolerate so much trouble. Our situation should be like that of a loving family. The parents are the ones who, in a properly functioning family unit, will tolerate the nonsense of the child with the anticipation of the child's growing up to appreciate the sacrifices, and hopefully reciprocate. The child is only able to cooperate with the parents once he has learned what loving cooperation is, as it is modeled by his parents. We all cooperated with Srila Prabhupada, not because He ordered us to, or because he was the guru and we were the disciples. No, we cooperated because we experienced that he was contributing far more to the relationship than we could ever repay. Srila Prabhupada wasn't cheating us. He was what he claimed he was, and much more. He was tolerant of our foolishness and overlooked our faults. He patiently tried to train us up, although occasionally he said it was like washing coal.
Room Conversation, Vrindaban, November 24, 1976
Prabhupada: No, it is Krsna's service. Everyone is offering voluntary service. So not that anybody's paid and if he cannot, dismiss or...Yes. This bureaucracy is not... Train him. Train him. If he does not know, train him. But things must be done very nicely by cooperation. That is wanted. Everyone should remember that we are serving Krsna, and everyone should remember, "The other person is serving Krsna. And because he is serving Krsna, he is not my servant; he is my master." That should be always in view. Therefore we address, prabhu: "You are my master." We never address, "You are my servant." We are trained up to say my brother, that "prabhu," "such and such prabhu." Prabhu means master. Nobody think himself that he is master. He should always think that everyone is his master because he's serving the master. This is our philosophy. So in this way... Now you have got good arrangement and they're all intelligent persons, young persons.
Room Conversation with Rahda Damodhar Party, Mayapura, March 16, 1976
Prabhupada: No, how you'll find it? Give me. Unless you have an index, list.... The purport of the verse is that even Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu -- He is God himself, Krsna HimselfùHe felt, alone, unable to do this task. He felt. So this is the position. You are cooperating; therefore I am getting the credit. Otherwise alone what could I do? Ekaki amara nahi paya bolo. Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself wanted our cooperation. He is God, Krsna. And therefore cooperation is very important thing. Nobody should think that "I have got so great ability. I can do." No. It is simply by cooperation we can do very big thing. "United we stand; divided we fall." This is our.... So be strong in pushing on Krsna consciousness, and Krsna will help. He is the strongest. Still, we must be combined together. Sankirtana. Sankirtana means many men combined together chanting. That is sankirtana. Otherwise kirtana. Sankirtana. Bahubhir militva kirtayeti sankirtana.(?) Bahu. Bahu means many, many combined together. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission, combined together. All nations, all persons they should combine together. There is hope in our society, combination. There are Hindus; there are Muslims; there are Christians; there are black, white. Combine them. That looks very beautiful, just like combination of many flowers. There is black flower also. It looks nice, very nice. Each and every flower take alone; it is not beautiful, but when they are combined together, it looks very beautiful. It is attractive. And that is wanted. Because from the spiritual platform we are all working. Pandta sama-darsana. Spiritual platform, every one of us, we are servant of Krsna.
In my paper regarding the history of the sannyasis role in the gurukula system, I noted these same misconceptions of the role of the leaders. The children were expected to be the sannyasis, and the sannyasis expected the children to serve them as part of their supposed training. This mood doesn't involve a cooperative relationship. On the contrary, it instilled resentment in the hearts of those who are forced to "cooperate" when the principle of spontaneous reciprocation was not incorporated. The wise, mature, loving superior must be the one to cultivate the seed of love, not the child, newcomer, or neophyte student. That is the basis of good leadership, where a teacher, Temple President, or GBC commands respect rather than demanding it.
A Cooperative Environment With respect to the challenges presented in this paper, it is incumbent upon the GBC to patiently listen to the concerns of all their constituents, who are actually the followers of Srila Prabhupada, not just the full time members of ISKCON, or their own disciples or surrendered followers. It takes a far higher degree of compassion and preaching ability to enliven and engage one's contemporaries, i.e., the Godbrothers, than it does blind followers [diksa disciples] who unquestioningly respond to your every desire. The inability of the ISKCON leaders to work with their Godbrothers in a loving cooperative manner is the REAL reason [conspiracy] we have these chronic terminal problems within our Spiritual Master's mission. Many of the Godbrothers cooperated together in the early days of the zonal acarya era, only to be cheated and exploited, then callously rejected in favor of the guru's disciples, both diksa and siksa. I know that is why I finally left the movement, and I can tell many stories to substantiate this claim. I won't go into the details in this paper, but almost every leader on the second line management level, with few exceptions, have had similar experiences to my own. The crime is that these dedicated men, who were the backbone of the society, were sacrificed by their power intoxicated Godbrothers in favor of their faithful followers, who would spontaneously "cooperate" with them without questioning them. The hands-on managers were expert at recruiting, training and engaging the newcomers, who were the lifeblood of the preaching movement. They had to create the loving family atmosphere that attracted the new bhaktas, and they needed and expected the same cooperation from their superiors, but they were sadly disappointed as the AIDS epidemic took its toll.
The assumption of the diksa guru position, whether qualified or not, tends to be an ingredient for non-cooperation within institutions such as ISKCON or the Gaudiya Matha. It brings with it the unavoidable controversy over which authority, board or committee sits in judgment of their own Godbrothers, and decides if they are eligible to assume such a heavy responsibility. If the ruling is contrary to the wishes of the aspirant and his followers, then it will inevitably result in separation with hard feelings. There are decrees from Jiva Goswami as to the inappropriateness of an institution getting involved in this mysterious process of determining who is a bonafide diksa guru. Another interesting phenomena that appears to manifest, especially in this relationship, is that the surrendered diksa disciple unavoidably takes on the mood of their Spiritual Master. In other words, regardless of how the institution attempts to enshrine the mood of the Founder/Acarya, that emphasis will become diluted and eclipsed by the "regular guru" and his disciples, who are expected to simultaneously accept Srila Prabhuapda as their siksa. We all witnessed this in the New Vrindabin community during the glory days of the Kirtanananda era. It is also very much present throughout ISKCON today, in concentrated areas where the diksa guru is the overall guru/GBC. The notion that the guru is 100% devoted to Srila Prabhuapda just isn't true. Srila Prabhupada was a strict follower of his Spiritual Master, but ISKCON is undeniably operating in a different mood than Srila Prabhupada's. Even the Six Goswamis had their separate temples in Vrindabin. Can anyone who is more familiar with Vaisnava history tell us if, at any other time in our sampradaya's history, diksa gurus were found sharing the same asrama and/or institution?
How do these dynamics effect the ability of all Srila Prabhupada's disciples to cooperate together? In my opinion, the strongest argument for the proxy guru concept is that it insures that only one diksa's mood will pervade the asrama, which is essential for the cooperative execution of preaching under His guidance. The challenge is obvious. ISKCON today is, in reality, many diksa gurus and their disciples spread out worldwide in various situations, resulting in the gurus having to spend a great deal of time, money and energy flying around giving darsana to their loving disciples. Many or most of these disciples consider their guru to be paramount to their local leaders, the GBC, and even Srila Prabhuapda. It is a well known fact that many disciples feel that "their guru is the best of them all", the unrecognized present acarya, and they resent it when others cannot appreciate this obvious fact. I'm sure most everyone has experienced this phenomena, and those who deny that it is taking place are proof of how serious the problem actually is. The overall effect is that it creates a divisive mood which is contrary to the spirit of cooperation. Many Srila Prabhupada disciples will not or can not engage enthusiastically within this atmosphere, which is surcharged with non-spiritual vibrations. It is like living in someone else's home when the wife and children resent you being there.
I can only make some initial suggestions as to how the society might be reformed so that a cooperative mood can be given a chance of growing. This may be seen as mission impossible, or hope against hope. Compromising on such issues as the sastric definitions on diksa guru and, more importantly, altering Srila Prabhupada's plan has already proven to be a waste of time and doomed to fail. Yes! there is the threat that some of ISKCON's key players will separate themselves from the society. This blackmail tactic is what derailed the last reform movement. There has to be a method by which we can deal with those who are adamantly intransigent in their opinion that they are qualified to be diksas and that Srila Prabhuapda definitely expected and desired them to be in this position. These die hard diksas have already convinced most of their loyal followers of their strongly held conclusions. What can be done? Well, if they removed themselves from the society it doesn't necessarily mean that ISKCON as an institution cannot work cooperatively with those groups as long as they fall within the clear guidelines set down by the GBC. Srila Prabhupada was willing from the beginning to work cooperatively with His Godbrothers' institutions. There are many interesting letters sent by Srila Prabhupada to this effect. There simply must be a determination made by the GBC as to who is following Srila Prabhuapda purely and who has wandered too far off from Srila Prabhupada's plan. The only real method to prove a devotee's spiritual status is to allow him to strike out on his own and show by results how Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhuapda are reciprocating with him. Within the society, the same rules that have been implemented to regulate the diksa could still be in place to regulate siksa gurus. Many of the existing relationships between gurus and their disciples will not change at all, except now the disciple doesn't have to be in anxiety about their guru falling down, and the guru doesn't have to accept the burden of taking all the sinful reactions of their disciples. The newcomer has much more flexibility insofar as determining their own future spiritual development, and Srila Prabhupada will again be placed at the center of His movement.
This open and free society must become far more accommodating to embrace as wide a number of Srila Prabhupada's followers as possible without arbitrarily condemning someone because they hold a controversial view. The hard-line exponents of the proxy guru proposal should also be included, if they are prepared to postpone performing diksa ceremonies until the entire body of devotees has a chance to hear their hypotheses clearly and completely, without all the personal vilification, and accept them as sincere concerned lovers of Srila Prabhupada. There must be a new era where there is a renaissance of open-minded thought, not only between ISKCON and its critics, but among the different camps of opponents themselves. We are all conditioned souls, but after the cooperative mood is re-established, we can collectively be empowered by Srila Prabhupada to see clearly what is the most utilitarian proposal for initiation. By discussing together and taking into consideration sastra (Srila Prabhupada's books), we will eventually come up with the correct program. This acceptable program must be, first and foremost, conducive to cooperation amongst the serious preachers, which in turn ensures the favorable mass distribution of Lord Caitanya's mercy. I feel that this is what Srila Prabhuapda wanted after He departed.
Unanswered Questions I would like to ask several questions of those individuals who are the philosophical gurus of the various groups now making proposals for change, and of those pandits within ISKCON who are avid supporters of the present multiple guru system. I ask these questions of ISKCON in the absence of past opportunities for public dialogue. I ask questions of the supporters of the proxy position, because I received essentially no response to my Siddhanta paper, which was shared with many of you. Your answers will aid in clarifying many issues for me.
Questions for ISKCON
1. Why is it that the majority of disciples who were qualified to receive initiation in the months prior to Srila Prabhupada's departure were made to wait until after Srila Prabhupada went into samadhi, when they were then "encouraged" to take initiation from one of the new zonal acaryas?
2. Precisely what are the qualifications for a diksa guru?
3. What level of the madhyam platform does a diksa guru have to be on in order to accept the sinful reactions of their disciples?
4. How do you understand the decree of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the Six Goswamis about not taking many disciples? Is it only great acaryas who are allowed to take many disciples?
5. How do you define "cooperation" as Srila Prabhupada repeatedly preached it? Do you believe that there currently exists a mood of cooperation between the ISKCON leadership and the 90% of Srila Prabhupada's disciples who are no longer active in the society?
6. How do you justify banning from the temples any disciples who preach the Rttvik philosophy?
Questions for the Prabhupadanugas
1. If ISKCON was willing to comply with the proposal of suspending their diksa position and transforming those disciple relationships to siksa, would you be open to being included in ISKCON, under the initial compromise of suspending the performance of proxy initiations on behalf of Srila Prabhupada in diksa ceremonies?
2. How do you feel the institution can go about choosing who is qualified to be a Rttvik acarya, and precisely what are the qualifications of a Rttvik acarya? Would the decision to assume the responsibility of being a Rttvik be an individual decision, or an institutional one?
3. How would the GBC have to be transformed before the Rttvik system could be properly implemented, as it seems that Srila Prabhupada saw the GBC and the Rttviks as simultaneously one and different?
4. Has the allegedly spliced appointment tape ever been taken to a qualified sound lab for investigation and certification? If not, why not?
5. Do you believe that one of the documents that disappeared as a result of the alleged conspiracy was a document signed by Srila Prabhupada that explicitly stated His instructions that post-samadhi diksa initiations were to be done by proxy on His behalf?
6. Do you believe that the proxy system should continue for as long as ISKCON exists, or for the next 9,500 years, whichever comes first?
7. What other aspects of Srila Prabhupada's plan that have been changed do you want to see reinstated in ISKCON?
I pray that the readers feel moved to respond to the above questions, and to any other aspects of what I have presented. In the spirit of cooperation, I hope that I have not offended any of my Godbrothers. If I have, please forgive me. I am an incompetent fool who is blundering blindly into the dangerous jungle of Vaisnava relationships. Let us not repeat what happened in the Gaudia Matha under Ananta Vasudeva, who became so bewildered by the controversy over the diksa interpretation that he committed great offenses to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, and tragically fell down, ruining his opportunity to make tremendous spiritual advancement. We are all babes in the woods crying for help, but Srila Prabhupada is present within the hearts of His sincere disciples, along with Lord Sri Krsna, so we should have faith that they will help us find a way Back to the original home that Srila Prabhupada built. It is a home that the whole world can fit into and work cooperatively together within, to achieve great things that would make Srila Prabhuapda proud and pleased.