nama om visnu padaya krsna presthaya bhutale
srimate bhaktivedanta swamin iti namine
namaste sarasvate deve gauravani pracarine
nirvisesa sunyavadi pascatya desa tarine
I have received a number of predictable responses to my recent paper, “Cooperation - The Greatest Challenge”. One letter in particular summed up the general responses of many, so I would like to respond to it here, as an answer to all. The protests so far have come from those unfortunate souls who have pinned their hopes on the Srila Prabhupada proxy system (Rttvik) and have considered themselves diksa disciples of Srila Prabhupada, despite the reality that they were initiated into a diksa relationship by one of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. Their previous relationship as a diksa disciple was interrupted or revealed to be illegitimate when their counterfeit diksa fell down and was exposed. Because these unqualified diksas were named in the July 9, 1977 appointment letter, their disciples have assumed and concluded that at least they were approved to be Rttvik representatives by Srila Prabhupada. Therefore, although it wasn’t understood by either party at the time, the formal ceremony of receiving diksa was really just a proxy formality connecting them to Srila Prabhupada. Now that their initiating guru has fallen, they tend to conceive of events in this manner because it helps them feel better about having been deceived by a previous so-called senior member of the GBC.
These devotees have chosen to ignore the GBC decree (ISKCON law) that they should technically/legally be re-initiated by some other “GBC approved” diksa. The GBC of late have not been too threatening with transgressors of this mandate, for reasons we can well understand. The leaders don’t want to stir up controversy over this rather sore issue, so they tend to ignore the growing number of their members who are, in reality, “closet Rttviks”. When asked whom their guru is they simply answer, “Srila Prabhupada”, and don’t elaborate unless pressed. As most other devotees feel so much sympathy for these victims, they normally don’t challenge them on the philosophical fine points of having taken such a position. There are still other victims of the GBC “minimum qualification” diksa policy that I am aware of, who just simply avoid the ongoing controversy of re-initiation by refraining or refusing to get re-initiated. Some say that they are still looking for the perfect guru to replace Srila Prabhupada in their hearts. Many have accepted Srila Prabhupada exclusively, but this personal decision is apparently not accepted, understood or appreciated by the resolution writers of the GBC.
What the complex, absolute conclusion to this bizarre dilemma is, I don’t know. The entire initiation issue is a personal matter which ultimately depends primarily upon the sincere intention of the aspiring disciple. I personally can’t imagine Srila Prabhupada and Krsna refusing to reciprocate with the genuine devotion and feelings of their surrendered servant. In ISKCON, we are led to believe that the flow of mercy directly depends upon the aspirant receiving a formal diksa initiation. There are certainly enough disciples who boast about being Srila Prabhupada’s direct disciple, but who are not sincerely participating in that relationship. How they can expect more mercy from Srila Prabhupada than those who have found themselves outside the timeframe of His external lila, but who have dedicated their body, mind and words to the service and pleasure of Srila Prabhupada, is foolish. The manifest symptoms of reciprocation are undeniably evident in the surrendered soul, whereas the lack of good qualities are obvious in those who have not taken seriously the auspicious opportunity to serve their divine Spiritual Master with their heart and soul.
The fact that the “powers that be” within the upper echelons of corporate ISKCON have seen fit to politicize the initiation process after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, for obvious reasons, is really the root cause of many problems. Rather than focus on the need to maintain the mood of cooperation and harmony amongst the dedicated workers, by delicately dealing with a situation that called for serious contemplation and deep discussion, instead we saw take place a lusty power grab on all levels that undermined the very fabric of the spirit of cooperation which Srila Prabhupada emphasized before He departed. This final instruction for cooperation has been taken by many as some sentimental, nebulous statement of no real importance, witnessed by the fact that no one to this day ever seriously discusses it’s importance. Fighting over the bits of evidence surrounding the initiation issue, trying to screw out some justification for making political maneuvers, certainly is not advantageous to the development of love and trust. The opposition has been similarly side-tracked on this issue, and is also seeing the solution from a political and organizational standpoint rather than seeing that, regardless of whether Rttvik is re-established or the existing system continues or some other acceptable program is introduced, if you can’t create a cooperative mood which requires humility, tolerance, compassion, and forgiveness, then it is all a lesson in futility.
Some of those in opposition to ISKCON would like us to believe that before Srila Prabhupada’s departure everything was just perfect, but the truth is that there was great turmoil, especially at the top. There was so much quarreling and dissension amongst the leaders that many devotees would be amazed if they knew half the stories of what was going on. Most devotees who had even one peek into the average annual GBC meeting in Mayapura would have serious doubts about the sanity of many of their revered leaders, let alone consider accepting them as uttama adhikaries! The only thing they were in full agreement on was the take-over plan of proclaiming themselves instant uttama’s. Ironically, their sudden spirit of cooperation over this move was heralded as a sign that this arrangement had Srila Prabhupada’s blessing. Tamal Krishna Goswami, during the 1978 GBC meeting, was overheard admitting that he felt that most of the Temple Presidents would be very disturbed by this sudden increase in power by a handful at the top, but that this would be a test of how they would cooperate with the GBC. Any fool would know that this arrangement would cause the spirit of cooperation to be adversely effected, and was just the opposite of what Srila Prabhupada wanted and expected of His closest disciples. They let Him down, along with all the rest of their neophyte Godbrothers and sisters. The dynamics of cooperation was never a consideration and is not to this day, as we see that approximately 95% of the participating members of ISKCON in 1978 have opted to not cooperate with their self appointed leaders. Judge by the results.
I will attempt to address some of the direct arguments presented by those attached to their mental conceptions of their spiritual status in relation to Srila Prabhupada. They feel that my hypothesis challenges their relationship with Srila Prabhupada, which is not true. They feel that they are more spiritually secure as a diksa disciple of Srila Prabhupada. This insecurity is rooted in the dishonest emphasis put on the importance of diksa relationship over siksa by their corporate leaders since 1977.
There are genuine statements found within the sastra which declare that the diksa disciple is the “property of the guru”, that the diksa disciple should be the “sold out dog”. The surrendered disciple must see their Gurudeva as absolutely perfect and non-different than God. These sastric references are actively promoted by the GBC approved gurus who are acting in the capacity of “institutional diksas” to ISKCON’s naive newcomers. None of these “want-to-be diksas” can come up to the exalted standards of a traditional diksa guru. In other words, they simply do not exhibit the qualities of the true diksa. A real diksa guru can legitimately warrant such surrendered behavior from their disciples. If both the guru and the disciple are bonafide, then the spiritual progress of the disciple is rapid. The new-age diksas, in fact, confess to being conditioned souls to everyone but their own disciples, but claim that because they are transparent via mediums for their disciples to the Founder/Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, they can therefore enjoy being in this absolute position. Being under the influence of the modes of nature while simultaneously delivering purely the mood and message of the Maha-Bhagavata Acarya, is a contradiction on the highest level.
Corporate ISKCON’s Governing Body Commissioners have washed their hands of accepting any responsibility for sastricly analyzing the qualities of their diksa guru candidates. They give no guarantees, except that the candidate is willing and no more than two persons have stepped forward to object. It is incumbent on the disciple to choose, to the best of their ability, someone who “strikes their fancy”. The disciple must pass a 13 question examination, two of the questions being strictly institutional in nature: “What is the position of the GBC Body?”, and “What is ISKCON, and why should one remain in ISKCON?” The guru, on the other hand, isn’t formally tested by the GBC. The GBC does, however, pick up the pieces when their diksas are exposed as unqualified, by passing “laws” about reforming or rejecting their fellow gurus, who tried their best but couldn’t make the grade. According to them this is to be expected, and the disciple can again go on a search for someone else to repose their faith and loving propensity in. But beware! If you want to be Srila Prabhupada’s exclusive disciple by proxy, then there is a very severe “law” against this most heinous crime. In fact, it is the only law which advocates the banning of exponents of a particular philosophy from entering Srila Prabhupada’s temples and taking darsana of the deities.
The tricky part of this bizarre equation is that this recommended “attitude of surrender” towards one’s GBC approved diksa guru only applies to those gurus chosen by the disciple from the ISKCON line-up of 100 or so “certified diksas”. The disciple is not obliged to “surrender” with the same attitude to other ISKCON gurus who are on the list of 100, and are supposed to be considered “absolute” by their own disciples. All other members of ISKCON, be they certified diksa or not, are institutionally considered self-confessed conditioned souls, and should thus be viewed and treated respectfully according to their administrative position, but seen from a relative point of view. This unnatural and non-traditional dynamic undeniably causes a great deal of confusion in the institutional ranks, and is certainly not conducive to the smooth functioning of a society supposedly dedicated to cooperatively preaching the glories of the Holy Name. ISKCON’s diksa guru policy reminds me of the definition that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. In our case, it is a camel designed primarily to cross the barren dessert of non-cooperation.
Nobody Knows Absolutely
In his letter of rebuttal, my Godbrother wrote:
“I don't see anything confusing about the July 9th letter. It was an official response to the question posed in May about how initiations were to continue after Prabhupada's departure. The question was specifically addressed to the process "after" his departure. So in that sense there is no need of further repetition in the answer.”
“Frankly, I'm quite surprised that you don't see the convincing nature of the evidence.”
I am well aware of the stressed importance of this July 9th letter appointing the Rttvik representatives and assigning them their responsibilities. I have addressed the pedantic arguments with this reasoning. If the letter was so clear, then why wasn’t everyone up in arms right after the GBC introduced their bogus system of instant uttama acaryas? The letter was circulated widely to all the senior devotees, unlike the appointment tape, which took years to manifest. More importantly, a few extra words or a line categorically stating that this was to continue on after Srila Prabhupada’s departure would have settled the issue easily.
Why is it so hard to accept that Srila Prabhupada inconceivably saw fit to sign a document that did not absolutely specify what so many wished or hoped would happen. Did Srila Prabhupada make a mistake? Didn’t Srila Prabhupada know the vaulting ambition of his senior men and how they would tend to interpret this letter? Srila Prabhupada, being the external representative of Paramatma within everyone’s heart, certainly must have been well aware of the pretentious ambitions of his high powered neophyte disciples whom He had placed in important administrative posts within the mushrooming institution. There were so many unpleasant machinations that Srila Prabhupada was privy to that most of us small timers are still not aware of. There was so much intrigue that existed within the hallowed halls of the upper echelons. Srila Prabhupada knew that His closest disciples would likely make a mess of anything and everything unless they learned to cooperate. In my mind, that includes even the Rttvik system He officially ensconced on July 9th which, if it was continued, would have also been distorted, mishandled, exploited, twisted and manipulated in such a way as to give the power inebriated leaders as much political domination as they could squeeze from it. What kind of monstrosity would have been created from the Rttvik system model, only our imaginations can tell. We have seen how the eternal diksa initiation system was so nonchalantly revamped, tinkered with, altered and institutionalized into the grotesque apparition that we see today. We can’t know for sure what would have happened if some other system had been introduced, but we can surely know that it would have been overhauled and customized to accommodate the power brokers within the GBC.
Yes! the GBC had to make an “educated” guess in early 1978, because it wasn’t absolutely clear to them at the time what Srila Prabhupada wanted. Even the Temple Presidents who received the Rttvik appointment letter a few months previously weren’t envisaging that this system was intended to continue after Srila Prabhupada’s maha-samadhi. History reveals that the GBC choose the option which empowered them to the maximum degree, both institutionally and traditionally (acarya status along with private kingdoms). You don’t have to be a maha-bhagavata to figure out why they made that selection over the other options, such as maintaining the Rttvik system. Twenty years later many of the same persons are still in power and have passed on the same infectious and poisonous mentality to their many other over-eager friends. In fact, now these original power mongers are completely addicted to this quantity and quality of power. Face it, they will never willingly give it up just because someone, after 20 years, takes a dictionary off the shelf and looks up the word “henceforth” and says, “wait a minute, Srila Prabhupada wanted his Rttvik system to continue after his departure, what are you guys doing?”
These same power addicts couldn’t or wouldn’t surrender to following Srila Prabhupada’s concept for the GBC during His manifested lila because it didn’t afford them enough power. Srila Prabhupada wanted the GBC members to follow in His footsteps and be brahminical preachers who stayed out of directly handling money and manpower, spending their time instead traveling, writing, and preaching constantly. They refused to accept that clear instruction and persisted in maintaining their corporate power base. As far as I’m concerned, the proper implementation of Srila Prabhupada’s original GBC model is a pre-requisite to the proper introduction of any initiation system, and especially the Rttvik formula which is, after all, an “acarya innovation” introduced for the sake of preaching Krsna consciousness effectively. I am not an acarya, so I’m not in a position to say “absolutely” why events unfolded the way they did or why Srila Prabhupada and Krsna saw fit to leave us with this perplexing puzzle to work out. These are awkward circumstances that we are put in, irregardless of whether it was intentional or whether it was a conspiracy, bungling incompetence, or cheating. Here we are 20 years later, still fighting over what could, should or would have happened if this or that was clear or recognized. One thing we do know after 20 years of botched experiments is that nobody knows absolutely what Srila Prabhupada intended. Why? Because every one of us is a fallen conditioned soul.
The Rttvik Position
Because I’m a fallen conditioned soul, I’m not in a position to rule out Rttvik as one of the many possible options. Most of the conditioned souls who are “absolutely convinced” about the indefinite continuity of Srila Prabhupada’s lila system, based solely and entirely on the contents of the July 9th letter, still don’t agree amongst themselves on the practical application of Rttvik into the existing ISKCON corporate structure, nor do they understand or agree on all its subtle philosophical intricacies. So, what is so absolute about their proposal? The leading Rttvik ideologues can’t even display a basic degree of cooperation amongst themselves, even though presenting a united front against their common adversary would further their cause tremendously. As with all Kaliyuga victims, they argue and criticize one another over the smallest details of philosophy and strongly disagree on basic strategy.
For example, we have been hearing lately about the latest updated presentation made recently to the GBC by key members of the British faction, Krsna kant the philosopher, and Kamsa hanta dasa the itinerant preacher. It is ironic that it was their “brothers-in-arms” in America who introduced these relative newcomers to the revolution in the first place. Yet from the very beginning of the process, in which a devotee who has been a dedicated “go-between” encouraged certain GBC’s to participate in receiving such a paper, the British faction chose to bar their American Godbrothers from the process, not asking them for serious input, not sharing drafts of the document, not discussing how the best job might be presented. To this day, long after the paper has been presented to the GBC, it has still not been shared with the primary members of the American Rttvik camp, and is instead being passed “hush-hush”, secretly from devotee to devotee. It has thus been co-opted into corporate ISKCON’s standard system for “information management”. All this political diplomacy in hopes of appealing to the sentiments of the truly “sincere devotees” within the GBC...nice try, but what a price to pay. And in the American camp, the lax approach to ensuring accuracy in published statements, the name-calling, innuendo and general lack of Vaisnava etiquette, and the atmosphere of “every man for himself” becomes the excuse for the members of the U.K. camp to ignore their Godbrothers on the other side of the pond. Cooperation obviously is not an important ingredient in this faction’s formula or conception of what Srila Prabhupada wanted after His departure.
All the various individual camps have a slightly different version of Rttvik. Each one is certain they are absolutely right, so there is very little cooperation and coordination. If someone doesn’t 100% agree, then they are the enemy. As such, they are abandoned, ignored and criticized. This separatist mentality is what we have to address and change within the entire Vaisnava community. In other words, if “cooperation” is not the goal or the solution, then we will fail in bringing about the changes we expect to create by replacing one formula with another. The initiation issue is just one of innumerable problems which will endlessly manifest. While we are fighting amongst ourselves the real enemy, Kali, is going unchecked and is winning back the territory he lost when Srila Prabhupada was heading up the troops.
Please Just Cooperate!
Cooperating doesn’t mean that the philosopher brahmins can’t engage in research, discussions and debates clarifying and challenging our deep understanding of siddhanta. All these sincere and civilized attempts to unlock the inconceivable pastimes of Srila Prabhupada are healthy and are a needed element within any vibrant community. Five hundred years ago, Nityananda Prabhu was fully engaged in sankirtan activities while the Six Goswami’s were in Vrindabin, scrutinizingly studying the revealed scriptures and discussing amongst themselves for the benefit of all humanity. All these various pastimes were taking place simultaneously, and were performed in the spirit of cooperation and love for Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Is this not the quality of cooperative spirit that Srila Prabhupada was pleading for, above and beyond anything else? Will ISKCON be a better place simply because we have changed one system for another? Could Srila Prabhupada see this before He departed, and was he therefore vague on administrative details? The reader must seriously consider these questions.
In a letter to Jagadisa dasa written on November 17, 1972, Srila Prabhupada pleads for cooperation:
“The thing is, our main business is to distribute books, either here or there it doesn't matter. So if there is transcendental competition for increasing sale of books, that is good. If he buys one book his life may be turned, that is best preaching work. But everything must be done in the spirit of cooperation, without any irritation. So we shall not think that this is my zone, that is his zone, just like the Indian and Pakistan nation are thinking, and then there is war, no. Lord Caitanya has given us the task to spread His message all over the world, and any process which may be useful for facilitating this business, that we shall gladly adopt, never mind his zone or my zone, that is material designation. But we shall always do everything in cooperative spirit and avoid any fighting amongst us, that is Vaisnava attitude because Lord Caitanya has advised us to always offer all respects to others, especially to the devotees of the Lord.”
In another letter to Babhru dasa, written on December 9, 1973, Srila Prabhupada again emphasizes the need for cooperation:
“These inebriates can be adjusted by the cooperative spirit, tolerance and maturity so I request you to kindly remain in the association of our devotees and work together. The test of our actual dedication and sincerity to serve the Spiritual Master will be in this mutual cooperative spirit to push on this Movement and not make factions and deviate.”
Another statement (below) posed by a disturbed reader of my “Cooperation” paper, is based on Srila Prabhupada’s statement regarding whether Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura left any final detailed instructions regarding initiation or the assumption of the position of Acarya for the Institution. My Godbrother suggested that the correct interpretation of this well known statement of Srila Prabhupada’s is that Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura instructed his disciples to wait for the next acarya. I assume he means that Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers should have worked cooperatively, waiting for our Srila Prabhupada to manifest his rightful position as the next acarya. I beg to differ, but I don’t come to the same conclusion when reading this quote. My position is that Srila Prabhupada repeated many times that his Godbrothers didn’t cooperate together to push on the preaching. They couldn’t or wouldn’t put aside their personal ambitions, opinions, desires and attachments. Srila Prabhupada seems to have departed requesting cooperation, just as Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati did, but who was listening? Neither acarya went into detailed explanations on how initiations should be performed nor did they appoint an institutional successor acarya. Both acaryas asked for cooperation amongst the disciples and installed a management team to ensure that practical matters would be taken care of.
My Godbrother wrote:
“Prabhupada also stated that Bhaktisiddhanta talked about so many things before he passed away, and it is nonsense to say that he would not have instructed his men on how to continue the preaching mission. Prabhupada said he instructed them to wait for the self-effulgent acarya. This was a specific order. They didn't follow it. Therefore they became asara, useless.”
He then presented the following quote:
August 16, 1976, Bombay
"Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that "This man should be the next acarya." But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acarya. That is the failure. They never thought, "Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acarya?" They wanted to create artificially somebody acarya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acarya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it. They declared some unfit person to become acarya. Then another man came, then another, acarya, another acarya. So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection. And as soon as he learns the Guru Maharaja is dead, "Now I am so advanced that I can kill my guru and I become guru." Then he's finished."
This quote contains exactly the message which is the theme of my presentation . My understanding is that Srila Prabhupada was against the absorption of his Godbrothers over the issue of who will become acarya -- who will be the headman, the powerful leader, better than everyone else. Better to remain humble and serve the order of the Spiritual Master, which was to cooperate together and continue the preaching momentum created by the acarya. The colloquium should be focused on how to cooperate to expand the preaching. As soon as the polemic revolves around power allocations then naturally there is controversy, arguments and fighting. The preaching stops because everyone is disturbed and distracted into typical Kaliyuga political dynamics. We all considered ourselves fools, bunglers, and rascals when Srila Prabhupada was present, but we were still cooperating with Srila Prabhupada and each other, and we were doing a lot of preaching. Srila Prabhupada departed. The big guns grabbed the power. The fights began.
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Bali Mardon dasa, Calcutta, March 5, 1972
“We had got some indication from Karandhara Prabhu that there was some misunderstanding and things were not going too well between you both big leaders, that is why I was little concerned because such things should never be allowed to fructify within our Society, that will spoil everything. But I am glad to hear from you that because there was some misinformation that we had got the wrong impression, and actually that everything is progressing in a spirit of mutual cooperation in all respects. This is Krishna Consciousness. Working together to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Practically now it is in the hands of you big guns to manage everything so that there may never be internal difficulties amongst us, and so that we may always go on increasing more and more the influence of Lord Caitanya's philosophy of Sankirtana process upon all the world. That will be your great achievement, and if you go on helping me in this way, you may know it for certain that very soon you will see Krishna face-to-face.
I again present Srila Prabhupada’s Phalgun Krsna Pancami vyasapuja offering to his Guru Maharaj in 1961, which sums up His feelings on this matter:
20. To resolve all the apparently contradictory statements is not the
play of some incompetent fool.
21. If everyone simply sat down together and considered these things
what nice preaching there could be.
22. What is your order also, that everyone, coming together, should
merge in your message and preach it to the world.
23. If everyone just initiates then there will only be a contradictory
result. As long as it goes on, there will be only failure.
24. Now even, my God brothers, you return here to the order of our
master, and together we engage in his puja.
25. But simply a festival of flowers and fruits does not constitute
worship. The one who serves the message of the guru really
26. The service of the message is the real meaning of the Vedas.
Don't be proud, brothers, Come back to this.
41. If there is only one Supreme Lord, then a true sadhu, if his faith increases, he gives up the desire for profit, distinction and adoration in the material world.
42. Your gold, brother, is the father of sense gratification. This
meaningful statement was spoken by Srila Prabhupada himself.
43. Give up your wealth for preaching. Sit down together and make
some special judgment.
44. The Supreme Lord Himself says that everything is Mine. Don't
protest. Just unite and preach.
45. Srila Prabhupada gave this final message himself. Take great
care to follow that completely in all respects.
Tolerance and Humility
We are all absorbed and obsessed with this initiation issue, ready to fight tooth and nail while the preaching is neglected. Why don’t we cooperate and work together to achieve the mutually agreed upon goal of spreading the sacred message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu throughout the world? It certainly isn’t because we are or are not initiated as diksa disciples or grand disciples of Srila Prabhupada. The true initiates of Srila Prabhupada only desire to please Him by putting aside any personal interests. Srila Prabhupada is primarily pleased by observing Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement expanding. A spirit of cooperation is an essential component to accomplish this awesome task. Any road block in the way of creating a cooperative mood must be removed as soon as possible. This is the primary duty of the GBC. Anything that enhances mutual cooperation should be instituted and maintained. Programs and policies which undermine the cooperative spirit should be eliminated. Humility is the most essential quality required in any cooperative endeavor, and any system of management that focuses on this principle of humility is probably the right one. In an open society, the well thought out submissions brought forward by intelligent, concerned disciples may be discussed in an open official forum. If all the questions, ideas, and opinions of Srila Prabhupada’s followers could be respectfully discussed and debated, then I’m sure we would find a mutually agreed upon alternative to the present concoction of philosophy, tradition and power politics. We would be able to identify a better system than allowing a few privileged Godbrothers to pretend to be advanced diksa gurus, just so they can have the cooperation of a few of their surrendered disciples, at the expense of alienating all their highly trained Godbrothers. I am certain that the solution lies with the collective intelligence of all the true disciples of Srila Prabhupada. The genuine disciples are those who are willing to put aside their personal ambitions so that cooperative spirit can return to grace us all.
Tolerance is another quality required in bringing about the spirit of cooperation. As devotees advance, their unique individuality manifests more and more. Different angles of vision, viewpoints and opinions are natural and healthy, and welcomed in an open society where dialogue and debate are signs of a vibrant culture. The more persons we can include in our cooperative effort, the more energy can be directed spontaneously and voluntarily towards the achievement of our common glorious goal, with a rainbow of programs to offer the suffering humanity. Bureaucratic hierarchies which concentrate power in the hands of a few power intoxicated Paundraka acaryas is exactly what Srila Prabhupada wanted to avoid.
In the spirit of cooperation, Srila Prabhupada was willing to overlook the obvious long-standing differences he had with his Godbrothers. After Srila Prabhupada arrived in America and discovered the fertile field for spreading Krsna consciousness, he wrote many voluminous, humble letters to his well established Godbrothers back in India asking for their cooperation. He explained how this type of preaching was their Guru Maharaja’s topmost wish. It was a well known fact that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Goswami desired to see the glories of the Holy Name introduced into the western countries. Srila Prabhupada had made the big breakthrough, and now He required some help in training all these young enthusiastic disciples who Krsna had provided. We all know the history of how His Godbrothers ignored Srila Prabhupada’s requests for cooperation. Srila Prabhupada went ahead despite their lack of support. They were tested by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and failed to take advantage of this opportunity because they did not possess the “spirit of cooperation” that was requested of them.
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Mangalaniloy, New York, May 16, 1966
“I tried my godbrothers to join together for this preaching work in the foreign countries by combined force. I tried first Kesava Maharaja, then Bon Maharaja and then Tirtha Maharaja but I have failed to get any cooperation.”
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Gaudiya Mission, New Vrindaban, May 23, 1969
“But still I think this organization should have cooperation from all countries of the world specially of India and more specially from the Gaudiya Vaisnavas who are pledged to take the responsibility of preaching Caitanya cult in every village and town of the world. I am therefore inviting the first cooperation from my Godbrothers in this great adventure. I am very much hopeful of success of the attempt and I am seeking your good consultation if it is possible to have full sympathetic cooperation of my Godbrothers in India in this adventure. Sriman Brahmacari Mangalaniloy has already agreed to come here to assist me fully but I wish that each and every one of the different Gaudiya Math organizations may kindly send one person respectively to work under my direction in these foreign countries and thus become individually a member of the international organization.”
Srila Prabhupada Letter, Los Angeles, August 21, 1969, to His Holiness Swami B.S. Bhagavata Maharaja
“So practically there is no difference of opinion in our missionary activities, especially because we all are deriving inspiration from His Divine Grace Prabhupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja. I think all of our Godbrothers are doing the same missionary activities without a doubt, but still the regrettable fact is we are doing all separately, not in conjunction. I have also read specifically your articles on the matter of acaryas, wherein on the 14th Paragraph I see the acharya shall be entitled to nominate in writing his successive acharya. But we do not find any record where our Srila Prabhupada nominated any acharya after Him. Different persons have interpreted on this point, and every one of our Godbrothers are acting as acharya, so this is a controversial point which I do not wish to enter into while we are proposing for cooperation.”
Following Srila Prabhupada
Almost entirely, we all agree that putting Srila Prabhupada back in the center is the overall solution to all problems, individually as well as institutionally. Big ostentatious centennial celebrations are not the answer. If all the devotees, especially the leaders, were to spend much more of their time reading Srila Prabhupada’s books instead of managing, meeting, flying around visiting their disciples, writing copious resolutions and laws, then they might pick up on Srila Prabhupada’s plea for cooperation.
We all agree that Srila Prabhupada is the undisputed Person Bhagavata, empowered to present the Book Bhagavata. Many verses and purports substantiate this claim and they are clear, authoritative, and self-evident. The process of worshipping Srila Prabhupada as the authorized speaker of the Bhagavatam is available to all and is directly perceived. In other words, any devotee can get direct experience by applying the process. If any devotee intensely studies Srila Prabhupada’s books for, say, five hours straight, (Srila Prabhupada’s recommended daily dose) they find themselves blissed out! The reader finds their consciousness brimming with deep realizations, and they become almost totally relieved of all anxiety. They are also convinced that they have just engaged themselves in genuine devotional service. The link to the sampradaya is directly experienced in this way much more than in having a fire sacrifice and being linked up to a corporate bureaucracy.
"This Srimad-Bhagavatam is the literary incarnation of God, and it is compiled by Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of God. It is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and it is all-successful, all-blissful and all-perfect." . . . . . "This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krishna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana."
“By regular attendance in classes on the Bhagavatam or by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.”
Purport: "Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee bhagavata or the book bhagavat one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But, actually, these are facts.”
The Book Bhagavat alone can take any devotee to the stage of anartha-nivritti, the elimination of the obstacles (anarthas). Alone, it is a "competent remedy" and can give the devotee this elevated result. We have the rare opportunity to serve the Person Bhagavata, the authorized representative of the Book Bhagavata, by cooperating together. The newcomer’s need to be linked up to the sampradaya is more satisfied this way than having a diksa initiation from a Srila Prabhupada disciple with less than minimum qualifications -- especially when the Guru hasn’t even realized the importance of cooperation with their own Godbrothers or the potency of worshipping the Book Bhagavat.
"Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee bhagavata or the book bhagavat one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But, actually, these are facts.” By such sincere association of the bhagavatas, one is sure to receive transcendental knowledge very easily, with the result that one becomes fixed in the devotional service of the Lord. That's “fixed” as in brahma-bhuta [nistha]. This indicates that a sincere devotee can obtain the nistha platform by this method, which is far more foolproof than worshipping the guru of dubious qualifications authorized by an ecclesiastical board made up of mostly neophytes, many of whom haven’t come close to achieving the brahma bhuta platform. I believe that this is Srila Prabhupada’s departing gift to us. He didn’t cruelly abandon us to fight amongst ourselves due to lack of knowledge or instruction. Far from it. We were so neophyte that we couldn’t appreciate nor comprehend the true instruction and the real treasure.
In his letter, my Godbrother also took exception to my reference to a verse in the 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.”
My Godbrother wrote:
“I must simply have "faith" in the truth of Krsna's divinity and I can attain liberation. What is the difficulty?”
The difficulty is, what is the quality of our faith? Our faith is tested constantly by Krsna’s servant, Maya devi. In my previous paper, I was referring to having faith in Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to simply cooperate together for preaching Krsna consciousness. My Godbrother, on the other hand, is convinced that Srila Prabhupada’s last instruction was that we continue on with His proxy style initiation program and that by doing so, all our problems would have been resolved simply by following this clear instruction (clear to him). His question illustrates another common tendency exhibited by many of us neophytes, being prone to project qualities exclusively reserved for the advanced souls. This proclivity is what got us into this big mess in the first place. Our Godbrothers cheated themselves and us into accepting them first as uttama adhikaries, then 10 years later as nista level madhyama diksas. Many devotees have over-confidently adopted heavy responsibilities far beyond their true capabilities as a result of interpreting verses like the one above superficially, without heeding the warnings of Srila Prabhupada contained within the very same purport. I included this warning in my presentation:
“Such liberation of the living entity from material bondage is not at all easy.”
Srila Prabhupada naturally wanted to encourage His young followers, but he was simultaneously trying to lead us to reality. The contentious issue in this debate is the interpretation of Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes, particularly during the months prior to His entering into maha-samadhi. This brings into question Srila Bhaktisiddanta’s pastimes just prior to ending His lila. His final intentions are often mentioned by Srila Prabhupada. I’m hypothesizing that in both cases, the senior disciples, with the exception of Srila Prabhupada, failed to understand the deep meaning contained within these transcendental lilas, particularly the events leading up to their disappearance. It is at this difficult time, when the Spiritual Master has left His physical body, that the disciples are tested in their realization of the essential truths taught throughout the entire lila of these great acaryas. Did we pass the test, or are we still learning some hard lessons?
The overall impression I have of Srila Prabhupada is that He followed in the footsteps of his Guru Maharaja by putting preaching above and beyond all other considerations. Their accentuation on mass preaching depended upon a healthy, cooperative spirit amongst all the dedicated preachers in order to be successful. The degree of one’s cooperative mood was the yardstick upon which one’s advancement was judged, not what their administrative position was, how many slokas they had memorized or what asrama they adopted. The degree to which the follower is benedicted with the essential causeless mercy required to achieve the desired results of their preaching efforts depends on how they can work cooperatively with the Spiritual Master and their Godbrothers. This is the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, and to counteract this influence requires an extraordinary amount of intense mercy, which we disciples don’t seem to be getting in the required doses now. We certainly were receiving this mercy during the glory days of Srila Prabhupada’s manifested lila. Unfortunately, we were not elevated enough to fully appreciate from where and how the mercy was coming to us. We didn’t attribute it to the cooperative spirit. Many fatuous disciples ascribed the spiritual fruits they were harvesting to their own extraordinary talents and qualifications, not to their cooperation with the maha-bhagavata acarya. Consequently they became proud and abandoned the cooperative spirit, and they lost their potency and fell down.
Cooperation is not an abstract term, but is a concept that requires deep contemplation by all aspiring Vaisnavas. Within the realization of it’s true meaning, as it applies to the bonafide acaryas in the sampradaya, lies the secret to achieving one’s spiritual goals.
February 2, 1997