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[The following article is in reply to a letter received from Prabhupada Das Adhikari, who posed a number of questions to my "Sampradaya Acarya" article.]

July 25, 2004

Dear Prabhupad Das Adhikari, Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thank you for your recent letter in response to my paper, "Sampradaya Acarya". As a preface to answering your questions, allow me to clarify several issues touched upon in my paper, which address most of the inquiries you have made. I will also try to expand upon several of your points.

One of the primary responsibilities of a Sampradaya Acarya is to present our disciplic succession’s philosophy according to time, place and circumstance. As a nitya-siddha Acarya, the assigned duty of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada was to translate into contemporary English and make commentary on our primary scriptures. Many previous Sampradaya Acaryas have made extensive purports on these same scriptures, and Srila Prabhupada dutifully followed their message. Srila Prabhupada’s task was voluminous and daunting, primarily in the sense that the all-encompassing principle of such writing is to never make alterations to our absolute philosophy.

The manner in which our disciplic succession carries forward the unblemished truth by means of the traditional Guru and disciple relationship is one of the most contentious philosophical subjects. One of the common themes found throughout our teachings is that the disciplic succession periodically becomes “lost” in the sense that the essential truths are not always being purely carried forward into the future. Lord Sri Krsna in His Bhagavad-gita highlights this undisputable reality. One of the most recent examples can be found in the pastimes of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, who is renowned for resurrecting the true teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

The present day followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu have enjoyed inconceivable benefits due to the rare occurrence of three successive nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acaryas. It is worth pointing out the unusual set of circumstances surrounding this disciplic occurrence: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was the biological son of Srila Bhaktivinodha Thakura. The appearance of the other most recent disciplic Acaryas, namely Jagannatha dasa Babaji and Gaura kisora dasa Babaji had their pastimes intertwined with the fore mentioned Sampradaya Acaryas in such a unique manner as to highlight some of the principles of guruship I mentioned in my paper, namely the significance of the bonafide Siksa guru within our Sampradaya. As the worldwide message enunciated by Sri Caitanya deva is carried foreword into the future, the practical value of the representative Siksa guru, along with the potency of the Book Bhagavata, will become increasingly apparent. It should not be surprising that many of the principal disciples of the latest three Sampradaya Acaryas have failed to grasp the significance of the fact that the Siksa guru should aspire to be the quintessential representative of the Sampradaya Acarya.

The recent Sampradaya Acaryas adopted a modern day Western-style organizational framework in order to organize their preaching efforts. Not surprisingly, the all-pervading influence of Kaliyuga exacerbated the foreseeable downsides of such institutional models. The initial recruits/disciples naturally occupied the top power positions within the Acaryas' institutions. Despite the spiritual benedictions they received due to their association with the nitya-siddha Founder-Acarya, such blessings weren't sufficient to counter-act the powerful influences subjected by Kali, material institutional power, spiritual designations such as 'GBC' and 'sannyasa', or the celebrity of being seen as a “senior” disciple by all the other members. Consequently, the divine spirituality presented by the great nitya-siddha personalities was quickly morphed into religiosity by their disciples.

My assertion is that as followers of the most recent Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, we have been given the divine knowledge in order to recognize this historical trend. As such, we should endeavor to avoid being seduced into compliance with the religiously contaminated version of Krsna Consciousness masquerading itself as being 'pure and original'. With self-serving material motivations, so-called spiritual leaders have systematically and consciously gone about transforming the Sampradaya Acarya’s spiritual movements into religions. One of the most dangerous aspects of this phenomenon is that the ecclesiastic heads of the religions are convinced that they are truly and purely following the directions of the Sampradaya Acaryas. As such, they can easily influence the neophytes to comply with their dictates and vision, gaining compliance from the congregation, who will accept all their adaptations of the original unalloyed teachings and practices. Today, as in the past, religious bureaucrats in the guise of gurus have made it their life business to exploit every means and opportunity to solidify their power positions. An expansion of this mentality includes mis-interpreting scriptural injunctions along with the words and pastimes of the bonafide Sampradaya Acaryas.

Please keep in mind that all my above statements can be illustrated by many irrefutable historical incidences. I am assuming the experienced reader is familiar with ISKCON history. As one who took an active part in the ISKCON-lila pastimes of the Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, in the early seventies as a local temple administrator, I can recall the tell tale signs of religiosity in the minds and hearts of many of the early participants. Not everyone was motivated to join The Krishna Movement on the basis of the pure philosophy.

On numerous occasions, Srila Prabhupada thwarted persistent, albeit well-intentioned attempts by his senior leaders to inject religious principles and practices into his spiritually oriented Society. Still, the subtle contamination found its way in and aversely distorted Srila Prabhupada's mission. Consequently, imperfect realization hampered everyone’s ability to progress spiritually. Our lack of realized vision stifled the progressive development of the Acarya’s preaching mission, ISKCON. In due course after His disappearance, with little protest from the rank and file, ISKCON morphed into a perverted reflection of the Sampradaya Acarya’s Vaikuntha Vision.

Especially for us mortals, spirituality must remain unsentimental, even though our philosophy describes a pure spiritual sentiment experienced and expressed by the rare pure souls on the topmost levels of realization. On the other hand, within this material world religiosity thrives due to the over-emphasis on religious ritual, material emotion and mundane sentiment. Many of the “feel good” devotional activities tend to de-emphasize our requirement for in-depth understanding of transcendental knowledge. We have to be careful that we have the proper balance between activities such as chanting and taking prasada, and the philosophy. If we de-emphasize philosophy, then we run the risk of sliding into religiosity.

The contentious issue of initiation into the Sampradaya has always played a divisive role. The religious types always promote their restrictive version of initiation into the Sampradaya, as opposed to the spiritual perspective expressed by the Acaryas and their teachings. Today we are given various religious options when considering initiation, whether it be diksa, siksa, ritvik or an ISKCON hybrid. One may become initiated by one of Srila Prabhupada’s surviving godbrothers or one of their disciples, one may accept the Rttvik theory and (hope to) take diksa from Srila Prabhupada post-samadhi, or one may join ISKCON by accepting one of the many GBC approved diksa gurus.

Regardless of numerous efforts by religionists to take control of the initiation process, the spiritual opinions by all our Sampradaya Acaryas have been clearly expressed in their writings. These schools of thought are based upon the following principles:

    1. "The disciplic succession is unbroken” is based upon the truth that there has been no alteration to the pure philosophical doctrine. From the material time-line perspective, however, there are 'breaks' in the succession.

    2. Acceptance or initiation into the teachings of the Sampradaya is solely dependent upon sincere adoption of the teachings of the genuine Sampradaya Acaryas. Religionists like us to believe that initiation is dependent upon the principle of “falling in love” with a “living” but potentially imperfect soul advertising themselves as a bonafide representative of the disciplic succession.

    3. Ultimately, there exist no material obstacles able to stand in the way of the sincere desire of a candidate who is in search of the Absolute Truth. Krsna as Paramatma is free, willing and able to arrange any number of scenarios so as to fulfill the pure desires of the spiritual seeker. This may be accomplished by way of Book Bhägavata, Siksa, Diksa, or a combination of many means, so long as the suffering soul can come into contact with the unalloyed teachings spoken by the Sampradaya Acaryas, they have the potential of being initiated.

    4. Everything within this material world can be utilized in the service of the Sampradaya Acarya’s mission, such as western-style institutional frameworks, Varna Ashram, or traditional guru-disciple mathas so long as the motivation is pure and the philosophical understanding is properly in line with the Sampradaya Acaryas . In whatever situation such dovetailing is applied, it must be confirmed by individuals/sadhus who have unwavering focus on the bonafide Sampradaya Acaryas.

    5. Presently, one’s gurus/authorities must be considered and evaluated primarily upon the basis of the sastric knowledge presented by the most recent Sampradaya Acarya. The seeker must be cautious to take spiritual consultation from those who have exclusive, unwavering faith in the disciplic succession and the preeminent Sampradaya Acarya. Those who don’t recognize A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami as the most recent Sampradaya Acarya, but who see Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati as a Sampradaya Acarya, have imperfect vision and should be rejected.

Now that I have shared some of my basic philosophical concepts in the above preamble, I will try my best to address the following questions posed by Prabhupada dasa. Hopefully these answers will further clarify the over-all subject.

Following are numerous comments and questions you presented (in italics):

    I agree with you that Shrila Prabhupad is the recent most authorized Sampradaya Acharya, to the exclusion of all of his God siblings and their descendants. I also understand your emphasis on Shiksha rather then Shiksha-Diksha [because Diksha is a subordinate feature Shiksha.] "

    The question is:

    [1] What is your practical proposal for the performance of the Shiksha-Diksha fire sacrifice in an organization or no organization outside of ISKCON?

    I say "outside" because I believe that ISKCON is spiritually dead and is following the path of the Gaudiya Math in that it will cannot rectify itself to come in line with the authorized version. I accept the importance of an organization as the recent most 3 Sampradaya Acharya's each started some kind of organization.

It is my belief that the ritual practices of performing a fire Yajna, chanting on japa beads and choosing of the spiritual name are of far lesser importance than the heart felt commitment to accepting and following the knowledge presented by the Sampradaya Acarya. These religious practices can be introduced and/or performed in order to surcharge the aspirant's resolute vow to follow and serve the great Acaryas. The above-mentioned initiation ceremonies can be engaged in within an institutional setting or privately without any difference in potency.

    [2] Is it to be understood that there will be no more organized attempts to push on the mission, a period of un-organized proliferation?

As we know, the two previous Sampradaya Acaryas utilized, to a degree, a western-style organizational framework in order to fulfill their preaching missions. By and large, these constructs worked well while the Acaryas remained in the position of ultimate authority. Throughout their lilas, both Acaryas made many practical arrangements in order that the day-to-day responsibilities were attended to by the senior disciples to whom authority was relegated. Both Sampradaya Acaryas expressed hope that their preaching missions would be able to make the transition to a more representative style management structure after their physical departure. Historical memory reveals that their desires remain unfulfilled. In other words, to date we have not witnessed a fully functioning Vaisnava Society modeled upon the western framework wherein there is no absolute authority enshrined at the top. Without going into detail, I can only state that less than perfect Vaisnavas do not seem to be able to commit to a governing structure based upon more 'democratic principles'. There are many influences that seem to sabotage attempts to introduce tried and true, practical, modern day systems for human cooperation and co-existence.

The global political landscape reflects this very scenario. Unfortunately, it appears that a majority of the professed followers of the Sampradaya Acaryas tend to gravitate towards the “traditionalist guru-disciple” end of the spectrum, where we also find fundamentalists from other religious traditions, i.e., Muslims, Jews, Christians, tribalists, ethnic nationalists, monarchists, oligarchists, and other anti-democratic exponents. While most western converts have been born and raised in a culture that extols the virtues of democracy, those identifying with Indian culture (even those Western-born) apparently find it easier to revert back to the absolute Guru-disciple model. If in time this relationship proves unsatisfactory or disappointing, then the disciple is confronted with the only option -- leaving one’s Guru and his ashram.

It appears that there are no viable options for those who wish to co-exist within a society based upon a principle that everyone is imperfect and that a practical governing structure is required, but that it must accommodate the inevitability of some empowered representative succumbing to their weakness by providing a means for non-violently removing that representative by the will of the majority. Present day ISKCON has failed to resolve this cultural/spiritual predicament. The hodge-podge created by long-term struggles between the 'power of GBC' verses 'traditional absoluteness of the traditional diksa guru' makes the communal atmosphere unlivable for many genuine followers of the Sampradaya Acarya.

I have my own plans for a community framework that would demonstrate how the past Acaryas' professed wishes might be realized, but only time and some help from Paramatma can bring about the expected results.

    [3] Will Shiksha-Diksha be suspended until the next Sampradaya Acharya appears; thus a period of time with only Shiksha?

I do not envision the diksa process ever being completely moth-balled. We will always find individuals on both sides of this equation (guru and disciple) who will be determined to venture down this path. Our sastra has verified and sanctioned this type of spiritual relationship. Srila Prabhupada hasn’t banned its existence therefore who am I, or who is any other conditioned soul, to make claim that diksa should be abandoned? I am recommending that a high degree of caution should be taken when dealing with those individuals who have a vested self-interest in seeing that diksa gurus are exclusively promoted. Such emphasis over and above siksa gurus representing and presenting the Sampradaya Acarya is suspect.

"There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating [diksa] and instructing [siksa] spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service. (CC Adi 1.47)

"There is no limit, however, to the number of instructing spiritual masters one may accept (CC Adi-lila 1.35)."

I assert that the “traditionalist” exponents who are emphatic about the prerequisite for a sincere truth seeker to search out and surrender to a “living” diksa guru should be looked upon with a high degree of suspicion. More than likely, they can be accurately identified as being one of a combination of the following: a religionist, a cultist in the guise of a disciple, less intelligent, and/or any of a variety of types of suppressionists.

The Sampradaya Acaryas have made their positions on this subject abundantly clear, but surprisingly, so many devotees have chosen to ignore their message. Initiation into our Sampradaya isn’t solely dependent upon taking diksa initiation.

In identifying the members of the Sampradaya, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura de-emphasized the traditional diksa guru parampara, which had been abused in many circumstances in the past. Instead, he stressed the Bhägavata or siksa-guru parampara. The Bhägavata succession is taken from the Srimad Bhagavatam, wherein Krsna enlightened Lord Brahma, who then spoke absolute truth to Narada Muni, who passed it on to Srila Vyasadeva. His son, Sukadeva Goswami, underwent no diksa but received the essence of Bhagavatam from Vyasa, who recited it, in seven days, to Pariksit Maharaja, Suta Goswami and others present during the recitation. All were fully enlightened but none were direct diksa disciples of Srila Sukadeva.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta traced the Bhagavata guru parampara from Krsna to Madhvacarya, who while initiated by Acyuta Preksa of the Shankara sampradaya, is said to have received siksa of Vyasa. The Gaudiya Vaisnava parampara is therefore traced from Madhva's siksa guru, Srila Vyasa, rather than from Madhva's established diksa guru. So we can see that our lineage isn’t dependent upon a diksa line -- in fact, it runs quiet contrary to that concept.

    [4] And, if it is performed, how does the disciple perceive that Shiksha-Diksha guru? A "regular" pure devotee? A ritvik [on behalf of] Shiksha-Diksha? Is there also ritvik Shiksha? Can a conditioned soul perform an effective Shiksha-Diksha initiation?

How a disciple perceives their guru, regardless of which prefix they put in front of the “guru” title, is completely discretionary, especially in the time we now live in. The term 'pure devotee' cannot be taken out of the context for which it was used. Properly and accurately describing those devotees who are very advanced according to the science of Krsna Consciousness is difficult at best, although we have access to detailed symptoms and descriptions in literatures such as the Nectar of Devotion. A great deal of onus must be placed upon the disciple, who is obliged to properly educate himself by utilizing the approved literature made available by the Sampradaya Acaryas.

In my recent paper entitled the “Church of Rttvik”, I explain that the term "Rttvik" was a more accurate description of a Siksa relationship during Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON lila period. The eleven appointed Rttviks were playing a far less important role than the many Siksas played at that time. In fact, most of those appointed in the July 9th letter never performed their appointed duties in this regard. Srila Prabhupada’s system was, in fact, siksa based, not Rttvik.

    [5] If the line of succession is an unbroken chain of bonafide spiritual masters [Uttama Adhikari, pure, etc,] with some taking the status of Sampradaya Acharya and others "regular" guru, how will the sampradaya continue in the absence of such a pure devotee following directly as one of Shrila Prabhupada's disciples?

    The disciple may not be of the exalted stature of Shrila Prabhupad, ie. Sampradaya Acharya, nor a "regular" pure devotee, but just a conditioned soul following the proper sadhana.

Srila Prabhupada has assured us that we need not be concerned over the obvious huge time-line gaps in his list of Sampradaya Acaryas, going back to Lord Brahma. As I understand his message, it is that the disciplic succession is purely spiritual, without consideration for anything material such as the time factor. Just as Lord Sri Krsna, His Incarnations and Manifestations appear and disappear from our mundane vision, the Sampradaya Acaryas should be viewed as simultaneously one and different from all the innumerable Appearances of the Lord. Lord Sri Krsna informs us in His Bhagavad-gita that He will come again and again in order to re-establish the principles of religion. His method for disseminating the Absolute Truth in its purist form is the bonafide Vaisnava Disciplic Successions, which we so fortunately have access to.

Within a relatively recent history (500 years), the planet has been blessed with the manifestation of the Yuga Avatara, Who appeared within our Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, along with all His associates, followed by a whole host of other nitya-siddha Acaryas such as Narottama das Thakura, and most recently, a succession of nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acaryas including Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada, appeared.

Any “regular” Guru must first and foremost qualify themselves on the basis of their recognition of those Sampradaya Acaryas included in our disciplic succession. This implies appreciating that Srila Prabhupada is not only included, but is the most recent representative. As such, all aspects of Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes must be understood to be the “sum total” of all the prior teachings of the past members of this “unbroken” Succession. Srila Prabhupada has been empowered to deliver the complete transcendental message and methodology in the most understandable and practical manner according to the principle of time, place and circumstance. Those who realize and preach this vision, I consider to be qualified to be recognized as regular gurus in whatever capacity: diksa, siksa, as well as vartma-pradarsaka. Followers approaching these gurus for guidance must take responsibility for their own decisions in the matter of the degree of surrender.

On account of the Sampradaya Acarya’s full utilization of the modern technological facilities such as mass book printing and distribution, the Internet, audio and video recording, transportation and communication, etc., many more conditioned souls have been offered the opportunity to benefit from the pure teachings and practice of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In summary, it is of the greatest importance for the conditioned souls to be given access to our Sampradaya through an unalloyed medium. The degree of potency and mercy is directly impacted by the purity of the information. Any impure via media reduces the forceful effectiveness of the unparalleled truth carried forward by the Sampradaya Acarya, and as such should be avoided at all costs.

Even well intentioned efforts by sincere but imperfect followers of the Sampradaya Acarya can be thwarted by Maya devi in her many forms. A humble preacher should be aware of the dangers involved in prematurely accepting responsibilities beyond their level of advancement. Diksa guru and Sannyasa status may appear to be useful positions from which to preach, but the karmic burden -- as well as the contamination of excessive adoration and distinction -- can seriously impact one’s spiritual strength. Any minimization of the Sampradaya Acarya that is perpetrated in order to gain a high degree of personal recognition is, in itself, offensive. The students of such usurpers are exposed to even further risk if there is a “fall down”. Promoting, serving and humbly emulating the true Sampradaya Acarya is the safest path for all Vaisnava preachers.

    [6] If he performs Shiksha-Diksha, is that sufficient to elevate the disciple to pure devotion? Does that mean he is a pure devotee? If he doesn't perform Shiksha-Diksha is his teaching more or less potent?

    This question is based on your statement:

    "The Gaudiya Matha does not differentiate between the potency of the disciple's direct connection to the Sampradaya through a Sampradaya Acarya, as opposed to the connection made through any other diksa or siksa guru."

    It seems from this statement that there is a difference of spiritual potency between initiation by a Sampradaya Acharya and a "regular" Diksha or Shiksha-Diksha guru. [Potency levels and effects: Sampradaya Acharya, Regular Pure Devotee, and Conditioned Soul]

One must always keep in mind the highest teachings of our Sampradaya, namely that we are all individuals, beginning with the Supreme Personality. As such, we all have unique personal relationships with our Lord. This principle also applies to the way and means in which Paramatma orchestras our deliverance from the material entanglement. As servants of the Sampradaya Acarya, we should do our utmost to facilitate the deliverance of the Sampradaya Acarya to any and all sincere seekers. This attitude of being a via media must be tempered with humility, honesty, determination, patience, faithfulness, and most of all, knowledge. Whatever role we play depends upon many factors, but naturally the level of our own purification makes us more or less useful or potent for being engaged by Lord Sri Krsna.

As far as the “potency levels” you mention are concerned this implies relativity, meaning that the term 'pure devotee' can apply to those Vaisnavas within a fairly wide section of the spectrum. I am therefore stressing the absolute need to focus upon the top members of our disciplic succession, namely the Sampradaya Acaryas, because they are all equally “pure” on account of their rarified status as nitya-siddha shaktavesa. Even sadhana siddha, or kripa siddha 'pure devotees' are situated in another category, although all are the purest of devotees. In the same way, all the residents of Goloka are equal, while the gopis enjoy the most elevated position, and Srimati Radharani is considered the top most conjugal associate.

We must be wary of any personal thoughts or institutional decrees which in any way attempt to put limitations upon Lord Sri Krsna. We must never forget that anything and everything is possible for Krsna. This includes sending another nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acarya anytime in the future. While there is nothing that I have discovered within the teachings of Srila Prabhupada where he specifically indicates that some other nitya-siddha will appear to carry on with the mission, we cannot say categorically that Lord Krsna won't send just such a personality. At the same time, no one can absolutely proclaim that Srila Prabhupada is the final of the three successive manifestations, or that he will prevail for ten thousand years, as some persons advocate.

    [7] Would the connection of the Sampradaya Acharya be greater or lesser or some how "different" thus yielding a different consciousness in the connectee? And what kind of differing consciousness would be exhibited by two candidates, one from each camp?

The essential ingredient in our philosophy is that of “unique individuality”, and this concept must be highlighted in order to answer your question. I hold the belief that a sincere seeker who is presently in compliance with a doctrine expounded by the ISKCON’ GBC, Rttvik or Gaudiya Matha, or other religious/philosophical doctrines can still be permanently spiritually impaired in terms of receiving the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Being in compliance with these institutional decrees does not necessarily afford spiritual protection. At the same time, while one may be entangled in an institutional paradigm, enlightenment is still within the realm of personal interaction between the jivatma, Sampradaya Acarya, and Paramatma. I present my realizations here believing them to be accurate. If that be the case, then the Lord of the Heart can direct unsatisfied souls to the contents found within. Naturally there are differences in individual realization depending on innumerable factors, but insofar as the seeker is directed, attracted, and surrenders to the bonafide Sampradaya Acarya through whatever means is made available, their advancement is guaranteed.

    [8] If none of the disciples of Shrila Prabhupad have yet to attain at least "regular" pure devotee status, due to direct contact with "high potency" Shiksha-Diksha from Shrila Prabhupad, how will the succession go on if his disciples can only give a "low potency" initiation?

Many of my previous answers address this question, but with all the still existing pure “direct” connections to the Sampradaya Acarya, i.e., books, audio, video, Internet, and enlightened individual representatives, there should be nothing material preventing a sincere seeker from gaining a place in the true disciplic succession. The exposing of the imperfect gurus disguised as being pure is unfortunately still necessary. Besides this problem there exist other problems: altered books, un-bonafide biographies, mundane TV serials, concocted institutional mandates, impure preaching by un-enlightened authorities, and so on. In the final analysis, all jivatmas have been awarded their minute independence. Srila Prabhupada has stated that we come in contact and surrender to a particular guru according to the degree of purity of our desires.

I have never stated that Srila Prabhupada’s disciples cannot attain pure devotee status -- quiet the contrary. Our Sampradaya is eternal and its teachings will always remain pure. Whether or not these sincere followers will achieve transcendental status in this material world at any particular time and place is solely dependent upon the will and mercy of the Lord. Take for example the thirty-year period between 1937 and 1966, when Srila Prabhupada was displaying his Sampradaya Acarya lila period of relative obscurity. Historical memory reveals that there was much confusion and dissention amongst the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, which essentially curtailed the momentum of the Sankirtan Movement. It wasn’t until Srila Prabhupada identified himself in the late sixties as the next Sampradaya Acarya, by surcharging the worldwide preaching of the Hare Krishna movement, that we could see the surcharging and continuation of the Sankirtana Movement on the level set by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. To this day, Srila Prabhupada’s legacy, as I describe it, has failed to gain the deserved Sampradaya Acarya ranking from a vast majority of the Vaisnavas in the Madhva-Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya community who are insistent that they are properly situated. Sadly, this even includes Srila Prabhupada's own diksa disciples.

    [9] What is the effective difference between "high potency and low potency initiation" in regard to attaining pure devotee status?

    I understand that the sampradaya is an unbroken chain of "pure devotees". If this is the case then at least one of Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples [either Shiksha or Shiksha-Diksha] would have to become a pure devotee for the succession to continue along this branch.

    [10] If none of them become pure devotees and the chain is made of pure devotees then wouldn't that mean the end of the Sampradaya's descent after Shrila Prabhpad?

    [11] Is it possible for the Sampradaya to continue when there is a gap with no pure devotee as the next link in the chain?

I have previously answered questions 9, 10, and 11. You have coined the phrase “high and low potency”, and it doesn’t originate with me. I don’t see the subject of initiation as a matter of gradation. The degree of sincerity and surrender is primarily within the individual, and this will determine whether or not they will take advantage of the mercy provided. We are aware of those who have enjoyed practically unlimited association with Srila Prabhupada, and have seriously deviated. At the same time, there are plenty of humble, hard-working, unpretentious disciples and those coming after His departure who have gradually increased their advancement in Krsna Consciousness. Due to the ultimate principle of individuality, free will and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, our process defies formulaic methodology.

Srila Prabhupada has stated that his Spiritual Master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur declared that if he was successful in creating just one pure devotee, he would consider his mission worthwhile. The true definition of 'pure devotee' is always up for controversy because it was used in different contexts to mean different levels. This is also true for the term 'Spiritual Master'. In their English writings, the Sampradaya Acaryas apply the terms 'guru' and 'advanced Vaisnava' diversely. I feel we cannot rule out the possibility that one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, or any other descendent, can or will reveal themselves as being a Sampradaya Acarya. Lord Krsna cannot be limited. Over the last thirty years, there has been no shortage of pretentious fools stepping forward claiming they deserve the title. The question is whether we as individuals can move forward in our spiritual lives in expectation of such an event, or whether we should assume that the likelihood is very slim. If we can’t recognize Srila Prabhupada as a Sampradaya Acarya, then it would be impossible to appreciate his successor.

    [12] If the chain has been of pure devotees up until Srila Prabhupad, and none of his disciples become pure devotees [not even able to give a "low potency initiation"], how will new devotees get the "high" potency connection" seeing that Srila Prabhupad is not physically present?

You, among many, have come to preconceived conclusions in regards to the process of initiation, which I invite you to examine. It has been my experience that philosophical self-autopsy is not something that comes easy for most conditioned souls. For example, you among thousands of direct diksa disciples of Srila Prabhupada feel you have reservedly received a “high potency” initiation/connection on account of your participation in his ISKCON lila pastimes. If we could accurately study the attrition rate, however, I think we would find that a high percentage of these 'high potency types' are living/acting far below the expectations of their exalted Spiritual Master. I dare say there exist many followers of Srila Prabhupada who came in contact with him post-samadhi who are just as dedicated to fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s desires as his diksa disciples ever were. Interestingly, many or most of the “senior disciples” who enjoyed a great deal of direct physical access to Srila Prabhupada during that period ended up committing the most horrendous offenses which resulted in the serious undermining of Srila Prabhupada’s preaching mission. Obviously, it’s a difficult and complicated matter to get to a scientific appraisal, but it’s safe to say Srila Prabhupada is as much spiritually available to any newcomer as he was during that manifest era. Super soul has much facility to direct the inquisitive to examine. In fact, now we have an historical lens to look through and much analytical written material to investigate, which was not available in those nostalgic days. In retrospect, we can see that many or most of us were easily duped into thinking and doing so many nonsensical activities by our so-called authorities, despite Srila Prabhupada’s constant vigilance. I won’t bother to list all these events, but as you were present you know what I’m referring to.

    [13] Is there some "method" by which a new devotee can contact the Sampradaya, meet a devotee or organization of individuals who are not a pure devotees, and still be connected "directly" to Shrila Prabhupad?

As mentioned above, Paramatma is in everyone’s heart, that’s the method. Srila Prabhupada is present as the Book Bhagavat, and we have so much other instructive material. There are plenty of true-blue worshiper’s of Srila Prabhupada who are only too willing and able to share their time and realizations. There is the Internet, which can facilitate and deliver the teachings of the Sampradaya throughout the planet.

    This opens up questions such as: is a "live person" needed for someone to connect to the sampradaya? Can a person get connected just by finding Bhagavad Gita in a trunk in the attic? Is the Shiksha of a book of the same "potency" as the Shiksha of a Sampradaya Acharya or "regular" pure devotee? Is there something in addition to knowledge transferred at the time of Shiksha or Shiksha-Diksha that makes the knowledge more or less potent? If sastra is correct that Shiksha-Diksha is the giving of transcendental knowledge then why can't a conditioned soul just repeat perfectly what is in shastra and has been spoken by his Shiksha or Shiksha-Diksha guru? Is it possible for a conditioned soul to repeat perfectly? And, if not, then the succession must be of pure devotees, and thus one of Shrila Prabhupada's disciples will have to become a pure devotee for the Sampradaya to continue from Shrila Prabhupad. If it does not continue through his "all conditioned souls" disciples, how will it continue? Can a new person "jump over" a period of time where all devotees are not pure and get into direct contact with the recent most Sampradaya Acharya. If so, how does that happen, say, from a time 500 years hence? Please forgive my rambling but these things are on my mind.

It is encouraging to find a devotee who thinks about these matters and searches out truthful answers. I have given my commentaries on most of the questions, and appreciate the discussion with you. Personally, it wasn’t until I worked out a lucid understanding of Srila Prabhupada as a rarified Sampradaya Acarya, and got more clear on the difference between spirituality and religiosity, that the same questions you present here became satisfactorily unambiguous in my own mind. Many of your questions strike me as being of a religious nature. Everyone in this material world desires to have the illusionary material world make sense and be normal, which we know is an impossibility. We have the luxury of having access to the highest form of knowledge, which allows us to see beyond the laws of material nature, karma, time, and unexpected violent changes. We have practical understanding of the unseen powerful controlling personalities as well as the Supreme Personality of Godhead at the very source.

Prabhupada dasa, you have gained some notoriety within our community as a crusading propounder of Varna Asrama as an idealistic cure-all solution to all that ails us. It is not my intention to “rain on your parade”, but I have some philosophical issues with this conclusion. I consider it to be both religiously oriented and practically impossible to implement varnasrama in this age of Kali. I only raise the issue at this time because I detect a degree of “cut and dry” attitude in your questions which is reminiscent of the uncompromising nature of the laws governing the smooth functioning of Varna Asrama. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his purest representatives, the Sampradaya Acaryas, have introduced and recommended a much simpler spiritual process, namely the chanting of the Holy Names. There are no hard or fast rules for chanting and it can be preformed anywhere by anyone. Any attempt to restrict this transcendental program has to be looked upon with suspicion. Religionists do their utmost to impede the spiritual nature of this “yuga dharma” by trying to claim exclusivity, either by the diksa guru program (Gaudiya Matha) or a western style institution (ISKCON). Chant Hare Krsna and be happy, because it is coming through the Disciplic Succession connected to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The degree of purity with which you chant will determine your connection or initiation.

With respect and appreciation,

Rocana dasa
July, 2004

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