NAMA OM VISHNU PADAYA KRISHNA PRESTHAYA BHUTALE
SHRIMATE BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMIN ITI NAMINE
NAMASTE SARASVATI DEVE GAURA VANI PRACARINE
NIRVISESA SUNYAVADI PASCATYA DESHA TARINE.
Reading your document, I can only assume that you are of the opinion that one should implement practically the same training time period as when Srila Prabhupada was present, that is, chant sixteen rounds and strictly follow the four regulative principles for a minimum of six months. At that time, the local authorities certify that the candidate is ready, willing and able to begin the great search for his eternal spiritual master. Oh yes, and the devotee must pass the test posted at the end of this paper.
This program, minus the test, was in place when there was no question about who the Spiritual Master was and what His qualifications were. Srila Prabhupada was a no-contest personality, and still is. As Srila Prabhupada's books are being read throughout the world, in some cases in isolated areas a long way from ISKCON centers, if a person does not have the opportunity to be initiated by any of the so-called approved diksas within ISKCON, then according to your theory, those persons would not be connected to the sampradaya. This I cannot believe. There were individuals during Srila Prabhupada's lila who meet Srila Prabhupada only once, and maintained their faith and enthusiasm, even despite the lack of direct association with any other devotees.
We both agree that there is an absolute need to accept a spiritual master. If someone is chanting sixteen rounds and following the four regulative principles, and is doing this under the authorization or sanctification of ISKCON, hasn't that person already accepted a spiritual master - Srila Prabhupada? Even if one considers, as the GBC do, that Srila Prabhupada is not their diksa guru, but is only in a capacity as siksa, don't you think that Srila Prabhupada's position as siksa and the disciple's dedication to following Srila Prabhupada's orders constitutes accepting a spiritual master? At least until he can repose his complete faith in someone other than Srila Prabhupada.
What is the need for this pressure? As I understand it, you're saying that after one year, one should seriously embark upon a search for someone other than Srila Prabhupada as their spiritual master. The fact remains that Srila Prabhupada spent years before taking formal diksa from Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakur. Srila Prabhupada accepted Srila Bhaktisiddanta as his siksa guru the very first time he listened to him speak.
You go on to quote the essential verse from the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, text 34, and you cite the purport:
tad viddhi pranipatena
upadekshyanti te jnanam
''Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.''
In the purport to the above verse, Srila Prabhupada writes:
"The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of disciplic succession. The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple. No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders."
Vipramukhya Swami writes:
"Been chanting 16 rounds and following the four regulative principles of the Krishna Consciousness Movement for 6 months or more? Thinking about how to proceed with the next big step, i.e. initiation, but just don't know where or how to start looking?"
The above quoted verse is taken from a revised edition of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, and we do not accept this concocted version. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly warned us not to change his books.
"The description given in these books are not mundane speculations, but they are authorized versions of liberated souls, presented by our humble self. So the strength is not in us, but the strength is in the Supreme Lord. And we have to simply present them without any adulteration. That is the secret of success."
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Devananda dasa, September 27, 1968
"Therefore we are presenting Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. No change. Others they are interpreting in their own way. That is not Bhagavad-Gita. That is something else."
Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, August 5, 1976, Paris
"So in the parampara system in that disciplic succession, you will find no change. You cannot change anything."
Srila Prabhupada Lecture on Caitanya-caritamrta, December 1,1966, New York
Does the above verse from Bhagavad-Gita really apply to the person you're addressing in your article, a devotee already surrendered to Srila Prabhupada? We assume that he is not independently studying books of knowledge other than Srila Prabhupada's books, which is part of the qualification. We assume that he has also read this verse and that he has, by doing so, gotten the satisfaction of understanding from Srila Prabhupada that he is not simply following blindly. Although this verse is very important, I do not see that it is essential to someone who may be first coming to Krishna Consciousness, or first coming to the temple, reading the books, and making inquiries. To someone who has been in this environment and should now be looking for a diksa guru, the real contents of this verse would already be known, and the passage would therefore not really be applicable.
You go on to recite the importance of taking a guru. Quoting from Srila Prabhupada and the Caitanya carit-amrita, Adi-Lila chapter one, you again refer to one who is reluctant to accept a spiritual master. Again, I don't think your article addresses itself to one who is reluctant to accept a spiritual master, as you've assumed that he has found a spiritual master in Srila Prabhupada. It wasn't an indication of reluctance to make spiritual advancement, or a sign of lack of commitment, that caused Srila Prabhupada to wait and take diksa at a later date. In your paper, you are suggesting to the person who has been chanting sixteen rounds and following the four regulative principles for six months that, if at that time they are not ready to accept one of ISKCON 's GBC approved initiating gurus, their reluctance will baffle their endeavor to go back to Godhead.
I consider this kind of pressure contrary to the whole principle of accepting a guru. You cannot consider a person helpless, without a rudder, because after six months they're a little bewildered by the circumstances within ISKCON on the position of diksa guru, even though they're obviously convinced about Srila Prabhupada, or they would not be there at all.
In fact, the verse goes on to say that, in his absence, the disciple or the devotee should serve the spiritual master by remembering his instructions, and that there is no difference between the spiritual master's instructions and the spiritual master himself. This was, of course, the case for many of us, especially you and I. We had very little direct association with Srila Prabhupada, but instead associated with Him through His books and His directions, which are still available.
Vipramukhya Swami writes:
"If one thinks that he is above consulting anyone else, including a spiritual master, he is at once an offender at the lotus feet of the Lord. Such an offender can never go back to Godhead. It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona-fide spiritual master."
The purport to the text you quote above also refers to consulting anyone other than the spiritual master, and that in doing so, one is considered an offender. Within ISKCON, the whole GBC consulted Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers on numerous occasions, especially right after Srila Prabhupada departed. That was how they came up with the Zonal Acarya concept. In 1990 they again went to the Gaudiya Matha for advice on their position paper on the guru issue, and their justification on why gurus fall down. The controversy over whether or not this was the proper thing to do is now public knowledge, and I believe you've stated that you believe it was an improper thing to do. Therefore, do you believe that these GBC are offenders who will never go back to Godhead?
Vipramukhya Swami writes:
"Sri Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding."
I'm trying to understand how this applies to the particular persons your article is directed to. It may be debatable, but to my mind, the situation within ISKCON can certainly be considered ecclesiastical (the GBC structure is a method whereby the gurus are approved (or appointed, nominated, reformed, judged, etc.)
Vipramukhya Swami writes:
"Strictly speaking, the ISKCON governing body commission (GBC) no longer votes on approving devotees to act in the capacity of spiritual masters in ISKCON. They simply voice objections to persons who propose to act as new initiating spiritual masters. If someone who wants to be an ISKCON guru goes through the proper channels, as described in the GBC resolutions listed in chapter 2 of this book, and does not receive more than three objections from GBC members, then, after a given period of time (6 months), that devotee may start accepting formal disciples. However, if he receives more than 3 objections from GBC members, he may not accept disciples until his case is discussed by the GBC body in Mayapur for the annual meeting. To safeguard devotees, there are also provisions in ISKCON law to monitor accepted gurus in ISKCON in case, heaven forbid, one of them might go astray."
I have some questions regarding the GBC procedure involving "three objections". This is the core of the issue between those who want to appear to be opposed to the ecclesiastical intervention in the principle of diksa guru, and those who are advancing the principle that Jiva Goswami is making, which is that the Spiritual Master/disciple relationship is beyond the jurisdiction of any worldly body.
I object to the entire concept that Srila Prabhupada desired that His disciples should replace Him as the diksa link to the sampradaya. Instead, I propose that Srila Prabhupada desired that His disciples accept a siksa guru role, and that He remain the diksa guru within ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada clearly indicated both in writing (Letter of July 9, 1977) and through His verbal orders that He was to remain the diksa-guru for the foreseable
future after His departure.
Aside from the above issue, the whole method that has been adopted by the GBC is foolish and unworkable even as an ecclesiastical arrangement, especially if you are aware of all the politics that take place on the GBC level. Let's consider a situation where three people decide that they do not want a particular candidate to represent the GBC or ISKCON, and they vote against him. Are the exact reasons for their objections made known to both the candidate and to the rest of the GBC members? It seems that these objections should be made public. If one of the GBC members had information concerning a candidate that would cause him to reject that candidate as a guru, I would think that information should be made known for the well being of the society. In addition, if a candidate is ready to assume such an important position and is not capable of seeing his own disqualifications, it seems that the GBC members who object should share their objections with the candidate for his own well being. Since humility is one of the major qualifications for becoming a guru, it seems that the candidate should be able to take some direction from his Godbrothers as to what he should do to improve himself, so that he might become qualified.
It also seems that these objections should be based on sastra and philosophy, and have nothing to do with political motivations or any other material circumstances. The GBC member who is objecting should be able to base his decision or judgments on an in-depth knowledge of the candidate's character. I think this is especially important, considering all that has gone on in the past. That is, many GBC members in the past were aware of major discrepancies regarding both candidates for guru and the existing gurus, and kept those objections secret from the greater community of devotees. These pretenders were thus permitted to continue with their responsibilities and position, and many more atrocities consequently took place.
You where personally present in England, and know that Jayatirtha's drug taking activities were known by some of the GBC members for at least 1 1/2 to 2 years before he finally departed, with many disciples. The GBC lied to us about the actual cause of his falldown, with concocted stories about his having been contaminated by a babaji at Radhakund, etc. Certainly this has served as a lesson for the GBC of today. Again, where is the sastric evidence from Srila Prabhupada's books where a bona fide acarya, in the list given by Srila Prabhupada in Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, has ever been contaminated by babajis from Radhakunda. Is there any evidence for this concocted idea? The GBC just covered up and gave a farcical explanation.
Vipramukhya Swami writes:
"To safeguard devotees, there are also provisions in ISKCON law to monitor accepted gurus in ISKCON in case, heaven forbid, one of them might go astray."
The candidate, if in the ISKCON temples, has probably already heard of many situations involving the fall down of GBC approved gurus that are both bizarre and tragic. The new bhaktas can no longer be insulated from the past, even with ISKCON's policy of censorship and denial.
Vipramukhya Swami writes:
"All are not the same. It's best to select a devotee who is both highly advanced and who is capable of offering you practical guidance how you can advance in spiritual life. In this verse Srila Rupa Gosvami advises the devotee to be intelligent enough to distinguish between the kanishta adhikari, madhyama-adhikari and uttama-adhikari. The devotee should also know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaishnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaishnavism. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master. (Nectar of Instruction, Text 5, Purport).
"This puts the burden of choosing a spiritual master on the prospective disciple. No knight in shining armor is going to come riding in on a white horse to tell you who your guru should be."
In the above statement, you say that the onus is on the prospective disciple to discern the level of advancement of the guru. You previously mentioned that the GBC will not take responsibility to discern what level of advance-ment their guru representatives have obtained. This logic is certainly bewildering to any intelligent individual.
Consider for a moment the fact that the GBC themselves, the original eleven appointed Zonal Acaryas, obviously could not analyze their own level of advancement. Immediately after Srila Prabhupada left they assumed the position of uttama adhikari, and later had to reluctantly admit they had made a grave mistake. They also had to admit that they had minimized the level of their own Spiritual Master, Srila Prabhupada, due to their neophyte condition.
The new bhakta would have to be given an opportunity to spend a great deal of time associating with the prospective spiritual master to be able accurately make such an analysis. Therefore, for one to feel certain that he is choosing the highest possible candidate available within ISKCON, he would have to travel throughout the movement spending a considerable amount of time with each of the potential gurus, trying to ascertain who is the purest devotee. This is obviously not only impractical, but impossible. When Srila Prabhupada was personally present, he was critical of those who traveled around the movement looking for the best temple, and being critical of the temple authorities.
We know what the actual reality is in most of the temples. The attitude is that it is your karma, it's Krsna's arrangement that you joined a particular temple, or that a particular guru is either the GBC or the resident guru. Therefore, why go against Krsna's arrangement? Why not accept that person as your spiritual master, rather than trying to travel, analyze, scrutinize, or antagonize, and run the risk of criticizing, and therefore offending, someone who could be a pure devotee. This is the bottom line, and it is one of the remnants of the previously rejected zonal acarya system.
It is my conviction that Srila Prabhupada established a ritvik-acarya system, which remains the most practical system for the smooth functioning of the society.
The concocted initiation system that we see today, which you are supporting in your document, was created by the same leaders who sit in stubborn resistance to the Rtvik position, and who are so obviously attached to the extra prestige and power that comes from being a diksa guru.
You go on to quote from Srila Prabhupada's purport to the Caitanya carit-amrta, Adi Lila, 1.46:
"If one poses himself as an acarya but does not have an attitude of servitorship to the Lord, he must be considered an offender, and this offensive attitude disqualifies him from being an acarya. The bona fide spiritual master always engages in unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By this test he is known to be a direct manifestation of the Lord and a genuine representative of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Such a spiritual master is known as acaryadeva. Influenced by an envious temperament and dissatisfied because of an attitude of sense gratification, mundaners criticize a real acarya. In fact, however, a bona fide acarya is non-different from the Personality of Godhead, and therefore to envy such an acarya is to envy the Personality of Godhead Himself. This will produce an effect subversive of transcendental realization".
The above verse would certainly apply to those individuals who posed as acaryas without the sanction of their Spiritual Master, and were certainly not in the mood of a servant of Lord Nityananda. The GBC has failed, and still fails, to reopen publicly the entire issue of how these original eleven became diksa-gurus in the first place, by a so-called appointment, by a so-called internal vote. Who authorized them as diksa-guru? The GBC still will not address the philosophical issue of whether or not those disciples initiated by such pretenders are connected to the sampradaya. I think not, and I sympathize with those who are still in illusion, thinking themselves connected to Srila Prabhupada via one of these pretender diksas. They are being cheated out of their rightful position as direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada. This attitude, which I believe to be a sign of enviousness towards His Divine Grace, has caused many of these pretenders to fall down already, and many others to gradually lose their potency and fall away.
Your section on the importance of the candidate taking the "13 questions" test is very revealing. This is so contrary to the advice given by Jiva Goswami about institutionalizing the diksa guru tradition. Besides the admitted fact that even most temple authorities don't take it seriously, the depth of many of the questions is basic, and the mood is so casual. It is on the level of joining the Boy Scouts. Certainly anyone capable of discerning whether or not a potential guru has reached the level of advancement of an uttama-adhikari would have a simple time of it when answering these questions.
Gurus in ISKCON, according to GBC Resolution 4116, part one, are not permitted to canvas for disciples. There must have been many substantial incidences of this nature throughout the movement to justify the GBC passing such an unusual resolution. In fact, some gurus were temporarily suspended for transgressing this basic scriptural injunction, and many others were warned. What does this say about the level of advancement of such "qualified" diksa gurus.
In reality, the neophyte devotee's choices are significantly influenced by his day to day association within the temple or program. He is surrounded by the disciples of the many gurus, and will naturally be pressured in his choice. It is unfortunate that these disciples are not offered the option of being directly connected to Srila Prabhupada by accepting Him as their diksa guru.
Your whole paper is simply based on the erroneous principle that the guru has to be a warm body. You say that it's a matter of the heart, a matter of supersoul. With this I agree. Srila Prabhupada IS a living guru. Then you make the pitch that "your guru's already with you". He's living in the temple, he's the visiting GBC, the local sanyassi or Temple President. When you're advanced enough, you realize that this fellow close by is really your diksa guru. This is essentially the preaching that's going on in ISKCON today. A physical guru should be an uttama adhikari, not a madhyama-adhikari who can give only insufficient guidance.
That point aside, it should be made clear that the candidate doesn't necessarily have to accept the local authority as guru. For example, if within the Vancouver temple there was an enthusiastic, sincere candidate who became interested in another guru, would you encourage him to leave Vancouver, go to where this guru resides, and stay in that guru's association. What you're really supporting is the local guru, the convenient guru - a modernized version of the zonal acarya system.
Let's look at another of the famous zonal acarya themes, "the guru is one". If these gurus were one in message with Srila Prabhupada, how did they deviate so much and present such a different message for so many years? The "guru is one" theme would have us believe, "we are all saying the same thing - we are all loving, fully surrendered disciples of Srila Prabhupada." So it's not a matter of the heart, it's a matter of having the convenience of having a diksa who is local and can give you direct association. "We are all sincere followers of Srila Prabhupada, and we are all one with Srila Prabhupada." This is surely one of the most offensive deceptions perpetrated during the dark age of the zonal acarya system. To insinuate that one is on the same level as a great Acarya in thought, word and deed is so misleading and illusory. Time has demonstrated that these mortals were so far from Srila Prabhupada's mood that this suggestion was an out-and-out con perpetrated on naive neophyte Godbrothers. This farce was delivered under the influence of dictatorial powers, with severe repercussions for those so bold as to question. A toned-down version of this deception is obviously still in place today.
You then nullify everything that you've previously stated by indicating that it really doesn't even matter what level one is - kanista, madjam or uttama adhikari - as long as you're simply repeating what Srila Prabhupada has said. If this is so, why did you previously instruct such a candidate to become qualified enough to ascertain at what level their diksa guru is?
Basically, my overview of this particular paper is based on you, Vipramukhya Swami, being who you are in the ISKCON organization, and as I've known you personally for many years. In this paper, I see a person who's sincerely trying, albeit not completely pure. Therefore, your ability to see clearly as based on scriptural definition is not pure. I think you've made the point that you're not claiming to be a pure or an advanced devotee, and that basically you're just repeating what you've heard from your spiritual master, as best you realize it. I appreciate your humility in taking this position.
At the beginning of your paper you presented the sort of "new age of ISKCON" version of the guru. And, you present the latest GBC position, which is supposedly that no institution or ecclesiastical body can nominate the pure devotee or the guru, that the guru has to be self-manifested, and is also self-manifested in terms of the disciple's desire.
Srila Prabhupada often mentioned the fact that you get a guru based on your desire and the level of your realization. That is, in a sense, the essence of the GBC's position - that you have a certain amount of sanctified or authorized people who are towing the ISKCON line, and are supposedly Krsna conscious. They are to protect the candidate from being exploited or misled. Yet the GBC, in your own words, do not exhaustively study the person's character or even know the person that becomes guru.
In fact, the person who is least known by the members of the GBC, and who is, especially, least involved in the organization and political situation of ISKCON, is more likely to get sanctioned than is a person who is relatively high visibility and politically involved. As long as there are no rumours, stories, or questionable incidents, the person is approved.
We know and cannot deny that there are definite factions within the GBC body, and these factions are vying for a certain amount of power. In an environment of power blocks, we can easily expect to see the boycotting of a person who holds a contentious political position. Therefore, when you present positions like the ones articulated in this paper, you know that in terms of the ISKCON organization they're very impractical, and cannot be easily implemented.
You can't have neophyte devotees traveling around the planet looking for the guru of their choice. Because they're neophyte, they'll be on the mental platform, thinking, "should I choose this one, is this person a pure devotee, what is that activity he's engaged in...?" Is this really devotional activity, or is the candidate really thinking of Krsna? After you present this impractical position, you revert back to the main philosophical position adopted by the zonal gurus. This philosophy is applicable to the founder and acarya, but is certainly not applicable to the zonal guru situation we find today.
Srila Prabhupada created ISKCON as a way to fulfill Lord Caitanya's desire for the successful execution of the sankirtana movement. Throughout His ISKCON lila, Srila Prabhupada protected and cherished the society like His own child. The real question is whether the society we see today is the ISKCON that Srila Prabhupada established. Has it been changed by the leaders into something that is not what Srila Prabhupada intended? Is this confusing paper on how to take initiation a symbol of what Srila Prabhupada wanted to avoid?
ISKCON seems intent on maintaining the attitude that disciples should treat the existing gurus in a manner similar to the way we treated Srila Prabhupada. Such displays of spontaneous affection are seen as an indication of the disciple's spiritual understanding, and as a necessary ingredient for the disciple's advancement. The group pressure to exhibit this affection, regardless of it flowing from a truly spontaneous source, is a concern of many members within the society. Granted, this is not encouraged as formally as it was during the zonal acarya era, when even Srila Prabhupada's disciples were coerced into attending vyasa pujas and ceremonies for the glorification of their Godbrothers. Basically, however, it seems that disciples today are still encouraged to act towards the new gurus the same as we worshipped the great Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, who will go down in Vaisnava history as one of the most important personalities in the sampradaya since the Six Gosvami's.
We are supposed to believe, somehow or other, that all guru and disciple relationships are the same. I don't think so. What I see within ISKCON today is that those who have accepted the diksa position have embarrassingly not been able to maintain that position, and are therefore trying to take a position which is actually very similar to the Rtvik situation. In other words, they now want to direct everyone's attention to Srila Prabhupada, and take the attention off themselves. These gurus cannot constantly maintain a high level of Krsna consciousness. They are constantly embarrassing themselves in various ways, and are very much tired and drained by trying to maintain a pretense. Now they're trying to get the new disciples to look at Srila Prabhupada and at the movement, rather than looking too closely at them. At the same time, they expect their disciples to have a great deal of respect for them.
Now the organization puts forward the position that out of practicality, they have a sprinkling of 100 people available around the world to act as diksa guru links to Srila Prabhupada. People are led to believe it's Krsna's arrangement that they are where they are and that all the gurus are "one" anyway, so it really doesn't matter if you have a deep, loving affection for any of them. We know that most of the gurus can hardly agree on anything but the four regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds. Other than that, you have different opinions about practically every aspect of the philosophy. So you're not at all one. Most importantly, for anyone who's admittedly not a pure devotee to say that they're one with Srila Prabhupada is a highly offensive fallacy. All our outlooks on life, as well as our understanding of the sastra, are completely dependent on how advanced we are in Krsna consciousness, which is dependent, among other things, on how many material attachments we actually have. No one except a pure devotee can say they are actually one with Lord Krsna, the parampara, and the previous acaryas.
So, Vipramukhya Swami, I would like to hear some response from you. Having made your position paper public on the Internet airwaves, you should be ready to debate these issues in public, and I look forward to engaging with you on these very important issues.
I apologize if I have offended you in any way. Please accept my humble obeisances, Vipramukhya Swami. I hope this finds you in the best of health.