Our Affectionate Guardians: Chapter
Five ~ Mood
Is Srila Sridhara Maharaja's
Mood different than Srila Prabhupada's?
A pertinent question to ask first is whether the GBC's
mood is different than Srila Prabhupada's. Srila Prabhupada was always
ready to show with reason, logic, and scriptural references how all his
plans and decisions were solidly Krsna conscious. The mood of the leaders
of ISKCON has been so much different than that of Srila Prabhupada
that the vast majority of Prabhupada's disciples have left the formal
ISKCON society, while not necessarily leaving Krsna consciousness.
Undoubtedly many would have left anyway but it was greatly accelerated
by what many considered to be less than proper activities of the GBC.
the beginning, godbrothers of the "chosen eleven" generally
cooperated in a loving nonenvious mood, but soon
found many improprieties. Thoughtfully these godbrothers
first made their reform attempts personally and
privately so as to not disturb the disciples of
their godbrothers (as recommended by Srila Sridhara
Maharaja) but eventually were forced to go to the
public mode of expression due to a complete lack
of any positive response. Similarly we are forced
from within by virtue of the ongoing intolerable
offensive attitude towards Srila Sridhara Maharaja
to try to change this.
Paramadwaiti Maharaja in his book Search For Purity states
that he finds the activities of the GBC over the
years to be exactly like that of a well known very large church organization,
in that, internal management interests and power control are foremost
above the considerations of the members. All attempts for reform by godbrothers
were met with formidable opposition and usually with removal from one's
service or at least discredit or ostricization by the local GBC
authority--the first one being Pradyumna from his appointed (by Srila
Prabhupada) ongoing translation of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada many
times mentioned how he very much appreciated Pradyumna's dedication and
competancy in his translation service and wished that he finish his unfinished
translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Regarding the work of Pradyumna, now he is working very hard to finish
those missing portions, and he will send you very soon. Actually, whatever
else he may be doing, I very much appreciate Pradyumna's work.
Ltr Prabhupada to Karandar ~ 22 Dec. 1972
Further, Srila Prabhupada indicated that Pradyumna could consult Srila
Sridhara Maharaja to check his translations. This last statement is also
substantiated by the fact that the subsequent translator did in the beginning
have the accuracy of his translations checked by Srila Sridhara Maharaja.
Pradyumna's 'envious crime' was a well-documented and thoughtful letter
to Satsvarupa Maharaja (see below) expressing concern for the anomalies
[such as acarya grandeur, oversized vyasasanas, zonal
acarya restrictions and improper treatment of godbrothers]
appearing in ISKCON's leadership, the same anomalies
which greatly distressed a majority of ISKCON devotees
over the years and which were many years later openly admitted to be anomalies
and still later corrected to some extent. Further discussion of this letter
is given later in this section.
The GBC stated officially:
In the spirit of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial the GBC
formally extends apologies to any devotees who have been hurt by poor
treatment or mistakes made by ISKCON leaders.
Somaka Maharaja, a formerly respected sannyasi preacher in ISKCON who recently left his post in a discouraged state, in his
paper entitled, In Search of Harmony asks pertinent questions
in light of this GBC statement above:
What is the plan to approach the devotees and actually beg pardon from
them, admit our mistakes, give them a strong embrace and try to solve
the differences? Is the GBC body going to approach
Pradyumna Prabhu and apologize to him and give him back his service
as translator as given to him specifically by Srila Prabhupada? Is the
GBC going to recognize that
in the letter that Pradyumna Prabhu wrote to Satsvarupa
Maharaja in 1978 he pointed out all the defects
that in 1987 [sic 1985 ?] due to so many fall downs
they had to admit? Are the GBC men going to approach
Paramadvaiti Maharaja to recognize that all the
defects that he was presenting in his letter of
1984 were forcibly accepted in 1987? Vaisnavas
do not get stature by beauracracy and diplomacy,
Vaisnavas get stature based on humility, simplicity,
meekness, detachment and so many other godly qualities."
Pradyumna's letter of 1978 (presented below), wherein he paraphrases
numerous instructions from Srila Sridhara Maharaja received during a series
of question and answer sessions in 1978, has finally been formally recognized
by the GBC as entirely correct. In the 1999 GBC resolutions it was resolved:
GBC Body extends its heartfelt apologies to Sriman
Pradyumna-dasa Adhikari for any offences caused
in its dealings with him in 1978-9. During this
period Pradyumna Prabhu wrote to the GBC via
Satsvarupa-dasa Goswami warning them of serious
repercussions with the Zonal Acharya system in
his letter dated 7th August 1978. Unfortunately
Pradyumna prabhu's good advice was not taken
seriously. In retrospect the GBC Body and ISKCON
could have benefited greatly by heeding his well-meant
and pertinent observations. Although it is now
many years hence, we nevertheless wish to state
publicly that we sincerely regret the actions
and words of the GBC Body that contributed to
his leaving his active service in ISKCON. We
unreservedly and humbly beg the forgiveness of
Pradyumna Prabhu for any offences caused to him
by our dealings." 403
Action Order, B. APOLOGY TO PRADYUMNA PRABHU FROM GBC BODY, 1999 GBC
A Letter of Pradyumna
Prabhu to Satsvarupa Goswami
Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Jayatah
7 August, 1978
Dear Satsvarupa Maharaja,
Please accept my most humble obeisances. Maharaja, I am writing you
this letter with great anxiety in my heart and after days and days and
long nights of thought and careful consideration.
I have been staying in Vrindavan now for some time and have not visited
any other center recently except Delhi. Therefore, the information I
have of what is happening at our other centers comes only from devotees
visiting here, occasional letters, newsletters and our society's magazines
and other publications. But what news I hear from these sources is very
alarming and therefore I am writing to you in some anxiety. The matter
concerns the Godbrothers who were selected by Srila Prabhupada to accept
disciples. At the time of Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, it was most
clearly understood by all of us present that Srila Prabhupada had made
no successor. Everyone admitted that fact and understood it clearly.
Instead the GBCs were to jointly manage all affairs
of ISKCON just as had been the case previously.
This was the same solution as desired by Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
Sarasvati Thakura, who also had not made any successor, although his
wishes were not followed. In addition to the GBC
management, Srila Prabhupada also selected eleven somewhat advanced
disciples to grant initiation to newcomers. However it was never mentioned
at any time by His Divine Grace that these eleven were to be known as
acharyas. He simply instructed that they
may now accept disciples. Otherwise, as it was understood and practiced
at that time, there was no special position given to these eleven, either
in the society as a whole or in relation to their other Godbrothers.
Management would depend on the joint GBC and among
godbrothers and sisters. All are on the same level, with the exception
of some special regard and respect shown to older (senior) disciples
by these godbrothers and godsisters who are junior. Now at present,
I understand that the eleven gurus are all
1) adopting the title of acharya,
2) sitting on high Vyasasanas in front of Srila Prabhupada's
Vyasasanas and their own Godbrothers,
3) accepting worship and great respect normally reserved for a guru
from the rest of their Godbrothers and
4) that the previous GBC zones have all been
given by mutual agreement or by invitation among the different acharyas.
First of all, the word acharya may be taken in three senses.
Etymologically the word acharya means "one who
practices" or "one who practices what he preaches". This
is the general meaning and may be used in relation to any pure devotee.
Secondly, the word means "one who grants initiation to a disciple." This
is specifically indicated one who is guru. Anyone
who grants initiation or is a guru may be called
as "acharyadeva", etc.-by
his disciples only! Whoever has accepted him as
a guru must give all respects to him in every way,
but this does not apply to those who are not his
the word acharya indicates
that "the spiritual
head of an institution or pitha." This
meaning is very specific. It does not mean just
anyone. It means only one who has been specifically
declared by the previous acharya to
be his successor above all others to the seat
of the spiritual institution which he heads. He
alone, among all of his Godbrothers is given a
raised seat and special honor. No other Godbrother
may receive such respect and he is the authority
in all spiritual and material matters. This is
the strict tradition in all of the Gaudiya
Sampradayas. Now Srila
Prabhupada, it is clear, did not appoint any such
successor because not one of his disciples at
present is advanced to the level of Krishna Consciousness
necessary to assume such, a position. Nor did
Srila Prabhupada make eleven such
was never mentioned by him. They were only given
permission to make disciples and the GBC was to
jointly manage, materially and spiritually. There
was never any distinction made by Srila Prabhupada
between material management and spiritual management.
Both are the concern of the GBC. The eleven gurus
may be only known as acharyas only in the second sense of the word
to their disciples as mantra-giving gurus, not
in the third sense, as "the spiritual
successors of Srila Prabhupada." That was
never meant to be by His Divine Grace.
among Godbrothers it is not correct that any
one of them sit above the others, especially
in the presence of Gurudeva. If Gurudeva is not
present, sometimes the sannyasi Godbrothers may
be given an asana, but that asana does not mean
a huge gigantic seat. It simply means a square
piece of cloth or wool not more than 1/8" or 1/4" thick.
This is asana. If one Godbrother or many Godbrothers
sit above the others it is not at all proper.
Sometimes in an assembly there may be a raised platform or table on
which the sannyasi speakers sit, but all sannyasi godbrothers
must be invited to sit in an equal place on the speaker's platform.
Sometimes a grihasta or brahmacari godbrother may also
be invited to sit there if they are deserving by their advancement.
If there is an appointed acharya as mentioned before (third
sense of the word) than he alone may sit higher than the other godbrothers.
Indeed in the different Gaudiya Mathas, even if one godbrother is in
the position of acharya, he usually, out of humility, takes only
a thin cloth asana, not anything higher. It is the symptom of a Vaisnava
to be extremely humble. He must always be extremely careful of not putting
himself in a position to become conceited. A guru may take a higher
seat than his disciple-that is bonafide. But he cannot illegally take
a higher seat than his godbrother. The relation between the guru and
his godbrothers and a guru and his disciples is entirely different.
He should not sit higher than godbrothers other than if he is a sannyasi, on a thin cloth as
already mentioned if offered by his godbrothers, or accept respect from
them without offering respect in return. This is the general niti or
etiquette. Besides this there are, among godbrothers some further rules
to be observed among those who are senior and those who are junior.
Seniority is calculated according to the time of receiving first (Harinam)
initiation or by his ability to perform bhajana.
If one godbrother has disciples, the guru-puja and Vyasa-puja of that godbrother should be conducted in a separate place or his private
room-not in front of all his other godbrothers. In an assembly of Vaisnavas,
all sit on the same level together, Godbrothers along with their sisyas.
No one is permitted to accept separate respect from their disciples in any
gathering of other godbrothers In Gaudiya Math, the Vyasa-puja of
one godbrother who has disciples is usually performed in the following
manner. The guru takes his raised seat in his private place and invites
all his godbrothers to come to the function also. If his Godbrothers
come to offer him some flowers, that guru godbrother immediately first
worships his other godbrothers and offers them garland, candana, etc.,
and in some cases presents, like cloth, umbrella, etc. They honor each
other and are seated properly, then that guru's disciples can come forward
and offer their worship. This is the system being observed. Incidentally,
the words of Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura found
in the English book Sri Chaitanya's Teachings regarding the sitting
above everyone else are from a speech delivered in response to the offerings
of his disciples on the occasion of his vyasa-puja. Those words are in relation
to his disciples-not to his godbrothers, of which there weren't any.
The niti in regard to godbrothers is completely different
from that to disciples.
One who is actually guru may make disciples anywhere he finds someone
who is worthy. The connection between guru and disciple is made by Krishna
directly and it is not subject to legislation. All the world-wide temples
of ISKCON are controlled by the GBC.
The temples are managed by them jointly and they decide each year which
members of the GBC will manage in which place.
The GBC, who is appointed to be responsible for
a certain zone somewhere on the planet, if a guru, will naturally make
many disciples in that place-but how can he be illicitly restricted
from accepting a disciple from somewhere else? That is a material consideration.
It has nothing to do with transcendental order by which guru and disciple
make their meeting. It is not geographical.
Secondly, no GBC who is guru may make that zone
of which he is temporarily in charge by appointment of joint GBC,
into his own private place.
If some other guru visits there and some newcomer wishes to accept
him as spiritual preceptor, how can he be prohibited?
Furthermore, all the temples of ISKCON are to
be run by the GBC. No one GBC
who is a guru may use the title acharya of such and such a zone.
Srila Prabhupada never appointed one acharya of the whole ISKCON nor did he appoint several acharyas for
parts of ISKCON. This will only lead to an ultimate
division of the one ISKCON into many different
fragments and destroy our united preaching work.
If someone sets up his personal seat as acharya in different temples,
how can it be removed? Who else can sit in it? Then does that temple
belong to that guru or does it belong to the GBC? That means the power
or control is switched from joint GBC to the eleven gurus. Srila Prabhupada
never intended this arrangement. Moreover in the future, in accordance
with His Divine Grace's instructions, other qualified godbrothers may
also become gurus. Where will they go? In Srila Prabhupada's temple
no raised seat should be given to anyone but Srila Prabhupada-all Godbrothers
should sit on the same level. One exception may be made in the case
of one speaking from the sastras like Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-Gita, Chaitanya
Caritamrta, etc. during the class. But that seat is
very special. It is not for the reader--it is meant for the book. After
paying obeisances to that seat, he who is to read may, after taking
permission from his senior Godbrothers and sannyasis, ascend to read from
Bhagavatam. After finishing, he may again pay his obeisances.
Much of the knowledge written here is not found in sastras, but
is called sistacara--that which has been taught by the conduct
of the past guru parampara. It has not been specifically mentioned in
the sastras, but still it is accepted as authoritative because of being
seen to be the conduct of previous acharyas and their disciples.
Maharaja, after much consideration and consultation and also confirmation
by older members of our sampradaya I am writing to you to see
if you can rectify the present situation. Many of us here, older godbrothers,
are very concerned in two ways
1.That the eleven gurus not having been appointed to the position
of acharya and for which they are unqualified both by a) the insufficient
knowledge of sastra and b) the incomplete realization
of Krishna Consciousness, are accepting worship on that level-and
this may lead to anomalies in the society and personally, because
of lack of complete detachment in atma-jnana, to a build up of pride
and subsequent falldown, and
2. That the united society ISKCON, because of
illegal division and control by a few members, instead of the joint
GBC will become broken up in separate societies
and the unified preaching effort very much hindered.
Hoping for your immediate attention and kind reply,
Pradyumna das Adhikari
P.S. These are not good signs for our society. Older godbrothers and
sannyasis here are very concerned that if the present trend is not
checked immediately, it will have passed beyond that point and ISKCON will be in chaos in the near future.
hereby formally request that all these points
be immediately brought to the attention of the
GBC so that a very tactful solution for all concerned
may be decided and amicably implemented in our
society. Please note that there is nothing personal
in this letter. It is some pertinent spiritual
knowledge meant for the good of all. If anyone
takes offense, I very humbly beg pardon at their
feet. Hoping that this meets you in the best
In the service of Srila Prabhupada
Pradyumna das Adhikari
This letter of Pradyumna Prabhu dealing with all the above mentioned
points in a most astonishingly accurate manner was written after several
consultations with Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Thus the 'lucidity and accuracy'
of this letter are for the most part attributable to the deep realizations
and experience of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. For those who wish to understand
the principle of guru and the points raised in this letter we invite them
to read Sri
Guru and His Grace by Srila Sridhara Maharaja [A presentation
of the essential teachings on guru-tattva].
Acarya Godbrother Relations
In March of 1978 Srila Sridhara Maharaja spoke of acarya relations
If you think that the person who is doing the function of acarya, in
the tatastha vicar-absolute consideration, that his adhikara is lower
than yours, still you should formally give special honor to him because
he is in that position. For example, the son may be a judge and the
father the lawyer, so the father is giving honor to the chair of the
judge-nirod. Like that you should do, otherwise the social fashion will
be disturbed, is it not? That adjustment should be kept in the mission.
And when you are alone, the acarya brother and the non-acarya brother
when alone, you can mix freely. You can give a slap to his cheek. [the
acarya's cheek] But when publicly amongst his disciples, you must show
On August 18, 1980 Srila Sridhara Maharaja addressed the problem of acarya
According to my consideration, as I hear it, the grandeur of the acarya,
the puja of the present acaryas, it is undesirable and too much and
that will create some difficulty. It should be modified. The way in
which the acarya puja has been established, that should be modified
to suit the circumstances and some adjustment with the godbrothers should
be made. A protocol, a spiritual protocol should be evolved which may
not be very harmful to the body, to the association, the ISKCON
organization. It is a very difficult thing tackling the fine point of
divine sentiment. So, very carefully the adjustment in the spiritual
protocol should be observed. Not only adjustment with the sentiment
of the godbrothers of the acaryas, but also the disciples of the acaryas
amongst themselves, this difficulty will continue. So, a very sober
and well thought conception should be evolved by the help of the scriptures
and the statements of the Vaisnavas and their experience-all these things
must be considered. Adjustment may help the mission to grow-adjustment
such that it may not be detrimental to the missionary activity. It is
a very difficult thing to adjust. Then there is acarya puja-afterwards
they should also show some respect to all others, the godbrothers of
the gurudeva. In this way the respect will be shown-the guru with his
parsada-with his friends (paricaraka sahitam). . . . But puja in a gorgeous
way whenever an acarya will come, that gorgeous puja that will create
havoc and disembarkment in the mission, so much grandeur. And now another
thing in the opposite. Mat guru si jagat guru-a newcomer, he should
be given such understanding that my guru is not less in capacity of
divinity [than Srila Prabhupada].The newcomers should be given the highest
attraction-to draw their maximum faith. Acaryam mam vijaniyam-sastra
has got no mean mantra for a small guru and a big mantra for a big guru.
Guru should be looked at by the disciple with maximum reverence. And
to draw the maximum reverence or sraddha, faith, from the disciple,
it is not a very easy thing. So, two things should be considered and
an intermediate process should be evolved.
Another less known case was that of a GBC overseeing
the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Sincerely concerned
that the worship being received by himself and
the other ten "appointed acaryas" was
excessive, he wrote a long paper on this subject
and removed his vyasasana from the temple room,
preparing for a more reasonable and less excessive
worship by his disciples. This was met publicly
by another long paper countering his. One of the
principle arguments in this second paper was that
you can prove anything, right or wrong, by sastra.
Then the authors (three GBC acaryas) attempted
to show that the acceptence of a humbler position
Privately, this GBC guru was told that if he did not drop the whole thing
and tow the party line (continued excessive worship) he would lose his
life blood, the controlling guardianship of the BBT (Srila Prabhupada's
book publishing arm)-he would be fired from his beloved service by the
GBC. Left with little choice, he curbed his reform. This also entailed
opposing Srila Sridhara Maharaja, whom he had previously approached in
good faith with heartfelt questions and had been satisfied (March 1981).
This GBC guru's situation was explained to Srila Sridhara Maharaja on
August 18, 1980, that as a result of reading Srila Prabhupada's books
he had had some realizations and consequently made some changes. In March
of 1981 he approached Srila Sridhara Maharaja in good faith and asked
many questions concerning these realizations. Srila Sridhara Maharaja's
substantial answers are given in chapter six in the section entitled,
A Fair Field is Necessary.
Under My Order
the following section we present relevant extracts
from Ravindra Svarupa's 1985 paper, "Under My Order," Reflections
on the Guru in ISKCON. Ravindra's paper confirms that the same feelings conveyed
above by [ name of GBC guru ] were felt by the entire
North American Temple Presidents and resident sannyasis present:
At the June, 1985 North American temple presidents meeting in Towaco,
N.J., subsequent to hearing and discussing a paper presented by Trivikrama
Maharaja, it was determined that Srila Prabhupada's order establishing
how the parampara should continue in ISKCON after
his departure was not clearly understood and hence not properly followed-and
was in fact contrary to his desire and incompatible with his plans for
ISKCON. The assembly agreed that this deviation
from Srila Prabhupada's order lies at the crux of ISKCON's
most grave and intractable problems.
assembly asked [Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu] to undertake
a closer investigation of the "apppointment issue" with
the aim of 1) precisely ascertaining the actual
order of Srila Prabhupada, 2) clearly understanding
the nature of our deviation from that order,
and 3) examining the consequences of that deviation
Ravindra Svarupa then presents the following evidence:
3 December 1980 in the Topanga Canyon Pyramid
House discussions Tamal Krsna Maharaja states, "Actually, Prabhupada never appointed
any gurus. He didn't appoint eleven gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks." His
appointment of July 8, 1977-which is the only appointment
on record-is the appointment of ritviks. Most devotees
who have studied the transcribed conversation wherein
the 'appointment' is made agree that it is reasonable
to conclude that Srila Prabhupada expected those
who officiated as ritviks in his presence would
continue after his disappearance as diksa-gurus
under his order.
his discussion at Topanga Canyon, Tamal Krsna
Goswami says, concerning the appointed ritviks, "Obviously, Srila Prabhupada felt that of
all the people, these people are particularly qualified. So it stands
to reason that after Srila Prabhupada's departure, they would go on,
if they so desired, to initiate." But, Tamal
Krsna Goswami says, something else was added: the
notion that the ritvik appointment of itself conferred
an exclusive and selected status, institutionally
elevating these devotees far beyond all others.
The ritvik appointment was considered the apppointment
of guru. Tamal Krsna Goswami continues,
They [the GBC] immediately [thought] these eleven
people are the selected gurus. I can say definately for myself . . .
that there was some degree of trying to control. There's a degree of
this in most GBC's part, in
most temple president's part. This is the conditioned
nature and it came out in the highest position
of all. "Guru, oh wonderful. Now I'm guru
and there's only eleven of us. This is what lead
us into this pitfall.
Because the appointment of ritvik was taken as equivalent to the appointment
of guru, the geographical considerations relevant to the institutionalization
of ritviks became carried over to the establishment of diksa-gurus,
and thus the exclusive guru zones came into being, and the initiating
gurus took possession of their territories as their exclusive and private
domains over which they held all spiritual and material authority.
gave eleven men permission to make disciples.
His order was misunderstood. Thus, in the Introduction
of a 1979 Vyasa-puja book for one of the original
eleven acaryas we read, "Desiring to prepare
his disciples for his departure, Srila Prabhupada
very wisely selected eleven of his most intimate
disciples to become both his material and spiritual
Thus, the appointment of ritviks is interpreted as the appointment,
not merely of diksa-gurus, but of successors, and not merely of successors,
but material and spiritual successors, which is to say, acaryas. Consequently,
ISKCON itself now passed
into the hands of eleven appointed "successor
formation of exclusive and private zones over
which the "zonal
acarya" exercises total material and spiritual authority is one
symptom of the illicit creation of "successor acaryas." A
second symptom is the way special asanas have been
established for the initiating gurus.
In this way, through our misunderstanding of Srila Prabhupada, the
initiating gurus assumed a position which was not granted to them, or
to anyone, by Srila Prabhupada, and which came into direct conflict
with his instructions for ISKCON. The initiating
gurus illegitimately became acaryas-in the very specific meaning of
the word acarya: the spiritual head of an institution; one who is elevated
above all others to the seat of the institution he heads.
I have taken this definition of acarya from the letter of August 7,
1978 from Pradyumna to Satsvarupa das Goswami. Since acarya is an office,
the notion of appointment applies to it, and normally, Pradyumna says,
acaryas appoint their successors. But it is clear that Srila Prabhupada,
like Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, rejected the idea of appointing
successor acaryas and instead established the idea of a GBC
as the head of the institution. The reader should now turn to this letter
[presented earlier in this section] for careful study. Pradyumna's lucid
statement of the misunderstanding would be difficult to improve on.
Reading this letter seven years after it was written [what to speak
of now, seventeen years later], one is astonished by the perspicuous
way Pradyumna spells out the issue and by the accuracy with which he
foresees the evil consequences of this misunderstanding. Pradyumna's
present spiritual status does not affect the truth and accuracy of his
mention again that the substance of Pradyumna's
letter was based on Srila Sridhara Maharaja's substantial
answers to Pradhumna's many questions regarding
proper standards regarding the gurudisciplegodbrother-relationships.
Svarupa's paper, "Under My Order," with
attached letter of Pradyumna Prabhu, was endorsed
by all North American temple presidents and sannyasis
present as representing an accurate accounting
and critical analysis of events within ISKCON.
Further emphasizing the seriousness of the deviation of ISKCON's
leaders, Ravindra Svarupa writes,
we do not change, some future acarya, emerged
out of the shambles of a dismantled ISKCON,
will pass the same kind of judgement on us that
Srila Prabhupada passed on his deviant Godbrothers.
If we do not change, this future acarya will
be able to write:"
Swami Prabhupada, at the time of his departure,
requested all his disciples to conduct missionary
activities cooperatively under the authority
of a governing body. He did not instruct any
particular men to become the next acaryas. But
just after his passing away, his leading secretaries
made plans, without authority, to occupy the
post of acarya. The single, international society
established by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
gradually split up into many small, local movements,
each headed by a single self-made acarya. Consequently,
all these factions were asara, or useless, because
they had no authority, having disobeyed the order
of the spiritual master."
Ravindra's statement above, 'If we do not change . . . then . . . asara,'
seems to imply that already ISKCON is in a questionable
area in this regard.
Formerly, the political doctrines of Machiavelli were very much in vogue
with several of our GBC leaders. According to the
New Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Machiavelli advocated that,
religion-for which he had a deep feeling though
he was not outwardly pious—was subordinated by
him to the state's iron necessity and made into
a tool of power.
In his principal work, The Prince, Machiavelli writes:
is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good
qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary
to appear to have them — to appear merciful,
faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to
be so, but with a mind so framed that should
you require not to be so, you may be able and
know how to change to the opposite. One is often
forced, in order to maintain the state, to act
contrary to faith, friendship, humanity, and
religion. Every one sees what you appear to be,
few really know what you are, and those few dare
not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many,
who have the majesty of the state to defend them;
and in the actions of all men, and especially
of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge,
one judges by the result.
In his private dealings with his subjects let him show that his judgements
are irrevocable, and maintain himself in such reputation that no one
can hope either to deceive him or to get round him.
This is a far cry from trnad api sunicena and the mood of Srila
Prabhupada. Needless to say, two of Machiavelli's most ardent fans are
no longer with us. At least one GBC guru even went
so far as to rent videos of Hitler to learn how to manipulate the masses
Prabhupada repeatedly asked his fellow countrymen
to please accept his Western disciples as bonafide
devotees, but after Srila Prabhupada left us, suddenly
we are the only Vaisnavas— anyone outside ISKCON
is asara, useless. This is very offensive to so
many bonafide devotees who are sincerely serving
Krsna (and for many Srila Prabhupada) according
to divine arrangement.
many years, our godbrothers have found their dealings
with the leaders of ISKCON frustrating (to say
the least) and unproductive. We are not alone in
our societal problems however. Studies of the group
dynamic by the social psychologist Irving Janis
(Yale & Berkeley
Universities) showed a phenomenon called 'groupthink.'
In groupthink, decision makers tacitly conspire
to ignore crucial information because it somehow
challenges a collective view with which everyone
is comfortable. Loyalty to the group requires that
members not raise embarrassing questions, attack
weak arguments, or counter softheaded thinking
with hard facts. Janis sums it up: 'The more amiability
and espirit de corps among the members of a policy-making
in-group, the greater the danger that independent
critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink.
The most likely result is a faulty decision.'
Groupthink, according to other organizational experts is a danger inherent
in the structure of a corporation [albeit material or spiritual], where
the success or failure of an employee [aspiring devotee] depends to a
large extent on his immediate superior's evaluation. Thus the junior is
more than happy to support the senior one's opinions, even when he sees
they are wrong. Independent experimenters tested the 'boss' in various
groups to see how much he was motivated by the need for power. People
high in this motive do things for the sake of making an impact on others,
rather than to meet an inner standard of excellence.
In actual discussions, those leaders high in the need for power sought
fewer facts from other group members and were offered fewer proposals.
Once the leader had expressed his views, members fell in line, deferring
to him. They seemed to be democratic in the way they ran things-but actually
they subtly reinforced compliance with their own opinions.
The more often the symptoms of groupthink crop up, the worse the resulting
illusions, and the poorer the decisions that that group will make. The
healthy alternative is a group that balances unity with an openness to
all relevent information-even at the risk of a fracas from time to time.
[Science of Business, October 1985 pp. 18-20]
these studies sound all too familiar, unfortunately
applicable. Again this does not at all reflect
the mood of Srila Prabhupada. Ravindra Svarupa
Prabhu gives a still applicable description of
ISKCON in his paper, Ending the Fratricidal War
(written in the mid 1980s):
root of all problems now facing ISKCON
is that we, the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, have not established
proper Vaisnava relationships among ourselves. While Srila Prabhupada
was here with us, we did not enjoy such relationships, and our spiritual
master plainly told us that our greatest fault was our tendency to quarrel
with each other.
society of devotees in which proper Vaisnava
relations are not yet the norm is called a kanistha-adhikari
society. It's distinguishing characteristic is
contentiousness arising from envy. Envy is a
product of false ego. Because of false ego, the
members are unable to establish spiritual friendship
among themselves. Instead, they vie with each
other for prestige, power, and perquisites (special
favors). Intensely desiring the honor and respect
of others, the contentious neophyte pretends
to be more advanced than he actually is. He tries
to conceal his shortcomings and falldowns, and
in so doing he develops a secretive mentality
and holds himself back from entering into open
and honest relations with his godbrothers. Because
he cannot reveal his mind in confidence, he remains
aloof from real fellowship. He strays from the
path of devotional service and cuts himself off
from hearing and becomes impervious to instruction
and good advice. Because he has many secret misgivings
about himself, he becomes eager to find the faults
immaturity often leads a kanistha-adhikari to
identify spiritual advancement with organizational
advancement. He thinks that attaining prestige,
power, and the perquisites of office is evidence
of spiritual advancement In this way competition
becomes institutionalized in kanistha-adhikari
tragedy of ISKCON at the present time
is that while the society contains many advanced devotees of the stature
of madhyama and even uttama-adhikaris, the society as a whole is still
operating on the kanistha platform. Although they know and intend better,
the leaders of ISKCON repeatedly
find themselves, to their dismay, involved in highly
immature patterns of relationships with others.
This anomolous situation can only be attributed
to an inheritance from the past."
Prabhu then mentions that the only means to rise
to the madhyama platform is through a determined
vow of strong sadhana, thereby gradually destroying
the false ego. Further, he states that due to the
long-standing political power-game, reform may
be treated as an opposing element to be defeated.
However, "any devotee who wants to institute
reform must begin with himself. The prerequisite
for coming to the madhyama stage is to be a strict
follower of the regulative principles and concentrate
on offense-avoiding japa. A reformer should recognize
sense gratification and false ego as the two great
impediments to Vaisnava fellowship."
Ravindra Prabhu indicates that there are indeed
many deep problems, even at the highest level,
like the top "spiritual" leaders
not following the basic principles of Krsna consciousness-the same things
which were repeatedly emphasized strongly by Srila Prabhupada. Other major
problems revealed by Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu are the leaders entanglement
in the "political power game," forcing
their control on all ISKCON devotees and intolerance of all reform attempts-completely
crushing time and time again the enthusiasm of so many sincere godbrothers.
Certainly, the first prerequisite for advancing beyond this point is to
admit that we do indeed have these problems and subsequently take the
necessary steps to correct them. Then we can get on to the real business-Krsna
consciousness. Will these types of activities help one become Krsna conscious?
Weeds of Diplomacy & Duplicity
"Unnecessary and unacceptable creepers growing along with ones bhakti-lata creeper of devotion are kutinati-diplomatic behavior, jiva-himsana-animal
killing, labha-mundane profiteering, puja-mundane adoration and pratishta-adi-mundane
importance. All these are unwanted creepers." (Chaitanya-caritamrta,
Madya-lila 19.159) In the purport of this verse Srila Prabhupada writes,
"Kutinati, or diplomat behavior, cannot satisfy the atma, the soul.
It cannot even satisfy the body or the mind. The culprit mind is always
suspicious; therefore our dealing should always be straightforward and
approved by Vedic authorities. If we treat people diplomatically or duplicitously,
our spiritual advancement is obstructed." Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami
writes further, "If one does not distinguish between the bhakti-lata
creeper and the other creepers, the sprinkling of water [in the forms
of hearing and chanting and serving etc] is misused because the other
creepers are nourished while the bhakti-lata creeper is curtailed."
(Chaitanya-caritamrta, Madya-lila 19.160) Further, untruthfulness enters
in when one is not straightforward in his dealings with other devotees
and is condemned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam with the admonition that, "There
is nothing more sinful than untruthfulness. Because of this, mother earth
once said, 'I can bear any heavy thing except a person who is a liar.'"
(Srimad-bhagvatam 8.20.4) "As for actual advancement in spiritual
science, one should have a test to see how far he is progressing. He can
judge by these items: Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance;
simplicity; etc; etc . . . Simplicity means that without diplomacy one
should be so straightforward that he can disclose the real truth even
to an enemy." (Bg. 13.8-12, purp.) "The mind should be devoid
of duplicity, and one should think of the welfare of all . . . One should
be straightforward in his dealings and thereby purify his existence." (Bg.
In Los Angeles Srila Prabhupada spoke,
In the path of Krsna consciousness the first principle is enthusiasm.
If you lack enthusiasm then other things will not happen. And you can
keep enthusiasm if you follow the rules and regulations and chant regularly
Hare Krsna mantra. Otherwise that enthusiasm also will dry. So six things
are required for advancing Krsna consciousness. The first thing is enthusiasm.
Utsahan dhairyat. And patient. And niscayad, with conviction, firm conviction.
Utsahan dhairyat niscayad tat tat karma pravartanat. Following the rules
and regulation, chalked out plans. And sato vrtteh, dealing very straightforward.
No diplomacy, no politics, no duplicity. That will not help. Sato vrtteh.
Vrtteh, his profession should be very straightforward. No underhand
dealings. Sato vrtteh and sadhu sanga, and in the association of devotees.
Six things. Enthusiasm, patience, firm conviction, following the rules
and regulations, dealing straightforward, no duplicity, and in association
of devotees. If you can keep these six principles always in front then
your progress in Krsna consciousness is sure. There is no doubt about
it. So as far as possible I've tried to train you and you are doing
nice. I'm satisfied. So keep the standard and go on. March forward and
Krsna will bless you. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna. (700802NP.LA)
Living GBC Committee Wanted
In the Prabhupadanuga Newsletter, Vol 1, No. 1, Sivarama Swami suggests
that the GBC members should be more in touch with
the rest of ISKCON, then "the GBC could
actually be leaders or sources of inspiration. Instead,
they get there once a year, and try to be just simply
administrators, and try to solve problems through
Srila Sridhara Maharaja's advice was similar,
Not just a formal meeting for two days, three days. But it must be
a meeting to satisfy the real necessity of the day. That is a living
committee that we want. Living committee we want. Not a formal meeting.
After one year, a formal meeting and some resolutions passed and everyone
has gone to his own field and is doing as he likes. Hare Krsna. Gaura
Somaka Maharaja has quoted in his paper entitled, In Search of Harmony, a statement
of Tamal Krsna Maharaja made during a class given in Italy:
We are a movement of brahmanas, but actually the mode of dealing with
one another appears to be more the mode of a ksatriya. Brahmanas are
very softhearted and feel very much for the misery of others, but all
the time we hear that softness is sentimentalism, and just looking to
many of our bylaws it just reflects the ksatriya mode. I very strongly
feel that we should do less legislation and develope more deep personal
relations and deepen our love for each other-but to be able to get to
that platform we should give up the ambition for name and position.
I Told Them Right at the Beginning
Srila Sridhara Maharaja advised in March of 1981:
I say that the ideal is all-important, and next, unity. Administration
is the position of the ksatriya, and the acarya's work, that is for the
brahmana who does not care for this worldly achievement. That is for the
brahmanas, and administration is with the ksatriya, finance with the vaisya.
This should be the general conception. So, those with brahmanic temperament,
they should be concerned about sastric knowledge; that is their laksana
[symptom]: sabde pare ca nisnatam [ The qualification of a spiritual master
is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation
and arguments. (Bhag. 11.3.21) ]
Life cannot be ruled by only law. Vitality must also be accomodated.
Law and vitality. Law is there, but merit or vitality cannot be checked.
Merit must have proper field. But law should not check the proper person
and only encourage the improper one. Both sides must be there; regulative
law is also necessary but must be subservient to the natural growth. Suppose
a boy requests more food, he will grow and be more strong. If you give
enough food, then this is justice-according to his capacity he should
be given food, he will get more strength and do more work. So this sort
of provision must be in the law, is it not? This will make the movement
quite living. That is my opinion. So it must be a living Governing Body,
not a mechanical Governing Body. Fair field. As much as possible, our
aim should be towards that. Seva is necessary, but who will be the general?
Only seniority? That may be reckoned, but always seniority man not do
the work. Even a younger man may be promoted to general. Just as Rommel
was given the position and he showed his capacity. So, the body should
be formed in such a way that a fair field is created, and the qualified
persons may have a better chance, otherwise they will be jealous of one
another and the work will be lost. The merit must be given freedom and
help. I think it should be like that. A fair field. So, they are to take
decision on that point in this meeting, a very important meeting.
Satsvarupa Das Goswami: They will, Ramesvara Maharaja, has proposed
on this question of the extension of the acaryaship that the GBC come
to take your advice.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: I told them right at the beginning [March 1978]
when they came to discuss with me about this after
Swami Maharaja departed. Then I suggested that
this should be made into a dynamic practice so
that every year during Gaura Purnima some new gurus
can be included. Then the other party, the non-initiating
godbrothers will have their confidence on the initiating
godbrothers and give their support to them. Otherwise
if they maintain some rigid practice then the relationship
will be cracked. This was my suggestion but they
did not care about that. On the other hand, emphatically
they said that "No, only these eleven that
Srila Prabhupada has selected will remain. Outside
these eleven they will not include anybody else.
I pointed out that if you include some more initiating
gurus that will be more favorable. As it is now,
when you are all going to leave [pass away], then
you will have to appoint your disciples as initiating
gurus. You have to empower your disciples so why
can't you do that to your brothers? Can there be
a more qualified person? So, better you keep it
open. This practice will be very dynamic. If needed,
you eliminate some people also from their position
of guru and include also somebody when he is qualified.
We Must Not Go Outside the Eleven
anyhow, they went away, did not oppose me here,
but after going away from me, I heard they expressed
that no, these eleven, we must not go outside the
eleven. That was their decision and so they go
on and are rather avoiding me. That was the cause
of their avoidance, and indifference towards me.
I think like so. Sometimes they come with particular
cases, but not for general advice. They do not
want to listen to the uncle gurus."
Bhakti Caru Swami: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told Vallabha Acarya that
the one who does not recognize the superiority of the spiritual master
is like a prostitute. At least there was some scriptural understanding.
But here there is no scriptural understanding. . . . Maharaja, the main
consideration is that many of Prabhupada's disciples are leaving the movement.
They are quite unable to tolerate all this nonsense any more.
Sridhara Maharaja: The primary consideration is Krsna's will.
they didn't come and for many years against all
advice and godbrother complaints, the GBC voted
to not extend the number of gurus-a decision which
was to discourage so many devotees and further
shake their faith in the GBC's management. Additionally,
when Sridhara Maharaja expressed his dissatisfaction
with their " injudicial and
potentially disastrous" decision, the GBC,
rather than consider that perhaps their actions
might be unfair to the godbrothers, stated that
Srila Sridhara Maharaja was trying to destroy ISKCON.
Truth Seekers are Fearless
Surely many of our readers have their own viewpoints to add. Those wishing
to contribute to the ongoing Modern History of Vaisnavism are encouraged
to communicate with us. We are open to thoughtful considerations. We feel
that our intentions are well meant, we would like to see reform--substantial
reform, but judging from the mood during recent encounters with the GBC we more or less consider that unlikely. So, we hope to inspire
devotees to progress enthusiastically in the evolution of their Krsna
consciousness by providing inspiration in the form of this presentation
and ongoing enlightening discussion. We are looking for the Supreme Absolute
Truth, satyam param dhimahi, so what objection can there be to enlightenment,
unless we are hiding something? Are we engaged in a real process? Do we
really believe in Krsna? If so, then we must act like it. If we are actual
seekers after truth we will be fearless. To quote Srila Sridhara Maharaja,
What we have received from our spiritual master we understood only
in a rough estimation. Now, things have come in such a way that we have
to scrutinize ourselves in every position. We have to analyze ourselves.
has begun. We are under trial. The fire has come to test whether we
can stand. Is our acceptance real? Or is it a sham, an imitation? This
fire will prove that. Posterity will judge and history will stand witness.
And it is.
Prabhupada asked us to show our love for him by
cooperating with one another, but one should realize
that he meant to cooperate with those who are cooperating
with him [with his actual mood towards all aspects
of devotional service], who are following strictly,
are exhibiting proper Vaisnava qualities, and whose
activities are in accordance with sastra as Srila
Prabhupada always was. Srila Prabhupada said, "our movement
is based on love and trust, so if we do not cooperate, then how is that
love and trust?" [Ltr Krsnavesa dasi, 16 Jan.
1975] To cooperate for Krsna consciousness is the
principle-not to compromise Krsna consciousness for
the sake of unity-to blindly follow, even when we
detect wrongdoing. But cooperation-love and trust-require
that they be two way streets. One famous devotee
made a movie about an ISKCON guru.
During the production of the movie, this devotee discovered that the guru
didn't show any humility or loving reciprocation--proper Vaishnava qualities,
etc--inotherwords, it was a one way street. This devotee, whose faith
was shattered by this discovery, went on to show just this lacking in
the movie, The Pursuaders.
Srila Prabhupada himself personally fired the entire GBC
on at least two occasions and always reviewed and rejected decisions by
the GBC which were not Krsna conscious. A memo was
sent to all ISKCON temples on 8th April, 1972:
. . . I also understand that immediate actions are going to take place
even prior to my permission, and that also, 'without divulging to the
devotees!' . . . Under these circumstances, I AUTHORIZE
YOU TO DISREGARD FOR THE TIME BEING ANY DECISION FROM THE GBC MEN UNTIL
MY FURTHER INSTRUCTION. . . . Finally, I beg to repeat that ALL
GBC ORDERS ARE SUSPENDED HEREWITH BY ME UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
Your ever well-wisher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.
Three days later, Prabhupada wrote to Hansadutta,
. . . there was to be immediate action without divulging the matter
to the devotees. And I am surprised that none of the GBC
members detected the defects in the procedure. It was detected only
when it came to me. What will happen when I am not here, shall everything
be spoiled by GBC? So for the time being, let the
GBC activities be suspended until I thoroughly revise the whole
procedure. . . So our view is that we shall be strictly following the
rules and regulations. Monetary matters are secondary.
And what is the recourse for us? We have seen repeatedly that we have
very little. By preaching and bringing the conditioned souls to devotional
service we please Caitanya Mahaprabhu and thereby we also get some benefit
and advance in Krsna consciouness. Conversely, we must consider the consequences
of causing servants to go away from the Lord. Certainly, He must be very
displeased. And this will surely bring much distress on the heads of those
who are responsible.
objection will undoubtedly be raised by the powers
that be, that this book will disturb the minds
of many devotees. Our answer is that these leaders
have been greatly disturbing the minds of many
sincere devotees for about thirty years to the
extent that a majority of thoughtful minded devotees
have had no choice but to leave this sphere of
power to try and pursue Krsna consciousness without
the politics and other un-Krsna conscious influences.
And the bottom line is that the leaders are directly
responsible for this exodus and must answer above
(to Krsna). So many devotees have been cheated
from a full healthy conception of Krsna consciousness.
This book is addressed mainly to the mass of devotees outside ISKCON
as well as inside--mainly to those previously in ISKCON,
who are already troubled, to those who are looking
for some answers, some stability in all of this,
those who are just hanging on, out there somewhere.
We are seeking in the words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja,
to do some "relief
work." To the discouraged we say, don't "throw out the baby
with the bathwater," there are viable alternatives.
We are not fooled by the thousands running in the
front door of ISKCON,
we are lamenting the thousands, who for many years have been running out
the back door of ISKCON with
a bad taste, unable to find proper shelter. Nor are
we attracted by the heavy faultfinders, whose "food and drink is vaisnava-aparadha," although we must
admit that their unfortunate situation is caused by these same wrongdoings.
The situation is so discouraging that many sincere devotees in their desperation
have turned to a more drastic and offensive mode of life. While we can
understand their frustration we do not think, that if one's motives are
sincere and pure, that they will follow such a path. Rather, we propose
a more moderate, thoughtful path-"the power of positive thinking," yet
not one of tolerating wrongdoing.
Boil the Milk
Prabhupada told us many times to "boil the milk," that
is that we must concentrate on all becoming better devotees. His concern
was that the process not become watered down but we all become strongly
situated in Krsna consciousness. In a letter to Hansadutta (6-22-72) Srila
Prabhupada said, "Become very much responsible, study things from
every point of view." And in a letter to Rupanuga (5-9-72), "I
am fearful that if we expand too much in this way that we shall become
weakened and gradually the whole thing will become lost . . . Now do like
that, boil the milk . . ." And when asked in Atlanta, what would
please him the most, Srila Prabhupada replied, "If
you love Krsna."
On a deep and substantial Krsna conscious level, Srila Sridhara Maharaja
and Srila Prabhupada's mood is very similar-perhaps not so easily discernible
to many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples. Our contention is that Srila
Sridhara Maharaja's sastrically perfect advice is an invaluable asset
in our continuous and progressive evolution of Krsna consciousness. Considering
the change in mood and behavior of the ISKCON leaders
following the departure of Srila Prabhupada, any differences between Srila
Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja are paled in comparison.
five cont. ~ outside