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.

In 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.

GBC Apologizes?

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:

The 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 Resolutions.

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 disciples.

Thirdly, 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 acharyas. This 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.

Secondly, 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.

I 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 of health.

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 with godbrothers:

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 respect.

Acarya Grandeur

On August 18, 1980 Srila Sridhara Maharaja addressed the problem of acarya grandeur:

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 was improper.

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

In 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.

The 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 for ISKCON.

Ravindra Svarupa then presents the following evidence:

On 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.

In 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.

Prabhupada 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 successors."

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 acaryas."

The 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 letter.

We 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.

Ravindra 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,

"If 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:"

"Bhaktivedanta 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.

Machiavelli's Princes

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,

Even 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:

It 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 [of devotees].

Srila 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.


For 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]

Kanistha Society

Surprisingly, 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):

"The 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.

"A 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 of others.

"Spiritual 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 societies.

"The 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."

Ravindra 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."

Here, 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?

The 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. 17.16, purp)

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 administration."

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 Hari Bol.

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

But 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.


But, 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. Atma-niksepa, self-analysis 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.

Srila 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.

GBC Suspended

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.

An 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

Srila 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.

Chapter five cont. ~ outside