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Sanga: Siksa Guru Parampara

Submitted by on August 21, 2009 – 12:14 am39 Comments

swami3Q & A with Swami Tripurari

Q. Would you explain the difference between the siksa-guru-parampara of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and the guru-pranali system followed by some of the other Gaudiya Vaisnava sects?

A. Gaudiya sects that follow what is known as the siddha-pranali or guru-pranali system teach that initiation into Gaudiya Vaisnavism is valid only if the initiating (diksa) guru can document that he is connected to an unbroken chain of diksa gurus going back to an associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In some of these lineages, initiates are given a spiritual form to meditate on and are informed of what is believed to be the spiritual identity of all the initiating gurus in the succession.

In contrast, our param guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, rather than citing a list of diksa gurus who individually may or may not have been qualified, traced his lineage through a succession of significant acaryas who were like lighthouses illuminating the world in different periods of time. He referred to this type of spiritual lineage as a Bhagavata-guru-parampara, a succession of spiritually advanced teachers linked by either diksa or siksa. He emphasized essence over form, and thus in some instances laid stress on a previous acarya’s more qualified siksa guru rather than his sometimes questionable diksa guru. Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, author of the sampradaya’s commentary on the Vedanta-sutra (Govinda-bhasya), also presented Sri Caitanya’s lineage in a similar fashion. Here is how he described it in his Prameya-ratnavali:

Sri Krishna’s disciple was Brahma, whose disciple was the sage of the demigods, Narada. His disciple was Badarayana (Vyasa), whose disciple was Madhva. His disciple was Padmanabha, whose disciple was Nrihari. His disciple was Madhava, whose disciple was Aksobhya, whose disciple was Jaya Tirtha. His disciple was Jnanasindhu, whose disciple was Dayanidhi. His disciple was Vidyanidhi, whose disciple was Jayadharma. His disciple was Purusottama, and his disciple was Brahmanya, whose disciple was Vyasa Tirtha. His disciple was Laksmipati, and his disciple was Madhavendra, whose disciples were Isvara, Advaita, and Nityananda, the gurus of the whole world. Another of his disciples was Sri Caitanya, who we offer our respects to.

One should note that Padmanabha Tirtha, Nrihari Tirtha, Madhava Tirtha, and Aksobhya Tirtha were all direct diksa disciples of Madhvacarya and were not successive links in a diksa chain. Yet Baladeva Vidyabhusana lists them as disciples of one after the other, indicating that the link between them was of siksa and not diksa (Padmanabha gave instruction to Nrihari, Nrihari instructed Madhava, and so on).

In a discussion on this topic, Pujyapad Sridhara Deva Goswami said, “Our guru-parampara, disciplic succession, follows the ideal, not the body; it is a succession of instructing spiritual masters, not formal initiating spiritual masters. In a song about our guru-parampara written by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, it is mentioned, mahaprabhu sri caitanya radha krsna nahe anya rupanuga janera jivana: the highest truth of Krishna consciousness comes down through the channel of siksa gurus, instructing spiritual masters. Those who have the standard of realization in the proper line have been accepted in the list of our disciplic succession.” (Sri Guru and His Grace)

Q. In your book Sri Guru Parampara: Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Heir to the Esoteric Life of Kedarnath Bhaktivinoda, you write, “The basis of all criticism levied at Bhaktisiddhanta and his gosthi by other Gaudiya Vaisnava sects, the Radha-kunda babajis as well as the followers of Lalita Prasad Thakura, is that when Bhaktisiddhanta rejected Bhaktivinoda’s initiating guru, Bipin Bihari Goswami [which indeed did not appear to sit well with Bhaktivinoda], he also rejected the tradition’s stress on the diksa-guru-parampara.”

When you write in brackets, “Which indeed did not appear to sit well with Bhaktivinoda,” are you saying that Bhaktivinoda Thakura was in some way disturbed or displeased with Bhaktisiddhanta for his rejection of Bipin Bihari Goswami?

A. Essentially, my booklet Sri Guru Parampara seeks to establish that Bhaktisiddhanta inherited the spiritual wealth of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was empowered by him to keep his current of spirituality alive in the world. When I say that Bhaktisiddhanta’s rejection of Bipin Bihari Goswami “appeared” to not sit well with Bhaktivinoda Thakura, I mean that despite the fact that he had more realization than his own diksa guru, the Thakura continued to show at least formal respect to him. However, when Bipin Bihari Goswami rejected the Thakura’s revelation concerning the birthplace (yoga-pitha) of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and thus Bhaktivinoda himself; it became apparent that the long-held objections that Bhaktisiddhanta had voiced against him were credible.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta reasoned that, all considered, the realization found in Bhaktivinoda should not be traced to his diksa guru, Bipin Bihari Goswami, but rather to one who had more substantial realization and at the same time considerable influence over the Thakura. That someone was Bhaktivinoda’s siksa guru, Jagannatha dasa Babaji, who incidentally honored the Thakura’s yoga-pitha revelation.

Q. Srila Prabhupada’s disciple, Gaura Govinda Swami (now deceased), was born into a family of Vaisnavas in the holy city of Jagannatha Puri. Some devotees believe that because of the Swami’s background and record of service Srila Prabhupada gave him some type of siddha-pranali initiation. Do you think that this is at all possible?

A. Gaura Govinda Maharaja pleased Srila Prabhupada immensely by translating his books into the local language of Oriya. Srila Prabhupada had also asked Gaura Govinda Maharaja to help him establish a Krsna-Balarama temple in Bhubanesvara, thus giving the Swami another opportunity to render a service that was very dear to his heart. While Srila Prabhupada may have given him spiritual instructions on any number of issues both exoteric and esoteric, I see no reason to speculate that he gave Gaura Govinda Maharaja something that both he and his spiritual master spoke against. The fact remains that siddha-pranali is not given in the line of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. He did not give it, nor did our Srila Prabhupada, nor did Pujyapda Sridhara Maharaja, nor is it necessary to receive this information to attain the Gaudiya ideal of Vraja-bhakti. Indeed, in many instances where this practice is common, it is more of a sham than anything else. So, to reiterate, I do not believe that Srila Prabhupada gave siddha-pranali to Gaura Govinda Maharaja or to anyone else.

Q. Is it correct or acceptable to make distinctions and meditate on the diksa guru and/or different siksa gurus taking into consideration the way they influence, teach, and serve as models to us in what concerns the three stages of bhakti known as sambandha (conceptual orientation), abhidheya (the nature of the path), and prayojana (the goal)?

A. The diksa guru’s function is part of sambandha-tattva and the siksa guru’s function is part of abhidheya-tattva. At the same time, individual gurus may primarily represent any of the three tattvas. For example, in our line Sanatana Goswami largely represents sambandha-tattva, Rupa Goswami abhidheya-tattva, and Raghunahta dasa Goswami prayojana-tattva. This conclusion can be drawn from their lives and literature. So there is no harm in your proposal.

Q. Some Gaudiya sects argue that the sannyasa of Bhaktisiddhanta was invalid because the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana taught that there was to be no sannyasa in the sampradaya. Specifically, they say that Sanatana Goswami told Jagadananda that Vaisnavas should not wear red cloth, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu himself cited a sloka against the idea of taking sannyasa in Kali-yuga.

A. In previous Sangas (see below), I discussed these objections in more detail, but briefly Sanatana’s comments about red cloth were in regard to mayavadi sannyasa; and the famous scriptural statement prohibiting sannyasa in Kali-yuga speaks of karma sannyasa, which refers to those who take sannyasa in old age even though they have no spiritual knowledge. We agree that karma sannyasa is prohibited as Caitanya Mahaprabhu himself cited a verse against it from the Brahma-vaivarta Purana in his conversation with Chand Kazi. Of course, shortly afterwards Mahaprabhu himself took sannyasa for preaching. In his midst there were also a good number of sannyasis; for example, Prabhodananda Saraswati, Paramananda, Madhavendra, and his guru Isvara Puri. Srimad Bhagavatam also speaks of sannyasa. We call this Vaisnava sannyasa, or tridandi sannyasa, of which Sri Ramanuja is a good example. So objections to the sannyasa of Bhaktisiddhanta on the basis of its being prohibited in the sampradaya are not substantial.

Bhaktisiddhanta took sannyasa in consideration of daiva-varnasrama, which in general is a semblance of varnasrama for Vaisnavas who have yet to attain perfection. The idea of daiva-varnasrama originated in Bhaktivinoda, who instructed Bhaktisiddhanta to institute it. By adopting sannyasa, Bhaktisiddhanta in a sense stepped down, not up, in order to set an example of how to serve the paramahamsa Vaisnavas through preaching/kirtana as a parivrajakacarya (itinerant preacher). His purpose in taking sannyasa was to aid in the establishment of a mission that would spread the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world. As we have seen, by the grace of the guru-parampara and Krishna, and through his disciple A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, he was supremely successful.

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  • Worminstool

    Some modern thinkers believe that the old, ancient Vedic system of guru parampara was dependent upon actual personal contact between the guru and the disciple because originally all the Vedic knowledge and tradition was transmitted orally from the guru to the disciple, but that in the modern age with the advent of the printing press and in the time of Srila Prabhupada there was also video and audio recordings that provided for that same transmission of knowledge that in ancient times could only be performed through personal contact with the guru.

    Isn’t it a sort of false premise in these modern times to pretend that the transmission of spiritual knowledge is still dependent upon an antiquated concept of guru parampara that is based upon oral dissemination from the guru directly into the ear of the disciple?

    Does this old relic of guru parampara that functioned thousands of years ago before the invention of printing presses, television, radio and computer still have the same relevance today that it did thousands of years ago?

    Certainly not, but that is not to say that there is still not much good benefit in personal contact with the guru or any sadhu, though Srila Prabhupada certainly demonstrated in ISKCON that he was willing to accept disciples that he personally had never observed, instructed or groomed.

    There is a fairly significant number of ISKCON devotees who were initiated as disciples of Srila Prabhupada, with his sanction and approval, that he in fact certainly did not have any so-called traditional relationship with. They were initiated as disciples of Srila Prabhupada because of their connection to him through service, books, tapes, videos and senior disciples.

    If we look at Srila Prabhupada’s example, we find that the parampara is certainly not limited to the old, ancient, stereotyped idea that is now prominent in a struggling and stumbling Krishna consciousness movement.

    Before the “ritvik” terminology entered the ISKCON lexicon, it was simply senior disciples of Srila Prabhupada performing formal initiations on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. There was no such controversial term as “ritvik” for the greater part of ISKCON history.
    Nobody seemed to have any issue with the process until the dreaded “ritvik” term popped-up giving the critics a piñata to bash until the candy all fell out into their hands.

    Why the process that Srila Prabhupada instituted had to become scorned and ridiculed as “ritvik heresy” can be credited to Tamal Krishna Maharaja and NOT to Srila Prabhupada directly.

    When it was practiced as simply senior disciples performing duties on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, it was never controversial.
    When the “ritvik” tag got attached to it, it then became eligible for criticism and controversy and ultimately labeled as heresy.

    In fact, if there was a heretic in ISKCON, there is certainly no one more deserving of the title than Srila Prabhupada.

    Now, all the heresy that Srila Prabhupada advocated with his modern system of guru parampara has become a source of much hate and contempt amongst a class of disciples who are in fact now career gurus.

    Is Gaudiya Vaishnavism so rigid, brittle and dogmatic that any new convention implemented by an acharya has to be labeled as heresy?

    If Krishna consciousness is actually being distributed to the illusioned souls of Kali-yuga, what then can be the heresy?

    Is the nose more important than the breath of life?

    • Amit Palit

      All glory to Guru and Gouranga ! This message is on behalf of Dr. Raghavananda Roy. Dr. Roy is the son of Jati Sekhar Das prabhu who was the direct disciple of Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad. Jati Sekhar Das Prabhu was also the editor of the goudiya magazine “paramarthi” for 40 years. Since this entire article is about Guru Parampara, we want to request you to read the website http://www.guruparampara.info , this website has the original letters and proofs which were published during Saraswati Goswami Thakur’s time period. The entire content in this website was not written to insult anyone but based on true facts. We request you to read the details and let us know about any clarifications. Dandavat ( Amit Palit)

  • Worminstool

    One point I forgot to mention in my last comment is that if you do a thorough search through all the books translated by Srila Prabhupada, you will find that in the original Sanskrit and Bengali verses of the ISKCON canon, the term parampara appears only once. (Bhagavad-gita 4.2.)

    What does this mean?
    I guess that is something to think about, but it certainly seems to indicate that in the Vaishnava canon there is not nearly as much emphasis on this so-called parampara as is being made out of it nowadays.
    In the books it appears that substantial contact with Vaishnavas and Vaishnavism seems to be all-important, over and above the formal act of accepting diksha.
    Certainly, Mahaprabhu did not practice or advocate any form of formal initiation in his South India preaching campaign which is touted in CC as the most successful campaign of Mahaprabhu’s personal pastimes on Earth.
    The argument those most all these South Indian converts already had some form of formal diksha doesn’t seem to satisfy the requirements of any so-called traditional GV parivar.
    But, the fact that before the Goswamis of Vrindavan codified the Gaudiya canon, Mahaprabhu did not practice giving formal initiation to thousands of converts he made around India.

    • … if you do a thorough search through all the books translated by Srila Prabhupada, you will find that in the original Sanskrit and Bengali verses of the ISKCON canon, the term parampara appears only once.

      A search for the term parampara does not constitute a scriptural study of the concept. Sampradaya has a similar meaning. In Bhaktivinoda’s Sajjana-tosani 4/4, he states that if you see “some selfish persons from a bona fide sampradaya indulge in sinful activities, [do not] condemn the process of bona fide sampradaya. The duty of an intelligent person is to try to purify the sampradaya after joining it- When good items are not available in the market and various artificial items are abundant, it is sensible to reform the market…”

      • Good point Gauravani, and thank you for the quote from BVT. Very simply the gist of the Gita verse abut parampara tells us that when there is confusion about the teaching, the parampara is the answer. Pramapara means “one after another.”

        As Anthony has pointed out the ritvik notion is relative o the Iskcon sect. Let me add that it arises out of a lacking s dynamic spiritual leadership. So ritvik can only thrive where this is laking. But if people want to pursue this conception of succession, let them do so an see where it goes. If they can set a bette example, then that will speak volumes. But so far I have not seen this and the fighting and bickering surrounding this issue is not helpful to anyone’s spiritual life.

  • Kula-pavana

    IMO the true value of a guru is in his ability to inspire and properly guide his disciples on the path of bhakti. Providing knowledge is merely a part of that function. Today there are so many sources of knowledge, so many good Vaishnava books, lectures, and various other presentations. But where is the guidance?

    When disciples of the same guru fight like mad over various philosophical and practical issues stemming from that guru’s teachings, with each side claiming to be the only one which properly understands them – where is the proper guidance? Who is supposed to settle these disputes?

    I am very encouraged to see more and more devotees take guidance from the current mature gurus like Tripurari Maharaja. They are the future of Lord Caitanya’s mission in the West. For the most part their gurus function just like the system intendend, by inspiring, guiding, and disseminating knowledge. I have been observing their disciples for many years and in general I like what I see. That is parampara in action.

    • Amara dasa

      Just imagine if Srila Prabhupada had only sent over books and tape recordings instead of personally coming to America! Can we honestly believe Lord Caitanya’s movement would have spread that way? No…personal association is the magic touch that makes our spiritual inspiration and advancement really take off. Books, recordings, letters, e-mails, etc. are all very nice and helpful but their inevitable conclusion culminates in the special magic of personally associating with a pure devotee of the Lord. Nothing can compare with this in all the three worlds!

      • Worminstool

        Well, in fact most of the devotees that joined ISKCON came after getting a book. I know that was certainly the way it happened for me. Somebody showed me the book and I immediately took to it and within a few weeks was flying off to L.A. to join ISKCON.
        Maybe, in the begging, Srila Prabhupada attracted some people by his personal charisma, but for the most part ISKCON brought in new devotees with books, festivals and prasadam.
        The claim that most ISKCON devotees joined because of personal contact and conversion by Srila Prabhupada is in fact a modern myth.

        • They joined because there was an author of the book to be connected with.

          • Worminstool

            My belief is that there is no better connection to Srila Prabhupada than in his books.
            I don’t believe in the theory that the connection is not the book itself and there is some better connection through physical proximity.
            Srila Prabhupada seemed to be saying to most his disciples that reading the books was the most important connection over and above being in his physical proximity.
            I don’t believe that the devotees in physical proximity have any better connection than the devotees who know Prabhupada through his books.
            Some of the top ISKCON leaders now like Radhanatha Swami, Sivarama Swami etc. had very little if any personal contact with Srila Prabhupada.

          • In the opinion of Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja the scripture is a passive agent of divinity and the sadhu is an active agent of the same. But that does not mean that some despite good association may not take advantage of it and others even without it may take greater advantage of scritupture.

          • Worminstool

            Scripture is only a passive agent if one does not take advantage of the scripture. Guru is only an active agent if one takes advantage of the Guru. If one is actively taking advantage of scripture, then scripture is certainly not a passive agent in a person’s life. Any answer a guru can provide is already there in the scripture for one who can read it for himself. If Gurus are getting their information about Krishna from somewhere other than books, then I would like to know what.
            As Srila Prabhupada was fond of saying “Books are the basis”.
            We all know that the leading preachers of the KC movement are getting all their information from the shastra.
            If they aren’t, then that might give us pause to reflect.

            If all the devotees in the world were lifted-up into heaven by Jesus and there was nothing left on Earth but the books, the KC movement would be resurrected again simply on the basis of the books.

          • Audarya-lila dasa

            I don’t believe Sridhara Maharaja made the distinction as you are. His point was that the Guru can give you direct instructions – like clean the toilet, or what to cook for the feast etc. He/she can also put scripture in perspective and answer questions that arise through a sincere sadhaka’s reading of the scripture.

            Of course it is true that an advanced devotee can read scripture and that the scripture is active for them because they have krsna in their hearts and can hear him. Most of us aren’t that advanced and need the help of Sri Guru.

            According to scripture the Guru not only hears and reads scripture – he/she has an active relationship with divinity. What is in one line of scripture is said to be infinite. Sri Guru is getting direct guidance from the infinite and helping those who aren’t.

          • Nitaisundara

            The scripture is passive because, as you say, “Any answer…is already there in the scripture for one who can read it for himself.” But the guru reads “it” for us and dynamically applies it to our life, therefore they are “active” and sastra is “passive.” The guru gives the proper vision of sastra, which is easier to fit into our own agenda than another human. When the guru passes then, the danger is that everything they left is now subject to the same problem: it can be abused without objection. Therefore the need for guru parampara. The guru gets their information from the books and from their deep inner connection with guru parampara.

          • Bijaya Kumara Das Brian D Grover

            very nice Nitai

    • Worminstool

      I am not so sure that the ISKCON fiasco hasn’t, for the most part, discredited the old school concept of parampara to the point that in the western world now, after the passing of the last few old school Swamis left from the Gaudiya Matha remnants, that the “traditional” guru system is not becoming a relic from the past.
      Bhakti Caru Swami has a recent article on the web where he is more or less admitting that the ISKCON guru system is a failure that can only be remedied by bringing Srila Prabhupada back to the center.

      Even most of the disciples of the ISKCON gurus of today do not get all that much special attention that Kulapavana das seems to think is so important.
      It might be for some people, but for the most part the western world is not as open and receptive to the personality cult parampara that the old school turns into in today’s world.

      Most all religions have some type of personality cult inherent in their traditions, but the ISKCON model developed around a multitude of gurus will not be a good formula for long term success of the Gaudiya outreach in the western world.

      In reality, the Christian concept of a Jesus-like savior that delivers all of mankind would be a good model centered around Mahaprabhu as opposed to ISKCON’s recent model of about a hundred divine manifestations of God flying on jets all over the world.
      The Judeo-Christian monotheism does not recognize or appreciate such a plethora of divinities all appearing at the same time within a particular cult.

      Western people are not very open to the elevating of any person to the platform of divinity that shastra ascribes to the guru.

      The age of the Guru god is long gone.
      If the Hare Krishna preachers conduct themselves more like Pastors and Ministers and less like God’s manifestation on Earth, they will certainly get a better reception in the western world.

      • Audarya-lila dasa

        I’m am very surprised how much you seem to misunderstand Gaudiya siddhanta. Krnsa presents himself through the medium of his unalloyed devotee. You seem to think that realization and advancement in bhakti have nothing to do with transmission of bhakti. Transmission of the transcendental message does not happen as a mere formality which can be performed by any person regardless of their adhikara for bhakti. Bhakti can only be transmitted to others by one whose very being is tranformed by her.

        There will always be a need for Sri Guru due to the genuine longing of the soul seeking spiritual perfection.

        Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur informs us through his Guruvastakam prayers that Sri Guru is to be worshiped because he/she is ‘like God’, but even more so – because he/she is dear to God. This is a key hint to why Sri Guru will always be needed by the sincere spiriutal aspirant. Krsna is impartial, but he pays special attention to his devotees – that is why he is called bhakta vatsala. When someone realy loves him, he reciprocates. It is this lover of God who is in a position to help others and through whom Krsna chooses to give himself to others.

      • madan gopal das

        You are scaring me worm. You seem to be rejecting one extreme and embracing the other.
        What about saksad-hari guru tattva? The guru is simultaneously the descent of Hari in the life of the sincere soul, while also being the perfect devotee of Hari.

        I think people are becoming more mature in their thinking and can see the humanity and divinity of the guru simultaneously. Both are necessary to get the whole picture of who the guru is. Divinity of guru is not an “old model” that should be cast aside because of personality cult ptsd, rather we should learn to see divinity in humanity. There is a lot of divinity to be found in humanity – just witness the activities of svayam bhagavan. Krsna is COMPLETE as a “human”.

        Sure, unscrupulous people can try to mask their all too human characteristics behind claims of divinity, but there will always be cheaters. Can’t throw the tattva out with the false guru…

        But please, leave out the suggestions of following models of Christianity. I think we already see far too many examples of Krsnianity with Prabhupada as the “only son” and “chosen one” to save all humanity. We have plenty of solid siddhanta that we don’t need to borrow concepts from religions with much worse track records in distortion of teaching.

      • Anthony

        I believe we are all God’s manifestation on Earth, but the evidence of this is the degree to which we use our faculties in service to others (I am a servant of the servant…) by which we make the divine apparent.

        Many of the issues the West has with some tenants and practices of “Eastern” or “Indian” religion has to do with the Western adherants, for better or worse, co-opting these concepts and practices into their own, unchanged, Western world view.

        My own personal view and experience, in a very small nut shell, is that “Eastern Religion” (I cringe at such simplistic reductionism) is ideally about the surrender or the overcoming of the self, the ego. Western Religion, on the other hand is about elevation of the self and the individual, being “chosen,” “saved,” “the elect,” “a saint,” etc.

        The West’s love affair with individual achievement and individual success is of course most seen when confronted something polar opposite, like an Eastern worldview, like the various brands of Indian spirituality brought here over the years. That’s one of the reasons why they haven’t caught on en masse. That, and the alterior motives of either the leaders or the followers, which is hardly in the mood of humility or surrender.

        ISKCON is not the only fish in the sea, and I believe your criticisms of that particular organization are valid. But, one organization’s take on a timeless tradition that could be interpreted as at odds with that tradition and with the culture they seek to influence, is hardly reason to start cherry picking tenants and practices that are palatable, simply because SOME people in ONE organization might have got it wrong. In the end, that is just reinventing the same wheel that all traditions and their offshoots do.

      • It might be for some people, but for the most part the western world is not as open and receptive to the personality cult parampara that the old school turns into in today’s world.

        The Western world has practically no conception of selflessness and service. It is a culture based on exploitation in the name of “freedom.” The fact that a “personality cult” would develop based on the system of parampara is not surprising, but it is also not limited to the West. Not only is it human nature, but “cults” also develop around musicians and movie stars as well.

        Gaudiya Vaisnavism has it’s own culture which puts Guru and God in the center of our lives. Adopting Western culture or the Christian ideal is a bad idea. In fact, I would argue that Iskcon has already done this by putting Srila Prabhupada “back in the center,” framing him as a Jesus-like savior. Besides, even if we put Prabhupada “in the center,” what does he teach us? Essentially, God has manifested himself for you as your guru–serve him.

        Still, your point can be made about kanistha bhaktas whose faith is shallow and whose motivation is primarily material. But I think the distinction needs to be made between over-enthusiastic converts and mature, steady practitioners.

      • Kula-pavana

        Worm: “The age of the Guru god is long gone. If the Hare Krishna preachers conduct themselves more like Pastors and Ministers and less like God’s manifestation on Earth, they will certainly get a better reception in the western world.”
        Agreed. And that principle applies to Srila Prabhupada as well. Turning Prabhupada into another Jesus by his disciples was – and still is – very counterproductive to the spread of Mahaprabhu’s mission. It is one of the main reasons people perceive our movement as yet another cult.

  • Gaura-Vijaya

    I don’t get you. By putting Prabhupada in the center for the next 10,000 and making him frozen in history, will you attract the western world? I don’t understand Bhakti Caru Swami’s assertion.
    The old system has certainly changed now, but the point of parampara is dynamically adjusting the teachings according to time, place and circumstance and coming up with new insights into spiritual topics for contemporary people to relate to.

    By replacing that system with a system that is completely reliant on frozen tapes and books is not going to work out. It is like Protestant Christianity.

    • Worminstool

      Like I said in my post above, I believe that the ONE God and savior that the Gaudiyas should promote in the western world is Mahaprabhu – the Great Master.
      I don’t believe that Srila Prabhupada should replace Mahaprabhu as the Lord of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

      • Gourasundara

        Its funny. I am from India. My first introduction to Srila Prabhupada was looking at his picture on books in my grandfathers house as a child. My grandfather followed Srila Prabhupadas life and teachings very closely. A few years before he died he told me, “You watch and see, in your lifetime you will see that there will be people in ISKCON that will start to say that Srila Prabhupada is God, in the same way that Christians say that Jesus is God.”
        I was very puzzled to hear my grandfather say this. I didn’t understand why he was telling me. But now I realize that he saw then what I am just seeing now.

  • Citta Hari dasa

    The guru gets their information from the books and from their deep inner connection with guru parampara.

    Good point, Nitai. Books alone are not the answer; it’s the living example of a person who brings the book to life.

  • Worminstool

    Just think though, of where the KC movement would be without the books?
    If all we had was devotees and gurus without the books, where would we be?
    Just imagine no books and all we had was Hare Krishna gurus saying “just trust me”.
    Factually, without the books there would be NO KC movement.
    It would just be a personality cult of people worshipers with no foundation..

  • Kula-pavana

    Pujyapad Sridhara Deva Goswami said, “Our guru-parampara, disciplic succession, follows the ideal, not the body; it is a succession of instructing spiritual masters, not formal initiating spiritual masters.”

    Is it just following the ideal, or is it more like following a substantial training (instruction) received directly from a given siksa guru? Can I become a disciple of Srila Vyasadeva by claiming to follow his ideal? Why not cut all the middle men and follow the ideals given to us by Lord Krsna in Bhagavad Gita and Lord Caitanya in Siksastakam?

    • The “ideal” here means the substance of spiritual realization represented in the teacher. This is to be followed in the sense of following one who represents the tradition in a real sense and not merely in a formal sense of holding a post officially without sufficient realization. So to follow the ideal means to pursue a teacher with realization and take guidance from him or her. One my even have been formally initiated by someone but find greater realization in another, and while continuing o respect the former teacher take help from the latter who has more realization. And in such an instance the latter may be one’s primary guru because despite formalities he or she helps the student more. Just as krishna is actually the son of Yasoda because she has more motherly love for him despite the fact that he was born in Mathura from Devaki (or so it seems).

      • Kula-pavana

        In the sampradaya line presented by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta this relationship of taking substantial direct guidance from proceeding guru – or following their ideal – is sometimes quite subtle. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta himself did not spend much time with Srila Gaurakishora, and at least externally he did not follow his bhajan-anandi ideal. There are also some apparent time gaps in the sampradaya, like the one of about 100 years between Baladeva Vidyabhusana and Jagannatha dasa Babaji. There are several shorter gaps as well. The existence of such gaps plays into the hands of book-vadis, who claim you can be a properly trained disciple of a particular guru just by reading his books and applying them in practice to the best of your understanding.

        • madan gopal das

          book-vadis, who claim you can be a properly trained disciple of a particular guru just by reading his books and applying them

          The argument of “book-vadis” cannot stand, because the books don’t agree with their vada. The books say there are TWO bhagavatas’ one book and one personification of book. You have to follow them both.

          tarko pratisthah srutayo vibhinna
          nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam
          dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam
          mahajano yena gatah sa panthah

          “Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are vaiegated, one cannot come to the right path by which
          religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive
          path the mahajanas advocate.”

  • Worminstool

    My experience is that the social structure of a properly administrated Vaishnava institution provides for new converts to get all the training and guidance in the manners, principles, dress and conduct of a Vaishnava that the guru teaches.
    ISKCON was a great model during the time of Srila Prabhupada. The new devotees took instructions from older more experienced devotees who had learned the ways of sadhana bhakti.
    There is no magic touch in the guru’s physical presence.
    Srila Prabhupada said that KC is a science of techniques. An acharya can establish an institution with an established system of sadhana that is taught to all the initiates.
    Whoever accepts, adopts and follows these techniques of bhakti sadhana will get the result if their intentions are sincere.
    There is no actual need for personal interaction with the guru if in fact one has already learned the techniques and principles promulgated by the acharya.

    Krishna consciousness is about worshiping the Holy Name of Krishna.
    Whoever worships the name of God will get the results.

    The problem comes when neophyte devotees think that there is some magic in being in the physical proximity of the Guru.
    There is no magic.
    Whoever practices the methods of Krishna consciousness will get all the benefit, even if he doesn’t have some official, formal initiation.

    The actual initiation comes when the Holy Name is heard through the Sankirtan of the Vaishnavas.
    After that, it’s all just a formal, social convention which is also a very nice cultural practice in Vaishnava society.

    We read in CC that the disciples of a Buddhist teacher initiated their teacher on the spot after having been initiated by Mahaprabhu on the spot.

    So, formal initiation and spiritual initiation aren’t always performed at the same time.

    • madan gopal das

      My experience is that the social structure of a properly administrated Vaishnava institution provides for new converts to get all the training

      Although I was not present during the time of Srila Prabhupada’s presence in iskcon, I would argue that the reason why the institution facilitated the devotees growth even without his personal association was because those devotees were longing for, had heard about and lived on the remnants of those who did have his personal association. He was living, and there was a connection with him, even if seeing him was a rare possibility. You see, physical proximity, the presence of the pure devotee in your lifetime brings the practice to LIFE. That is the magic. And yes, there is magic.

      My experience may be much like yours. You were present in iskcon in a time when the living guru was there. You saw others, and perhaps yourself adopting the process and reaping all the benefits, but there was a person behind it, an example, someone who demonstrated your potential in perfection. I was present in iskcon after Prabhupada departed. I learned all the rituals, took shelter of the holy name, learned the teaching. Only when I was in the association of people who personified the teaching did I really feel like it was mine, like there was possibility for me in perfection.

      Living guru makes everything real, and the association of the person bhagavata cannot be underestimated. lava matra sadhu sanga sarva siddhi haya…

    • The difference between Iskcon today and Iskcon of 1965-1977 is the absence and presence respectively of its founder. Anyone one who has experienced both would choose the latter.

      Furthemore sti Krsnadasa Kviraja Goswami writes

      dui bhai hrdayera ksali andhakra
      dui bhagavata-sange karana saksatkara
      eka bhagavata bada‚ bhagavata-sastra
      ara bhagavata‚ bhakta bhakti-rasa-patra
      dui bhagavata dvara diya bhakti-rasa
      tanhara hrdaye tanra preme haya vasa

      “These two brothers (Sri Caitanya and Prahbu Nitai) dissipate the darkness of the inner core of the heart, causing one to get the direct association of two bhagavatas. One of the bhagavatas is the great scripture Srimad Bhagavatam and the other is the devotee absorbed in the mellows of loving devotion. Through these two bhagavatas Gaura Nityananda give bhakti-rasa and thereby their own hearts are conquered by prema.”

      And bhakti is not a technique. It is all about the mercy of Godhead represented in his devotees who are his krpa-sakti. After all, one can become perfect by this alone even without sadhana.

      • Worminstool

        When Srila Prabhupada incorporated ISKCON, the very first of the seven principles of the ISKCON charter he laid down reads:

        ” To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.”

        So, that KC is a yoga system of techniques cannot be questioned.
        KC is available to anyone and everyone. Srila Prabhupada tried his best to accomplish that goal.
        Bhakti certainly involves techniques and those techniques are nicely laid out by Srila Rupa Goswami in The Nectar of Devotion.
        They are sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam etc.

        Srila Prabhupada busted the old stranglehold of the myth that there is some magic spell the guru castes upon his disciple and he established that anyone and everyone can adopt the techniques of Krishna consciousness and make progress.

        SB 1.5.11 purport:

        The same spirit of cooperation is needed to broadcast this transcendental message of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam throughout the polluted atmosphere of the world. After all, it is a technical science of spiritual values, and thus we are concerned with the techniques and not with the language. If the techniques of this great literature are understood by the people of the world, there will be success.

        • The first “technique” given by Rupa Goswami is gurupadasraya, taking shelter of a guru, and this technique is followed by diksa siksadi, initiation and instruction, etc. But while there are procedures or yogic techniques within bhakti, overall if anything it is the technique of attracting the attention of Krishna, and this is centered on serving one who is dear to him. Indeed, guru bhakti is more pleasing to Krishna than Krishna bhakti! Furthermore one cannot do Krishna bhakti without doing guru bhakti.

          • Worminstool

            No argument there Swami Maharaja.
            However, there are differences of opinion on how one can serve the Guru. Srila Prabhupada showed in his ISKCON prototype that one can serve the Guru from a distance by taking his teachings and practicing them.
            Worship of the pure devotee is in fact the principle practice of the Vaishnava.
            But, Srila Prabhupada gave his mercy out liberally to anyone and everyone who was willing to accept his teachings.
            There is no special group of original ISKCON devotees who have some monopoly on the mercy of Srila Prabhupada.
            In fact, some of the greatest followers of Srila Prabhupada have not even been born yet. They will come in future generations.
            Srila Prabhupada’s mercy is timeless. Anyone who wants to accept his teachings and instructions on practicing Krishna consciousness is certainly just as blessed as the original ISKCON devotees who sometimes get proud of being direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada and want to deprive future generations of the right to accept Srila Prabhupada as their personal guide and savior.

            Srila Prabhupada’s mercy is still coming down like rain on this world of misconception.

  • Kula-pavana

    Worm: “ISKCON was a great model during the time of Srila Prabhupada. The new devotees took instructions from older more experienced devotees who had learned the ways of sadhana bhakti.
    There is no magic touch in the guru’s physical presence.”

    Oh, really? Without the constant magic touch of guru’s physical presence this ‘great model’ would have disintegrated in a matter of months, torn apart by the egos and material desires of those ‘senior devotees’ you find so useful. That is exactly what happened to Iskcon after Prabhupada’s departure. Even during those early ‘great model’ years the abuse of power by Iskcon leaders was rampant and illegal, dishonest fundraising methods were prevalent. Great model indeed…

  • Worminstool

    Well, when I was in ISKCON, I served Srila Prabhupada by serving my senior Godbrothers, GBC men, Temple Presidents and in fact about all the devotees in the temple.
    So, I certainly have no objection to new generations of devotees in the KC movement taking guidance and instruction from such an experienced and enlightened senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada as Tripurari Maharaja.
    I am not advocating a ritvik system of initiation for anything outside of a GBC administrated ritvik system.
    Other than that, it would probably be a lot more sublime, satisfying and natural for a new generation devotee to take initiation from such a rasik saint as Tripurari Maharaja. His unique blend of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhar Maharaja is actually quite a gem of the sampradaya.
    Most certainly, he is in a position to give expert guidance to a new generation of devotees.

    My point is that, if these new generation devotees don’t connect properly with Srila Prabhupada in his books, that they will certainly be missing something very important to their spiritual growth.

    Is the KC movement finally at the point to where Srila Prabhupada has been nicely tucked-off to the side and his disciples will now reform and reshape the KC movement in their own way, losing the original flavor of how serving in ISKCON was to serve Srila Prabhupada?

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